Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Reverend Raven.
We have 6 music reviews for you including new music from Markey Blue, Fo’Reel, Val Starr & The Blues Rocket, Riverside Jr., Keb’ Mo’ and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer.
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,
After the wonderful time we had at the Blues Blast Music Awards Show last week, things are starting to get back to normal for us.
And that means we will be starting up our monthly Blues Overdose Issue in November. So if you have a new album release and you want to let our readers download one of your original tracks to help promote the album CLICK HERE for details on how this free program works.
We have some great news for you. Many of you are fans of our senior writer Terry Mullins. Terry has been writing the majority of our feature stories for the last 3 years and now he has written his first book and we are publishing it as part of our new venture, Blues Blast Publishing.
The book is called Blues In Modern Days and it features 31 of the legendary artists that Terry has had the pleasure of interviewing telling their stories in their own words including Jody Williams, Billy Boy Arnold, Sugar Pie Desanto, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, James Cotton, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Wayne Baker Brooks, Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith, Diunna Greenleaf, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, Mud Morganfield, Phil Wiggins, Teeny Tucker, Kenny Neal, Lurrie Bell, Johnny Rawls, Lady Bianca, Sugar Blue, Willie ‘The Touch’ Hayes, Billy Branch, Zora Young, John Primer, Dave Riley, Magic Slim, Lil’ Ed Williams, James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson, Guitar Shorty, Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis, Eddie ‘Devil Boy’ Turner and Toronzo Cannon. To check it out now CLICK HERE or see our ad below.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6
Markey Blue – Hey Hey
SoulOSound Records/Delta Groove Productions
CD: 12 Songs; 43:58 Minutes
Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues
Releasing a debut blues album is like being a trapeze artist. When musicians strike the perfect balance between instrumentation and vocals, their resulting performance is amazing. They also face a crucial decision: Do they play covers that they’ve practiced hundreds of times and will be familiar to listeners? On the other hand, do they go out on the ‘high bar’ and present new material, mostly unheard by either die-hard genre fans or critics? Nashville native Jeannette Markey, known as “Markey Blue,” has taken the latter and more daring approach on Hey Hey. It has paid off in spades, and hopefully in future accolades. All of its twelve songs are soul-based originals, full of horns and high energy.
Accompanying her is a vast ensemble: guitarists Rick Latina and special guest star Jack Pearson; bassists Randy Coleman, Tony Leroy Nagy, Sean O’Bryan Smith, Anthony “Smooth Groove” Joiner and Jake Willemain; drummers Rodney Ledbetter, Tim Smith, David “Smitty” Smith and Jim Klingler; keyboard/B3 players Jake Hill, Shannon Wickline, Larry Van Loon and Phil Wolfe; percussionist Tim Smith (along with Markey herself); saxophonists Miqui Gutierrez, Dana Robbins, Jules Caldarera, and Tom McGinley; trumpet/flugelhorn players Jim Williamson, Cory Distefano, Steve Herman, and Paul Deyo; and, last but certainly not least, background vocalists Markey, Holly Steele, Marion Covell, and Tracey Palfalvi.
The following three tunes will get crowds dancing and singing along, especially on the choruses:
Track 01: “When Love Comes Along (Hey Hey)” – The title track and opener is an explosive blues rock firecracker, with Markey channeling a bit of Alannah Myles in her vocals: “What did Adam say to Eve? She took that apple from that tree. Don’t know what’s right; don’t know what’s wrong. It’s gonna hit you when love comes along. I said hey, hey….” The powerful brass section packs quite a punch, and Ric Latina’s guitar work blazes like a Roman candle.
Track 09: “Voodoo Do” – Beware of the rattlesnake’s rattle on one of this album’s most intoxicating song intros. Love may be magic, but sometimes it’s of the black kind: “Where do your mojo go? What do your voodoo do? Is that you ringing my bell, child? Ooh, tell me what you want to do.” This number has a sly and serpentine feel, especially because of the percussion. “Ooooh, la-la-la,” Markey sings with a rapid-fire cadence, meaning that she wastes no time falling under a seductive spell.
Track 10: “Ain’t No Angel” – Following up on this theme is the following gritty blues ballad, in which Markey explains that she’s not keen on romance: “You bring me roses; you bring me wine, but what I want, hey, you just can’t buy…Take me as I am. I ain’t no angel!” Latina plays his very best solo, which will please any purist.
Hey Hey, all of you lovers of classic blues and soul – Markey Blue flies high on her debut CD!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
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Featured Blues Interview – Reverend Raven
Standing at six-feet, six-inches tall and weighing in at well over 250 pounds, the late, great Freddie King could easily be described as a mountain of a man.
And as most blues fans can testify to, when Freddie King really got cooking on his Gibson 335, there were very few that could challenge him.
When you combine his physical presence with his musical prowess, it’s highly unlikely that those that were fortunate enough to bear witness to the ‘Texas Cannonball’ up-close-and-personal would ever forget that experience.
Such was the power and magic of King that he could even overshadow the memory of the bands that he opened up for, including some that have long been entrenched in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
“Well, I saw Freddie King in 1971 at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago and he opened up for The Who … or maybe it was the Jeff Beck Group …it could have been either of them, I don’t really remember,” said Wisconsin-based bluesman Reverend (Rik) Raven. “What I do remember was Freddie walking out into the crowd with a 100- or 200-foot (guitar) cord and man, he was just rippin’ … standing like five feet away from me. Freddie just stole that show, standing out in the middle of 2,000 hippies. And that was it. I stopped listening to rock-n-roll, I stopped buying rock-n-roll records and I started learning to play as much blues as I could.”
That encounter with King (who is also in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, along with The Who … and Jeff Beck) would ultimately help spur Rik Raven on to endless nights of playing the blues for eager audiences all across the Midwest and beyond.
Together since the mid-90s, Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys are edging ever closer to their 20th anniversary as a functioning, real-deal blues band. The group is so popular that it is a six-time winner of the Wisconsin Music Industry’s Blues Band of the Year Award (1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010). The outfit also won People’s Choice Awards in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and were also nominated for a Blues Blast Award for Band of the Year in 2011.
“Hard-driving, passionate blues” is how Raven describes the sound of his group. “I’d like to say ‘50s and ‘60s inspired Chicago blues, and I’ve had bands and been in bands where we’ve done that, but we’re really not like that. We try and present our music like what I saw back in the early ‘70s when I went to the clubs in Chicago to see these great blues bands. They were there to entertain you and make you have a great experience so you’d come back and drink more. So that’s what we try and do.”
As one might fathom by just hearing the name of the band, its origins lay deep in a night fueled by plenty of drinking.
“I’m waiting for the Catholic church to sue me. But you know, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” laughed Raven. “First, it was going to be the Altar Boys, then it was going to be the Smokin’ Altar Boys and then someone said The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys. This was at a bar that had blues on the jukebox on Monday nights, so we were sitting around getting drunk and trying to come with a band name. And that’s what we came up with.”
And as for the ‘Reverend’ label?
“I got the ‘Reverend’ tag back when I was in the Navy. I had put the guitar down and was really focused on just being a (Navy) lifer. But at one point I started playing again in a band, part time. One of my collateral duties (in the service) was counseling troubled sailors in our command,” Raven said. “And the kids started calling me Reverend, instead of the Chaplin. They had come looking for me one night and I was in a band with a bunch of hippies. They thought that was the greatest thing in the world. They started calling me Reverend and it stuck.”
The wheels of progress have been constantly moving forward for the Reverend and his troops, with plenty of projects and gigs occupying most of their waking moments for the last several months.
“Yeah, things have been good, we’ve had a great year with lots of work,” he said. “Almost too much work. But I always like to say that keeps me from having meaningful employment. I like it like that. I’ve got a 20th anniversary CD that I’m working on and I’ve got three songs already in the can. And then, I’m working on two live projects; Live at the Red Rocket, which is my bootleg series and then I’ve also got an official live CD coming out, too.”
Raven, who was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, has also managed to find time to work on a few new song ideas, some of which he’s been batting back-and-forth for a couple of decades now.
“I perform better under pressure, so when I know I have to get something done, that’s when I finally push everything else aside and focus on it,” he said. “I have lots of songs that we’ve done over the years, things like obscure covers where we take and throw a different groove underneath it. After we’ve been doing that and the band’s really tight with it, then I try and sit down and write some lyrics over it. I have books with 20 year’s worth of lyrics in them, some that I’ve never been able to make work. But then, all of a sudden, you might stumble across something that makes those lyrics work. And if I can’t finish those songs, then I’ll get with someone that can help me and then we’ll co-write it.”
Lyrics and song ideas may not exactly be floating through the air we breathe on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not right out there in the open just waiting to be discovered, either.
“A lot of times, they (song-writing ideas) come from something that I hear someone saying on the street. Or maybe I’ll overhear a conversation and go, ‘Oh, that’s a great line for a song,’” Raven said. “I try and keep a little notebook with me and the last couple of years with these smart phones, I realized that they have a voice recorder on them, so I’ll record a line on my phone when it comes to me. I read somewhere that Steve Allen (famous comedian, song-writer and television personality) kept two of them (recorders) – one in his left pocket and one in his right. The one in the left pocket was for jokes and the one in the right pocket was for songs. Isn’t that something? These smart phones are great.”
The original incarnation of The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys included the exceptional talents of harpist Madison Slim, who was a one-time band member of Jimmy Rogers.
“He (Slim) was looking for something to do when he wasn’t on the road with Jimmy Rogers. And so Slim was in and out of the (Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys) band three or four times,” Raven said. “Then Slim moved to Bradenton, Florida and he plays with Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones when Dennis (Gruenling) doesn’t. Slim does most of the Florida gigs with The Jewel Tones and is just a perfect, perfect fit for that band.”
You can hear the way that Reverend Raven and Madison Slim work together so well on the Live at Blues on Grand CD. “That’s still one of my favorite CDs that I’ve done,” Raven said.
When Slim made his sojourn south, Raven replaced him with saxophone player Big Al Groth. “Then after Al left, I have a wonderful piano player named Danny Moore in the band now,” said Raven. “And Westside Andy’s been playing with us a lot lately. He’s a great harmonica player out of Madison, Wisconsin.” The rhythm section features drummer Bobby Sellers Jr., along with P.T. Pedersen on bass.
According to Raven, the blues scene in Wisconsin mirrors that of many other cities across the country – it’s not what it used to be, but it’s still managing to find a way to survive.
“Wisconsin used to have a great blues scene. When I moved to Milwaukee from Chicago when I first got out of the Navy, there was a club down on the east side called the Up and Under Club and that was THE blues club in Milwaukee. Everybody that toured played there on their way to somewhere else,” he said. “Then before I got there, there was a club called Teddy’s and Howlin’ Wolf and Magic Sam used to play there. There’s still a pretty good blues scene around, but it’s just gone back to where the blues used to be – in the taverns. And you just can’t make a lot of money playing taverns. If you’re a blues band that wants to do it full-time in Milwaukee, you pretty much have to hit the road and go town-to-town. But Madison’s got a pretty good blues scene – it has two full-time blues clubs. And there’s little blues clubs in towns like Oshkosh and Wausau.”
Music – especially the blues – was a part of Raven’s childhood from almost the get-go.
“Blues was always around our house in some form or the other. My mother was born and raised in Chicago and she listened to a lot of jazz/blues. She tended to like Count Basie more than she liked Duke Ellington,” he said. “She listened to a lot of piano blues in the house, along with singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee. And then my older brother Dave, he started bringing home all The Yardbirds and The Stones albums, and then him and his buddies found out that Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf and those guys were right across the expressway, like two miles away. So all of a sudden, they were off to the clubs and bringing home albums, so that was always around the house.”
On certain nights, lucky audiences at one of Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys’ shows are treated to a near hour-long set of heavy-duty slide guitar histrionics, courtesy of the good Reverend. You don’t have to listen too closely to pick up more than a preponderance of influence via the almighty Hound Dog Taylor in Raven’s slide playing.
“Every Tuesday night for a couple of years, I used to go down to the Pickle Barrel and see Hound Dog with Brewer Phillips and Ted Harvey. I’d watch them get massively drunk on stage and tear the place up,” Raven laughed. “I loved that. Brewer Phillips was such a great guitar player. Him and Hound Dog together … wow! I used to steal all kinds of licks from them. When my kids or their friends are in the audience, that’s the first thing they want me to do (play slide). They don’t want any of the cutesy stuff; they want to hear the raw, Hound Dog Taylor sound. And they all start dancing and go crazy. So when I play for bikers, or younger and rowdier crowds, I usually break out the slide first.”
Raven first perfected his raunchy slide-guitar playing in a way that Taylor and Phillips certainly would have approved of – at a good old-fashioned house party.
“We used to have hippie house parties back in the ‘70s and have like 300 people in this big farmhouse in Keeneyville, which is outside of Chicago. We’d take all the furniture out of the living room and put it in the backyard and then the band would set up in the corner,” he said. “There was two of us (guitar players) that played slide and we’d pretty much just play the same songs over and over, the drunker we got. It was great, 300 drunk hippies dancing everywhere. It was a ball.”
Raven first picked up the guitar when he was 14-years-old, after watching his older cousin, who lived in the household, play in bands all over Chicago.
“He was in a real cool band called The Nerve and they had a guitar player named Phil Lucafo (later of the band Heartsfield). And Phil started giving me lessons and he taught me how to play the guitar solo from “Pride of Man” (Quicksilver Messenger Service) and how to correctly play the solo to “Sunshine of Your Love.” I was driving my mother crazy all summer long just playing that riff – duh, duh, duh, duh, dunt, dunt, dunt, dunt, dunt, duh – on a big –ole acoustic guitar. So she bought me a guitar and I took a few lessons from Phil and started pouring into some records and going to see people play.”
From there, Raven went through a host of ‘bad blues bands’ before he put the guitar aside at 22 and enlisted in the United States Navy.
“I didn’t touch the guitar from about age 22 until I was about 39,” he said. “And then I’ve been learning to play again ever since (now at age 60). I try and learn something new every day, if I can.”
After almost two decades of leading The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, it looks like all the hard work and sweat – along with all the other sacrifices that go along with playing the blues – that Raven has put in has borne fruit in the form of a successful career as a musician. With all that in mind, Raven has a great deal of empathy for bands that are just starting to take their first steps down the road he’s traveled for these many years.
“I’m working steady and I’m very, very grateful for that. But for new bands coming up, it’s just so hard. I feel so bad for them. I try and help them as much as I can, getting them gigs and trying to hook them up with agents and things like that,” he said. “But there’s just a limited amount of clubs these days and there’s a lot of us competing for the dates at those clubs. And getting into new territories is tough, because club owners don’t want to take a chance on a band they haven’t heard before. So it’s really tough out there for a new band.”
Partly because of that being the case, Raven has softened his views a bit regarding the International Blues Challenge.
“I used to pooh-pooh that whole IBC thing; I thought there was a bit of exploitation of the bands. But from the standpoint of a new band being able to get in front of a lot of people, wow them and then being able to get work out of it, I’m all for it.”
One thing that does seem to have affected both new bands, as well as their seasoned counterparts, is an ageing audience that may not quite have the same pep-in-its-step that it used to back in the day.
“The baby-boomers are getting older and are either going home earlier from the clubs, or just staying at home altogether. I know I’m playing a lot of gigs from 7 to 10 p.m. these days,” Raven said. “And I encourage that to the club owners, because old guys like to go home. But you know, doing three sets a night is getting tough on my old self.”
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer 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 6
Fo’Reel – Heavy Water
11 songs time-53:03
Buy this CD! I could just leave it at that and you would realize that my suggestion was 100% correct. I will attempt to give an accurate description of this masterful creation of an amalgamation of southern soul and rhythm & blues, blues, funk, rhumba rhythms and a bit of Texas swing. What started out as a studio project created by band leader, executive producer and lead guitarist Mark Domizio has evolved into a touring band with one substituted band member. Mark has been a “first-call” guitarist for many years based in New Orleans. The New Orleans based band also features local soul-singing legend C.P. Love’s seasoned voice on five tracks. The also excellent Rick Lawson provides smoother soul vocals on four tunes.
Journeyman keyboard ace Johnny Neel who has played with The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule and Dickey Betts among others supplies his trademark funky organ along with piano. Drum chores are split between Daryl Burgess and Allyn Robinson. David Hyde is the bassman, although Dr. John’s longtime bassist David Barard is in the touring band. Rick Lawson also isn’t in the touring band. To top all of this off is a classic soul-rhythm & blues horn section consisting of Jon Smith, Ward Smith and Barney Floyd.
C.P. Love displays why he is considered a soul legend in New Orleans with a great version of Albert King’s classic “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”. The entire band shines here as the horns punch the groove, Johnny Neel’s organ funks it up and Mark Domizio rips through with some smokin’ guitar licks. The soul, funk and rhythm & blues assault continues on the title track. Not quite sure what it is about, but dang it sure sounds good! Mark contributes just the right notes on guitar.
Rick Lawson introduces his “smooth-as-silk” pipes to the slow-grooving blues of “Leave Your Love Alone” that also showcases cool organ, note perfect guitar and some sexy sax from Jon Smith. Rick next works his magic on the Albert King-inspired slow blues of “Blues” where Mark delivers some nice guitar note bending ala Mr. King.
Their instrumental tribute to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown on “Gate” is worth the price of admission for my money. Somebody has finally seen fit to emulate the Texas Swing master with such careful attention to detail on this Domizio-penned gem. He captures Gatemouth’s guitar style right down to his patented quick finger-slides. The horn section punctuates the tune as well as featuring brief solos. If you didn’t know any better you would swear this was a song from the master himself. It doesn’t get any better than this.
C.P. Love returns with his nicely-aged voice accompanied by Calypso rhythms, organ, electric piano and beautifully played slide guitar on “What I Can Do”. He brings another great vocal to the first of two Luther Allison songs on “What’s Going On In My Home”. Organ and some neat “wah-wah” keyboard add to the funk-fest. The second has a gospel-churchy vibe largely supplied by the organ. It’s a slow and gorgeous blues burner.
Rick Lawson handles the two final vocal tracks. The funky “Shake N Bake” is full of enough snaky rhythms and sexual innuendo to get any house party a rockin’. These masters of replicating a style do it again on the Bobby “Blue” Bland inspired slow-blues of “Outside Love”. Eloquent slide guitar puts the icing on this cake.
The closing original instrumental “Tater” gives all the members a chance to step out and shine. A fitting reminder of all the musical goodness that preceded. Man is the one-man sax section of Jon Smith right on the money as usual.
I could just go on gushing forever about this music. Don’t take my word for it. Go out and make a believer out of yourself. Well crafted and performed music presented with such knowledge, talent and a true love of the genres can’t be faked. Do the music world a favor and make this record a hit. Tell em’ “Bluesdog” sent ya. If this one doesn’t receive its due recognition something is definitely wrong in the grand scheme of things.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6
Val Starr & The Blues Rocket – Blues Away
Self-Release – 2014
12 tracks; 54 minutes
From Sacramento, California, Val Starr and her band The Rockets’ second CD consists of entirely original material, all written by Val herself. The band is Val on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Val’s partner JohnE Sandwich on bass, Dale Darby on lead guitar, Russ Skarsten on keys and Paul Farman on drums. A number of guests add to the blend: Tim White and ‘Zot’ sax, John Norron keys, Tim Barron harp and slide guitar, Horacio Socarras congas, Michael Harris backing vocals and John Bush harp.
There is a mix of styles here and some decent playing, notably from Dale on guitar. Most of the material is rock-blues, the lyrics mainly about relationships. Val’s voice is probably best suited to the more upbeat songs and the following cuts are the pick of the bunch for this reviewer:
Track 2 “Soul Mate”: Val sings of her true love and how fortunate she is to have found her mate for life. Zot’s sax adds depth to the arrangement and Dale supplies a fine solo.
Track 9 “Chardonnay”: Val is at home, waiting for her guy’s return (apparently not an unusual occurrence). In such circumstances she turns to another good friend – a bottle of wine – though she would far prefer her guy home. Still, with no better alternative… The arrangement is fun with Tim’s sax honking away over lively piano on a fast shuffle into which Dale immediately throws himself in three short but sweet solos. A large group of friends ‘The Chardonettes’ add background vocals to enhance the party feel.
Track 11 “That’s My Advice”: “I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, take my love, that’s my advice” sings Val on this uptempo rocker. Tim’s harp is an effective addition to the band’s sound, along with Dale’s rock and roll guitar and John Noxon’s swirling organ.
Track 12: a real rocker to close the album, Val tells us that there is a new sensation – the “California Blues” – and the band shows us what that is all about with pumping piano, rocking guitar and harp.
Whether this one will ‘rocket’ to the top remains to be seen but all credit to Val for her efforts here. It is always good to hear bands producing their own material.
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 – 4 of 6
Riverside Jr. – Would You, Baby?
11 tracks / 39:00
Solo acoustic blues brings the genre down to its most basic form, and if done well the singer and their guitar can tell a powerful story. Riverside Jr. has made just such a statement with Would You, Baby?, his debut release on the Blueshine Records label.
Riverside hails from the Netherlands, where he plays out as a solo, duo, or trio act which performs under the monikers of Riverside Jr., Big Will & the Bluesmen, or Riverside Jr. & Co., respectively. One of his partners in these endeavors is Blueshine’s founder (and killer guitarist) Peter Strujik from The Hague, who helped record and produce this album. It contains 11 roots and blues tracks, with Riverside taking the writing credit on five of them. This record had a distinctively American feel and tone — it is obvious that Jr. has made great efforts to master the genre and make his sound as authentic as possible.
This set starts off with the traditional “Make Me a Pallet on your Floor” which has been recorded by many heavyweight artists, including Mississippi John Hurt and Bob Dylan. Though it maintains its original blues structure, it comes off as more as a folk song with clean acoustic finger picking accompanying his growly voice. This is followed by the original tune, “Ain’t that the Blues?” a song of lost love that is underscored by a slick ostinato on his resonator guitar.
It is notable that Would you, Baby? is a very well recorded disc. The vocals and guitars are balanced and all of the instrumental parts are crystal clear. Whether listening to it through speakers or headphones it is like Riverside is sitting in your living room, and every detail can be heard perfectly. His guitar playing is dynamic and percussive enough that drums and bass become unnecessary. Strujik did a fantastic job of putting together such a natural-sounding release.
Riverside’s love of classic blues recordings is shown in his inclusion of “Trouble in Mind” a tune that was written in the 1920s by Richard Jones, the fabulous jazz pianist. This could possibly be one of the slowest versions ever recorded of this tune, and its leisurely pace takes his voice to the lowest limits of its register. He was definitely not copying the Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys recording of this song! Jr. also takes a run at the granddaddy of blues songs, Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues,” and does not try to make it into something more than what it is – a short and bare bones blues classic.
The standout of the covers is Son House’s “Sundown” which is not a song that artists usually choose to re-do. It features terrific slide work on the resonator guitar, and Jr.’s voice is loaded with grit and emotion. If the production values were not so high, there would be no way of telling whether this was recorded today or in the 1930s; the way this Delta song is performed is as pure as the blues gets.
But his original songs are also very good, and it was easy to pick out two favorites, and possibly they are so special because they are personal to Riverside. “Let’s Ride” has some country overtones, and was inspired by a cross-country trip that Jr. took with his son across the United States a few years back. It is neat that his son, Jonah Konijnenburg contributed the 2nd guitar parts on this track, and he is quite an accomplished player too! “Olivia” is a heartfelt ode to his young daughter that plays out like a folk song, and it gets a little extra character thanks to sublime slide guitar work from Peter Strujik.
All too soon, Would You, Baby? draws to a close with the original title track, a pretty ballad with an uncomplicated structure that conveys a powerful message of love. It provides an appropriate closure to Riverside Jr.’s first release, as it maintains the consistently positive and tasteful tone that started with the first song and continued throughout the rest of the album. Riverside Jr. is the real deal, and fans of acoustic blues and roots music will not be disappointed with what they will find here!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6
Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana
10 tracks/Running Time 38:05
Of all the Blues Albums currently on last weeks (10/12/14) Billboard chart, Keb’ Mo’ Bluesamericana has charted in the top ten longer than any other, an impressive twenty-four weeks. This three-time Grammy-awarded Blues bard continues to extend his legacy as an essential twenty-first century master of this original American art form.
Bluesamericana is Keb Mo’s first release since 2011’s Grammy nominated, The Reflection, which included heavy hitting guests like India. Arie, Vince Gill, David T. Walker, Dave Koz and Marcus Miller. Mo’s first inclination for the current recording was to make a stripped down accoustic album. But his passion for ensemble playing put that notion to rest. Though there is plenty of acoustic playing, it is augmented with electric instruments too.
There is a full cast of musicians and singers. To wit, co-producer Casey Wagner, drums and bass, Keb’ Mo’, vocals, bass, electric guitars, banjo, harmonica, tambourine, keys, slide guitar, resontator guitar & horn arrangements, Michael Hicks, organ, backing vocals, Rip Patton, Darcy Stewart, Moiba Mustafe, backing vocals, Keio Stroud, drums, Brian Allen, bass. Colin Linden, mandolin, Michael “Maestro” Lightfoot, horn arrangement, Quintin Ware, trumpet, Jovan Quallo, tenor sax, Roland Barber, trombone, Tom Hambridge, drums, Paul Franklin, pedal steel guitar, Tim Lauer, organ, piano, Steve Jordan, drums, Michael Hanna, piano, Tim Shinness, cello, mandolin, The California Feet Warmers and Robbie Brooks Moore, Mrs. Mo’ & backing vocals.
Part of the magic of this production is that it is not overblown. In spite of having twenty or so contributors the finished result never sounds more than an ensemble of four or five. The basic framework for this expansive project were basic tracks laid at Keb’ Mo’s home studio on the outskirts of Nashville with co-producer Casey Wasner and drummer Keio Stroud. They then seemed to texture in elements of Delta Blues, Pop, Jazz and Doo-Wop.
There are several standout tracks here. The opening number, “The Worst Is Yet To Come,” with it’s intro of drum, bass, and home run banjo makes you wanna get up and Buckdance even when you don’t know how. Understated mandolin, harmonica and background vocals make it sweet.
“I’m Gonna Be Your Man, ” is a solid, well crafted declaration of good lovin’ intentions. The Doo-wop outro really highlights the confidence of the narrator.
“That’s Alright,” written by Jimmy Rogers (first Muddy Waters band alum), not to be confused with “That’s All Right (Mama),” written and sang originally by Arthur “Big Boy Crudup, later becoming Elvis’s first RCA recording, offers a wry, in the alley look at the lover’s triangle theme.
The California Feetwarmers add New Oreans cred on “The Old Me Better.”
Bluesamericana has something for everybody. Keb’ Mo’ rolls on.
Reviewer Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, CA and road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto.
Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer – A Real Fine Mess
14 songs – 49 minutes
From time to time, new artists appear on the scene and make such an impact that one can only wonder why it has taken so long for them to appear. The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer are one such act.
They actually released their first, self-titled, album in 2008, which was followed in 2011 by Checkered Past. A Real Fine Mess is their third album and it is a highly impressive slab of modern blues-pop-rock that avoids clichés or moribund, regurgitated melodies and chord progressions, whilst still retaining one foot deeply in the blues. If there is any justice in the world (admittedly, a big “if”), A Real Fine Mess should be their break-out album.
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer are actually the Vancouver-based duo of Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall and Matthew “The Axe Murdered” Rogers. In a live situation, Hall sings and plays harmonica; Rogers plays guitar and foot percussion, creating a raw and primal stew of the blues. In the studio, they have added bass, keys, organ, horns and backing vocals, whilst retaining an urgency, energy and drive.
Opening with “Black and Blue”, Rogers’ finger-picked Telecaster has a huge tone. Other instruments are layered on top, one by one, including slide guitar, harmonica and simple but powerful drums, but the production retains a memorable starkness and emotional power.
Hall has a distinctive voice, often slipping into falsetto (such as on “Feel Me Now”) and sometimes even displaying a hint of reggae (in “Closer To Death”, which also features some lovely understated organ from Tom Heuckendorff).
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer take their name from a line in Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee” that references the blues harp (“I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana”) and “axe”, the common colloquialism for the electric guitar. It’s a distinctive and memorable name. And those adjectives are also a pretty fair reflection of the music on A Real Fine Mess.
The 14 self-written songs on the album are closer to blues-pop-rock than pure blues, and the backing vocals of Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks and Dawn Pemberton on some tracks give an additional sense of late ‘60s soul. But there is an energy, drive and emotional honesty to the songs that should appeal to blues purists as well as to blues-rock fans.
Hall and Rogers have an impressive understanding of dynamics. “Mama In The Backseat”, for example, grooves with the irresistible drive of a Magic Sam boogie, but with a softer edge during the verse that builds tension and expectation before exploding into life for the instrumental sections.
Rogers is a top drawer guitarist but he avoids taking any solos on A Real Fine Mess, preferring instead to add dynamic support to the songs. Indeed, this is an album of songs, not solos. Hall takes a couple of short solos, but again his harmonica is primarily used to support the songs, rather than using the songs as an opportunity to demonstrate instrumental prowess.
Hall and Rogers live in different cities separated by 34 nautical miles of sea, which brought its own challenges to the recording. However, after18 ferry trips, 3 missed flights, countless breakdowns, and a barrage of text and email arguments later, A Real Fine Mess was finished. And it was worth all that effort.
If you enjoy the blues-rock of Jack White or The Black Keys, you will love
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.
Blues Society News
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DC Blues Society – Washington, DC
The 7th Annual College Park Blues Festival is Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 6:00 pm– 11:30 pm. The event is free!
The fundraiser — held at the Ritchie Coliseum in College Park MD 20740 — will help send the winner of the DC Blues Society’s Annual Battle of the Bands to the 2015 International Blues Challenge (IBC).
No tickets required for exciting concert of different blues genres. Headliner Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers pack blues, R&B and soul into their crowd-pleasing performances. Although hailing from Virginia’s Hampton Roads where she has re-energized the blues scene, Jackie’s powerhouse vocals and songwriting are steeped in Chicago. Jackie has been compared to blues legend Koko Taylor and has opened for B.B. King, Keb’ Mo’, and Taj Mahal.
Festival lineup includes The Mojo Priests who will represent the DC Blues Society at the 2015 IBC sponsored by The Blues Foundation. Also appearing: the DC Blues Society Band which plays high energy danceable blues mixed with a good dose of blues standards. The M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio opens, performing Piedmont-style blues and roots music.
Info at http://dcblues.org
The Golden Gate Blues Society – San Francisco, CA
Don’t miss the 2nd Annual San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival Sponsored by The Golden Gate Blues Society to benefit Musician’s Medical Relief Fund Sunday November 9, 2014 at 4:00pm Miner Auditorium SFJAZZ Center, 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco. Featuring a stellar lineup including Bob Seeley, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Lluís Coloma, Silvan Zingg and Wendy DeWitt. Info at www.TGGBS.org
River Basin Blues Society – Evansville, IN
The River Basin Blues Society will host the 3rd annual River Basin Blues Blast starting at 4 pm on November 29, 2014, at the Deerhead Sidewalk Cafe, 222 E. Columbia, Evansville, IN. Bands performing at the event include the Beat Daddys, Honey Roy, Soul Creation and 103 Degrees (featuring Grammy Award winner Jeff ‘Stick’ Davis and Joe Doughtery, the road drummer for the Grass Roots).
At this year’s Blues Blast the River Basin Blues Society will award the 1st Annual Blues Heritage Award. This inaugural award will be given to Steady Wailin’ Sid Scott. Sid has been a force of music, culture, and news in the African American community in Evansville.
The event is free, but a portion of food and drink sales from the event will benefit the RBBS and 91.5-FM WUEV. There will also be prize giveaways. For more information, contact the RBBS at https://www.facebook.com/groups/riverbasinblues/
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is holding its local IBC Solo/Duo Challenge on Saturday, November 1, at Bentley’s Pub, 419 N. Neil St. in Champaign. We’re looking forward to conducting our first Solo/Duo Challenge and the event kicks off at 5:00.
For more info, visit our IBC Challenge Page;www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org/ibc_challenge15.html
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. Nov. 3 – Todd Wolfe Band, Nov. 10 – Laura Rain and the Caesars, Nov. 17 – The Blues Deacons, Nov. 24 – Brother Jefferson Band, Dec. 1 – Harper and the Midwest Kind, Dec. 8 – Bobby Messano, Dec. 15 – Studebaker John & the Maxwell Street Kings, Dec. 22 -Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Dec. 29 – James Armstrong
Additional ICBC shows: Nov.6—James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Nov. 20—James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Nov. 22 – Hurricane Ruth CD release party at The Alamo, with special guest, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, 7 pm, Dec. 4—James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Dec. 18 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.
Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at email@example.com at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org
P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425