In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Kilborn Alley’s lead guitar player, Josh Stimmel
We have eight music reviews for you including new releases from The Robin Robertson Blues Band, Solomon King, Billy Pierce and Friends, Jim Byrnes, Back Porch Blues Band, Jason Vivone and The Billy Bats, Joe Louis Walker and Sugar Brown.
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8
The Robin Robertson Blues Band – RRBB
What started out as a recreational project of UK friends getting together to share their mutual love of the blues turned into a full blown band. Herein we have the results of their first foray into the recording studio. It is a collection of half originals and half cover tunes. The originals hold to a blues approach and ethic, except for the mostly blues-rock guitar playing of Robin Robertson. Annette Chapman’s enthusiastic and pleasing “pipes” front the band in grand style.
The cover versions are pretty faithful to the original versions, excluding the instrumental solos. Annette handles the Sippie Wallace blues classic “Women Be Wise” coming off sounding like a cross between Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie popularized the song for a modern audience. The band tackles another blues classic with a rousing, sped-up version of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City”. Although they see fit to change one word, “The Thrill Has Gone” is still the B.B. King signature song, featuring some nicely distorted blues-rock guitar. Their take on Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” stays pretty close to form and Annette’s effective vocal makes the lengthy workout easy to take. A revival feeling is given to “C.C. Rider”, which benefits from a well done organ solo at the hands of keyboardist Dot Allan.
The original tunes are all worthy efforts, except for “New Orleans” which is a misstep in my opinion. They keep whining about “going to New Orleans” while there is no attempt to give the song a New Orleans feel. Annette’s yearning vocal on “Dust In the Wind” displays her lovely vocal range. Electric piano and organ nicely frame the song. The mysteriously funky atmosphere perfectly suits “Long Time Dead” with it’s sinewy organ and snaky guitar. Beautifully distorted guitar burns through “My Baby’s Gone”, a sweltering slow burner. Dot Allan’s piano is a highlight behind Annette’s swaggering, hard as nails vocal on “Look Who’s Talkin'”.
The results here are mostly strong, if not adventurous performances. Nothing that we haven’t heard before, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable record. Annette Chapman’s voice is a pliable instrument that fits the slow tunes as well as the rockers. The very competent blues-rock guitar and keyboards provide interesting solos throughout, all supported by a sturdy rhythm section. I will be curious to see how this outfit progresses into the future.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Interview – Josh Stimmel
It probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that ‘math class’ always finds itself at the top of the leaderboard for the title of most unpopular (or in some instances, most despised) high school course.
A good day in math class would consist of one where there were no pop quizzes, no homework and no time spent at the chalkboard in front of the class solving algebraic equations.
But on a great day in math class, it’s entirely possible that the seeds for a top-notch blues band – one that would eventually garner a nomination for Blues Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards – could be sown. That’s just what happened when budding young guitarists Josh Stimmel and Andy Duncanson first met up in the dreaded ‘math class.’
“I was a senior and Andy was a junior and we met in this math class at the end of the school year. He had this Hendrix T-shirt on and I commented on it and said it was awesome,” Stimmel said. “Well, then we started hanging out and jamming and kind of formed a band. He had a friend, who is now a good, good friend of mine – Chris Breen – that kind of learned to play bass on the fly … and that’s pretty much it.”
The band that Stimmel, Duncanson and Breen formed, the Kilborn Alley Blues Band, recently celebrated its 14th anniversary with a blowout shindig at the Iron Post in Urbana, Illinois.
“That was a blast. It went supremely well, better than anyone could have hoped for,” Stimmel said. “We flew our friend Jackie Scott in from Virginia and she’s a hell of a talent. She can really blow the roof off.” The dynamic Scott and Kilborn Alley forged a lasting friendship when they were both competing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis a few years ago and they love to play together whenever the situation allows it. Jamming with other bands and musicians is something that Kilborn Alley has never shied away from, even though improvisation can be a scary – yet exhilarating – mountain for a band to climb; especially when the whole process is done on the fly. Despite the potential pitfalls, the thrill ride of jamming with other artists on short notice is one that Stimmel and Kilborn Alley are always ready to take.
“You’ve just got to keep your ears wide open,” he said. “It’s one those things where you can either fall flat on your face or you can rise above and take it to another level.”
‘Taking it to another level’ is something that Kilborn Alley has been heavily invested in for almost 15 years now. There really is no magic number for the expected shelf life of a working, functioning band, but it does seem like most have long-expired before the time they celebrate their fifth – much less 15th – birthday. According to Stimmel, Kilborn Alley’s secret for longevity starts with the group’s bond as friends.
“It’s like a good friendship – sometimes you get along really well and agree with each other and sometimes you don’t. But we’re good friends. There are no egos or B.S. that gets in the middle of things,” he said. “We’re able to talk through any problems that we might have … kind of like a marriage or something. But the bottom line is we’re just really good friends and share similar views on everything from world politics to choices in music … with slight variations. But the core (similarities) is there.”
The original intent of Stimmel, Duncanson and Breen may have been to become a functioning blues band, but that was something that, early on, they reckoned they would have to ease their way into.
“We wanted to do blues, but at that time, we really weren’t good enough to play blues all night,” Stimmel said. “We could a basic shuffle and things like that at that time, but it takes years of honing your skills to be able to play the blues they way they should be played.”
Playing anytime they could and anywhere they were welcomed, the members of Kilborn Alley meticulously went about crafting mastery of their instruments and developed into one of the hardiest working blues bands around. At the core of Kilborn Alley is Stimmel’s inspired and fiery guitar. One of the toughest thing for a budding young guitarist to learn to do is to let the music come to them, instead of them rushing to catch up to it. When called for, Stimmel can blaze up-and-down the fretboard with the best of them. But just as important, when a slower, moodier pace is called for, Stimmel also excels at that, easing up while still playing with the same passion and intensity he unleashes on a red-hot shuffle. That’s the true mark of an accomplished blues guitarist and that’s a technique that Stimmel has certainly embraced, even though some of his early guitar heroes were not known for their slow-pace finesse, or their blues-playing abilities.
“When I was younger, I listened to a lot of metal and stuff like that. Dimebag Darrell from Pantera was one of my favorites … as was Randy Rhoads. A lot of people liked Eddie Van Halen, but I never did,” Stimmel said. “I’d take Randy Rhoads any day over Van Halen. Guns N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction was also an album I listened to a lot and some Slayer and stuff like that.”
When Stimmel began to delve closer into the world of blues guitarists, some familiar names became his new inspirations.
“When I started maturing as a person and as a musician – playing blues and soul music – my tastes changed to the point that sometimes now it’s hard to listen to some of that metal stuff,” he said. “Now some of my favorite guitar players are Son Seals and Johnny B. Moore. He’s (Moore) one of the most under-rated Chicago blues players of all time. And I like guys like Hubert Sumlin and all the Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie), of course.”
Guitarists are a notorious group for being on a constant quest to find their signature – and their ultimate – sound. As part of that journey, a number of different guitar and amplifier pairings must be tried. It’s obvious that Stimmel is still searching for his ‘Holy Grail’ of sound when asked what his favorite guitar/amp combination is.
“I would be hard-pressed to say what my favorite combo is, because I haven’t tried them all. I probably haven’t found it yet and may not until I’m 60,” he laughed. “I always liked the Fender Super-Reverb – that’s an awesome amp – and I like my rig right now, which is a Gibson 325 through a Peavey Bandit.”
Stimmel and Duncanson are each unique conversationalists on their respective guitars, but when the two are blended together is when the music that Kilborn Alley creates really hits another gear. According to Stimmel, the way that he compliments Duncanson, and the way Duncanson compliments him, was a fairly organic process right from the beginning – one that didn’t require a whole lot of experimentation or hair-pulling.
“It was a natural thing, something that just really kind of happened on its own. We really kind of learned how to play guitar together anyway. I mean, you can sit around and play guitar at your house by yourself, but you really develop your chops by playing out and jamming with other people,” he said. “We both leave our egos at the door when we’re playing guitar. I mean, you don’t have to be the number one show-stopper. You keep your ears open and go from there.”
Kilborn Alley spent much of the two months leading up to last Christmas overseas, playing the blues for rapt audiences in London, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.
“It was a great trip. They (European audiences) really seem to appreciate having the American roots of this music coming over. Just about every time we’ve been over to Europe, we’ve had great audiences,” Stimmel said. “They’re there specifically to see the American bands play the blues. Sometimes, over here (United States), people are there in the clubs just to be out and to be having some beers with their friends. They’re not really there to see the band. But we do have wonderful fans over here that come out to see us whenever we’re through their town.”
Whether playing in Hamburg or playing in Chicago, Stimmel acknowledges the overall age of most of the blues crowds that he sees these days seems to be getting collectively older, meaning that it’s imperative that bands work that much harder to try and make sure their music is getting heard by the next generation of music lovers – the young adults.
“When we play for the younger people, they usually love it. But then they go home and forget about it (blues) and go back to listening to whatever kind of crap is on the radio now,” he said. “So what we have to do is to rope in and keep that younger audience, otherwise we’re going to be playing for the geriatric community and that’s about it. It’s on all of us (blues artists) to keep building on the fanbase that we have now.”
Another strike against the blues these days is the quality – or lack thereof – of the music, something that Stimmel is quick to point out.
“Oh, the quality of blues music now – as a whole – is nowhere close to what it was back in the 1960s. Not close. The musicians need to step up and raise their game,” he said. “Some of the stuff that tries to pass off for blues music these days never would have made it back then. It would have got smoked. Magic Sam would have called that crap out and kicked it right off the stage. And another thing bands need to really work on is getting the vocals right. The blues is a vocal music and I think that’s something that’s been forgotten over the years as well. Guitar heroics are cool, but in the blues, it’s all about the vocals.”
Kilborn Alley is currently working on material for a follow-up to 2011’s appropriately-titled 4 (Blue Bella Records). Blue Bella head honcho Nick Moss has carved out quite a reputation as an in-demand producer and has formed an excellent relationship with Kilborn Alley over the course of much of the band’s recorded history. Moss is also a monster guitar player in his own right, and it would only be natural for a guitarist laying down tracks to be a bit nervous at first to see a producer like Moss looking at you from the other side of the studio glass.
“On our first album, it was a little intimidating, because Nick is one of the best blues guitarists out there, no question. Really, he could play any kind of music and be excellent at it. I remember the first time we were in the studio, we were all really just nervous,” said Stimmel. “But to ease things up a bit, Nick went and got a bottle of Jim Beam from his garage and said, ‘Here, take a couple of swigs off this and let’s ease it down a bit, guys.’ And each time since, it’s just been easier and easier. We’re all more comfortable with our own identities, as well as with Nick’s presence. He’s just an excellent producer and we’ve done some good work together. He’s just a good guy to have in your corner.”
Stimmel probably couldn’t have dreamed after that initial meeting with Duncanson in his high school mathematics class that over 14 years later, the duo would be band-mates in a real-deal blues band. While he might not have dared dream that big, Stimmel did know that somehow, some way, playing the guitar was going to be at the center of his future plans.
“Once I got into it, I knew that I was going to continue to play the guitar,” he said. “I just knew that I was going to be playing music. I’m kind of lazy by nature, so being in a band, whether you’re playing with your family or your friends, or whoever, forces you to get better and practice and play. But I hope we (Kilborn Alley) continue to make good music and continue to put out albums. Hopefully, we’re not even close to our prime right now. I want to keep getting better and keep striving for more.”
Editor’s Note: Full disclosure – I am a longtime fan and friend of Josh Stimmel and Kilborn Alley. I am extremely impressed with his abilities especially his right hand picking style and most impressively, his tone, which is created with only his fingers, the strings of his guitar and an amplifier. No pedals!
If you have not had the pleasure of hearing this amazing Blues guitar player, check out this video of Kilborn Alley playing their song “The Breakaway” at Don Odell’s Legends.
For more Kilborn Alley, check out their song “Wandering”:
For more info on Josh Stimmel and Kilborn Alley visit www.kilbornalley.com and their Facebook page
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8
Solomon King – Train
9 tracks / 31:34
There is nothing like a little mystery to keep things interesting, and everything about Solomon King is intriguing. He is cagey about his birth name and his personal history, but we know that he grew up around Detroit. As he passed through a number of bands, he took the logical route in Motown and became an autoworker for his day job. After the usual rounds of layoffs during the industry downturn of the 1970s he packed his guitar and left town, heading for a rosier future and the much better weather of Los Angeles.
In the City of Angels he continued to pursue his musical dreams, and in the mid-2000s he threw himself wholeheartedly into the blues, playing jams and working with artists who helped him hone his craft. In 2008 he adopted the Salomon King moniker, in honor of his Jewish heritage and as a shout out to all of the legendary bluesmen that used the King surname. That year he released his first album, Under the Sun, which was produced by Motown heavyweight Sylvester Rivers (Diana Ross, the Jacksons, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations…). This release was a home run that was nominated for a Grammy and had two of its songs used in the first season of the HBO’s series True Blood. Over the next few years he gigged like crazy, cut another album, and starred as Phil Spector in an independent film. Wow!
Train is King’s third album, and it is made up of nine original tracks that he had been playing in his live show for over a year. He did not mess with a good thing, and chose to use his gigging band in the studio. Solomon took care of the vocals and guitars, and was joined by Johann Frank on guitars, Steven Marshall behind the drum kit, Buddy Pierson on the Hammond B3, and Princeton Arnold on bass and backing vocals. He also tapped the talents of harp men Jimmy Powers and Glenn Doll, as well as backing vocals from Maxayn Lewis, Connie Jackson, Gaby Teran and Jorge Costa. King wrote all of the songs, and Jorge Costa produced, engineered and mixed this CD.
It is apparent that King is not trying to copy any of the artists that came before him, and this album has a unique and modern blues rock sound. This evident from the first track, “Baby Does Me Good,” which has a cool blend of slide guitar, thumping bass and sweet vocal harmonies over a Bo Diddley beat. King’s voice is a clear tenor on this song, but do not get used to this as his vocals sound different on every track.
After taking his voice down an octave for the blues rocker “Bad to Me,” Solomon approaches the baritone zone for the sexy “Coffee Song.” He is no Barry White (and who is?) but his inflections make the listener wonder where the double-entendres end and reality begins. This mellow tune features saucy backing vocals and tasteful harp work, making it a favorite from the album.
This is backed up by another standout track, “SLO Blues.” This one is set against a background of the super-tight pocket of Marshall and Arnold, with Pierson setting the mood with his rich work on the Hammond. King makes his voice a bit grittier for this blues ballad, and there are plenty of guitar fills as well as a heartfelt solo just past the two minute mark.
Solomon threw in a catchy country song midway through with the clever title, “Country Song.” He pokes fun at the usual stereotypes and clichés that can be found in the genre, and his wit shines through. As he says, these are “them songs you don’t forget,” and proves himself right by penning a catchy song that is easy to get stuck in the head.
The title track is the most out there song of the set, and “Train” has a gnarly driving drum beat with layers of out-of-phase and clean guitars, and lyrics that are sort of a combination of Tom Petty and Lou Reed. After this the album tapers off with the final song, “Blue Angel,” a pretty almost-country ballad that starts off with simple guitar and keyboard accompaniment. It builds with the addition of bass, drums and soft background vocals, allowing things to end on a positive note.
If there is anything to gripe about with Train, it would be that it is not very long. Most of the songs clock in at around three minutes, and the whole album only lasts 32 minutes. For the money it would be nice to get a few more tracks, or to expand a bit on the ones that were included. But, if this is all he had ready to go, it is better that he did not pollute nine very good songs with material that was not ready for prime time.
If that is the only thing to complain about, Solomon King did a fabulous job with Train. His songwriting and musicianship are certainly top-notch, and this ends up being an interesting album with a fresh sound. We can only hope that he sticks to his guns and keeps innovating, because the future of blues relies on souls such as him.!
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 8
Billy Pierce and Friends – Take Me Back to the Delta
CD: 11 songs; 49:29 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Slide Guitar Blues, Blues Rock, Covers
There is no single type of “blues guitar”. Fans may listen to electric, acoustic, or other varieties – including slide. Fabulous practitioners of this last kind include Bonnie Raitt on the rock-and-roll side and Sonny Landreth on the blues side. Landreth has been praised by Eric Clapton as being his (Clapton’s) favorite slide guitarist. This is quite an honor considering that an iconic piece of graffiti during the 1960’s stated “Clapton is God”. If so, then Sonny was one of his most admired apostles. Those who share the stage with him receive a taste of his magic, as in the case of Wilmington, Delaware’s Billy Pierce. According to his website, “Pierce has received a number of accolades; a recent one includes the Saint Georges Session acoustic recording of his song ‘Take Me Back to the Delta’, which won the Big City Rhythm and Blues Magazine’s first round CD sampler contest in 2013.” His debut album of the same name features above-average slide guitar from both Billy and Sonny. Paired with serviceable singing, it may or may not be reference quality, but at least it spares no effort to impress blues fans. As an added plus, seven of the eleven songs on “Delta” are originals (the others include Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” and Segar and Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”). Sonny Landreth wrote track ten, “Zydecoldsmobile”.
The Billy Pierce Band consists of himself on slide guitar and vocals, Chris Miller on bass, and Billy Meyers on drums. His numerous “Friends” include Sonny Landreth on slide guitar during the title track, bassist Charlie Wooton, Waylon Thibodeaux on fiddle for three songs, saxophone player Jimmy Carpenter, the Bonerama Horns (Craig Klein, Mark Mullins, and Greg Hicks), Johnny Neel on piano, Johnny Digiovanni on drums and kenjira-framed drum, Jimmy Crawford on dejembe, Steve Ruth and Henry Ramato on accordion, and Garry Cogdell on background vocals. Horn charts were written by Craig Klein, and they provide pep to the Zydeco numbers.
Anyone can play the blues, and that’s what’s so fantastic about this magazine’s favorite musical genre. Unlike classical musicians in a symphony, who require years of training from their earliest childhood in order to play at top levels, the blues is open to everyone who’s ever had that “low-down old aching chill (Son House)”. All it takes is mojo and a guitar, in most cases, to start living the dream of being a blues guru. With that said, it also takes excellent persuasion and recruitment skills as well as talent. Lining up co-performers of Sonny Landreth’s caliber on stage while another one takes the lead is no easy feat, and so hats off to Billy Pierce and his Friends.
Got an itch for some zesty Cajun blues? “Take Me Back to the Delta” will scratch it, especially “Song for Sonny”, “Zydecoldsmobile” and “Big Joe”. Billy Pierce definitely ‘Got Slide’!
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 8
Jim Byrnes – St. Louis Times
Black Hen Music
CD: 12 songs; 48:55 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric Blues
“Jim Byrnes was born in St. Louis, Missouri – that’s blues country. He grew up on the city’s north side. One of the neighborhood bars had Ike and Tina Turner as the house band. As a teenager going to music clubs, he and his buddy were often the only white people in the place. ‘We never had any problems. We were too naïve, and had too much respect for the music and culture – they knew it; they could tell.” So reveals the website of Jim Byrnes, a musical veteran who, for half a century (his first professional gig was in 1964), has been keeping the blues alive. Before releasing his eighth album this year, he has earned copious accolades in Canada. Several are JUNO victories and nominations, Maple Blues Awards, and Western Canadian Music Awards. This reviewer can honestly say his music sounds far closer to traditional American blues than many of his contemporaries. “St. Louis Times,” subtitled “Songs From and About St. Louis”, features twelve pristine selections – four originals and eight covers (naturally including W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”.)
Performing with Byrnes are John Hammond on harmonica, Steve Dawson on slide guitar, organist Darryl Havers, bassist Jeremy Holmes, and drummer Geoff Hicks. Also featured is a big-band horn section arranged by Jim Hoke. Of Byrnes’ original songs, these three sizzle:
Track 02: “Somebody Lied” – In the title, the “somebody” is our narrator’s wandering lover, and this indefinite pronoun is used to accuse without directly accusing. “I went to ask your mother, ‘What’s the matter with that girl? Why’s she spending all her time out on the evening world? She said, ‘You both have talked about her staying right by my side. I do believe somebody lied….” Steve Dawson’s gritty guitar solo and John Hammond’s spicy harmonica are hot highlights.
Track 04: “Old Dog, New Tricks” – Clarinet player Tom Colclough guest-stars on this jazzy song with a laid-back feel. It’s a tribute to human ingenuity and perseverance: “Remember hope doth spring eternal deep inside the human breast, and though the torments seem infernal, we just have to stand the test.” Steve Dawson plays pedal-steel guitar, and Darryl Havers a Wurlitzer organ.
Track 10: “I Need A Change” – What are the blues about, if not moving on and moving forward? Byrnes begins by describing his former innocence, when “love was a virtue time could not destroy.” However, he realizes that since then, “something’s gone wrong” with life. What’s the remedy? “Lord, I need a change – a change in the way I am living, a different way to feel. A change in the way I perceive this old world, oh, I need something that’s real.” Who among us has never had that feeling? Jim Hoke, trombonist Bill Huber, and trumpeter Steve Herman provide a poignant background notes.
Get ready for fantastic “St. Louis Times” with Jim Byrnes!!
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 8
Back Porch Blues Band – One More Before You Go
11 songs – 52 minutes
The Back Porch Blues Band lays down a pleasing mix of contemporary blues this self-produced all-original debut studio recording. Based in eastern Kansas, this four-piece ensemble puts forth far more energy than their laid-back name suggests. They’re shuffle masters of the first order.
Together for 12 years, the group work both sides of the Missouri River and are popular performers at festivals throughout the Midwest in summer months. They’re led by harp player Rod Peterson, whose influences range from Little Walter and Junior Wells to Sugar Ray Norcia and Jason Ricci, and guitarist Greg Spreer, a former cover band musician who’s gifted in diverse stylings ranging from rock to jazz, funk and R&B. Drummer Rick Bruneris a familiar face behind the kit in the Kansas City music scene, and bassist Joe Fontenot is a New Orleans transplant who’s recorded on Blacktop, Rounder, Jungle and Flying Fish backing Little Mike And The Tornadoes, Lynn August, John Paul’s Flying Circus and Mamou. All four members take turns at the microphone, providing more vocal, and Peterson and Spreer have written all the material.
The disc chugs out of the station with the syncopated rhythm of “If You Dance With Me.” It’s a friendly little shuffle in which the singer suggests that his lady get ready because the band kicks off at nine: “If we leave right now/We’ll get there on time/If you show me your moves/Baby, I’ll show you mine.” It’s a toe-tapper that gives the entire band a chance to stretch out while getting on dance floor, too. Spreer picks up the pace with a swinging guitar riff on “Love Me Tonight,” which plays the dance theme forward. In this one, the singer spots the girl on the floor, enjoys what he sees and makes his move, relating everything he’d like to do with and to her. Peterson’s harp work, which was subdued in the opener, comes to the fore on an extended solo.
The theme changes on “Down To The Church House.” This time the singer’s heading there to pray for a friend who could use a little help, then he’s splitting for the country to leave big-city problems behind. It’s another spirited, high-tempo number with Spreer in full control. One of those issues in that song might be a “Cold Blooded Woman,” subject of the next tune. She wants “to put a freeze on me/There’s love in her heart/But it’s only ‘bout 32 degrees.”
The pace slows for “Wishing Well,” a minor-tuned ballad atop a slow shuffle in which the singer’s praying again, dealing with difficulties after losing a job of 30 years in late middle age. The band gets funky for “Slow Moving Train,” a harp and rhythm section driven tale about a drinking problem before the guitar takes over for the next medium-paced shuffle in which singer thought he had to get away from his woman and live on his own, but times got tough so he’s “Headed On Home To You.”
Leaving home for good definitely is on the singer’s mind for “Who Ya Think You’re Foolin’,” about a lying, cheating woman. It’s a straight-ahead, medium paced Chicago blues with a lumpity-lump rhythm pattern. The theme continues for the speedy “I’m A Travelin’ Man.” This time, wherever the singer lands will be his home. The disc concludes with “Reaper Man,” a minor key tale of an unexplained brush with death, and “If The World’s Gonna Change,” a bottom-driven complaint about life in the real world.
If you enjoy shuffles and the sound of a rock-solid Midwestern bar band, you’ll love this one. It definitely deserves a spin. It’s available through Amazon and CDBaby with a direct link on the Back Porch Blues Band website.
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 8
Jason Vivone and The Billy Bats – Eddie Ate Dynamite
Nine Tracks with a running time of 41:29
We all do it – get a new CD, listen to it once and then kind of forget about it. Maybe we didn’t listen intently enough to thoroughly absorb the content or it wasn’t the right time or mood to digest the recording. Such is the case with Jason Vivone and The Billy Bats second CD release Eddie Ate Dynamite. If you are not in the mood for some music that sounds heavily retro with some cerebral lyrics wait until you are before you play this disc.
From the first track “Cut Those Apron Strings”, a rollicking duet with Vivone and Paula Crawford to the final cut “I Can Never Say Goodbye”, a piano torch song, the listener gets the feeling that this music is from a bygone era.
The second track , “Placebo”, starts out merrily mellow before Vivone kicks it with some tasteful slide and a voice that is reminiscent of CoCo Montoya. Title track three “Eddie Ate Dynamite” is a comedic adventure into a somewhat skewed family reunion – “Eddie ate dynamite then he asked me for a light”. Quite a mental image there.
Track six, “The Blues and The Greys” is another story disguised as a song where Blues fans from outer space come to earth and instead of demanding to see our leader they want to hear the best Blues we have to offer. “Where Did The Day Go” (track 8) is an easy going twelve bar number that is instrumental except for the title’s words sprinkled throughout the tune. This song also showcases some tasteful guitar licks while highlighting some bass and drum grooves.
Its unfortunate that the lyrics and musical credits aren’t included with the CD as they are an intricate piece to this recording. While the vocals are clear and understandable it would be nice to follow the songs with the correct words. One can assume that all the tunes are original but we still don’t know who wrote them and you have to go to the band’s web site to find out who plays what instrument. As mentioned earlier this recording make take the listener several sittings to “get it”. This CD is for a certain mood or time and seasoned listeners will know when that is.
Hailing from Kansas City, MO Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats are Jason Vivone, (lead guitar and vocals) Paula Crawford, (guitar and vocals) Joanna Berkebile, (vocals) Ben Hoppes, (electric banjo and vocals) Matt Bustamante, (drums and vocals) Jeremy Clark, (bass guitar) and special guests from The Grand Marquis – Bryan Redmond (sax) Chad Boydston (trumpet). Also listed on the CD’s sketchy notes is Rick Maclvor but we have no idea as to his input on this recording, however he is listed as a keyboard player on the band’s FB page.
If you would like to catch this band’s live show you will have to be in the Kansas City, MO area, as it looks like they don’t venture too far away from their home base..
Reviewer Tim “Bluzybiker” Petty spent 42 years building railroads and now spends his time supporting the music he loves and riding motorcycles – sometimes at the same time.
Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8
Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest
12 tracks; 52 minutes
They say that if you want a job done well, ask a busy man. Well, the man to ask to produce your record therefore has to be Nashville’s Tom Hambridge whose hand has been at the controls for a slew of discs recently, from heavyweights Buddy Guy and James Cotton to newcomers like Dana Robbins. Tom also produced Joe’s 2012 album “Hellfire” and they have reunited on this one to good effect. The band consists of some of the ‘usual suspects’: Tom on drums and backing vocals, Tommy McDonald on bass, Reese Wynans on keys and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, with Joe’s vocals and lead guitar. The material is mainly original, Joe co-writing four songs with one or both of Tom and Tom’s regular writing partner Richard Fleming who contribute five songs of their own, alongside three covers.
Joe can cover most of the bases in blues, soul and rock and also has a history of gospel work, so variety is the name of the game here. The title track is hard-hitting blues rock with a catchy chorus, Joe’s tough, angular riffs sitting on top of some wah-wah rhythm work by Rob. The second track is a complete contrast as Joe delivers a classic piece of soul music with the Muscle Shoals horn section in support. This is such a strong track that it is a shame that this is the only instance of horns on the CD – perhaps a full album of horn-driven material next time, Joe? The slower “As The Sun Goes Down” is a classic tale of the guy whose girl has left him and all that is left is the blues – a clear signal for Joe to wring some torrid notes from his guitar. More upbeat is the amusingly titled shuffle “Stick A Fork In Me” in which Joe blends cooking and romance: “Stick a fork in me, baby, ‘cos I’m done with you”!
“Don’t Let Go”, a Jesse Stone song originally a 1958 hit for Roy Hamilton and covered by Jerry Lee Lewis and Jerry Garcia amongst others finds Joe accompanied on vocals by Ray Walker, Curtis Young and Michael Black on a rock and roll/doo-wop song that allows Joe to return to his gospel roots, a feeling accentuated by Reese’s churchy organ. “Love Enough” starts slowly with a rhythm part that recalls “Crossroads” before Reese’s piano joins in. Joe’s solo has plenty of bends and sustains but retains the slight country blues feel of the start. Things get rockier on “Ramblin’ Soul”, Joe letting loose with some strong riffs on guitar. “Ride On, Baby” is an obscure Jagger/Richards song (from the “Flowers” album) and it’s a highlight with Reese’s great piano work at its heart and a ringing chorus which suits Joe’s voice perfectly, well supported by Tom’s b/v’s. Less successful is the frantic version of Kid Andersen’s “Soul City”, a song that seems to claim that title for every music city in the USA!
Joe gets his slide out on “I’m Gonna Walk Outside” which has all the hallmarks of a slow blues, as Joe’s opening lines show: “A married woman, a back door man; the loaded pistol in your husband’s hand. If I don’t quit you, baby, I’m gonna be six feet in the ground”. Joe gets some dark and moody tones from his slide on this one, well supported by Reese’s rolling piano. In contrast the hard-rocking “Not In Kansas Anymore” recalls 70’s rock with its opening use of echoing synth and Joe lets rip on guitar in probably the heaviest solo on the album. After that aural assault “Keep The Faith” closes the album in quieter mood and Joe is again joined by the three vocalists used on “Don’t Let Go” for some pure gospel sounds with a stirring message: “Remember that love is the strength, Lord, in our lives”.
Joe is a prolific recording artist who always produces some fine moments on his albums and this one is no exception. Another winner from the Tom Hambridge production line.
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 8
Sugar Brown – Sugar Brown’s Sad Day
15 songs – 64 minutes
Sugar Brown’s Sad Day is the first full-length CD released by Toronto-based bluesman Sugar Brown and it’s a fine album containing just over an hour of classic 1950s-styled urban blues.
Born Ken Chester Kawashima in Bowling Green, Ohio, to a Japanese father and a Korean mother, Sugar Brown was given his nom de blues by Chicago blues legend Taildragger in 1992, who said to him “You ain’t black… but you sure ain’t white… You’re Sugar Brown.” Brown cut his musical teeth whilst at the University of Chicago, playing with Taildragger and other Chicago masters (such as Willie Big Eyes Smith) at venues like the now defunct Delta Fish Market.
Since receiving his Ph.D. in modern Japanese history in 2002, he has been based in Toronto. By day, he teaches as an Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. By night, he plays the blues. This, other than the geographical location, is a not dissimilar story to that of Mississippi’s Adam Gussow and Alan Gross. And like Gussow and Gross, Brown plays and sings traditional blues with deep veracity and authenticity. A fine, nuanced singer, displaying a vocal timbre that evokes the early urban blues of Jimmy Rogers and Sonny Boy Williamson II, he also plays impressively dirty guitar and blows a mean harp. And, although not featured on this album, he has recently returned to his original childhood instrument, playing Big Maceo and Otis Spann-influenced piano pieces.
Brown wrote eight of the 15 songs on the album, as well as entertainingly re-arranging Jimmy Rogers’ “Act Like You Love Me” and The Velvet Underground’s “Run, Run, Run”. The other songs are covers of blues classics such as Elmore James’ “Pickin’ The Blues” and “It Hurts Me Too”, Muddy’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and the traditional “John Henry”.
Brown’s songs often openly tip their hats to his influences. “Sad Day” is a superb Muddy/Jimmy Rogers-style Chicago groove, “Hook-a-Boogie” sounds like a lost John Lee Hooker classic and “Run, Run, Run” has the irresistible foot-tapping rhythm of north Mississippi hill country blues. “What Are We Gonna Do” has more than a hint of Muddy’s “Walking Blues”, but none of these songs is a mere facsimile. Each stands on its own as a fully-realised, masterfully-performed retro-gem.
Brown receives admirably sensitive support throughout from harmonica maestro Bharath Rajakumar (who also contributes second guitar, maracas and backing vocals), Ben Caissie on drums and upright bass and Zak Izbinsky on guitar (for three songs). Together, they do an impressive job of evoking the great bands of the 50s, like the Aces.
Recorded at Rajakumar’s Regal Radio Studios in Montreal in June 2011, all 15 tracks were recorded live-off-the-floor onto a full track mono tape recorder, giving each song an old-school sound, reminiscent of the great Chess recordings of the 1950s. Rajakumar and Caissie recorded and engineered the album and deserve great praise for capturing that vintage Chicago sound.
The album is dedicated to Brown’s late father, Fujiya Kawashima, and a number of the songs were clearly written in the wake of his death. “Two O’Clock”, “Grim Reaper” and “Sad Day” are all deeply moving, but their highly personal nature does not diminish their emotional impact.
If you like the great Chess and Checker records of the 1950s, you should enjoy Sugar Brown’s Sad Day. The songs, the instrumentation and the production all hark back to that magical late-1940s/early-1950s sound whilst still retaining a modern punch. It is a very impressive first album and suggests that great things lie in wait for Mr Kawashima.
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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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.
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
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 16 – Selwyn Birchwood, June 23 – Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, June 30 = Chris O’Leary Band
Other events sponsored by ICBC – 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
Utah Blues Society – Salt Lake City, UT
PRESS RELEASE – Utah Blues Society formed! – After a year in the works, as of May 15, 2014, the Utah Blues Society is an officially recognized, non-profit entity! UBS will now also pursue 501(c)(3) status. Inaugural officers are President Brian Kelm; VP Tony Holiday; Secretary Jordan Young; and Treasurer Tripp Hopkins. UBS is dedicated to expanding the reach of the Blues genre throughout Utah, promoting both local and national touring blues artists, building a network of Utah Blues artists, and providing educational programs to further increase the Blues’ visibility in its community. FFI, see utahbluessociety.org. Its first major endeavor is July 12, 2014 when it will be the beneficiary of the 6th Annual RnB Rendezvous blues festival. See also rnbrendezvous.org or contact President Brian Kelm, email@example.com