Issue 8-34 August 21, 2014

Cover photoby Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Tad Robinson. Marilyn Stringer has photos from The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival.

We have 11 reviews for you including reviews of music by Dozzler & Van Merwyk, Jeff Dale, Rev. KM Williams, Michael Harrison Blues, Mark Harrison, Vaneese Thomas, Paul Stott Group, Raoul And The Big Time, Little Mike And The Tornadoes, Alastair Greene and Joe Caro & The Met Band.

We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk

Hey Blues Fans,

Steve Jones is one of our writers and also president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford, IL They are having the 2014 Crossroads Blues Fest this Saturday October 23rd. The fest is held in Lyran Park in Rockford.

The lineup includes Storm Cellar, Dave Weld & The Imperial Blue Flames, Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin; Altar Boys, Westside Andy and Mel Ford with Barrelhouse Chuck and Chicago Blues legend Lurrie Bell. Admission is only $5 in advance and $10 at the gate.

For more info visit or click on their ad below!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser

 Blues Wanderings

I made it out to Blue Monday to catch Blues rocker Chris Duarte at the Alamo in Springfield, IL. Chris but on a great show to a packed house.

He has a new album coning out soon. Looking forward to hearing it! If you like Blues with lots of rocking guitar, be sure to check him out!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 11

Dozzler and van Merwyk – Darkest Night

Groove Stew Records

13 Songs; 52:21 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Acoustic Blues, Piano Blues

When one hears the phrase “German-speaking part of the world,” what words leap immediately into one’s mind? ‘Oktoberfest’? ‘Pretzels’? ‘Beer’? ‘Accordions’? More than likely, ‘traditional acoustic and piano blues’ wouldn’t top one’s free-association list. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Texan Christian Dozzler (born in Vienna, Austria) and Germany’s Michael van Merwyk have set out to change.

Their debut album, Darkest Night, contains more quintessentially U.S. blues than a lot of CD’s from American-born artists. In fact, Merwyk’s band Bluesoul went to Memphis and took home second prize at the 2013 International Blues Challenge – the highest finish ever for a non-American act. In 2008, Dozzler, long pedigreed with Texas bluesmen, was nominated for a Blues Critic Award (USA) as Best Blues Pianist. With such high credentials, how could they fail to impress blues fans worldwide?

Presenting thirteen total songs (seven covers and six originals), they always have good fortune on their side. “Beware!” the back label of the album reads; “Old-school recording, live in the studio. No overdubs.” This disclaimer could either be a warning or a stamp of approval, and for blues purists, it will most likely be the latter. The following three originals highlight Dozzler and van Merwyk’s talents in the keenest way:

Track 02: “I Can’t Sleep” – Insomnia has been fodder for blues tunes ever since the genre was invented. As track two shows, sometimes the reason for a lack of shuteye can be easily discerned: “You couldn’t fool me with your embrace. You’re just the devil with an angel’s face.” Christian Dozzler’s bass piano and van Merwyk’s spicy acoustic guitar are the perfect pair on this up-tempo Chicago-style ditty.

Track 07: “Long Cold Winter” – According to yours truly, this should be the theme song for the polar vortex of 2014: “Long, cold winter and nobody here to keep me warm. Makes me tired of living, make you tired of being alone.” The diagnosis is seasonal depression, but what’s the cure? Perhaps a trip to Florida or Texas: “I’m moving down South, throwing away my winter clothes. You know I don’t mind sweating. I ain’t going to shiver no more.” Citizens nationwide can surely relate.

Track 13: “Darkest Night” – Beautiful and slightly eerie at the same time, this final number is perfect for dancing at the time mentioned in the title. Our narrator is trying to reassure his partner that he won’t leave during times of trouble: “Call my name – I’ll take your hand. Think of me if you need a friend. I’ll be home and sing by your side. I’ll be there in your darkest night.” Rarely has such instrumental simplicity packed so much power.

The only flaw in this release is that several of the songs sound similar – compare selections two and ten. However, for fans who crave their blues ‘straight’ like whiskey, with no rocked-up nonsense, this should brighten their “Darkest Night”!

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 Interview – Tad Robinson

It could have been a lot harder and filled with more trepidation and apprehension than it turned out to be.

Moving from a (smallish) town in Indiana to the (big, big, big) city of Chicago and immediately securing a gig as a working bluesman at Rosa’s Lounge could have been loaded with troubles, misfortunes and lessons learned the hard way for singer/songwriter/harpist and bandleader Tad Robinson. Instead, it all pretty much went off smooth when he made the transition from the Hoosier State to the Windy City back in the early part of the 1980s.

Smooth, maybe, but there were still lessons to be learned, says Robinson.

“Well, the only real hassle was, the Armitage Avenue (where Rosa’s is located) bus stopped running at midnight and I didn’t have a car,” he laughed. “So I would always rely on whoever was still hanging out at the bar at the end of the night – we played until 2 a.m. – for a ride back to the north side. I would always re-invent the wheel every week to find a way home, until I finally did get a car. That helped.”

Some visiting friends of Robinson’s from Indiana found out that even having a car still might not be the golden ticket for a way home from Rosa’s at the end of the evening.

“It wasn’t that great of a neighborhood back then and I invited some of my Indiana friends to hear me play there, and they got their car stolen when they were in the club,” he reminisced. “That was bad, but they did find it a few blocks away a couple of weeks later.”

Transportation issues aside, once Robinson hit the streets of Chicago, he quickly emerged as a force to be reckoned with and seldom ever lacked for a place to play the blues.

“I was working seven gigs steadily within three months of moving there. At that time, it was wide open. As soon as I moved there, I was playing at the Wise Fool’s Pub, Rosa’s Lounge, Legends, Fitzgerald’s, the Hunt Club … it was really just an open scene at that time,” he said. “It was great. Rosa’s had just opened when I moved there. I went in and met Tony Mangiullo (owner) and one night I would come to work and Lurie Bell and his brothers would be my band and another night I would get there and Marvin Jackson – who was playing with Albert Collins at the time – would play with me or Dave Specter or Steve Freund or Ken Saydak. So it was easy to get a band together back then. There were just so many wonderful musicians around and it was a great education.”

Robinson has been putting that ‘great education’ to work ever since, with his wonderfully-expressive harmonica playing and deep, emotionally-charged vocals harkening back to a day and time when substance really did count more than flash. Watching the way that he coaxes a series of tasty runs out of his blues harp on stage, one might be caught a bit off-guard that Robinson doesn’t put ‘harp player’ at the head of his resume.

“No, I‘ve always looked at myself as a singer who blows a little harp on the side; because I know great harp playing. My heroes are people like Big Walter and William Clarke and Kim Wilson and Rick Estrin, Little Walter, James Cotton, Junior Wells, people like that,” he said. “Those are the great instrumentalists, but they’re also great singers, too. I’ve always been an admirer of that type of harp. I’ve worked hard at the harp, but my heart is really with singing. I look at the harp as more of an accent to my singing. Singing has always been my first love.”

Robinson hooked up as lead vocalist with Dave Specter & The Bluebirds before eventually embarking out under his own name and cutting a pair of albums for Delmark Records (1994’s One to Infinity and Last Go Round from 1998). Since 2004, Robinson has called Severn Records home. He’s currently finishing up work on a follow-up to 2010’s Back in Style.

“It’s a real honor to work with Severn. I love the way they do things and the opportunity they have given me. The production team they have there with Kevin Anker on keys, Steve Gomes on bass, Rob Stupka on drums, and this time, we’re working with Johnny Moeller on guitar, has just been a real blessing for me,” he said. “The way I look at it is, I just couldn’t be in better hands. It’s really nice to make records for them, because they’ve given me so much freedom and so much encouragement. You really want to do good for a person that has given you such an opportunity. You want them to feel like their gamble has paid off.”

Since it sprang to life in the Annapolis, Maryland area in 1998, Severn Records has become known for its distinctive sound, mixing plenty of blues with plenty of soul. That satisfying blend can be heard not only in Robinson’s tunes, but also of those from label-mates Lou Pride and Sugar Ray & The Bluetones.

“I think the ‘Severn sound’ is a little cut above what you might hear in the blues market, because they pay a lot of attention to arranging and production, but always in the service of the song,” Robinson said. “If the tune needs something, they’re willing to go the extra yard and bring in players who can really make the song come to life. Every label wants to have a signature, just like every musician wants to have a sound that people can identify with. And whether it’s conscious or not, I think they’ve (Severn) carved out a niche where people maybe see them as the soul side of blues. But in the end, it’s all about the song. Song-craft is really important to them.”

Songwriting is one key element of the way Severn does things. However, it’s just the beginning. After sculpting a tune, the next step is to pair it up with the proper artist.

“David Earl (president of the label) at Severn Records is making records that are kind of old-school. He’s taking time and a lot of care in choosing songs that fit the singers. It’s kind of the way records used to be made back in the soul era, when a group was presented songs by an A&R guy that fit their singer,” he said. “They may hear a song and go, ‘Yeah, that’s good, but it’s really not for Tad. That may be a better song for one of our other artists.’ They take the material and they weigh it as far as which one of their singers will best project the emotion in that particular song.”

Robinson knows that if he shows up at the studio with a handful of his original compositions, he’ll get an honest appraisal of his work from the crew at Severn.

“You bring in tunes and they’re very honest in appraising them. They might say, ‘You know what? We can do better than that.’ And then we might sit down and re-write it, or we might reject it,” he said. “You’re working with people who are your peers and who you trust, but they’re also pushing you a little bit.”

When you take into account the kind of music that caught Robinson’s attention as a youngster, it’s no wonder that he considers the way things are done at Severn as a little slice of Heaven.

“I came up in an era when we had Sam Cooke and Ray Charles and Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett and those guys always got the cream of the material. You know, Bobby Bland was like the blues version of Frank Sinatra or Elvis,” he said. “The songwriters would just line up because they wanted to write for singers of that caliber. So I think Severn is trying to look back to the time when the song was king and find the perfect match between the song and the singer, which is essential.”

Robinson is such a truly talented and versatile musician that it doesn’t matter if you put the ‘soul’ in front of ‘blues,’ or whether you put the ‘blues’ in front of ‘soul’ – the result will be the same. Listen closely enough to Robinson’s music and you’re also likely to hear plenty of R&B and even a bit of funk working its way to the top of the mix.

“Well, I recorded for Delmark back in the day and did some straight-ahead blues harp stuff, but I always incorporated some soul/blues and other stuff into those records, too. So I am comfortable in all those areas,” he said. “That can make finding a group of guys to go out on the road and play those songs kind of challenging sometimes. A lot of musicians are in either one camp or the other. You know, some musicians find out what they do really well and that’s what they concentrate on. But you can find musicians that want to stretch out with you, the kind that love the blues but also dig all the stuff that came out of Stax Records and Hi Records. My show is at the risk of being a little schizophrenic, because I might come out of a harp shuffle and all of a sudden, I’m in a Memphis soul tune. Blurring those edges is kind of the next challenge. Artists like Little Milton and Syl Johnson can play a bar room blues and then turn around and do a soul number. I’ve always admired those types of artists.”

Unlike a number of other artists who started playing the blues as a vocation around the time Robinson began his journey down that path, guitar-based blues/rock was not so much of an influence or inspiration to him as it was to others.

“That might be because back when I moved to Chicago in the 80s, when I heard the blues that was being played by Junior Wells with Sammy Lawhorn, or Louis Myers or Robert Lockwood, they were approaching blues in a totally different way. It was closer to acoustic/chamber music … or closer to jazz,” he said. “It was really of an ensemble nature. When you listen to the seminal post-war recordings of guys like Jimmy Rogers, where you have Otis Spann on piano and Willie Dixon on bass and you have Jimmy and Muddy Waters on guitar, along with Little Walter or Big Walter (Horton), you’re hearing this playing that raised the ensemble-level of playing the blues to such high levels, the weaving of all the instruments. Rock/blues is usually a band that’s backing someone that’s wailing on the guitar.

It’s like this is the guitar player’s world and we (the rest of the band) just live here. Rock/blues became more of a foundation to let the guitar players strut their stuff.”

He may not have been overly smitten with the pyrotechnical world of shredding blues/rock guitarists enough to play the blues in that vein up on the bandstand, but Robinson still appreciates a good ‘ole fiery six-string solo as much as the next guy.

“I do. I love a great guitar solo as much as the next guy. But I didn’t feel like that was the function of my music – to be just a foil for the guitarist,” he said. “I gravitated towards musicians who were good accompanists, whose mission was to play behind singers and who wanted to play songs, rather than to just get to their solo. But I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself; some of my stuff kind of leans towards rock/blues at times. I don’t find rock to be a dirty four-letter word. It’s certainly welcome in the world of the blues, too. It’s where all this different music comes together that I find interesting.”

When scanning down the annual list of nominees for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards (BMAs) – just like clockwork – it’s a safe bet that Robinson’s name will be among those vying for honors in the Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year category. Robinson has garnered seven BMA nominations in the past nine years and that’s something that he doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s really been a huge surprise and an incredible honor to be grouped in there. When I came into the business, just to be recognized by your peers that you’re even a known quantity in the business was all I could have asked for,” he said. “And David Earl and Severn really kind of put me on the map when they put out my record, Did You Ever Wonder. That was really the first time that I got recognized for that nomination. That was awesome. Those things (nominations for awards) never stop meaning something. It just keeps telling you that you’re on the right track and are somehow making records that are moving people. The biggest fear for a musician is putting out a record that no one ever hears.”

At the end of the day, whether one calls it soul/blues, blues/rock, new blues, old-school blues or anything else, the blues is an art form that has been around seemingly since the Stone Age. And it will probably exist long after the next Stone Age comes and goes.

“Blues music is just a survivor. I think the musicians that play the music are survivors … you see them out there and in the hard times you wonder what makes them keep on doing it,” Robinson said. “So I think the musicians I know that play that form of music love the music, they love the message of the music, they love the tradition of the music and they want to preserve it. But they also want to extend it and put their own brand out there. To say that blues music has legs would be such a joke. I mean, it’s been an influence on all the music that has formed America’s roots traditions. All these rich traditions and forms of music that we have all came out of the blues, so it keeps being a well that musicians of all stripes keep coming back to. It’s here to stay.”

Photos by Bob ieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 11

Jeff Dale And The South Woodlawners – Good Music

Pro Sho Bidness

12 songs – 40 minutes

Some blues players have back stories could have come straight from Central Casting. Jeff Dale is one of them. He was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and was taught how to play blues guitar by two itinerant blues musicians from the west side when he was 13 years old. He wrote his first blues song at 14 and as a musician he has backed up greats such as Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton and Etta James, amongst others. He released two albums of original songs in the 1980s, then promptly disappeared.

Thankfully, he resurfaced 20 years later with a new band, the South Woodlawners, and released Blues From The Southside Of My Soul. This was followed in 2011 by the release of Blues Room and now Good Music.

The album title comes from someone asking Dale to describe the blues he writes and plays. The only response he could come up with was Louis Armstrong’s famous observation in an interview with Edward R Murrow: “There’s only two kinds of music: good and bad. I play the good kind.” And it’s a pretty accurate summation of the music on this release, which contains a fine cross-section of generally upbeat modern electric blues tracks.

Dale sings and plays guitar. He also wrote all 12 songs himself as well as producing the album, which was recorded in Chicago and Los Angeles. He has some top drawer talent backing him, including Mark Mack and Tim Austin on drums, Derek Phillips on keys, Jeff Stone, Glen Doll and Chef Denis Depoitre on harmonica, Orlando Wright, Andrew “Big Perm” McCottry and Andre Howard on bass, Charlie Love on guitar and Jim Jedeiken on sax. He is also not afraid to use instruments not commonly heard on modern electric blues records. Dane Little adds melancholy cello to the sombre “Final Destination”, perfectly complementing Dale as he sings: “I didn’t know how much this ticket would really cost me. She made me an offer that I could not refuse. When the train got to that bridge, it crossed me and I knew my final destination was the blues”.

And on “Murder”, a mid-paced shuffle, Dale adds a clever twist to his lyrics: “It’s murder the way she kisses me, murder how she hold me tight. If I wake up dead in the morning, it’s ‘cause she been murdering me all night”. The solo is taken by Marilyn Schram’s oboe, however, which adds a haunting undertone to the track.

Dale’s lyrics often display a healthy level of
humor. On “She Love Me” (perhaps the first blues song about texting?), he laments that “My baby sent me a text, she had no clothes on. At first I was so excited, but then I saw she wasn’t home.” The self-explanatory “My Brain Took The Whole Night Off” and “Naked Woman In My Bed” recount hilarious mis-adventures with the opposite sex. He is equally at home with serious social issues, however, such as the funky “Letter From The Birmingham Jail”, which acknowledges the debt we all owe to Martin Luther King Jr.

Good Music does what it says on the tin. This is modern, upbeat electric blues, with a large dose of rock together with some funk. Worth checking out.

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 Live Blues Review – Winthrop Rhythm & Blues

The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival takes place in the town of Winthrop, WA, in the beautiful Methow Valley. Winthrop is a very small town seated in the Cascade Mountains and the drive there, from the two ways into town on highway 20, is breathtaking. It’s either the North Cascade Highway 20 – a national scenic byway that passes through the North Cascade National Park, or up from the south along highway 153 or highway 20, which is equally beautiful. Most of the attendees arrive in self-contained campers or tents and the majority of the festival is just that, camping on site at the “Blues Ranch”. It is a small “city” with generators, hot showers, lots of food vendors, a beer tent all weekend, and at night there are all-star jams. No need to go anywhere else, although the cute town of Winthrop is just a mile down the road and does have hotels. With that in mind, the area experienced the biggest set of fires in Eastern Washington’s history, just south of Winthrop. They broke out as the campers were arriving, the festival was being setup, and all plans were already in motion after a full year of planning. One hour before we arrived in Winthrop on Thursday afternoon, the power went out in the entire valley, and stayed out. Generators were donated from volunteers at the festival. The organizers, Erika Olson and Peter Dammann, were in constant communication with the city and fire officials, and at no time were the attendees in danger. As it turned out, the festival became the only place in the valley where there was any food, power, and showers. The festival opened the gates to all locals who needed those facilities and over one hundred people came there, grateful for a place to go. Throughout the weekend, the winds kept the smoke traveling away from the festival, but the hills continued to burn. And the roads were closed from the south, so anyone coming from eastern Washington was unable to come. The attendance was way down but the people who were there had a good time and all the performers were able to make it from Seattle, where there were no road closures, except Carolyn Wonderland.

Friday night was the opening evening at the beer tent. The proceeds from the evening all go to the Twisp (town nearby) Food Bank, so, in light of the disaster occurring, additional donations were collected during each set for the fire victims. People gave generously, raising $5000, just that evening. Performer Charlie Musselwhite donated $1000 of his own performance fee for the cause. The three sets that night were The Soul of John Black, Doctorfunk, and Too Slim and The Taildraggers. Each of them performed again during the weekend. Homemade Jamz Band led off the jam that night.

On Saturday morning, not knowing from one hour to the next the status of the fires on the hills behind us, the festival began with those who chose to stay. David Vest started out the morning with his great one-man piano show.

Doctorfunk was up next with a rousing soul and blues show. They have been arou
nd the Seattle area since 1995 and echo the full horn sounds of Tower of Power. The band includes: Steve Bolanos (vocals), Jack Halsey and Greg Lyons (trumpet), Alexey Nikolaev and Bob Bradley (Tenor Sax), Scott Dart (Bari Sax), Leonard Berman (Guitar, Vocals), Jim Cliff (Bass, Vocals), Eric Popowicz (Organ, Keys), and Bryon Atterbury ( Drums).


Next up was The Soul of John Black, aka “JB”. He was new to this festival and put on a great show the night before at the beer tent, and his set Saturday was equally great. He was joined by Polly Keary on bass. Polly is pretty familiar to this festival as she played with Too Slim (Tim Langford) for many years, and last year with Randy Oxford Band. The combination of the two, with JB’s original soulful blues, and Polly’s energetic bass, it was a “perfect storm” of blues and funk. Another special treat in both sets was Jim Pugh, who played keyboards with Robert Cray for 30 years. Jim added his masterful playing to many sets throughout the weekend. On drums was Kennith “Memphis” Shepherd.

Who doesn’t love Roy Rogers? Lightning slide and double necked guitar playing at its best!! What else is there to say? It is always a great trio with Steve Ehrmann on bass and Kevin Hayes on drums.

As the day progressed, so did the fires. Everyone’s sights were always on the hills behind us but we all know music is the best medicine to help the worries subside. Shemekia Copeland’s band was just the cure. That girl can belt out the Chicago blues like nobody today. Her band included: Arthur Neilson and Ken Scandylin (guitars), Kevin Jenkins (bass), and Robin Gould (drums).


Next up was the ever so talented, kind, and generous, Charlie Musselwhite. His strong commitment (and Henri, his wife) to be there, no matter that there was no power in town or at their hotel, and to help the cause was so encouraging and helpful to Erika Olson, who had so much to deal with during the stress of the fires and the festival. And, as always, his set was flawless. His band included: Matt Stubbs (guitar), June Core (drums), and Steve Froberg (bass).

The final act for the night was The Royal Southern Brotherhood. From the minute they hit the stage to the last note of the encore, the party was in full swing. And they brought up everyone they could to join them on stage. It was just flat out exciting!! The RSB includes Devon Allman and Mike Zito (guitar), Cyril Neville (percussion), Charlie Wooton (bass), and Yonrico Scott (drums). Guests were Jim Pugh, Charlie Musselwhite, Shemekia Copeland, and Tim Langford (aka Too Slim). What a night!



For those who weren’t up all night with the jam at the beer tent, the day started once again with the always wonderful David Vest. And the fires seemed to be moving south on the hills.

Next up was The Homemade Jamz Blues Band. The Perry siblings – Ryan (guitar), Kyle (bass), and Taya (drums) were first timers at this festival, and for many of the crowd. They were a huge hit at the festival with their custom made muffler instruments and their good solid Mississippi blues.

Next up was Chris O’Leary. Last year he barely made it to the festival due to appendicitis, so this year he brought it on full force. Another great set with his band: Dave Gross (guitar), Matt Raymond (bass), Andy Stahl (tenor sax), Chris “Fez” DiFrancesco (Bari Sax), and Jason Devlin (drums).


Right before the Holmes brothers came up, the wind shifted and the festival filled with smoke for the first time – although there was still no danger. The crowds had been slowly thinning throughout the day, but the band played on. Although Wendell was having some issues with the smoke, he just sat down at the keyboards and played away. It was the Holmes Brothers at their finest. The band is Wendell Holmes (guitar/piano), Popsy Dixon (drums), and Sherman Holmes (bass).


All it takes is some zydeco and the crowd didn’t care how thick the air was, it was time to dance!! Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble brought everyone to their feet and the party continued. Curley’s band includes: Olivier Scoazec (guitar), Oreun Joubert (drums), Chris Jefferson (bass), and Ryan Arceneaux (rubboard).

And, in the tradition of the festival, Too Slim and The Taildraggers closed out the festival, for his 27th year – he is a loved “fixture” at Winthrop. His band includes Eric “Stretch” Hanson on bass and Shakey Fowles on drums.

As a follow-up, on Monday, all the food and beverages that were left were taken to the Red Cross, about ½ mile down the road. The festival donated $5193 to the Cove Food Bank. The generators onsite were redeployed to Twisp to help businesses get back up and running. The festival lost money, due to the lack of attendance, and will be digging deep into their reserves to recover but so many friends and families of the organizers lost everything in the fires. They are having a “Blues For The Burn” benefit for the victims of the Carlton Complex fires on August 29th at The Red Barn in Winthrop.

To the organizers, board of directors, volunteers, and the fire officials who worked so hard to keep everyone safe, and still keep the festival going, we all say thanks. It is hard to imagine what everyone in the valley was going through, but it is also somewhat of a blessing that the Blues Ranch was there, as there was no power or facilities anywhere in the entire area, and the blues community, as they do, provided a safe place for all who had nowhere else to go and as one person who came said, the music helped him take his mind off the fact that he lost everything. And thanks to the performers, who, knowing they were going into an environment with no power, showed up like the professionals they are. Finally, a huge round of applause goes to Erika Olson for her “over the top” management of a very difficult, hour to hour, situation. She made it all happen!! Winthrop is still one of the finest festivals in the country. Put it on your calendar for next year!

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2014

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 11

Rev. KM Williams – Jukin’ in the Holy Land: Live in Israel

Nobody’s Fault Productions

CD: 11 Songs; 58:45 Minutes

Styles: Hill Country Blues, Drone/Trance Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues

In this reviewer’s opinion, the musical niche known as “hill country blues,” “drone blues,” and/or “trance blues” is like free verse poetry. It doesn’t have a firmly-established rhyme or rhythm, yet any motifs that are repeated lull the mind. The purpose of such blues, and such poetry, is to create a mood and hypnotize an audience rather than make them think. Once their higher-order processes of analysis and logic are bypassed, listeners can ‘zone out’ and party more easily. That’s Texas’ Rev. KM Williams’ goal as he’s “Jukin’ in the Holy Land: Live in Israel.”

It features Williams on guitar, vocals, and ‘Lowebow’. With him are Yonatan Bar Rashi on drums and washboard, harmonica player Dani Dorchin, and John Lowe as “Inventor of the Lowebow”. All eleven songs on this album are originals, each providing their own unique take on the blues. Apparently it’s quite popular in Israel, as shown by native musicians such as the Ori Naftaly Band. In fact, the ONB heard the Reverend and learned one of his songs, “Survive.” One thing’s for sure: KM pleased a cheering throng with his hill-country creations. Three of them are highlighted below:

Track 01: “Something On Your Mind” – This opener is a prime example of the free-verse quality of drone/trance blues. KM’s growling electric guitar rhythm is hard to pin down, although it’s repeated throughout the song. As for Yonatan Bar Rashi’s drums, are they played ‘in time’ or out of it? The truth is that there’s hardly a common time signature with which to compare them. Lastly, Williams sings his lyrics in staccato bursts, like those from a static-filled radio station. Each phrase sounds like a separate statement: “If I hurt you. I did not mean it so. Baby. I don’t want you to go.” It’s a nearly-off-the cuff introduction to the Reverend’s signature style of music.

Track 03: “Goin’ On Down the Tracks” – Williams plays a mean acoustic guitar on song three, which is more measured and less improvisational than number one. Its message is simple: “Tried to love you; you wouldn’t love me back. Well, I believe I’m going to have to go on down the tracks.” As expected, there’s a pronounced ‘chugga-chugga’ rhythm for emphasis.

Track 05: “One Suitcase Blues” – This jaunty ditty is the best one on “Live in Israel,” again featuring brilliant acoustic fretwork. The audience softly claps along as our narrator wonders if a single receptacle will hold his belongings. According to its Introduction (track four), “One Suitcase Blues” is inspired by a Blind Lemon Jefferson tune called “Matchbox Blues.”

This subgenre might be particularly suited to live performances, if a crowd’s main objective is to ‘free their mind,’ stomp, and let the good times roll. For diehard fans of hill country blues, “Jukin’ in the Holy Land” is grand!

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 11

Michael Harrison Blues – Fortune Favors The Brave

Self-Release 2014

10 tracks; 49 minutes

Michael Harrison wrote all the material on this album, his fifth release. Recorded in Denver by Ron Jolly who plays keys, Michael handles all vocals and guitar with Ron Bland on bass and Mike Marlier on drums. Bob Rebholz adds sax to most tracks.

The material is generally in the melodic rock-blues category. Michael’s singing is not his strongest suit so he turns to the quality of the material and the playing, both of which are OK. A song like “Gonna Love You All Up” has plenty going for it, a catchy chorus, excellent piano and some very pleasant guitar, whereas the aggressive wah-wah on opener “I Love Lookin’ At The Stars” is distracting.

The title track is bluesier with Ron J on both organ and piano and an insistent rhythm. “World spinning so fast, out of control, time’s runnin’ out to find peace for your soul” sings Michael, immediately followed by an excellent sax solo and more distracting wah-wah on the outro. The “Long Legged Woman” of the next cut is, in fact, an internet connection who Michael has never actually met; another strong contribution from Bob’s sax here.

“Tribute To The Band” opens with guitar more Santana than Robbie Robertson and as Michael sings of the “cool cats playing downtown” it becomes clear that the song relates to the band with which Michael plays in Denver! “Dust To Stone” relates to the fate of the North American Indians, a good song, well played.

“Can’t Stop Thinking Of You” is a straightforward love song embellished by Ron J’s piano and a fine bass solo from Ron B before Bob’s tenor adds a short solo. “In The Right Circles” is another strong song, dealing with the corporate ladder to success; “In the right circles success is your due; take care of the corporation, they’ll take care of you”. Using a rhythm axed round Michael’s insistent riff and Ron’s piano, Michael double tracks his best solo of the album.

The longest cut here is “All Tore Down”, a song of lost love which has a nice jazzy feel, with solo spots for everyone, starting with some jazzy sax and late night piano and a plucked bass solo in the middle section. Michael closes the album with the acoustic “You Hold My Heart In Your Hands”, wearing his heart on his sleeve.

There are some fine original songs here, well played by the band. Michael doesn’t have the strongest vocal to deliver those songs but all credit to him for his efforts.

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 – 5 of 11

Mark Harrison – The World Outside

Self release

12 songs – 45 minutes

Mark Harrison is a London-based acoustic guitar player/singer/songwriter and this is his third album. It is also a little gem of a release, combining early acoustic blues and folk influences with a very modern lyrical perspective and a contagious energy and good humour to create something new and highly enjoyable.

Harrison wrote all 12 songs himself and, like the music itself, his intelligent lyrics draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources, primarily from the recent American past, but often finding a connection with the modern world. “Big Mary’s House” is an ode to a Mississippi Delta juke joint from the 1920s, while “Hard Times Now” reflects on the fact that the great Honeyboy Edwards survived the brutality of a segregated Mississippi as a young man, only to be horrified by the casual street violence of the Chicago he lived in as an old man.

“Your Second Line” refers to the group of people at a full New Orleans funeral who march and play and parade a coffin. In a plea for people to consider their actions and their impact on the lives of others, he asks “When it comes to your time, who’s gonna be in your second line?”

In “In The Neighbourhood”, Harrison cleverly connects the charlatan medicine shows that travelled the southern States in the early twentieth century with the bankers and frauds who have blighted so many lives in the US and the UK in particular over recent years. He sings: “The whole place is rotten, but nobody lifts a hand. You could buy their souls if they had them, for a lousy couple of grand. And people keep on talking about how much things have changed. Well, the faces might be different but the picture’s still the same.”

“Where Ignorance Is Bliss” combines both sharp humour and wry observation as he notes: “Everything I know about women could be written on a rat’s ass. Everything I thought was gonna happen, it never did come to pass. You can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble just from one little kiss. But everything is all right, where ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes it really is folly to be wise.

Harrison plays a variety of acoustic guitars on the album, and he receives excellent support from his regular band featuring Charles Benfield (on bass, harmonium, nylon-string guitar and harmony vocals), Will Greener (harmonica and harmony vocals), Josienne Clarke (lead and harmony vocals, tenor sax, flute and piano), Ben Walker (mandolin and lead electric guitar), Ed Hopwood (drums, percussion and harmony vocals), Guy Bennett (Hammond C3 organ and harmony vocals) and Sonny (bass vocals).

The CD is beautifully produced, from the high quality recording (by Benfield) to the superb packaging with a full lyric booklet.

On his website, Mark Harrison writes: “The music is rooted in the blues, but it’s not stuck in the past. I’m tapping into the timeless quality of the early blues to produce music totally relevant to the present day.” That’s a pretty fair summary.

The World Outside is a very enjoyable album of modern acoustic folk-blues. If you like acoustic masters such as Eric Bibb, you will love Mark Harrison.

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 – 6 of 11

Vaneese Thomas – Blues For My Father

Segue Records

12 songs – 56 minutes

Some families just get more than their fair share of musical talent. Vaneese Thomas is the daughter of the legendary Rufus Thomas. Her older siblings are the “Memphis Queen”, Carla Thomas, and the noted keyboard player, Marvell Thomas. Thomas herself has worked with a wide array of artists as a singer, songwriter, producer, and actor. She has sung with Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Eric Clapton, amongst many others.

Geffen Records released Thomas’ first major recording in 1987, which included the top ten R&B B hit “Let’s Talk it Over.” Blues For My Father is her fifth solo release, and features a superb mix of modern blues and R&B.

The album opens with “Southern Central Blues” a mid-paced, loping blues shuffle with fine guitar and piano contributions from Tash Neal and Robbie Kondor respectively that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The track ebbs and flows but never lets up in intensity, while Thomas’ voice is an absolute gem. Capable of going from a whisper to a gale, it always carries with it an emotional maturity that adds depth and commitment to each song.

“Southern Central Blues” is followed by the Stax-like R&B of “10 X The Man You Are”. The chorus contains the classic putdown: “He’s one, two, three, all that’s good to me. He’s four, five, six, a man who don’t play no tricks. He’s seven, eight, nine, more than I thought I’d find. He’s 10 x the man you are….”

Thomas is backed by a surprising number of top drawer musicians on Blues For My Father, including Buddy Williams, Shawn Pelton, Joe Bonadio and Perry Gartner (on drums); the bassists Will Lee, Paul Adamy, Steve Spear, Ray Sanders and Ernest Poccia; Robbie Kondor (organ, harmonica) and Jon Cobert (piano); Tash Neal, Jeff Mironov, Al Orlo, Donnie Baer, Bruce McDaniel, Wayne Warnecke, Nick Moroch and Rob Mathes (guitar); Marvell Thomas, Paul Schaffer, Ricky Peterson, Shelton Becton and Darryl Clayton (organ); Bill Harris, Jim Spake and Kirk Whalum (saxophone); Tim Ouimette and Kenneth Jackson (trumpet); Berneta Miles, Carla Thomas, Marvell Thomas, Angela Clemmons, Alan Gorrie, Sharon Bryant and Dennis Collins (background vocals). Despite this disparate multitude of talent, however, the album retains a high level of consistency in both sound and style.

The album features 10 original tracks written by Thomas and two covers. One of the covers is her father’s “Can’t Ever Let You Go” on which, due to the wonders of modern technology, Thomas is able to duet with her late dad. However, what could have come across as schmaltzy actually sounds believable and substantial. It also features a superb guitar solo from Donnie Baer. Keeping the family connection alive, Thomas also duets with her sister, Carla, on the R&B ‘Wrong Turn’.

The second cover is John Fogerty’s 1985 MTV hit, ‘Old Man Down the Road’, which is re-imagined in a swampier, bluesier style, with slide guitar and electric piano. It’s a great choice of cover and Thomas and her band carry it off superbly.

Some songs feature a full band with horns. By contrast, the final track, “Blue Ridge Blues”, has Thomas accompanied only by guitarist Rob Mathes. His acoustic slide guitar is masterful and meshes beautifully with Thomas’ powerfully tender voice as she sings: “’Please come back’ still echoes, echoes through these hills. Baby, come back. Haven’t I paid my dues? I’m sorry, oh my darling, that I was untrue, can’t you come back and take away these blues.”

Blues For My Father is dedicated to the late Rufus Thomas and he would no doubt be proud of his daughter’s efforts. This is a seriously good album, with great blues and R&B songs, fine playing and superb singing. Well worth checking out.

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 – 7 of 11

Paul Stott Group – Things Stay The Same

Self Release

10 songs time – 48:10

This Orlando, Florida based band provide pretty standard bar-band blues with a southern rock influence. They are a four-piece with vocals-harmonica, guitar, bass and drums. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but the harmonica player and guitarist have their moments. The guitar solos are of the blues-rock variety. They offer a mix of covers and originals.

The album was recorded live at The Alley Blues Bar in Sanford Florida but you hear virtually no audience noise or applause. It just wasn’t recorded. The band occasionally talks to an audience that doesn’t respond. The band is competent and the instruments are clearly separated…more so than I’ve ever heard.

Richard Plates’ throaty voice sounds a bit worn out on the title tune, but moves to a rough sound that fits the songs. “I Can Tell” brings to mind the southern-rock-blues of Wet Willie. A cover of Muddy Waters’ “I’m Ready” features some skilled blues-rock guitar soloing.

Their version of “Pawn Shop” is commendable. Their cover of The Staples Singers “I’ll Take You There” sounds like a song that would excite the audience, if we could only hear them. Gary Martin provides a tasty bass solo and all the guys offer up solos. The original “Blow Wind Blow” is a good blues song.

The standout track, and apparently the only studio track, “Jax N Kax” is an instrumental featuring guitar with an interesting tone. Two guitar parts are featured. It’s just too bad that they saved something imaginative sounding until the end.

Their is nothing bad in the playing in this recording, just nothing that we haven’t heard thousands of times. As witnessed in the closing track, these guys are capable of producing more unusual and compelling music. Hopefully the band will progress musically and production wise.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 11

Raoul And The Big Time – Hollywood Boulevard

Self Release – 2014


12 tracks; 46 minutes

Raoul Bhaneja is both actor and musician, spending time in California when acting and leading his band The Big Time back home in Canada. The band has been around for some years and consists of Darren Gallen on guitar, Terry Wilkins on bass, and Tom Bona on drums, Raoul singing and playing harp. However, although the album is credited to the band that ensemble only appears on four tracks, the remaining tracks feature Raoul with two different sets of West Coast stalwarts: Rick Holmstrom, guitar, Jeff Turmes, bass, Stephen Hodges, drums and Danny Gerrard, backing vocals appear on three cuts; Junior Watson, guitar, Larry Taylor, bass, Richard Innes, drums and Fred Kaplan, piano appear on five. Various special guests also sit in, including Curtis Salgado, Johnny Sansone, Rusty Zinn and Franck Goldwasser.

Raoul wrote eight of the tracks here, has an OK voice and is a good harp player. The four tracks with The Big Time take in three of the four covers. On Allan Toussaint’s “Get Out Of My Life Woman” Rusty Zinn adds some nice guitar flourishes and a horn section of Pat Carey and Alison Young on sax and Jake Wilkinson on trumpet pushes the song along well. Tyler Yarema adds piano and Mark Mariash is at the drum stool instead of Tom Bona.

The horn section is also present on “Someday”, a song recorded most famously by Bobby Bland, with Franck Goldwasser trilling on guitar. The cover works well but Raoul’s voice is not quite strong enough for the song. Album closer “In The Shadow Of The Pine” is a traditional bluegrass song done in acoustic style with Johnny Sansone’s accordion and John Showman’s violin supported just by Terry Wilkins’ upright bass and Raoul’s acoustic guitar. The song is very different to the rest of the album but works well. “Curtis Charm” is an original instrumental which provides the opportunity for Raoul to duel harps with Curtis Salgado on a slow blues on which Tyler Yarema’s piano is also excellent.

The tracks with the Rick Holmstrom group include (perhaps not surprisingly, given their present employment as avis Staples’ backing band) a Staples Singers classic in “Why Am I Treated So Bad?” Raoul gives us a little history lesson about the song at the beginning as the band creates a really swampy feel, especially in Rick’s reverb-drenched guitar.

The instrumental “Amphetamine” is a definite highlight with Rick and Raoul going head to head from the off, a really catchy piece. Opening track “Nothin’ Gonna Take Me Down” is autobiographical as Raoul recounts his father’s early experiences as an immigrant and how he went from “having a dollar in his hand” to making a good living for his family – but Raoul will not be distracted from his own chosen path. The track also suits Raoul’s voice well and he produces one of his most convincing vocals on this cut.

Junior Watson’s plucked style on guitar is immediately recognisable and nowhere is that better demonstrated than on “High Roller”, a cautionary tale of a guy whose life is heading down the drain. Title track “Hollywood Boulevard” finds Raoul in fine form on harp and some laid-back piano from Fred Kaplan. The jump instrumental “Left Coast Fred” is just terrific with a bouncing rhythm section, twinkling piano from Fred, Junior’s dextrous runs on guitar and Raoul’s harp work.

“Tired” is the longest track here, a slow blues with chromatic harp from Raoul set against Junior’s percolating picking and Fred’s languid hands at the keyboard. The final track from this ensemble is “Spoken For”, another jump tune which bounces along superbly, the bass really driving it along as Junior and Fred embellish the tune.

The best cuts on this album are certainly the instrumentals but the musicianship throughout is excellent. This is a fun album to hear and is worth investigating.

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 – 9 of 11

Alastair Greene Band – Trouble at Your Door

Eclecto Groove Records

12 tracks/48 minutes

The marriage of blues and rock began decades ago and it renews it’s vows with a vengeance in this high energy set of original tunes from Alastair Greene and his band. Greene has been at this since 1997 and this is his fifth studio release since 2002 and he has also released a live album.

The band has changed a bit here and there and is now comprised of Jim Rankin on bass and Austin Beede on drums along with Greene on guitar and vocals. This is a powerful trio of musicians that pack a lot of punch in their music! Greene has toured with Alan Parsons as his guitar player and appeared on his 2004 album. He is the real deal and this CD proves it even more!

The trio blasts off with “People” and never looks back. A big slide guitar intro and lead along with Greene’s strident vocals grab the listener and gets them ready for a fun ride. Stellar guitar work! Except for the slide, more of the same follows in the title cut as the band gets into a groove and Green lays out some hot licks. “Back Where I Belong” offers more stinging-ly stellar guitar work. Greene breaks out the National Steel Guitar for “Red Wine Woman” and delivers a great solo performance of very traditional blues. Erik Norlander appears on Hammond organ “Back Where I Belong” and “Calling for You.” The former is a rock anthem sort of cut while the latter is a thoughtful, introspective, semi-psychedelic and very down tempo piece. They are a nice contrast and Norlander’s keys add a nice dimension.

“Love You So Bad” is a driving, high energy danceable tune with distorted vocals and another big, ringing guitar performance. On “Make the Devil’s Day” Greene builds from the verses through the choruses to another huge guitar solo.

“Strange Feeling” is another throwback to blues rock of the 70’s in it’s sound. Green once again lays it all all on his solo. “Pretty Price to Pay” is similar in nature and gets the blood circulating. He concludes with another “blues rock anthem” with heavy guitar; “The Sweetest Honey” is cruises perhaps into the sound of early southern rock (Marshall Tucker perhaps) and closes out a fine set of tunes.

Often I find albums heavy into the guitar to start to get boring; that was not the case here. Greene approaches his music and wields his axe strongly but with sufficient variety and mixed with his well-articulated and clean vocals. It was a lot of guitar but it was well done and something I could listen to repeatedly and enjoy without getting tired of. GO buy this and take this one on an end of summer car trip and get you motor running with Alistair Greene and his band- you won’t regret it!

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 – 10 of 11

Joe Caro and the Met Band – Live in New York City

Innsbruck Records

10 tracks / 78:27

Even if you have never heard of Joe Caro, if you are a fan of most any genre of music there is a good chance that you have listened to his work before. He is one of New York City’s most in-demand session and touring guitarists, and he took up the instrument when he was eight after seeing the Beatles on TV. He is well versed in blues and jazz, but he has worked with huge pop and rock artists, with credits that include Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Eagles, Stanley Clarke, Bobby McFerrin, Bon Jovi and Clint Black.

But Caro is also an inspirational bandleader, having formed BFD with Late Night’s Will Lee and drummer Steve Ferrone and subsequently tearing up the New York club scene. This group made a name for itself by featuring storied guest artists such as Pat Metheny, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and the Brecker brothers. And more recently he fronted the Met Band who gigged every Tuesday at the Metropolitan Café over a period of eight years.

Joe Caro and the Met Band’s new release, Live in New York City, was recorded at Drom, which is the epicenter of music in the East Village. His line-up for this show was truly an all-star list of players that included Randy Brecker and Lew Soloff on trumpet, Anton Fig on drums, Blue Lou Marini on the sax, Clifford Carter behind the keyboards and Conrad Korsch on bass. Of course Caro played the guitar and handled the vocals, but he was also the co-producer of this project, along with Roman Klun who took on the recording, mixing and mastering chores.

This album has a wonderful blend of modern blues that makes for a pleasurable listening experience, and it is a joy to hear professional musicians who are at the top of their game. The often-covered “Labor of Love” by Tim Kaihatsu kicks off the set and these guys nail it. Joe’s voice is clear and strong, but this cut is not about the lyrics as each member gets the opportunity to show their chops. After hearing all of the solos it is apparent that this is a very well recorded show as the level is even for the voice and each instrument, and the overall sound is as clear as a bell. Klun did a fabulous job here!

Next up is a killer Denise LaSalle song from 1975, “Someone Else is Stepping In.” It is awesome that 40 years later her lyrics are so convincing that it is easy to picture her new way of wearing his hair now that she is a brand-new woman. Korsch holds down a fat bass foundation on this 10+ minute track with some help from Carter on the organ and Letterman’s Anton Fig on the drums. This one is considerably more complicated than the usual 12-bar blues, and as things move on the listener is treated to an extended guitar solo from Caro as well a trumpet battle between Brecker and Soloff.

Caro penned five of the songs that the band played on this evening, and the first of these is “In the Name of God,” which holds up examples of the excuses that people make for the terrible things they do. This blues song has pop undertones, but also a heavy dose of jazz and the horn section is up to the complicated arrangements. This is followed up by another original: “Upper East Side Blues,” a song of modern worries that hits too close to home in these troubled times. It has a cool layout, as it is a fairly traditional five-minute slow blues song with a six-minute rumba/fusion instrumental interlude in the middle.

An unexpected entry on the set list is a beautiful instrumental version of Lennon and McCartney’s “Strawberry Fields” from the Beatle’s 1967 Magical Mystery Tour album. Caro takes the melody with his guitar, and uses effects to create different textures and feels. Though this is rock, Carter’s piano work lends it a jazz feel, and it all comes together well here. This ends up being the best cover tune of the bunch, which is a tough call because there are also fine versions of Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann” (complete with a sexy Latin beat and a lurid back story) and Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son.”

One of the standout tracks on Live in New York City is another original, “Love Don’t Bother Me,” a funky rocker which is pretty much a drum solo with a song happening on top of it. The band stays tight throughout despite huge swings in tempo and dynamics, making this an exciting listening experience. But it is not fair to call out a favorite, because there is not a bad song on this disc.

After the final song ends (appropriately titled “Going Home”) it seems like a shame that 78 minutes have already passed and there is nothing else coming. It is undeniable that Live in New York City is an excellent album, and it captures the energy and refined talent that Joe Caro and the Met Band brings to the stage. It would be a fine addition to most anyone’s CD collection, but after a listen it will also make you want to track down one of their live shows. At this point it looks like you will have to go to New York City to see them, but their website says there are plans for a tour. Stay tuned!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 11 of 11

Little Mike And The Tornadoes – All The Right Moves

13 songs – 58 minutes

ELROB Records

Based in the New York City borough of Queens, Little Mike and the Tornadoes were one of the hardest working bands in America from the ‘70s through the mid-‘90s with a successful run of CDs on the Blind Pig, Ichiban and Flying Fish labels. Playing a style of music that harmonica great Paul Butterfield identified as the “old Chess sound,” they toured relentlessly, delivering heaping doses of straight-ahead Chicago blues to eager audiences. They also worked and recorded with a galaxy of Windy City superstars, including Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton and Eddie Clearwater.

The band’s run ended about a decade ago, with the leader, harp player/vocalist Little Mike Markowitz, relocating to central Florida and his playing partners going separate ways. A diminutive powerhouse himself, string-bender Tony O. Melio, former lead guitarist with the Legendary Blues Band (the Muddy Waters Band spin-off), continued working with many of the top musicians in the world. Bass player Brad Vickers formed his own unit, the popular roots band, Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans. And drummer Rob Piazza, who, along with Markowitz, recorded with the late, great Jimmy Rogers, pursued other ventures, including session work at Eclipse Studios.

The Tornadoes reformed last year and released the CD Forgive Me. But it included only material recorded a decade before. But the band’s original lineup returns with gusto with collection of 11 Little Mike originals and two more new tunes from Tony O and Vickers. They’re joined in the studio pianist Jim McKaba, who played behind and toured with many of the Chicago greats in the ‘70s.

The disc kicks off with “Hard Hard Way,” an uptempo complaint about the difficulties making ends meet when you’re a working blues musician. Tony drives the tune before Mike launches into an extended solo mid-tune. The funky “Problems” follows; flawlessly weaving together instrumental licks reminiscent of several blues classics atop a rock-steady bottom, as Little Mike details the difficulties he seems to be facing in every aspect of his life.

McKaba, who played behind many of the Chicago greats in the ‘70s, makes his first appearance in the mix, taking much of the early lead for “Since My Mother’s Been Ill,” a slow blues that quiets the mood dramatically. The feeling’s strong as Markowitz plaintively sings about the love/pain a person feels as he helplessly witnesses the woman who gave him life slowly fading away. A long, stylish guitar solo drives the point home.

The mood brightens immediately for “I Got Drunk Last Night,” on which six-string and keys get plenty of space to shine. Little Mike’s vocals swing, as they do throughout this work.

“Sam’s Stomp” gives Markowitz a chance to show off his strong harmonica chops in a brief, but effective instrumental. The rhythm section lays down a Latin beat for “A Little On The Side,” with Mike singing about having a good woman at home, but needing another taste of the good thing to be truly satisfied.

Harp, vocals and guitar play call-and-response for “All The Right Moves,” accented with another rich piano solo, before the steady-driving five-minute burner “The Blues Is Killing Me” and “You Wonder Why,” which hints strongly to a Muddy Waters root.

Four more numbers — “All The Time,” “Won’t Be Your Fool,” “Stuck Out On This Highway” and “Close To My Baby” – conclude the set.

Make no mistake about it: This is old-school blues delivered the right way by folks who feel it down to the core. Highly recommended.

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.

 Blues Society News

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Blues Society of Central PA – Steelton, PA

BSCP’s Last Blast Of Summer Saturday, September 20, 2014 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM at Champions Sports Bar 300 N. 2nd. St. Highspire, PA 17034

3 Great Blues Acts For $15 Admission At Door. Featuring: R-Way Unplugged from Williamsport, PA, James Day & The Fish Fry from Media, PA and Steve Guyger & The Excellos from Philadelphia, PA

For nore info visit

Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara Blues Society Presents An All-Star Benefit! The oldest existing U.S. blues society (founded March 1977), the Santa Barbara Blues Society (SBBS) will present a gala all-star party at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St., at 8 PM on Saturday, September 6.

Anchored by the lauded Ventura band Hot Roux, the show will feature the appearance of some of Santa Barbara’s (and the nation’s!) favorite blues artists in a benefit for the SBBS.

Scheduled to perform are: Kim Wilson, who was known as Goleta Slim when growing up in the S.B. area, and who has attained international acclaim since founding The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He has won countless awards for his harmonica playing and showmanship; Roach and Byl, founders and mainstays of Café R&B, one of S.B.’s all-time favorite bands (and now S.B. residents!); James Harman, highly praised singer, song writer, and harmonica player, winner of two coveted Blues Music Awards this year from the Blues Foundation, Carl Sonny Leyland, generally acknowledged to be one of the best rockabilly and boogie woogie pianists on the planet plus surprise guests.

Doors open at 7 PM, music starts at 8 PM. There will be free BBQ snacks and a large dance floor. Call (805) 722-8155 or go to for further information.

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

The free 26th Annual DC Blues Festival is Saturday, August 30, 2014 from noon-7:30 pm with internationally acclaimed headliner Shakura S’Aida. The festival venue is the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, located at 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, Washington DC 20011. Bring the family for a day of soulful and electrifying blues, music workshops, Musical Instrument Petting Zoo and other child-friendly activities. No tickets are required.

The exciting lineup of blues talent includes: Shakura S’Aida, 2013 Blues Music Awards Nominee for “Contemporary Female Artist of the Year”; Selwyn Birchwood, winner of the Blues Foundation’s 2013 International Blues Challenge & Albert King “Guitarist of the Year” award; the Eddie Turner Band, playing high-energy blues-based rock; Hardway Connection, local favorites playing “old school” R&B; Shirleta Settles, dynamic performer and native Washingtonian; and The Stacy Brooks Band, winner of the 2013 DCBS Battle of the Bands. For more info visit 

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

2014 Iowa Blues Challenge Solo / Duo Finals, Sunday, August 24th at Zimm’s Food & Spirits, 3124 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines. IA

Come join the party as four bands will compete to be the ultimate winner of the Iowa Blues Challenge Solo / Duo competition for 2014! The two Des Moines acts advancing to the finals will be Rob Lumbard and The Quay Thomas Duo and the two from the Quad Cities preliminary round are Charlie Hayes & “Detroit” Larry Davidson and The Zach & Mike Show.

The competition will be stiff as these four great acts square off at the finals held on Sunday, August 24th at Zimm’s Food & Spirits, 3124 Ingersoll Ave in Des Moines. Admission is $6 for any Iowa Blues Society members (must show card) and $8 cover for non-members. Doors open at 5:00, show starts at 6:00.

Prize package to the winner is $250 cash, 8 hours recording time courtesy of Junior’s Motel in Otho IA, opportunity for paid performances at 2015 Winter Blues Fest & 2015 Bottoms Up Blues Bash, among others, and entry into and $300 travel expenses for 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.

Thanks to all the competing acts and sponsors – Budweiser, Summit Brewing, Cityview, Junior’s Motel, Zimm’s Food & Spirits, House of Bricks, The Muddy Waters, Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society, Southeast Iowa Blues Society and Lizard Creek Blues Society. For more information go to

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.

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

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. August 25 -Lionel Young Band, September 1 – JP Soars, September 6 – Rich Fabec

Additional ICBC shows: 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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