Issue 8-19 May 8, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue  

Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Blues rocker Anthony Gomes.

We have nine music reviews for you.  Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Lisa Mann. Rainey Wetnight reviews new albums by Terry Hanck and The Steve Cal Band. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Tommy Castro and an album called Showcasing The Blues – Harp Blowin’ Blues From South Florida. Rex Bartholomew reviews new albums by Debbie Bond & The Tru Dats and Charlie Owen. Rhys Williams reviews new CDs from Rick Randlett and Wes Mackey.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 9  

 Lisa Mann – Move On

 12 songs – 52 minutes

 Self-produced CD

 Powerhouse vocalist, songwriter and bass player Lisa Mann plows new ground with this contemporary blues CD, a follow-up to her highly received 2012 release, “Satisfied.”

Now residing in Portland, Ore., she’s one of the most popular entertainers in the Pacific Northwest. Despite her youthful appearance, the West Virginia native with a big voice is tireless veteran of one of the most active blues scenes in the country, working with her own group, the Really Good Band, as well as an array of other top ensembles. A semi-finalist in the International Blues Challenge in 2011, she’s a member of the prestigious Cascade Blues Association’s hall of fame and its 2012 entertainer of the year. And she’s in high demand for her work on the six-string bass, having won three consecutive Muddy Awards as the CMA’s bass player of the year. In her spare time, she’s also provided vocals for Cry For Eden, the internationally acclaimed symphonic rock band.

Mann’s musical influences are varied, ranging from Little Milton, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow to funk bassists Bob Babbitt and James Jamerson. Most of the nine originals here are drawn from her own life experience, and most do little to conceal her wry sense of humor. She delves deeply into R&B for this CD, aided by her regular lineup of Jeff Knudson (guitar), Michael Ballash (drums) and Brian Harris (keyboards). They’re augmented by a stellar group of sidemen, including harmonica master Mitch Kashmar, lead guitarist Sonny “Smokin’” Hess, backup singers LaRhonda Steele, Arietta Ward, Rae Gordon and Richard Arnold, drummer Dave Melvan and pianist Alex Shakeri.

A short, funky bass line leads into an equally shot guitar riff to kick off the uptempo title cut, “Move On,” before Lisa starts belting a message about making the best of life and leaving your troubles in the past: “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ you don’t already know/When you’re painted in a corner, there’s only one way to go/You gotta move on.” Each member of the band gets a solo, demonstrating that they clearly mean business. The attack changes for “Are You Lonely,” a loping shuffle that doesn’t goes against the advice Mann lays down in the opener. It deals with a past love, and she can’t stop wondering about how he’s doing even though he was the one to split.

The guitar-fueled slow blues “Give Me Your Love” alters the mood, with the vocalist expressing sentiments about wanting to give her man everything, but that she’s only able to give what she’s got. Next, “The Blues Is My Medicine” was penned by Hess, who works with Mann in the Northwest Women’s Rhythm And Blues Revue. The message is clear from the title, with Hess providing the clean, tasty guitar lead. The pace slows for “You Don’t Know” with Kashmar making his first appearance as the song describes a woman who’s inflicting pain on her man because she can’t decide whether her relationship has reached its end.

“My Man” isn’t the song made popular by Ruth Etting in the 1920s and then given a second life by Billy Holiday. It’s an uptempo Mann original about a powerful, sweet man who’s always in control. It leads into another song of loss. “I’ve Been Used” gives Lisa plenty of space to stretch out her vocal chords for another message of romantic woe that any woman in a similar position can relate to before she delivers “Big Long List,” a jazzy, autobiographical, tongue-in-cheek, adults-only look at the chores she has to deal with in real life after returning home from the road. It carries an FCC warning because of repeated use of a dirty word.

Kashmar returns for a modern treatment of the Jimmy Reed classic “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby” before Mann launches into “Doin’ OK,” which gives an accounting of the simple positives in her life. A cover of Little Milton’s “The Blues Is Alright” precedes the closer, “This Bitch,” a humorous, bass-driven rocker about the evil part of her personality, pictured as another woman, that follows around all day long.

A rock-solid offering. Mann provides the Really Good Band plenty of space to stretch out, and they deliver. Her vocals are rich and warm throughout, and her bass playing outstanding, but well-controlled within the mix.

This disc is available through iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon. However, if you order it directly through Lisa’s website, a portion of the money will go to the aid of Walter Trout, the ailing guitar wizard who is currently raising funds for a much needed liver transplant.

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.

 Featured Blues Interview – Anthony Gomes  

While many purists live and die by Delta and Chicago Blues, there’s a newer, younger group of players who are taking matters into their own hands and bending the rules to suit their vision and influence the direction of modern Blues music.

Canadian Bluesman Anthony Gomes whose dad is Portuguese and his mom French-Canadian is one of that group which includes players from all over the country, male and female, who never lived the hard scrabble life of the early Blues players and don’t know the hard times they endured to play America’s original music. Many listen and try to emulate.

They hear the music and have an idea, but in the days of You Tube and Facebook, it’s hard to completely understand what went down back in the day. So, to play the Blues, many stretch tradition in favor of their own approach.

Anthony was born and raised in Toronto but currently makes his home in St. Louis, Mo. “I moved here because it’s centrally located which makes it easy to tour,” Anthony says. “I lived in Chicago for four years to learn. I have to live somewhere with a good music scene.”

Anthony’s earliest influences included the usual suspects for a young man coming up in the age of heavy metal and hard rock. He was into Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, SRV, Clapton, and a long list of others. Even the Beatles. “My dad listened to classical music and occasionally the Beatles while my mom dug Elvis.” For Anthony, the Blues came into focus when Anthony was about 19.

“When I was 5 I wanted to be a super hero,” Anthony said. “When I was 9 I wanted to be a goalie for a professional hockey team. All the guys in Canada have that dream. Then when I was 14 I found the guitar and fell in love with it. I fell in love with the music. This is badass. A guitar player was a lot cooler than Superman or a goalie.

“I came up in the ‘90s at a time when people were saying white guys can’t play the Blues. White guys can’t play basketball. A lot of white people were saying ‘You can’t do that. You can’t tell me about life.’ Right off I had three strikes against me. I was white, Canadian, and young. I was listening to music that was a good 10, 15 years before my time and kids are still doing that.”

Determined to prove his detractors wrong, Anthony continued to play the Blues at night while working on his master’s degree in history from the University of Toronto. His thesis focused on the racial evolution of Blues music. While in Chicago he played briefly with Magic Slim and the Teardrops before putting his own band together in 1998 and winning the very first Buddy Guy’s Legends “Best Unsigned Blues Band” competition.

“After I got into the Blues from listening to Clapton and Stevie Ray and Hendrix, I started going back to the origins of the music. I wanted to see where it came from. I studied guitar in high school. And I learned from the records. Playing with Magic Slim in Chicago was the equivalent to a master class in traditional Blues.

As he began veering away from his rock and roll influences Anthony became enmeshed in the three Kings: Albert, BB and Freddie. He says BB is still his biggest influence. Then it was Albert Collins, Otis Rush, and of course, Buddy Guy. He still speaks highly of Stevie Ray, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and fellow Canadian, the late Jeff Healy.

“Those guys are gods in my eyes,” he says. “I love Buddy’s passion for the music. To me Stevie Ray Vaughan was the greatest Blues rock player who ever lived. When they all started passing we became the farm team. I’ll always feel an appreciation for them. There was only one Stevie. One Hendrix. One Muddy Waters.

“I toured with BB King which is at the top of the list because he’s been one of my main influences and the reason I play Blues. There’s not another one like him. He’s just the nicest man and best teacher you could have. Jeff Healey sat in with us at the Montreal Jazz Festival and my family was at that show, and I’ve got a huge family that doesn’t always get along. So, during the show, half of the family is sitting on one side and the other half is on the other. There were 10,000 people at that show. I always dreamed of playing Montreal. Another time was when we were in Finland playing the same festival with Robert Plant. What I was really impressed with is how Robert is such a huge fan of the blues and all music. He is a nice, humble man despite his status. Today as a Blues artist I listen to a variety of stuff and try to see where the artist is coming from. I am really into Walter Trout, and Bonnie Raitt. Both of them are super performers. I wrote a song called “Lady Soul” which is about Aretha Franklin who has always been a great inspiration to me. Listening to her has allowed me to get through some rough spots. There is nobody better at what she does.”

Anthony is defensive about his brand of Blues and his place in the pecking order claiming the purists want to create a box for different styles and different players.

“It’s all about going back to the source and finding your own sound,” Anthony says. “After all, there are only 12 notes and five scales to choose from. It’s like John Lennon said ‘Adam and Ever wrote the first song and everybody else has been stealing the riffs.’ I like to think of it in terms of a car accident. Ten people can witness it and not one of them can say they saw the same thing. I can appreciate where the purists are coming from but Muddy Waters lived in a different world and I don’t want to go there. He was the man. The purists want to keep the blues alive when it is alive. You just can’t keep the past alive. It’s like Civil War Re-enactments, they’re not real. Traditional Blues cover bands bore me. When you get a chance to go see the Chicago legends that are still with us, that’s a whole other story. These guys invented it, played it and defended it.

As a rule Anthony is regarded as a high-energy Blues rock act with all kinds of pyrotechnics and screaming guitar. He stepped aside from that image and produced an acoustic recording that allowed him to stretch his talents in another direction. “Before The Beginning” is a vast departure from Anthony’s usual offerings but the disc features some powerful, compelling, unplugged cuts.

“I wanted to show that there is more to our music than loud, ripping guitars,” Anthony says in a New England Concert Reviews 2013 interview. “By stripping everything down, we could feature the voice and songs. I wanted to capture the spirit of the old field hollers and get back to where the music came from. We only used acoustic instruments – drums, piano, acoustic guitars and acoustic bass. The most powerful of all the acoustic instruments is the human voice. When you put the harmonies in there, it’s just soul shaking. Musically, most people try to look ahead for inspiration. With the sounds of Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson, I hear the future of the blues tradition. This time, we went way back. This album is so yesterday, that it’s today.”

The best way to have control over your music is to create your own label, Anthony says. When he was starting out he released a couple of CDs independently and them signed to other labels. Now he says because of all the advanced technology it’s not necessary to be signed to a big label to get needed exposure and airplay. There’s no reason to compromise if you’re the boss. No one is there to tell you what to play or not to play.

“My biggest concern is being honest and true to myself. Blues is a very humbling way to make a living. Everyone wants to hear something they can relate to. You have to keep it fresh. I don’t intend to end up like AC/DC. They’ll tell you they’ve been doing the same thing over and over for far too long. Personally, as an artist, I want to try different things. My hope is my audience will stick with me no matter what I try. I feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to make a modest living playing the Blues. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Visit Anthony’s website at:

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Jim Crawford is a transplanted Texan and the current president of the Phoenix Blues Society. He’s a fan of lots of different types of music but keeps his head mostly planted in the Blues today. He received his first 45 rpm record, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” at about age 8 and it stuck. He hosted the “Blues Cruise” on KACV-FM 90 in Amarillo for many years and can be found on many nights catching a good show at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix’s Blues Mecca.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 9  

 The Terry Hanck Band and Friends – Gotta Bring It On Home to You

 Delta Groove Music, Inc.

 CD: 10 songs; 51:10 Minutes

 Styles: Contemporary and Traditional Saxophone Blues

 The phrase ‘good humor’ has several meanings. When it comes to Chicago native Terry Hanck and his fellow musicians, this refers to the genial mood they exude. Blues music is performed to chase the blues away and lift listeners’ spirits. That’s what Hanck does with his superb saxophone skills on his seventh album, “Gotta Bring It On Home to You.” Terry’s band consists of himself, guitarist Johnny “Cat” Soubrand, bassist Tim Wagar and drummer Butch Cousins. The “friends” whom the album cover references are co-producer and guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen, guitarist and vocalist Debbie Davies, pianists and organists Jim Pugh, Bob Welsh, and Lorenzo Farrell, Doug James on baritone sax, and background vocalists Lisa Leu Andersen and Dennis Dove. Together they bring an ensemble’s groove to five originals and five covers. Of the former, the following three will have saxophone blues lovers boogie-ing and singing along:

Track 03: “Pins and Needles” – Co-written by Jojo Russo, Terry Hanck, and Chris Andersen, this is a tune for anyone who’s ever been intimidated by an attractive yet capricious partner: “I try to get you loose, get you in the mood, but every time I do you just say I’m a fool. I wine and dine you…not too shabby. I say you’re looking hot, but you say, ‘Cool it, daddy’.” Jim Pugh plays a mean Farfisa electronic organ, and “Kid’s” mid-song guitar solo, with its staccato notes, brings a jabbering significant other to mind.

Track 04: “Peace of Mind” – In the CD liner notes Hanck reveals, “Definitely a ‘60s Chicago [Magic Sam] feel and a little slower this time.” Our narrator looks back upon his past relationships and is relieved to have mellowed out: “I’m getting too old, people. Let me tell you the reason why. I need a good memory to keep with all these lies. All of these women in and out of my life – I’m loaded right now, trying to keep up with just one wife!” “Cat” Soubrand’s guitar is the epitome of traditional welling, slow blues, forming this ballad’s backbone.

Track 06: “My Last Teardrop” – The best and most unique thing about soulful number six is its mid-song tempo change. It starts out tenderly, reminiscent of a slow dance at a sock hop, and then explodes into big-band sound. “You can’t hurt me no more, my darling; I’ve got nothing left to feel,” Hanck sings ruefully. “You’ve taken everything from me now, baby, and you’ve turned my heart to steel.”

On his website, Hanck explains an honor he’s recently earned. He‘s “very humbled and proud to be nominated in the 2014 Blues Music Awards ‘Best Horn’ category!” This follows his 2012 awards for Best Horn and Living Blues’ “Most Outstanding Musician, Horns.” When it comes to sax that can’t be beat, he’s “Gotta Bring It On Home to You”!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 9  

 The Steve Cal’ Band – Self-Titled


 CD: 9 songs; 49:43 Minutes

 Styles: Contemporary Rock, Blues Rock

If one looks at the back of a food product container, nutritional information is found. This often contains the RDA, or recommended daily allowance, of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. In the case of The Steve Cal’ Band’s self-titled debut album, it has a serving size of nine songs – six originals and three covers – but only forty percent of one’s recommended daily allowance of blues music. Only the three covers (Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Lovin’ You,” Junior Wells’ “Come On In This House,” Robert Johnson’s “Malted Milk”) and track four, “I Ain’t Messin’ Around,” would be deemed metaphorical ‘health food’ for blues purists. The rest is solid contemporary rock, neither earth-shattering nor execrable. Featured are Steve Cal’ himself on guitar, vocals, and electric piano, Sandy Eldred on bass, and Melinda Gervasio on drums.

The band’s website reveals: “Steve Cal’ is a blues rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Philadelphia, PA. He first picked up the guitar at age eight after hearing Santana’s instrumental ‘Samba Pa Ti’ and started performing professionally with a band at fourteen years old covering songs by groups such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Doors. Cal’ was first introduced to the blues after hearing B.B. King’s The ‘Thrill Is Gone.’ He has also stated that the album ‘Muddy Mississippi Waters Live’ was another inspiring introduction to blues music. In 2013 he released his debut album with his band…[which] primarily consists of original songs written by Cal’.”

According to their press release, venues played inclued The Twisted Tail (Philly) where the band is part of a monthly rotating cast of performers, World Café Live (Philly), North Star Bar (Philly), Dogtooth Bar (Wildwood, NJ) and Blue 5 (Virginia). The Steve Cal’ Band was the winner of the 2013 Beta Hi-Fi Emerging Music Fest at World Café Live, which highlighted the finest emerging songwriters in the Philadelphia region. Steve Cal’ has performed at the Paoli Blues Festival (Paoli, PA) and the Angelsea Blues and BBQ Festival (Wildwood, NJ), along with many other clubs and pubs up and down the East Coast. The track ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You’ is featured on the critically-acclaimed Blues Rock Review’s 2013 Volume 4 Album Sampler, which features the best up-and-coming blues artists in the country.

Traditional blues might be considered the ‘protein’ of the entire genre, and the Steve Cal’ Band would benefit from more infusions. They certainly have talent, and hopefully their style and sound will mature and prove more filling to those who love the masters that inspired this posse.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 9  

 Debbie Bond and the Tru Dats – That Thing Called Love

 Blues Root Productions

 9 tracks / 39:33

 Sometimes you get something great when it is least expected, which is the case with Debbie Bond and the TruDats’ new CD, That Thing Called Love. This material was originally recorded in a big army surplus tent out in the hills of West Nashville as a live performance for the WRFN Radio Free Nashville’s Mando Blues Show. When the smoke cleared, it turned out that the music and chemistry were so good that OmegaLab Studio’s Rob McClain was able to mix and master the recordings into something very special.

Debbie Bond has over 30 years of Alabama blues experience and has toured the US and Europe with legendary bluesmen, including Johnny Shines, Little Jimmy Reed, Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, and Jerry “Boogie” McCain. Since 1995 she has mostly run her own crew, and released her debut album in 1998. Debbie gives back to the blues community and is the founder of the non-profit Alabama Blues Project, which is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of blues from the Heart of Dixie.

That Thing Called Love is Debbie Bond’s third release, and it was accomplished with the bare minimum of personnel. Debbie provided the vocals, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar, and she is joined by her husband Rick Asherson on keyboards, keyboard bass, harmonica and backing vocals. He also acted as producer for this project. Dave Crenshaw was the drummer for the majority of this record and guest saxophonist Tom Pallardy came on board to lend a helping hand. There are nine tracks, seven of which were written by Bond and Asherson, and three of them were previously unreleased.

The first track is a cover of Solomon Burke’s “You’re the Kind of Trouble;” you may have seen this Holmes Brothers song being performed on the Nashville musical drama tv series last year. There is almost too much to process while listening to this soulful pop-oriented blues tune: Debbie has a beautiful voice and can play a fine guitar, Asherson and Crenshaw are tight as brothers, and this is one of the best-mixed live albums you will ever find. It is hard to compare Bond’s voice to any contemporary artist, but in a nutshell her sound is equal parts throaty and melodic and she is spot-on with her intonation and phrasing — there is nothing like decades of real-world experience to hone one’s craft.

The other cover is also from the Holmes Brothers and “Feed My Soul” is a soulful ballad that highlights Asherson’s bass keys and electric piano. Pallardy’s sax makes the mood on this track, and it is impressive how reserved and disciplined he is, playing only what is needed. Too often sax players get a little out of control in live situations and kill the vibe, but that does not happen here.

The logical assumption would be that “Steady Rolling Man” is an ode to Debbie’s husband, who she met when they were both touring with the late Willie King. It certainly is a good description of his playing style and Rick Asherson delivers the goods with his speakeasy piano in this New Orleans flavored song. Crenshaw lays back, grabs his brushes and mutes his drums to complete the picture. This is an ambitious tune as it is is a departure from the rest of the show and it is a vocally difficult song, but Debbie and the TruDats pull it off and it shines as the standout track of That Thing Called Love.

“Tarragona Blues” appears twice on the album, and the second version is sequenced as the final track in an extended re-mix that features Ray Robinson on drums (Crenshaw moved over to Latin percussion), and Jonathan Blakney on background vocals and additional percussion. The extra personnel is needed as this is a bossa nova tour de force. It ends up being a shout-out to Debbie’s Spanish fans who appreciate her jazzy blues stylings, and she treats them (and us) with hearty vocals that are specific to their land and she throws in a smooth Telecaster break for good measure.

Debbie Bond and the TruDat’s That Thing Called Love is a slickly-produced CD, but since it was recorded live it has a raw energy that is missing from most studio projects. It is a great example of Alabama blues and soul from the premier ambassador of the genre, and you should definitely make the time to give it a listen!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 9  

 Charlie Owen – Worth the Wait

 Self Release

 15 tracks / 54:52

 Vocalist Charlie Owen has experienced both coasts of the United, States, and apparently has decided that the eastern seaboard is home. Originally hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, he grew up in Washington D.C., where he started his music career. Charlie was a member of the house band at the Stardust Lounge in Maryland, which was a stopping place for many national acts during his tenure in the 1970s. In 1981 he headed off for the San Francisco area where he fronted the Dynatones and was the singer for the house band at Larry Blake’s Rathskeller in Berkeley.

Today he is living in Maryland again, but he brought a little of the city by the bay along with him this time. His new CD was recorded in San Jose, and Owen called on some of San Francisco’s finest sidemen in to the studio to join him. Charlie takes care of the vocals, and is joined by Todd Swenson on guitar, Steve Ehrmann on bass, Paul Ravelli behind the drum kit, Rob Sudduth and Johnny Bamont on saxophone, and Marvin McFadden on trumpet. Jim Pugh was the producer, and also handled the keyboard chores.

Worth the Wait celebrates the heyday of American rhythm and blues, and it includes 15 covers that are mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. The album starts off with Sam Cooke’s ”I Sowed Love and Reaped a Heartache.” The spirit of the 1968 version is maintained, and there is a lot going on in this song. There are horns, synthetic strings, a rolling bass line, and a pair of backing vocalists (Cary Sheldon and Kathy Kennedy). This all does a great job of supporting Owen’s vocals, and you will find that all those years of performing have not gone to waste. He has the perfect voice for vintage R&B – just a little rough on the edges and full of soul.

It is easy to tell from the playlist that Charlie has a few favorite artists. Sam Cooke must be on the list, because, besides the opener, you will also get to hear 1964’s “That’s Where It’s At.” This song features Curtis Salgado singing a heartfelt duet with Charlie, who also plays the trumpet on this one. Johnnie Taylor is also represented by the Sir Mack Rice penned “Cheaper to Keep Her” and “Hijacking Love,” which is pure super-sexy funk.

There are also a pair of Little Milton tracks: “So Mean to Me” and “We’re Gonna Make It,” which was Milton’s only top 40 hit back in 1965. The latter is an upbeat tune, and is the happiest thing you will find on Worth the Wait (there is a reason they call it rhythm and blues). This song is built around Swenson’s jaunty guitar work and Ehrmann’s round bass, and is supported by a much too short sax solo from the wonderful Frankie Ramos.

The standout track on the album is “No Pride at All,” a 1999 song by Jesse Winchester, a talented singer and songwriter who passed away this April. It has a conventional R&B format, but creatively uses electric piano, bells and Christoffer “Kid” Andersen’s electric sitar to set the mood. It might not seem like a good combination when you see it on paper, but it sounds fine when it is coming out of your speakers.

The final track on the CD comes straight out of left field, as “Soft Place to Fall” is found on the soundtrack of Robert Redford’s 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer. Charlie rearranged Allison Moorer’s country version into a bluesy ballad, which works well with the bittersweet lyrics about hitting up an old friend while on the rebound. This was really the only place to put this song on the album, as it is completely different than the rest of the material, and it proves to be an interesting contrast and a good closer.

Charlie Owen has a sweet voice, good taste in music, and a group of fine friends that were willing accomplices for this project. If you are a fan of rhythm and blues, Worth the Wait will definitely be your cup of tea. Check it out if you get the chance!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 9  

 Tommy Castro & The Painkillers – The Devil You Know

 Alligator – 2014

 13 tracks; 53 minutes

 Tommy Castro has been at the top of the blues food chain for some years with a string of outstanding albums, a reputation for always giving 100% live and his integral role in the Blues Cruises. Throughout that time his band has had the usual comings and goings but when long-serving sax player Keith Crossan decided to leave it obviously gave Tommy food for thought. After a hiatus of almost five years since 2009’s “Hard Believer” Tommy’s new project The Painkillers has now released its debut disc. The first thing to note is that there are no horns anywhere on this disc though there are many guests filling in the sound and supporting the core quartet of Tommy on guitar and vocals, Randy McDonald on bass, James Pace on keys and Byron Cage on drums, with everybody providing backing vocals. Much of the material was written by Tommy, several songs with co-producer Bonnie Hayes.

The title track opens proceedings with an old-fashioned blues riff , vamping organ, crunching rhythm section and Tommy’s slide work double tracked against his own guitar sounds. This one is all blues and grows on you with repeated listens. “Second Mind” is more soul inflected and would certainly have worked with horn accents in the old band but is just fine here as Tommy sings it well and nails a strong solo; Jim Pugh adds organ to this one. Although “I’m Tired” is an old song from Chris Youlden (Savoy Brown), Tommy might have chosen it to express his artistic frustrations: “I’m tired of trying to be something I know ain’t me; I’m tired of living up to what people expect me to be.” Joe Bonamassa adds his distinctive guitar here and he and Tommy really burn it up. “Center Of Attention” is a fast-paced rocker with a rousing chorus and an interesting guitar solo with definite eastern influences. We then get a real old blues song – JB Lenoir’s “The Whale Have Swallowed Me” where Tommy shares the vocals with Tasha Taylor. Tommy’s slide and James’ honky tonk piano are at the core of this one. Another blues-referencing title follows with “When I Cross The Mississippi” with Tab Benoit sharing vocals with Tommy and he and Mark Karan adding more guitars: “When I cross the Mississippi I feel like I’m going home…I feel like I’ve got muddy water in my veins”. As a tribute to the great river this one works very well, both vocalists outstanding. Marcia Ball, another friend from the Blues Cruise, sits in on piano and vocals on “Mojo Hannah”, a classic piece of Louisiana music, once recorded by Art Neville.

Those cruises certainly provide a good way of making contacts, as Tommy demonstrates by being able to call on the Holmes Brothers for backing vocals on “Two Steps Forward”. Tommy’s guitar and Magic Dick’s harp work in unison to give a really heavy feel to the song that is then tempered by the gospel feel of the chorus where the Holmes chip in. Magic Dick’s harp playing here makes you understand how he got his moniker! “She Wanted To Give It To Me” returns to the basic quartet though co-writer Narada Michael Walden produced this track. Tommy’s vocals are very clear here on a tale of a ‘femme fatale’ whose overtures he rejects. The band excels on this one, Tommy’s aggressive guitar underpinned by swirling organ and the rhythm section keeping everything on track.

Wet Willie recorded “Keep On Smilin’” back in 1974 and one of the writers was Jimmy Hall, another friend of Tommy’s. This one has a lilting chorus of positive thinking and it is no surprise that it provided the encore when I saw Tommy live recently at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival. It’s a classic performance on which Tommy’s vocal range is well up to the task and his double tracked guitars have a real Southern Rock feel – a superb track. The final track on the album is “Medicine Woman” on which Samantha Fish duets with Tommy on vocals on a rocker with plenty of wah-wah from Tommy. However, Alligator have added two further tracks, both sides of a vinyl 45 released in early 2013 as interim evidence of the Painkillers’ progress. “That’s All I Got” was the B-Side, a co-write with Terry Wilson (Teresa James’ partner and producer), a soulful song with some searing guitar; A-Side “Greedy” was written by Tommy and Randy and denounces the ‘money is all that matters’ attitudes that dog our society.

On first listen long-time fans will certainly miss the horns but be patient because there is a lot of fine material here. Not perhaps as immediately accessible as some of Tommy’s older albums but well worth investigating.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 9  

 Various Artists – Showcasing The Blues Volume 4 – Harp Blowin’ Blues From South Florida

 Mosher Street Records 2014

 CD1 14 tracks; 63 minutes: CD2 14 tracks; 65 minutes

 This is the fourth volume of blues from South Florida, lovingly compiled by Jerry and David Blum and featuring a stunning array of music from harmonica players, the common feature being that all are either locally based in Florida or are frequent visitors. Most of these tracks are taken from released albums and it is good that the artists in question have given their permission for the tracks to be used here. With so much music on offer a reviewer can only give a flavour of the project, so here are some highlights.

Starting with locals what better place to begin than with the current President of the South Florida Blues Society, Bob “Bluesbobby” Weinberg? Bobby is found playing “How Blue Can You Get?” with The Joey Gilmore Band (a former IBC winner), Joey singing this one in a smoky voice and the production, with saxophone as well as Bobby’s harp, is satisfyingly full. Another South Florida local act The Lady A Blues Band invite us on to the “Blues Train” where we are assured that we won’t hear “no damn George Jones”! In more down home acoustic style Ernie Southern and Pompano Pete give us “Stay Away”, one of the unreleased tracks on the album. The Fabulous Fleetwoods are another long-standing S Florida band and they get the honour of opening Disc 1 with the original rocker “Failure To Appear” while John Carey and Piano Bob Wilder give us a foot-tapping “Union Man Blues” with particularly good vocals from John.

Of course Florida is a big state and there is room here for Floridians from other parts of the state such as Bradenton’s Doug Deming And The Jewel Tones. Doug’s band often tours with harpist Dennis Gruenling (from New Jersey) whose version of “Rockin’ All Day (Reelin’ And Rockin’)” is terrific. Also from the Tampa Bay area is TC Carr & The Catch whose “Checkin’ Out” is a fast-paced instrumental with some excellent stop-start rhythms. Orlando’s RJ Harman plays fast and exciting harp on “Wake County Stomp”, subtitled ‘a tribute to Jason Ricci and New Blood’

Among the visitors we find 2013 Blues Blast nominee for the Rising Star Award Brandon Santini from whom we get the excellent title track of his latest CD “This Time Another Year”, fellow Memphian Billy Gibson with a track from his “Live At Rum Boogie Café” album and the previously name-checked Jason Ricci whose “Mississippi March” swings along and sounds very challenging to play, as one might expect from Jason! Nico Wayne Toussaint is French but spends time in Florida and has represented the South Florida Blues Society at the IBCs. Here he is in good company with another former IBC winner JP Soars on cigar box guitar and David Maxwell on piano on a storming version of Muddy’s “Deep Down In Florida”. The late Pat Ramsey (one of several departed musicians honoured in the artwork for the album) is represented by the amusing “Allergic To Work”.

Anyone who is into harmonica blues will find something to treasure in this generously proportioned celebration of the humble little instrument. The CD is available from CD Baby, as is Volume 3 which concentrates on guitar players.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 9  

 Rick Randlett – Nothing To Do

 Fox Run Studio Label

 13 songs – 50 minutes

 Rick Randlett’s path to the blues is one that has been followed by many fans and musicians over the years. He first fell in love with the music through the British blues invasion of the late 1960s. Bands such as Cream, The Yardbirds and Fleetwood Mac introduced him to the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, who in turn led him to Robert Johnson and Johnson’s own influences.

This path is nicely acknowledged in the opening track, “Heart Made Of Stone”, which has a hypnotic, descending opening riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Yardbirds album (and the title of the song itself even recalls their 1965 hit “Heart Full Of Soul”). The twist however is that Nothing To Do is primarily an acoustic album, and the riff segues perfectly into the relaxed shuffle groove of the song.

Randlett has been part of the Florida blues scene for more than 15 years where he is primarily known for fronting his three piece electric band. Nothing To Do is his second acoustic CD, following the success of 2012’s Change Coming On.

It was after he had moved to Florida in the 1980s that Randlett started to perform with country music artists as well as blues artists. As a result, his live shows often feature songs by the likes of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, as well as Big Bill Broonzy and Rev. Gary Davis. And Randlett’s song-writing draws from both wells. He wrote all the songs on the CD except “Full Moon”, which he co-wrote with Dotti Leichner. He sings in an enjoyably rough-hewn voice that at times sounds at times like the bastard son of Tom Waits and Peter Mulvey singing songs written by JJ Cale. The songs themselves are intelligently structured and well-written, mining common lyrical themes of love, loss and leaving, but without ever descending into cliché. On the title track, he sings: “Staring out my window from the comfort of my chair; wondering what the world’s up to, but I don’t really care. Push back my recliner, turn on the radio, knowing that I got all day with nowhere to go. It’s so nice to have a day with nothing to do.”

Randlett is an impressive guitarist (his solo on “Not Playing That Game” is particularly good) who handles all the guitar, dobro and lap steel duties on the album. Support is ably provided by Mitch Rogers on bass guitar (especially on the minimalist “Wish It Would Rain”) and Donny Weatherford on drums, washboard and guitar case (!). Pete “King” Karnes guests on harmonica on four songs, including the title track.

Weatherford also produced the album at the Fox Run Studio in Newberry, FL, and he achieves an impressively warm, balanced mix.

This is a very enjoyable release, which takes a decidedly non-traditional approach to a range of acoustic blues styles, from the Louisiana-flavoured “Party On The Bayou”, the bleak steel guitar of “Full Moon” and the folky finger-picked “Going To Mexico”. The overall ambience is relaxed, whilst still maintaining a high standard of musicianship. Well worth checking out.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 9  

 Wes Mackey – Life Is A Journey


 15 songs – 59 minutes

 The concept and imagery of physical movement is one of the fundamental elements of the American national identity, from the underpinnings of the country’s Manifest Destiny (“Go West, young man”; “Westward Expansion”) to the cowboy myth of a stranger arriving to clean up dirty towns before riding off into the sunset (“Shane”; “High Plains Drifter”); from novels such as Kerouac’s On The Road to songs such as Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” or Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues”. Travel is both an escape from what you leave behind as well as an opportunity for adventure, excitement and reward.

Travel is also the central theme of Wes Mackey’s new CD, Life Is A Journey.

The name of the album itself is an obvious indication, as are many of the song titles, such as “Blue In Paris”, “Ganges Blues”, “Train” and “Blues Carry Me Home”. However, just as the album title suggests both a physical and a spiritual journey, so the lyrics themselves avoid cliché by either adopting a similar double meaning (in “Train”, the runaway train is actually the singer’s own life going off the rails) or through the international aspects of many of the lyrics. In “Blue In Paris”, which also features Dave Crowe’s appropriately atmospheric accordion, Mackey sings: “What can you do, when you’re bluer than blue? You’ve been so many places, you’ve seen so many faces. The only place that comes to mind that never fails the test of time, is Paris.” Likewise, the extraordinary “Ganges Blues” beautifully summons up images of India, although the particular highlight of that song is the interplay between Mackey’s blues guitar and the sitar of Andrew Kim of Delhi 2 Dublin. It’s a stunning piece of music.

Mackey is one of those interesting characters who – despite a musical résumé going back 40 years and including gigs with the likes of Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters – has somehow flown under the radar when it comes to wider acknowledgement.

Born in South Carolina in 1942, Mackey moved to Augusta, Georgia when he was 17 and soon started playing in local juke joints. He has since spent much of his adult life on the road. After working his way around the United States in various bands and playing a wide variety of types of music, he married a Canadian girl and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the breakdown of the marriage, he stopped playing music and starting wandering (and partying) across Canada before he finally fetched up in Vancouver and started playing blues again. The 72 year old has now released his latest CD, and a very impressive offering it is.

While the travel theme is dominant in the songs, the album isn’t a lyrical one-trick pony. Mackey also addresses common blues themes of love, loss and partying. Musically, the songs tend towards the gentler, soul side of the blues, with relaxed grooves being the primary order of the day. Even the upbeat songs like “I Got The Blues” and “Train” are played with restraint and control. Mackey sings with a warm, rough-hewn, gospel-inflected voice and he is also a tasteful guitarist from the “less is more” school. His playing strongly suggests the influence of BB King, while also containing hints of jazz in his refusal to rely exclusively on the minor and major pentatonic scales.

Mackey is a solid songwriter and interpreter, not afraid to experiment. “Thank You Carolina” starts with the ghostly voices of a work gang before the instruments kick in, taking the song in a more modern direction. Mackey’s voice, however, has a worn-down, melancholy timbre that perfectly straddles the two eras.

Mackey co-wrote six of the 14 songs with Laura Fisher (who also contributes three songs she wrote herself) and receives fine backing from the likes of Footsie Brown and Oliver Conway (guitars and bass pedals), Jack Lavin and Cameron Hood (bass), Peter “Sweet Tooth” Selnar and Dave “Hurricane” Hoerl (harp), and Chris Nordquist and Shambunata Daniluk (drums), Dave Webb (piano and organ). Produced by Conway and Mackey, the album has a warm, full sound. If you like your blues smooth and polished, with intelligent, mature song-writing, you will find a lot to enjoy in Life Is A Journey.

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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Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Iowa Blues Challenge Finals – Four Bands will compete at Hotel Fort Des Moines Saturday, May 17th 8:00 PM. Competing bands will be The Harris Collection, Mercury Brothers, Hot Tamale and the Red Hots, Jefferson County Green Band. $10 cover or $7 for all Blues Societies card carrying members

Hotel Fort Des Moines room rates for the event are $99 single $119 double Call 1-800-532-1466 for reservations

The 2014 Iowa Blues Challenge is proudly sponsored by Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, Lizard Creek Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society, Southeast Iowa Blues Society, Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Cityview, Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, Zimm’s Food & Spirits and The Muddy Waters. For more information check out

River City Blues Society – Pekin, IL.

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring Johnny Rawls 7:30 pm Friday May 16th 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

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society presents recently signed Alligator recording artist Jarekus Singleton. Jarekus will be performing at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St. from 6pm-9pm. Sunday May 18th. For more info: or

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

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

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

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.  Advanced tickets are on sale now. The festival will be held at the Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park off Riverside (just east of the I39/90 exit). You can order tickets online for $10 plus a service charge at:

You can also send a check for $10 per ticket and a SASE to: Field of Blues Festival Tickets, c/o Crossroads Blues Society, PO Box 840, Byron, IL 61010.

You can also go to the following locations in Rockford: Guzzardo’s Music, Culture Shock, CD Source, Toad Hall Records, Alpine Bank (Highcrest, Springcreek, East State and Cherry Valley Branches), Just Goods Store, and the Rockford Area Arts Council. In Loves Park The Hope and Anchor is also selling tickets. Gary’s Guitars in Beloit will also be selling tickets as will the Aviators box office and other locations.

Headlined by the great blues and soul singer John Nemeth (8 PM), Crossroads has a great lineup for 2014! At 6 PM Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones will appear with Dennis Gruenling on harp. The 4 PM band is the ever popular Jimmys! Liz Mandeville is on stage at 2 PM and the day opens with Crossroads Blues Challenge winner the Alex Wilson Band. Dan Phelps will appear between acts.

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. May 12—Black Magic Johnson, May 19 – The MojoCats, May 26 – Luca Giordano & Quique Gomez, June 2 – James Armstrong, June 16—Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, June 23—Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, June 30—Chris O’Leary Band

Other events sponsored by ICBC – May 15 – James Armstrong Presents @ Casey’s Pub, 7pm, May 31 – Lake Press Club, BBQ & Bues, James Armstrong, with special guest, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, 6:00 pm, June 7 – Luca Giordano & Quique Gomez @ The Thirdbase, Blues at the Base series. 8 pm, June 14, Blues for Abraham Festival @ K of C on Meadowbrook Road, 2 – 10 pm. Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. w/Susan Williams Band, Monica Morris & Josie Lowder, Robert Sampson & The Gumbo Band, Black Magic Johnson. Followed by and after fest jam at Casey’s Pub, hosted by Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet & The MojoCats.

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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