Issue 8-11 March 13, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue  

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Andy Talamantez. Our Video Of The Week is Coco Montoya playing “I Want It All Back”!

We have six Blues music reviews for you.  Steve Jones reviews a new album from Michael Packer. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by JP Blues. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Sean Pinchin. John Mitchell reviews a new release by Holly & Jon. Rhys Williams reviews a new CD from Gene “Daddy G” Barge. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from The Claudettes.

We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Blues Want Ads  

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

Blues Blast Magazine looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review or story each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the CD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world and we publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow or things that need reviewed.

We are also looking for folks to write stories for our website, blogging style, and other occasional story assignments. We will assign subjects and stories and also entertain your ideas too.

These are non-paid volunteer positions that need a persons who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word!

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. Please be sure to include your phone number in the email.

Early Bird Advertising Special


Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest pricing of the 2014 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 6-week combo ad rate allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, an event advertising campaign or any new product.

Normal 2014 Advertising rates are $100 per issue for Blues Blast magazine ads and $100 per month for website sidebar ads. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a month and a half on our website for only $375. (A $750 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything. More than 26,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 45,000 visitors a month on our website. 

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by MARCH 31st, 2014!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2014.

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 200,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit To get more information email or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

Ads must be reserved and paid for by MARCH 31st, 2014!!!

 Featured Blues review – 1 of 6  

Michael Packer – I Am the Blues

Iris Music Group

18 Tracks

Michael Packer has the blues. His life has been filled with adversity, diversity, and controversy. His experiences of being beaten, jailed, involved with drugs and weapons, a street person and a host of troubles large and small certainly qualify to sing the blues as any color of man.

This CD is the story of his life. Filled with narration and songs related to his experiences, we get many glimpses into the life that has been Michael Packer. His history involve a multitude of things that he was imprisoned over. He claims his troubles come from his family, which includes an uncle Al who was a murderer and cannibal. NYC and SF have been his bases of operations and he sings of them, but NYC has been and is his home. Heroin and booze was a big part of his life, but he has now overcome those addictions and other issues to be a blues hall of famer and respected musician. His bands Papa Nebo and Free Beer, his association with Bob Dylan and meeting and losing the love of his life are topics of interest and subjects of his songs. His life on the Bowery was a result of his drinking and we hear about that in both word and song, too.

The songs take on a variety of styles, from blues to 60’s rock to swing to funk and are delivered in groups from the scaled down to the larger and more filled out. Solo acoustic in a Dylan-esque style or with horns and organs and other accompaniment, we hear a variety of approaches and styles. The first 16 tracks are historical original songs and narrations. He finishes up with the traditional “This Train” and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.” This is not top 40 stuff, it is dirty and gritty and poignant.

This is not a CD to impress a date while listening with over a fancy meal. This is a CD to sit down and listen to and hear how a white got the blues and lived to tell about it. Interesting stuff!

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

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 – Andy Talamantez  

Some nicknames arise from divine intervention, while some are drawn up as part of a Madison Avenue marketing scheme.

Others still, are earned from some sort of miraculous feat of sporting skill.

However, some are born out of the sheer need for simplicity and ease.

Nashville blues guitarist Andy Talamantez relates how he acquired the handle that he is now known worldwide by.

“When I first met Smokey Wilson and went over to rehearse for a gig I was going to be playing with him, he said, ‘OK, Andy, what’s your last name?’ I said, ‘Well, Smokey, you can just call me Andy T.’ And he says, ‘I can say your name … what is it?’ So I told him, ‘It’s Andy Talamantez.’ And he says, ‘Andy T sound good.’ So there you go.”

Unless a blues lover was deep under a rock last year, they should be more than familiar with the Andy T-Nick Nixon Band. Their Drink Drank Drunk (Delta Groove) album made quite a bit of noise on the blues scene in 2013 and landed on just about everyone’s ‘best of’ list for the year. It was nominated for Best Artist Debut at last October’s Blues Blast Music Awards.

According to Andy T, all the adulation the disc has received is just what the southern California born guitarist was hoping for – but not necessarily holding his breath waiting on – when the studio sessions wrapped up.

“Knowing the industry, the critics and all that, it was kind of a ‘fingers crossed’ situation, but we knew it was something special,” he said. “With Nick singing and with Anson’s production values, we figured we couldn’t have gone too wrong. So it was a pleasant surprise that it was received so well … I mean I try to never take anything for granted in life.”

Striking while the iron is certainly still smokin’ hot, work is well under way for round number two from the Andy T-Nick Nixon Band.

“We just finished mixing and it’s due out in June. It’s going to be a little different … I don’t want to say less traditional … I really haven’t got my head around how to describe it yet, but it is a little different than Drink Drank Drunk,” he said. “We’re using an electric bass instead of an acoustic bass and some of the arrangements are a little more R&B – still blues, but with a little more R&B feel. And we’re going to have more original tunes on this record than we had on the last one.”

While leaning heavily on original compositions, the follow-up to Drink Drank Drunk will have a few tasty cover tunes, but according to Andy T, the listener may have to spend a bit of time digging to find the source of the material.

“The cover songs are extremely obscure. For one of the songs, Delbert McClinton released an album (Nothing Personal) with a song on it called “Livin’ it Down,” and we decided to do that, but with a little different twist on it,” he said. “And the other couple of covers are really obscure, to the point I don’t know if people will have ever heard them before. I just explored and looked around until I found something that no one could say were worn-out songs that have been covered to death.”

Once again, helping to man the board, offer suggestions and slide in the occasional tasty guitar riff or two, is producer Anson Funderburgh.

“I think Anson would be the first person to tell you this, but his philosophy (in the studio) is to not hinder the musicians or change who they are. He really tries to put them in the best light possible and tries to help them be the best they can, but lets them still be who they are,” said Andy T. “He really believes in helping to guide you where you want to go, instead of shoving you in a particular direction.”

Funderburgh has managed to cast quite a wide shadow over the world of the blues for the past three decades – especially to fellow guitarists – and it may have taken Andy T a moment or two to settle in when they entered into the studio to start work on Drink Drank Drunk.

“Personally, I was a little intimidated when we began work on the first record. I was like, ‘I’m in the studio with Anson Funderburgh?’ I mean, I had been a fan of his for years and all of a sudden, I was playing guitar and he was listening to me record stuff. But I quickly got over that and he always made me feel real comfortable. He’s just an awesome guy and has become a really close friend … and we really do think a lot alike, musically.”

The same thing can be said of the relationship between Andy T and his cohort and new partner in the blues, Nick Nixon. Just a few short years ago, neither had heard of the other, but they’ve quickly become kindred spirits and are in possession of one of the hottest bands currently playing the blues.

“When I first moved to Nashville, someone told me I needed to look up Nick Nixon and I had no idea who he was or how to find him. Well, my wife and I, along with some good friends, started the Nashville Blues Society and put together a host band (some of the members are part of the current Andy T-Nick Nixon Band) and started doing some jams. And about six months or so after we started those jams – around late 2009 or early 2010 – Nick showed up to one of them. He got up and did some of the songs that he regularly does at a jam and I remember sitting with a buddy in the back of the room and our jaws dropped to the table. We were like, ‘Wow! This guy can sing! Oh, my!’”

The Drink Drank Drunk project was already underway at that point with another singer poised to do the bulk of the vocal work. But after hearing Nixon, Andy T decided that things were about to change.

“We just had some basic tracks recorded at that point and Anson grabbed me at the 2010 King Biscuit (Festival) and said, ‘Andy, we’re got some great stuff we’re working on and I know you know someone in Nashville who can sing and pull this off and we can make a great album.’ And of course the first and only person that came to mind was Nick,” he said. “So I asked him if he would come with me to Dallas and work on the CD and he said, ‘Sure.’ But I was really non-committal at that point in time, as was he. I said, ‘Let’s just do this and see where it takes us.’ And he was OK with that.”

Right off the bat Andy T and Nick Nixon realized they were about to catch lighting in a bottle.

“After one trip into the studio, Nick said, ‘This is going to be great. Whatever you want to do with this, I’m in.’ So that’s how it all came about. First, I asked him (to go into the studio) and he said ‘Yes.’ And then we recorded the CD, hit the road and toured and now we’re working on a follow-up. It went down really simple, just like that,” said Andy T. “I was just looking for the best guy for the job to help me finish up what I had started and I don’t know anyone else – period – that I would have wanted to do it with, other than Nick.”

The psychedelic sound of the late 1960s was Andy T’s gateway into the down-and-dirty blues, just as it was for so many others during those fabulous days.

“At about 12 years old, I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show and they had Cream – witch Eric Clapton – on there and I thought that was just the most amazing thing. I went out and bought a 45 with “White Room” and “Sunshine of your Love” on it and just played the heck out of it. And from there, I fell into the whole British blues thing. I had a friend that was into early Fleetwood Mac and Rory Gallagher and that kind of stuff. And from there, I found Johnny Winter and guys like that. Then at about 17, after having read about B.B. King for awhile, but not having really heard him, I went out and bought Live at the Regal on cassette. And I remember having to buy a few copies of that because I played it so much that it ended up getting eaten up by the player.”

Then after getting up to speed with the music of the great B.B. King, Andy T dug deeper and fell under the same influences that inspired the Beale Street Blues Boy to first play the blues.

“Well, I really loved B.B. and when I read about him, I found out he loved T-Bone Walker and that kind of thing and when I heard T-Bone, It kind of all came together for me. I could hear elements of B.B. King, Chuck Berry and all the British blues stuff in T-Bone’s playing. It was like, ‘Wow.’ It all came from T-Bone, which is really not surprising, since he was one of the first real prominent electric players to begin with.”

It was on the West Coast with (Robert Lee) Smokey Wilson that Andy T got his first real taste of what it was like to play the blues for a living, although his initial meeting with Wilson could just as easily never have happened.

“I would go down to the Blue Café in Long Beach and there was a friend of mine named Max Bangor that played every Sunday afternoon and I would go down and sit in with him. And Johnny Mastro (Johnny Mastro and the Mamas Boys) used to come down there and play all the time, too, so I’d be on stage with him,” Andy T said. “Apparently, Johnny got a call from Smokey Wilson one day and Smoky was wanting to borrow Johnny’s guitar player – Earl – for a day for an upcoming weekend gig in Fresno. But even though Earl was around, Johnny told Smokey that he was out of town, but that he knew someone else. So he gave Smokey my phone number.”

Mastro then phoned Andy T to give him a heads-up and let him know to expect a phone call from Wilson.

“Honestly, I had heard some horror stories about the way Wilson treated his musicians on stage and that kind of stuff, but he called me up and asked me to come over and rehearse for that one gig. He made it clear he was not hiring me permanently, that it was just for the one gig in Fresno. So I went and rehearsed, did the gig in Fresno with him and then I was in the band for two years, pretty much up until the time he stopped touring.”

Serious medical issues – including a stroke in 1999 – basically ended Wilson’s days on the blues highway.

“He kept complaining that he had been having headaches for a couple of weeks and I said, ‘Smokey, you need to go to the doctor, that’s not right.’ We were in the studio in Culver City working on a recording of mine at that time and then nine days later, he had a massive stroke,” Andy T said. “I went down to the hospital and he was in really bad shape. I ended up going down there just about every day to visit him. From where I lived in north Los Angeles County to Martin Luther King Hospital in the middle of Watts in L.A. was about a 40-mile drive, but I went down there every day to check on him and make sure he was OK and getting proper care.”

It turns out those ‘horror stories’ that Andy T had heard about Wilson on the bandstand were mostly fictional ones, as he found out first-hand.

“He was great and we got along great. He’d look over the top of his glasses at you on stage and the first couple of times he did that, it about scared me to death, wondering what I’d done wrong. One night we were in Hawaii and he did that and I basically just gave him a funny look and looked over the top of my glasses right back at him … and he about fell off the stage, he was laughing so hard. Later, his wife Linda says, ‘You finally figured out Smokey. You’re the first one.’ In other words, he was just messing with people.”

Another legendary bluesman that loves to have a good time, while also messing with people, is the one-and-only Guitar Shorty. Andy T was enlisted in Shorty’s army for a spell, too.

“I loved playing with Shorty. We talk all the time and are great friends. Shorty’s just an interesting character,” Andy T said. “Our (guitar) styles are so different, but my rhythm playing sure as heck got a lot better from me playing with him … I hardly ever got a solo, but that wasn’t what it was about. It was about backing up Shorty. I just love him to death.”

While it has become more than evident that Guitar Shorty knows his way around a fretboard – over, under, slide-ways down – over the years, Andy T says Shorty was a Jack of all Trades and was just as at home under the hood of a car as he was under the bright lights of the concert stage.

“I remember driving back from a gig in the middle of the night in Shorty’s Dodge van in Denver or someplace and it was really cold outside – I was driving and Shorty was sleeping – and all of the sudden, the lights get dim. So I wake Shorty up and he says, ‘Quick, pull it over, pull it over.’ For some reason, on those Dodge vans, when the alternator would go bad, it would drain the battery instantly, like within two or three minutes and you’d just be stuck. So Shorty gets back into the trailer and starts digging through the tons of stuff he’d bring on the road – his tools, wiring, spare car parts … just boxes of stuff. He starts splicing wires, un-wiring things and taping stuff up and then we’re back on the road again. He always was dead-set on fixing things and doing all the repairs to everything himself. That may not have always been the best thing to happen, but that’s just how it was going to be.”

There’s no doubt that Andy T really enjoyed his time with Smokey and Shorty. But now, the time is here for him to make his own mark on the blues scene, and it looks like with Nick Nixon by his side, that’s just what’s happening.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here, but we’re starting to get some calls for some higher placements at some of the festivals, which I’m happy about,” he said. “I’d like to see us become a major force – a major act – out on the circuit. We’ve been extremely well-received everywhere we’ve gone and have been lucky enough to have very good audiences. You know, we’ve been working on this project for a few years now and it’s really nice to see that it’s really starting to happen. But the bottom line is, I’m just happy that everyone is healthy and can still be out there doin’ it.”

Visit Andy’s website at:

You can check out a video of the Andy T Nick Nixon Band HERE

To see a video of the Andy T Nick Nixon Band and Janiva Magness at Yolie’s, CLICK HERE.

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE.


 Featured Blues Video – Coco Montoya  

This is a clip of Coco Montoya playing “I Want It All Back” May 12, 2013 at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ. Click the video above to watch the video.

You can see this Blues legend at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in Florida on Friday April 11, 2014. Click on their ad below for info and tickets

 Featured Blues review – 2 of 6  

JP Blues – Make Room at the Table

Midnight Circus Productions

CD: 12 songs; 52:40 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Part of what makes the blues so perennially magnificent is its versatility as a genre, with many subcategories comprising it. Nevertheless, most if not all blues artists follow a foundational recipe for entertainment: vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation. What makes one musician different from another is how much emphasis s/he puts on each of these “ingredients.”

In the case of Atlanta, GA’s John Pagano, known as JP Blues, the third one is the most prominent – specifically rocking electric guitar. In “Make Room at the Table,” his third release on Midnight Circus Productions, he certainly pours on the ‘hot sauce’ of fiery fretwork and killer keyboards. Also performing are drummers Shiloh Bloodworth and Yonrico Scott, and bassists Todd Smallie, Johnathan Norwood, John Young, and Tony Hossri. On rap and background vocals are Ro$e LaFi, co-producer Richard and Toni L’Hommedieu, and Pamela Harrison. Occasionally when it comes to food, one flavor can overwhelm an entire entrée, and JP’s guitar sometimes does so in terms of his songs. However, if one’s in a partying mood instead of a reflective one, this is an advantage instead of a drawback! Of twelve selections on his blues-rock buffet, eight are originals and four are “covered dishes.” These three of the former category are tasty:

Track 01: “Keep on Walking” – John Pagano’s organ keyboard and bass skills are nearly as impressive as those on guitar, as he demonstrates in this opening number. Its strength is its simplicity, both instrumentally and lyrically: “I’m gonna keep on walking, and I’ll get there and sing, ‘Oh yeah, people gotta move on, oh yeah….” Engineer and co-producer Richard L’Hommedieu provides bass background vocals on such an addictive chorus.

Track 03: “Old Man Joe” – This relentless swamp stomp contains a growling guitar ‘hook’ and solo, gritty (if a tad incomprehensible) lyrics, and an eerie refrain of the title character’s name. “One day someone found Old Joe dead, bottle of gin on by his bed,” JP reveals as the final fate of this mysterious male. Yonrico Scott’s thumping drumbeat and Todd Smallie’s booming bass put the finishing touches on a ballad that will surely have listeners playing air guitar or “headbanging” along.

Track 04: “Make Room at the Table” – Clocking in at an all-too-brief two minutes and twenty-three seconds, this CD’s title track is JP Blues’ message to his contemporaries: “Make room at the table; it’s too cold outside. Make room at the table; I think I’ll spend the night!” Its bouncy beat is the catchiest part of the song – perhaps not ‘danceable’ in the sense that most fans imagine, but it might inspire fits of jumping up and down among young people. Shiloh Bloodworth plays the “cajón” here, a six-sided, box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru.

If powerhouse guitar monsters are one’s favorite type of blues musician, then “Make Room at the Table” for JP Blues!

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  

Sean Pinchin – Rust Bucket

10 songs – 35 minutes

Self-produced CD

Sean Pinchin is based in Toronto, far away from the Mississippi delta, but he lays down some hypnotic blues with trance-like juke joint feel before shifting gears on this CD, produced through a grant from the Canada Music Fund, an endowment under direction of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Now in his mid-30s, Pinchin, who doubles on guitar and stomp board, has battled back from a personal lifelong struggle with depression. Somewhere along his road to success and gigging 150 times a year, he realized he could make constructive use of his experience by channeling all of the heartache, pain and fear he suffered into song. This all-original debut disc is the end product of his troubled journey.

Rust Bucket is a reference to my body, mind and guitar,” Pinchin says. “They are all strong, but weathered from years of abuse and accomplishments. Music has saved my life again and again.”

Recorded live in two days, the album is produced by Rob Szabo, who’s won the Juno Award, the top honor in Canadian blues circles, for his work in the studio. “Sean is a total natural with a dirty feel when he plays that you can’t fake,” Szabo says. He accompanies the guitarist on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals. They’re joined by Mark McIntyre (bass), Adam Warner (drums and percussion), Steve Strongman (guitar and harmonica) and Emma-Lee (backing vocals).

Pinchin sets the theme for the disc with the fast-tempo “Broke Down Automobile.” The car serves as a metaphor for the singer’s personal issues as he deals with himself and a broken-hearted woman at home: “It doesn’t matter/She’s not on the road/I drove her so hard and traveled so far/And I should have known from the start/Wouldn’t make it too far.” A driving guitar pattern propels the tune, as does the vocal doubling from Emma-Lee. A similar riff drives the next song, “Boo Hoo.” In that one, Pinchin feels like a “lonesome, tired dog” looking for its master because his woman has left. Like the first number, the message is dark, but the delivery upbeat enough to deliver the message in a positive way. A slide guitar line that hints of the Delta also serves the tune well.

The mood and music brighten for “High Heel Shoes,” which glorifies Pinchin’s lady and the way she dresses, before the tempo changes dramatically for the country blues, “Wanna Stay In Bed,” featuring Strongman on the harp. The message: If the singer pulls the covers over his head, maybe his problems will go away. Next up, “Gotta Move” is not the old standard penned by Mississippi Fred McDowell. Instead, it’s a modern, driving, rock-tinged blues about juggling three jobs and a pocketful of bills: “I gotta move…yeah/So I can get paid/’Cause with some change in my pocket/You know I’m feelin’ okay.”

The slow, introspective, minor key “Comin’ Home” follows, as Pinchin reflects on returning from a gig on the road to the woman he loves. The tune gives him room to stretch out for a clean, single-note solo mid-song, his first true guitar break of the set. The energy picks up again on the uptempo “Dirt Poor Blues,” a plaintive plea for a better life. The band kicked into high gear for “Complete Fool,” a rocker that indicates Pinchin has turned the corner to a happier life. In it, he’s back behind the wheel of a fully functioning car as he reflects back on his previous troubles.

He follows that message with “Confession Blues,” which reinforces the idea of his personal healing, crediting the affection of a good woman. The set ends with the slow blues “Can’t Stop Falling In Love.” This CD’s a roller coaster of emotion with a positive ending. Hopefully, it holds true for Sean Pinchin. Definitely worth a listen.

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  

Holly & Jon – 1929

Self-Release 2012

11 tracks; 48 minutes

Holly Hyatt and Jonathan Barden, from British Columbia, Canada, play acoustic blues in a traditional style, Holly on upright bass and Jon guitar, both sharing vocals. The only additional instrumentation is sax on one track by Clinton Swanson who also gets a credit for loaning the double bass! This is their second release and the material is mainly original, Holly and Jon writing separately and together, alongside two Robert Johnson covers (“If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”, “Come On In My Kitchen”). Both are straightforward versions but well done. Jon takes the lead vocal on both songs with Holly harmonising on the chorus. Jon also plays some nice slide on both tunes, overdubbed on “Possession” whereas “Kitchen” is a solo slide guitar piece. Jon’s voice is good and Holly sounds to these ears a little like Susan Tedeschi though the accompanying notes namecheck Eva Cassidy and Aretha as comparisons.

As the duo play traditional acoustic blues the title track “Back To 1929” would seem to be a key song, taking us back to what it would have been like back then. Starting with a field holler about finishing work, Holly then takes us for a Saturday night in the South, shooting dice in the back room with musicians of the period such as Son House and Charley Patton playing in the front. Unfortunately there is also an anachronistic reference to ‘Muddy Waters playing’. However, this song works very well with excellent harmonies and an attractive guitar figure at its centre. Perhaps it was the excitement of that Saturday night experience that is preventing Holly from dropping off in “I Can’t Sleep”!

In the jaunty “Leavin’ Blues” it appears that the first shoots of Spring bring out Jon’s rambling tendencies. In contrast Holly sings about winter coming and a desire to get some home renovations done in “Home Reno Blues” on which the saxophone is a nice addition to the instrumentation. Jon gets serious on “They Is Us” where he concludes that “we’re all in it together” in a world of so many different problems. Again double tracking of his guitars allows Jon to get quite a full sound on this one. The short instrumental “The Resurrection Of Gonzo” may refer to Jon’s guitar which is seen on the cover with a ‘Gonzo’ sticker. Holly leads on the slow “Heartbreaker Blues”, a tale of lost love in which Holly is hoping that some rhythm and blues may make her man return but it sounds a hopeless case! Holly sings particularly well on “Wash Over Me” which is a more contemporary song than is typical here and shows that the duo may have another string to their bow beyond straight blues.

This well produced CD should appeal to acoustic blues fans who enjoy hearing new songs done in traditional style..

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues review – 5 of 6  

Gene “Daddy G” Barge – Olio

Wildroot Records (self release)

No website listed

11 songs – 55 minutes

Chicago sax legend Gene “Daddy G” Barge has adding his distinctive, soulful saxophone playing to numerous releases for over six decades now. He played the haunting solo to Chuck Willis’ 1957 classic, “C.C. Rider”, in addition to spicing up a slew of Chess Records’ hits, such as Little Milton’s “We’re Gonna Make It”, Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” and Muddy Waters’ 1968 album, Electric Mud.

Barge’s new release, Olio, keeps the 87-year-old’s sax playing to the fore, but also enables him to display his strong singing voice, song-writing and production skills. Barge wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs on Olio, and also produced the album. During his time at Chess, in addition to acting as arranger, composer and house sax player and solo recording artist, Barge also produced a number of records for the company, including Buddy Guy’s first Chess LP Left My Blues In San Francisco. On Olio, he has brought an objective but enthusiastic ear to the musical proceedings. The result is an excellent depth and warmth to the joyful mix of modern jazz, blues and soul that dominates this release.

The noun Olio means a miscellaneous collection of things, derived from the old Spanish word for stew – “olla”. It also reflects the broad collection of songs and styles assayed by Barge on this album. In his liner notes, Barge quotes the old English rhyme “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and Olio contains the funky blues of “Shame On You, Shame On Me”; the modern jazz of “Safe Sax”, “More Love” and “Sweetness” (the latter written in memory of the Chicago Bears’ late, great running back, Walter Payton); the original songs such as “Give Me My Flowers Now” and “Reader Woman”; and the covers such as the instrumental version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” or Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes”, which features some superb singing and guitar playing by Criss “Righteous” Johnson.

A number of songs, such as the aforementioned “Them Changes” and “All Or Nothing (At All)” have an almost 80s feel to them, partly due to the compressed drum sound, but also because of the prominent use of synthesizer (and that is not intended as a criticism – a lot of great, under-rated music was produced in that decade). In any event, the songs are all held together thematically by Barge’s infectious sax solos and by the groove nailed down by the stellar backing musicians. A lot of different players appear on the various songs, but Will Crosby plays most of the guitar, Leonard Stroud and Vern Allison share most of the drum parts, Phil Castleberry assumes most of the bass duties and Richard Gibbs and Matt Rose provide most of the keys. Horns and strings also provide support on some songs.

Olio also features guest appearances from a range of great Chicago musicians, including Buddy Guy (who adds more vocals than guitar to “Shame On You, Shame On Me”), Otis Clay, Willie Rogers, Criss Johnson, Eric Thomas and Will Crosby as well as the Phoenix Horns (aka The Earth, Wind & Fire Horns).

There is a relaxed ambiance to Olio: a sense of musicians at peace with themselves and their worlds. Solos are shared around; the musicians are given the time to stretch out and express themselves. And the result is an enjoyable release that never loses sight of the importance of the song as well as the demonstrable skill of the soloists.

If your tastes run to the jazzier side of blues and soul, or if you just enjoy hearing well-played music with lashings of fine saxophone, you will find a lot to enjoy on this album. .

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 Claudettes – Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched!

Yellow Dog Records

13 tracks / 39:32

House bands are almost an extinct species, but there are still a few club owners that are willing to shell out dough every week to make sure that their customers have consistently good entertainment while in their establishments. Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey are fortunate enough to have a regular house gig, but there is no house anymore. In 2010 Miss Claudette hired them to play at her bar and grill in Illinois, but after it closed down in 2011 she kept them on the payroll to keep the entertainment going.

She keeps this piano and drums duo, known as The Claudettes, busy by booking them in clubs and off-beat locations such as video rental outlets and office supply stores. Often she will set-up her own bar within the club and sling bizarre drink specials that the guys advertise from the stage, sometimes with lighted signs around their necks. It would be hard to make this stuff up!

Despite this bizarre back story, do not write this project off as shtick as both men are accomplished musicians. Iguana (born as Brian Berkowitz) and Caskey have played and recorded alongside artists that include Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Chuck Mangione, and Koko Taylor. After getting to know each other through countless performances, The Claudettes have finally hunkered down in the studio and cranked out their debut album, Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched!

And what you get with this disc is 13 high-octane tracks, 12 of which are originals that were penned by Iguana (Berkowitz), with nothing but piano and drum instrumentals. That is all: no vocals, horns, guitar, or guest artists – not even a Howlin’ Wolf cover. They describe their music as a blend of jazz, blues, punk, soul and space echo, or what they define as “Cosmic Cartoon Music.”

Johnny Iguana hits his piano hard from the first track, “Stumblin’ Home Satisfied,” a song with a 12-bar blues base and a heavy back-beat from Caskey’s drum kit. The recording is clean, with bright piano and organic-sounding drums. It sometimes sounds like Iguana has three hands, notably in the faster sections of tunes like “Motörhome” and “Land of Precisely Three Dances.” Those years spent touring with the Junior Wells Band and Otis Rush certainly honed his skills, even on non-blues songs such as these.

The sole cover on Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched! Is a respectful take on Little Brother Montgomery’s “Tremblin Blues.” It is a little faster than other versions, but Johnny has the phrasing and feel down pat. The drum line is unconventional with its intermittent spouts of energy, but adds a sense of drama that is not found in the original.

Things draw to a close with “Do You See it Too?” which is a combination of jazz with some classical elements. The innovative drumming with a heavy kick drum and off-beat snare that accompanies this song is yet another reminder that these two are in perfect sync throughout the album, and it unquestionable that they are kindred souls that are on the same mission. This is the standout track, and was a wise choice for their finale.

The Claudettes took a chance by going their own way with Infernal Piano Plot..Hatched!, and their ambition and hard work have been rewarded with a fabulous album. This is not easy-listening by any stretch of the imagination, but it is fabulous music that is unquestionably danceable and refreshingly unique. This is 40 minutes of high-energy fun, and if Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey can maintain their momentum, Miss Claudette will have to start booking them into larger clubs, and maybe even shopping malls!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

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 Blues Society News  

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Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

“2014 Friends of the Blues Concert Series to Highlight Women in the Blues and Texas Guitar Slingers”

The Friends of the Blues have decided it is time to give the women their due. Of the 15 concerts scheduled so far, seven feature female headliners or lead vocalists. This is the first time the schedule has strongly reflected female artists. For example, last year’s 19 shows had only three with females in front. “There have been questioning comments in the past by folks noticing the line-up is pretty heavily weighted against the girls,” the lead talent buyer said.

Annie Mack from Rochester, Minnesota, will be the first female headliner, followed by Philadelphia, Mississippi’s Tullie Brae. Eleanor Tsaig is the dynamic lead vocalist for Israel’s Ori Naftaly Band, and two sisters, both under 21, Sadie and Samantha Johnson, front Bloomington Indiana’s Sad Sam Blues Jam. Originally from Plainfield IL, The Laurie Morvan Band has generated large audiences with many attending from her old stomping grounds. House-on-fire Rock and Rollers Nikki Hill and husband Matt on guitar hopefully will appear in August, and Blind Pig Records’ award recording artist Sena Ehrhardt tentatively will hold court late in the season.

Another new element this year is Texas guitar slingers. George Thorogood’s second guitarist Jim Suhler and, later, Jason Elmore will debut in our area. “We have been trying for 5 years to get Suhler contracted for a show,” said the “Friends.” When he is not touring with Thorogood, he has his own band, Monkey Beat. Suhler is also touring in support of a new CD, “Panther Burn.” Fellow Texan Jason Elmore (and Hoodoo Witch) play American Roots music from his latest album – everything is guitar driven, from Rock to Country to Texas Blues.

Returning favorites this season are led by Florida’s Albert Castiglia, who has just signed a record deal with Ruf Records in Europe. He will have completed two tours of Europe by the time he plays at L’Erable on July 16. Other returning crowd favorites are Australian Harper and Midwest Kind and California native, James Armstrong. Harmonica whiz, Brandon Santini from Memphis will make a second appearance as will guitar monster Terry Quiett.

An area favorite since 2003, Nick Moss and his newest band, kick off the concert series on March 18 at the Moose Lodge.

The Blues Society of Central PA – Steelton, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA will be welcoming spring with our BSCP Spring Fever Show on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 4:30 – 9:00 PM at Champions Sports Bar 300 N. Second St. Highspire, PA. Admission at the door will be $15.

Blues music will begin at 5:00 PM with a 30 minute show by Colin John, 2014 Blues Foundation IBC solo/duo semi-finalist. The music will continue with 60 minutes of blues harp and vocals by the Dane Paul Russell Band. Dane Paul was the late Bobby Parker’s harp sideman. The BSCP will prouding be featuring our headliner, Vizztone Recording artist, Long Tall Deb & The Werewolves of Alabama to heat up Champions and end the chill of winter with a 90 minute set of burning blues. More info at:

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

On Saturday, March 22, The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is hosting The Ori Naftaly Band at 9 pm at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St, Champaign, IL. The Ori Naftaly Band, from Israel, has been bringing their high-energy, soulful blues to clubs across the country during their yearlong visit to the U.S. This will be their first performance in the central Illinois area.

For more information, contact Bob Paleczny, PCBS President, or visit the blues society web site,

River City Blues Society – Pekin, IL

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring Lizzi Neal Band at 7:30 PM Friday March 28th and also Gohst Town Blues band at 7:30PM Friday April 18th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 for RCBS Members For more info visit: or call 309-648-8510:

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 ( 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

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

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois

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 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 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 at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425 

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