Issue 8-37 September 11, 2014

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2014


 In This Issue

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with saxophone master Terry Hanck. Bob Kieser has photos from the Paramount Blues Festival.

We have 7 reviews for you including a new book about Big Moma Thorton plus reviews of music by Sunny Lowdown, JR Clark and the Allstar Blues Mob, B.B. and the Blues Shacks, Dave Moretti Blues Revue, Davina & The Vagabonds and Melinda.

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,

There are only 4 days left to vote for your favorite Blues artist in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards! Voting Ends Monday, September 15th, 2014 at midnight!

With over 9,000 votes having already been cast you might think your little ole vote won’t make a difference but you are wrong. Some categories are won by a few hundred votes, sometimes 50 or so but in the 2011 Blues Blast Awards The Chris O’Leary Band’s album Mr. Used to Be won the award for Best New Artists Debut BY 3 VOTES!

Yes that’s right 3 votes! So what if your favorite artist loses by a couple vote and you did not vote?

If you haven’t voted yet, why not join the other 9,200 Blues lovers who have already voted? It is free and easy! To vote now CLICK HERE.

Also, we have quite a lineup for the Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies on October 23 including performances by Albert Casiglia, Bernie Pearl and Barbara Morrison, Bobby Rush and Blinddog Smokin, Toronzo Cannon, Shaun Murphy Band, Tweed Funk, Adrianna Marie and Her Groovecutters, Back Pack Jones, Dave Riley and Bob Corritore, Brent Johnson, Annie Mack Band, RB Stone, Lisa Biales, Mark T Small, Lisa Mann, Trudy Lynn, The Frank Bey Anthony Paule Band, Steve Dawson, Rachelle Coba, Too Slim and The Tail Draggers, Sean Chambers, Josh Hoyer and Norman Taylor. And we will have a special appearance by the Andy t – Nick Nixon band! Have you got your tickets yet? For tickets and compete information, CLICK HERE.

Our friends at the T-Bone Walker Blues Fest have a great show for you this weekend. The festival is held in Longview, Texas and features music on 2 stages. On Friday the have Tyler Lenius Band, Cool John Ferguson, Dagnabbit Band, Pleasant Hill Quilting Group, John McVey & the Stumble, Matthew Davidson, Chris Cain, Texas Flood, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Lurrie Bell’s Chicago Blues Band with Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Eric Gales and Rick Derringer. Then on Saturday the are having performances by Trudy Lynn and Steve Krase, Pleasant Hill Quilting Group, Cool John Ferguson, Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, Kenny “Blues” Boss” Wayne, Jimmie Wallace & The Stratoblasters, Tony Joe White, Rick Derringer, Jimmie Vaughan & The Tilt-a-Whirl Band with Loue Ann Barton, Trudy Lynn and Steve Krase, Death Row Bodeen, Glenn McKenzie Band, Ally Venable Band, The Alan Fox Band, The Peterson Brothers Band, Lurrie Bell’s Chicago Blues Band, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater with Lurrie Bell, Chris Cain and Eric Gales.

That is one heck of a lineup! For tickets and more info click on their ad below or visit

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7

Sunny Lowdown – The Blues Volume Low


CD: 13 Songs; 38:57 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Tribute Album

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

So says a proverb as old as the hills, and so proves Sunny Lowdown on his debut album, The Blues Volume Low. Out of his thirteen IPO’s, initial public offerings to the blues world, eleven of them are covers. Originally from Horizon, Arkansas and now residing in Vermont, he draws from such renowned and masterful sources as Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Duane Allman, John Brim, and John Lee Hooker, whom he first backed up when he was only sixteen years old.

According to his promotional information sheet, “He went on to work with many of his favorite blues musicians: Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Muddy Waters pianist Pinetop Perkins, Chicago blues legends Otis Rush and George ‘Wild Child’ Butler, and Fat Possum recording artists R.L. Burnside and Cedell Davis, among others…. ‘I always liked the signers who could sit with just their guitar and tell you a story,’ he says. ‘Whether they had written the song or not, they made it their story.’”

That’s what Sunny attempts to do on this CD, with mixed and uneven results, but there’s no doubt that each song is pure blues. With him are bassist Sunny Bottom and drummer Sunny Tubs. These three tracks reviewed below are the only two originals and a familiar opener:

Track 01: “Can’t Be Satisfied” – When asked to name ten blues songs off the top of their heads, most fans would list this Muddy Waters hit in their primary mental collection. Sunny Lowdown’s version may be a cover, but it captures the essence of his whole debut perfectly. He plays great guitar, which reverberates cleanly throughout the venue of GPI Studios. Sunny Tubs’ rat-a-tat drumsticks add extra pep. Is this song good? Yes. Is it fantastic by comparison? Maybe. It all depends on how many times, and how many different renditions, that one has heard before.

Track 04: “First Chance Blues” – All of us have to start somewhere, and for most Americans, that place is school. Yet the academic track (and, failing that, the fast track) aren’t for everyone: “You know I tried to get an education; but each examination did I fail. Even when I went night- clubbing, you know I always wound up in jail.” This is straight-up blues, featuring one man and his guitar. What you hear is what you get, without overdubs or studio prestidigitation.

Track 05: “Texas Blues” – Number five isn’t so much about Texas as it is about the gal who tried to “quit” our narrator in the Lone Star State: “Little girl named Eliza. Everybody called her Jane [huh?]. Got a way of loving – drive me insane. Whoo, she’s the sweetest girl in town.” It’s catchy, but also a bit reductive.

Based on his fretwork alone, one can easily see why Sunny Lowdown got to back John Lee Hooker. However, one will wish he had more new blues stories to tell on “Volume Low.”

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 – Terry Hanck

You may not be able to tell it by listening to the soulfully blissful R&B-styled swinging jump/blues of his newest CD, Gotta Bring it on Home to You (Delta Groove Music), but at the very core of sax-master supreme Terry Hanck, beats the heart of a far-out and groovy Avant-garde musician.

Well maybe not so much at the present time. But back in the day!

“Well, when I finally decided that I wanted to play tenor sax, I went through a period in my life where I wanted to be an Avant-garde jazz player,” laughed Hanck. “But I had no idea what I was doing, no musical knowledge whatsoever. I wanted to go to ‘Z’ without learning ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and so forth first.”

His saxophone playing may not instantly invoke memories of Ornette Coleman’s “Focus on Sanity” or the Sun Ra Arkestra’s “Ancient Aiethopia,” but Hanck has managed to strike a favorable chord with blues and soul music lovers all over the globe the past few decades. Gotta Bring it on Home to You grabbed immediate attention upon its initial Tax Day release date this year, and the buzz hasn’t let up for one second since. Both the attention and the buzz are well-deserved.

“Finally, the band has been getting a little recognition and everything for the stuff we’ve put out. We got nominated for the Soul/Blues Album of the Year at Blues Blast, so that was great,” Hanck said. “And I was nominated for Best Instrumentalist at the Blues Music Awards (BMAs), so a lot has happened this year.”

Though the dividends have more than proved worthy of the effort it took, there were a couple of moments in the studio during the recording of Gotta Bring it on Home to You when Hanck was a bit unsure of what he was going to emerge out of the laboratory with.

“When I first went into the studio, it was like, ‘Man, I gotta’ put something out. It’s been awhile.’ So we went in and started working on things and I thought, ‘I don’t know if this stuff is really cohesive or if it hangs together.’ It just seemed like there were ideas here and there, but they didn’t really go together,” he said. “But with all the great musicians that played on it, all of a sudden it started coming together and then we started feeling a lot more positive about everything.”

One of the positive influences from the outset was the presence of multi-tasker – and one of the hottest guitarists on the scene – Chris ‘Kid’ Andersen. Andersen played guitar and organ on the disc (it was also recorded at Andersen’s studio – Greaseland), and co-produced it along with Hanck.

“He (Andersen) just keeps getting better and better. And working with him is so great,” said Hanck. “We just kind of put the whammy on it. When we got done with it and started listening to the finished product, we thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’ Chris is just such a great engineer. He just instinctively knows what I want and is so knowledgeable for someone his age about all the genres and eras of music and how to get all those sounds.”

One thing that Hanck could not be accused of during the sessions for Gotta Bring it on Home to You was having an abundance of spare time. In addition to co-producing the disc with Andersen, his other chores included writing and arranging tunes, leading the band and oh, yeah – blowing some killer tenor saxophone and cutting the lion’s share of the vocals. But, as Hanck explains, wearing all those different hats was never an issue.

“It’s almost not an issue. I really don’t even think about it (being charged with so many tasks). Because really, the music is stuff you create, so you want to be involved in the whole process,” he said. “We knew what we wanted when we entered the studio and we knew how to get it, so that’s just what we did; that’s how that works for us.”

Hanck also gained some massive exposure earlier this year thanks to his song-writing skills. He took home first place in the International Songwriter Competition in the blues category for the soul/blues ballad “I Keep Holdin’ On.” For the most part, Hanck likes for the songs to find him, rather than him having to sit down and try and muster up inspiration to write one on the spot. However, sometimes forcing the muse to show itself is just what the doctor orders.

“Sometimes putting pressure on me like that does help. I might go a year and wonder how I’m going to come up with songs for another album,” he said. “But it’s always different. Some songs you’ll have a groove for and will put some words to it, other times the whole song will just come to me. That usually happens when I’m out driving in the car.”

As he has for countless scores of musicians throughout the decades, the man they called ‘The Genius’ has had a profound impact on the way that Hanck crafts his own music.

“One of my early songwriting influences – even back before I was a musician – was Ray Charles. The era around 1960-63, you know, Ray Charles was just it for me, even though I wasn’t playing yet,” he said. “But everything I heard – the jump, the swing, the soul, R&B, jazz, the early rock, all that has had an influence on the way I write songs.”

They may not yet be in league with dinosaurs, but there just aren’t many (blues) vocal bands these days that are fronted by sax or brass players. Of course, there’s the great Eddie Shaw and his 757 All-Stars and Big James and the Chicago Playboys. And then another couple of outfits that quickly comes to mind are Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, along with Big Sam’s Funky Nation – groups that hail from the Big Easy and deal heavily in a blend of funky jazz. You can place Hanck’s horn-fronted troops on the short list of bands that specialize in a mixture of blues-based R&B with more than a preponderance of soulful early rock-n-roll, to boot.

“I don’t know why there aren’t more bands (like his), but I’m kind of glad there isn’t. I really don’t need the competition,” he laughed. “Hopefully, this will finally start working for me, because I’ve ran up against a lot of prejudice, especially with some of the promoters in Europe. A lot of them seem to think that a blues-based band has to be fronted by a guitar or a harmonica player. They really seem to pigeon-hole stuff. I’m so old that I tend to forget that people don’t remember when guys like Junior Walker and King Curtis and guys like that played sax and led bands.”

You don’t have to journey very far into one of Hanck’s discs before his unbridled love for the early, glorious sounds of bands like the aforementioned Junior Walker & The All-Stars, King Curtis and Little Richard comes pouring out of the speakers. That’s the type of music that Hanck cut his teeth on as a youngster coming up in Chicago, as well as later on down the road when he relocated to the West Coast.

“Rhythm and blues was what I always loved when I was a kid, and at that time, all the early rock-n-roll records had the saxophone playing the lead – usually tenor sax. And I always loved that sound,” he said. “And I’m 69 now and a lot of the genres (that can be heard on Gotta Bring it on Home to You) is stuff that I came up listening to. I don’t really separate things into soul, blues or jazz. To me, it all kind of fits together.”

With his love and appreciation of music from the 50s and 60s as much a part of his life in 2014 as it was when he was a teenager, it’s little wonder that when it comes time to create music of his very own, that vibe would have a major presence; a major presence that he puts his own spin on.

“It’s just by nature, it’s what I feel inside. But at the same time, when I play, I’m not afraid to use harmonics or do things that aren’t just traditional,” he said. “When I play, I don’t feel like I’m playing ‘oldies music’ or re-creating a genre. It just feels like I’m trying to bring the music to life and make it brand-new every time I play it.”

That sense of freshness certainly comes bursting through every time Hanck picks up his sax or steps up to the vocal microphone. That might be one reason that explains whether you’re listening to one of his CDs, or whether you’re seeing his group up close and personal at a festival, it really does seem like Hanck and company are having a thoroughly good time and are genuinely enjoying their work. Hanck’s band is comprised of Johnny Soubrand on guitar; Tim Wagar on bass; and drummer Butch Cousins.

““Butch has been with me for about 20 years and Johnny around 10 years and Tim three or four. They’re a great band and we do have fun. In this business, you’re not getting rich, so if you’re not having fun, what are you doing? Honestly though, I think a lot of that comes from me having done it for so long; it didn’t come easy for me at first,” he said. “I was very shy in the beginning and it took a long time for me to feel comfortable with myself (as a performer). I think that’s the hardest part of the process. You can have the music and everything, but once you’re comfortable with yourself, then you can share it.”

One performer it seems like has been nothing but comfortable with himself ever since he bolted from Tulsa, Oklahoma for the city of Chicago in 1960, is the one-and-only Elvin Bishop. Hanck did a couple of tours of duties in Bishop’s band, although he initially rebuffed the invitation to join up with Pigboy Crabshaw on a couple of different occasions.

“It’s funny, but when I first joined his band in 1977, it was on the third time that he’d asked me. The first time he wanted me to join was in 1972, and he later asked me again after that, but in ’77, my career was really going nowhere,” Hanck said. “I didn’t have any money, no resources and frankly, I don’t think that I was a very good businessman back then. I just didn’t have it together. So it just made sense that I joined him the third time he asked.”

Hanck hooked up with the band right at the peak of Bishop’s commercial zenith, hitting the road to promote the classic Struttin’ My Stuff album. A member of Bishop’s group for over a decade, Hanck finally decided that the time was ripe for him to revamp his solo career in the late 1980s.

“Working with Elvin has always been educational for me, plus we had a lot of fun back in the day,” he said. “When I left, it was on good terms and we’ve done stuff together over the years since then, too. But it was just time for me to go do my own thing when I left and he was fine with that and gave me his blessing.”

It wasn’t until he left the brisk and blustery conditions of the Windy City and had arrived at the warm and sunny climate of California that Hanck really decided that getting serious about picking up a saxophone and learning how to play it was the thing for him.

“I was out on the West Coast surfing and listening to jazz and it just seemed like the horn was the instrument then. The tenor sax was the voice of music back then. I hooked up with some cats in southern California that were playing the blues and I picked up the sax and just kind of taught myself how to play,” he said. “I had tried to take some lessons back in Chicago, but I just wasn’t ready then. I worked during the day and partied at night. I just wasn’t ready to knuckle down and do it right then. But when I moved to California, I got serious about playing the saxophone.”

So does Hanck ever regret throwing in the towel on his budding career as a groovy, free-form playing jazz hipster cat?

Apparently, the answer is ‘no.’

“Some of those guys (Avant-garde musicians) knew what they were doing and some didn’t. You could tell pretty quickly which ones did and which ones didn’t. I was one of the ones that didn’t,” he laughed. “But for about three years I just squawked and scared people, until I finally got it all out of my system.”

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2014

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 7

JR Clark and the Allstar Blues Mob – When It All Comes Down

Human Juke Joint Productions/BMI

CD: 12 Songs; 66:45 Minutes

Styles: Blues Rock, Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues

Let’s say there’s a blues festival coming up in a good-sized city. There are a lot of people, especially those who crave live shows, but there’s one big problem. The household-name band scheduled to be the headliner has cancelled at the last minute. Readers, if you were the organizers of such an event, whom would you hire in order to fill the hole in the schedule? Even better, whom would you have hired in the first place?

Consider JR Clark and the Allstar Blues Mob, originating in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their lead guitarist/vocalist, JR Clark, and organ/piano/keyboard player Willie Styles have joined up with legendary bassist Johnny B. Gayden, from Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers, on their latest album, When It All Comes Down. Finishing out the quartet is drummer and percussionist Jerry “Bam Bam” Porter, who toured with Buddy Guy for 14 years. He also toured with Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and is currently fresh off tour with the James Cotton Band.

Together, these four have performed at several festivals like South Bend Blues and Ribs Festival at Coveleski Stadium, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, and several other regional venues in Indiana and Michigan. Here they launch into twelve songs showcasing their high energy level and addictive instrumental prowess. Nine are covers, but these three display their blossoming songwriting skills:

Track 02: “Inner City” – This funky number, with its take-no-prisoners baseline, presents a possibly-perennial scene: “Body laying on the ground; there’s a crowd gathered round. Blood running from his head from a flying, hot piece of lead. Sirens start to howl; it’s a deafening sound. It’s just another day in the inner city. Will it ever change, or will it stay the same?” Clark’s guitar refrain falls into a slight rut, but that underscores the song’s point.

Track 06: “A Little Bit Older” – Who says that one must age gracefully? Not our narrator in this Chicago blues ballad: “I might be getting older, but I’m no less bolder,” he assures everyone – especially the ladies. “I can still make the women a little weak in the knees. I’ve got a whole lot of experience, and I aim to please.” So does Willie Styles on his rollicking piano solo.

Track 08: “Clean Getaway” – Many say that dogs are man’s best friend, but Clark knows the ones in this rocker are his mortal enemies: “I’ve got to make a clean getaway. Hell hound’s on my trail, trying to take me away…He’ll never slow down ‘til he has his prey.” Repentance isn’t easy, however, unlike JR’s hot electric guitar groove.

One other critique of Clark and the Mob’s style is that their vocals run to the talk-singing side, but that’s a minor flaw. “When It All Comes Down,” they know how to play boisterous blues!

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 – 3 of 7

B.B. and the Blues Shacks – Businessmen

CrossCut Records

CD: 15 Songs; 55:41 Minutes

Styles: Horn and Harmonica Blues, Blues Rock

Is the blues an art or a craft?

One couldn’t speak of blues ‘artists’ if it weren’t an art, and one couldn’t talk about ‘musicianship’ or ‘showmanship’ if it weren’t a craft. The best blues performers are not only great onstage, but afterwards, they’re savvy “Businessmen.” This CD is the seventh album by B.B. and the Blues Shacks, based in Hildesheim, Germany, released by CrossCut Records.

It’s a fantastic follow-up to Come Along, which was reviewed for Blues Blast Magazine in November of 2012. The Blues Shacks consist of vocalist/harp player Michael Arlt, his guitarist brother Andreas Arlt, Dennis Koeckstadt on piano/organ, bassist Henning Hauerken, and new drummer Jochen Reich.

In fifteen songs, fourteen originals and one cover, they prove once again that they’re the ‘CEO’s’ -Crowd Excitement Officers – of big-band blues and blues rock. With them are the No Blow No Show Horns, accompanying on all but two tracks (numbers five and ten). Tom Müller plays tenor and baritone sax; Stefan Gössinger plays trumpet, and Martin Grüzweig plays trombone. The following selections show how far they continue to advance toward musical perfection:

Track 02: “Gimme This, Gimme That” – We human beings know there are certain things we say out loud, and certain things we keep to ourselves. We also know that from time to time, we’re tempted by the Almighty Dollar, but most of us prefer to hold our greed in check. The narrator of this song doesn’t: “Whatever you do, you ain’t pleasing me. I just want you to be my money tree. Oh, at least I break it down; I won’t leave you. Go ahead, just gimme this; gimme that.” Michael Arlt’s harmonica solo will burn a hole in listeners’ ears.

Track 04: “Businessmen” – Almost a 180-degree departure from “Gimme This”, “Businessmen” reveals to what lengths scrupulous people won’t go to grab some dough: “I’d rather collect bottles from a garbage can than run a company that ain’t my serious plan. It’s for sure I don’t make a good businessman.” The highlight here is Andreas Arlt’s down-to-earth guitar intro and refrain, as catchy as a cold.

Track 09: “Who’s Crying Now” – This song is not to be confused with a hit by Journey of the same name, but it’s a power ballad nonetheless. It features full-band ferocity right from the get-go, especially the horn section and Michael Arlt with his finest vocals. “You think you’re gonna leave me?” he laments. “Well, you’re sure you won’t come back? Well, the last time you were leaving, you came and crawled into my shack.” The tables have turned in a romance that’s failed the second time around. Nevertheless, couples won’t fail to take the dance floor on this one.

In the last two years, B.B. and the Blues Shacks have demonstrated that they’re superb artists and craftsmen all at once – in short, keen “Businessmen”!

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 7

Big Mama Thornton – The Life and Music

Written by Michael Spörke

McFarland Publishing

order line – (800)253-2187

188 pages

Even if her career had been limited to just two songs, Big Mama Thornton still would be vital part of blues – and rock – history. She had a major hit with the original version of “Hound Dog,” in 1953 but was eclipsed forever three years later when Elvis Presley blasted through the song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, creating shock waves that shook the world of music for decades. And when Janis Joplin fronted Big Brother & the Holding Company at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, their slowed-down, smoldering version of Thornton’s “Ball & Chain” mesmerized the audience and quickly was acknowledged as a classic performance.

With the first biography on her amazing life, Author Michael Spörke brings focus to the details and highlights of Thornton’s career, starting with her birth in Ariton, Alabama in 1926. One of six siblings, Thornton grew up with a minister father and a stay-at-home mother with serious health issues. She also suffered at the hands of her classmates, who relentlessly teased her for being so tall for her age. When her mother passed away, the thirteen year old couldn’t read or write much but she had learned to play the harmonica by watching her brother, C.W. Thornton.

At fourteen, she hit the road as a member of Sammy Green’s Hot Harlem Revue, discovered singing while working on a garbage truck by another member of the Revue, Diamond Teeth Mary McClain. Life was marginally better but low pay meant Thornton had to work at other jobs like shining shoes to make ends meet. Still, traveling with Green gave her plenty of opportunities to hone her considerable vocal skills in addition to playing harmonica and drums.

In 1948, Thornton left the road to settle in Houston, TX. catching the eye of the infamous Don Robey, signing with his Peacock Records label. Several singles are released that fail to cause much of a stir. The arc of Thornton’s career changes once she meets Johnny Otis. Robey works out a deal with Otis to have Thornton join his Rhythm & Blues Caravan, giving her exposure all over the country. Sent out to open a show at the famous Apollo Theater, Thornton brought the curtain down and caused such a sensation that headliner Little Esther Phillips never got to perform.

Otis ended up playing drums for the recording of Big Mama’s big hit record, “Hound Dog”, which Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote specifically for her. Her powerful voice and salty attitude were tailor-made for a song full of sexuality coupled with a “don’t mess with me” attitude. Now six feet tall and over three hundred pounds, few people would think of challenging Big Mama. “Hound Dog” made to the top of the charts. Thornton quickly started making more money while touring with stars like Junior Parker and Bobby Blue Bland. One tour included singer Johnny Ace who, despite warnings from Big Mama, kept playing around with his pistol until the night that ended with tragic consequences.

Spörke chronicles Thornton’s move to California where she creates a sensation with an appearance at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival in addition to starting to record for Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records. Touring as part of the American Folk Blues Festival tour, Thornton dazzles European audiences who are experiencing her live for the first time. The author dedicates several pages to outlining the impact these tours had on listeners and musicians, expressing the theory that they were instrumental in spearheading the blues revival on both continents. He also offers a brief discussion of the singer’s sexual preferences, which partially stem from Thornton often dressing

Thornton enjoyed much success through the 1960’s decade before changing times and serious alcohol dependency started to slow the demand from club owners and festival bookers. There were nights when she found inspiration, recalling her glory days with the latest backing band trying to keep up with her. Cancer could not lay her low, at least not for a few years despite a precipitous weight loss that left her a shadow of her former self.

The book is a labor of love for Spörke. He interviewed a number of people who knew Thornton or played with her, including Bernie Pearl, Doug MacLeod, and Lloyd Jones. He examines several facets of Thornton’s personality with a fair hand that assesses without passing judgment. The book also has a timeline of Thornton’s life, a discography, and a listing of TV and film appearances in addition to a strong selection of photos from the various stages of her career.

In summing up this excellent work, it is only fair to let Thornton have the final word. As stated in an interview with writer Ralph Gleason, “I learned to sing the blues by myself. My singing comes from experience…my own feelings. If I hear a blues I like, I try to sing it my own way. I don’t sing like nobody but myself. I like to put myself into whatever I’m doin’ so I can feel it.”

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Live Blues Review – Paramount Blues Fest

Paramount Blues Festival – Grafton Wisconsin September 6, 2014

I made it up to the Paramount Blues Fest last Saturday to catch the last day of the fest. It was quite a long drive but the music made it worth trip. The fest is held in Lime Kiln Park in Grafton, Wisconsin and is produced but the Grafton Blues Society.

It was a great park setting and fantastic weather. The first band I got to see was a group called Big N Tasty. I did not find out much about this band, maybe it was a local band but they did a good job of starting off my musical day.

Next up was a Chicago favorite, The Matthew Skoller Band

With Billy Flynn on guitar and Matthew on vocals and harp, they treated the crowd to some real Chicago Blues.

Next up was Deb Callahan

While I have heard her music, it was my first chance to hear her band live and I must say she is quite talented!

Next up was a rockin’ trio with Jared James Nichols on lead guitar.

We met Jared several years ago when he played in a Wisconsin group called Hound’s Tooth. Since then Jared, a Berklee College of Music grad, spent a few years in LA making a name for himself. He gets better each time I see him.

Next up was another great Wisconsin band, Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys

These guys know REAL Blues! They were followed by The Jim Liban Band.

Jim is reportedly back from taking a couple years off and he had a great band with him including Joel Paterson on guitar. They also had a few guests from the Wisconsin area including a guitarist and singer named Stokes, a great harmonica player named Milwaukee Slim and Matthew Skoller blowing harp for a bit. They have a new album out which they gave us for review while we were there. It made for great late night driving music home! Look for the review in an upcoming issue.

The headliner for the day was Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley was in good form and got a very enthusiastic crowd response.

This is a great little fest and if you are near I suggest you put it on your calendar for next year!

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7

Dave Moretti Blues Revue – That’s Swing!


10 Songs Time-40:14

These Italian bluesmen certainly know, love and play the blues with a devoted intensity. Dave Moretti is a first class harmonica player. His gruff voice is fitting for the blues, but his heavy accent tends to detract from enjoying the songs at times. The first track is relatively easy to understand. After that deciphering the words gets to be a chore. That said, the musicianship throughout is top notch and possessing an authentic vibe along with genuine enthusiasm. Damir Nefat is in command of his jump blues guitar skills. The rhythm section can stop on a dime and give you nine cents change.

“Good Morning Judge” draws you right in with its’ energy. It’s great! It sounds like Louis Prima sings the blues. The title track is the first sign of accent problems and the song is too repetitive. We get it already…”That’s Swing”. We want the funk and we get it on “Bad” with jumpy saxes, harmonica and guitar fighting it out with the tricky rhythm section. These guys can surely play.

Blues perfection rears its’ head on “Gsus” were Dave displays his flexible harmonica chops along with Damir’s slow, well thought out guitar solo. “Cattle Raiding” could of just as well been sung in a Italian. You can pick out the occasional word. As usual the music is just fine. Maurizio Pugno contributes some nice guitar to the splendid jump blues of “I Walked Away”. Things close out with the snappy “You Know Why” which features for my money the best harmonica workout on this recording.

At the conclusion I’m left in a quandary. The music is superb and uplifting. Getting through the thick accent detracts from the listening experience. After all music is a form of communication as well as a means of enjoyment. If the message or story doesn’t get across there is a problem. It’s too bad because everyone involved delivers quality and heartfelt music.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 7

Davina & The Vagabonds – Sunshine

Roustabout Records – 2014

12 tracks; 42 minutes

Davina & The Vagabonds come from Minneapolis and this is the follow up to their 2011 album “Black Cloud”. They continue to plough a lonely furrow with a sound that takes its inspiration more from pre-war rather than 21st Century music. That style is reflected in the instrumentation of the band with Davina Sowers on piano and vocals, Daniel Eikmeier on trumpet, Benjamin Link on trombone, Andrew Burns on sousaphone and acoustic bass, Connor McRae Hammergren on drums. Guest musicians are Tony Balluff on clarinet and Zach Miller on vibes.

The band mainly lets the songs do the talking and there are few solos here. The album opens with the title track which has a soulful start from Davina on piano before the band enters to make it a rollicking, catchy piece with the horns in charge. “Flow” is also upbeat with a hint of Caribbean lilt. “Fizzle Out” is more modern in approach and sounds as if it could have been recorded by a singer such as Lily Allen or Amy Winehouse.

“Away From Me” is a ballad which the horns sit out, leaving Davina’s piano in the lead and gives us the chance to consider her voice which certainly carries the tunes but is rather nasal and does not have a great range. The horns, particularly the trombone, return with a vengeance on the tango “I Try to Be Good”, a song that could easily have been recorded by many of the singers of the inter-war years, as could “Throw It To The Wolves” with its archly 20’s jazz feel. “You Better Start Praying” is again retro in feel, the horns providing a nicely jazzy feel. The spirit of New Orleans arrives with “Red Shoes”, possibly the pick of the songs on this album.

Thus far all the material has been original but Davina then throws in three covers. The rather frantic version of “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” certainly places the album into a blues context but did not stand up to some of the many versions that have become familiar over the years.

Fats Waller is probably a better fit with Davina’s style and the piano intro to “You Must Be Losing Your Mind” sounds very authentic. However, the vocals worked less well on this sparse arrangement which is by a long chalk the longest track here, really the only example of extended soloing across the album as each member of the band gets a solo spot: nice for them but not the greatest listen!

A solo piano/vocal version of Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day” makes an effective album closer though there is a bonus track – a reprise of the title track from an out of print 2007 album entitled “Under Lock And Key” which returns us to the more modern style of “Flow” and “Fizzle Out”.

Those who have enjoyed previous albums from Davina & The Vagabonds will undoubtedly enjoy their latest offering. Coming to their music for the first time it is not always easy to ‘get’ what they are trying to do but all credit to them for trying something different to the standard blues-rock formula.

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 – 7 of 7

Melinda – Witness

Goldfeather Records 2014

8 tracks; 34 minutes

Melinda Colaizzi comes from Pittsburgh and this is her second ‘EP’. Six of the eight tunes here were written by Melinda and guitarist Kristian Habenicht with two covers which seem significant – The Black Crowes and The Rolling Stones! We are definitely in full rock style here with Melinda’s deep and strident voice that is suited to this style of music but takes some getting used to.

The material was recorded in three different cities: Pittsburgh, Minneapolis (at Kevin Bowe’s studio who assists on these tracks with the production) and LA. As a consequence there is a long list of supporting musicians but Melinda and Kristian are on all the tracks.

Most of the material is upbeat, only “Slide” and the two covers being taken at a slower pace. “Slide” is in fact one of the best tracks here, having some nice slide work on resonator from Kristian, though he eventually succumbs to the temptation to put in a big guitar feature midway through.

The title track has some added harmonica from Kevin Bowe but is a good example of the problems that this reviewer has with Melinda’s vocals. A chugging riff sets up the song as Melinda sings of needing “a witness, someone to believe” though it takes a few listens to decipher the lyrics. “Leave Your Key” is another chugging rocker with strident vocals.

The Black Crowes cover is “Seeing Things” which is something of a ballad on which Melinda’ goes quite over the top in her vocal. Better is “No Expectations” where the dobro and organ work (Alex Howland) is very nice indeed and Melinda sings in more restrained manner.

Overall there is little for the blues fan here though those who enjoy the rock end of the spectrum may enjoy what Melinda, Kristian and their bandmates have to offer.

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.

 Blues Society News

 Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to:

Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format.

The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research – Atlanta, Georgia

Blues For Sean Costello Benefit is happening at 9:00PM Saturday September 13th, 2014 at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago

Blues stars from Chicago and beyond come together at Rosa’s Lounge to honor the life and music of Sean Costello, and support the fund established in this memory: Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research.

★ Featuring – Tom Holland & the Shuffle Kings with special guests, Billy Boy Arnold, Jody Williams, Long Tall Deb & Colin John, Kate Moss, David Herrero, Felix Reyes, Richard Rosenblatt and more.  Richard Shurman (Emcee)

Saturday, September 13, 2014 Rosa’s Lounge, Chicago IL 9 PM (Doors open at 8 PM)

Ticket Price: $15.00 presale – $20.00 at the door DONATE  A BratGirlmedia Production – Lineup is subject to change

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

Thanks to a major grant provided by the Riverboat Development Authority, the MVBS 2014/2015 Blues In The Schools Artists-in-Residence series will begin with New Orleans-based blues musician and educator Spencer Bohren. He will conduct workshops at schools and free open-to-the-public performances throughout the Quad-Cities during the week of September 8-12.

Spencer is scheduled for two free public performances: Tuesday September 9, 7:00 p.m.—River Music Experience, 2nd & Main Streets, Davenport IA and Wednesday September 10, 7:00 p.m.—Co-op Records, 3727 Avenue of the Cities, Moline IL

Please check our website at for updates on Spencer’s public performances.

Also this Thursday, September 11, The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents Stormcellar at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA.

Stormcellar, from Sydney, is one of the top alternate music acts in Australia. This six-piece band, described as a mix of Urban Roots, Electric Blues, Modern Folk and Alt Country, is coming through Bettendorf in the middle of their second US tour. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $5 per person.

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

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, 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. Sept. 15—RJ Mischo, Sept. 22—Gina Sicilia, Sept. 29—24th Street Wailers, Oct. 6—Kilborn Alley, Oct. 13—Jarekus Singleton, Oct. 20—Ghost Town Blues Band, Oct. 27—Albert Castiglia

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


Please follow and like us: