Issue 8-46 November 13, 2014

Cover photo by Gary Eckhart © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues Blast Music Award winner, Mark T. Small.

We have 7 music reviews for you including new music from Mississippi Heat, The Ernie Peniston Band, Hurricane Ruth, The Alexis P. Suter Band, Sam-One, The Mighty Soul Drivers and JP Soars.

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,

I found the first Black Friday special on this week. I thought it might be a bit early for Christmas shopping but I got a great deal on a couple memory cards for my cameras. So now I think maybe it IS time to start thinking about the holidays and we have a great gift idea for you.

Blues In Modern Days is the first book from Blues Blast Publishing and it is a GREAT gift for that Blues lover in your life. The book features 31 stories of great Blues artists including some real legends and some soon to be legends, “in their own words”. It is written by senior Blues Blast writer Terry Mullins and you WANT to check it out.

CLICK HERE to check it out and make a Blues lover happy on Christmas morning. For more info, see our ad below for this great book.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7 

Mississippi Heat – Warning Shot

Delmark – 2014

16 tracks; 64 minutes

Mississippi Heat returns with a new album and it’s an outstanding contribution to their catalogue. As ever, leader Pierre Lacoque is at the heart of things with nine compositions and his distinctive harp playing. Also on board are long-serving vocalist Inetta Visor and drummer Kenny Smith, both of whom contribute a song. Andrew ‘Blaze’ Thomas is on seven cuts on durms. Giles Corey returns on guitar, aided by Carl Weathersby on two cuts and Michael Dotson who plays and sings on the three songs he wrote for the album. Newcomers Neal O’Hara on keys and Brian Quinn on bass are solid throughout, Ruben Alvarez adds latin percussion to three tracks and backing vocals come from Mae Koen, Diane Madison and Nanette Frank. The extra ingredient on this album is the presence of Sax Gordon Beadle on several cuts, the horn parts definitely adding to the overall excitement of the album.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with what MH is all about, just listen to the first three tracks, all written by Pierre. Opener “Sweet Poison” finds Inetta singing of “dealing with what is real, your love is like sweet poison and I don’t like the way it feels” over an Elmore James slide riff, Sax Gordon providing a second riff on his horn and Pierre adding some fine colour on harp.

“Alley Cat Boogie” is a frantic rocker with Neal’s piano featured strongly alongside Pierre’s harp and a real old-fashioned ‘yakkety sax’ break from Gordon– a track that you simply cannot stay still to! MH has always enjoyed a dimension of Caribbean lilt in their music and “Come To Mama” provides that courtesy of Neal’s organ and Ruben’s percussion, Pierre and Gordon taking short solos to add further to this swaying party of a song.

The first song from outside the band is Brook Benton’s “I Don’t Know” (previously recorded by Ruth Brown and Billy Eckstine), a smooth blues ballad that lets us hear Inetta’s lovely voice close up with light accompaniment. The other cover is a harmonica feature for Pierre in a re-working of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart” – well, Brother Ray did it so why not MH?

The three Michael Dotson songs all feature his rumbling guitar and vocals: “Swingy Dingy Baby” is a rocker with some fine harp from Pierre, “Yeah Now Baby” has a strong Howling Wolf core riff and “Evaporated Blues” is a slow blues. Inetta’s song “A Part Of Something Special” is a full production with horns, backing vocals and a celebration of being part of a relationship “being able to give and receive love”, former MH Lead guitarist Carl Weathersby providing a short reminder of what an excellent player he is and Gordon again soloing to good effect. Kenny’s song “What Cha Say?” has Pierre’s harp making an opening statement before Kenny sings in classic slow blues style over some fine slide guitar from Giles.

The remaining songs are all Pierre’s and provide an impressively wide range of styles for the band. “Working Man” is an uptempo number to close the album in sprightly style, Inetta singing of her hard-working partner who “gets up every morning to earn a living the best he can”.

Title cut “Warning Shot” is a mid-paced tune with lots of harmony b/v’s in support of Inetta’s lead, Neal’s warm organ solo providing a launch pad for Carl Weathersby’s stinging, fast-fingered guitar. “Birthday Song” effectively re-works the standard ‘Happy Birthday’ refrain into a Latin-edged concoction with Giles’ Santana-style solo sitting comfortably in the centre of the song. “Nowhere To Go” is a classic shuffle with Neal, Giles and Pierre taking solos behind another excellent vocal from Inetta and “Too Sad To Wipe My Tears” is a stripped-down country blues.

Leaving perhaps the best to last “Recession Blues” finds Inetta hoping that her lover is still as strongly in love with her as before the recession bit hard on everyone. Another full production, this one again finds Giles in latin mood in his solo before Pierre adds another telling harp contribution. Meanwhile Ruben’s latin percussion adds to the stirring rhythms and Gordon’s background role on sax should not be ignored.

Overall this is an extremely strong album and comes very highly recommended for both the range and quality of the material and musicianship.

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 Wanderings 

We made it out to the Illinois Central Blues Club’s Blue Monday show this week to catch a set by Laura Rain and the Caesars. It was a packed house and this group rocked the house. Very impressive performance!

They have a new album out entitled Closer. We will have a review of the album in the coming weeks. Check out her website at

Blues Blast Magazine is offering a fall advertising special. This special pricing will be our lowest pricing of the 2014-2015 season.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Mark T. Small 

It’s not that Mark T. Small doesn’t love his guitars; because he certainly does.

It’s not that Mark T. Small takes his guitars for granted; because he certainly doesn’t.

The sole reason that some of Mark T. Small’s guitars seem like they’ve been saddled with years or abuse and neglect is because the Massachusetts-based bluesman plays the ever-loving Hell out of his guitars.

That nightly process of vicious assault-and-battery is probably why Small is hard-pressed to name a favorite guitar of his.

“I try not to (have a favorite guitar he leans towards playing); I beat the heck out of ‘em. I think John Hammond said one time that when you’re doing a solo acoustic act, the trick is to make as much noise as one person can possibly make,” Small said. “So you’re beatin’ on that thing all night long. To really have an acoustic guitar sound good, you’ve got to hit it hard enough that the top vibrates to get that crisp, driving sound. So I give them a real workout.”

Given that, one might think that Small’s arsenal is comprised of bargain-basement axes made out of some kind of cheap plywood. However, that’s not the case.

“I have a little collection of Martins, some from the early ‘50s, that I use, but I try to force myself to switch off, because it’s very easy to fall in love with one and then think that the others don’t sound as good. You can get used to it (the sound of one particular guitar),” he said. “But I am a Martin guy. And for slide, I play strictly Nationals.”

Armed with just a couple of acoustic guitars and a handful of songs, it can take a lot of effort and a lot of ‘beatin’ on that thing all night long’ to fill up even the smallest of clubs. Don’t think that Small is not aware of that.

“When I play, I’m not just playing on the stage; I’m playing for the people in the furthest part of the room away from the stage, even if it’s in a big auditorium,” he said. “That’s who I’m playing for, the people all the way in the back.”

A few of Small’s well-worn six string troops, along with the guitarist’s visually and sonically impressive technique and chops, can be experienced on his latest release – the accurately-titled Smokin’ Blues (Lead Foot Music). The album took top honors in the Acoustic Album of the Year category at this year’s Blues Blast Music Awards.

“It’s two-fold; the first part is to get recognition from Blues Blast, which is wonderful. And the second is to have the support of the people that come out to hear me play,” Small said. “I was a band guy for years and then decided to play solo blues and I said, ‘I don’t care if anybody listens to it, I’m doing this for me and for the music.’ And to have it be received well is just wonderful.”

The songs on Smokin’ Blues run the gamut from Chicago blues (Elmore James’ “Early in the Morning”) to Memphis R&B (Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog”) to patriotic pride (“America Medley”). But regardless of their source of inspiration, all the songs on the disc were put through their paces on the road before being laid down to tape in the studio.

“Well, I’ve really honed my material by being a road warrior. In July and August of this summer, I did 40 gigs – some of them bigger shows and some of them in smaller clubs. And in these clubs, you have to earn the ear of the audience,” Small said. “And in order to do that, you have to pay attention and see what grooves work. You can tell if your solos start to get a little too long, so I’ve honed the structure of the tunes by just playing night after night.”

No doubt partly because he was so familiar with the material prior to recording it, and partly because he’s just such an amazing guitarist, but Smokin’ Blues has a warm, rich and immediate sound, making the listener feel like they were in the studio with Small and his guitars at the time of inception.

“As far as the recording of the CD, my goal was to make it sound like you’re sitting in a small room listening to me play. I don’t like using effects (in the studio), I play it just like I’m playing live,” he said. “I turn the mics on and just play. That kind of mind-set to me is all about the guitar. To me, the guitar is such a beautiful instrument, that to do anything to alter that is a crime. So I just play it like I feel it and leave it alone.”

It’s really evident by just hearing or seeing Small do his thing that a lot of his guitar technique goes back to an early love of bluegrass music and legendary artists like Doc Watson and Norman Blake. In the early 1980s, Small was a member of the Brown Country Band, a ‘newgrass’ outfit based in Indiana.

“I was attracted to bluegrass in my teens because those guys play just like greased-lightning. It just amazes me how fast they can play. So I kind of honed my chops in that genre of music,” he said. “But also in my teens, I was introduced to the blues and I just found it to be the best palette for the guitar.”

Playing pop tunes on acoustic guitar is one thing, but the way Small sees it, a whole new world – one that most people can find a home in – opens up when you start banging out on the blues on a flat top.

“James Taylor is a great guitar player and a great song-writer. But for me to do a song like ‘Going to Carolina in my Mind” … I’m not going to Carolina in my mind. But I can relate to things like ‘her daddy must have been a millionaire; I can tell by the way she walks.’” he said. “You know, everybody can relate to that. And I think because of that, this music (blues) is just wonderful for doing whatever it is you want to do on the guitar. It provides such a great palette for expressing yourself on the guitar. You can just step out and do what you want.”

Playing the blues on an acoustic guitar is by no means something new or revolutionary; it’s something that’s been going on since the dawn of time itself. But where Small has managed to separate himself from the pack is with the way that he incorporates the finger-picking styles of icons like Merle Travis and Chet Atkins with the approach of Hall of Famers like Rev. Gary Davis and Charlie Patton. The blend of those two camps creates the ‘Mark T. Small’ style of acoustic blues.

“I use about six different styles of guitar in my live show and I pick songs where I can combine those styles and get the place jumping,” he said. “You can generally tell pretty quickly when you try them (songs) out if you’ve got a live wire. To me, the groove is number one. It took me a long time to realize that, but it really is all about the groove.”

“I try to make every song my own. It’s important for me to make it my song. So you take a tune like Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step it up and Go” (off Smokin’ Blues). He finger-picked that on a National and I love the way he does it, because it has that boogie-woogie line in it. So to make it my own, I flat-pick it in that boogie-woogie kind of style. Generally, when I start fooling around with a song, it usually comes out how my interpretation of it is going to be. Sometimes I’ll pick up a set of finger-picks and noodle around with a song a little bit and then I’ll pick up a flat-pick and instinctively, I’ll go in the direction that best fits my style. I try not to copy anyone because I have so much respect and admiration for these old blues guys.”

One legendary father of the blues that Small can’t seem to get enough of is the late, great John Lee Hooker.

“Yeah, you take a guy like John Lee Hooker; he wouldn’t even change to the next chord until he felt like it. He didn’t care about structure or anything like that. He cared about how he felt. John Lee Hooker had the best groove ever, in the whole history of mankind. He would play just one chord and blow the roof off the joint with just that one chord. To me, the blues is the only music that lets you just bear right down and dig into the guitar. You can be improvisational. Unless it’s a ragtime piece or something like that, I never know what I’m going to play. I just jump in and hang on. It’s like magic.”

When it comes time to whittle down a list of potential songs that he wants to add to his repertoire, Small approaches the task like he might approach a good buffet at a local restaurant.

“I look at the whole thing like a good, good plate of barbecue. The song is kind of the meat and the guitar is the sauce. I don’t care whether it’s chicken, or pork or ribs, it’s the sauce – the guitar – that I like,” he said. “So I look for something that has a great groove. Being a road warrior, I’m constantly checking things out to see what gets people shaking a leg. But it’s got to have a great groove and be something that I can express myself on the guitar with, using those old techniques from the bluegrass days and from the days that I fronted an electric blues band.”

In the late ‘80s, Smith fronted an electric Chicago blues styled band called the Lonesome Strangers, and the group was a fixture on the east coast blues scene for well over a decade. These days, while he hasn’t turned his back completely on an electric power trio, when he does plug in and turn up, it’s more for relaxation than anything else.

“I’ll throw a band together for a gig occasionally; I love to play the electric guitar and it really is kind of a relaxing situation after playing solo. My solo act is very guitar-intense, so between the singing and the playing, I just don’t have a second to not pay attention or to not be into it,” Small said. “And in a band, of course, you can kind of step back and maybe take a drink of water and have someone else step up for a second. In a solo show, there’s no room for anything except for just leanin’ on it.”

Even though he had a successful band dynamic going with the Lonesome Strangers, Small was more than a little intrigued with the prospects of just sitting down with an acoustic guitar, all by himself.

“I was playing in the band and going through the whole ‘school of hard knocks’ that goes with that scene, but the whole time, I was also playing Scott Joplin ragtime tunes and old-time fiddle tunes and acoustic things that were also important to me, because I wanted that completeness to be able to pick up the guitar and play for an hour without singing,” he said. “The whole time that I played electric, I thought this (playing solo acoustic) is where it’s really at. The completeness and artistry of just one guitar was something that I really loved.”

Just a few years into the New Millennium, Small decided the time was right to make his move.

“In 2006, I started working on my solo show and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t care if anyone likes it; I don’t care if anyone listens to it; I don’t care if anyone hires me, this is what I was meant to do.’ And oddly enough, my success just accelerated after making that decision. I started getting jobs opening up for some big acts and clubs that hired pop musicians started hiring me and people started showing up.”

Not all of those ‘people that started showing up’ were well-versed in the blues upon entry into those clubs, but Small made sure that was not the case upon their exit from those clubs.

“A lot of people said, ‘I don’t know what this stuff is, but I like it.’ But I think seeing one guy playing some fancy guitar can get their attention and make them say, ‘What the heck is this? That guy’s working hard and that looks difficult.’

Smith’s forceful guitar style is well-backed by an aggressive brand of vocals that captures as much attention as his picking does.

“I have always loved Johnny Winter’s singing, ever since I was a kid. I was fortunate enough to have opened for him about three times before he died and his growl … I just related to him so much with his growl,” Small said. “Of course, I love all the old blues guys. The cool that John Lee Hooker puts out on a song like ‘I’m Bad like Jesse James” is amazing. I like that kind of tough-guy vibe that guys like Hooker have … just sit there and take a stand. There was a saxophone player years ago that was a mentor of mine – he died of cancer awhile back- and he told me that what was important was to take a stand. He said, ‘Start strong, end strong and go crazy in the middle.’ That’s been the premise for the way that I play my stuff.”

The New England area has long been a hot spot for blues of all shapes and sizes, and although the scene there today may not be as heady as it once was, according Small, if you want to see the blues, you don’t have to search too far.

“In places like Newport, Rhode Island there used to be clubs on both sides of the street, all the way down the road, which was amazing. But that’s stopped. What has happened is some mid-level – 300 or 400 seat – venues have popped up, like the Narrows Center for the Arts (Fall River, Massachusetts) that have folks like Johnny Winter, before he died and James Cotton and Marcia Ball, some really great acts,” he said. “Some of these smaller-type venues have acts that you might not normally see in some of these areas (in New England). So, on one hand there are less clubs, but on the other hand, some of these venues have taken their place where you can see guys like Albert Lee in an intimate setting.”

In today’s world of bigger, flashier and louder, it can be a bit of an uphill task to leave your own mark with so much media begging for our attention. This is especially true in the world of music, where playing the blues is not at the top of the totem pole these days.

“Well, if I can get into a place – that’s the tough part, getting into a place when you say, ‘Hi. I’m a guitar player and I play the blues.’ They (club owners) go, ‘Well, we like to have fun in our place.’ So that’s the tough part, getting in, but when I do get in, I’ve been absolutely shocked playing these college towns to these young kids that you would look at and say there’s no way this person’s going to like this music and then have them come up and buy CDs and tell me that they don’t know this music, but they love it,” he said. “Because of those things, I do this history newsletter that identifies the different styles of playing and some suggested listening to go along with it. It talks about the history of the music, where it came from and who to listen to.”

History lessons from a book are one thing, but as most teachers will tell you, the manner in which the lesson is delivered has as much to do with its impact as the information itself.

“I think my secret weapon is the guitar. Seeing a band playing is one dynamic, but to see one guy sitting on a stool blazing away … I don’t know, but I think they look at the guitar work and it forces them to sit down and listen,” Small said. “It’s a wonderful thing. The most rewarding thing for me in my solo act is to have some kid with his baseball hat on sideways – and who probably has rap and hip-hop on his iPhone – come up to me and say that he wants to know more about this music. That’s just amazing. And for me, it’s really all about the music. It’s not about me. When I’m on stage, I never talk about me. I talk about the music and its history and where it came from and where to go to learn more about it. I’m like the Catholics converting the Indians out there when it comes to the blues.”

Editor’s Note: Mark Won the awards for Acoustic Blues Album Of the Year. To see a video of his smokin’ performance at the awards show this year, CLICK HERE

Visit Mark’s website at

Photos by Gary Eckhart © 2014

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist, author 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 

The Ernie Peniston Band – Live At The Muddy Waters


11 songs – 62 minutes

In 2010, after more than 40 years in the music business, including four years as the lead singer of Blind Pig recording artists, Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings, another four years with Approaching Storm, being a part of the Minneapolis soul scene alongside such acts as Prince and Morris Day And The Time, as well as work as a solo artist (which resulted in him being inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2003), Muscatine native Ernie Peniston entered well-deserved retirement.

The good news for all fans of top quality blues, funk and soul is that, as any student of Robert Burns will tell you, “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley” (or, as we say in English, the best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry).

A chance meeting in 2013 between Peniston and former EPB guitarist Joe Collins and a number of subsequent phone calls resulted in various ex-members playing together again and in February 2014, the Ernie Peniston Band held a reunion show at The Muddy Waters in Bettendorf, Iowa. The gig was recorded and has now been issued as Live At The Muddy Waters, and it is a little gem.

Opening with an uncredited vocal introduction, the band launches into a funky-but-smooth instrumental jam, with guitarist Collins immediately setting the tone with a blazing yet melodic solo. Keyboardist Manuel Lopez III follows with a jazz-rock influenced solo before a second short Collins segment leads into a solo from bassist Darren Butler. But what could come across as either directionless jamming or even self-indulgent twiddling actually works beautifully because of the musicality and restraint of the players. And the jam then seamlessly segues into the funk of “So Many Women, So Little Time”, permitting the entry of Peniston himself.

Peniston is a singer with a magnificent voice, capable of handling a wide range of styles with aplomb and always with full-bore emotional commitment. And his band is top notch, with the rhythm section of Butler and drummer Rick Penhallegon laying down a deeply funky groove on every number. Lopez and Collins both get ample time to stretch out on solos but also provide sensitive backing accompaniment to each other and to Peniston’s voice.

What really sets this album apart is the funk edge displayed by the band. The funk songs (such as “If You Wanna Boogie….”) are balanced by a healthy dose of blues but the blues songs are played with a deeply funky-soul edge. There are a number of classic blues songs in the set, but they are all given a new lease of life by the injection of funk from the band. So on “Here I Am”, for example, what could be a straight 12 bar shuffle is given a funky work-over. BB King’s “Why I Sing The Blues”, Magic Sam’s version of “Sweet Home Chicago” and even “Stormy Monday” all sound reinvigorated in the hands of the EPB.

The band are equally adept at the soul of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” or “Heart Of St Paul”, written by Peniston’s boyhood friend, the late Andy Bailey.

If there is a criticism of the Live At The Muddy Waters, it is in the absence of information on the album sleeve. The musicians and songs are listed, as is the fact that the CD was recorded by Terry Patton (who, as an aside, has done a wonderful production job, capturing a truly live sound without losing the instrumental separation of studio recordings). But there is scant other information. No songwriters are listed for any of the tracks. There is no reference to a website or Facebook page, nor to any record company. Curiously, there isn’t even an assertion of copyright.

That minor issue aside, if you like your blues mixed with some red hot funk, you will definitely want to check out Live At The Muddy Waters. It’s a very impressive and enjoyable release. The EPB do not play many gigs but – on the basis of this album – if they are playing near you, it will be a gig you won’t want to miss.

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 – 3 of 7 

Hurricane Ruth – Born On The River

Self-Release – 2014

11 tracks; 58 minutes

From Beardstown, Illinois, Hurricane Ruth offers us a generously filled album of original blues rock material. The band consists of Hurricane Ruth LaMaster on vocals, David Lumsden on guitar, Gary Davis on bass and Jim Engel on drums. Ruth wrote all the lyrics and all four members of the band are credited with the music. The CD also comes with a very nicely produced booklet with the lyrics and some vintage photos to accompany the songs, some of which appear to have been provided by family members.

Some of the songs appear to be autobiographical and we certainly know where Ruth is from as she sings the title “Born On The River” many times over in the extended opener, David’s heavy guitar riff chugging along with a menacing tone. Most of the songs here are fairly lengthy and we get plenty of opportunity to hear David’s muscular guitar riffs which are a central part of the band’s sound alongside Ruth’s strong vocals. The following tracks are this reviewer’s pick of the bunch here:

Track 2 – “Make Love To Me”. Ruth makes an offer that sounds hard to refuse on this mid-paced rocker with lashings of guitar throughout. Lyrically it appears that Ruth has set aside her ‘good girl’ days and is overcome with desire for her new man: “before I set you free, make love to me”.

Track 8 – “Big Helen”. A local ‘madame’ whose late-night provision of drinks and girls was ignored by the cops makes for an interesting story set to a brooding blues tune.

Track 9 – “Work It”. The shortest cut on the album works very well, a song of determination sung with gusto by Ruth over a riff out of The Stones’ handbook.

Track 10 – “Whiskey Chute”. A catchy rocker celebrates Friday night in the local hostelry over a Southern Rock riff.

This is a solid set of upbeat rocking blues which probably reflects the band’s live shows pretty well.

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 7 

The Alexis P. Suter Band – Love The Way You Roll

American Showplace Music

12 songs – 47 minutes

The Alexis P Suter Band is a five piece ensemble fronted by the eponymous Ms Suter. With a growing reputation for incendiary live performances, particularly in the North-Eastern USA where they are based, Love The Way You Roll – the APSB’s sixth album – should be the catalyst that helps introduce the band to a wider audience.

Love The Way You Roll is fine slab of modern guitar-led electric blues-rock. Opening with the riff-based “Nuthin’ In The World”, Jimmy Bennett’s heavily over-driven guitar has echoes of Hendrix in his soloing style, particularly in the outro solo as he bends and releases his strings with abandon.

The most distinctive aspect of the ASPB however is Suter’s deep, husky, powerhouse of a voice. She began singing in her church choir in Brooklyn as a four-year-old, and the gospel influence is still evident in her tone, particularly on ballads such as “Anything”, which also features some lovely organ from John Ginty, or “Waiting”. Blessed with a deep bass/baritone voice, Suter is a highly impressive singer, capable of convincingly conveying deep emotional turmoil, whether it be the pure lust of “Big Mama” or the anger and resignation of “You Don’t Move Me No More.” She is well-supported throughout by Bennett’s warm, choppy guitar playing and the solidly swinging rhythm section of Peter Bennett (bass) and Ray Grappone (drums/percussion), together with Vicki Bell’s voice (which adds lovely touches to songs like “Hang On” and “Them Days”).

Of the 12 songs on the album, various members of the band contribute 10 of the songs in different writing combinations. They cover a wide range of styles, from the funky blues of “It Ain’t Over” (with the memorably assertive lyrical punchline at the end of each verse that “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”) to the R’n’B/pop ballad of “Them Days” and the Black Crowes-esque “Hang On.” The memorable title track features a rumbling bass and drum backing with distant and discordant slide guitar framing Suter’s voice of abandon.

The two covers on the album are Big Mama Thornton’s classic “You Don’t Move Me No More” (which is given a rock and roll re-interpretation with excellent jungle drums from Grappone) and Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips”. The one-chord groove of the latter can be tricky to nail convincingly, but the APSB turn in a fine modern version, with Suter and Bell’s voices combining magically.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Ben Elliott at Showplace Studios, Love The Way You Roll is a very enjoyable release and well worth checking out by fans of modern electric blues and blues-rock.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7 

Sam-One – Bad Boy of the Blues

Self Release

8 tracks / 37:51

For every big-name blues artist with a record deal there are thousands of blues bands out there, playing their own style of music and grinding out gigs at bars and clubs around the world. One of these is Sam-One, a singer and guitarist from Pittsburg, California who is carving out his own niche.

Though he now lives in this San Francisco Bay Area town, Sam Wesley Jr. (his birth name) hails from Memphis where he started playing guitar when he was eight. 55 year later he is still at it, and he has certainly learned a few thing over the years, including singing, songwriting and arranging. Sam cut his first album, You Ain’t Right, in 2009 and this southern soul disc got him in the door of a few radio stations and some hard-earned airplay.

Bad Boy of the Blues is Sam-One’s self-released sophomore effort and this time he has gone for more blues and less soul, which really works for him as his guitar chops are wonderful. It is a fairly short disc, coming in at 37 minutes, but all eight tracks were written and produced by Wesley. Sam takes on the guitar and vocal duties, and he is joined by a solid band that includes Niklas Nordstrom on bass, Twist Turner on drums and the horn section of Gino Archimede, Adrian Justice and Mark Sullivan.

“Somebody Lied” is the first song in the set and it might not be what you expect from the title. This is not a song about infidelity, but is instead a rebuttal those that say the blues genre is dead. As he calls out the familiar blues heroes in his weathered voice Sam is backed by the simple yet spot-on foundation of bass and drum and a brief but smooth guitar solo.

Things get fun quickly with the next track as “My Baby” is a catchy tune with plenty of funk that lets Nordstrom step out on bass as the horn trio pecks out their staccato accents. There is a similar vibe to “You Ain’t Feelin Me” which artfully uses the counterpoint of Sam-One’s reverb-soaked guitar and a brief solo interlude.

There is also a smooth love song, “Forever & Beyond,” which has a funky jazz feel thanks to Mark Sullivan’s flute parts. Wesley shows versatility in his vocals and his guitar playing, which adapts well to this lighter and slower pace. The time that he spent playing southern soul appears to have paid off in allowing him to change his sound up as needed.

After a passel of three-minute songs, the album finishes up with a couple of double-length tunes that give Sam-One a chance to cut loose on his guitar and he really can play! His feel, bends, and timing are terrific, and his work is as clean as a whistle. There is a smoky feel to “You Think You Fooling Me” which features fine clean guitar leads, and poignant lyrics about the darker side of relationships. For the closer, Sam picked “Do You Want Me Baby” with its classic blues structure with a slow-grinding beat. The horns go a bit crazy in this one, and there is one last chance to squeeze in a couple of tasty guitar solos. This may be the best track on the record!

One thing to keep in mind that this a self-released album and it did not have the benefit of a big record company budget, so there are a few production issues. Post-production engineering is uneven in spots, particularly with the horns, which are generally too far forward in the mix. That being said, this disc is still an enjoyable listen – it is just that at times it sounds more like a live album than a studio recording.

Sam-One’s Bad Boy of the Blues is a fun straight-up blues album and a strong reminder that there are countless souls out their spreading the gospel of the blues everyday. There are many clubs in the Bay Area that support the genre, and if you are in the area you might just run into Sam. If you do, be sure to pick up a copy of his CD!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 7 

The Mighty Soul Drivers – Qualified!

Hog Heaven Records

CD: 14 Songs; 55:43 Minutes

Styles: Soul Covers, Soul-Influenced Blues

What makes musicians Qualified! to play blues and soul? On one level, all that’s required is basic desire: Pick up a guitar and/or some horns and let the ‘mojo’ work. That’s a great starting point, but for a fantastic finish, polish and experience performing count for a lot. That’s what southern New England’s Bob Orsi and his Mighty Soul Drivers know well, even on their debut album.

Collaborating with engineer extraordinaire Collin Tilton of Bar None Studio, they tackle fourteen soul-infused selections (including thirteen covers) with the force of a football juggernaut. It’s disappointing that the band placed their sole original song at the end of the CD. Then again, closing tunes can be just as powerful as openers, as is proven here. Overall, they nail the sounds of classic soul: a bouncy brass section, light-hearted lyrics, and harmonious vocals. Seekers of traditional blues will find little here, but that’s not an automatic disqualification.

The Mighty Soul Drivers consist of Bob Orsi on lead vocals and guitar, River City Slim on drums and vocals, guitarist/vocalist Larry Willey, bassist/vocalist Andy Karlok, John Smayda on three types of saxophones (tenor, alto, and baritone), and Steve Donovan on keyboards. Additional musicians are Justin Canzano on alto and tenor saxophones for four tracks, and Eric Bertone on piano for six songs. The three mentioned below sound the most like pure blues.

Track 02: “Henpecked Man” – Harried husbands and boyfriends are popular characters in blues ballads, and most of them complain. Not our present narrator in this Earl Randle hit: “You may call me henpecked. I don’t mind confessing. It’s all right to be henpecked if the right little hen’s doing the pecking….” The beat here is reminiscent of a clucking chicken on all instrumental fronts, from the horns to the guitar bass-line.

Track 09: “Take Time to Know Her” – Sometimes the folks who do the ‘pecking’ in a relationship are the ones who are trying to caution one of the partners in it. In this bittersweet cover of a Steve Davis song, the subject’s mother and preacher tell him to think twice about his future bride: “Take time to know her. It’s not an overnight fling. Take time to know her – please don’t rush into this thing.” Needless to say, the warning is ignored, and our narrator discovers too late that his new wife’s cheating on him. ‘Haste makes waste’ in this case.

Track 14: “It Ain’t Right” – With a dash of funk and a lot of flair, the final song is a mid-tempo masterpiece. No matter how hard some people try, “it ain’t right” that everything they do turns out wrong as far as their partner’s concerned. Several band members take turns commanding the lead, and Bob Orsi’s lead vocals are at their most crisp here.

The Mighty Soul Drivers are more than Qualified! in their genre of choice.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 7 

JP Soars – Full Moon Night In Memphis

Soars High Productions – 2014

14 tracks; 57 minutes

Former IBC winner JP Soars returns with his third solo CD and it maintains the standard of his earlier releases, combining some energetic ‘rough stuff’ on cigar box guitar, reinterpretations of classic blues and a touch of JP’s other outlet for his boundless energy – gypsy jazz guitar. There are two covers alongside twelve originals here and the core band of JP on all manner of guitars, Chris Peet on drums and Todd Edmunds on bass demonstrate a complete mastery of all the different styles.

Along for the ride are Memphis harp player Brandon Santini on two cuts, saxman Terry Hanck on one cut, a two man horn section of Scott Ankrom on baritone and clarinet and Chaim Rubinov on trumpet on two more cuts, Hammond player Mark Leach on three tracks and percussionist Raul Hernandez on two tracks. Single appearances are also made by Teresa James on second vocal, Pat Ward, Allie Balducci and Joseph Bloom, backing vocals and Steve Laudicina on guitar.

The album opens strongly with JP’s cigar box slide combining with Brandon Santini’s keening harp, JP’s raspy voice singing of life on the road and, in particular, his win at the IBC’s: “…appreciate the good times and try not to worry too much”. Up next is “Back To Broke”, a catchy good time tune, JP on electric guitar double-tracked over his gentle wah-wah rhythm track and the organ providing good support.

“Makes No Sense” uses some almost Hawaiian guitar (another of JP’s old interests) figures on a smoky, late night ballad. JP’s world-weary voice fits this one really well and the upright bass gives a warm feeling to the trio on this one. Added percussion helps to raise the pace on the churning rocker “Somethin’ Ain’t Right” before the first cover appears.

On the previous album JP did an excellent version of “The Hustle Is On” and this time he does a sterling version of T Bone Walker’s “Mean Old World”, demonstrating his ability to handle the classics just as well as his own material. “Savin’ All My Lovin’” is a solid mid-paced blues in which JP tells us that his days of running around are over, he’s found his destination in this girl! A second cover in “Reefer Man” takes us back to the days of Cab Calloway (for whom the song was originally written), the horns adding to the frenetic pace of the version which is terrific; JP and sax player Scott exchange solo verses in fine style.

The rest of the album is all original. JP takes us back to the country with some down home cigar box work on “Way Back Home”, his gravelly vocal telling us about his upbringing. “The Back Room” opens with some light, jazzy chords before the main theme chugs in with organ support to tell us all about JP’s ‘home’ venue, Boca Raton’s Back Room: “Now it don’t matter what you’re wearing as folks don’t seem to care ‘cos we’re all here to have a good time” – sounds like my sort of venue! JP’s storming solo here is the icing on this particular cake.

The organ stays on board for “Thorn In My Side” but it’s a totally different type of song, almost Southern Rock in its quiet intro and JP’s great dobro playing – another example of JP’s ability to vary the material he plays. “Viper” brings in JP’s acoustic playing with a touch of Django Reinhardt and the 20’s feel is continued with the warm double bass, clarinet and muted trumpet. However, that warm feeling engendered by the music is belied by the lyrics which proclaim that the girl is not what she seems but “a snake in the grass”.

For the final three tracks JP seems determined to demonstrate his versatility. First “The Road Has Got Me Down” turns out to be a country lane as Teresa James joins in on vocals and JP uses pedal steel to evoke classic country music, Brandon Sanitini showing us a very different side to his harp abilities from the opening track. “Lil’ Mamacita” is an instrumental with JP playing in lovely latin style on acoustic, the percussion from Raul Hernandez adding to the Spanish feel.

Finally “Missin’ Your Kissin’” is a swing number with Terry Hanck’s sax to the fore, JP bemoaning life on the road away from his loved one: “I can’t wait to get back across the Atlantic. I like it over here, don’t get me wrong, but I need a little sunshine to keep me warm.” JP’s storming solo is very much in BB King mode here and Terry blows the roof off with his solo to close the album on a very high note.

JP Soars is also very much part of Southern Hospitality with Damon Fowler and Victor Wainwright but his solo output is well worth checking out. The last CD “More Bees With Honey” was excellent and earned a nomination for the Blues Blast Contemporary Album Award in 2011; if anything this one is even better!

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 

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Colorado Blues Society – Windsor, CO

Join the Colorado Blues Society Nov. 16 at 2PM at the Toad Tavern in Littleton for our IBC sendoff to raise more funds for our Memphis bound IBC entrants. Our IBC entries will be performing: Eef & the Blues Express (band) , Cary Morin (solo) and Coleman Dickson (youth). Plus we’ll have some past winners and a super jam led by Eef at the end of the day. Come out and show your support.

Also the 3rd Annual Colorado Blues Society Members Choice Awards are 2PM Dec. 22 at Herman’s Hideaway on South Broadway, Denver. Come out and see who are the favorites of CBS members, over 500 nominees in over 35 categories. The day is also a CD release party for our BSPCD entry, “JAM For Blues in the School”. Performing that day will be many of the local performers who made that CD possible including Dan Treanor and Afrosippi featuring Erica Brown, the 2013 IBC third place finishers in Memphis! Check our website for more info

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

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. 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. 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 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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