Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Victor Wainwright. Our Video Of The Week is Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.
We have six Blues music reviews for you. Steve Jones reviews a new album from Bernie Pearl. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Lisa Biales. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Mark Cameron. John Mitchell reviews a new release by Zoe Schwarz. Rhys Williams reviews a new CD from Suzy Martell. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from The Fried Okra Band.
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Hey Blues Fans,
Nomination submissions from artists, publicist and record labels for the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards are now being accepted. Submission are being accepted until April 15th, 2014. See the ad below for more information or CLICK HERE now!
Also Mark Your Calendars! The 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies will be held on Thursday October 23rd, 2014 at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign, Illinois. It is a great new 10,000 sq ft facility and will be a great show! Look for more information and details on hotels and artists later this year.
This Saturday is the Blues Blast Blues Festival in Phoenix, Arizona. This annual festival is in it’s 23rd year. It has no connection to our magazine except that it is presented each year by the Phoenix Blues Society and the president of that fine organization is none other than our friend and feature writer Jim Crawford.
This year’s lineup features Hans Olson, Leon J & Juke Joint, Paul CruiZe Blues Crew, Mike Eldred Trio, & Sugaray Rayford & The Rhythm Room All Stars, and Samantha Fish. More info at http://phoenixblues.org/ Get tickets HERE
The Champaign Brews, Blues and BBQ Festival line up has just been announced. On Friday June 27th the lineup includes Holly Thee Maxwell, Rosie Ledet and Curtis Salgado and on Saturday June 28th they have The Surreal Deal, Jason Elmore, Maurice John Vaughn, Nikki Hill, Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang, Albert Cummings and Buckwheat Zydeco. For more info visit http://bluesbrewsandbbqfest.com
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
We made it out to the Bluesday Tuesday event last week at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign Illinois. It is a free Blues show and jam session put on by the folks at Fluid Events. It featured The Surreal Deal with Jesse Brown on keyboard and vocals, Josh Quirk on drums and vocals and Billy Gault on guitar and vocals. (Sorry, we did not get the bass players name.)
Joining in to jam later were Up Shot, with Sara Hall on vocals and Seth Anders on sax.
Be sure to check out this weekly free Blues show if you are with in driving distance.
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Featured Blues review – 1 of 6
Bernie Pearl – Take Your Time
Bee Bump Records
Bernie Pearl is a long time West Coast performer, radio host, promoter and self-proclaimed blues “evangelist.” He was schooled by the likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and many other greats, but his music is certainly not retro or old school. There is a fresh and edgy side to his approach to the blues, whether he is playing acoustic guitar or electric. His baritone voice is sublimely superb and smooth, making all of his recordings quite easy to digest.
This album features Bernie doing tunes that have recently grabbed his attention and he has challenged himself to play or interpret them by expending whatever effort that was necessary to master them. Working with the jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison on this project, the two perform some great duets. Her base is also in Los Angeles, and the two hit it off well. Both are fans of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, whom Pearl dedicates this effort to.
The CD starts off with “Worried Life Blues” where Pearl takes off from Fred McDowell’s “Done Tol’ Everybody,” a Big Maceo original. Pearls’ dobro starts us off and the band then joins in. Pearl starts the first verse and Barbara comes in on the chorus and then takes the second verse. They alternate the verse throughout and do the choruses jointly and it’s just a cool old school with a West Coast twist opener. Pearl picks out some mean guitar as Albert Trepagnier, Jr., stomps and beats out a nice drum/percussion accompaniment. Lightnin’ Hopkins “Katie Mae” follows, a soulful and solemn piece. It really hearkens to what Fred McDowell told Bernie about the blues; “Take your time, buddy.” Slow, easy, pensive and the complete opposite of today’ life. Blues delivered slow and easy, where deadlines and work do not matter. Barbara moans and groans and adds some very nice layers to the end of this one.
He dedicates the next original to his Kickstarter angels on this sweet instrumental with just Pearl on guitar and some drums to make you want to dance. “Rock Me Mama” follows, Big Boy Crudup’s classic and Pearl brings out his classic electric guitar to make this one even cooler. Mike Barry on bass appears for the first time along with more simplistic drumming by Trepagnier. Pearl takes his time and shows restraint, giving us a very interesting interpretation here. Mance Lipscomb’s “Mama Don’t Dog Me” is next and Pearl goes solo on this cut, relying on his acoustic guitar and smooth vocals to sell this one.
Bernie and Barbara offer up another duet on the religious favorite “Jesus on the Main Line.” Fred McDowell and his wife taught Bernie this one and he seems to have taken well to his lesson. Pearl singing and plucking his dobro while Morrison testifies with even more emotion; by the time it’s over you’d be happy to fill the old collection plate. Pearl then improvises on MacDowell’s “Como” and gives us his “Mississippi Raga.” Sliding electrically like we were in South Asia, Pearl gives quite an emotive performance on his guitar, slow and easy. “One Room Country Shack” is one of three tunes Pearl learned from Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher from his lecture, “The Bible and the Blues.” Mercy Dee Walton penned this one and it is a soft and sublime, solo, slow and testifying blues. One of my personal all-time favorite songs is Big Joe Williams “Sloppy Drunk,” a take-off on a Sonny Boy I song. Another solo performance, Pearl hits this with a medium or so tempo and finger picks his way coolly through this one. “Tough Times” comes next, a John Brim cover. Lap steel is used here, showing Pearl fluency over every stringed version of the guitar. Morrison sings with him here again and the introduction of Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer on sax makes it even suave-er. More suave. Whatever; it’s cool. The two sing their asses off as the guitar and sax wail and the drums and cymbals tap out a thoughtful beat.
“10:00 am Blues” is named for the start time of their first recording session an their warm-up improvisation became the 11th cut on the disc. Pearl and Barry finger pick up and down the necks of the guitar and bass and it is a great little instrumental to enjoy. Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” follows. Everyone and their brother have covered this one, but Pearl gives us his take on Johnson’s riffing and I’m sure you’ll like it just as I did. Eddie Boyd’s “Third Degree” has some acoustic guitar layered over his lap steel and Spencer returns to moan on his sax. Slower than normal and dirtier, this is a very interesting cover! Spencer does an outstanding job here. “Old Fool” is a song Pearl wrote a while back but updated with accompaniment. He says that it helped “An old fool tell his story,” by adding the bass and drums. Pearl almost raps out the vocal line and it is a biographical ending to this album built to be taken and listened to while taking your time.
I really enjoyed this one. Nothing is overdone, the sound is minimalistic, yet solid and evocative. Pearl plays the string instruments with abandon and sings with a beautiful tone. The addition of Morrison makes for some very excellent duets and the two horn cuts really stand out with the addition of Spencer to the mix. There is nothing here not to like; take a little over an hour, get a glass of wine or some sipping liquor and your best woman and curl up for some very nice blues done right. You won’t be sorry to have invested the time!
Reviewer 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 work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE
2014 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions Open
It is that time again to let publicists, artists, labels and Blues industry contacts know that submissions in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards are open until April 15th, 2014.
We will again offer you the opportunity to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our 30 nominators for consideration in this years awards. Submissions are free and can be sent from March 1st until April 15, 2014.
The Blues Blast Music Awards honor the BEST in today’s Blues music and are voted on by music fans all over the world. This years release eligibility period is April 1st 2013 to April 30th, 2014. All music released during this period is eligible for consideration.
Complete information is at this link www.bluesblastmagazine.com/2014-blues-blast-music-award-nominations-information/
2014 Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies Announced
Mark Your Calendars! The 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held on Thursday October 23rd, 2014 at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign, Illinois. It is a great new 10,000 sq ft facility and will be a great show!
Look for more information on hotels and artists later this year.
Featured Blues Interview – Victor Wainwright
It’s 2:30 in the morning in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the ship’s a-rockin’. Victor Wainwright is playing to a packed house in the piano bar of Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam during the recent Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise.
The room seats 50 or 60 folks comfortably, but you couldn’t squeeze another listener into the cramped quarters if you tried. They’re jammed standing-room only against one another and grooving to the music as he fires off one song after another on the 88s. They’re listening to one of the most soulful voices in the business. That’s the way it’s been lately for one of the busiest and most popular artists emerging on the scene today.
At 33 years old, he’s the Blues Music Association’s reigning Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year and has been nominated for the award again this year, the third time in a row he’s been tabbed for the honor. A former Blues Blast Award Sean Costello Rising Star Award nominee, he performs about 300 gigs a year, divided among solo performances, work with his own group, WildRoots, and with bandmates in the new supergroup, Southern Hospitality, who were with him on the cruise. It’s hard to believe he’s got any sleep at all, juggling the piano bar with SoHo sets and accepting invitations to jam practically around the clock.
A pleasant, down-to-earth crowd pleaser, he’s large, but not tall man who simply radiates the enjoyment he gets from the audience with an ear-to-ear smile. His facial expressions range from pious altar boy to wild-eyed, mischievous devil, and he sometimes amazes listeners by getting up from his stool and balancing his heavy Roland keyboard on his ample midsection during the middle of a tune.
Not bad for a young man who, only a few years ago, was sitting in the control tower, probably bored out of his mind working as an air traffic controller at Memphis International Airport in Tennessee, where he now resides.
It didn’t take Victor long to realize that the keyboards – and the road – were his true calling.
A native of Savannah, he’s the son and grandson of folks who, in his terms, “get paid to play the piano.” Both men have worked professionally out of their North Georgia homes, gigging occasionally in neighboring states. By age eight, Victor was accompanying them, often serving as a roadie, helping load and unload keyboards and amplifiers, and occasionally getting a chance to sit in.
Victor honored them recently with the release of his latest CD, “Family Roots.” A double album, it features granddad Jesse and dad Victor Sr. playing and singing with WildRoots on one disc and Victor and the band on the other, is only available for purchase at his live performances.
“I was learning from them at home,” said Victor in the adjoining casino before his piano bar performance. “They’d bring me up on stage some. My grandfather Jesse was The Man — he taught me how to play. And my father, he encouraged me and taught me how to sing.
“It was the perfect balance of blues on Saturday night to church on Sunday. Sin to salvation. That’s the whole history of it all – just like here,” he chuckles. “Here we are playing slot machines, and in just a minute, I’m going to sing some gospel music!”
While Wainwright’s material bridges Memphis and New Orleans, his style of play is all his own. “It’s a mix between what my grandfather plays and what I picked up from the Rev. Billy C. Wirtz through Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, too. It’s barrelhouse meets New Orleans meets boogie woogie meets genuine rock ’n’ roll meets honky tonk,” he says.
During his high school years, Victor played with Eric Culberson at the Savannah Blues Bar, the guitarist’s joint that’s been a fixture in the city’s historical district. Culberson also included Wainwright’s early band, Girls Gone Wild, in his performance lineup. But a move to Florida truly accelerated Wainwright’s musical ambitions.
He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, one of the best places in the world to get a degree if you’re planning a career in the aviation or aerospace industries. It was there that he hooked up with folks at KingSnake Records. Owned and operated by the late Bob Greenlee and based in nearby Sanford, it was a small label with an impressive roster of musicians, including Ace Moreland, Noble “Thin Man” Watts, Ernie Lancaster, Bill “The Sauce Boss” Wharton, Dr. Hector And The Groove Injectors, James Peterson, Jumping Johnny Sansone, Joe Beard, Chicago Bob Nelson, Alex Taylor and others.
He earned a bachelor’s degree, but his post-graduate studies in the blues came a short while later when he met the multi-talented Wirtz. A student of Chicago blues keyboard master Sunnyland Slim, Wirtz has earned acclaim both as musician and a comedian. His raucous stage show welcomes parishioners to the First Church Of Polyester Worship And Throbbing Horizontal Teenage Desire as he pokes fun at hot topics in a humorous way. In addition to being a gifted showman, he’s one of America’s foremost experts on gospel music, a journalist whose columns have appeared regularly in Blues Revue Magazine among others, and he’s also had a career in professional wrestling as manager of the legendary Nasty Boys.
“Victor was playing locally, but I took him to his first national gigs,” Wirtz says. “He had just graduated, and they hadn’t decided where they were going to send him, which was Memphis. Pretty fortuitous!
“At the time, my own career was in second gear and Victor provided a spark. For a while, it was pretty cool. We worked together for about a year and a half and did one little album called ‘Pianist Envy.’ There are about a thousand copies floating around.
“I saw the potential there with Victor. For the first time in a long time, I saw someone who was younger, that seemed to have some clue of this music business. It was good. I was ready to do some sort of the passing of the torch of some kind,” says Wirtz, who, in his 50s, is still young in blues terms. “I passed along some of the stuff I know about working crowds and the road in general.
“Playing the music is the easy part,” he says. “Getting up on stage and banging on your piano…that’s easy. Driving, dealing with fans, getting to gigs on time, that’s the hard part. But he’s catching up with the realities of this business because they’ll burn you right out.
“I had Sunnyland Slim, and he had me. Hopefully, he’ll do the same for someone down the road. I’m really interested in seeing what direction he goes in.”
It might surprise some folks to learn that Victor doesn’t read music. “If Barrelhouse Chuck or David Maxwell walked in and asked me to play Chicago style or something else, I’d tell them that’s not my game,” he says. “I’ve never learned to play anything by the notes. As much as I have respect for people who can listen to a Pinetop record and playing every lick like Pinetop, I’ve always found it more appealing to me to learn to do something that people could identify as Victor Wainwright.
“I feel like it’s served me well so far. And Billy taught me that the most important thing is for people to be having fun. It’s actually nothing about hitting the right notes. If you’re welcoming and have the right intent behind the notes that you’re playing – the emotion, the right musical intent going on between you, the folks you’re playing with and the crowd – that’s where the magic happens.”
It didn’t take long for the road to beckon for good once Wainwright settled in Memphis, his college degree in hand, and started his day job with the FAA.
“My daddy calls me a $100,000 keyboard player,” he says wistfully, referring to the salary he could have earned for guiding planes to the ground.
The premise for WildRoots actually began in 2004, when Victor entered into collaboration with Stephen Dees, the Novo Combo bassist who’s toured and recorded with Hall and Oates, Foghat, Pat Travers, Todd Rundgren and others. They met at a benefit concert in Ormond Beach, Fla., and formed a partnership that eventually resulted in Wainwright’s first solo album, “Piana From Savannah,” and the creation of Wainwright’s label, WildRoots Records. In addition to Victor’s own work, the lineup now includes rising talent Robert “Top” Thomas.
The band Victor Wainwright And The WildRoots emerged five years later with the highly successful “From Beale Street To The Bayou.” It was honored by BluesWax magazine as one of the top ten albums of 2009.
With a lineup that now includes guitarist Nick Black, bassist Will Hanlon and drummer Billy Dean, they’re touring constantly when Victor’s not booked for the occasional solo act or working with Southern Hospitality.
You’d have to be living under a rock this lately to have missed the meteoric rise of that supergroup, which teams Victor with two other equally talented musicians: Damon Fowler, the popular lap steel, slide and dobro playing songwriter from North Florida, and J.P. Soars, the searing guitarist who fronts the Red Hots, the South Florida band that won top prize in the International Blues Challenge competition a few years ago.
The group started by accident. Wainwright and Fowler were both in the crowd in Delray Beach, Fla., on a night when Soars was gigging at Boston’s On The Beach, an oceanfront eatery that’s been promoting blues acts for better than 30 years. Often, during the late set, it’s common for the headliner, usually a national act, to open the stage for a jam with other visiting pros, and J.P. invited both men to join him on stage.
“We played for a while, and it was magical,” Victor recalls. “The next thing you know, somebody suggested we form a group. We were kinda laughing about that at the end of the night. I said all right, but it was just talk. After all, we were already really, really busy with our own bands.”
But then the phone rang.
A representative of the Heritage Music Blues Festival in Wheeling, W.Va., was on the line to Fowler’s booking agency, Piedmont, desperately searching for a last-minute replacement for first-generation blues superstar Honeyboy Edwards, who was well into his 90s and in failing health.
“When Damon found out, he suggested we do it, so we did,” Wainwright says.
The night before the gig, all three of the guys were scattered around the country, performing with their own bands. They flew to Wheeling at five in the morning without sleep and took the stage without a single rehearsal. “We just showed up and played our own stuff,” he says.
They were an instant hit, fitting together like hand and glove, with Victor getting up from the keyboards and gleefully cheering on the guitarists during their solos as he prompted the audience to show their appreciation.
Their attention-getting and award-nominated first album together, “Easy Livin’,” came about in much the same way. “We came in and recorded it completely live, and that was it,” Wainwright says. “What you hear is what you get.
“With us, it’s like being on a porch on a summer day in the South with a glass of ice tea. We don’t take anything too seriously. With Damon, J.P. and I, the crowd is always invited to a party. With my own band, it’s more grandiose.”
Juggling two bands and solo work is grueling, so much so, in fact, that Victor decided last fall to take a good look at himself and alter his lifestyle to assure fans and himself that he’d be around to enjoy for the long term. He took the entire month of September off, entering a clinic to address his addiction to nicotine and other related problems.
As he stated in an open message to fans, he’s now smoke-free, eating healthy and making sure he gets a good night’s sleep, something he didn’t do in the past. One of the benefits, he says, is that he’s already dropped about 25 pounds from his ample frame.
“This fresh start of body and mind has brought a new beginning for me,” he says, “and I really appreciate all the love and support I’ve received.
“I want to do this as long as possible. And when you’re on the road 300 days a year, life in general can get intense. I’ve learned to cope with that.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a career where people almost expect you to be messed up. They want you slightly bigger than life, but still approachable. They want to party, and they want you to party. So what we have to do is just make sure we take care of ourselves.
“And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
For great videos of Victor live in concert, visit http://victorwainwright.com/media/
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. 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.
For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Video – Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials
This is a clip of Lil’ Ed playing “It’s No Body’s Fault But My Own” at the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival in June of 2012. Click the video above to watch the video. You can see this Blues legend at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in Florida on Saturday April 12, 2014. Click on their ad below for info and tickets
Featured Blues review – 2 of 6
Lisa Biales – Belle of the Blues
Big Song Music
CD: 11 songs; 39:56 Minutes
Styles: Traditional and Contemporary Acoustic/Electric Blues
Even though the 2014 Winter Games have drawn to a close, what do Ohio native Lisa Biales and an Olympic athlete have in common? Both have the innate, incredibly rare ability to make their performances seem effortless, in spite of intense training and years of practice in their field. Even though the blues streams forth from Biales’ mouth “Just Like Honey,” as she proclaims there’s “Singing In My Soul,” she’s climbed several mountains in order to be the “Belle of the Blues.” “Recording is not all gravy,” comments Lisa about the sessions for this third release. However, her genius lies in the way that listeners would never know it. What’s her secret, besides raw talent refined and polished to a metallic gleam? Just as an Olympic dais wouldn’t be complete without three winners upon it, this CD achieves its glory via the flawless musical team of vocalists Biales and EG Kight, and guitarist Tommy Talton. Together, they “sweep the podium” on every one of eleven tracks. Seven are originals written or co-written by Kight, with the other four being crisp covers. All are top-notch numbers, but these three win medals:
Track 03: “Bad Things” – “I wonder if I’m under some spell that you bring, when you make me, when you make me do bad things.” Not since “Just Like Honey” has Biales sung a catchier vocal hook, this time alongside EG Kight in perfect harmony. Their cover of a Scott Sanford and Donica Knight melody proves that Lisa’s voice is truly at its best when there’s a sharp edge to its sweetness. Underneath its warm caress lies razor-keen menace, especially when she sings, “You make me a liar…you make me a thief.” Also featured are Tommy Talton on sly slide and acoustic guitars, Randall Bramblett on wah-wah Hammond B3 organ, and Gary Porter on ‘rattlesnake’ tambourine.
Track 05: “Graveyard Dead Blues” – A body can’t get any colder or deader than “graveyard dead.” This song’s co-writers, Kight, Biales, and Tom Horner prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. “There’s two things to remember before we tie the knot,” Lisa warns. “If you ever cheat or beat on me, you might get yourself all shot.” She minces no words, and neither does Talton on dashing dobro. He makes this resonator instrument tell as much of a story as the lyrics, which is nothing short of magic.
Track 08: “Peach Pickin’ Mama” – Originally by EG Kight and Richard Fleming, this is a ballad for fans whose favorite things about the blues are cheeky double-entendres: “Well, I’m a peach-pickin’ mama from up Ohio way, and my peaches taste good – that’s what all the farm boys say.” The innuendo is irresistible, as are Tommy Vickery on bass and Pat Bergeson on feisty harmonica.
Truly, this lovely “Belle” claims the vocal and team-effort gold in the “Blues Olympics”!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues review – 3 of 6
Mark Cameron – One Way Ride To The Blues
10 songs – 45 minutes
Minneapolis based Mark Cameron offers up a full serving of original material on this disc. A guitarist who possesses a strong, silky voice with lots of range, his career spans three decades in the Twin Cities, where he issued five records as a folk/rock performer before switching over to the blues full-time about five years ago.
“One Way Ride To The Blues” is his third CD in this genre. It features a strong collection of originals styled to get folks off their chairs and out onto the dance floor. Joining Cameron are Bill Keyes on harmonica and the rock-solid rhythm section of Scott Lundberg on bass and John Benedict on drums. Cameron’s wife, Sheri, contributes on flute.
Available through Amazon, CDBaby or the band’s website, the album kicks off with “The Wild Side.” Not to be confused with the Lou Reed rock classic, this is a bright, upbeat original blues that begins with a tasty guitar riff and strong accents from the rhythm section. This one tells the story of a woman whose eyes bare her free-spirited plans: “You want to take me to the wild side/As you’re tossing back your hair/You want to send me on a wild ride/You’ve got plenty to share.”
Two songs about illicit romance follow. “Cheating” is a shuffle dealing with the emotions the singer faces after realizing the love of his life wasn’t playing by the rules. It features a smoky harp solo that leads into a modulated guitar riff. The funky “Something On The Side,” which features steady triplets on the skins, carries the theme forward, while analyzing the woman from the outside looking in: “She might be the girl next door/But you get more than you’ve bargained for.”
“My Way” tells the tale of a woman who puts herself on display. She’s got a man at home who won’t believe a word she has to say. The singer wants to start a relationship – but only if they do it HIS way. “In This House” kicks off with an uncredited 42-second keyboard prelude before Cameron begins a song of praise of a home where folks have got everything they need. It’s an uplifting tune that could be interpreted in different ways. If you’re religious, the message could be spiritual. If you’re not, a positive affirmation of a loving family. A loping guitar line drives “Life Is Good When You’ve Got The Blues,” a clever, different take on several common themes. Keyes provides a substantial harp solo mid-tune.
“Are You Gonna Dance?” describes a good night at roadhouse, where no one is standing still. Cameron provides a brief, but flavorful guitar break. Up next is the catchy rocker “Somebody Once,” about a baseball phenom turned gas station attendant whose career was cut short by a knee injury and a about a former go-go dancer who’s seen better days. The message: “If you’ve got it/Enjoy it while you can/You can forget right now/About making any plan.” The disc concludes with “Never Get Enough,” a country-style number that features interplay between Cameron on acoustic guitar and Keyes on harp, and the album’s slow-burning title cut, “One Way Ride To The Blues.”
Nominated for Album Of The Year by the Minnesota Blues Society, this disc is well-conceived, well-produced and a fun trip from beginning to end.
Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. 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.
For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues review – 4 of 6
Zoe Schwarz And Blue Commotion – The Blues Don’t Scare Me
12 tracks; 57 minutes
On the second CD from UK band Blue Commotion the band is Zoe Schwarz on vocals, Rob Koral on guitar, Si Genaro on harmonica, backing vocals (and rap!), Pete Whittaker on Hammond, Pat Davey/Rodney Teague on bass and Paul Robinson on drums. Sue Hawker provides b/v on four tracks and a horn section of Ian Ellis on sax and Andy Urquhart on trumpet appears on four tracks. Apart from a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Billie’s Blues”, all the material is original, mostly Schwarz/Koral compositions with Sue Hawker providing lyrics for one song and Phil Coles another. The band is hugely experienced on both the blues and jazz circuits; for instance drummer Paul Robinson was Nina Simone’s drummer in Europe for many years. The material is varied, running across ballads, blues and R n’ B with some jazz influences adding to the mix.
The CD opens with a strong ballad in “I Believe In You”, the longest track on the album, the lyrics an encouragement to ‘go for it’, possibly a message from Rob to Zoe (or vice versa); either way it’s a strong song to open the CD. The instrumental elements are spread out as first Pete gives a fine account of himself in a Hammond solo, then after further vocal verses Rob solos fluently. Next up is the jaunty, almost country blues of “Liberated Woman” which is propelled by the fast hands of drummer Paul. Si added just a little colour to the first tune but takes the main solo on this one. The title track is more of a rocker and Zoe gives us her ‘rock chick’ persona here as the band is augmented by the horns for this one and the solos come from Pete and Si.
“I’ll Be Yours Tonight” is a quieter piece led by Rob’s lovely plucked chords and Si’s atmospheric harp accents. Against this gentle musical background Zoe offers herself to her lover: “I can’t resist you now, show me your best move. Kiss me now, I’ll be yours tonight”. Upping the ante even further the band then give us “We’ll Find A Way”, possibly the strongest song and vocal performance on the album (and that’s saying something!). The song is almost the opposite of the previous cut as the two potential lovers have so many differences that a union seems unlikely: “…we’re a mile apart, like the desert sun and the arctic ice. Baby, baby, we’ll find a way”. Rob’s short solo is perfect for the song as it shimmers across the speakers before giving way to Pete’s church-like organ. Zoe then returns to tell us that “..there’s something that binds our souls and knits our sleep, we’ll find a way”. Superb.
The two lyrical collaborations follow. Phil Coles’ lyrics for “Lucifer Is Blue” work very well in Zoe’s mouth, recounting that the inner devil has been made blue by a frustrating relationship. Having seen the band live recently I know that this is a tune on which everyone solos and here Paul’s drums threaten to let loose before returning to the main theme. Sue Hawker’s “Just Another Day” is a slow blues concerning the mundane everyday life that so many of us lead, always hoping that there is something more exciting to come. “Your Sun Shines Rain” is another song about jealousy and failure to understand a partner. It’s an uptempo stomper which is immediately followed by an excellent reading of Billie Holliday’s “Billie’s Blues” on which Si’s harp and Pete’s Hammond solos are followed by a delicate acoustic solo from Rob, the verses being supplemented by the horns. Zoe’s vocal here is again outstanding, more than doing justice to Billie’s memory.
The album then closes with three different styles: “Come Home Sweet Baby” has an insistent riff and contains a rap as well as harp from Si. Not sure that the rap really works but it offers a different slant on what is otherwise a pretty straight mid-tempo blues. Whilst many of the tracks here demonstrate some jazz sensibilities “Pebble In My Pond” is the most pronounced, especially in the cooler vocal and organ accompaniment. Closing track “Say It Isn’t So” is another of the tracks with horns, an upbeat tune with strong vocals and backing harmonies, Rob and Pete both providing stirring solos to close out the album.
Well played and produced, this is an album from a band working hard to break through in the UK and is well worth a listen.
Reviewer 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.
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Featured Blues review – 5 of 6
Suzy Martell – Heartbreaks & Outtakes
12 songs – 51 minutes
English vocalist Suzy Martell has certainly had cause to sing the blues recently. She has suffered from two bouts of cancer and, in February 2013, she lost her father, to whom she was very close. Now, however, having released a country album back in 2002 (Broken Hearts In Nashville), she has released the more blues-influenced Heartbreaks & Outtakes.
The press release accompanying the CD suggests that it is something of a stop-gap release prior to the release of a new album of all-original songs later in 2014. It is also something of a curate’s egg of an album. It isn’t a straight blues album, with strong jazz, country, folk and rock influences also discernable in the musical selections. In addition, six of the songs on the album are live recordings (from a gig in Hartlepool in northern England, judging by Martell’s comments to the audience); the other six are previously unreleased studio tracks. Some parts of the album are very good; others less so.
The six live songs suffer from a muddy production, sounding like something recorded in the 1970s rather than the 21st century. More importantly, a couple of the live songs also suffer from what might be delicately termed as uneven singing, with Martell struggling to hit some of the notes she goes for. Given that she has bravely taken on some well-known, all-time classics, such as “Cry Me A River”, The Faces’ “Stay With Me”, and “I’d Rather Go Blind”, any mistakes are accentuated by comparison with the originals. In a live setting, of course, it can be real crowd-pleaser to throw in a few songs that everyone knows. It works less well on a recording, especially when the cover version is a relatively faithful recreation of the original, because the listener is more likely simply to reach for the original instead. This is especially the case on “I’d Rather Go Blind”, where Martell’s slightly ragged rendition only serves to emphasize the power and beauty of Etta James’ restrained original.
Once the live recordings are out of the way, however, the CD picks up. There are some wonderful moments on the record. Martell’s version of folk singer Mary Gauthier’s “Lucky Stars” is beautifully recorded, played and sung, with some lovely support from the piano player. It is the highlight of the album. The studio version of “Cry Me A River” is a belter, and the only original song on the album, “A Dose Of You”, is also impressive.
Altogether, 19 musicians are listed as appearing on Heartbreaks & Outtakes. Unfortunately, it is not clear who plays on which songs. The focus on this album, however, is very much on Martell. The backing musicians do get a few solos, but this is a release that relies on Martell’s voice to carry it.
She has a powerful, expressive voice with a hint of Rod Stewart’s smokey croak and she can certainly sing the blues. But Heartbreaks & Outtakes would be better served by having more original songs, one or two more upbeat numbers and more sympathetic production. This CD is probably not one that will end up on most listeners’ heavy rotation list. However, if “A Dose Of You” is any indication, Martell can certainly pen a tune, and this album provides enough evidence to suggest that the promised album of originals will be worth hearing.
Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.
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Featured Blues review – 6 of 6
The Fried Okra Band – There’s a World Outside My Door
12 tracks / 43:11
Though the genre got its start in the states, there is certainly no shortage of solid blues albums coming from all corners of the globe, and you will find that The Fried Okra Band out of Europe definitely cuts the mustard with their new release, There’s a World Outside My Door!
The Fried Okra Band is based out of Copenhagen, Denmark, and they have been honing their craft since 2003 by playing shows around Denmark and Finland, as well as taking up residency at the Mojo Blues Bar in Copenhagen. There’s a World Outside My Door is their third release, and their second of all original material. Morten Lunn wrote all 12 of the songs and provides vocals, guitar, and diddley bo for this album. Other members of the band include Thomas Foldberg on guitar and harmonica, Thomas Crawford on drums, percussion and mandolin and Henrik Silver on sousaphone and piano.
This self-produced CD was recorded and mixed by Crawford and Foldberg at locations around Denmark, and these two gentlemen were able to capture the essence of the band, which can be smooth and ethereal or raw and gritty. The band calls it “Northern Flat Land Blues” and they get this unique sound by eschewing the bass and focusing on vocals, two guitars and drums, with a few instruments used as needed to fine-tune their tone.
The listener gets a taste of this right from the first track, “Chicago Stage.” This song has the blues sou
nd and lyrics down, but uses a spooky syncopated guitar ostinato to set the mood and the overall product is more laid-back vibe than most band would have the guts to kick off their album with. It works in this case, drawing the listener into the lyrics which are quite visual as they paint a picture of the pride that only a lead singer can have. It should be pointed out that though these guys are Danish they have worked extensively with the words of their songs so that there are just a few awkward half-English phrases that are well-masked by the poetic structure of the lyrics. Also, Morten sings with a light hill country twang, so there is no hint that these guys are from overseas.
The diddley bo is featured on “One String Love” a song that captures the southern roots sound perfectly. Thee unique sound of this single-string instrument is overlaid with mandolin, guitars and only the barest amount of percussion. Foldberg contributes a sweet harmonica break midway through, and his smooth technique works well with Lunn’s subdued vocals.
The standout track from this CD is “Fake Rag Okra,” which is a straight-forward roots track with catchy lyrics. Lunn’s voice is in fine form here, and his words cleverly describe the feelings of a man who has been distracted from doing the right things. This song epitomizes The Fried Okra Band’s sound, and the mixture of clean and distorted guitars, mandolin, tuba, and unconventional percussive elements all contribute to their unique “Northern Flatland Blues.”
The band’s songs are not limited to usual blues subjects of failed relationships and problems with the bottle. They examine growing older in one’s hometown (“Shopkeeper”), and dive into the deep end of the fantasy pool with “Copenhagen Coppola.” This descriptive dream sequence is set against a sparse backdrop of a few spooky guitars and synths that is punctuated by a single harmonica riff at the very end. This is a powerful tune, and is a fitting way to bring the album to a close.
With There’s a World Outside My Door, The Fried Okra Band has set the bar high by writing a dozen solid original songs and recording them with a sound that is all their own. This CD is a keeper, and if they maintain this momentum their fourth release should be astounding!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Blues Society News
Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to:
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DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.
Join the DC Blues Society for a dance party with live music on March 15, 2014 from 8pm-12:30am (American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902.) Tickets are $13 in advance (www.dcblues.org) or $15 at the door.
Jesi Terrell and The Love Mechanic Band will keep you warm and toasty as you dance to their blues-heavy R&B sound! Jesi Terrell brings her sultry sound to Wheaton! Said David Whiteis of the Chicago Reader, “she can break into a ferocious, full-bodied wail, invoking the combination of lust and aggression that’s so basic to the blues…Terrell has always had a knack for conveying the sensuality of the blues”. Jesi is a seasoned Chicago music scene veteran who has opened for B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Last fall, Jesi and her tight band brought down the house at the 2013 DC Blues Society Battle of the Bands. Check out this exuberant and exciting performer!
NOTE: This event was originally scheduled for February 15, 2014 but was postponed due to inclement weather.
The Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura County, CA
On Saturday, April 26 the Ventura County Blues society presents the The 9th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival at Moorpark College with its best lineup yet, featuring headlining performances by Kim Wilson’s Blues All-Stars; Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue featuring Sugaray Rayford with Kid Ramos and friends; Sista Monica Parker; , Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers; , Michael John and The Bottom Line and friends, including vocalist Karen Lovely; and Lightnin’ Willie.
Returning as Celebrity Emcee is noted actor-musician, Mickey Jones. Food and craft vendors, guitar giveaway, and, for the first time, a Ticketed V.I.P. area. Benefits the American Diabetes Association and community charities. Presale General Admission tickets $20. in advance, $30. at the gate; V.I.P. tickets $100. (limited quantity available). More information at www.venturacountyblues.com.
The Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA
The Bottoms Up Blues Bash on March 8th, 2014, features Bob Dorr and The Blue Band, with special guests The Jean Marie Salem Project, and Dustin Busch and Marc Janssen. The 6pm event at Wooly’s in the East Village is a collaboration of The Central Iowa Blues Society and DavidsFight.org.
This family friendly event is a celebration of colon cancer awareness month and fund raiser to help fight the disease in communities across the state. There will be a special presentation for the kids by Blues in the Schools (BITS), presented by Frank “Freight Train” Strong.
For more information visit Wooly’s website, www.woolysdm.com, or www.davidsfight.org. Tickets for the Bottoms Up Blues Bash are on sale for $20 prior to the show and $25 on March 8, children 12 and under FREE, through Wooly’s website, www.woolysdm.com, or at their location, 504 East Locust, Des Moines.
The Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI
On Thursday, March 20, the Madison Blues Society will host its annual Wild Women of the Blues event. Wild Women will be singin’ the Blues at the High Noon Saloon, 701 East Washington Avenue in Madison. The show starts at 7:00PM. This year’s event will be a benefit for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) and MBS Blues in the Community Programs.
This year’s Wild Women will be power vocalist Blythe Gamble with the Stand Back Blues Band and world-class entertainer Peaches Staten with the Groove Shakers.
Tickets will be $15 advance / $18 day of show ($12 adv / $15 dos for MBS members). Tickets are available now at the High Noon Saloon, the Knuckle Down Saloon and the Bristled Boar Saloon. Donations to MBS programs will be gratefully accepted at the MBS table. For more info, check us out at www.madisonbluessociety.com/wild_women14.htm.
Phoenix Blues Society – Phoenix,AZ
The 23rd Annual Blues Blast, presented by The Phoenix Blues Society, 501(c)(3), will take place March 8, 2014 at Margaret T. Hance Park at 3rd St. & Moreland near downtown Phoenix. Gates will open at 10 a.m. with music starting at 11a.m. Headliners: Samantha Fish and SugaRay Rayford with the Rhythm Room All-stars will join The Mike Eldred Trio, Paul Cruize Blues Crew and Leon J’s Juke Joint. Local favorite Hans Olson will provide entertainment between acts throughout the afternoon.
Food, beverages and vendors will be on site. There will be master musicians holding a free music workshop for kids 12-18 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. There also will be an art project open for everyone’s contribution. Admission is $22 in advance and $25 day of show. Children under 16 accompanied by a parent will be admitted free. Early Bird tickets are available now until Feb.1 at www.bluesblast2014.eventbrite.com Tickets can be purchased online until day of show.
Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois
Saturday, March 8th is back to the Hope and Anchor with guitar virtuoso Bobby Messano and his great band. $5 cover, 8 PM start.
Crossroads Blues Society is proud to present the second annual Field of Blues Festival on Saturday, June 28th at Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park.
Alex Wilson Band is opening beginning his set at noon. Next up is an international act, Italian blues and singing sensation Linda Valori at 2 PM along with super guitar player Luca Giordano and our own Barstool Bob Blues Band with Bob Levis on guitar, Al Terrano on bass, Link Leary on drums and Don Collins on harmonica.
The Jimmy’s will bring their swinging blues at 4 PM. At 6 PM, the ever cool Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling will take the stage with the Jewel Tones.
At 8 PM our headliners will be John Nemeth!
Between acts we will feature local acoustic blues man Dan Phelps. 10 hours of music from noon to 10 PM (we close at 10:30 PM). Tickets will once again only be $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
Check us out at http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com/ or call festival chairman Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for more information!
The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.
March 10 – Eddie Snow Tribute with Wayne Carter and the All Star Blues Band, March 17 – 24th Street Whalers from Toronto, March 24 – The Blues Deacons, March 31 – Kilborn Alley, April 7 – Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, April 14 – The Blues Expressions, April 21 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans, April 28 – Greg Glick
Additional ICBC shows of interest: March 6 – James Armstrong Presents @ Casey’s Pub with special guest, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet
Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at firstname.lastname@example.org at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at email@example.com or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org
P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425