Issue 8-15 April 10, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue  

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Larry McCray.

We have six reviews for you.  Rhys Williams reviews a new album from Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltry. Rainey Wetnight reviews a live album by Magic Sam. John Mitchell reviews a new release by Bobbie ‘Mercy’ Oliver. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album by Chris James and Patrick Rynn. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Mark T. Small  Marty Gunther reviews a new CD from Terry Gillespie.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk  

Hey Blues Fans,

Our friends at the Tampa Bay Blues Fest have quite a show for you this weekend down in Florida.

Their lineup includes Selwyn Birchwood, Matt Schofield, Coco Montoya, Shemekia Copeland and Buddy Guy on Friday, Nikki Hill, Lid’ Ed, Tommy Castro, The Blind Boys Of Alabama and Michael McDonald on Saturday and George Porter Jr., Tad Robinson, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, James Hunter and Irma Thomas on Sunday. Plus lots of Florida sunshine.

For complete info and tickets see their ad below or visit .

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6  

 Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home

 Chess Records/Universal Music Enterprises

 11 songs – 35 minutes

Although not a household name in the United States, Wilko Johnson may be as close to a renaissance man as one can find in the modern world. An authority on astronomy, one of five or six people in the UK able to speak Old Icelandic (he learned it at University in order to be able to read the Sagas in the original language), an actor (he played the mute executioner Ilyn Payne, in the first and second series of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones) and one of the most influential R’n’B and rock guitarists ever produced in the UK. When his former band, Dr Feelgood, first appeared in 1975, their stripped-down, speed-fuelled, high-octane R’n’B was the perfect antidote to the self-absorbed, pretentious and long-winded music being produced by many rock bands at the time. The Feelgoods had short hair, wore ill-fitting suits, produced high-energy live shows with songs rarely lasting over three minutes and exuded an aura of menace. Little surprise then that they exerted a significant influence on the nascent punk movement in the UK – Joe Strummer of The Clash played a Telecaster because Wilko did.

In 2013, Wilko announced that he had terminal pancreatic cancer. Foreswearing treatment, he went back on the road for a final tour and recorded Going Back Home with Roger Daltrey. Featuring re-recordings of ten classic Wilko songs from his Feelgood days and subsequent solo career, together with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”, if this is to be his final album, it’s a cracking way to exit.

Johnson has a unique, idiosyncratic guitar style, producing choppy, urgent rhythms with flailing fingers rather than a pick, which help to drive the songs as much as the rhythm section does. He is also a talented songwriter, with a wry line in lyrics. In the title track, a tale of the frustration of everyday urban life, he observes “I got a girl, a man’s best friend, I’d have her now, if she’d just come back again. But she left me in the fog, told me that I treat her like a dog. The last time that I saw her she was burying a bone, I’m tired of whistling for her and I’m going back home.”

The original Dr Feelgood albums were recorded in mono to try to recreate the sound of the band’s own heroes. Going Back Home was produced by Dave Eringa, who has captured a coruscating live vibe whilst still maintaining modern production values. The crack backing band is Wilko’s usual rhythm section of Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums, with Mick Talbot on piano and organ and Steve Weston on harmonica. While the structure of the songs has stayed true to the originals, the addition of Talbot’s organ in particular has given an added depth to their sound. Recorded in just one week, there is an edge and an energy to the album that defies the sad reason for its inception.

After he left Dr Feelgood, Johnson played initially with Ian Dury’s Blockheads and then fronted his own band. He has never achieved A-List status, partly because his singing voice is significantly more limited than his guitar playing. So it was an inspired choice to get Roger Daltrey to contribute his larynx to this album. The Who were one of the very few “dinosaur” rock bands respected by the punk movement, due in large part to Daltrey’s ability to channel a ferocious inner anger that resonated with the dissatisfaction and violence of the punk era.

On Going Back Home, Daltrey perhaps misses some of the sly groove of Lee Brilleaux, the original Feelgood singer, but he brings a masculine authority to the material and a believable vulnerability on “Turned 21” and on “Some Kind Of Hero” when he sings: “I wish I was some kind of hero, I’d shake my head and walk away. I’d have fifty women waiting for me, before the breaking of the day.”

If you haven’t heard Wilko Johnson before, this album is a great place to start. If you’re already a fan, this is an essential purchase.!

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.

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. Submissions received after 4/15/14 will not be sent to the nominators!

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 – Larry McCray  

They grew up in the same small county in Arkansas, barely 20 miles apart, and their families played together in the same band at one time.

Yet it wasn’t until some years later, when they were both established blues stars, that they met face-to-face for the first time.

Larry McCray and the late, great Michael Burks.

“My oldest sister, Clara, was a musician and her and Michael Burks’ dad used to have a group together. But me and Michael was too young – he was born in ’57 and I was born in ’60 – to know anything about each other in those days,” McCray recently said. “I finally hooked up with Michael around ’92. We were both grown and playing music by then. I was in Memphis and they had been telling me about this bad bluesman … you know, this cat was really bad, he won the Albert King Award and everything. Well, I still didn’t know who he was and then one day I went down to see the guy and it was Michael Burks. As soon as we met, he said, ‘Larry McCray? Are you Clara Mae’s brother?’ And then we got to talking and reminiscing and put all of those early years together.”

The blues community was stunned when Burks suddenly passed away in 2012, just as the guitarist was starting to work his way to the elite level.

“After that (first meeting in Memphis), we always had a good time whenever we got together,” McCray said. “It really hurt me about Michael (passing away). He was a great musician, but he was an even better person and that’s what really counts.”

More than just Arkansas roots and family ties bonded Larry McCray and Michael Burks. Both are highly-touted guitarists that bring heart-felt intensity and well-honed technical ability to their chosen profession of blues axe slinging. Both were never afraid to depart from the same-old, same-old approach to guitar playing, either. In McCray’s case, that means injecting his blues with a few other tasty influences.

“I’ve always loved other forms of music, as well. Like reggae, funk and rock-n-roll. I left Arkansas and moved to Michigan in 1972, and by the time I was old enough and able enough to play pretty decent, heavy metal music … you know, Motor City music, the hard stuff, that was what all the people was listening to,” he said. “And if you couldn’t dabble in a little of that, they wouldn’t even give you a chance to be heard. So you had to do a little of that, and then when you get ‘em in, you throw something else on ‘em. That’s how we did it. We played enough variety to get the people in the door and then once we had them in there, we put other things on them and that’s how I developed my style.”

Seeing Larry McCray on the bandstand is not just about seeing an evening full of guitar pyrotechnics – although there is plenty of that to go around. Maybe he’s never completely received all the credit he’s due, but McCray’s vocals are an equally-important part of the sonic tonic that he creates, balancing out his fiery guitar work with some really soulful vocals.

“That was always my design. That’s how I always wanted my blues to be interpreted, because I came up studying the music of B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King and Albert Collins – all when they were in their hey-day,” he said. “And the ones that came before that, like Elmore James, Guitar Slim, Furry Lewis, Roosevelt Sykes and Ray Charles … that’s where my blues vocabulary comes from. And all those cats could really, really sing. So my vision was to take that kind of blues music and deliver it with the same kind of intensity that rock-n-roll or heavy metal has, and put some soulful vocals to it, that’s what I was after. I mean, just because you’re playing blues guitar doesn’t mean that it has to be wimpy guitar, you know? I wanted to bring some force with it.”

McCray has been a recording artist for well over two decades now and as the music industry has changed dramatically over that time frame, he’s had to deal with a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns – as so many others have had to contend with, too – along the way.

“The biggest thing that I’ve noticed being affected is on the promotional side of music. Once upon a time, it wasn’t so hard to get a (promotional) budget from a record company; they were more lenient … they weren’t so tight with the cash,” he said. “Nowadays you have to solicit really hard to get a budget and to get a label behind you. But most of them want to bury you so far in debt that’s it’s questionable whether it’s even worth it at this level – ‘this level’ being the level of promotion that this genre of music gets.”

When he first burst onto the big stage in the early ‘90s, McCray did so in a big way. He was the first blues artist inked to Virgin Records’ new blues subsidiary – Point Blank Records. After McCray hooked up Point Blank in 1991, the label would go on to sign such artists as Albert Collins, Kinsey Report, John Lee Hooker, John Hammond, Pops Staples and Johnny Winter. That’s a pretty cool notch in the belt to be at the head of that parade.

“We were just out there doing what we did and I was at a party one time and this guy was there and wanted us to go down to Detroit and record an album and do this and do that. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all that before.’ So I blew the guy off. A couple weeks passed and he called me back and I blew him off again. Well, the third time he called, he said, ‘Man, you’re just gonna #&#!-up everything I’m trying to do for you’,” McCray said. “So I finally figured that since the guy wasn’t letting up, he must be for real. So I gave it a shot and we went a made a record and then Virgin got a hold of it and that’s how things came to be.”

His tenure with Point Blank may not have led to overnight superstardom or untold riches, but the time that McCray spent on the label ended up providing a lot more than money could ever think about buying.

“The one thing that they did for me that they can never take away and has been with me ever since is, I got close with Albert King, Albert Collins, Gary Moore and Pops Staples. It was to the point that I could call any of them on the telephone if I wanted to talk to them or just say ‘Hi.’ And that meant the world to me,” he said. “We did a promotional tour with Pops Staples and when something would come up when we were short on rooms or needed to double-up, they’d ask if I minded rooming with Pops. I was like, ‘Are you kidding? Of course I will.’ I used to love talking to Pops. He would talk about everything from Martin Luther King to back to when he was starting out with his daughters … Pops was just so wise and had so much road experience. He was a great guy to talk to.”

Fans of McCray that have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up to his 2007 self-titled album shouldn’t have to wait much longer to get another helping.

“I’ve got a new album coming out and I’ve asked Derek Trucks to guest on it. It’s something I’ve not done before – it’s a full covers record. It’s all classic rock tunes,” said McCray. “We did about a dozen tunes and we did it all in our own way, so they’re really different from the originals. But we didn’t take them so far away that you can’t recognize the songs.”

McCray gives his patented blues treatment to tunes like “Night Moves,” (Bob Seger) “Wild Horses,” (Rolling Stones) “Can’t You See,” (Marshall Tucker Band) “Them Changes,” (Band of Gypsys) “The Needle and the Spoon,” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) “Stealin’,” (Uriah Heap) “Waitin’ for the Bus,” (ZZ Top) “Unchain my Heart,” (Joe Cocker) “I’m No Angel,” (Gregg Allman) and “Love the One You’re With” (Steven Stills).

Plans are for McCray to re-enter the studio and start work on an album of original material as soon as his covers project is unleashed on the blues-loving public.

Burks was known as the ‘Iron Man’ for his legendary marathon gigs on the bandstand. While McCray didn’t have a super-hero tag like his good buddy did, with the epic schedule and pace that McCray put himself through for many years, it seems like the ‘Man of Steel’ might be appropriate. When it was daylight, McCray busted his ass on a General Motors assembly line all day long. When it was dark outside, McCray busted his ass driving to gigs, playing gigs and then driving back home from gigs, all night long. The next day, he would wake up and repeat the whole process.

“I used to think I was a Superman back when I was young and I later found out you can only hold up for so long like that. I ran myself all the way down. I mean, I used to play a gig in Chicago and then drive back home the same night, just for kicks,” he said. “We would take a gig one night here and have to drive 10 hours by the next morning to get where we had to be for the next gig. I did stuff like that for years before it finally caught up to me. Now, I’m trying to be a little more selective, because I’m getting to the point in age where I need to be more selective.”

Music has been a part of Larry McCray as long as he can remember, and most of it originated right in his own living room back in Stephens, Arkansas.

“Yeah, my sister played guitar – she got it from my grandmother – and my daddy was a harp player and a singer and played a little guitar. And then was a man that had a slicked-down process on his head named Mr. Lewis and he had an electric guitar and he would bring it over to the house sometimes and play with my sister and dad,” said McCray. “That’s the first people I ever saw playing instruments. My sister Clara was quite popular down in that area, like in a little five- or six-town span, they all knew her. All the gospel or the blues groups would get Clara to play in; she was involved in all of that.”

Even though the landscape his undergone massive changes since he released his first album – Ambition – back in 1991, and even though blues music continues to fight to find its niche, Larry McCray will continue to play, and to champion, the music that he’s loved ever since he was a youngster.

“Blues music has always been like a stepchild in the music industry and has never really gotten the same promotion that other forms of music have gotten. It seems like there’s a lack of knowledge these days as to what is and to what isn’t blues music, too,” he said. “The whole scene is really saturated, really watered down. Not to take away from anybody that’s trying to be creative with it, but there are people that don’t have many skills that get out there and learn three (chord) changes and call themselves a bluesman. That’s really an injustice to the music, because people that don’t know think that’s what the real blues are all about. That’s a really strong injustice and misrepresentation of the music to the people that have worked hard to establish something and to change the attitude of people that don’t like blues music. A lot of people automatically think they don’t like blues music before they’ve even ever heard blues music, because they see what they think the music has come to. That affects a lot of things.”!

Visit Larry’s website at:

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 Review – 2 of 6  

 Magic Sam – Live at the Avant Garde

 Delmark Records

 CD: 16 songs; 67:48 Minutes

 Styles: Classic Chicago Blues

The French phrase “avant garde” means “vanguard” – something or someone who stands at the forefront of culture or art. Samuel “Magic Sam” Gene Maghett exemplifies this term when it comes to Chicago blues. Born in Grenada, Mississippi, he learned to play this style of music through listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter. After moving to the Windy City when he was nineteen, he signed on with Cobra Records and became well-known after his first release, “All Your Love,” in 1957. Eleven years later on June 22, 1968, he recorded a live concert at the Avant Garde in Milwaukee. This show was just 17 months before his untimely passing at age 32 from a heart attack. Praised by Delmark Records as “the best sounding live recording from the legendary Magic Sam,” this album contains over an hour of some of the most fantastic West Side-style Chicago blues one will ever hear. With our hero on lead guitar and vocals, Big Mojo Elem on bass and Bob Richey on drums, they present four original songs and twelve killer covers. This latter feature might be a drawback for some, but in Magic Sam’s masterful hands, even Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” sounds as fresh as a newly-plucked guitar string. Choosing the three best tunes on this CD is as difficult as filling out a perfect NCAA bracket, but here goes:

Track 02: “Don’t Want No Woman” – A ballad for perpetual bachelors by Don Robey, track two reveals the prime motivation for some of them: “I don’t want no woman telling me how to live my life. I don’t want no woman telling me how to live my life. Well, I’m gonna leave you, baby, ‘cause I don’t want no wife.” This is Chicago blues at its most quintessential, both lyrically and instrumentally. Also known as “lump-de-lump,” this rhythm can be most clearly heard in Big Mojo Elem’s funky bass line.

Track 04: “Feelin’ Good” – Magic Sam holds this number’s opening shout of “Well…” for eight full seconds, and listeners’ rapt attention for four minutes and twenty-eight seconds! Originally composed by Herman Parker, “Feelin’ Good” features Sam’s distinctive “tremolo” style of picking guitar, meaning “with a trembling effect.” Insanely hard to play and (fortunately) much less hard to dance to, this blistering boogie may be a cover, but it’s a spectacular one.

Track 11: “That’s All I Need” – There’s an old saying that the best things in life are free, and Magic Sam’s partner’s affection fits the bill for him. “I’ve got a new home; I’ve got a brand new car. I will come, baby, wherever you are. Just give me your love – give me love, love, love. That’s all I need!” Jaunty and melodic, “That’s All I Need” seamlessly combines the ‘Happy Days’ of the 1950’s with the swinging spirit of 1960’s R&B.

The late “Avant Garde” Magic Sam is absolutely timeless, still carrying classic Chicago blues into the 21st century!

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  

Bobbie ‘Mercy’ Oliver – Sleeping With The Dogs

Self-Release – 2013

9 tracks; 33 minutes

Bobbie ‘Mercy’ Oliver is an experienced bluesman from Texas whose CD tells us that he is ‘The King Of Blue’s’ – the apostrophe may save him from a lawsuit from BB King! His website tells us that he often performs and records solo, playing guitar, harp and percussion but on this recording he is with a band: there is clearly bass and drums alongside Bobby’s harp, guitar and vocals, with some keyboards. All the material is original, if rather derivative. The sound quality of the recording is OK but lacks the sonic distinction of many CDs we hear these days. The information on the CD is poor with no band members listed and some strange spellings, including Bobbie appearing as ‘Bobby’ and pictured playing left-handed on the cover, whereas on his website he is clearly right handed!

The CD opens promisingly with the instrumental “Juke Joint”, a feature for Bobbie’s harp with a short guitar solo towards the end. It’s a catchy shuffle and shows off Bobbie’s instrumental talents well. “Highway 61” is a slower blues which takes us into familiar lyrical territory as Bobbie bemoans his misfortune with an unreliable partner, obliging him to consider heading off up 61 to find a better situation. Again, Bobbie blows harp convincingly. “I’m Leaving You” explores similar territory as Bobbie finds that his girl is not the right one for him. Some organ appears on this one to beef up the sound. “On The Bottom” starts with some rumbling bass but is very similar to the previous tune with another ‘down’ lyric.

The focus changes completely on the overtly religious “I Love The Lord”, Bobbie and the band adopting a country feel for this expression of Bobbie’s faith. “One Woman Man” returns to the more familiar blues issues though the music here is a bit rockier, Bobbie’s core riff having a Stones feel and his solo a rock edge. The title track follows, another messed-up relationship: Bobbie has been caught out by his woman and banished to the yard with the dogs. The organ on this one sounds distant in the mix, possibly dubbed on later? “I Want A Talk To Ya” is slightly more upbeat but again a similar tune with more relationship issues. Closer “She’s My Baby” is a lively cut with both piano and organ accompaniment and Bobbie’s catchy finger-picked riff at its core.

Overall this CD breaks no new ground but probably gives a fair impression of Bobbie’s live shows.

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 – 4 of 6  

 Chris James and Patrick Rynn – Barrelhouse Stomp

 Earwig Music

 12 tracks / 53:25

It is refreshing to see talented artists that are willing to leave their egos at home and give the limelight to others, which is the case with Chris James and Patrick Rynn’s latest album, Barrelhouse Stomp. This disc is a celebration of that uniquely American hard-driving genre, and it features three fabulous blues pianists that each get a shot at taking the lead role.

This San Diego-based pair have worked together for 24 years, but they have not adapted to their laid-back Southern California surroundings and they continue to crank out righteous Chicago electric blues. James is the vocalist and lead guitarist and Rynn handles the bass chores, just as they have with the Blue Four and all the other bands and artists they have worked with.

Barrelhouse Stomp is the Blues Blast Magazine Award-winning duo’s third effort for Chicago’s Earwig Music label and you will not find a bad track amongst the 12 tunes on this CD. Actually, that is an understatement — these are all very good songs! They took their time making this album, as it was cut between 2009 and 2011 in Chicago and Arizona, and it includes the work of 11 extra-fine musicians, some of who are unfortunately no longer with us. The featured pianists are Henry Gray, David Maxwell, and the late Aaron Moore; you may remember that Gray and Maxwell also appeared on their previous album, Gonna Boogie Anyway. They also brought in a trio of heavy-hitting tenor sax players: Norbert W. Johnson, Eddie Shaw and Johnny Viau.

This disc kicks off with “Goodbye, Later for You” which was penned by James and Rynn along with their long-time buddy and harmonica player, Rob Stone. This trio also wrote six other originals for this release. This song is straightforward post-war Chicago blues that highlights Stone’s harmonica and David Maxwell’s piano. Stone and James each take a solo break in between the throaty verses, and though he does not get a solo Maxwell’s keys do not get lost in the mix as he fill the spaces in between.

“Just Another Kick in the Teeth” is full of tasty bass work, including a rare solo from Rynn. All three horn players participate in this one giving it an extra-funky vibe and a 1970s feel. James vocals are strong (as they are on the rest of the album), and his phrasing and feel are spot on. He has soul to spare and his years of experience are readily apparent, making him the perfect front man!

The first of two instrumentals, “Messin’ with the White Lightnin’,” is one of the standout tracks on Barrelhouse Stomp. This frenzied piece needed an extra guitarist so they brought in the venerable Jody Williams to help out. The guitar work of both men here is spectacular, as is Patrick Rynn’s hand-crampingly unrelenting bass line. David Maxwell keeps his right hand just as busy on the piano all the way through, not to mention his killer solo break that end up being the best 90 seconds of the album. By the way, Chicagoan Willie Hayes fills in behind the skins and does a first-rate job of keeping the beat going.

“Take it Easy” is a sweet tribute to the late Pinetop Perkins, and David Maxwell is tasked with honoring this legendary pianist. They clear the stage for this driving boogie and put the piano up front, giving Maxwell the chance to prove himself and, (as always) he does not disappoint. The backline is tight and James plays an aggressive rhythm guitar that he uses to set the playful mood.

The cover tunes were well-chosen, and include gems such as Big Bill Broonzy’s 1941 tune, “I Feel So Good,” boogie-woogie legend Little Brother Montgomery’s “Vicksburg Blues” and Elmore James’ classic favorite, “Bobby’s Rock.” Of these, ”I Feel So Good” is the big winner as all the pieces come together splendidly, including Aaron Moore on piano, plenty of gloriously raunchy sax from Johnny Viau, and the late blues virtuoso Willie “Big Eyes” Smith behind the drum kit.

Appropriately, the album comes to a close with one last original tune, “Last Call Woogie” that features Henry Gray on piano plus Viau and Johnson on sax. Eddie Kobek’s tom-heavy drums and creative use of silence lend this song an Afro-Cuban/Latin feel and James’ vocals are out front and edgy as hell. The lyrics are perfectly suited for the last song of the set, plus it is cool to end the album on an upbeat note.

If you are not a fan of Chris James and Patrick Rynn, you will be after just one listen of Barrelhouse Blues. Their refreshing take on an old genre, their tight groove and high production standards (not to mention their cadre of talented friends) will guarantee that their music will stick in your mind make you want to give it another turn. Check it out if you get a chance!

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

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6  

 Mark T. Small – Smokin’ Blues

 12 Tracks; 37 minutes

 Lead Foot Music

Mark T. Small has played all kinds of music. From New Grass to electric Chicago Blues, Small has explored the realm of American roots music far and wide. For several years, Mark has eschewed the full band sound and has followed a dusty, back country solo acoustic road. As the road keeps going, Small keeps finding new ways to interpret the music of yesteryear making every stop along the way a welcome respite from the overwrought trappings of modern music. Smokin’ Blues, on Lead Foot Music, continues Mark T. Small’s journey and makes stops in Detroit, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, and all points in between.

Our travels begin with a spring in our step. Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up & Go,” in Mark T. Small’s hands, is a boogie-woogie rockabilly work driven by an insistent guitar figure and foot tapping beat. He keeps it simple and direct and it works wonderfully. His solos feature variations on the main riff and chorded phrases that maintain the momentum of the song and your foot will be laying down the boogie in no time.

“Railroad Blues” shows off Small’s deft flat picking and the sound of his acoustic guitar is so crisp it’s like he’s sitting next to you jamming away on this old Sam McGee tune. The whole disc has an intimate feel, as though Small stopped by your house for a tall glass of sweet tea and in return unpacked his trusty Martin and played you a song. He occasionally picks up a fellow traveler to play along like the youthful octogenarian Shor’ty Billups. Rufus Thomas’ former drummer sits in on “Walkin’ The Dog” singing like a man half his age. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ At Midnight” welcomes Walter Woods on harmonica. Walter and Mark are old friends and it shows in their deft interplay. Theirs is a fine reworking of the Wolf’s classic and it makes me hope for a duet record from this team.

“My Daddy Was A Jockey” is a Mississippi Hill Country style workout on John Lee Hooker’s “Jockey Blues.” Or maybe Mississippi Hill Country Blues owes more to John Lee Hooker than is normally acknowledged. Either way, it’s a foot stomping affair with an effect on Small’s acoustic guitar to make it sound gritty and low-down. On Elmore James’ “Early In The Morning” there is nary a slide in sight but Mark T. Small’s playing is energetic. His lightning fast picking keeps it fresh and propels the song in a new direction.

One more thing I must mention are the liner notes. I like liner notes. I like getting information straight from the artists. Good notes can create a personal connection to the music. Mark T. Small wrote a few sentences about each song on this disc and those words open him up to the listener. You get his perspective on the music, and he even explains a few differences in his approach to the songs compared with the originals, or the versions upon which he based his performance. For me, it makes the music come alive. I realize it is not always economically feasible to offer extensive liner notes, but it’s nice to see this attention to detail and it is something I wish other artists would do when able.

Smokin’ Blues closes with “America Medley” in which Small ties together “America the Beautiful,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “Yankee Doodle” in a brilliantly played arrangement. In many ways it represents the whole album. It is intricate, delicate, bubbling, bare and beautiful. Mark T. Small brings all his experiences and styles together for what can rightly be called American music. A title like Smokin’ Blues might imply a fired up electric band trying to raise the roof off a juke joint, but this kind of Smokin’ Blues is for recreational, relaxational use. Mark T. Small takes you on a timeless musical journey that is a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the 24-hour-news-cycle-gotta-have-it-now-get-it-done-yesterday culture in which we so often get trapped. Sit on the porch, sip a cold beverage, enjoy a smoke and groove to the Smokin’ Blues. Your spirit will be better for it.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6  

 Terry Gillespie – Bluesoul

 Self-produced CD

 13 songs – 51 minutes

Recognized as the king of Canadian roots music, Terry Gillespie lays down a rock-steady groove in this solid collection of original contemporary blues tunes.

A native of the small town of Vankleek in Southern Ontario, Gillespie has been pleasing audiences for better than 40 years with his well-paced mixture of original lyrical hooks and clever musical stylings. Tall and looking older than his age, he got early musical training in Detroit as a teen, jamming with John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf. In the early ’70s, he founded one of Canada’s most beloved, but critically overlooked bands, Heaven’s Radio, which blended reggae, jazz, folk, rock and blues into a successful musical stew. During their heyday, they opened for a wide variety of talent, including Jamaican legend Peter Tosh and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

That band broke up in the early ’80s. Ever since, Gillespie has been delving into his love for jazz, blues and African rhythms and deconstructing/reconstructing them in a way that he hopes the listener gets lost in each nuance he lays down along the way. A former International Blues Challenge entrant, this is the third album he’s released in the past decade. He contributes guitar, vocals, harmonica and trumpet here, assisted by Peter Measroth (keyboards), Lyndell Montgomery (bass and violin), Wayne Stoute (drums and percussion) and The Toasted Westerns backup singers: Jody Benjamin, Ann Downey and Sally Robinson.

Available through Amazon, CDBaby and iTunes, the disc was recorded live in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church at the Maxville (Ont.) Musicfest and kicks off with the ‘60s flavored walking blues, “The Devil Likes To Win,” featuring Gillespie on slide guitar and harp. His vocal delivery is reminiscent of Charlie Musselwhite, and his delivery is laid back as he relates the troubles he’s experienced moving from the country to the biggest town in the world. And his attack on both instruments is crisp and clean. “What Would Bo Diddley Do” recounts a desire to play in a band styled after the aforementioned guitarist. In this one, Gillespie keeps true to the Diddley sound and beat as he relates how he drove other musicians away with his incessant practicing to achieve his goal.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s 1937 classic, “Early In The Mornin’”, follows with Gillespie keeping a traditional feel while stretching out on the reeds. He’s aided by a tasty piano break mid-song. The band gets funky with Terry on trumpet for the original “My Tipitina,” about a woman from “way down South who knocks the whole room dead,” before the singer dips into the O.V. Wright songbook with “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry.” Instead of a Memphis horn sound, however, the tune’s delivered successfully as a slow blues.

“Let’s Get Together” is a roots rocker that addresses harmony among all people, approached from the direction of a country boy with love in his heart who moves to the city and finds folks of another mind, followed by the slow grinder traditional, “My Mama.” Next up, “It Wasn’t Me” kicks off with a barrelhouse piano as Gillespie delivers a lyrical alibi for some unspecified offense that happened when he was out of town. “Her Mind Left First” is a harmonica-fueled blues about a woman who lies the moment she opens her mouth.

The music gets funky again on “16 Days” before a cover of “She Walks Right In.” Not to be confused with the 1963 hit by the Rooftop Singers, this one was written by Professor Longhair and is delivered uptempo with plenty of keyboards and counterpoint rhythms. The mellow “Magnolia Tree,” about a woman who’s been to the city and has found it rough, and a reprise of the opening tune close out the set.

If your tastes run to the rootsier side of the blues, you’ll find this CD to be well-paced and well-conceived 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.

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 Blues Society News  

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2014 Iowa Blues Challenge

The 2014 Iowa Blues Challenge is presented by proudly sponsored by Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, Lizard Creek Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society, It features head to head competition culminating in a four band Final round to be held Saturday, May 17th, 2014 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines at 1000 Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa.

Rounds will be held in Des Moines and Bettendorf, IA. 8 bands from across Iowa will compete in 2 preliminary rounds. The first round of competitors in Des Moines will be Jefferson County Green Band, El Dorados, Hot Tamale & the Red Hots and Rosendahl. Bands will start at 7 PM at Zimm’s Food & Spirits on Thursday, April 10th .$8 cover or $5 for members, but you MUST have a current CIBS membership card.

The second round will be at The Muddy Waters in Bettendorf on Sunday, April 13th starting at 6:00 PM with Phineas J’s, Concrete Slim & the Sidewalks, The Harris Collection and Mercury Brothers. Two bands from each initial round will advance to the Finals on Saturday, May 17th at the Hotel Fort Des Moines starting at 8:00 PM with a $10 admission or $7 for card carrying CIBS members.

For more information go to

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

Join the DC Blues Society for a dance party with live music on April 19, 2014 from 8pm-12:30am (American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902). Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door ( Doors open at 7 pm.

Dance to live blues from 3 DC Blues Society Battle of the Band Winners. We’re throwing a party to help The Blues Foundation build the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, TN. Leave your hard hat at home but bring your dancing shoes!

Performing are the Stacy Brooks Band who represented the DC Blues Society at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Stacy’s voice and incredible stage presence have led to collaborations with blues stars Billy Branch and Kenny Neal.

Also appearing: The Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner Band who has a reputation for blistering fret work that inspires dancers to sweat!

Rounding out the lineup: Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark and The Blues Allstars play a mix of contemporary blues with a funk edge. For more info

Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, MN

Road 2 Memphis Challenge, Two days of competition, Solo/duo: Sunday, April 6, 1:00 at Amsterdam Bar & Hall, 6th & Wabasha, St. Paul, 5 acts competing.

Band: Sunday, April 27, 1:00 at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon, 1638 Rice St., St. Paul, 7 acts competing. Winners of both competitions will represent MnBS at the 2015 IBC in Memphis. $10 suggested donation, both events

Also, Benefit for Allison Miller (daughter of Dee Miller, Dee Miller Band) Sunday, April 13, 1:00, Wilebski’s Blues Saloon, 1638 Rice St., St. Paul Acts to perform: Steve Clarke, Annie Mack Band, Jimmi “Prime Time” Smith, Dee Miller Band, Who Nu.

Allison remains hospitalized in critical condition due to very serious complications of influenza B (double pneumonia, one collapsed lung, one infected lung, dialysis, leg amputation.) More info/donations: or

To donate to silent auction (by April 11) contact Christina Hoglund @  More Info  at

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents Blues in the Schools Artists-in-Residence program this spring with educators and musicians Ellis Kell and Bret Dale visiting 10 area schools the week of April 7 through 11. Ellis and Bret will also be performing at three open-to-the-public venues on Tuesday April 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the Bettendorf Public Library, 18th St. and Tech Drive, Bettendorf, IA, on Wednesday April 9 at 6:30 at Cool Beanz, 1325 30th Street, Rock Island, IL and on Thursday April 10 at 6:30 (with a band) at the River Music Experience upstairs, 2nd and Main Streets, Davenport, IA.Ellis and Bret are both educators with the River Music Experience. Ellis has been instrumental in the success of the RME’s Winter Blues Program and in bringing those kids to the BluesFest’s BlueSKool every year. Bret will join him at BlueSKool this year. Both musicians believe in the power of the blues to heal, as a form of self-expression, as a celebration of life and therapy for the soul.

Their program, THE BLUES: HEART & SOUL OF AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC, will trace the origins and significance of the blues as the cornerstone of American roots music and contemporary music, through live performance, stories and audience interaction. From Congo Square and cotton fields in the Great Migration to Beale Street, Maxwell Street and beyond, they deliver the goods with passion and respect for the magic and mystery found in “three chords + the truth.”

Also, The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the preliminary round of the Iowa Blues Challenge at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, April 13 at the Muddy Waters. Four bands will play thirty-minute sets starting at 6:00 p.m. Competitors are Phineas J’s, Harris Collection, Mercury Brothers, and William Bixby Band. Two of the bands competing in the IBC Preliminaries will earn the right to move into the IBC Final Round, to be held in Des Moines on May 17, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. $5 MVBS Members/$8 Non-Members

For more info visit

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

2014 Friends of the Blues Concert Series –  All shows held in Waseka, IL unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, April 17, Annie Mack, Moose Lodge, Thursday , May 8, Tullie Brae, Moose Lodge, Tuesday, May 20, Ori Naftaly Band, Moose Lodge, Thursday, June 5, Sad Sam Blues Jam, Moose Lodge, Tuesday, June 24, Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tuesday, July 8, Brandon Santini, BB Sportsmen’s Club , Wednesday, July 16, Albert Castiglia, Longbranch Restaurant, Thursday, July 31, Terry Quiett Band, Venue TBA, Tuesday, August 12, Laurie Morvan Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues or Thur, August 26 or 28, Nikki Hill (& Matt Hill), Venue TBA, Thursday, October 02, Sena Ehrhardt, 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:

River City Blues Society – Pekin, IL

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring Ghost 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:

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

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. April 14 – The Blues Expressions, April 21 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans, April 28 – Greg Glick

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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