Issue 8-3 January 16, 2014

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Cover Design by Kate Moss –

 In This Issue  

Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Mark Hummel.

We have seven Blues music reviews for you. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Port City Prophets. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Junior Watson. Rhys Williams reviews a new album from John Cee Stannard. Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Toronzo Cannon. John Mitchell reviews a new album from Howard Glazer. Marty Gunther reviews a new release from Twice As Good. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Manhattan Blues Connection. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


 Featured Blues review – 1 of 7  

Port City Prophets – Mule


CD: 10 songs; 47:10 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Low-Country Blues, Blues Rock

On James Island, South Carolina, between the swamp and thousand-year-old oaks, stands a “Mule.” This particular “animal” may not be gray and doesn’t bray, but if you’re a low-country blues fan, it’ll stick stubbornly in your head! This debut album by the Port City Prophets, recorded in the above-mentioned setting, contains ten original tracks. “Mule’s” drivers are guitarist Troy Tolle, keyboardist Bill Nance, St. Louis native Tim Kirkendall on bass and vocals, and drummers Henry Ancrum and Eric Rickert. Before the “PCP” were discovered by this reviewer, they commanded the attention of Steve “The Blues Boss” Simon. Creator of three blues festivals and “Steve Simon Presents,” he remarked that “great new talent only comes along once in a blue moon.” Guess what color it was when he first watched and listened to the Prophets’ testimony? They excel on lyrics, instrumentation, and vocals – winning the elusive blues trifecta. Containing stylistic elements of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Veldman Brothers, and Too Slim and the Taildraggers, their music is relentlessly addicting. Witness these three smoking songs:

Track 02: “Jesus Saved My Soul, But…” – This slow burner begins with a roaring intro that brings damnation to mind instead of salvation. Our broke narrator is torn between these two places: “Jesus saved my soul, but my money belongs to my wife. It’s a good thing that heaven’s free, because that old lady, she sure is tight!” He tries to hide some of it, but to no avail. Tim Kirkendall’s best guitar playing is displayed here, as is the band’s musical essence: down-and-dirty.

Track 07: “Let Me Breathe” – “Your lips say you love me. Your hands say that you love me, oh, but your eyes -your eyes look away.” Such stunning imagery, so visceral that one can feel it, begins “Let Me Breathe.” Its themes of deception and heartbreak are timeless blues topics, but the Prophets’ take on them will give listeners a re-education. Bill Nance’s keyboards add the subtle sound of falling raindrops in the middle of Kirkendall’s fiery fretwork. Blues radio stations: put an APB on this song, and quickly!

Track 10: “Pluff Mud” – The substance mentioned in this tune’s title may be disgusting – stinky marsh mud found in the swamps of South Carolina – but the Prophets’ instrumental about it is delightful. Its intro and outro are perky acoustic refrains, but don’t be fooled: one will be dancing and playing air guitar during the electric portion. “Pluff Mud” is one of the most fitting songs for live performances, for which the PCP are popular. It’s a surefire crowd pleaser, and perfect for a rightly-demanded encore.

Purists may comment that this album is more blues-rock than blues, but they won’t be entirely right. Also, the CD may lack the finesse and state-of-the-art production value of blues groups with big label backing, but only a “Mule” would kick it to the curb!!

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.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Mark Hummel  

It would be safe to say that most accomplished musicians seek to be recognized by their peers for doing something exceptional. There’s a certain competitiveness that goes along with being able to play an instrument as good, if not better than the next guy…or gal.

Currently there is a whole string of great Blues harmonica players who have brought the spotlight back to an instrument that until recently, has ridden shotgun to the Blues guitar. Oakland-based Mark Hummel is one of the leaders of this resurgence, having picked up the harp way back in his early teens.

Mark was born in Connecticut but was raised in Los Angeles. His interest in black music came from the Mexican babysitters his parents hired who often played R&B and soul music on the radio during the day when they cared for him.

“I got into Blues or rock Blues as a teenager,” Mark said. “I listened to Jimi (Hendrix), Cream, Big Brother (& The Holding company), Blue Cheer, all those Blues-based bands of the ‘60s. Those guys were riffing on the original songs only I didn’t realize it until I looked at the writer credits. That’s when I really got interested in the Blues.

“I really liked Willie Dixon and would go and check out his and other Blues albums at the library,” he said. “Once I got hold of the originals they made the rock versions seem a whole lot less to me. I think the originals just have more power. All of a sudden a whole new world opened up for me. I don’t mean to be disparaging to the rock Blues. The rock is just a whole different vibe, more of a jam. I still like Cream and Hendrix but it’s just a different thing.”

A couple of years playing clarinet as a youngster didn’t work out, Mark recalls.

“I played clarinet for my mom,” he said. “She wanted me to play a horn but it didn’t last. I tried guitar. I always liked the guitar but was never really very adept at it as I was the harmonica. I just never put the time into it. I had friends in high school who played guitar and they motivated me to play the harp. There was less competition.

“I got pretty good at it very quickly,” Mark said. “I put a lot of time into it. I started playing harp in bands in high school when I was about 14 or 15. Then in my junior year of high school I started playing with older guys. This was a big deal to me. We’d play high school dances or play in the park on the weekends. It was a big deal then. I met James Cotton when I was about 14 or 15 and he was so nice to me. I kind of gravitated toward the Blues lovers and hung out them. If you didn’t like the Blues then I didn’t have time for you.”

About this time, the cultural revolution was starting and things really were happening musically, socially and politically in San Francisco.

“I was in to hitchhiking in those days,” Mark said. “I’d take off and hitchhike up the coast (from LA). After I graduated from high school I hitchhiked across the country. I went to New Orleans and then up to Chicago then back to Berkley where I’d met this girl. After a while I ended up back in LA. I bought an old V.W bug for $40 and drove it back to San Francisco. This was in about 1972. It was a very exciting time. Lots of stuff going on all the time everywhere you looked.

“The thing that attracted me to the Bay Area was they actually knew all about Blues guys,” Mark said. “There were real Blues guys playing on street corners. In LA it’s all about making hit records. There is a commercial vibe in LA. It’s all about big money and selling records. To me that was a huge turnoff. There was and is a real feeling of independence in San Francisco. Blues there was not commercial music. Not that they didn’t try to sell records or be stars. It just wasn’t the driving force.

“In San Francisco they had the Fillmore (Auditorium), the Avalon Ballroom and later, Winterland,” Mark said. “They were playing the Blues in there. Albert King was a regular at the Fillmore. In fairness to the Blues, the difference between San Francisco and LA was the competitiveness. In San Francisco or Berkley you could meet people and they’d give a guy a chance to show his stuff.

“I was kind of a wild child in those days any way and the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll suited me just fine,” he said. “There was just a lot of Blues being played all over the Bay area. The only harp I’d really been exposed to was in bands like War, the J. Geils Band, Doobie Brothers. All good bands but not what I was looking for. In East LA there was lots of Mexican music and Blues being played but I still wanted to experience the real deal.”

Eventually Mark was able to meet and befriend some of the legends of the Bay Area music scene.

“I met Nick Gravenites, who was pretty much a rebel in those days,” Mark said. “I met Charlie Musselwhite who became a mentor. These guys were already legends and firmly enmeshed in the Blues underground. They were pretty much involved in the Fillmore scene. I was drawn to the ghetto clubs where the original Blues was being played.

“I met a guy named Ron Thompson, another Bay Area legend, who asked me if I was interested playing at the Playboy Club in San Francisco,” Mark recalls. “Only it was called Thee Playboy Club. I played a three-week gig. Once I was in I got and to see and play with guys like Sonny Rhodes, Boogie Jake, Sonny Lane, Cool Papa, and Mississippi Johnny Waters. These guys were just interested in the music. They didn’t care what color I was. They gave me the benefit of the doubt and accepted me right off the bat.”

From those first days establishing himself in the Bay Area, Mark Hummel has managed to work himself into a pretty elite fraternity of Blues harmonica players. For the past 23 years he has staged a huge Harmonica Blowout that has featured a Who’s Who of harp players. Guys like Snooky Pryor, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Kim Wilson, Jerry Portnoy, Magic Dick, Rod Piazza, Paul DeLay, James Harman, Mitch Kashmar, Huey Lewis and many others have shared the stage with Mark and his band Blues Survivors which he established in 1980 and still tours with today.

The Survivors have featured a slew of notable names through the years including King of the Hill creator and Blues bassist Mike Judge, Jimmy Bott, June Core, Rusty Zinn, Ronnie James, Chris Masterson, Charles Wheal and Joel Foy.

“Harmonica players are an intensely competitive bunch,” Mark says. “When you’re around the guys on the Blowout it motivates you to play better. I met a lot of them when I was pretty young and they mentored me. I still think they consider me the kid of the bunch. Nobody ever says it but I can tell. But they do know I can play.

“There are a lot of good, young guys out there today who are coming up and could use some help,” Mark said. “I try to include them in the Blowout as much as possible because I remember where I came from and who helped me. Sometimes I might have to leave them off the bill in favor of a bigger draw in order to pay the bills. I hate to say that but I have to try and fill the house. It’s economic necessity.”

Mark cites legendary harpmaster Kim Wilson as being a huge influence.

“First time I saw Kim and the T-birds they knocked me out,” he said. “The Thunderbirds really affected the whole scene. They played the Blues their own way. They were louder, raw, and didn’t play the old songs note for note. They had more of an improv style. I met them way back then and it was an honor. I’ve done a ton of shows with Kim since then.”As with most seasoned Blues players, Hummel has some definite opinions about the state of the Blues scene today.

“It is in dire need of a youth transfusion,” he said. “So many of the elderly legends have passed away with no one stepping forward to fill in the gaps. You go to the Blues shows and the audience is full of gray hair. We went to the CzechRepublic and Poland for the first time in 2005 and for the first time we saw a lot of young people coming to the shows. That’s encouraging.”

He has played festivals all across the country, including the San Francisco Blues Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival. Some of these outdoor Blues festivals popping up all over the country could use some help as well, Hummel says.

“We’ve gone to festivals before where we feel we are the only true Blues band on the bill,” he said. “They call it a Blues festival but only feature these ’60 Blues rock bands. They need to move on. There’s an old guy in New York who is widely unrecognized named Joe Beard. He plays the real Blues and is just a fantastic guy. There needs to be more friggin’ real Blues on the bill.”

Currently Hummel is involved in an increasingly popular project called the Golden State-Lone Star Revue, an All Star Blues group that features Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty on guitars plus RW Grigsby on bass, Wes Starr on drums. GoldenState – Lone Star has been touring and playing major festivals since 2012 and has two national and two European tours to its credit, with more on the way.

“It’s really taken off,” Mark says of the Golden State-Lone Star gig. “Everybody thinks Little Charlie retired and I guess he did for about three years. But you can unretire, too. Anson Funderburg is just one of the nicest guys I know. He’s so laid back and unassuming until it’s his turn. I love working with him and Little Charlie. These guys are total pros.”

Mark’s next CD is entitled The Hustle Is Really On, due out in March. The disc features an All Star Cast including Wes Starr, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty, RW Grigsby from Hummel’s Golden State – Lone Star Revue, “Kid” Anderson, from Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, June Core, Doug James (Roomful of Blues & Jimmy Vaughn) and Sid Morris.”

To talk to Mark Hummel one gets the impression he is definitely passionate about his music and knows his place in the continuing legacy of the Blues. If nothing else he is upbeat and rooted in tradition.

“To me it’s all about maintaining the true essence of the Blues,” Mark says. “You take a guy like Paul DeLay. He can take an original song and make it his own but he still maintains the true essence. I love the classic stuff but certain things get lost when you stray too far. There’s a ton of retread stuff being played. How many ways can you play “Stormy Monday?

“Blues is Blues. Period.”.

If you want to see Mark in action, check out these videos.

Mark doing a couple tunes in tribute to Little Walter Jacobs. (2013)

Mark with Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh doing the Sonny Boy Williamson tune “Have You Ever Been in Love”. (2012)

David Barrett from interviews Mark Hummel on playing with a blues harmonica pickup band (2011)

One of Mark’s Harp Blowouts featuring Stew James and the Juke Joint Allstars, Mark Hummel, Kim Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite. At the Iron Horse Saloon in Northampton Massachusetts (2007)

This an entire hour set so you can fast forward or rewind to desired chapter – Table of Contents
:00-08:45- Stew James and the Juke Joint Allstars
8:45-17:32- Mark Hummel
17:34-28:50- Kim Wilson
29:15-44:15- Charlie Musselwhite
44:15-till end- All 4 Harp Blowout

Visit Mark’s website at:

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2013

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.

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 Featured Blues review – 2 of 7  

Junior Watson – Jumpin’ wit Junior

Regal Radio Records


With nearly thirty years experience in the music business Junior Watson has much to bring. He has backed or recorded with many of the blues greats over the years. He was a founding member of Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers, and performed with them for ten years. He then went on to play with Canned Heat for another ten years. If he hasn’t paid his dues, then nobody has. His guitar playing is rooted in blues, swing, jump… while occasionally taking on a Television theme or throwing in some cartoonish riffing for fun. Whatever route his strings take, he his always in command of the controls. On this CD he keeps the sound pared down with a drums, bass, sax, harmonica and his frequent collaborator Fred Kaplan on piano. The retro sound obtained on this mostly instrumental release is refreshing.

The jumping old time blues of “Butter Top” finds him tossing in quick references to standards among his rapid guitar work. Fred Kaplan’s piano is low in the mix of the jumpin’ “Knee High Boogie”, but on most of the tunes he shares at least equal time with Junior’s guitar. Although it’s not listed in the liner notes, it seems Junior handles the three vocals gathered here. His pipes may take a little getting used to, but it all makes sense in the end. On “Stockyard Blues”, his first attempt, the lyrics get kind of monotonous. The rockabilly-meets-blues version of “Bo-Nanza” is a loads of fun. Here labeled “Beverly’s Hillbilly”, the theme is taken at a slow pace with a reggae backing. Bet ol’ Jed Clampett never saw this one a comin’…Wee Dawgies!

Fred Kaplan’s cocktail lounge piano fits like a glove along side Junior’s jazzy guitar on “Velvet Mood”. Twangy goodness is the stuff that “Happy Hoppy” is made of. The upbeat “Lucky Ticket” showcases Fred Kaplan’s light touch on the “keys”, a perfect match for the master. The title track finds Junior’ hands hoppin’ and skippin’ all over the strings. His vocal on “There’ll Be A Day” sounds like an amalgamation of Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo, to good effect. The lazy loping groove is complimented by Bharath Rajakumar’s harmonica playing.

The last two songs feature Gordon Beadle on sax. He and the band sound like a small big band on “Boppish”, full steam ahead. “The Barn Burner” is just that, mostly Gordon’s sax wailing into the air.

Junior sure knows how to have fun while plying his well-honed craft. There can always be little twists and turns found in his playing. Ever the professional, he affords a lot of soloing time to his cohorts. He has a knack for making the familiar sound new and interesting. When it comes to getting bluesy, swingy, jumpin’ or taking it slow, Junior has a firm handle on it. Treat yourself to the latest from “The Real McCoy”.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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 Featured Blues review – 3 of 7  

John Cee Stannard – The “Doob Doo” Album

Castiron Music

13 songs – 54 minutes

John Cee Stannard is a fascinating fellow, although his name is probably not well known to many blues fans. A founding member of the English folk group, Tudor Lodge, he has been part of the folk music scene in the UK for over 40 years. He is also a radio presenter, novelist and actor – you may have seen him (briefly) as an extra in movies such as “Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire”, “The Da Vinci Code” or “Skyfall”.

The “Doob Doo” Album is Stannard’s first solo album. It was written in 2011, when Stannard found himself taken in the direction of the blues by the nature of the songs he was writing, recorded in 2012 and released in 2013. Featuring Stannard on guitar, bass and vocals, it also features 16 different musicians providing support on vocals, electric and double bass, drums and percussion, saxophones, trumpet, trombone, banjo, piano, Hammond C3, harmonica, accordion and acoustic and National guitars. The musicians are all renowned session musicians, but even so, the result is a surprisingly coherent album, with a depth and passion that one might not necessarily expect. It is clear that everyone involved in the release loves this music and enjoys playing it. And, although it is definitely a blues album, The “Doob Doo” Album also has strong influences of Trad Jazz, soul and Latin music. Stannard wrote 10 of the 13 songs on the album himself, co-wrote one, and arranged another. “That’s My Way” was written by The Blues Band’s Gary Fletcher. And none of the songs would have sounded out of place on a recording from 70 or 80 years ago.

This music harks back to an earlier, pre-electric period, sometimes evoking the swing era with the horns featured prominently, although songs such as “Devil’s Own Store” and “Hid Behind The Door” manage to fit in delightful, short acoustic solos for the guitar, piano and harmonica.

One of the key elements that makes this album so enjoyable is Stannard’s singing voice. Unlike many British singers, Stannard does not affect an American accent when he sings. His voice is plainly English, even on a song like “Regular Guy”, which could easily be an out-take from an early Tom Waits session (other than in respect of the vocals). However, there is an openness and vulnerability to his voice that makes songs such as “That’s When I Get The Blues” curiously affecting.

A number of songs lean towards the slower end of the spectrum, but there is a drive and passion to these songs that makes them uncommonly listenable. The lyrics, as befits a man who has been writing songs for over 40 years, have a sense of maturity and perspective, so the protagonist of “Second Chance” warns the listener that “if you get a second chance to live your life again, take care that what you ask won’t lose everything”, whilst at the same time as suggesting that “every path will lead you here to me. I believe the picture always will show you and me.”

There is also a sharp wit at work on this album. It can be seen in the medley of Patrick Sky’s “Separation Blues” and Stannard’s own “Separation Blues” (no, that isn’t a typo), which contains the delightful line “Staying out all night well that was bad enough, finding your number on my cuff, well I ain’t saying no-one seen us, but that was enough to put a wall between us.” The same wit can be seen in the cover art. The CD is beautifully packaged, with a detailed lyric booklet, which dryly categorises each song as a bucket blues, a groove blues, a dinner blues, a country blues, a café blues, or a latino blues. It also has a cover that appears at first glance to be a reproduction of an old-fashioned ’78, whilst still containing the legal statement that “This album is protected by copyright so sharing, copying or downloading whilst avoiding payment is very naughty and we’d really prefer that you didn’t do it – thanks.”

For those whose tastes extend to the jazzier or swing side of the blues, The “Doob Doo” Album is highly enjoyable and warmly recommended.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

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 Featured Blues review – 4 of 7  

Toronzo Cannon – John the Conquer Root

Delmark Records

12 tracks/58:01

From his seat at the helm of his CTA bus, Toronzo Cannon gets a unique daily view of the mean streets of Chicago. By night, our intrepid driver turns into a bluesman extraordinaire, melding the details of what he has witnessed and the wisdom gained from his experiences into cutting contemporary blues songs that stick with you through repeated listens. Delivered with his impassioned voice and razor-sharp guitar playing, Cannon continues to prove that blues music is not a dying art form.

On the first three tracks of his second release for Delmark Records, you quickly get an in-depth look at the scope of his artistry. Opening with the title track, Cannon offers a searing update of the traditional mojo theme complete with distorted, wailing guitar that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. Next up is a strong shuffle rhythm on “I’ve Been Doing Fine” with Cannon taking great delight in telling a departed love to stay gone. Then he summons up the spirits of Tyrone Davis and Otis Clay on the rousing “Cold World”, complete with a four piece horn section and strong vocal support from Kay Reed, Theresa Davis and Vanessa Holmes. When Cannon lets out a gritty shout mid-song and follows it with a melodic solo, you are hooked.

For a good-looking bluesman, Cannon seems to have an excessive amount of woman trouble. “If You’re Woman Enough to Leave Me” finds him standing tall as he makes it clear to a cheating woman that they are through, driving the message home with two solos full of sharp edges. Roosevelt Purifoy does double duty on “You Made Me This Way”, switching between piano and organ on the slow burner as Cannon points the finger in the other direction to explain his own indiscretions, finishing with a surprising twist on the standard cheating sagas. The horns return for “Been Better to You” but their presence is no consolation of the singer, weary of the lack of attention from a money-grabbing woman but unable to escape her clutches. He finds solace in the fiery runs he wrings out of his guitar.

Lawrence Gladney on rhythm guitar, Brian “BJ” Jones on drums and Dave Forte on bass set a ferocious pace on “Sweet, Sweet, Sweet” for the blistering slide attack from guest Joanna Connor. “Shame” tackles some of the enduring problems of life in the modern world with Omar Coleman adding some eerier harp tones. Coleman is featured again on “Big Ray Bop”, which pays tribute to a fixture at a Chicago nightspot who had a fondness for blues shuffles.

Cannon delivers a fervent sermon on what means to be a bluesman on “Gentle Reminder” while unleashing another powerful guitar assault. Connor and Mike Wheeler join Cannon for another highlight, ”Let It Shine Always”, done in a gentle, acoustic format with the three singers offering different views of man dealing with the issue of mortality. The disc closes with the instrumental “Root to the Fruit…She’s Mine (Reprise)”. Cannon gives his over-driven guitar a final tortured workout over Larry Williams’ deep bass line, bringing you full circle back to the title track.

The all-original program highlights Cannon’s skill as a songwriter. He has a knack for seeing the road less obvious, for adding an unexpected viewpoint or outcome that keeps things exciting and fresh. Mix in his exceptional vocals and incendiary guitar playing and you have a formidable package that belies any notion of the “sophomore slump”. Bob Koester and the folks at Delmark Records should be commended for giving this talented musician another opportunity to share his many talents with a wider audience. Toronzo Cannon is the real deal and this one comes highly recommended!.

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!

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 Featured Blues review – 5 of 7  

Howard Glazer – Stepchild Of The Blues

City Hall Records

9 Tracks – 43 minutes

Detroit’s Howard Glazer offers us a strong mix of blues on this album, essentially a trio with Howard on guitar and vocals, Charles David Stuart on drums and Chris Brown or Chuck Bartels on bass. Larry Marek adds organ on three tracks, Harmonica Shah guests on two cuts and Maggie McCabe and Stephanie Johnson add vocals throughout.

The album opens in winning style with “Don’t Love You No More”, plenty of driving guitar, Howard overdubbing his strong leads on top of a catchy, chugging rhythm and some exciting drumming. “Shakin’” adopts the Bo Diddley signature beat, the girls providing some solid backing vocals and Howard bending the strings above the rhythm. “Gas Pump Blues” shows Howard’s strengths as a writer with some acerbic commentary on the rising cost of living as well as a change of style as Howard switches to resonator and Harmonica Shah adds some nice harp while the rhythm section sits this one out.

“Telephone Blues” is a classic slow blues with the organ filling out the sound as well as underpinning Howard’s precise, ringing guitar playing. Once again, Howard shows that he has a way with words as he tells us how his girl doesn’t reply to his calls and that “I bought you a brand new wrist watch; you never know what time to come home”. Sounds like there is little hope for that relationship, Howard! However, Howard is not exactly a saint either, as demonstrated in “Honey & Spice” where he has more than one relationship on the go at once, but seems to have a preference for the girl in Detroit who “wakes me in the morning with her honey and her spice”. Lots of slide on this one make it a real winner. “Somewhere” is a very melodic tune with an acoustic riff at its core, over which Howard plays in more of a ‘twangy’ guitar style and the chorus is rounded out with strong harmonies and the organ.

“Cried All My Tears” is a slide-driven rocker while “Liquor Store Legend” is a catchy shuffle with some more of Howard’s sense of humour as he recounts how he has gained fame tracking down the best deals for his ‘adult beverage’ needs. Howard’s solo takes us a little way into the country while the organ adds a touch of 60’s cool to the proceedings. The CD closes with “Hurtful Feeling”, the track starting with Howard’s keening slide before the band joins in and Harmonica Shah blows impressively.

Howard’s voice is pretty rough and ready but works well on these songs and his guitar playing is strong throughout. An enjoyable CD which should find a ready audience for Howard outside his native Detroit.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He had a blast at this year’s Blues Blast Awards and is already planning his next trip stateside.

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 Featured Blues review – 6 of 7  

Twice As Good – Back To Clearlake Oaks

2XG Records

10 songs – 41 minutes

Don’t be fooled by the packaging of this CD from Twice As Good, a father-son team of Native Americans from Northern California. From outward appearances, you might be misled into believing the music contained herein is simple country blues with a couple of good old boys trading licks. But don’t be fooled! It’s a red-hot collection of modern electric blues that will definitely get and keep your attention.

The core of the group consists of Paul Steward on lead guitar, keyboards, saxophone and vocals and father Richard on rhythm guitar and backup vocals. Members of the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake, Calif., the Stewards learned how to play through Richard’s mother and their elder cousin, Hank Gonzalez, a country musician who enjoyed a large following in the region. Gonzalez also gigged with his protégés early in their career.

The Stewards are backed by Robert Watson and Jahon Pride on bass, Billy “Shoes” Johnson and Bryce Hodge on drums, and Mateo Steward-Headrick on backing vocals as they blend the tonalities of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Jonny Lang and Robert Randolph into a style all their own. “If That’s All Right With You,” one of four previous Twice As Good releases, was honored as Best Blues Recording at the 2010 Native American Music Awards. And this disc, available through, has received similar honors at the 2013 Indian Summer Music Awards, sponsored by the Indian tribes of Wisconsin.

The fun starts with the smoking “Good Evening, Good Night,” in which Paul greets the audience with the promise that he has his “guitar and won’t let you down” as Richard propels the rhythm strongly throughout. By layering six-strings, keyboards and sax, Twice As Good presents a much larger sound than most four-piece bands deliver. The joy expressed from the bandstand is infectious, certain to get you off your chair and onto the dance floor. “The Blues Don’t Bother Me” was written by Matthew T. Murphy, but Paul turns it autobiographical as he relates how his father bought him his first axe at age 14, and said: “I am a bluesman/You’re going to take after me.” An extended solo sweeps the song forward before another great line: “The blues is my companion/It’s gonna set you free.”

The band gets syncopated as they launch into the spirited road song, “The Long Way Home.” A saxophone solo gives the tune a different presence sandwiched another tasty guitar solo. The funk continues with “Angel Of Mercy.” This isn’t the Albert King classic. In this tune, the angel doesn’t spread her wings. Instead, as the lyrics declare: “You don’t need no golden wings/The way you came to my rescue/Heaven must be watching over me.” The vocal delivery is strong and soulful.

The band uses vocal call-and-response to sing praises of their hometown in “Back To Clearlake Oaks,” another straight-ahead blues burner, before “Samba Dos Indios” – translated “Two Indian Samba” – a brief minor-key instrumental in which both the Stewards get to exhibit their chops. The sound changes dramatically for “I Wanna Know,” a funky love song. Paul’s vocals are heavily modulated, almost giving it a ’70s disco feel. But the tune remains true to its blues root. Another original, the tender “Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Babe,” precedes two covers – Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” – to conclude the set.

Once in a while in the review business, a CD comes across your desk that catches you totally by surprise – sometimes for good reasons, sometimes bad. This one was one of the former from a band that deserves a wider audience. Strongly recommended.!

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues review – 7 of 7  

manhattenbluesconnectionManhattan Blues Connection – Cadillac Blues

Self Release

11 tracks / 65:14

Manhattan Blues Connection out of Brooklyn is a relatively new band on the New York City scene, but do not think for a second that these guys are wet behind the ears, as all of the members are seasoned professionals with an uncanny feel for the blues. The band is led by its founder and drummer, Les Chalimon, and he is joined by Andy Story on vocals and guitar, Darius Reza on bass and Billy “Blue” Blend on keyboards and saxophone. Blend was also responsible for recording this disc at his Blendini Studios, and he mixed it alongside Reza, making this a truly home-brewed project.

Cadillac Blues is their first release, and after two original tracks that were written by Story and Reza, this quartet tears out nine traditional blues songs, all of them in a style that would make it easy to assume this album is a product of the south side of Chicago (though if you listen closely there is also a 1970s NYC influence in there too). It is guitar-heavy music with rich keyboards, smooth horns and a whiskey-voiced frontman that can hang with the best of them.

“Good Loving Woman” is the first track, and it definitely sticks with this theme. Andy Story wrote this one, and it perfectly suits his throaty voice and deft guitar licks. Billy Blend hammers the piano throughout, punctuating the mood with well-placed organ chords and riffs. “You Don’t Know” is the other original, this time penned by Darius Reza. This song has a catchy riff and, once again, Blend kept extra busy behind the mixing board adding multiple layers of sax and keyboards.

The cover tunes are a murderer’s row of blues classics, starting off with “The Things I Used to Do,” which was originally put into the limelight by Guitar Slim back in 1953. Manhattan Blues Connection’s take on it makes it one of the more laid-back versions of this song, with a decidedly smooth (almost jazz-like) vibe. It is fun to hear a more traditional version of this song after years of hearing the Hendrix and Stevie Ray renditions. The band also kicks out a funky version of “Black Cat Bone” that gives the Albert Collins/Robert Cray 1980s hit a good run for the money.

“Driving Wheel” is a straightforward 12-bar blues that highlights the rhythm section of Chalimon and Reza, which is possible due to the fine work that Blend did in recording and mixing Cadillac Blues. Sadly, the run time for this song is under three minutes, but you will not have to go far to find another good song, as there are no bad ones to be found on this disc. In fact, “Black Jack Game,” the next track up, features tasteful interplay between Blend’s honky-tonk piano and Story’s vocals and lead guitar noodling.

The three standout tracks are slow-burning blues songs: Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening,” Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright” and Jessie Mae Robinson’s “Cold, Cold Feeling.” Andy Story’s guitar is the star of these tunes and the listener can hear that he is more than the usual axe-slinger – he has a natural style and a genuine feel for the blues. Of course, it does not hurt that he is accompanied by a first-rate backline with rock solid-drums and bass.

Manhattan Blues Connection’s Cadillac Blues provides over an hour of traditional good-times Chicago blues, and the band’s respect for the history of the blues is evident in the collection of really cool songs that they put together for this project. They are gigging around NYC, so check them out if you are in town, and in the meantime we can only hope that they are back in the studio writing some new music as a follow-up to this solid debut!.

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

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Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois

On Sunday, January 19th, we are hosting a fund raiser for Alex Wilson to raise a few bucks and send him off to the IBCs! 3 to 6 PM at the American Legion Post 1207 on Aline road in Rockford (formerly LT’s). Alex has competed in Memphis before and made the finals last year- we hope this is his year, so come on out and give him a great send off! we will accompany him down there as we go to support him and also to receive the Keeping the Blues Alive Award for 2014 Affiliate during this year’s IBCs!

On Saturday, February 15th the Alex Wilson Band is Crossroads’ second band that we’re serving up along with some great food and beverages at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL. The club is at 504 N Second Street. $5 cover and an 8 PM start.

Tuesday, February 18th is our first show at Mary’s Place on 602 N Madison Street in Rockford. Brent Johnson and the Call Up will be joined by Australia’s Anni Piper! Brent is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Cover is $10 and we stat early- 7 PM!

Saturday, March 8th is back to the Hope and Anchor with guitar virtuoso Bobby Messano and his great band. $5 cover, 8 PM start.

The River City Blues Society – Pekin, Illinois

The River City Blues Society presents Bret Bunton Project Friday, January 17th at Goodfellas, 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Show starts at 7:30 pm. It will be the Bret Bunton Project send-off and this is our biggest show of the year. The Bret Bunton Project was the our IBC winner of the road to Memphis challenge sponsored by the River City Blues Society

This show is also our RCBS member’s appreciation party TOO! Free food for members and annual CD giveaways (while supply lasts). Admission is $6 or $4 for RCBS members For more info visit or call (309) 648-8510

The Central Iowa Blues Society –  Des Moines, IA

Saturday, February 8th the Central Iowa Blues Society welcomes 10 acts on 6 different stages. This multi-band event will culminate with an After Hours Jam in Des Moines Downtown Marriott. Bands performing include Jeffco, Chad Elliott & Bomita Crowe, Rock Island Rollers, Josh Hoyer & The Shadow Boxers, Annie Mack, Katy Guillen & The Girls, Bob Pace and national touring artists Nikki Hill, Chris O’Leary Band and John Nemeth.

Wristbands for the event are only $15.00 in advance and will give you admission to all of the Ballrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, as well as Rock River Lounge on the 2nd floor. Tickets are available online at now.

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.

Jan. 20 – Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers (winners of the Nebraska Blues Challenge), Jan. 27 – Robert Sampson & The Gumbo Band, Feb. 3 – South Side Jonny and Kicked to the Curb, Feb. 10 – The Dave Lumsden Factor, Feb. 17 – Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up, Feb. 24 – Alex Jenkins & The Bombers,

Also on Feb. 9 there will be a special Blue Sunday with John Nemeth, Casey’s Pub in Springfielde, IL.

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

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