Issue 8-30 July 24, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue

We welcome Steve Patrick to our writing crew this week. Steve has our feature interview with Robert Cray.
Bob Kieser and Nate Kieser have Part 1 of the photos from the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Our video of the week is Johnny Winter from 1992.

We have 12 reviews for you including reviews of music by Trudy Lynn, Joe Mystery, Brandon Isaak, Paolo Mizzau and The Doctor Love Band, The Holmes Brothers, Split Whiskers, Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne, Matyas Pribojszki Band, Chris Lord and Cheatin’ River, Craig Brenner, Andy T – Nick Nixon Band and The Mannish Boys.

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,

Our good friends at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival have a great Blues show planned for you this weekend! Their 2 day fest starts this Friday. The fest is held on historic St. Feriole Island, right on the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

Their lineup includes 88 M.P.H., Anthony Gomes, Big James & the Chicago Playboys, Big N’ Tasty Blues, Carolyn Wonderland, Cashbox Kings, Howard & the White Boys, Jimmi & The Band of Souls, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, Lionel Young Band, Ori Naftaly Band and Samantha Fish.

It is a great event so check them out at or see their ad below.

It is hard to believe it has only been a little more than a week since the voting in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards started. We have already tallied more than 5,200 votes and our listening site on Souncloud has gotten more than 10,000 plays in a week!

If you havent voted yet, now is the time CLICK HERE.

And speaking of the Blues Blast Awards, we have budget priced early bird ticket on sale now for the October 23rd show. Until July 31st tickets are only $25. To get your early bird priced tickets now, CLICK HERE. Ticket prices go to the normal price of $35 on August 1st until the end of voting on September 15th. After September 15th, tickets are $40.

Artists’ who have indicated they are coming to the awards show include Bobby Rush and Blinddog Smokin’, Albert Castiglia, Tweed Funk, Adrianna Marie and Her Groovecutters, Back Pack Jones, Annie Mack Band, RB Stone, Bernie Pearl, Lisa Biales, Mark T Small, Lisa Mann, Toronzo Cannon, Frank Bey Anthony Paule Band, Dave Riley And Bob Corritore, Brent Johnson and the Callup, Shaun Murphy, Steve Dawson, Rachelle Coba, Too Slim and the Tail Draggers, Sean Chambers, Josh Hoyer and Trudy Lynn. Man is this ever going to be a great show.

This Sunday and next, our good friend Jerry Davis is going to devote his weekly radio broadcast exclusively to artists nominated in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards. You can catch his program starting this Sunday at 9:00am to Noon CST on WQCY 103.9 fm on the airwaves in Quincy, Illinois or on the web at Click on the listen live link when you get there.

We lost a great Blues guitar player this past week when the legendary Johnny Winter died. Wikipedia says Johnny was “best known for his high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and 1970s, Winter also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues singer and guitarist, the legendary Muddy Waters. After his time with Waters, Winter recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Johnny was the first white Blues musician inducted into the Blues Foundations Hall of Fame.

Our video of the week this week is Johnny Winter at Bob Dylan´s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in 1992 where he played Highway 61 Revisited. Check it out below!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Video – Johnny Winter 

Johnny Winter passed away on July 16th, 2014.  He was one of the greatest Blues guitar players. This video is from from Bob Dylan´s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in 1992. Johnny Winter was in his prime and you can tell the other performers on stage are in awe of his skills. Click on the picture below to see the video.

Johnny was 70 and  has a new album, “Step Back,”  set for release in September. The new recording features Winter’s collaborations with legendary guitarists Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons and Mark Knopfler.

 Blues Want Ads 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review or story each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the CD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world and we publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow or things that need reviewed.

We are also looking for folks to write stories for our website, blogging style, and other occasional story assignments. We will assign subjects and stories but also entertain your ideas too.

These are non-paid volunteer positions that need a persons who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word!

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. Please be sure to include your phone number in the email.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 12

Trudy Lynn – Royal Oaks Blues Café

Connor Ray 2013

11 tracks; 49 Minutes

Houston native Trudy Lynn has been singing rhythm and blues since the 60’s and has had albums issued on several labels since her Ichiban debut in 1989. In recent years she has not been prolific but, as she explains in the sleevenotes, she was searching for the right songs. The result is an album that brings together some fairly obscure songs from blues singers and writers of yesteryear with two of Trudy’s own compositions. Backing Trudy are Steve Krase on harmonica, Jonn Del Toro Richardson on guitar, Randy Wall on piano, Eugene ‘Spare Time’ Murray on bass and Carl Owens on drums. Robert ‘Pee Wee’ Stephens replaces Randy on one track, Richard Cholawian replaces Carl on one track and producer Rock Romano replaces Eugene on one track.

Trudy has a seasoned voice which has enough grit to convey the emotions of the songs, an excellent example being “Country Man Blues”, a song once covered by Candye Kane. Here Trudy’s voice really conveys the slightly risqué lyrics and both Steve and Jonn contribute significantly. The piano features on “Street Walkin’ Daddy”, a hit in 1950 for Margie Day but Jonn plays some wonderfully relaxed guitar too. Trudy’s own songs stand up well in comparison: her “Every Side Of Lonesome” has a live feel with lots of handclaps and backing vocals, Jonn on slide and Steve’s harp almost buzzing in the background, a very catchy shuffle with strong vocals from Trudy. “Down In Memphis” is Trudy’s other credit, a short tune with some striking harp leading on a rocking little number in praise of the Bluff city. Several of the songs Trudy has selected to sing here are what might be described as ‘suggestive’, none more so than Clara Smith’s “Whip It To A Jelly” which closes the album with Steve’s harp working very well with Trudy’s vocal, a late night piece with Jonn on acoustic guitar. Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ The Blues” provides a strong opener, a song that goes back to the 40’s, all three front line players providing strong solos. On Don Robey’s “Play The Honky Tonks” (a hit for Marie Adams in 1951) Randy’s piano is well to the fore.

My research failed to discover anything about four other songs here. “Feel It” is credited to B Campbell, another suggestive lyric in a performance which, especially Steve’s harp, is relaxed but effective. Another relaxed performance is the fine “Effervescent Daddy” (E Bennett) on which Trudy’s voice is a little smoother than is typical of the album where she usually has more grit in her vocals. However, on this song she is much smoother, as befits the style of the song. “I’m Gonna Put You Down” (W Booze) is a slow blues on which Trudy’s expressive, deep voice is very effective and “Red Light” (V Green) is an upbeat rocker which makes use of some of the same imagery as “I Caught The Katy” and is a real toe-tapper as Jonn ramps up the pace in his solo as the piano and harp underpin Trudy’s vocals.

There is plenty to enjoy here and it is good to hear Trudy in such good voice, sounding very much like the early female pioneers that she has sought to celebrate on this album.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trudy Lynn is nominated in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards in the Female Blues Artist category!

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 Interview – Robert Cray

Legendary blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Robert Cray explores his musical roots on his latest album In My Soul which was released in April. As one could gather from the title, Cray delves into his soul influences with a helping hand from friend and producer Steve Jordan. Cray previously worked with Jordan on 1999’s Take Your Shoes Off which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

When asked what rekindled the musical partnership with Jordan, Cray replied, “Well I called up looking for him and I wanted to work with Steve. I enjoyed working with Steve the times we had the opportunity to do so. If I had my way I’d work with Steve a lot more often. He’s a really good organizer and has great ideas. He’s really into sound, you know, the sound of the whole project and just an overall good guy.”

In My Soul had an interesting creation process thanks to Jordan’s producing methods.

“Well the guys in the band and myself, we wrote some songs and we didn’t present the songs to one another until like three days before going into the studio. Under orders from Steve, we were told not to over-rehearse the material. And then there were two suggestions that Steve came up with before we went into the studio…I believe about a month or so…Steve sent me an e-mail and said, ‘Man, I know you’d kill it if you did the Otis Redding song. What do you think of it?’ And I said, ‘I love that tune.’ Then a couple weeks after that was another suggestion with the Mable John song ‘You’re Good Thing is About to End’…because that’s part of the producer’s job is to look for material as well, so he came up with that suggestion and, of course, who doesn’t like that song?

“So that was the other thing that Steve came up with. And then, just by osmosis, the guys in the band and myself, we had songs that were like soul…rhythm and blues…and so that’s how the whole album came together. Then while we were in the studio I wanted to do a Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland tribute, so I came up with ‘Deep in My Soul’.”

The new record marks somewhat of a change of pace for the blues guitar slinger in that there are prominent horns on several tracks as well as the soulful cover selections themselves. Cray doesn’t see as much of a difference, but does acknowledge that there’s more soul on this outing.

“Everybody knows that it’s not a strange thing for us to do this type of material, but this record includes more of it than we’ve done in the past. I guess it was just what was in the air at the time. (laughs) Soul was in the air!”

A musician that has as storied a career as Cray does has worked with numerous producers along the way. Most recently Cray had worked with famed producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Aerosmith). When comparing Shirley and Jordan as producers, Cray said, “Well, the sound is different. They have two different ways of looking at things. Steve Jordan’s sound…he’s more of a classic sound as far as like…if we were able to use tape, we would have used tape. We ran the computer at a high speed, like at 192, so it’s almost like high definition and then we ran the sound through a Studer machine to get a really nice sound.

“We used some vintage mics in the studio. We used…of course Steve’s a drummer, so we used a vintage kit. Drum kit. And of course we brought the old Magnatones in and the whole barrage of older amplifiers and things like that, so it’s a whole different process than working with Kevin. Kevin does everything really quickly. He’s like…get it and gone…which is basically how we do it with Steve too, but it wasn’t as much of a concern about the microphones and the gear and all that.”

In My Soul also finds Cray experimenting in ways that he has not on prior records. For instance, Cray shares lead vocals with drummer Les Falconer on the upbeat take on Otis Redding’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”.

Cray recalled, “That was a clue that I gave to Steve. I said, ‘Steve, you know Les can sing?’ And he says, ‘Good to know. I’ll figure out something for him to do.’ I said, ‘That would be great.’ Because I had seen him for the longest time when he was with Keb’ Mo’ singing background and then I’d hear him on the bus singing some songs and stuff. I was listening and I go, ‘This guy can sing!’ So Steve came up with the idea of kind of doing the Sam & Dave on that one song and it was pretty great. It was Les’ first time ever singing on a record too, so he was over the moon.”

Currently Cray and his band are in the middle of a US tour with support coming from either John Hiatt or Mavis Staples depending on the tour stop. Cray said that the new album material has been coming off quite nicely so far in the live setting.

“We’ve been getting a really great response from the audience and, of course, we’ve been playing just about all the songs actually. I think there’s one we haven’t played yet…the bonus track “Pillow”. I mean, we’ve worked it up, but we haven’t performed it in front of anybody yet. Everything else we do. But, you know, on a nightly basis we don’t play all of the songs. We kind of mix them up and play some of the old songs. We’re getting a really good response. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The tour is also an opportunity for Cray to reconnect with his old friend John Hiatt.

“We’ve done shows together over the years. Tim our tour manager and myself, we were just talking about that there’s video of John and I singing ‘When Something Is Wrong with My Baby’ from the show Night Music when that was on the air…the show that David Sanborn had back in the early nineties. We paired up to sing that…so it’s been a while that we’ve been doing things together.”

No chat with Cray would be complete without discussing another old piece of video footage, namely his cameo in the film Animal House as the bass player for Otis Day and the Knights. How did a guitar player end up being cast as a bass player in that film?

“Well, the casting director just went through different clubs and what not and picked out musicians that she thought would fit the bill for the movie. She already had a guitar player, so she wanted me to be on there so I asked Richard (Cousins, Cray’s longtime bass player) if I could borrow his bass. (laughs) And he’s still on me about that to this day. The music was already pre-recorded. We just danced and lip synched to it.”

Throughout his career, Cray has played with a veritable who’s who of the blues at events like Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still get anxious when sharing the stage with the genre’s greats. Does he still get nervous in these situations?

Cray exclaimed, “Hell yeah! (laughs) I have a lot of respect for those guys, you know? As we all know, they’re fantastic musicians…fantastic people and I’m a fan. When I’m there standing on stage if it’s Buddy (Guy), or B.B. (King), or Eric (Clapton)…somebody like that, I’m just hoping I don’t mess up and trying to keep my composure. (laughs)”

Speaking of Clapton, Cray reminisced about his fondest memory of their friendship so far.

“Just the fact that he came in to see us back in the eighties long before anybody knew about us really. He came to sit in with us back when the Bad Influence album was out. Willie Dixon came in with an amplifier and said, ‘Eric’s coming in. He wants to sit in with you guys.’ (laughs) And we were at a small little club and all of a sudden Eric shows up. We were playing the song ‘Bad Influence’. I guess Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn turned him on to the ‘Bad Influence’ album because at that particular time ‘Duck’ was playing bass with Eric.

“So he sat in with us and so I call ‘Bad Influence’…Richard was standing next to Eric and he was trying to tell him the chords and Eric says, ‘Man, I know the chords.’ (laughs) Really funny. Then that’s pretty much when we became friends, so that was the first time around. That was a lot of fun. So that really showed what kind of person he really is and that’s what I remember.”

Cray also had the good fortune to be part of the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll documentary on Chuck Berry as part of an all-star back-up band featuring the likes of Clapton and Keith Richards. Cray said that he never had the arguments with Berry like Richards famously did in the film.

“Not with me. I was the young kid on the block and I could do no wrong. ‘Hey Robert, want to have some coffee together?’ ‘Yeah, sure! Great!’ (laughs) He was not a problem at all. The thing with Chuck…and you see it in the film…the thing is, Chuck is Chuck Berry. It shows how untrusting he was after all the things that have happened to him over his career. Keith was pouring his heart and soul into doing everything he possibly could for his hero, but Chuck has to be that guy to…be untrusting and he also, at the same time, has to be over top of Keith Richards. So, that’s why he treated Keith that way and Keith still loved him like a puppy dog.”

Cray continued, “So, it was wild to see, but every once and a while Chuck would give in and it would be fun. Chuck did all kinds of crazy stuff during that whole thing. We had the rehearsals and I had the setlist of the songs I was going to perform on and we rehearsed for a whole week and all that. And then the day of the taping at the theater, I got my list and I’m standing next to Eric…and it had all these other songs that I had never performed on. Some of them were Eric’s tunes and Eric looked at the list and he goes, ‘Are you ready?’ (laughs) And Chuck did that on purpose. He did it just to stir the hornet’s nest, you know? That’s just how he is.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan was yet another blues legend that crossed paths with Cray. Along with Clapton and Stevie’s brother Jimmie Vaughan, Cray shares the unfortunate distinction to have played with Stevie at his final gig at Alpine Valley. Cray’s recollections of his last moments with SRV are fond ones.

“We had the weekend. We were there for the weekend. We had a ball because we hadn’t seen one another for a while and we were on Eric’s show and Jimmie (Vaughan) was there. We sat at a table and chatted about how the tour is going and everything like that. Then I remember the jam at the end…’Sweet Home Chicago’. And we all walked back towards Eric’s dressing room and we had to take off. I could hear Eric and Stevie both saying to one another, ‘Oh no, you’re the best.’ ‘No, you’re the best, you’re the best.’ And with that I said goodbye to both of them and I took off, but we…that weekend we just had a ball playing together. We posed for Fender guitars, we did a picture together…Jimmie, Stevie, Eric and myself. We’d been friends, but you move in different circles sometimes, you know? You don’t see one another as often as you’d like and so it was just a good reunion. It’s just sad that it had to close out that way.”

Clearly Vaughan is considered a legend and an influence to countless guitar players, but Cray laughs at the idea that many also put him in that category.

“Oh that’s silly man! (laughs) How could that be? People say that they’re influenced by me and our band…things like that…and it’s nice to hear. It’s great, I’m glad we have fans. But, I don’t know how to take that. It’s a cool thing. I mean, it’s fair…it’s great. I’m a big fan of other musicians myself, you know?”

Part of Cray’s charm and appeal is his humbleness and reserved presence on stage. Early in his career he struggled with shyness as a frontman. Cray’s not so sure he’s conquered that bashfulness, but he did stress that experience is the best defense against it.

“Well I don’t know that I’m totally over it and I hope I never get that way, but I guess it’s just a matter of playing the shows and starting to find the feet underneath you. Feel a little bit about what you’re doing on stage. I think that’s what helps.”

With a new record under his belt and in the hands of his fans, Cray hopes that his audience will look at In My Soul as a time marker for this spot in his career.

“Well, for us, it’s another era. Every time we put out a record it’s like a photograph of where we are at the time. A musical photograph, so to speak, with the current lineup and I think also, as we get a little bit older, how we look at the world in certain ways. Last decade we talked about the war in Iraq and how people are living with the mortgage crisis and we even touch on a couple of those topics in the song ‘What Would You Say?’ on this record. But at the same time, with the soul music we’re paying homage and playing tribute as well to some of our heroes and showing the respect. Showing where we come from.

“That’s what I hope people get.”

Visit Robert’s website at:

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Steve Patrick is a lifelong blues, rock, and metal fan from Ohio. Steve is also a staff writer for UWeekly newspaper in Columbus, OH and Senior Columnist for

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 12

Joe Mystery – Wicked Town

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 46 minutes

Enigmatic multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Joe Mystery emerges from the shadows with this interesting mixture of blues, rock and roots.

A New Jersey native who cut his teeth at the Fillmore East and New York City’s Central Park in the ‘60s, Joe and his self-named rock group were featured artists at some of the most popular Manhattan venues in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, including Kenny’s Castaways, CBGB’s and The Other End. In addition to session work, he owns and operates OmniMix Studios, where this CD was recorded. Mystery’s always had a deep love for the blues, having witnessed many of the top names in the business in his youth, and puts his own personal spin on the music here.

A labor of love, he’s written all 10 of the tunes in addition to playing guitar, harmonica, keys, bass and drums behind his own vocals. The only assist he receives in the entire work are the contributions of bassist Simon Burke and drummer Mike Toohey on one instrumental in the set.

From the jump, this disc has a rootsy feel, set off by the cover illustration. Taken by famed female photographer Marion Post Wolcott, who worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, it depicts the Jax Beer Joint and gas station in Melrose, Louisiana. The image pulls you straight into the first cut, “Root Doctor (The Hoodoo Man),” in which Mystery delivers his take on the sound of the deep Delta. The tune combines the feel of a juke with ‘60s-style psychedelic overtones as Joe sings about his prowess at casting spells and working magic. His guitar
styling’s are haunting, set atop an interesting pattern on the the keyboard along with a steady rhythm pattern.

“1000 Ways To Die” fires out of the starting gate with a drum roll as Mystery urges the listener to “hold on to your life” above a rapid-fire shuffle while reminding himself that “dyin’ don’t suck.” The disc adopts somewhat of a Latin feel with the guitar intro to “Brando,” a tribute to the big-screen idol, before launching into “Love Me Like A Locust,” in which he wants to be swarmed over in a romance.

The next four tunes — “Johnny Wyoming,” “Wicked Town,” “Cowboy Of A New Western Dream” and “Rancho Love” – all have Western themes. “Wyoming” is the closest song yet to a true blues as Mystery sings about the “kinkiest sidewinder who ever lived.”

The album title cut tells the story of a woman named Lori LaRue who lived near the tracks and whose phone number was inscribed on bathroom walls. Despite her shortcomings, the singer, a lonely sailor, yearns for her. “Cowboy” kicks off with a bluesy guitar line as Joe sings about riding off into a new frontier: outer space, while “Rancho Love” is a straight-ahead blues in which he’s a trucker heading for a rendezvous. Available through Amazon and iTunes, the disc concludes with the instrumental “Joe Mystery’s Stampede” and “Two Men (A Miner’s Tale),” the story of gold fever, in which only one of the guys comes back.

“Wicked Town” isn’t straight blues by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a worthwhile production nonetheless. You’ll really like it if your tastes run toward the rock blues, especially the work of Jim Morrison and the Doors. As a creature of the ‘60s with an open mind toward the blues, I found this an interesting change of pace from my normal listening habit.

 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 Live Blues Review – Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Part 1

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has been around for more than 30 years. They are one of the oldest Blues societies in existence. And every year like clockwork, they produce a 3 day festival on the Fourth Of July weekend and this years 30th one was another great one. The festival is normally held in a park right next to the mighty Mississippi river in Davenport, Iowa. But for the second year in a row, an abnormally high amount of rain in May and June forced them to move the fest from the normal LeClaire Park location because the park was still covered in muddy water from that mighty Mississippi! But no worries, this Blues society took it in stride and moved the festival a few blocks to higher ground in downtown Davenport.

The festival always has 2 stages of entertainment, the main stage and the tent stage and provides 2 very different settings for artists to perform. They also have lots of workshops and a Blues photo exhibit each year. This year the main stage kicked off with a group called Johnny Kilowatt Band with Gloria Hardiman.

They provided a great set to kick of the festival. Meanwhile on the Tent Stage, the Mercury Brothers put on their show.

They showed that this band that made the finals of the International Blues Challenge a few years ago, still has it.

Next up on the main stage was Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling with the Jewel Tones.

Doug won the Sean Costello Rising Star Award in the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards and his fantastic performance was a reminder why the fans voted him that award. Band mate Dennis Gruenling kicked it on harp and to this observer has to be one the best harmonica players in Blues music today!

Continuing with Friday’s theme on the tent stage of showcasing artists from the local quad cities area 10 of Soul was up next

They played a great set of soul Blues. Next up on the main stage was the Nick Moss Band.

Nick showed why his band is nominated for Band Of the Year in the 2014 Blues Blast Awards again as they played a killer set of rockin’ Blues. It was a true family affair too as Nick’s daughter Sadie sang and wife Kate Moss showed that Nick is not the only great guitar player in the family!

Ernie Peniston was the final act on the tent stage the first day of the fest.

Ernie is quite an amazing singer and by all rights should definitely be know to a much wider audience!

The nights headliner on the main stage was Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown.


They did a great set to cap off the first night of great music at Mississippi Valley. Next week Part 2!

Photos by Bob Kieser and Nate Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 12

Brandon Isaak – Here on Earth


CD: 14 songs; 46:15 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Acoustic and Electric Blues

When one thinks of Canada, what are the first words that come to mind? Hockey? Cold weather? Maple leaves?

How about ‘blues music’?

Our Northern neighbors are skilled at both the electric and acoustic varieties, as is Whitehorse, Yukon native Brandon Isaak. One might recall him as a member of the jump-blues band The Twisters, of which he and album co-performer Keith Picot are still a part. Here On Earth, his 2013 follow-up to 2012’s Bluesman’s Plea, is a wildly catchy, mostly acoustic romp with several tunes regarding travel. All fourteen are candid and intimate originals, sung without countless layers of studio polishing.

The CD sounds like it might have been recorded on Isaak’s front porch, if he has one, and that’s a great thing. The only flaw is that many of his songs seem similar, which might catch listeners unaware if they want to sing along. With Brandon are Picot on upright bass, drummer and background singer Ed White, cornet and fiddle player Daniel Lapp, and Chris Isaak (no, not the one of “Wicked Game” fame) on keyboards and backing vocals.

Track 02: “All Night Long” – Teenagers aren’t the only people who like to sneak out for mysterious midnight romps. After this one, a certain errant lover doesn’t make much sense: “When the sun come up this morning, baby, I was all alone, and all I had when I woke up was a message on my telephone. You were talking about some so-and-so, and going on and on. All I want to know is: Where were you all night long?” Isaak’s harp is as nervous as our narrator.

Track 05: “Dead Ass Fool” – Why is it that sometimes, people hang onto partners who treat them so wrong, even though it’s not right? In this traditional blues ballad, Isaak can’t seem to find the answer: “You know, I give her all my money and treat her like a queen – Why, but when I get home from work, I’ve got to cook and clean.” Revel in the rippling guitar solo in the middle.

Track 06: “Bright City Lights” – The lure of a metropolis can be a trap for some, as it is in this pleasingly-funky number. One of the few on which electric guitar is featured, track six will resonate with ‘country folk’: “No more traffic or waiting in line, just a piece of land and peace of mind. We’ll be happy, just wait and see – a simple life with the folks and me.” Chris Isaak’s keyboards provide flair to this mid-tempo musing.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this album is Brandon Isaak’s many instrumental talents. He plays guitar, harmonica, foot percussion, and jug as well as lead vocals. Very few musicians can excel in so many areas, and Brandon’s versatility should be showcased more. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had “Here on Earth”!

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 12

Paolo Mizzau and The Doctor Love Band – New Crash

Self release

12 songs – 54 minutes

Paolo Mizzau has been a leading light on the Italian blues scene since the 1980s. In addition to playing previously with bands such as Bluesology and The Bluesheads, he has led The Doctor Love Band since 1996. New Crash is the band’s third album, and their first since 2006’s Jump Or Stay.

The Album opens with “BluesNo”, which neatly combines a “Boom Boom Boom”-esque riff with a IV-I-IV-I-V riff structure over which Mizzau’s supple harmonica twists and soars. Guest artist, Bob Margolin, adds his uniquely powerful old school slide guitar to what is a fine blues song.

However, despite featuring a lot of first class harmonica playing, the album actually stands on the very edge of the blues genre, with other styles and particularly jazz to the fore. “Crash”, for example, with its heavily-tremoloed guitar and jazzy backing, betrays its easy-listening origins, and the shuffle of “Talking About” has at least one foot in the world of big band jazz (albeit without the horns).

Mizzau’s harmonica vies with Matteo Titotto’s guitar as the primary lead instrument on the album, and there is plenty of opportunity for interplay between the two, such as on “Ordinary Man” (which has a superb solo from Titotto) or “A Dog”, where the two instruments play the initial hook in tandem. In addition to Mizzau and Titotto, The Doctor Love Band comprises Simone Serafini on bass and Andrea “Smooth” Pivetta on drums, who together provide a variety of muscular but rhythmically complex backings.

Despite the valuable contributions of the other musicians, however, this recording appears to be very much Mizzau’s album. In addition to singing and playing harp, he also produced the album and wrote nine of the 12 songs either by himself or together with guitarist Matteo Titotto. The three covers are especially enjoyable for not being obvious choices: composer and band-leader Brain Fahey’s “Crash” (Fahey is perhaps best known for composing “At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal”); Roy Montrell’s “(Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone” (also previously covered by the likes of The Stray Cats and Imelda May, but not like this) and Fats Waller’s “All That Meat And No Potatoes”.

If there is a weakness in the album, it is probably in Mizzau’s vocals, which come across as hesitant at times, and his heavy accent occasionally distracts from the song itself. The generic “American” accent in modern music is actually fairly neutral from a phonetic perspective (hence why so many non-American singers “lose” their accents when singing), so perhaps it is the hesitancy that is exacerbating the accent.

There is a real enthusiasm and energy to the songs, however, in particular “(Everytime I hear) That Mellow Saxophone”, which is powered by Pivetta’s driving drum patterns. The album benefits throughout from first class musicianship and production and comes in an attractive fold-out packaging.

Worth checking out if your tastes lie to the jazzier side of harmonica blues.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 12

The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood

Alligator – 2014

14 tracks; 54 minutes

The Holmes Brothers return after a hiatus of four years with their typical mixture of gospel sounds and secular tunes, all sung with the wonderful harmonies for which they are famous. As usual, Sherman plays bass, Wendell guitar and Popsy Dixon drums but they are aided on most tunes by co-producers Chris Bruce on guitars and bass and Glenn Patscha on keys. Catherine Russell helps on backing vocals on four tracks, Joe Bonadio and Kenny Wollesen add drums or percussion to several cuts and John Ellis and Antoine Drye add horns to three tracks. Eight of the songs come from the brothers, Wendell providing six, Sherman two.

The opening brace of songs offer an almost perfect reflection of the brothers’ styles. “Stayed At The Party” is an upbeat tune with a gospel sound but a distinctly secular lyric: “I stayed at the party just a little too long. All the things I did, I knew they were wrong. If it was wet I drank it; I wouldn’t just drink it, I’d drink it till it was gone.” Ted Hawkins’ “I Gave Up All I Had” is given an acoustic treatment, with each of the brothers stepping forward to sing a verse and then joining in on the chorus. Sherman’s “Passing Through” is a bluesier tune with the horns adding extra
color. Ike Turner’s “You’ve Got To Lose” has a striking falsetto lead vocal over an uptempo beat on a song that expresses how man will always be affected by the powers of women. John Ellis’s tenor solo is a strong feature here with Catherine’s b/v’s clearly heard in the background. The catchy “Lickety Split” is Wendell’s tune and is not to be confused with the recent Robert Randolph song of the same title. “Soldier Of Love” comes from the pen of Welshman Geraint Watkins and is a ballad that really suits the brothers’ harmonies. The percussion here is particularly effective, Joe Bonadio adding to Popsy’s drum patterns.

“Gone For Good” is as rocky as the brothers get on a catchy tune from Wendell, the first of a run of three. “Loving You From Afar” is a stately ballad with great harmonies and “My Word Is My Bond” is another rocker with a reassuring message for the singer’s partner: “If I say I’m going downtown, don’t mean I’m cheating, baby, or messing around, not to worry, I won’t be long, my word is my bond”. Curtis Salgado co-wrote “Driving In The Driving Rain” and included the song on his “Clean Getaway” album and the brothers do the song in quite similar fashion to Curtis. William Bell and Booker T Jones’s “My Kind Of Girl” goes back further and the addition of the horns to the brothers’ vocals takes us back to the glory days of Atlantic soul. Wendell’s “Darkest Hour” is a tough blues which uses the old phrase about ‘the darkest hour is just before dawn’ as its starting point. Sherman’s “Last Man Standing” is a short upbeat tune with a good organ solo from Glenn before the album closes with some authentic gospel. The brothers begin with some testifying reflecting on their lives before the familiar strains of “Amazing Grace” emerge, all three singers together as well as taking a solo verse so we can hear their distinctive voices.

This is another solid album from The Holmes Brothers. Those who are already fans will love this one; those less familiar with their work should find plenty to enjoy here.

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 12

Split Whiskers – Money Ain’t Everything

Magic Records

CD: 12 songs; 50:54 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric and Harmonica Blues

From the cover art of their third studio release, guess where this band has its base: A sign in the setting sun reads “Hi-Desert Casino Restaurant and Inn”

Is it Las Vegas? Reno? Nope – the United Kingdom! The band Split Whiskers knows “Money Ain’t Everything,” and that’s their upbeat message. According to their website, “Split Whiskers have their roots firmly planted in Chicago blues, crossing boundaries into rock and funk.” That’s a sparse description, but the members make up for it via bold instrumentation and dynamic energy. Even though their vocals sound more like conversational speech than singing, that doesn’t entirely ruin the CD. Split Whiskers provides an ensemble sound, consisting of Gilby J. Fletcher on lead vocals and harmonica, Johnny ‘Magic Boy’ Wright on vocals and acoustic, resonator and electric guitars, keyboardist Matt Wilshaw, bassists Claudia ‘Beads’ McKenzie and Lee Phillips, drummers Mick ‘Chippy’ Carpenter and Tony Hill, Pete Towers on slide guitar, and Sue Marchant on vocals for “Soul on Fire”. Together they present twelve songs: five originals and seven covers (including “The Spider and the Fly” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards). Of the former type of tune, these three are tops:

Track 05: “Money Ain’t Everything” – Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” would beg to differ, but the singers in the title track realize there are more important things in life than one’s bankroll. “I went from rags to riches, and riches to rags again.” How true – a fortune comes and goes, no matter one’s high ambition. Gilby J. Fletcher’s howling harp and Matt Wilshaw’s ragtime piano make the perfect pair, while ‘Magic Boy’ Wright’s electric guitar completes a trio. “I’ve got my gal, got my family, got my friends,” Fletcher sings, and a flair for country blues too.

Track 07: “Never Made the Call” – Almost negating the theme of the selection above, but not quite, is this tale of unfulfilled dreams. “I could have been a millionaire; I could have had it all. Coulda, shoulda, I woulda done, but I never made the call.” Those three abbreviated words arrive as gracefully as punches in the gut, and that’s the point. Is this a rock song? Is it funk? Consider it a nice mixture of both, but it’s not for down-and-dirty blues lovers. Wilshaw’s Hammond organ and Wright’s wah-wah shredder are fantastic.

Track 09: “Big Brother” – The lyrics are the best thing about song number nine, a warning regarding widespread spying and data collection: “They know how fast I’m going, how fast my water’s been flowing – there’s cameras everywhere I go.” Even though such a phenomenon is common in the United States and England, this Orwellian nightmare is far deeper ‘across the pond’. “Oh, Big Brother, what do you do with all the stuff you see?” Fletcher asks meekly.

“Money Ain’t Everything”, but the blues just might be!

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 – 7 of 12

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne – Rollin’ With The Blues Boss

Stony Plain 2014

11 tracks; 38 minutes

American pianist Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne has lived in Canada for 30 years and on his second release on Stony Plain, Kenny follows a similar pattern to 2011’s “An Old Rock On A Roll”, offering eleven originals covering a range of styles from boogie woogie to blues and soul. Kenny handles piano and vocals with Loren Etkin on drums, Russell Jackson on bass and either Tim Hearsey or producer Tom Lavin on guitar. Vince Mai on trumpet and Jerry Cook on sax add horns to four tracks, Drew Davies playing tenor on one track. The following appear on one track each: Wes Mackey and Lindsay Mitchell on guitar, Ron Thompson on banjo, Sherman Doucette on harmonica. Backing vocals on two tracks come from Sibel Thraser, Cecile Larochelle and Christine Best. Guest spots come from Diunna Greenleaf on vocals and Eric Bibb on guitar and vocals.

Opener “Leavin’ In The Morning” has a catchy shuffle groove and some nice BB King-style guitar from Tom. Kenny follows some traditional blues lyrics on a tale of getting away from a bad situation, heading off “Somewhere nobody knows me, nobody knows my name”. The horns give some additional power to “You Bring The Jungle Out Of Me” though the contrived monkey howls could have been left out! In terms of sequencing it is unfortunate that the underlying tune is so similar to the first cut, especially when there is so much variety across the CD. A spoken introduction explains how the word ‘Hootenanny’ was used for piano jams in 1930’s Kansas City before Kenny gives us his version of that, complete with Ron Thompson’s banjo behind the piano on the foot-tapping “Hootenanny Boogie-Woogie. Kenny’s piano and Tim’s guitar both feature strongly on the impressive “Roadrunner”, Kenny’s fine vocals explaining the life of the itinerant musician who “needs that fresh air”. Diunna Greenleaf adds her great voice to “Baby, It Ain’t You”, references to ‘text me’ showing that you can write a slow blues with a modern twist. “I Can’t Believe It” is another excellent track with the horns again in action on an upbeat, soulful song in which Kenny explains how he had his wallet stolen getting on a train: “I can’t believe it, that thief has got it. I can’t believe it, got to live without it.”!

“Two Sides” is a catchy boogie on which Kenny’s rolling piano plays the first verse before the band comes in on verse two and Eric Bibb plays some funky acoustic guitar in the middle as well as adding duet vocals. “Slow Down” gives us another style with an acoustic approach, the horns and harp adding some gentle harmony touches on the chorus. “Ogopogo Boogie” is an instrumental with a New Orleans feel, the horns shouting out the refrain and Kenny’s piano sitting beneath the refrain until he emerges for a fine boogie solo. Kenny is back at the mike for “Keep On Rockin’”, another toe-tapper with lots of piano featured, the lyrics explaining how Kenny intends to keep his career going “until the time is up”. Drew Davies’ tenor adds some
color to the short track. The final cut is “Out Like A Bullet”, another boogie instrumental with just Kenny’s piano and drummer Loren which again demonstrates what a fine player he is.

This is an enjoyable and varied album. This album is well worth a listen.

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 12

Matyas Pribojszki Band – Treat

Self released – 2013

Twelve Tracks with a total running time of 40.16

“Matyas is an impressive virtuoso harmonica player and has an original style. He also has a very nice singing voice, and his band kicks the ass of many US bands!” (Rick Estrin 2013); which is quite a recommendation from one of the masters of the Blues.

This recording contains seven original songs with five tasteful covers that will leave you quite satisfied if you are a lover of harmonica Blues. The musicians are Matyas Pribojszki – vocals and harmonica, Erik Kovacs – piano and keyboards, Ferenc Szasz – guitars, Ervin Eckert – bass, Daniel Molnar – drums and special guest Gabi Szucs – background vocals on track 5.

Track 1, “Zydecola Boogie” is a fast paced boogie that showcases Pribojszki’s chops on the “Mississippi saxophone”. This one will get you up out of your chair.

Track 2, “Real Good Man” lets you know that this is a tight band with tasty licks from Szasz on guitar, Kovacs on piano and of course the band’s namesake on vocals and harp. This tune is reminiscent of some of William Clarke’s early recordings. There is a great video of this song on the band’s web site.

On track 4, a faced paced version of “Farmer John” (by D. Harris and D. Terry) Szasz again kicks it on guitar and Pribojszki’s voice growls and moans again somewhat like William Clarke.

“Goobie Boogie” (Track 8) is an instrumental written and performed with near perfection by Erik Kovacs. It is the only track with no harmonica and still works well in this recording.

“My Little Angel” (Track 11) is a Blues rocker with some piano boogie mixed in. While clocking in at only 2:33 this is a strong song that puts one in the mind of the late, great Paul Delay. (Sure do miss that guy!)

All in all this is a solid outing from another relatively unknown Blues band. The only major downside would be that the longest song is a few seconds over four minutes with most around three minutes and two under three minutes which is barely enough time to develop an appreciation for this band’s talents.

The band formed in 2004 and this would be their fourth recording. While Matyas Pribojszki Band may not be a household Blues band name in the States they play many festivals across the pond in places like Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. and if you would like to see the band perform live anytime soon that is where you will have to go to do so.

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 – 9 of 12

Chris Lord and Cheatin’ River – Chunkabilly Blues

6 songs – 27 minutes

Six songs in 27 minutes probably makes Chunkabilly Blues an EP rather than a full album but, however it is categorised, Chris Lord and Cheatin’ River have produced a very enjoyable slab of Texas-influenced blues-rock.

Opening with “Spirit of Abilene”, the overwhelming immediate impression is of the influence of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Lord’s lightly-overdriven Strat hits a grinding groove over the shuffling rhythm of bassist Matt Blair and drummer Rick J Bowen. One listen to the lyrics, however, reveals that Chris Lord and Cheatin’ River have a singular wit and intelligence in their songwriting, as Lord engagingly recounts the story of his assignation with a $5 hooker:

“When I left that gal, I was smiling. I felt the world was humming a melody. But about three days later, I realised something was ailing me. I woke up, I was on fire, swimming in sweat and fever raised. The end was upon me. I felt like I pissing gasoline. Then it hit me. How could she be so mean? She knew all along, that dirty little Abilene.”

Our protagonist is possessed of a certain ironic detachment, however, and is not one to wallow in self-pity. By the end of the song, having been sorted out by a doctor, he
recognizes he has been living the life of sinner and has learned his lesson: “well, she picked me, my five dollar queen, I’ll always remember the spirit of Abilene.”

Subtle and amusing lyrical twists abound. In “She’s Moved On”, the song’s narrator comes home after a 12-hour shift only to find his wife making out with one of his friends, and then running off with him. The rest of the song is one long tale of delightful revenge: “Well, I found her dealer, on 38 and Vine, selling bags of heroin, one dime at a time. I told Rodriguez, ‘Man, she’s DEA’. That man is mean. Off the scene. Betrayed.” But he isn’t finished there. “So I told her mama, exactly what she’d said, ‘bout how she’s tired of waiting for that old lady to pass away.” He then adds the killer line: “That one hurt me, mostly ‘cause it’s true.”

Eventually, he confesses all to a preacher, who says he’ll pray for him, “because I shot ‘em down in Reno/just the way I planned,” which leads into the final chorus, which now has a new, alternative meaning: “She’s moved on/she’s taken off/with another man.”

While the clever lyrics separate the songs on Chunkabilly Blues from those of many other bands, that is not to diminish the music or the playing. The songs are well-structured and varied, featuring Bo Diddly-esque beats (“I’m Gone”), upbeat Chuck Berry “Memphis”-style rhythms (“She’s Moved On”) and Texas grooves (“She’ll Be Coming (With A Head Of Steam)”).

Lord is a consummate guitar player, turning in a particularly impressive wah-wah solo in “My Demise” and sings with a sly, amused tone that recalls Hank Williams III’s bluesier moments. The rhythm section of Blair and Bowen is rock solid.

Recorded live off the floor at Butters Sound Rec-Room Studios, the sound is full and warm and the performances are energetic.

Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and if you’re a fan of modern guitar-driven blues-rock with hints of honky tonk and country, well-written songs with intelligent lyrics, you should check out Chunkabilly Blues.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 12

Craig Brenner – Live at the Old Mint

Self Release

14 tracks / 53:15

There is just not enough good boogie-woogie music being recorded anymore, and fortunately the drought has ended with Craig Brenner’s first new album since 2009, Live at the Old Mint. He has assembled a collection of blues and boogie-woogie tracks from his live shows that will surely lift your mood!

Craig is one of the best-educated pianists around; after attending college in Florida he moved to the Hoosier State in the mid-1970s to study at the Indiana University School of Music and he never left. Since then, Brenner has studied classical, jazz and boogie-woogie piano with the masters of each genre, and has received multiple grants from the Indiana Arts Commission. He is serious about his craft, and it shows in his performance.

This certainly is a live album, but this is not just a recording of one show at the Old US Mint in New Orleans (and it really is an old mint, in case you were wondering). This CD is actually a collection of 14 songs culled from 5 different performances spanning seven years. Included are 10 songs from two shows at Old US Mint, three more from two shows from Artsgarden in Indianapolis, and a track from a radio show that he and his wife did in 2013. This set avoids being a hodgepodge thanks to the wonderful job of mixing and mastering done by Jacob Belser of Primary Sound Studios in Bloomington, Indiana – for the most part there is a very consistent sound, feel and flow to the music.

Brenner produced this album himself, and it includes six compositions that he wrote as well as a nice collection of songs that could easily be the final exam for a musician that is seeking a doctorate in blues and boogie-woogie piano. One of these is the first song in the set, “I Stepped in Quicksand” written by the legendary jazz and blues pianist, Charles Brown. Craig takes this one on his own, and there is a fun jazz influence on this one that goes well with his thin, yet pleasant, tenor vocals. The piano sounds clear on this one and there is only a hint of hiss and sibilance, which is to be expected on a live recording of this type.

From there he heads into one of his own compositions, “To Boogie or Not to Boogie,” one of the eight songs on this disc that he recorded with Alfred “Uganda” Roberts on congas. I would never think of combining congas and hard-hitting piano music, but it works on this straight-up boogie-woogie tune, probably because of the talent behind those drums. Roberts is a Crescent City native who turned his percussion work into a career that included performing and recording with heavyweight artists that include Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Snooks Eaglin, Gatemouth Brown, Willie Tee and Dr. John.

The covers are all super-cool! They include gems like “Train Blues”, a faithful rework of Lux Lewis’ “Honky Tonk Train Blues” which has a glorious saloon piano sound. Or Brenner’s version of Pinetop Smith’s 1928 seminal hit “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” his joyous hammering of Professor Longhair’s “Hey Now Baby,” and the familiar sounds of Jimmy Forrest’s “Night Train.” But the standout of these has to be “Mess Around,” a song written by Atlantic Records president and founder Ahmet Ertegun which was one of Ray Charles’ first hits in 1953. The audience really gets into this song and claps along as Craig hoots the vocals and Roberts keep the beat with his congas. This must be something to see live, and of course everyone can commiserate that they don’t want their little girl to mess around.

One of the more fun tunes is Brenner’s original “Crawdad Shuffle” that he performed with his significant other, Lori, at the Indiana University Radio-Television Center in Bloomington in 2013. This instrumental features Mrs. Brenner on a rubboard which is placed far forward in the mix, and Craig almost takes a supporting role to its hypnotic scrapings. The rubboard and congas are not ordinarily leading instruments, and it is fascinating that Brenner can pair up with these percussion instruments and allow them to shine.

The tunes on this CD go by quickly, and before you know it the final track, “Carolina Shout,” will be coming through your speakers (or headphones). Recorded at Artsgarden in 2011, this James P. Johnson song from 1921 has no vocals or accompaniment, just Craig showing incredible timing on what has to be one of the most difficult songs to play correctly. This ragtime song has some jazz influence with a tremendous dynamic range and rhythms that are as tricky as they come. Craig totally nails it, and it is the perfect way to close out the set.

Live at the Old Mint is a good effort from Craig Brenner and a fine showcase of his piano and songwriting skills. If you are not a fan of boogie-woogie, do not let this one scare you off. There is still plenty of blues, ragtime and even jazz to be found on this disc, and you will certainly find something that you like!!

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

Featured Blues Review -11 of 12

Andy T – Nick Nixon Band – Livin’ It Up

Delta Groove Music

13 tracks/53 minutes

I’ve fallen in love with this band. Yeah, some of the faces have changed, but Andy Talamantez is a superb guitar player and Nick Nixon’s vocals just keep grabbing at me and getting my attention. The production by Anson Funderburgh is also exceptional. He has done a fantastic job filling in the holes of the band’s departures and blends in sounds on harp, horns and keys to make an outstanding and joyful noise from track one through thirteen!

“Baby Right Now” kicks things off with a great groove and nice solo by Andy T. The sax work is great (Ron Jones here and mostly throughout) and Larry Van Loon on piano and B3 makes for a great blend. “Best In Town” starts with Christian Dozzler on harp and then progresses methodically and forces you to get into it. “Livin’ It Down” is the antithesis to the album title where Nixon sings how his ex is livin’ it up and he’s livin’ it down. Cool lyrics and delivery with more great sax and piano. In “My Baby Is Now On My Mind” continues the lost love theme and some bluesy lyrics and the band sells it well. Piano and guitar make this cut special; Andy does a great slow solo here. “Good Man” takes it down completely; the slow blues is seminal and right down in the storm sewers. It gets down so far hell would be upstairs. Nixon and Andy T are super here. Then we have “One Note Shuffle” with a fun little groove going and Dana Robbins making her first appearance on sax. Andy T picks out some mean and lean notes and Van Loon is magnificent on his B3. A very cool instrumental!

“Back Down South” pays tribute to the South being the place to live as Nick sings lovingly about it’s benefits. This one also has some good organ, but it’s Nick who sells it with his vocals and then Andy seals the deal with some great finger work on the frets. Jones also has a sweet solo here. “Last To Leave” is a honky-tonk number that they get into. Andy does another great solo; Dozzler switches to piano and Jones plays the sax line while Robbins solos big time on sax. Another lost love song is what we get on “Let’s Say It For Good” as Nick tells his woman it’s not worth trying to come back this time. Piano, B3 and guitar all solo well here. “Snake In the Grass” offers some warnings about the guy who might steal your woman, that snake in the grass. “Whatever You Had You Ain’t Got No More” is soulful and way down tempo. Offering Jones on Sax and Robbins on a solo again means it’s another excellent horn piece. “Oh Baby” offers more of the same and I’ll gladly take it. The band is great and the horns are just such a sweet accompaniment and solo. Andy first offers up a fine guitar solo and then Robbins come in later with an equally good one. They close with “Love At First Sight” where Nick sings touchingly about his woman. The number is subdued but effective. Robbins takes the whole song on her horn and does another great jobs here bantering with Nixon and making this extra special.

This is the blues coming to you via Nashville and Southern California. Nick is based in the soulful blues of Tennessee while Andy T comes from California but moved to Nashville where he hooked up with Nick Nixon and it was a wedding made in heaven. These guys were musically made for each other. Drink, Drank Drunk was a marvelous piece of work last year and this follows right on it’s heels! Another super album by two of the blues world’s hottest new talents. A great sophomore release that needs to find a slot in your CD cabinet!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

 Featured Blues Review -12 of 12

The Mannish Boys – Wrapped Up and Ready

Delta Groove Music, Inc.

16 tracks/74 minutes

The Mannish Boys lineup may change, but it is always one of the most solid bands ever put together and this incarceration is no different. Led by the Sugar Ray Rayford and Randy Chortkoff up front, with Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser as axe men, Willie J. Campbell on bass and Jimi Bott on drums, they are as solid a blues band as one can find anywhere.

And then you add the likes of Candye Kane and Laura Chavez, Kim Wilson, Steve Freund, Kid Ramos, Mike Welch, Fred Kaplan and Bob Corritore (among others) and it becomes a blues extravaganza! Randy Chortkoff has steered this band and his label quite well, and this sixth CD for the ‘Boys remains centered in the blues and delivers a powerful punch. It’s stripped down some, but it works well, and maybe even better!

Candye and Laura excel on Ike Turner’s “I Idolize You.” Chortkoff provides some nice harp punctuation while Fred Kaplan tinkles the piano keys; the guitar work is direct and in keeping with the style of the song. Kane delivers the goods and makes this one of my favorite cuts on the CD.

Freund’s song “The Blues Has Made Me Whole” has him delivering the vocals and lead guitar and it, too, is a fine cut. As he wails, the band fills in nicely in a tight groove. It’s a wild ride!

The title cut features Rayford on vocals, Wilson on harp and backing vocals and Fletcher with a primo guitar solo. Kid Ramos is lead and slips in a fine guitar solo on the swinging “Everything’s Alright.” Rayford is fabulous here and throughout the CD as lead vocalist- he’s authentic, cool and exceptional.

An instrumental with Fletcher on guitar closes the CD; “Blue for Michael Bloomfield” offers up some dirty nasty guitar that makes one remember Bloomfield. Rich Wenzel lingers in the background mist on B-3 and it’s just a beautiful cut! Magic Sam’s “She Belongs to Me” features Ramos again while Rayford sings his heart out. Some superbly nice solos here by the Kid are just wondrously bigger than life. The opening cut “I Ain’t Sayin'” features Monster Mike Welch on guitar and he just rocks out on a tune he wrote. Sugar Ray is exemplary on vocals and it’s a great hook. Welch also wrote and performs on “I Have Love” where his guitar is perhaps more restrained but we instead get Corritore doing a huge harp solo and then the restraints are off for Welch. He follows Bob with a huge guitar solo and also closes out with one. Rayford sings and it’s another winner.

I could wax eloquently for an hour about this, a virtually flawless CD. From top to bottom it delivers high powered performances that grab the listener and tells them to take notice. The Mannish Boys have done 5 outstanding CDs prior to this but the new regime does not rest on past band member laurels.

This is West Coast Blues done as well as any group can deliver. There are 16 tracks of completely outstanding music. No grandstanding, no one trying to outshine the others here; the band members and guests are all working to make fantastic music and support each other in their efforts. I really loved this CD and highly recommend it! Go buy this now- you will not regret it!

Editor’s Note: The Mannish Boys are nominated in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards in the category Blues Band Of The Year

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the 2014 Iowa Solo/Duo Blues Challenge Preliminary Round to be held Sunday July 27 at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State St., Bettendorf, IA. Four Solo/Duo groups will compete starting at 4:00 p.m. The cost of admission is $5 for all persons.

Competitors are ‘Detroit’ Larry Davison & Charlie Hayes, Dan Peart, SaJes, and the Zach and Mike Show. The solo and duo groups will start at 4 PM and perform 20-minute sets. Two of the group will proceed to the final Iowa competition in Des Moines on August 24.

Following the Blues Challenge on July 27th, Texas native Brent Johnson and his band The Call Up will perform at The Muddy Waters starting at 6:00 p.m. Admission to the show in only $5 per person.

Also, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the Holmes Brothers—Saturday, August 16 at the Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street in Bettendorf, Iowa. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. and admission is $15. For more info

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The first ever “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest” sponsored by the Southeast Iowa Blues Society and the Jefferson County Fair Board will be held August 2nd, 2014. The gates open at 4:30pm and music begins at 5:30pm with “The Quay Thomas Trio, then “the Soul Searchers at 7pm and then at 9pm “Ghost Town Blues Band”. In between sets catch “Tony Blew” in the Beverage Arena.

Tickets are just $15 in advance and for all Southeast Iowa Blues Society members and $18 Day of the Show. For more information call 641-919-7477 or

Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, MN

Minnesota Blues Society’s Annual Picnic and Food Drive is Sunday, July 20, 1-6PM at Rosetown American Legion Post 542, 700 W County Road C Roseville, MN 651-483-3535. We are cCollecting canned and dry goods for Keystone Community Services.

This event features Lisa Wenger, Jimi “Primetime” Smith, John Lindberg, Robb Stupka, Dan Schwalbe, Curtis Blake. We will have a pulled pork and turkey sandwich buffet. Bring sides, munchies, and desserts. Bottled water provided. Cash bar, $1.00 beer on patio. No coolers allowed. Chairs, okay. Buffet: 1:30, Music: 2:00pm.

Free for MnBS members, $5.00, Guests RSVP by July 12 @

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

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

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

Thursday, July 31, Terry Quiett Band, Ale House Pub & Eatery, Tuesday, August 12, Laurie Morvan Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, August 19, Polly O’Keary 7 The Rhythm Method, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmens Club, Tues, August 26, 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. Lurrie Bell headlines this year’s event! .

Check us out at or call festival chairman Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for more information!

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. July 28 – Brent Johnson and the Call Up, August 4 – Jeff Jensen, August 11 – Laurie Morvan Band, August 18 – Chris Duarte, August 25 -Lionel Young Band

Additional ICBC shows:  July 31 – James Armstrong Presents Kicked to the Curb @ The Alamo, 6:00 pm, August 3 –  Cee James will be at Long Bridge with special guests, Brooke Thomas acoustic & Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet., August 10 – Dennis Gruenling @ Long Bridge Golf Course 3 pm, August 22 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ with Kicked to the Curb 5:30 pm, Josh Hoyer & Shadow Boxers 7:00 pm, Harper 8:30 pm, Victor Wainright & The Wild Roots 10 pm, August 23 – 8th ICBC Blues Challenge noon, Hard Road Blues Band 5:30 pm, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet 7:00 pm, Brooke Thomas & The Blue Suns 8:30 pm, The Lee Boys & Sacred Steel 10 pm, August 24 – Candye Kane @ The Curve Inn 4:00 pm. Music starts at 2:30 pm with Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Hurricane Ruth @ 6:00 pm

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

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425



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