Issue 18-23 June 6, 2024

Cover photo © 2024 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Doug MacLeod. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Rosedale Junction, Nicholas Alexander, Little Bobby, The Sugar Darlings, Chris BadNews Barnes and The Wicked Lo-Down. Scroll down and check it out!

Help Wanted – Writers

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good Blues writers to help us out. We need folks who know Blues and can write a minimum of 2 reviews or interviews a month. Our FREE weekly magazine has 42,000 subscribers and we get 70,000 monthly website visitors at

These positions need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills!

Experience with WordPress a plus! (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to apply. Send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. If possible, please send samples of previous work or links to it online.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageRosedale Junction – Going Off the Rails

Self Released

9 tracks

Rosedale Junction is a blues and Americana band based on Boston. This is their third release since 2021. Tomy Soriero produced the album, wrote the original music, plays some wicked guitar and, when needed, the bass, too.

Four singers and eleven musicians appear on the album. Dgiovahni Denize is on vocals for six cuts, Richard Farrell does the vocals on one, Joel Jorgensen is on vocals on another, and Elishema Mannie handles lead vocals for the final track and backing vocals throughout. Tony Soriero is on guitar, bass, and resonator and Joe Soriero is on guitar. Roger Smith plays keys, piano and organ, Jim Riley is on drums, and Trent Williamson is on harmonica. The horns on track 7 are Mark Morgan (horn arrangement and trumpet), Josh Scalf (trombone) and Max Dvorin (tenor sax and baritone sax). Phil Madeira is on the organ. On a track each are Alex Allison (programed drums) and Andy Ellison (pedal steel guitar). Tony Soriero wrote the nine original cuts. The two covers are “Waiting Around to Die” (Townes Van Zandt) and “High Time We Went” (Joe Cocker and Chris Stainton).

“Goin’ Off The Rails” features some solid slide and electric guitar with some bass vocal chanting that reminds me of monks chanting. There is also decent organ work here. “Chicken Man Blues” is an acoustic guitar tune with some metered spoken word (not rapping, just a kind of story telling) and electric backing guitar with organ once again adding to the mix. Next is “Quarter Mile Blues,” featuring more great guitar and the deep baritone voice of Denize now singing a bit, kind of cowboy style. “Buckland Street” features harp and a downhome story told to a younger person, retelling it from his youth where he heard it in front of a package story. As we transition into the song, we get the lamentful tale of a long hard life with some excellent harp adding to the mood and fitting in quite well with the mood.

“Momma Sure Was Right” is a cut about a mother warning her son about women. It’s a slow blues with another story to tell, a warning that turned out to be one that should have been heeded. Harp, keys and guitars add nicely to the mix. “Waiting Around to Die” follows, featuring wicked pedal steel work and more dark spoken word storytelling. Interesting stuff. “Junkin’ Down and Funkin’ Up” follows, more spoken word styled lyrics for the most part, lots of wicked harp and a cool, driving beat.

An extended version of the opening cut features lots more of great guitars and the Green Line of the Boston MBTA. Really? The finale is “High Time We Met,” with lots of slide and guitar and very nice vocals by Mannie, the best on he album. It’s a solid finish to a sometime quirky but always interesting album.

The vocals are probably the weakest link here. Denize handles 2/3 of them and his deep baritone and lots of spoken word I’m sorry but it doesn’t do justice to the rest of great musicianship here. He’s interesting but it doesn’t blend well and is sometimes distracting. Other than that, it’s a well crafted album of moslty cool original songs, fine guitar efforts and a lot of overall well done instrumental playing.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageNicholas Alexander – Lil Hoochie


10 Tracks – 42 Minutes

Nicholas “Nick” Alexander is the son of legendary Chicago Bluesman Linsey Alexander. Linsey was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1942. His mother moved Linsey and his sister to Memphis when he was twelve years old.  He pawned his first guitar for a bus ticket to Chicago in 1959. He took on many different jobs after arriving in the Windy City, but ultimately joined the Chicago Police Department. All the while he played in bands with many of the major blues musicians. He retired from the force at age 58 after being wounded in the line of duty. But this prompted him to start up a new career move as a full- time bluesman.

Obviously, Nicholas was around the blues for most of his life and with his dad’s involvement in the music scene, he was able to make connections with many other musicians. He cites his influences beyond his father as Albert King and Buddy Guy but notes he has a passion for the energy of sixties and seventies soul music with a particular fondness for James Brown. This is his debut album, which he cites as featuring many of the songs he heard his dad play or record.

Nicholas plays guitar and does all of the lead vocals. he is joined by Melvin Carlile on drums, David Forte on bass, Brian Lupo on guitar, Roosevelt Purifoy, Jr. on organ, Dan Souvigny on keyboards and guitar, Bryant Parker on congas and background vocals, with horns by Derrick Tate, Ryan Nyther, and Royce Harrington-Turner.

The album opens with an “Intro” with Linsey doing vocals and introducing Nicholas on guitar, citing him as a “little f…ing brat, but I love him”. It then immediately jumps into Nicholas performing James Brown’s “Popcorn” with the sax blasting through the song and Nicholas doing many of Brown’s signature squeals. “Dial Your Number” moves into a more traditional blues mode as he begs a woman to give him her phone number. “Outskirts of Town” was written by William Weldon back in 1936, recorded by Louis Jordan in 1941, was re-popularized by Ray Charles in 1961, and has been recorded by many other artists over the years including The Allman Brothers and Buddy Guy. Dan’s piano work is a standout on this song and Nicholas powers a driving guitar.

“Moving To the Country” shifts him back into a horn-led funk mode with Roosevelt’s organ underlying in the music. He then shifts back into “Soul Power”, another song from the James Brown songbook. Little Milton’s song “Grits Ain’t Groceries” is shifted to “Mona Lisa Was a Man” on this album, with some variance in the original lyrics. Nicholas again uses the song to show a burst of guitar energy.

Ray Charles’ “I Believe to My Soul” even carries a verse where Nichaolas references “Last night you were dreaming, and I heard you say Oh Johnny! when you know my name is Ray”. He delivers the song with bursts of guitar.  He declares “I’m Tired” “of you” and moves back into some rocking, horn-soaked blues and another excellent piano run from Dan. He concludes the album with another James Brown song, “Make It Funky”.

Nicholas clearly delivers some guitar prowess and shows some vocal capability, but I find that he delivers little to demonstrate a personal capability instead preferring to emulate the performers of the original songs with an occasional burst of guitar energy. I would welcome a chance to hear him offer some original material demonstrating his own musical direction instead of a series of covers.

Writer John Sacksteder is a retired civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky who has a lifelong love of music, particularly the blues. He is currently the Editor of the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageLittle Bobby – Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck

Untouchable Productions

8 tracks – 36 minutes

Robert “Little Bobby” Houle III is a third-generation Native American musician having grown up with his father, Big Bobby, and grandfather, who is in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and who were both musicians.  He was born on the Red Lake Reservation in Thief Rivers Falls, Minnesota and has continued to make his home in Minnesota. He currently owns Little Bobby’s Bar and Grill in McIntosh, Minnesota, as well as his own production studio there. He further runs his own streaming show, Little Bobby’s Juke Joint, every Wednesday night at 9:00 PM at He has played at the Chicago Blues Festival and as far ranging as the Rawa Blues Festival in Poland.

This is Little Bobby’s tenth album. his two most recent albums, God Made Me Blue (2022) and The Killer B Sting (2023) were both listed on the Roots Music Report as one of the Top Albums Chart on the annual Roots Music Report. With exception of Chris Katko making a guest appearance on harmonica on the first album track, all instruments on the album are played by Little Bobby, including guitar, bass, drums, piano and organ. As a child he first started playing drums, then shifted to the guitar after listening to Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. The other instruments just came along over the years.

The album opens with him singing that his woman is “Nothing but Trouble” as his slide guitar rips through the song. “Set You Free” is a slow, gut-wrenching song inspired by the unexpected death of his niece. He expresses that he “never ever wants to get the blues like that” but at least “this evil world has finally set you free.” “Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck” features an excellent guitar lead-in. He says, “Ever since I was a child, I suffered the blues” “You can’t always predict the cards you are dealt”. “I can’t say I had it any worse than you”. Sometimes “you just have to adjust your bet”.

“Fast Food Mama” is a rocking ode to the woman who is as “quick as a McD’s drive through” and she “calls him her Big Mac and I calls her my Little Chick Fil-A”. “Jack and Jim” talks about Little Bobby’s best friends, his drinking buddies, in another rocking song. He notes “I don’t mind sipping champagne, don’t mind drinking beer, but I am drinking because my sweet thing is not around.” “Sometimes I Get High” is a slow, crying ballad as he advises “that sometimes I have been put down, been treated like dirt”, been “locked up, been broke as hell”, “playing these blues is the only peace I have found.

He encourages everyone to “March On”, “you have to soldier on” no matter the hardships “keep on shining like a superstar”. Bobby returns to the Crossroads to discuss “When Robert Made His Deal”, telling the tale of the man who stories claim sold his soul to the devil to gain his guitar expertise. He exclaims, “Blues ain’t nothing but hard times”. “There ain’t no shame in getting the blues.”  ” I try so hard just to get by.”

Little Bobby delivers some excellent blues rock touching into Chicago and the Delta. His vocals can be described as raw and penetrating, but carefully driving every song with well-considered lyrics. This is the third album I have from Little Bobby and readily recommend his albums to anyone who loves blues rock from one with a great touch on the guitar.

Writer John Sacksteder is a retired civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky who has a lifelong love of music, particularly the blues. He is currently the Editor of the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

IMAGEThe Sugar Darlings – Thirsty for Your Love

Self-produced CD

12 songs – 45 minutes

Fronted by Miche Love Dennery, one of the most dynamic vocalists on the Montreal blues scene, The Sugar Darlings have already established themselves locally by winning last year’s Quebec to Memphis competition and representing Canada in the International Blues Challenge. And they’ll be making their mark with a wider audience with this debut release.

It’s a stylish blending of blues, soul, funk and more that delivers produces a contemporary sound thanks to its tight, four-piece arrangements and Miche, whose alto stylings come with the feel of classic soul and blues singers of the past.

Nominees in the prestigious Maple Blues Awards as the new group of the year, the Darlings are fueled by the double, lockstep leads of guitarist Paul Lucyk, a veteran of The Franklin Electric and Midnight Miles, and saxophonist Kaven Jalbert, an award-nominated veteran who’s familiar to fans in the U.S. through his work with Dawn Tyler Watson and the Ben Racine Band. They’re anchored by bassist Neil Robinson and drummer Danick Tardif. They’re augmented by keyboard player John Sadowy, percussionist Michel Medrano Brindis and Janell Lucyk and Clerel Djamen, who add backing vocals.

An all-original set that was recorded by Philippe Massabki at Tone Bender Studio, “Why” opens the action with a brief horn run before Dennery forcefully questions a love about the reasons for his infidelity, which includes multiple indiscretions and late-night calls from other women. Driven by a steady shuffle, the band produces a large sound throughout. But Miche vows she’s “Not Gonna Cry,” something that comes through loud and clear in the rapid paced song that follows.

“Thirsty for Your Love” keeps the theme going forward atop a medium-tempo, stop-time shuffle beat with Lucyk and Jalbert allowed plenty of space to work out. The soulful “Grow Up” comes with a decided ‘60s feel as it warns a lover his actions are getting his love ready to head for the door. The message is driven home by a stellar mid-tune instrumental break. You’ll be grabbing your honey and heading to the dance floor for “Funky Darling,” which praises a new significant other, and “Freaky Feet,” an interesting number with a unique, somewhat discordant sound that works.

The rapid-fire “South Shore Rock” reinvigorates the sounds of the early ‘50s before the funk kicks in again with “Love Is All I Need,” another cautionary tale in which the man isn’t man enough to hold his woman down. The band’s sound shifts dramatically for “Crying Out,” adopting a Latin beat and a sweet, minor key to support Dennery’s prayer for release from the pain of a shattered relationship.

The haunting “Karma” follows, taking listeners through a range of musical stylings along with the message that “you better watch your back” because “what goes around comes around.” It gives way to “To Be Free,” the only ballad in the set, before closing with “Oh Lord,” a funky number that professes that the Almighty is “all I need.”

If you love the soul side of blues, you’ll find a lot to like with this one. It’s well-produced with interesting arrangements that’ll keep you dancing and bopping throughout.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Mason, Ohio, his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 Featured Interview – Doug MacLeod 

imageFew solo acoustic artists can captivate an audience in the way that eight-time Blues Music Award winner Doug MacLeod does.  Having played guitar alongside such greats as Pee Wee Crayton, Big Mama Thornton, Eddie “Cleanhead Vinson” and George “Harmonica” Smith, his superb guitar skills (and soulful vocals) would be enough to mesmerize listeners, but it’s his storytelling that truly holds them transfixed and hanging on every word.  Having been on the blues scene for over forty years, MacLeod’s wealth of knowledge was sought by Debra Schiff, and he became a co-author for the book Murder at the Crossroads, lending accuracy to the blues musician characters in the story.  However, many likely consider him an authority on more than just blues history, as his song lyrics suggest he serves as a “subject matter expert” on the wonders of life itself.  This songwriting gift led to his work being recorded by such legends as Albert King, Eva Cassidy and Albert Collins.  Blues Blast Magazine had the opportunity to catch up with Doug MacLeod in Memphis, where he currently resides, just prior to him winning the 2024 Blues Music Award for Acoustic Album of the Year.

MacLeod’s career started as a sideline while he worked in the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia.  However, he recalls that he might have been one of the few Navy men who never sailed.

“Í was a bit disappointed about that, because that was why I joined—to see the world.  But they had me on land, fixing radars instead.  It was a day gig, so I fixed radars during the day and played music at night.  I was playing country blues, and the hippies were diggin’ me, so I thought I was a real bluesman.  Then one guy I knew asked me if I wanted to meet a guy who ran with Blind Lemon Jefferson named Ernest Banks.  I said yes.  I wanted to show that old Bluesman how great I thought I was.  When I got done playing a song for him, he said, “Give me your guitar, boy.”  Then he opened tuned it, picked up a copper slide and played.

I had never heard anything like that before in my life.  I realized that I was in the presence of what was real about this music.  He only had one eye and he kept looking at me with that one eye as he played with feeling and power, as if to say, ‘can you do this, boy?  How about this?’  He was embarrassing me in front of my friends, and when he got done, he asked me, ‘Which one moved you more—yours or mine?’  I said, ‘yours’.  He said ‘if you want to be a blues man, never play a note you don’t believe and never write or sing about what you don’t know about.  Later on, as we walked out, he put his arm around me and said, ‘you know where I live now, don’t you boy?’  I said, ‘does this mean I can come back?’ and he answered, ‘You ain’t deaf too, are you, boy?’  Years later it dawned on me the double meaning of what he said.  Did he mean you know at which magnolia tree to turn right (because he lived back I the woods) or did he mean where I live musically.  I’m not sure. Maybe both.”

imagePrior to working as a musician, MacLeod used to stutter.  The connection between singing and stuttering has always been a fascinating topic.  Some famous singers, such as John Lee Hooker and country singer Mel Tillis, stuttered except when they were singing.  For MacLeod, his experience was like that of BB King and pop singer Ed Sheeran, in that he noticed an overall tremendous improvement in his speech after learning that he could sing.

“I heard this music in St. Louis, and it just spoke to me.  I was just playing bass back in those days, but one day I picked up the guitar and I tried to sing.  This voice came out and I realized I had a choice between the one that stutters and this one.  I think the music helped me.  Most of the time now I can speak without stuttering, but there are a few times when it does come back to me.”

One of the characteristics of MacLeod’s playing that fascinates listeners is his ability to sound like more than one person playing, something else he seemed to have learned from his encounter with Earnest banks.

“Mr. Banks told me, ‘With an acoustic player, the left hand is your brain, and your right hand is your personality.  That’s why when you listen to the old country blues men, Big Bill Broonzy don’t sound like Tampa Red who don’t sound like Robert Johnson or Lightnin’ Hopkins and so on and so on.  Because each musician has that unique right hand.’ He said ‘Boy–you’ve got to sound like you’re more than one man up there.   And you’ve got to find a groove because of the ladies.  You’ve got to get the ladies to start moving their head because then there’s a good chance that something below the head will start moving.  And then sure enough that thing below that will start to move and when that start moving the men will start asking the women to dance and it will be hot and they’ll start sweating, so they will buy the ladies a drink and that means you are going to get paid at the end of the night.’  That was his philosophy about it.  And that’s why when you hear, especially with the hill country blues, that groove—it is incessant, kind of juke joint.  It makes you move.”

MacLeod was also influenced by George Harmonica Smith, who helped him find his unique voice.

“George was like my father.  He was born on my father’s birthday, but a couple of years after, and he was truly the father that I needed.  I loved him and he loved me.  One of my favorite stories about George was when I was playing electric guitar.  He said, ‘Dubb (his nickname for MacLeod)—you sure sound like BB King.’  I said ‘Thanks, George,’ and he said, “That’s not a compliment.  Let’s put Dubb in there instead.’  The older musicians can help you with that.  He was a dear, dear mentor.”

imageMacLeod’s songs connect with the audience in many varied ways.  Some bring great visual images to mind with intriguing stories, such as “Horse with No Rider,” a song about death, noting, “Once the horse gets his rider, he don’t look back…won’t somebody tell me who will his rider be?”  Others comment on political or social events, such as “Dubb’s Talkin’ Politician Blues”:

“Now I got to talk about some of these politicians.  Sure got my world in a sorry condition. They say one thing but mean another.  That’s a very worrisome thing, my brother…Would you get my BB gun?  No, I don’t want to kill them, but I’d like to hurt them some!” 

However, the lyrics which are the most emotionally stirring are very personal and cathartic songs about his recovery from a history of abuse.  His album, Break the Chain, was the winner of the 2018 Blues Music Awards for Acoustic Album of the Year, and its title track documents MacLeod’s focus on being sure that he put an end to the cycle of abuse in which he had been a victim.  The lyrics note, “You’ve got the power to make a change, stop the pain…break the chain”, and are meaningfully sung along with his son, Jesse.  He explained a bit more about these powerfully written songs.

“’Dubb’s Talkin’ Politician Blues’ was written in 2006, but it may be even more appropriate now.  And “Break the Chain” was written about how I was sexually abused by a male cousin and the female friend of my mother who used to babysit me.  I had blocked it out, but one Thanksgiving my mother said she wanted me to go over and see her friend, my former babysitter.  I remember I thought we’d have a nice dinner, but she asked if she could take me upstairs.  I went upstairs with her, and she said, ‘remember when you were a little boy and I used to dress you up like a girl and play with your pee-pee?  Would you like to do that with me and my daughter?’  I said, ‘I’ve got to get the hell out of here.’  Years later, before my mother died, I told her that her friend had abused me and she said, ‘she didn’t—your cousin did.’  That’s how I found out my cousin abused me.  I had heard that some people who are abused are at risk of possibly abusing others, and I needed to make sure I put a stop to the cycle.  I think when I found blues music I found a way to express it in a positive way.  I think I invented this saying, ‘you always must remember, even from a pile of manure a rose can grow.’  The most important thing, and the hardest thing is to forgive. ‘Break the Chain’ really reaches people.”

MacLeod also reaches people through his involvement with the organization called United by Music, which has the motto of “challenging attitudes about intellectual disability through music”.

image“That’s a wonderful organization.  You find out how much music can help people with intellectual disabilities express themselves.  The first time I ran into them was in Appeldoorn, Holland.  I had just spent the whole day on a train and all I wanted to do was get one of those great Belgian beers and get in bed and read a book.  I got a call from my agent at the time, Jan Mittendorp,  He said that Barbara Hammerman invited me to a nightclub in town to hear what this group was doing.  I didn’t want to go, but something told me, ‘Just go on and go’.  So, I went down there, and I saw how the music reached them, and I was really touched by it.  Barbara asked me if I would like to be a mentor and that is how I got started.  I might help them get a groove.  Once they have that, I give them little bits of advice on playing.”

MacLeod is one of those musicians who seems to be writing all of the time, with 28 albums released.

“I’m always writing.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and the whole song is formed.  Some take a little bit.  Recently I thought that I don’t have any more songs left in me, and my wife said, ‘hush—there will be more’.  And she was right.  It’s like a field.  You harvest the crop and then you must let the field be fallow for a while.  I was just in that fallow.  We have another album that just came out this year (Raw Blues 2).  Some are new songs, and some are new versions of previously released songs.  Andreas Werner, the producer, said, ‘I just want to document what you do—no overdubs.  Just sit down like you did with Mr. Banks.  Sit on your porch and play.  That is what I want—just whatever song comes to you.’  It’s like my shows.  I never plan a set.  I might plan the first song, but then I just let whatever the spirit tells me to do.”

MacLeod was asked if there were any new, young musicians that he found exciting, and whether he had any advice for them.  He initially responded to the advice part with a joke, but then followed it with some important and useful tips.

“There’s one guy named Nathan James, out of southern California, and Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox, and Solomon Hicks.  Oh, and Kingfish—I really like what he’s doing.  The biggest advice I can give to a young musician is to get a partner with health insurance (laughs)!   On a serious note, for younger musicians I would give the same advice I received:  never play a note you don’t believe.  Never write or sing about what you don’t know about.  And also, keep your musical horizons broad.  If you are an acoustic blues player, you sometimes just listen to acoustic blues.  I say broaden your horizons.  Listen to jazz, Hillbilly rock.  Listen to other instruments.  Piano players and guitar players don’t have to breathe to make a sound.  Trumpet, saxophone and harmonica players have to breathe, and that’s so important to phrasing.  Playing music is an extension of what is inside of you.  If you don’t have to breathe you can end up playing a whole lot of notes that mean nothing. If you have to breathe, you have to stop.  I remember going to hear a guitarist once with Pee Wee Crayton and he said, ‘I gotta get out of here—I can’t listen to that diarrhea guitar—he’s shitting all over the bandstand.’  We should remember that space is a part of the music too.”

MacLeod has also recorded an instructional DVD, previously hosted a radio show in LA, and he used to write a magazine column called Doug’s Back Porch.  He is currently considering recording a podcast in which he will be able to tell his stories using his own voice.  You know whatever comes next, there will be many of us who will be quick to tune in or pre-order it because any project in which he is involved is bound to be magnificent.  You can find out more about Doug MacLeod at

Writer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

IMAGEChris BadNews Barnes – Bad News Travels Fast

Gulf Coast Records – 2024

11 tracks; 45 minutes

Chris BadNews Barnes made his name on TV shows like Saturday Night Live, but now that he has released his fifth album since 2017, maybe we should reclassify him as a musician! Chris wrote all the lyrics here, partnering with Tom Hambridge who wrote the music, working at times with long-time collaborator Richard Fleming. Recorded at Tom’s studio in Nashville with Tom in both the drum and producer’s chair, the band is Kenny Greenberg on guitar, Mike Rojas on keys, Tommy MacDonald on bass, Max Abrams on sax, Steve Patrick on trumpet and Tabitha Fair on backing vocals; guests include Jimmy Hall, Sugaray Rayford and Walter Trout.

The first four tracks feature the guest artists. The album kicks off in high gear with the title track, a full-on rocker with strong guitar and Jimmy Hall’s harp setting the pace as Chris bemoans the gossippers: “Some folks like to run their mouths, I wish that they would zip it, for once that cat is out of the bag the tail’s too long to clip it”. The pace softens for “Pure Blues”, a classic tale of the eternal triangle, with Walter Trout adding searing guitar.”You Right Baby” brings in Sugaray who adds spoken words to the dialogue between Chris and Tabitha, Chris’ criticisms of his girl always coming out differently to his intentions, and Jimmy Hall makes a second appearance on “A Bluesman Can’t Cry”, a fine track with sensitive lyrics: “A bluesman, pain is his only friend, but a bluesman, he can’t cry, he’s got to suffer for his sins”.

Chris is known for his humorous songs, following in the hokum traditions, and “The Juice Ain’t Worth The Squeeze” is Chris’ conclusion after spending time with a woman, his observations given over a fast-paced tune enhanced by the horns. Two songs include the word ‘baby’, but have different intentions: “Bluesballer Baby” is a fake ‘live’ track, purporting to be from a NYC club, the band being ‘Chris BadNews Barnes and the Bluesballers’ who rock out as Chris namechecks blues events like the BMAs and various festivals; in contrast “His Majesty The Baby” pokes fun at a guy who acts childishly and selfishly – is it self-criticism or is the song aimed at another well known figure? “Skin To Skin” may be as close to a love song that you will get from Chris, the slide and organ playing here really drive the tune along.

Opening with acoustic guitar and a slight border feel, Chris claims that he was “Ambushed By The Blues” and asks “how can a man escape”. This song drops the ‘character’ and humorous asides and is arguably the strongest cut on the album. However, Chris is soon back to his usual style on “Do The Houdini”, another slice of life in Hell’s Kitchen, and the closing play on words of “Mushrooms Make Me A Fun Guy”, recycling the old joke that has made generations of kids laugh. Both these tracks were a little disappointing for this reviewer, Chris using a semi-spoken style (and some distortion on “Mushrooms”).

Chris’ gruff vocals suit the material well and the guests enliven the first four tracks.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageThe Wicked Lo-Down – Out Of Line

Gulf Coast Records

13 tracks

This is the Gulf Coast Records debut for the New England band The Wicked Lo-Down and it is a truly rocking good time! They are a blues rock band that formed in 2020 just before the lock down. They channel their inner Johnny Winter and T-Birds styled Texas blues and New England R&B to create a uniquely cool sound. This is their second release overall and has 11 originals and a pair of covers that they made their own.

The band’s founders are harp player and vocalist Nick David and guitarist Paul Size. More on them later. Jeffrey Berg adds guitar and backing vocals and the back line players are Brad Hallen on bass and Nick Toscano on drums. Mike Zito and Monster Mike Welch each appear on guitar for one song apiece.

The band immediately tears at the listener with their opening number “Kill Me Or Keep Me,” a hot blues rocker with in your face vocals, harp and guitar. It took little time for them to convince me they are the real deal! They follow that with “Marchin’ On,” a cut that reminded me a little of being a Northeastern Lynard Skynard song. Strip out that Southern accent and voila! Another blues rocking good time with a toe tapping cut that grabs the listener. “Bogeyman” is a big R&B cut with vibrant vocals and a sublime groove. Gritty, grimy and cool stuff as the guitar and vocals trade off licks and then we get a strident guitar solo to enjoy. “Out Of Line” is a driving cut that gets the heart pumping. Zito and Size guitar’s both blaze and the band lets it all hang out here with some more nice solo work on guitar and big vocals.

“The Wildest One (Lester’s Boogie)” is a tribute to The Red Devil’s Lester Butler.” This is quite the apt tribute with nastily good harp and vocals and another big sone that makes you want to get up and boogie. Britany Spears released “Toxic” in 2004. Synth beat, a pop vocals and sound are transformed into a hard driving blues shuffle with stinging guitar by Mike Welch and some slightly distorted vocals.  I had to go watch Spears music video to convince myself this was the same song. It’s an amazing transformation. Next up is “Action Woman,” another driving and passionate blues rocker that will drive your pulse through the roof.

“If I” follows that,  and here the boys turn down the heat for a pretty, slow blues that is heartfelt and emotive stuff. Great slow blues. “Dime Store Darling” easily could be a Fabulous Thunderbirds song. It’s a slick, Texas sort of blues rocker. “You Don’t  Know Me” gives us some -more fiery guitar and harp to enjoy.

“Vanna Be” showcases Size on guitar. Size is a Texan and was schooled by many of the greats there before moving to LA and becoming a Red Devil. Here his guitar tells us of his masterful lineage and schooling– wow! It’s 2:33 of pure guitar bliss. They follow that with “Put Up With You,” a bit of a rhumba that David shows off his vocal prowess; more cool stuff for sure! The album concludes with Hound Dog Taylor’s “I Just Can’t Make It,” a heavy duty, driving shuffle with wicked (no pun) Hound Dog style slide guitar and groove. David howls he lead vocals and Size gives another hot performance to leave the listener wanting more.

David spent 25 years working his craft; shouting the blues and playing some wild harp are his trademarks. As a member of Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks he had a Billboard charted release (Oh Wow)that was produced by Curtis Salgado. He had performed with a Who’s Who of blues greats over the years.

Size has spent four decades honing his skills and his Texas upbringing shines in his guitar. He left Texas at 19 to join the Red Devils. Since then he’s released and album and appeared on may others. His list of notables he’s worked with in the blues and rock work include Mick Jagger, Los Lobos, the Allman Brothers, the Thunderbirds and Ronnie Earl, just to name drop a few of them.

Hallen, Berg and Toscano are no slouches, either, each with over 30 years of experience. They are fine musicians in their own right with hundreds of album and thousands of appearances under their belts.  What a fine band!

This is a superb album. It belongs in the collection of any blues rock fan. I most highly recommend this one!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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