Cover photo by Arnie Goodman © 2014
In This Issue
Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Blues guitarist Jim Suhler. Bob Kieser, Marilyn Stringer and Mike Stephenson have Part 2 of our coverage of the Chicago Blues Fest.
We have six reviews for you including the book Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967 plus reviews of music by Jim Suhler, Shane Dwight, Bobby Blackhat Walters, Bill Durst and Gaetano Letizia And The Underworld Blues Band.
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,
This weekend is one of my favorite weekends because the 4th Of July weekend always means one of the BEST Blues festivals in the whole country is happening just 90 miles from us. The 30th Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa features 3 days of great Blues. It starts Thursday, July 3rd with performances by Johnny Kilowatt Band, the Mercury Brothers, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with Dennis Gruenling, 10 of Soul, Nick Moss Band, Ernie Peniston and Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown.
Then on Friday, July 4th things only get better with Dexter Allen, Jason Elmore and Hoodoo Witch, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Tad Robinson, Roy Book Binder, Preston Shannon, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience!
Then topping if off on Saturday they have performances by Little Bobby Houle, The Westbrook Singers, Jamiah “On Fire” and the Red Machine, Terry “Harmonica” Bean and Jimmy Duck Holmes, Albert Castiglia, Jarekus Singleton, Curtis Salgado, Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang, Tinsley Ellis and Deanna Bogart! Plus on Friday and Saturday the have all kinds of free workshops and a great Blues photo exhibit.
No wonder this festival and the Mississippi Valley Blues Society have been awarded the “Keeping Blues Alive Award” by the Blues Foundation a record 3 times!
This is one you DO NOT want to miss! Look for us there and say hello to the folks in the Blues Blast Magazine T-shirts. See you there!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6
Jim Suhler – Panther Burn
14 tracks / 49:00
Dallas native Jim Suhler may not be a household name, but whether you know his name or not, you have heard his work before. His awesome guitar skills have enabled him to share the stage with the biggest names in the business, including Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Willie Nelson, AC/DC, Les Paul, Billy Gibbons and Joe Bonamassa. But his bread and butter for the past fifteen years has been his rhythm guitar gig with George Thorogood and the Destroyers — he has appeared on all of their albums since 1999 and toured with the band all over the world.
Despite these demands for his time he also keeps very busy with his own band, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat. Panther Burn is his fifth release, and it is a well-polished tour through all that the Texas blues scene has to offer. Its 14 tracks include 13 originals and one special cover tune. Suhler takes on many of the vocal and guitar chores and is joined by a bevy of talent, including Monkey Beat members Shawn Phares on organ, Carlton Powell on bass and Beau Chadwell on drums (former member Jimmy Morgan also contributes his drum work to a few tracks). Special guests include Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, Carolyn Wonderland and Jason Elmore.
The title track kicks off the record, and “Panther Burn” is a slow swamp rocker with an intense mood. There is a lot going here, with Tim Alexander filling in on organ and Suhler stacking up layers of guitars, to which he adds healthy servings of conventional electric and delta slide guitar breaks. This song has a very modern sound while still capturing the raw feel of the Gulf States music. The mood changes drastically for the next song, “I Declare,” which is a hard-hitting roadhouse boogie with righteous honkytonk piano alongside Wilson’s fine harp work.
There is a lot more accordion on this album than you will find on most blues albums, and in this case it is used effectively to change up genres on a few of the tracks. Alexander’s squeeze box lends a Tex-Mex feel to “Across the Brazos”, a country sound to the super-fun “Texassippi,” and Cajun flavor to “Jump up Sister.” The accordion is not just for polka and norteño music, my friends!
There also is a touch of gospel influence to be found. “Amen Corner” is less than a minute of Suhler on electric guitar and Alexander on the super-fat church organ. This song serves as an introduction to “All God’s Children Get the Blues Sometime” with guest vocals from Wonderland and Benson. This is old-time gospel blues, and the sweet vocals (and Jim’s steel guitar) will put a smile on your face.
Part way through the album Jim Suhler pulls back the curtain and gives his fans a glimpse of his personal struggle with the loss of his daughter twelve years ago in a traffic accident. Even without knowing this back story, “I See You” is a touching love story that is sung with conviction and it is a beautifully written and performed tribute to Brittany.
The sole cover is “Remember Mama,” which was written by the legendary Elmer Bernstein for the soundtrack of the film, To Kill a Mockingbird. This instrumental is barely two minutes long, and it is set against a sparse background of piano and organ. Suhler uses many guitar textures and tones to set up a melodic slide guitar interlude. It is a shame this song was not a little longer, as it is a really nice piece of work!
The album finishes up with “Worldwide Hoodoo” which is a red-hot blues rocker with funk-based rhythm guitar and bass. This fast-paced tune gives the listener one last chance to hear Suhler’s guitar prowess, and it is a final reminder that he has serious songwriting and production skills too – this is about as tight as things can get.
Everything in the Lone Star State is bigger, and so is its music. Texas blues has influences that range from country, western swing, gospel to Tex-Mex, and Panther Burn incorporates all of these flavors and more. Jim Suhler is a consummate professional and ties all of these influences together into a cohesive unit, with the end result being his best effort to date. If you love guitar blues you owe it to yourself to give it a listen!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This album is nominated in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards in the Blues Rock category!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com/
Featured Blues Interview – Jim Suhler
Dallas native Jim Suhler has been making a big Texas-sized sound in and around his home state as well as all over the world for a lot of years with no signs of slowing down.
He’s of the generation who cut their teeth on the classic bands of the day like The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and ZZ Top. Then they worked their way back to the origins of the Blues-based music they grew up listening to.
“I got my first guitar when I was about 14,” Jim recalls. “It was a little $50 Harmony which I still have. I’ve been playing nearly 40 years now. The early rock bands were the ones I heard that really turned my crank. Like a lot of guys my age who do what I do. They’re retroactive with the influences.
“I’d probably have to start with The Allman Brothers “Live at the Fillmore” because that was a big inspiration. A place to learn. You know, those licks. I can still play a lot of that stuff. There’s a lot to be learned there like dynamics and the way the band plays together. So many great ideas and songs there. Of course, the recording itself is fantastic. Duane Allman and Dickie Betts were two guys early on.
“When I first started playing I liked Lynyrd Skynyrd a lot. Their stuff was real simple and direct. It wasn’t that hard to learn. It was simple music but it was done really well. Freddie King, Rory Gallagher, Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, David Gilmore. I liked AC/DC a lot. Peter Green. There were just a lot of guys back then. I can’t even name them all. The Beatles were a band I listened to first. Those are like my entry period influences. I don’t think you’re going to hear a band like The Allman Brothers again because that was a different time. That was how people connected. Those guys lived together. They did everything together. I just don’t think you can get that kind of commitment these days. There are just too many variables in other places, technological, societal or whatever. I hope you’re following me but I think that was the real cause in its time. The perfect storm of people and places. Those two guys (Duane and Dickie) were great influences on me as far as soloing and stuff. The patterns and phrasing I use. That record (Fillmore) still inspires me. I still listen to it.”
Many artists claim they came by the Blues as a matter of course. Some say they choose it and some say it chose them.
“I guess it chooses you,” Jim says. “But I chose to listen to it and enjoy it. Once I was exposed to it. It’s something that’s familiar to me. I like arranged music a lot but I also like the most simple, direct thing. That gut thing. I don’t mean simple-minded simple but there’s a beauty in that. The simple, direct stuff.”
After spending his formative years in and out of various bands in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area Jim started his long-lasting group, Monkey Beat, in the early ‘90s and still fronts them today.
“We went through a couple of drummers before we made our first recording in the spring of ’92,” Jim said. “It came out in ’93. The bass player was Carlton Powell and the drummer was Paul Hollis. Paul was with the band up until about 2002 and Carlton, the bass player was with me until this year. He’d been with me for 23 years. Our new guy’s name is Chris Alexander from Austin. We’ve played just a few gigs with him. We have some more booked. We love Chris. His energy. His ability. His musicality. His personality is wonderful. He’s a real good addition to the band. His nice to have that new energy he brings. With all due respect to Carlton, we couldn’t have done it without him. But this is another chapter and I’m excited about what we’re gonna do.”
To add another dimension to Jim’s busy schedule, he’s also the lead/rhythm player in the seminal Blues rock band George Thorogood & The Destroyers, a job he’s held since 1999. George came on the scene in the early ‘70s and has stayed viable for more than 40 years.
“He (Thorogood) is part of the Monkey Beat story,” Jim said. “I first met him in a bar in Memphis. I was playing at Huey’s with an earlier band I had. This was in 1990 and he was recording his “Boogie People” album at Ardent Studios which is two blocks from the bar. He came in that night to eat and drink and he really dug what I was doing and what the band was doing. We talked and he told me his producer, Terry Manning, would love us. We all said our good byes and went our separate ways. About a year later I had somebody to do a CD. In the back of my mind I remembered what George said about his producer.
“I sent Terry Manning a demo. It was probably a cassette at that time and asked him if he would produce it. I was shocked when he said he would. This is the guy who engineered the classic ZZ Top albums line “Rio Grande Mud” and “Tres Hombres.” He had worked with Aretha Franklin and all the Stax records. We were just stunned when he said he would do it. We went up and did the record with Terry in Memphis and it came out. Then we went on tour opening for George in 1993. That was like the opening salvo.
“Then Terry moved to Nassau in the Bahamas and took over Compass Point Studios,” Jim said. “That’s a studio where AC/DC, Bob Marley and The Rolling Stones did a lot of recording. So we got to go down there and do our second album. We used Jim Gaines to produce our third record. It’s my favorite. It’s called “Bad JuJu.” I’ve done a lot of stuff with Monkey Beat and done collaborations with Alan Haynes and Mike Morgan.”
Most guys just starting out never dream they will end up on stage with their heroes at any time during their careers. Many of them “get a haircut and get a real job” before any of that happens.
“Initially when you’re just getting out and playing in public it’s a good thing to play with people who have influenced you and inspired you locally,” Jim said. “In Dallas, where I grew up, Bugs Henderson was here. There was a guy named Rocky Athus, who’s now playing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Those guys. Then getting to hang out with them and learn from them and then hopefully get a positive word from them. Just the opportunity to be there and be a part of it, that’s the really cool thing about this whole job. Everybody inspires everybody. It’s all connected. Bugs Henderson was the first guy I got into locally on his guitar level. Then there’s Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. You can’t escape that influence here. Stevie was great time and is a legend now and deservedly so, but there were a lot of great players around here then.
“I’ve definitely had a classic rock influence with a Blues sensibility,” Jim says. “I don’t profess to be a great Blues guitarist or even call my band a Blues band but my style is probably more a rock sound. I want to bring something fresh from Blues and do it without desecrating it. (Laughs)”
Playing in two acclaimed bands might seem to be a daunting undertaking for some. Jim takes it in stride and says playing with Thorogood is nothing like his band and he is able to keep the two separate with little stress.
“George probably has a more narrow range musically,” Jim said. “It’s a rock show and it’s entertainment. I have a lot more flexibility with respect to my band. George has a set of hit songs that he’s expected to play. I don’t have any hit songs so I can play whatever I want with Monkey Beat. George only does 12-13 songs in a set. You try to approach it professionally. Maybe you’re tired or not feeling well you put on a good show no matter how I feel. Sometimes you just gotta dig in play. You just got some bad news or somebody just passed away or you’ve got a stomach virus. You’ve got to go out and play and not let it show. I come out and open shows for George. That might be the biggest challenge with only a 30 minute break between my set and then playing with him. But you’re definitely warmed up when you start the George show.”
Jim is now reached a status where he can name some of the good young players coming up in the business. You might guess that the Texas boys are high on the list.
“I love Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds),” Jim says. “Paul Size (Red Devils). There’s also a young band from Irving called The Peterson Brothers who are really great. I love Gary Clark Jr. I played with him one time in Austin. He’s a very nice, soft-spoken gentleman. I got involved with some guys who opened a club in Dallas called Deep Ellum Blues and I booked the place for one hot minute. Gary’s mother was doing all of his booking at the time and he played there. I don’t remember what we paid him. Booking for a club is not a job I want.”
The Dallas Metroplex has had its share of great musicians and Jim has rubbed shoulders with many of them. Some have passed way before their time should be up.
“I know I was real sad when Bugs (Henderson) died,” Jim said. “He worked hard and always did things his way. I was arguing with a friend and we weren’t speaking. When I heard Bugs had passed I thought ‘I’ve got to call the guy and make it right. I’ve got to patch it up.’ Another one who passed way before his time was Doyle Bramhall. I’m still sad about Doyle.”
Along the way in this diverse musician’s odyssey, Jim Suhler spent 3 1/2 years doing a weekly show playing Blues as a volunteer DJ on a Dallas community radio station, KNON.
“I didn’t get paid,” he says. “Nobody down there did. It’s still on the air 24/7. It offers all different styles of programming. There’s a reggae show. A Blues show. Spanish music. You name it. The first stint I had was from 1-4 a.m. I did that for probably a year, year and a half then I got an 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. spot. I enjoyed it. We did a lot of music on the air. I had Denny Freeman, Sam Myers, Mike Morgan, Hook Herrera, a bunch of people. We’d all go down there and play live on the air. I got to interview Roy Buchanan.”
It appears Jim Suhler has a handle on his life and his musical path. He’s been mentioned by this magazine as one of the up-and-comers on the scene and he’s steadily gaining momentum wherever he plays!
Visit Jim’s website at www.jimsuhler.com
Photos by Arnie Goodman © 2014
Interviewer Jim Crawford is a transplanted Texan and the current president of the Phoenix Blues Society. He’s a fan of lots of different types of music but keeps his head mostly planted in the Blues today. He received his first 45 rpm record, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” at about age 8 and it stuck. He hosted the “Blues Cruise” on KACV-FM 90 in Amarillo for many years and can be found on many nights catching a good show at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix’s Blues Mecca.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6
Shane Dwight – This House
Eclecto Grove Records
My impression of Shane Dwight has made a major shift with this album. Having listened to some prior releases and having seen him live a couple of times, his music seemed to be overall much more uptempo in a sometimes country blues shredder-esque sort of way. This new CD This House is much more laid back, thoughtful and introspective and shows a side of Shane I’d not seen much of before. This album has some of that country, lots of blues, a little funk and a good diversity of styles along with some nice, big guitar sounds. The first half of the CD tends to generally (but not always) feature less up front guitar while the second half (beginning with the aptly named “Stepping Stone”) features bigger guitar solos and Dwight’s guitar slinging sound. He solo-penned all but two songs, and those other two he shared writing with Bekka Bramlett, daughter of Delaney and Bonnie. Dwight is joined by Lynn Williams on drums, Kenneth Blevins on drums and percussion, Kevin McKendree on keys and acoustic guitar, Steve Mackey on bass, Doug Lancio on rhythm guitar, Paul Ossola on upright bass for the title cut and Bekka Bramlett who does backing vocals throughout and lead vocals on “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful.”
The CD begins with the title cut, a dark tune about how a house is “haunted” by the memories of the women who left Dwight. A very thoughtful piece with nice keyboard work and percussion adding an air of mystery and sadness to the tune along with Dwight’s vocal efforts. Dwight then unexpectedly gives us a little funk with “We Can Do This,” a cool change from the opening song and a nicely done funky country blues. Bramlett’s backing to Dwight’s lead gives us a nice contrast and Dwight stings on guitar, the first of two big guitar pieces in the front half of the album. “Fool” takes and acoustic turn with another introspective and touching vocal by Shane. “Sing for Me (Search for Sierra)” hearkens back to the slow, gritty blues of old but in a modern way. Again we have great vocals by Dwight and Bramlett that build in intensity and feeling as the song goes on. “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful” features Bramlett leading the vocals and she does a great job. Dwight slides behind her with his guitar and the song again offers a lot of gutsy feelings. Well done! “Devil’s Noose” is a darker tune with a nice guitar solo where Dwight tells of the pull of temptation on us in life.
“Stepping Stone” unleashes the guitar and big time groove. Dwight picks and sings with gusto as the band back him with a driving vibe. A song of traveling down the road after a lost love. The guitar effectively emotes Dwight’s anger with his lost woman. “Never Before” offers up a funky groove where guitar and percussion open up the piece. The band transitions in as Shane tells us how he never before had to crawl for or beg to his women before. We get a little blues shouting with “I’m a Bad Man” as Dwight testifies to us along with his guitar. Dirty ol’ sweet blues here, and I enjoyed them. “Losing Ground” begins with a stinging guitar intro and Dwight goes into a soft ballad. By the middle of he song in chorus Shane is building into more emotion an sound and he closes with another stinging guitar solo. He goes funky again with “Bad For You” which could easily be a Prince song except it’s sung by the darker and grittier Shane Dwight. A huge guitar solo works to help sell this cut. He goes a little country to close with “Crazy Today.” Acoustic and twangy, Dwight and Bramlett take us to church and close out the original album in this bouncy and interesting cut.
I liked the CD and it grew on me more with each listen. If you are a Dwight fan this will please you as you can see him grow in his music. If you are new to him you will gain an appreciation of how this Nashville based artist flavors his blues. Great rootsy stuff with a little soulful funk thrown in makes this a diverse and fun CD to listen to. I think it’s well worth the listen!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
Featured Live Blues Review – Chicago Blues Fest Part 2
On Saturday the Chicago Blues Festival featured another great day of Blues completely free in Grant Park, on the lake in downtown Chicago. Here are some of the artists we got to see. We started out at the Windy City Blues Society Street Stage with the Marty “Big Dog” Mercer Trio.
Next up was 14 year old rocker Tallan Noble Latz.
Dave Riley Band and Bob Corritore were up next. They had Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith keeping time for them.
Billy Flynn & friends took the “stage” next. His “friends” included Kate Moss on bass, Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards and legend Willie Buck on vocals!
The last act we caught there was Tyrannosaurus Chicken. A very unusual and very interesting “Blues” duo!
On the Bud Light Crossroads Stage the day started off with Michael Charles Band
Then Chicago favorite Vance Kelly and the Backstreet Blues Band entertained the crowd.
Next 2013 International Blues Challenge winner Selwyn Birchwood showed them what the future of the Blues is all about. Selwyn recently released his first album on Alligator Records.
Chicago Blues Diva’s with Peaches Staten, Deitra Farr and Nellie “Tiger” Travis finished out the day at the Crossroads Stage.
A couple of the acts we saw at the Jackson Mississippi Rhythm & Blues Stage Saturday were Chris Gill and the Sole Shakers
And Dexter Allen
The action on the Pepsi Front Porch Stage started off with Guy King.
He was followed by the Matthew Skoller Band.
Finally the music of Big James & the Chicago Playboys finished off the Front Poarch stage Saturday
A couple acts we caught on the The “Meet Me In Memphis” Blues Pavilion were Deitra Farr in a stripped down set
She was followed by the great Eden Brent!
Then Fernando Jones & My Band
Then it was off to the Petrillo Music Shell for the days headliner acts. First up was Theo Huff.
He was followed by the great band of Willie Clayton.
The final artist on Saturday was soul legend Bettye LaVette
On Sunday the Windy City Blues Society Stage started off with Tony Brown Blues Band with Ice Mike
The Gerald McClendon Band performed next.
Jim Liban with Joel Paterson Trio was a great act!
The final act we saw there was Blue Coast Band with special guests
On the Bud Light Crossroads Stage Homemade Jamz got things rolling. The band features siblings Ryan, Kyle and Taya Perry,
Next was The NuBlu Band
Then another Chicago favorite, Mike Wheeler Band, showed off their dynamic music abilities.
Last but not least was the Smiley Tillmon Band with special guests Billy Flynn and Kate Moss sitting in on guitar.
On the Jackson Mississippi Rhythm & Blues Stage saw Lady L.
They were followed by Pat Brown
Dorothy Moore was the final act we saw on this stage.
The Pepsi Front Porch Stage began with a set by Diamond Jim Greene.
Next up was Mike Dangeroux Blues Band
Then a set by Chicago Delta Blues Band featured Bob Stroger, Barrelhouse Chuck, Billy Flynn, Lil’ Frank Matthew Skollar and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
The last act we saw on that stage was harmonica great Sugar Blue
We caught an early set on the “Meet Me In Memphis” Blues Pavilion by the Smiley Tillmon duo.
In the late afternoon it was time to head over to the Petrillo Music Shell for the evenings headliners beginning with the Nikki Hill Band.
Next up Aaron Neville performed a soulful set.
Dr. John was the final performer at this great fest.
So if you want to see one of the best Blues festivals in the world next year, put the Chicago Blues Fest on your 2015 calendar!
Photos by Bob Kieser, Marilyn Stringer and Mike Stephenson as marked. All photos © 2014.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6
Bobby BlackHat Walters – Hot Blues Mess
Self-Produced (Distributed by ESP-Disk, Ltd.)
12 songs; 44:07 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Harmonica Blues, Contemporary and Traditional Electric Blues
What’s a fabulous new career after the military? Playing a “Hot Blues Mess,” as Cleveland, Ohio’s Bobby “BlackHat” Walters has done! This recording artist, singer, songwriter and harmonica specialist has been playing his instrument of choice for over three decades. According to his website, “After retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Bobby started taking his harp playing seriously and has studied with Dennis Gruenling, Phil Wiggans, Johnny Sansone and Allen Holmes.
While a member of the Black Rose Blues Band he had the honor of opening for blues legends B.B. King, Taj Mahal, and Steady Rollin Bob Margolin. In 2008, the duo of Bobby BlackHat and Larry Berwald were semi-finalists at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN and were also nominated for the Hampton Roads Port Folio Music Award.”
Bobby even has acting credentials, having participated in the History Channel’s documentary “Sherman’s March to the Sea” in 2006. The other cooks of his tasty “Mess” are Larry Berwald on guitar and background vocals, bassist Brian Eubanks, and drummer/percussionist Tony Lucero. Featured guest musicians and vocalists are Carl Hamlin on keyboards, Clifford Clark on sax and background vocals, drummer Martin Walters, and female singers Ellie Bell, Resa Gibbs, Akeylah and Shayna Walters. Of twelve songs, eleven are originals, with a cover of Eddie Cooley and John Davenport’s “Fever” in between. These three tunes will especially excite blues fans:
Track 01: “Good Explanation (Short Version)” – Co-written by Walters and Berwald, this opening number provides a fresh taste of Chicago blues. Usually songs about cheating feature only one person’s point of view, but in this case, both partners are at fault. “I’m not the fool you think I am,” Bobby sings, but lead vocalist Resa Gibbs later retorts: “I’m not the fool you want me to be.” For the “long version,” sit back, relax, and hit ‘play’ on track twelve.
Track 04: “Hot Blues Mess” – What makes a blues song most suitable for audience participation? This reviewer presents three criteria: 1) irresistible instrumentation, 2) a medium-to-fast tempo, and 3) a chorus that absolutely requires it: “She’s a hot blues mess in a too-tight dress.” If people don’t sing along, repeating each phrase after Bobby sings it, this ‘echo effect’ will fall flat. Cal Hamlin’s keyboards are especially effective.
Track 07: “I Know What You Mean” – The lyrics are the best thing about track seven, a witty diagnostic list of when someone has the blues: “Like when the one you love leaves you broken-hearted and pocket-poor; when the job you worked for twenty years gets sent to a foreign shore. Like when your car breaks down on the coldest day of the year; when you only have a dollar and they’re selling two-dollar beer.” Once again, our main musician proves his harmonica talent.
Bobby BlackHat Walters’ debut album certainly is a “Hot Blues Mess”!!
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 6
Bill Durst – Hard and Heavy
Ten songs – 39:29
If you are a “boomer” this recording will take you back to a time when psychedelic music was everywhere. While there may be some obvious comparisons to other power trios such as ZZ Top, etc. make no mistake Bill Durst has his own sound which is kick ass. From the opening track, “Devil And The Deep” to the last the infectious grooves, rollicking riffs, booming bass, driving drums, and go for the throat guitar work are some of the best blues rock this reviewer has ever experienced. This is serious road music, party music, or just turn up the volume and lose yourself in the sound music. While on a recent 1,000 mile bike ride to Greeley, CO this recording provided this reviewer with the energy needed to make the journey.
If you don’t like blues rock you won’t like this album, however if you are into Rory Gallagher, ZZ Top, Gov’t Mule, etc. you will find much to love here. Durst (with that powerful rhythm section) takes us on a blues rock psychedelic journey that sticks with you and begs for repeated listening. Durst sings with a conviction (and tremendous range) that makes you believe that he is putting himself out there with all he has. On “Heartless Man” Durst declares, “A heartless man gonna reap what he sow.” Then he tells us, “I killed him dead and put him in his grave”, reminiscent of great murder songs such as “Hey Joe”, “Down By The River”, etc. As the song continues you begin to wonder if this is a song of self reflection but whatever the message Durst is trying to convey you believe he killed that “heartless man!”
While this recording may be considered “heavy” to some listeners tunes such as track 6, “Sally At The Door” reminds us that this guy is a rocker. While the next track, “Gimme That Something” would be at home on such classic recordings such as Deep Purple’s Machine Head. Track 10, “Fly Away Home”, the album’s closer takes us back to a simpler time, to someplace like Haight Ashbury, where peace and love were more than a concept. “Don’t you worry my friend, I will stand by you, be your shelter come what may and it’s always gonna be that way!”
To say I dug this album would be a great understatement as this recording is testament to Bill Durst’s guitar prowess, inspired song writing, and a vocal range that few vocalists can match. While this is Durst’s 4th CD under his moniker, his web site shows that he also played with a band called Thundermug. Hard and Heavy was produced by Darren Morrison with Bill Durst providing guitar and lead vocals, Joe DeAngelis on bass and providing backing vocals, (on the web site DeAngelis is also listed as a co-writer) and Sandesh John Fernandez on drums except for track 3 where Corey Thompson provides percussion. According to Durst’s bio on his web site he has had “seven national radio chart hits.” (Presumably in Canada) He is also a member of the Jack Richardson Hall Of Fame 2006, Blues/R&B Artist of the Year 2012 London Music Awards (fan-voted), Blues/R&B Artist Of The Year 2013 London Music Awards (fan-voted), and Nominee Maple Blues Awards for Electric Act Of The Year 2014. And of course he has opened for or shared the stage with bands such as John Mayall, Savoy Brown, Bobby Rush, Little Feat, George Thorogood, Edgar Winter Group, Jeff Healey, Johnny Winter, and Rick Derringer to name a few.
For many blues lovers when they find a new artist that “speaks to them” (like this recording does to me) it can be the start of an amazing journey, a journey that usually finds the listener digging up earlier recordings. Such will be the case here as Hard and Heavy has spoken to me and sparked a flame that can only be doused with more grooves and riffs from this master of his craft. If you want to see Durst live anytime soon (and I do) you will have to go north of the USA border into Canada. I feel a serious motorcycle ride comin’ on!
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 – 5 of 6
Gaetano Letizia And The Underworld Blues Band – Voodoo Doll And Other Blues Lessons
12 tracks; 61 Minutes
Gaetano Letizia is a 40 year veteran guitar player who plays in solo and trio jazz styles as well as this venture, an electric blues band which he started in 2010. He is based in Ohio and this is the first CD release by the band. The website states that if “Bonamassa, Govt’ Mule, The Boneshakers and no nonsense heart stopping blues rock” is what you like, then this one is for you. Well, there are some JB moments on guitar but certainly no Gov’t Mule examples to these ears! The album is all original material with Gaetano on guitar and vocals, Larry Keller on bass, Steve Renko on drums, Jake Tijerina on keys and Ro Brown on background vocals. Bobby Huszar guests on lead vocals on one track.
The opening track is an instrumental entitled “Big Foot” in a rock style with swirling organ, Gaetano playing in a style reminiscent of Robben Ford. It is generally true that whilst there are many good guitar players, quality singers are far rarer and sadly that is the case here as Gaetano does not have a strong voice. “Voodoo Doll” lets us hear his voice for the first time, his gruff tones telling the story of a fateful meeting with a woman with some strange powers, his guitar adopting some angular sounds set against interesting/different drums – very much a jazz approach set in a rock context. “Kill My Conscience” is more of a straightforward blues rock song with a catchy central riff, the lyrics demonstrating a cynical outlook as Gaetano sings of “killing my conscience” about a casual relationship, then applying the same philosophy to theft. Equally cynical, the next song tells us that “The Devil Is A Nice Guy” and that “he loves the human race”. The next track is entitled “Sold My Soul” so a theme seems to be developing here! This one is a gentler track with some jazzy overtones, especially in the rhythm guitar chords working alongside some busy drumming and lyrical organ.
The next track is “Hurt Myself” on which Bobby sings lead. This one is more familiar blues territory, a shuffle with some nice guitar. Bobby’s voice is good and makes you realise that Gaetano has a rather limited vocal range though his guitar playing is fine. “All I Need” follows (though the running order on the CD sleeve is incorrect), a rock tune with anguished vocals from Gaetano and a swirling organ solo but little blues content. “Bleed” features acoustic guitar in a Spanish style. “Blow The Blues Away” was one of the strongest blues tracks here, with attractive guitar playing. “Torture Me” opens with some dramatic chords then gives way to a slow tune with nice guitar accents which then morphs into an anguished bit of shredding. “Orange Sunglasses” is another instrumental, definitely in a jazz vein and “Big Secret” closes the album with a very strange piece in which Gaetano sings about his home town then ‘discusses’ his opinions with his guitar – definitely different but not a success to these ears.
In summary Gaetano is a solid and experienced guitar player who can operate in a number of styles, but is not a strong vocalist. The CD has some good moments.
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 – 6 of 6
Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967
by George Mitchell
In the midst of preparing to move out of his home of more than three decades, George Mitchell ran head on into his past as he tried to arrange the negatives of all of his photos from his many trips throughout the south trying to track down undiscovered blues musicians. The author devoted twenty years to research, often making spontaneous field recordings when his investigations uncovered a talent like R.L Burnside.
The summer of 1967 found Mitchell heading into the home stretch on completing the requirements for his Master’s degree. Needing a break, Mitchell and his wife Cathy decide to make a trip to the Delta region. They gather up their limited resources, even borrowing a 35 mm camera in order to get the best possible photos. The audio recordings from that trip were released on the Arhoolie label while many of the pictures were used in Mitchell’s 1971 book, Blow My Blues Away (now out-of-print).
As he stood there reviewing each negative, the author was surprised to find he didn’t remember taking many of the shots from that journey. In that moment, the idea for this book began to form. Interspersing text from his interviews along with his stunning photos, Mitchell paints a vivid portrait of a time when change was sweeping through America but for the hill country residents, life was the same hard scrabble existence they had known since childhood.
The couple’s first break occurs at a gas station, where they ask the attendant if he knows Fred McDowell and are pleasantly surprised to discover that it is the man himself standing in front of them. Soon the trio goes off in search of harp player Johnny Woods. After trips down numerous back roads, they find the musician passed out. But once McDowell starts playing a guitar, Woods quickly recovers and joins his old friend in creating some deep blues. When Mitchell asks about a local fife & drum band, McDowell promises to gather them at his house that evening.
That chance meeting leads Mitchell to several of the most highly regarded hill country musicians. The man who kept the fife & drum tradition alive, Othar Turner, speaks with great pride on the role of drums in providing a rhythm for dancing all night long. His remarks also reflect the cautious approach to living in the South that many African-Americans adopted in order to survive. Turner introduces them to Burnside, an unknown who quickly captures Mitchell’s attention with a droning guitar style. Included is a photo of the youthful Burnside bent over his guitar in deep concentration (Page 57).
Other chapters focus on three women from the Hemphill family, Rosa Lee Hill and her more celebrated sister, Jessie Mae (Hemphill) Brooks, along with their cousin Ada Mae Anderson. Rosa reminisces about her younger days playing guitar around the area with her father, the multi-instrumentalist Sid Hemphill. She also describes her family’s tough financial situation due to a poor cotton crop. Mitchell got to hear Jessie Mae talk about wanting to be free of men after dealing with an abusive husband. Equally frank are her remarks about race relations at that time. The daughter of Sid’s brother, Ada Mae played guitar, drum, harmonica and sang with the family band as a girl. She did manage to escape the South, moving to Indiana for a time. But she never felt like she fit in and eventually returned to Como to care for her mother. A shot of her leaning on a shovel in the middle of a field with a wide grin reveals her spirit in the midst of poverty.
Additional chapters cover another meeting between McDowell and Woods, a quick recording with Joe Callicott and then a Labor Day gathering complete with barbecue and the fife & drum band in all their glory, creating a whirling mass of dancers all day and all night long, as evidenced by the accompanying photo array. Mitchell also includes four pages of short biographies of the musicians and closes with his thoughts on the current conditions in the hill country, where buildings stand empty and a new generation of musicians, centered on the Burnside and Kimbrough clans, continues making music with a modern edge.
We should be thankful that George Mitchell pursued his passion almost five decades ago. He recorded some amazing blues music and, through his pictures and interviews in this hard-cover tabletop volume, he allows voices to come to us out of the past, reminding us of where we were and how far we have yet to go. Don’t miss this thought-provoking slice of history.
Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!
Blues Society News
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The Las Vegas Blues Society – Las Vegas, NV
The Las Vegas Blues Society and the SNS Saloon (Saddle ‘n’ Spurs) (At Smoke Ranch and Jones) will join to pay tribute our late co-founder, colleague, and friend Carol Nashe.
Led by Carol’s son Rick Nashe, Blues Storm will be the host band for a special fundraising jam in her memory to benefit the Wounded Warriors project on Sunday, 6 July 2014, beginning at 6 p.m.
“Please join me with welcoming the LVBS back to the SNS and applauding them for paying tribute to Carol and raising funds to help our veterans for the Wounded Warrior Project,” said Bobby Kingston, the venue’s owner on 1 July.
We will also accept donations (monetary and otherwise) to the Wounded Warriors during the evening, which promises to be a very special evening as we pay tribute to a woman who meant so much to the Las Vegas Blues Society and numerous other causes to which she gave of herself so generously.
All Society members and friends of the Society are welcome and encouraged to attend. If you play, please come out and sign up to jam. Carol Nashe loved life, loved the blues, and had a charitable spirit. Here’s a chance to salute her memory, and the encouragement and support she gave to those in Las Vegas who play and love the blues as deeply as she, on behalf of a very worthy cause. For info visit http://lasvegasblues.org
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
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, 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
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. July 7 – Albert Castiglia
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