Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2014
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with a guitar player who has worked with Bobby Rush, Koko Taylor, Mighty Joe Young, Otis Clay and others, Chicago’s own, Vino Louden.
We have seven music reviews for you. Six album reviews including Pork Chop Willie. John Németh, Rachelle Coba, Albert Castiglia, Matt Woosey and Arthur Migliazza plus a live concert DVD from Chaz DePaolo.
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,
The votes are all in from the nominators and we are hard at work tabulating their choices for the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards.
We should be able to announce the nominees in the next week or two. Voting will begin in July giving you a chance to vote for your favorite artists.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW for October 23, 2014 and plan on attending the awards celebration at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign, Illinois!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Royal Southern Brotherhood – Callahan’s Music Hall, Auburn Hills, MI.
Since seeing the RSB for the first time last year I’ve been trying to catch up with them again and it finally happened. Callahan’s is an ideal place to see any band, the 230 seat venue is a great intimate room and the sound guided by Peter Jay is top notch.
RSB wasted no time when they hit the stage. Blasting into songs off the new release, the band covered World Blues, Rock and Roll and Groove On. Release date for the new CD is June 10, but they just happened to have some with them claiming that Detroit native Yonrico Scott would kill them if they showed up without them.
With the dueling guitars of Mike Zito and Devon Allman, Cyril Neville on percussion and vocals and the rumbling rhythm section of Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott, you can’t go wrong.
If that wasn’t enough, they were joined by Samantha Fish and Joanne Shaw Taylor. Talk about sensory overload.
If you have a chance to see RSB by all means run, don’t walk to get your tickets. – Tim Richards
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7
Pork Chop Willie – Love is the Devil
13 tracks/51 minutes
The Pork Chop Willie band is the duo of Bill Hammer on guitar and vocals and Melissa Tong on fiddle and vocals. The music is Mississippi hill country music. Horn-rimmed glassed Manhattan-ite Hammer and classically trained Tong look like an unlikely duo to have the chemistry and authentic chops to produce an album in the style of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, but they have done it in a big way. The sound has that tribal, basic beat that makes the hill country music so real and visceral, and the playing and singing is spot on. Hammer wrote most of the cuts and ranges across the spectrum of hill country blues, Americana, country, rock, classical and more. From the dense, urban streets of Manhattan we get a new and fresh sounding Mississippi hill country CD!
Six of the tracks were recorded in Mississippi and feature Kinney Kimbrough on drums, Eric Deaton on bass and guitar, and David Kimbrough on guitar. The other seven were done in NYC and have Robin Gould on drums, Tony Coniff on bass and backing vocals, and Steve Tarshis on guitar. At first I tried to think that the Mississippi tracks had a more down home sound, but then I realized I was listening to some NYC recorded tracks. Both sets have a nouveaux sounding 1960’s pop country tune and there is no real discerning one set from the other, a testament to all the players.
The sound here is rich, vibrant and, at times, throbbing with the heart of soul of the hill country. Two R.L. Burnside songs grace the effort: “Snake Drive” and “Poor Boy” Junior Kimbrough’s “All Night Long” and the traditional “Crawdad Song” are the other covers. “Snake Drive” is swampy, gritty, dirty and just perfectly rendered. It even features a hissing snake sound on the last two verses and comes off really well. The guitar here is spectacular. “Poor Boy” is country fried and also done over well. The Kimbrough song uses one chord and goes on over 8 minutes, but it’s not boring. Tongs’ fiddle solo and her interplay here (and in other places, but much so here) is seminal. Hammer says he obsessed over “Crawdad” and we can glad he did; it bounces in a sweet, jumping Americana style and one could two step for hours to the great beat with swells of guitar, fiddle and vocals that overlay it.
The songs I called “pop” tunes are “Rosalie” and “She’s Gone” where the hills go ‘60’s pop. “Rosalie” is just a simple progression yet it’s fun and cool. “She’s Gone” could be an English invasion song, but then the fiddle appears to drag us back to the USA. A neat cut about a relationship ending, except the song is a bit celebratory! On the darker side is one of my favorite originals: “Devil in My Soul.” Hammer wrote the lyrics in a sort of disjointed stream of consciousness and delivers some nice slide over the tribal beat. “Two Many Cuts” opens the album and is the opening cut and it grabs at the listener. He sings of how the emotional cuts from our arguments can accumulate to destroy a relationship. The fiddle here is really well done and introduces us to just how good Tong is.
The rest of the cuts are equally good. I enjoyed the heck out of this CD and think you will, too. Fans of traditional blues and the new will find something here to savor! And best of all, the proceeds of the CD go to benefit musicians and music in the North Mississippi Hill Country!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
Featured Blues Interview – Vino Louden
The way Calvin ‘Vino’ Louden figured it, he’d just hit the big time.
And why not?
After all, he’d been asked to go out on the road as a guitarist for a big star (Bobby Rush) that had a big hit (“Chicken Heads”) burning up the radio charts. Not only that, but the rest of Rush’s band even let Louden ride shotgun to his first gig – at what surely had to be a huge show-palace, filled to the brim with a huge audience – in the front-seat of the group’s van, a plum spot for sure.
But, as it often times happens out on that big highway of playing the blues, things are not always what they seem to be.
“I thought, ‘Oh, man, this is so cool. The guys are riding in the back and they let me sit up front.’ Well, about 20 miles down the road, the floorboard starts moving … turns out there was a piece of cardboard in the floor that was covering up a huge hole. We were going to Waterloo, Iowa in the dead of winter and that cold air was just pouring up out of that hole. That’s why they let me get up front. It was freezing,” laughed Louden. “Then we finally get to the place and we walk inside and have to slide the jukebox and some tables out of the way and that was the stage. And there were only a few people in there that saw the show that night. I made $30.”
But as Louden, who would go on to become one of the most sought-after blues guitarists on the Windy City scene found out that night, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing for five people or in front of five thousand, you better give it your all every time you hit the stage.
“Bobby got into his thing and he was talkin’ and he was walkin’ all around the place and he had those few people that were there in the palm of his hand,” said Louden. “I had never seen anything like that. He was goin’ over and touchin’ people and really interacting with the audience in a big way. And that made a huge impression on me.”
Louden’s trek over the ensuing years have no doubt been filled with the normal highs and lows that most musicians experience, whether driving all night in sub-freezing temperatures to play in a near-empty bar, or whether flying first-class to play in front of a sold-out festival crowd. Either way, he’s learned to adapt and deal with both scenarios with equal aplomb. But neither of those situations, or anything else he’d ever encountered playing the blues, prepared Louden for the aftermath of the early morning hours of Aug. 23, 2008.
On their way back home from a gig, Koko Taylor’s Blues machine was involved in a serious van accident near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Louden, who was a guitarist for Taylor at that time, along with fellow guitar player Shunsuke Kikota, bass player Ricky Nelson and keyboardist Stanley Banks all received life-threatening injuries from the mishap and all underwent surgery, and were all very lucky to have survived the devastating accident, Louden especially. His pelvis was broken in nine places; he had a C2 neck fracture; his diaphragm was ruptured; and he had two heart attacks during surgery. After being on life-support, Louden basically had to re-learn how to do everything – walk, talk, swallow and regain command of all his bodily functions. Playing the guitar – at that point – didn’t even factor into the equation.
“At the time, I didn’t know – or didn’t believe – just how messed up I was. Nobody could convince me that I was in as bad a shape as I really was, because I had only ever been in the hospital to visit my mom or a sick friend before that,” he said. “I went from a hundred to zero, just like that (after the accident).”
His arduous journey from zero back up to hundred would be one that would not be made overnight. It would take years of hard work, faith and support from others.
And it started with one thing:
“I kept fighting and kept believing that I would be able to walk and talk again. Then, I kept fighting and believing that I would be able to play again. Fortunately, my mind was still strong through that whole process,” he said. “But I did have my hills and my valleys through the ordeal. They were explaining the situation that I was in and telling me what I would be able and would not be able to do. But I held fast in my belief. I do believe that God kept me here for a reason. I remember telling Him that if he let me get my skills back, I would promise to take time and play in his house and to praise His name.”
True to his word, upon release from the hospital, Louden began playing guitar on Sundays at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the same kind of house of worship he attended as a youth growing up in Hayti, Missouri. “Playing guitar in the church gave me the spiritual inspiration to keep fighting and to keep getting better,” he said. “That was my catalyst to keep pushing.”
There was going to be no doubt whatsoever that Louden’s accident and his long road to recovery would have a large and bearing impact on the way that he approaches his music these days.
“It had a huge effect on how I approach my music now. It gave me a more intense appreciation for being able to play and share my music. Everybody’s got their niche, or thing that they do well and I’ve been blessed to be able to entertain people. People that I don’t really even know, I’ve been able to reach out and touch them through this powerful, spiritual thing called music,” he said. “And when that was snatched away from me, it was devastating, to say the least.”
Louden was born in Hayti, Missouri (also hometown to Hall of Fame blues bassist Bob Stroger) and spent a portion of his childhood bouncing between there and points up north. His dad was a seasonal picker and when apples were in season, the family would spend time in Michigan. Louden moved to Chicago when he was 8, but would still spend his summers in Hayti as a young man.
“I try to explain to people that don’t know just where (Hayti) the Bootheel county is,” laughed Louden. “You throw a rock one way (south) and you’re in Arkansas and you throw a rock in the other direction (east) and you’re in Tennessee.”
It was a rock thrown a considerable distance north, in Chicago, where he first got a taste of the music that would shape the rest of his life, thanks to an uncle that would let young Vino tag along to some places that he was not really supposed to be in, because of his tender age.
“I had an uncle that passed away not too long ago by the name of Len Bland – his real name was Leonard Blake, but he went by Len Bland – and he was sort of my mentor. I would see him go out and play with a bunch of guys and I would bug and bug him to go, and occasionally, he would take me with him.”
It was at one of those spots that Louden got an unforgettable up-close and personal meeting with one of the all-time greats – Howlin’ Wolf.
“The Wolf, I remember was this big man and had these big ‘ole hands and had a big voice and was scary,” laughed Louden. “I was standing over in the corner and peeking around, watching him play and he said, ‘Hey, boy! You like the blues?’ And that scared the heck out of me and I ran back behind the table. My uncle Len told me, ‘Yeah, man, he’s alright.’ And he was. He was a really sweet guy and I had the chance to meet him as I got older and he was cool. But he was just this big, powerful guy, especially to a little kid.”
Though he might have been a bit young to be in the establishments that his uncle played in, and even though his first meeting with The Wolf ‘almost scared me away from liking the blues,’ young Vino Louden was not exactly shy.
“Yeah, the music was just so powerful and I remember how the people would jump around and dance and I kinda got my ‘in’ with them because I would come out from behind my uncle’s amp and dance; I would do the ‘James Brown,’” he said. “And they would throw quarters at me, so I would get my little hustle on.”
His first real professional gig on the blues circuit came when Louden was barely into his 20s, with the late, great Mighty Joe Young. Although Young had already carved out a nice reputation for playing his brand of blues, it took awhile before Louden realized just who he had hooked up with.
“Ignorance is bliss and it helps you sometimes. I wasn’t aware that he (Young) was as imminent as he was,” said Louden. “He was a sweet guy and in my experience with him, he was very sharing. I was playing anything that I could make a couple of bucks on when I joined up with him – Top 40, R&B … stuff like that – and a lot of that was rhythm work. He would sit down and show me lines and approaches (on the guitar) for the blues.”
Louden quickly lapped all the tricks and techniques that Young was more than happy to show him, and then Mighty Joe didn’t have any qualms about letting some of the spotlight showcase those lessons that were learned.
“He would give me solos and make me go out to the front of the stage. He’d say, ‘They can’t see you standing back there in the corner, get out front.’ The gigs that I had prior to playing with him, backing up vocalists or other front-men, they weren’t like that. They were the stars and they wanted you to stay back in the shadows,” Louden said. “But Joe wasn’t like that. He was the opposite of that. He pushed me out there and I’d do my 15 bars and start to head back to the back of the stage and he’d say, ‘No, stay there and do some more.’ He always told me, ‘When it’s your turn, don’t be shy, don’t be submissive. Go out there and tear that guitar up.’ Working with Joe was a great experience.”
With the seemingly endless parade of great Chicago blues guitarists over the years (those that made it nationally, as well as those that had the talent but didn’t make much of a splash outside of the city), it would be understandable if an up-and-coming player felt a bit overwhelmed, or maybe even a little like he didn’t belong in such heady company. But for Louden, that was never really an issue.
“I didn’t have any problem acknowledging someone when they were good, whether or not they were someone that I could reach out and touch and see live, or whether they were a recording artist. I admired other great players as opposed to being intimidated by them,” he said. “When I found someone that was good and I thought they had something to offer, I would walk up to them and say, “Hey, how did you do that?’ And if they told me, they did. If they didn’t, they didn’t. Oh, well. I never really shied away from anyone. I just figured if they were good, that meant I had to do more woodshedding. But it all starts with you just being who you are.”
Louden’s abilities to burn up and down the fretboard of a guitar are by no means strictly limited to the blues. What makes him such an in-demand player is the way that he adds audio brush strokes of other colors onto the palette he paints with, mixing hints of jazz and funk, along with some old-fashioned country swing, into his techno-colored take on the spectrum of the blues.
“Once I start playing, it’s all subconscious. When I was coming up, the radio stations I listened to was WVON-AM and they played different genres of music with DJs like Bill ‘Butterball’ Crane, Herb Kent, E. Rodney Jones and at about 9 at night, Pervis Spann – The All-Night Blues Man – would come on. I was supposed to be asleep, but I would hide up under the covers with my little transistor radio and listen to him play. I would hear Wolf and Muddy and those guys,” said Louden. “The other kids in the neighborhood would be listening to James Brown and Sam Cooke and all those kinds of acts that were hot at that time. Then I also listened to WLS and got into groups like Grand Funk Railroad and Uriah Heep and even Loggins and Messina, because of that melodic style that they played.”
Louden also fell under the spell of the great David T. Walker, a jazz studio guitarist who played on albums from the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and Donald Byrd, to name a few.
“He could play the guitar different from everybody else. Other guitarists needed a band, but he could play and say everything he needed to by himself. And that grabbed my ear,” Louden said. “He and George Benson and Wes Montgomery were guys I liked, too. It was all a different style from what I was used to hearing. Most of the guitar players were heading to the left, so I decided to lean the other direction and learn something from the right. All of that stuff influenced me. I never put a label on myself and said, ‘OK, I’m going to be a jazz player, or a blues player or a funk player.’ I just played what I liked.”
Back before most people thought of Louden as a purely blues guitarist with Koko’s Blues Machine, he also pulled duty in the great soul/gospel singer, Otis Clay’s band on three or four occasions.
“Otis would sit down and have these great sessions … if you could keep up with him. He’d go, ‘See … when you’re doing … what you need …’ And then he’d tap on his watch and go, ‘See … it’s about timing. About timing,’” Louden said. “And I’d think, ‘OK. What did he just actually say?’ Then down the road you’d be at a gig and he’d do something and it would all make sense. ‘Oh, that’s what he was trying to tell us.’ Otis was a great teacher. And oh, man, did that guy have a meticulous ear. You’d better be in tune if you were playing with him. He’d be smiling out at the audience and then if you were doing something on the bandstand that he didn’t like, he’d turn around and give you a big ‘ole scowl and say, ‘Come on, now!’ Then he’d turn back to the audience and sing, ‘Well, you should love the children.’ And it got to the point that people would be coming to the show just to see who (which member of the band) Otis would break down. It was crazy. Being with him was some incredible on-the-job training, for sure.”
Though occasionally still forced to battle some physical remnants of his horrible accident almost six years ago, Loudon is still intently focused on playing the blues and is in the process of laying down a new batch of songs onto disc.
“I’m working on some new material and I’m also in the process of trying to decide whether to shop it to a record label, or whether to put it out on my own,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of material ready to go. Now I just have to figure out how I want to present it. I do acoustic solo material – old-school type of blues – in addition to the more up-tempo electric stuff I do with the band, so I’m trying to figure out which way I want to go first. I was blessed to have been with Koko around the world two or three times and people seemed to dig what I was doing there. Hopefully, a record label will say, ‘If he helped the band sound like that under those situations, doing someone else’s music, what would he sound like on his own?”
Visit Vino on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vinolouden
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2014
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.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 7
Chaz DePaolo – One Night Live in Iona
11 songs / 1:20:36
Chaz DePaolo is not only an extremely talented blues and rock guitarist, he is also one of the hardest working men in show business. He has been on tour for ages, playing 150 shows a year all over the U.S., Canada and Europe, sometimes barely making ends meet, but always plugging along for the love of the music. Along the way he has earned a loyal cadre of fans and caught the ear of some fine artists, and has shared the stage with the likes of Buddy Miles, Jose Feliciano, David Maxwell, Blue Lou Marini, and Michael Packer!
Besides releasing four solid albums, he can also be heard on projects from Little Milton, Kim Wilson, Rory Block and Charlie Musclewhite. One Night Live in Iona is Chaz’s first DVD, and this disc provides his fans with something fresh as he has not released a new CD since 2009. This is a recording of the March, 2013 show at Lebanon, Pennsylvania’s Zion of Iona Methodist Church. DePaolo handles the vocal and guitar chores, and he is joined by Hank Kaneshige on bass, Cliff McComas on drums, and Rob Chaseman on the sax.
This DVD is set up so that it can be watched in its entirety, or individual songs can be selected from the main menu. If the entire show is watched there are no pauses between songs, and all of Chaz’s interplay with the audience is included. Up front there is an intentionally grainy introduction that shows the stage being assembled and the arrival of the band. At the end of the disc there is a bonus five-minute question and answer session with DePaolo, in which he sits with an acoustic guitar perched on his knee while he candidly talks to the interviewer.
This is no ordinary church performance — they made up for a relatively small stage by bringing in a full lighting truss and a fog machine, and visually it is appealing. The image quality is clear (this was shot in HD) and they did not skimp on the cameras, with at least four in play for this performance. Also, the audio portion is very well recorded and mixed, and as far as live recordings this is about as good as you could hope for. This means that there is little to distract the viewer from the band’s performance, and is electrifying.
Chaz has a hearty voice with obvious emotion and his guitar work is complex. His command of electric blues is undeniable, and his playing is flavored with hints of jazz and funk. His technical skills are tempered by a genuine feel for the music, and Chaseman, Kanashige and McComas have a tight connection to DePaolo so that they work together as a single entity.
The band runs through two tunes from, Flirtin’ with the Blues, including the opener, “Chicago 101.” DePaolo starts this short instrumental with a classic 12-bar blues riff, and introduces each member of the band before trading solos with Chaseman. Kanashige and McComas hold down a solid bottom line and deliver the goods without showing off, which would be a temptation with such a small ensemble. The other song from this album is “Stormin’,” a blues rocker with a slightly funkier backline and an assortment of tones that show that his Stratocaster is not a one-trick pony.
Much of the evening was spent covering five songs from his most recent release, Bluestopia. A standout of these was “Woman in a Black Dress.” This is a sexy slow-rolling blues number that Chaz belts out with heartfelt emotion while never missing a cue on the guitar. DePaolo accepts this leadership role with ease and he is truly a bluesman of the highest order.
Chaz draws on his history with The Groundhogs, the English band that he fronted for 2 ½ years, by including two of their songs. “No More Doggin” is a fun rock and roll song that can also be found on his Bluestopia album. “Cadillac Baby” is of the same ilk, though on this evening he got the Iona audience involved with a little call and response (and they actually did it!).
Of course, Chaz is first and foremost a guitar player, and he proved it handily with “Voodoo Style Chazy,”his interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s classic blues rocker. In this same vein, for the encore they pulled out a new song, “Slo Bite,” a tribute to the late Roy Buchanan. DePaolo shows off his chops on this slow-burning instrumental that is packed with innovative guitar pyrotechnics and a dynamic sax interlude from Chaseman.
One Night Live in Iona is a fun DVD that gives great insight into Chaz DePaolo’s live show that is always tight and entertaining. Rumors are that there will soon be a CD with just the audio portion of this show, but the visual part of this package is equally compelling and should not be missed. If you are a fan of electric blues go ahead and splurge for the DVD – chances are good you will watch it again and again!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 7
John Németh – Memphis Grease
Blue Corn Music
CD: 13 songs; 53:53 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Harmonica Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues
What is a genius? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a very smart or talented person; a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable.” By these criteria, not only was Albert Einstein one of these, but also Frank Lloyd Wright, the recently-departed Maya Angelou, Babe Ruth, and Boise, Idaho’s John Németh. The latter is a genius in soulful vocals, keen songwriting, and being an absolute wunderkind of blues harp. One need only listen to his eighth album, “Memphis Grease,” in order to hear proof. Performing with him are the Bo Keys: drummer Howard Grimes, Scott Bomar on Fender bass and percussion, Al Gamble on keyboards and background vocals, guitarist Joe Restivo, trumpeter and horn arranger Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers on tenor sax, Art Edmaiston on baritone sax, and background vocalist Percy Wiggins. Also featured on background vocals are Susan Marshall, Reba Russell, and Christopher, Calvin, and Courtney Barnes. Out of thirteen songs – ten originals and three covers – these three are ‘blues IQ tests’ in which Németh scores a 200:
Track 03: “Her Good Lovin’” – With a stomping harmonica-and-drum intro and funky ‘70s style, track three is a surefire original hit for the dance floor. “She got the rhythm from her head to her feet; her good lovin’ just can’t be beat.” So goes the understated yet infectious chorus, which is certain to have crowds at bars and festivals singing along. Beautifully-harmonized vocals repeat “Her good love…” as John continues his description of the gal of his dreams.
Track 05: “If It Ain’t Broke” – Two songs later, Németh and his posse give advice on what to do to keep a loyal partner around: that is, don’t try to change or mess with the partner you already have. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When you’ve got it good, don’t nix it. If you take it straight, don’t mix it. Don’t go looking to fix some good lovin’ if it ain’t broke.” Doubtlessly, this is the best soul number on “Memphis Grease.”
Track 10: “Bad Luck Is My Name” – Time for some rip-roaring blues! Track ten won’t fail purists in the least. Revel in Joe Restivo’s take-no-prisoners electric guitar on the intro and throughout the song. “I was riding high,” Németh sings ruefully. “Everybody knew my name. Now the tables are turned: bad luck is my name.” No matter where one stands in relation to the wheel of fortune, one will love the perfect marriage of Németh’s harp and Restivo’s riffs.
In the CD liner notes, writer Andria Lisle reveals, “The preternaturally talented son of a Hungarian immigrant, Németh fronted his first band at 18 and went on to work with such venerable artists as Junior Watson, Anson Funderburgh and Elvin Bishop before landing in Memphis.” This harmonica genius has a lot of “Memphis Grease” and top-notch blues skills!
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 7
Rachelle Coba – Mother Blues
CD: 12 songs; 43:51 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues/Blues Rock
When it comes to this magazine‘s favorite music, many fans fall into one of two camps. One favors traditional styles and the ‘old’ masters, claiming that these are the true representatives of the blues. Another camp embraces modern motifs of rhythm, lyrics and vocals, claiming that relatively new blues bands are just as worthy of the title of ’blues masters’ as genre founders. Is there a happy medium between these two camps, an artist that will appeal to traditionalists and contemporary blues lovers alike? Her name is Rachelle Coba, from Wichita, Kansas, paying deep respect to “Mother Blues” on her debut album. According to her website, “Rachelle represented the Topeka Blues Society as a solo performer at the International Blues Challenge in 2013, making it to the semifinal round in Memphis, Tennessee. Previously Rachelle and her band placed first at the Wichita Blues Society’s 2011 Blues Challenge. This distinction additionally qualified her to compete in the IBC during Jan.-Feb. 2012.” Performing with her on this album are drummer Karl T. Himmel, bassists Jacob Webb and David M. Santos, guitarists Jerry Hahn and Robert Cardwell, and Ray Murry and Ron Taylor on piano and organ. Of twelve sensational songs, only one is a cover (the title track, Sam Taylor, Jr.’s “Mother Blues”). The following three are her best originals:
Track 02: “Ain’t Got Time (To Fall in Love)” – Track two is a mellow blues rock ballad in which Rachelle channels a subtle vocal undertone of Aretha Franklin. “I ain’t got time to get caught up,” she tells a potential lover. “I’m not trying to be chased. I ain’t got time to go running after you, boy. I can’t believe this is what you think I gotta do…I ain’t got time to fall in love with you.” This is an anthem for our post-courtship age of Facebook and Twitter, Tinder and OKCupid, and most of all, speed dating.
Track 06: “Telephone Song” – Purists will rejoice in sizzling number six, definitely not to be confused with Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” “I never asked for no money,” Rachelle tells her unresponsive partner. “You never hear me asking ‘Who?’ It’s taking all your time from me, honey. You’ve got to know I have the blues…I just want to have a talk with you.” This song oozes with traditional blues, mixing vibrant instrumentation to produce a slow-tempo gem.
Track 08: “A Man Like You” – Combining blues and smooth jazz, “A Man Like You” is easy on the ears but hard on the heart: “I told you once; I told you twice. Tried so hard to make you realize. Took God six days and seven nights – it took only one for you, baby, to ruin my life.” Rachelle’s best vocals are featured here, sultry and tender at the same time.
Whether fans are devoted to traditional or modern musical interpretations, they’ll adore “Mother Blues”!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7
Albert Castiglia – Solid Ground
14 songs – 66 minutes
New York-born, Miami-based guitar slinger/vocalist Albert Castiglia shoots from the hip with this self-produced CD, the first release through a partnership with German blues powerhouse Ruf Records.
A college graduate who worked by day for the state of Florida as a social services investigator, Albert was already an extremely popular local musical talent when discovered by harmonica legend Junior Wells in the early ‘90s. Wells immediately hired him for his road band and moved him to Chicago. After Junior’s death in 1998, Castiglia continued on the road with Atlanta vocalist Sandra Hall for a few years before returning to the Sunshine State and establishing his solo career, quickly winning over audiences with his bold blues-rock guitar stylings. Since releasing the self-produced “Burn” CD in 2004, he’s issued six additional discs, each powerful than the one before.
For “Solid Ground,” Albert joins forces with multi-instrumentalist and recording wizard Dave Gross at Fat Rabbit Studios in New Jersey for his best release to date, displaying a range of material certain to appeal to a broad spectrum of music lovers. In addition to turning the knobs, Gross contributes percussion, upright bass and mandolin and backing vocals along with Castiglia’s regular backing unit of Matt Schuler (electric bass and vocals), Bob Amsel (drums) and Jeremy Baum (keyboards). Two other guitar talents – Debbie Davies and Lou Bevere – also are in attendance for one cut each.
It doesn’t take long before Castiglia proves he isn’t “Trifflin’,” the first cut, an original rocker in which he prays for patience in dealing with everyday problems. A simple single-note hook drives the song steadily along atop a thumping rhythm pattern, giving him plenty of space to work the fret board later in the arrangement. The self-penned “Keep You Around Too Long” kicks off with a guitar run over a loping rhythm pattern straight out of the South Side of Chicago as Albert launches into a promise to cut ties with a woman whose “evil will make evil weep.”
Castiglia dips into the song bag of South Florida urban swamp legend Graham Wood Drout for the funky, image-filled “Searching The Desert For The Blues” before launching into “Have You No Shame,” penned by Atlanta songsmith Tommy Carlisle. It’s a slow burner in which the singer recounts spotting the woman he loves in another man’s arms, and gives Albert a chance to display his vocal talents, which bookend a smoldering guitar solo.
The mood brightens and pace quickens for “Put Some Stank On It” as Davies joins Castiglia on guitar and backing vocals. Another Albert original, it’s not a song about sex. Instead, it’s an affirmation to apply yourself when things are going against you and you’re full of self-doubt, and it’s a real winner. The next tune, an upbeat Memphis style soul number, delivers another positive message: With images of hate and unrest around the globe filling the TV news and giving folks the blues, the best way to fight it is to “Love One Another.”
The original blues rocker “Sleepless Nights” follows, dealing with relationship problems. “We started equal,” Castiglia sings, “but it didn’t turn out that way/I got the good times and the glory/You got the blues and cloudy days./Life’s getting harder/If you leave, you’ve got the right./I’ll let the tears fall down and drown myself in sleepless nights,” ending with a powerful guitar solo. Next up, “Going Down Slow” has been done to death since St. Louis Jimmy Oden first recorded it for the Bluebird label in 1941. But Castiglia breathes new life into it with a funk arrangement and solid instrumental hook. He follows it with Drout’s rootsy “Celebration” before another original “Hard Time,” co-written with Joel DaSilva, front man of Midnight Howl, another rising talent from South Florida. It’s a simple tune that brims with blues imagery.
“Bad Avenue” follows. Written by Walter Williams, aka Lefty Dizz, an under-recorded superstar of the Chicago blues scene who left us in the mid-‘90s, and a hit in Europe when released on the Isabel label, it’s an in-your-face request to visit the aforementioned street, where the “men all tote shotguns and the women carry pistols, too.” The disc concludes with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway,” the original instrumental “Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango)” and a third tune from Drout, “Just Like Jesus.”
This CD is a pleaser, and far and away Castiglia’s best release to date, richly textured and solidly delivered with the potential to appear on “best of” lists at year’s end. Pick it up. You won’t be sorry!
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 Review – 6 of 7
Matt Woosey – Hook, Line and Sinker
5 tracks; 28 minutes
Matt Woosey is not from the Mississippi Delta. He’s not from Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis or Memphis. He is, instead, from Cornwall in the UK and was raised in Bristol. Somehow the blues of the aforementioned American locales reached this young man and like the British Blues pioneers before him, he is rearranging the Blues and reminding American audiences it doesn’t have to be formulaic and tedious.
Matt Woosey got his start as a drummer in a Thin Lizzy tribute band called Black Rose. He was 15 years old and the experience was integral to his musical education. Soon thereafter Matt was participating in open mic shows and playing in local clubs with his acoustic guitar. His playing style developed to include slap & pick right hand technique which gives his music a naturally percussive element. Matt is at the leading edge of modern British Blues players and has garnered praise from BBC2’s Paul Jones, Tom Robinson of BBC 6 Music, and blues News.de which describes Woosey as “The Best British bluesman since Rory Gallagher.”
On Hook, Line and Sinker Matt is joined by Mike Hoddinott on drums and Richie Blake on bass. This recently released EP showcases Matt Woosey’s inspired songwriting and impressive acoustic guitar playing. The title track rearranges some usual blues patterns, and his words and emotive tenor draw you in with the first listen. Repeated plays reveal the intricacies of the track and the depth of Woosey’s plaintive refrains. Electrified guitars weave through the track, almost subliminally, adding tension to the percussive strumming. “Hook, Line And Sinker” is infectious and insistent and its seven minutes fly by and leave you wanting more.
“Let It Flow” gets funky, with some syncopated strumming from Woosey over rousing drums by Mike Hoddinott. The lead guitars have a Latin flavor and sound harmonized. Again the attention to detail in the arrangement is evident and expertly done. The song is roughly six minutes and breaks down midway into a slow, moaning plea that is pure Delta blues belting a la Son House, over sustained guitar chords until the beat kicks back in and lets it flow one more time.
“Could You Be The One?” expertly blends Woosey’s influences into a remarkable song. There’s a walking bass line, folky strummed chords, heartfelt singing, and an emphatic rock & roll drum beat. It defies categorization but holds on to its blues roots with earthy tones and jaunty shuffle. “Give Me All Your Love, Babe” has tonal choices influenced by Jimmy Page and exquisite finger picking. The dichotomy of the relationship is explored in musical passages, alternating between revved up “leaving” music and “steady-as-she-goes-please-stay” music.
There’s not a wasted note in the first four songs, which makes the inclusion of the “single edit” of “Hook, Line And Sinker” superfluous. It’s nice to hear it again at the end of the disc but you know immediately it’s been hacked up for radio play. If this is the only version you’ve heard, it is still an impressive song, but it pales in comparison to the seven minute original.
Hook, Line and Sinker is a tremendous introduction to this rising talent. He isn’t a straight blues player, but the blues is sewn into the fabric of his consciousness. When he sings, he emotes with the power of the greats, his guitar playing hearkens back to the barrelhouse players who could keep a bass line going with their thumbs, and his songs tell universal stories without dating themselves. This disc is a great way to sample Matt Woosey’s work and to hear something off the beaten, often-tread and re-tread path of modern blues.
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 http://jimkanavy.com.
Featured Blues Review – 7 of 7
Arthur Migliazza – Laying It Down
Hobemian Records 2014
13 tracks; 51 minutes
Arthur Migliazza is a piano player from the Pacific Northwest and although there are a significant number of other players on this album, it is really all about Arthur’s abilities on piano. However, for the record, drums are played by Andy Roth and Eric Eagle with Kelly Van Camp on one cut; bass is mainly Keith Lowe with Ed Friedland on one track; guitar duties are handled by Jeff Fielder and Bill Molloy; harmonica is added to two tracks by Grant Dermody and Sean Devine; Suzy Thompson plays fiddle on one track and Jimmie Herrod adds harmony vocals on one track. The tracks were recorded at three different studios in Seattle.
As one might expect there are versions of several pieces by the masters of boogie and stride piano such as Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Professor Longhair as well as more rock and roll styled material from the likes of Fats Domino and Huey Piano Smith. Arthur also writes and there are four of his own compositions, including the opener, entitled “Overture” which ranges far and wide across piano styles to whet our appetite for what will follow. Fats’ “I’m Ready” and Huey’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu” establish Arthur’s rocking credentials as well as showing that he has a good voice. Although both songs are very familiar Arthur’s versions are strong and make for an excellent opening salvo. Next up is Albert Ammon’s “Boogie Woogie Stomp”, the first genuinely solo piano piece and Arthur shows he can match Albert’s style on this mid-paced boogie tune.
Co-written with Laura Martin who plays guitar on the track, “Love You Mama” is dedicated to Arthur’s mother and is a rolling blues with harp adding colour to the warm and personal lyrics. A medley of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing” and J Fina’s “Bumble Boogie” follows with dramatic jungle drums before Arthur’s sprightly, jazzy piano takes up the familiar refrain before diving into the amazing bumble bee rhythms of the second tune – a tour de force. That is followed by P Barbarin’s “Bourbon Street Parade” which takes us down to New Orleans and their street parades which we get straight away from the marching drums and the fiddle which very effectively replaces the clarinet which would be typical of the occasion in NO. Arthur’s piano and vocals are very effective on this track which also features some banjo in the central section. Arthur’s “Thank You Blues” is a slow blues instrumental with harp and some delicate blues guitar from Bill Molloy. Another instrumental in completely different style follows as Arthur barrels through “Honky Tonk Train Blues”, a Meade Lux Lewis tune much favoured by piano players – even Keith Emerson of ELP used to do this one!
“Suitcase Blues” (Rey/Thomas) is another solo piece from Arthur, a blues with lyrics about ‘rambling’ and ‘setting sail’. Arthur does a fine job in playing this one solo with both right and left hands seeing plenty of action. WC Handy’s “St Louis Blues” is often cited as one of the very first recorded blues and Arthur delivers a laidback version with just gentle drums and acoustic bass in support. “Professor Calling me” is credited to Arthur and H Byrd – Professor Longhair – and returns us to NO with an affectionate lyrical tribute to the Crescent City and arguably its greatest ever piano player before a second Albert Ammons piece “The Boogie Rocks” closes the CD with a final solo piano tune from Arthur.
This is a fine album which will definitely find favour with fans of piano-oriented music.
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.
Blues Society News
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Flathead Valley Blues Society – Kalispell, MT
The Flathead Valley Blues Society presents our annual Blues cruise July 3, 2014, 7-9PM. Flathead Lake Blues Cruise on Far West Excursions. 7PM leaves the dock in Lakeside, MT Music by Three Eared Dog from Missoula.,
Tickets: $25.00 *available from Blues Society Board Members or call Brian Higgins at 406-471-9926 or MaryAnn Kelley 406-857-3119 for reservations. Info at http://flatheadvalleyblues.org
Topeka Blues Society – Topeka, KS
For the fifth year in a row, the Topeka Blues Society will present a stellar line-up of internationally-renowned artists at its Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival at Lake Shawnee in Topeka on Friday, July 4th. There is no admission charge for the festival which will start at noon and present continuous music until 9 pm.
After the crowd has been warmed up by three Kansas-based blues artists, the Randy Oxford Band, a high-energy six-piece group from Seattle, will kick things up a notch followed by the 44s is a band which hails from Los Angeles and regularly captivates audiences with its gritty blues roots style.
Canadian-born guitarist Anthony Gomes who has been named one of the top ten guitarists in the world follows. Hamilton Loomis from Houston a protégé of Bo Diddley, headlines the main stage this year.
For more info contact Stacy Jeffress, 785.249.6969 or Suki Willison, 785.554.5478 or visit www.topekabluessociety.org
The Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI
The Madison Blues Society will host this year’s Blues Picnic on Saturday, June 28, 2014 at Madison’s Northside Warner Park from Noon to 9:00pm.
Music lineup is Kyle Henderson, “Blues Kids”, Altered Five, Jim Schwall and Chris Aaron, Barrelhouse Chuck With Billy Flynn and Westside Andy, Aaron Williams And The Hoodoo.
In addition to our regular selection of great American and ethnic foods, Capital Brewery beers, and 9 hours of FREE music, there will be a Prize Raffle, a 50-50 Cash Raffle and lots of fun merchandise. Don’t miss this chance to get your summer boogie on!
Natchel Blues Network – Norfolk, VA
The Natchel’ Blues Network and Beach Events presents The 21st Annual Blues at the Beach Festival September 5 & 6, 2014 at 17th Street Stage – Virginia Beach VA.
Lineup includes Jarekus Singleton and Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials on Friday and Doug Deming & Dennis Gruenling w/ The Jewel Tones, Dirt Cheap Blues Exchange Dance Workshop, Damon Fowler Group, Bernard Allison and Tommy Castro & The Painkillers on Saturday.
$5.00 Daily / $8.00 Weekend Pass. For more info visit http://www.natchelblues.org/events/BluesAtTheBeachFestival.html
Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL
2014 Friends of the Blues Concert Series – All shows held in Kankakee, IL unless otherwise noted.
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 with opening act, The Impalas featuring Dawna Nelson, 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), Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Thursday, Sept 18, Jerry Lee & The Juju Kings, Kankakee Valley Boat Club Thursday, October 02, Sena Ehrhardt, Moose Lodge
Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois
Crossroads Blues Society gets inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at an event at Buddy Guy’s Legend’s starting at 2 PM on Sunday, June 8th.
Saturday, June 14th at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park the monthly blues series event features Aaron Williams and the HooDoo at 8 PM. $5 cover after 7 PM.
Long-time Rockford blues DJ Rich Gordon retires from his day job as does his wife Monica. Celebrate with them and Rich’s band the Basement Blues Band at Mary’s Place, 602 N Madison St, Rockford at 7 PM on Saturday, June 21st. Iron Orchard will also be playing, led by Rich and Monica’s son.
Sunday June 22nd at 2 PM Crossroads is hosting a benefit for Bob Levis at the Lyran Society Club att 1115 4th Avenue in Rockford. $20 tickets get you into a 5 hour event featuring many bands and artists including teh Brooks Brothers (Ronnie and Wayne), Dave Specter and many more. http://crossroadsbluessociety.blogspot.com/
Saturday June 28th is the Second Annual Field of Blues Festival at Rockford Aviators Stadium. http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com/ refers. Advanced tickets are only $10.
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 also be performing between Sets in the Pavillion.
Advanced planning: The 5th Annual Crossroads Blues Festival on August 23rd moves from Byron, IL to Lyran Park just south of Rockford Airport. http://crossroadsbluesfestival.blogspot.com/ Lurrie Bell headlines this year’s event! .
Check us out at http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com/ or call festival chairman Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for more information!
The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. June 9 – Rockin’ Jake, June 16 – Selwyn Birchwood, June 23 – Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, June 30 = Chris O’Leary Band
Other events sponsored by ICBC – 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 email@example.com at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org