Cover photo by Gary Eckhart © 2014
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues Blast Music Award nominee, Norman Taylor.
We have 6 music reviews for you including new music from Jim Liban With The Joel Paterson Trio, Rie “Lee” Kanehira, Dr. John, Micke and Lefty featuring Chef, Sena Ehrhardt and a Blues Tribute To Creedence Clearwater Revival.
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,
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One of the great things they offer are Special VIP Packages that include admission to Festival and 2 waterfront VIP tents, front stage seating on padded chairs, unlimited free wine, beer, soda & water, complimentary, gourmet food presentations from 2-10 p.m. daily, discount rooms at Vinoy Hotel and free tickets to Friday & Saturday after shows for 3 Day VIP packages. So if you want a DELUXE Blues event with top notch talent, food and beverages, check out their VIP packages now and make your plans to be there. Someone on your Blues Christmas list would really love this!
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Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6
Jim Liban With The Joel Paterson Trio – I Say What I Mean
Ventrella Records – 2014
14 tracks; 49 minutes
Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based, Jim Liban has been playing blues harp for a long time, was part of the psychedelic scene in San Francisco, once shared the stage with Hendrix and was a major part of the local Wisconsin scene for many years. Less active in recent years as a result of personal tragedies, this record marks a significant return to the scene for a fine player and writer of original songs.
Jim gave guitarist Joel Paterson (Cash Box Kings, Joel Paterson Trio) his first break and Joel here repays the debt by providing excellent support throughout. Along for the sessions was Joel’s regular rhythm section, Beau Sample on bass and Alex Hall on drums: Mark Haines replaces Alex on six tracks and Jim’s son Mark Liban takes the drum seat for one cut. Keys are added to six tracks by Scott Ligon. A labour of love, Joel produced and arranged new versions of eleven of Jim’s extensive back catalogue and co-wrote three new tunes with Jim; Alex engineered and mastered the recordings and Mark Haines and Joel mixed the album.
In these days of CDs which are labelled blues but are essentially blues-rock it is refreshing to hear a genuine Chicago BLUES album. The band leaves plenty of space, nobody overplays and the record swings like crazy. Every track here is excellent but let’s start with the three instrumentals written by Jim and Joel for the album. “Cottonweed” is a fast-paced swinger with Jim playing clusters of notes at high speed, creating a sort of wah-wah effect on his harp, then interspersing some high pitch notes in James Cotton style, hence the title, one assumes; “Cold Stuff” opens with Joel’s choppy guitar providing a background for Jim to range far and wide across his harp, culminating in a note held for a very long time, quite a technical feat; “Quick Draw” has a Latin feel to the rhythm with Scott’s organ adding depth and Joel using slide very effectively.
Some of these songs are very personal. Jim pays tribute to his late wife in the warm words of “Thank You For The Dance”, a gently swinging number with bubbling organ and fine guitar accents from Joel, Jim’s harp also having a lightness of touch that suits the song perfectly.
“No More Alcohol” tackles the issue of addiction head on in a sparse arrangement, Jim intoning the lyrics through his harp mike: “That’s it, I quit, no more alcohol”. On the title track Jim gives a positive appraisal of himself on a tune that takes a Howling Wolf riff at the start but morphs into an even more swinging middle section with Joel delivering some great slide accents.
“Stop On By” has some terrific, swinging support from the band for Jim’s clear vocals about returning to his former home and some more fine blowing, this time in the lower register. “Tell Me Everything” asks for a full and frank admission, Jim than asking how he can then trust the person concerned!
Elsewhere Jim plays a slow, late night feeling blues in “Sad, Tired And Worried” but the main style here is swinging, gently on a cut like closer “Selfish Man” where Jim confesses that he wants to keep the girl all to himself or moving along at faster pace as on “Right Hand Blues” on which Jim and Joel duel very effectively across the middle section.
There is not a weak track here, everything is beautifully recorded with absolute clarity and the playing is first class. This is a CD that every true blues fan should seek out and enjoy! Highly recommended.
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.
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Featured Blues Interview – Norman Taylor
Norman Taylor knew full well what he was getting into when he made the decision to play the blues for a living.
Well aware of the early careers of those that inspired him – cats such as Guy Davis, Eric Bibb and Keb Mo – Taylor relegated himself to the fact that there would be plenty of solitary hours spent on a seemingly-endless highway, driving from one gig to the next, and the next and the next.
But still …
“Last week, I drove from a festival in Florence, South Carolina all the way up to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for a celebration of life for a woman named Peg Waltner, who was a promoter and impresario of the blues,” he said. “So I drove 10 hours from where I live down to Florence, then 10 hours back up and then three hours over (to Wilkes-Barre), all in two days. But that’s just what you do, man.”
Where some might look at such grueling excursions as pure misery, the acoustic bluesman from the Philadelphia area looks at road trips like that as an opportunity; an opportunity to further spread the gospel of his debut CD, Blue Soul (Soul Stew Records).
“I’ve had the chance to do some fantastic things lately – this summer especially. One of the highlights was getting to play the Philadelphia Folk Festival, which was an amazing experience,” he said. “I got to share the stage with one of my heroes, Josh White Jr. That was awesome. And I played the Briggs Farm Festival, which is in Pennsylvania and is a pretty sizeable blues festival, too, so it’s been awesome.”
Blue Soul was feted with a nomination for Best Acoustic Blues Album at this year’s Blues Blast Awards and its 11 tracks (10 of which are Taylor-penned originals) seem to be in perfect lock-step with the space that its creator is in these days.
“My spiritual path right now is directed toward an uplifting, New Thought-type of path. I’m actually a practitioner of New Thought philosophy/spirituality. I’m into this idea that ‘you are what you think.’ Ernest Holmes, who was one of the bigger people in it (New Thought), his philosophy was ‘change your thoughts, change your mind.’ And that’s been helpful for me. The things that have happened to me recently have been a direct result of where I’ve been placing my attention. Stuff like my meeting the guys at Soul Stew was a series of circumstances with different things coming into play. We met down south at a festival together. Eric (Selby, Soul Stew founder) was talking about this idea of forming a label and wanted me to be on it. And now, here I am.”
That New Thought philosophy comes through loud and clear on Blue Soul. Sure, the music on the disc is most definitely the blues, and as such, it deals with much of the same subject matter that the lion’s share of music cranked out in the genre does. But the underlying vibe is of a hopeful, positive nature. Put it this way – you won’t hear a whole lot of downtrodden and depressing woe-is-me kind of tracks on Blue Soul.
“We all get a little bit of that (misery) in our lives, but I think that you should play what you live – if that makes sense. For me to act like I’m some old dude on the back porch in Bentonia or Clarksdale – even though my heart is connected to that stuff – that’s not where I grew up,” Taylor said. “A lot of people ask me where the soul stuff fits in, but everything is a direct descendant of blues music, anyway. County, jazz, everything comes from the blues, but a lot of people don’t get that. So I always like to tell them that I’m playing this music that came out of the late ‘20s and ‘30s and then I jumped over two or three decades into the soul stuff. So that’s how I like to explain it (Blue Soul).”
The casual blues fan might be a bit taken aback to find out that a youngster that called the urban stomping grounds of Philadelphia home could fall under the spell of the deep country blues that are generally associated with the south.
“Remember now, Philly is known for the Gamble and Huff thing (R&B) and Hall and Oates (blue-eyed soul), but Philly was also huge on the folk scene, as well,” Taylor said. “And a lot of people might not know this, but Skip James is buried right outside of Philadelphia.”
Though he’s deeply into playing the blues these days – as he has done for a solid decade now – Taylor still hasn’t turned his back on the sounds of his youth. Instead, he meshes those smooth, soulful-type bits with the gritty, roughed-up blues.
“I definitely like to reference the area (Philly) quite a bit. I literally grew up on that soul music … it was the first music I ever heard, before I started listening to rock and all these other kinds of music. When I was living in west Philadelphia as a small boy, the guys from the Delfonics lived right around the corner from me. And I found out years later that Daryl Hall did, too. He lived near Overbrook High School, which was the high school near the area in west Philly where I lived. It’s the same high school that Will Smith went to. When he (Hall) was a young man doing session work, he lived right across from Overbrook High. So that sound is definitely infused into my music; I love that sound.”
Dips into R&B, rock-n-roll and even a bit of jazz preceded Taylor’s full emersion into the bluesy side of the music dial.
“I started to sit in with a friend of mine – he had these little coffeehouse gigs and I used to sit in with him as a second guitar player and background vocalist – but it wasn’t a blues band, it was more of a singer/songwriter kind of thing. Then I started coming across this music by the modern re-inventors of acoustic blues, people like Eric Bibb and Guy Davis, Keb Mo, Chris Thomas King, Alvin Youngblood Hart … all those guys. Back in the ‘90s in jazz, they had that whole ‘young lions’ of jazz thing going on and I call those guys the ‘young lions of acoustic blues.’ They really brought it (acoustic blues) to the forefront in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. I mean, you were even hearing them on the radio.”
That helped Thomas travel backwards – so to speak – and connect the dots between Bibb, Davis, King and Keb Mo with the elder bluesmen that inspired them to set out down the road playing the blues.
“I’d heard a little bit of the re-release of the Robert Johnson CD, but I didn’t really get it then. As I dove deeper into and sat with it awhile from a different perspective, I got into it and then started to research some of the other older guys, too.”
The way that Taylor works his magic on the acoustic guitar is immediately satisfying and could easily be as on-target at Carnegie Hall as it could at a backwoods juke joint. Every accolade that Taylor has earned for his guitar skills is certainly well-earned. It’s also worth reinforcing that his vocals are every bit as on-point as his picking skills are.
“People say that I sound like Richie Havens when I’m out playing, but I don’t know about that. I think some people may just be looking for an easy comparison, but I don’t think I really sound much like him,” Taylor said. “Keb Mo has always been an influence (vocally), as has Eric Bibb. And I love Mavis Staples and I try and work on her inflection on things with a male voice. There are a lot of singers I admire, some that really don’t come across in my singing, but that I still admire and try to sing some of their tunes; people like Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr., so my influences are pretty wide and varied.”
His youthful days of singing along to a tune predate the first time that young Norman Taylor first picked up a guitar and began to strum.
“My mother used to tell me that I was singing in the high chair. I had a Southern Baptist upbringing and went to church and wanted to be in the church choir. And I remember I was too young for the church choir at one point,” Taylor said with a laugh. “But I really wanted to be in it and eventually did get in. I think that was the initial bump (to getting into performing music). Then I heard the music of the day, you know, stuff like the Jackson 5 and all the Gamble and Huff stuff that was on the radio.”
Taylor’s family later relocated to New Jersey and his musical education continued to develop in his brand-new environs.
“At that time the town (he moved to in New Jersey) was really racially-mixed so I got to hang out with guys who were playing a lot of rock music. There was one guy there that had all of The Beatles’ albums and I’d go over to his house and listen to all that,” said Taylor. “I’d turn him onto Earth Wind & Fire and he’d turn me onto Chicago. Then I’d turn him onto some more soul and he’d turn me onto Led Zeppelin and groups like that. So that’s how I got my rock education.”
What he didn’t know at the time – but sure does today – is that he was also getting a cursory glimpse into the world of the blues at the same time he was getting turned on to the rock sounds of the ‘70s.
“Yeah, it’s interesting, but looking back, the rock tunes that I always liked were the ones that were blues-influenced. I didn’t know that or make the connection at the time, but groups like the Stones – who are still my favorite rock band – had that blues influence,” he said. “That’s what was drawing me to it, but I just didn’t know it back then.”
That intrinsic and deep connection with the blues that Taylor felt before he could even label what it was, has been around since the dawn of time. And as they were back then, the blues can be every bit as liberating and emotionally-healing today as they could back in the 1920s.
“Blues music does – and always has – spoke to the human condition. As long as you’re dealing with pain, suffering, anguish and the loss of a loved one , either by them leaving you, or God forbid, death … all those things make up the blues,” said Taylor. “People in my spiritual community go, ‘Why the blues? We’re working on uplifting things.’ And I say, ‘You sing these songs to lift the condition off of you. That’s why I sing these songs.’ They (forefathers of the blues) were dealing with the racism of Jim Crow and the terrible working environments. Some of them couldn’t even remember their parents or grandparents that were in slavery. They were dealing with all that stuff and this music helped to lift that condition off of them by singing about it. By opening up the wound, they could clean it out, if that makes any sense.”
Taylor has a particular fondness for Gibson guitars (“I have a J-45 and an L-00,” he said), but he also has a couple of Martins, including an Eric Clapton signature model that he had the factory put the same electronics in that Slowhand’s guitar has. All of that should come as no surprise to acoustic aficionados. But what might catch one off-guard is in Taylor’s weapon of choice when it comes to laying down some gutbucket slide.
“I have a couple of Taylors and it’s interesting, but I use one of them for slide. Taylors are known for kind of a bright sound and people don’t normally think of that equating with slide, or with the blues. But I manage the EQ and Taylor’s are such easy guitars to play … I just EQ it right and it sounds really good. Corey Harris is the only other blues guitarist I think that I’ve seen that plays a Taylor on occasion.”
Taylor seems to be right at home – and in the perfect place – on Soul Stew Records, an emerging new label that hails from just outside the D.C. area and has been releasing albums for a couple of years now.
“You’ve got Billy Thompson, who is an amazing guitarist, he kills it. And Mr. Octogenarian – Warner Williams – who may be the last of the original Piedmont players, is on Soul Stew, as is Bob Eike, from up in the Chicago area,” Taylor said. “And we’ve got a young lady named Mary Hott, who’s CD is finished and is about to be released.”
If Taylor has his way, he will make sure that the music-loving masses view acoustic blues as something more than just background music.
“Well, a lot of these festivals don’t want to book acoustic blues, because they seem to prefer more electric, band-type of blues acts. So this (acoustic blues) can be a weird niche to fit into, because sometimes I’m around singer/songwriters, but I’m doing this richly historical material, which they have this thing about doing your own songs,” he said. “But my thing is, do the best song. I mean, Robert Johnson just wrote in such a poetic way. I can’t write like that. I always tell them, look at Frank Sinatra. I don’t think he ever wrote a song … but I try and break it down for them like this; that whole notion (of writing your own songs) came in with The Beatles. All of a sudden, everybody in popular music had to be writing something. They had three great songwriters in the band, one (George Harrison) of which doesn’t get much play because the other two (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) were just so strong.”
If Blue Soul is any indication, it seems that Taylor’s melding of the more traditional sounds of Philadelphia with the more traditional sounds of the Mississippi Delta has managed to create a space for itself into the crowded field of blues music in the 21st century. And Taylor plans to keep working hard to build on what he’s started. That includes plenty more miles on that never-ending highway.
“I’d plan to keep touring – nationally and internationally. I’d like to be a known name in this genre of music they way that Guy (Davis) and Eric (Bibb) are known,” he said. “And ultimately, I’d like to be at the level that Keb Mo is and be really, really known. That would be beautiful, man.”
Editor’s Note: Norman was nominated for Acoustic Blues Album Of the Year. To see a video of his performance at the awards show this year, CLICK HERE
Visit Norman’s website at http://normantaylormusic.com/
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 6
A Blues Tribute To Creedence Clearwater Revival
12 songs time-44:49
Although billed as a blues tribute CD as well as featuring some established blues artists, there is very little blues music in this homage to what is arguably the most prolific American singles band of all time. What there is here is a lot of well-crafted and performed music that is highly enjoyable. Some of the artists stay closer to the originals than others, but all interject their own energy and creativity to the project. The CCR connection aside, this CD is a solid presentation from very talented musicians.
Mike Zito from Royal Southern Brotherhood lends his gritty and enthusiastic pipes to “Fortunate Son” as slide guitar master Sonny Landreth takes off soaring through the stratosphere as usual. A Bo Diddley beat infuses “Bad Moon Rising” while vocalist Laura Burhenn and The Mynabirds transform the song into an appropriately mysterious brew with her haunting vocal. Blitzen Trapper uses what sounds like synth-horns along with harmonica and front-porch acoustic country-blues guitar blend in with some electronic effects to render a worthy version of CCR’s signature song “Proud Mary” in a laid-back fashion. The string band treatment given “Down On The Corner” by Spirit Family Reunion is just what the doctor ordered. Accordian and assorted percussion blend in to create the feel of the original recording.
Dead Man Winter give “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” a melancholy and spare acoustic reading. Leroux’s New Orleans take on “Looking Out My Back Door” bounces along quite nicely with slide guitar, organ and piano all jockeying to and fro. Blues singer-guitarist Duke Robillard fashions a sultry, simmering and steamy Memphis stew for “Who’ll Stop The Rain”…Bring your umbrella.
South Memphis String Band(Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus and Luther Dickinson) supercharge “Up Around The Bend” lead by Alvin’s nasty and gritty slide guitar. Will Wilde pulls off a nicely noisy take on “Susie Q” as a rockin’ blues with some fine guitar playing.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King tear through “Run Through The Jungle” with Bnois’ echoed vocal over fantastic distorted and jangly guitars. Kirk Flecther’s bluesy guitar playing on “Green River” overshadows his lack of vocal skills. Trampled Under Foot’s Danielle Schnebelen’s “tough as nails” vocal delivery breathes new life into “Born On The Bayou”.
Even if for some strange reason you’re not familiar with CCR this recording stands on it’s own as an outstanding collection of performances. Nothing here is a copy of the originals, but rather a musical nod and jumping off point.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6
Rie “Lee” Kanehira – The Union Meetin’
Waggy Murphy’s Records, Japan – 2014
13 tracks; 53 minutes
Rie “Lee” Kanehira is a young Japanese pianist who fell in love with the blues after completing a classical music degree. She has been a regular visitor to the Chicago Blues Festival and has made some useful contacts on the Chicago scene. For her debut album she managed to recruit a formidable cast of Chicago musicians who came together in March 2014 to record twelve songs plus a bonus track, of which more later.
The album has a variety of settings for Lee’s piano which is on all tracks. A core band of Lee, Kenny Smith on drums, Brad Ber on bass, Joe Nosek on harp, Gerry Hundt on guitar and mandolin and Joel Paterson on guitar appears on six tracks. One immediately notes that that is most of the Cash Box Kings and that influence is increased when Oscar Wilson adds his vocals to two tracks. Three tracks are duo recordings with Lee and Billy Flynn on guitar and an all Japanese trio of Lee, Shoji Naito on guitar (who also co-produced the album with Lee) and Seiji “WABI” Yuguchi on harp play on three tracks, leaving one solo piano piece from Lee to complete the baker’s dozen of songs here.
The band tracks are everything one might expect from the group of players involved. Joel’s guitar is wonderfully understated yet always fluent; Joe’s harp is right on the money and the rhythm section in the pocket. Lee’s superb piano technique is evident throughout and Gerry Hundt’s mandolin lead on his own tune “The Union Meetin’” (a reprise from his 2008 solo album “Since Way Back”) makes an interesting change from guitar.
Vocally Lee has a clear, bright voice with good range. A slight accent on occasions makes you listen a bit harder to catch the lyrics, but these are mostly well-known songs so that is not really a problem, especially given how good the playing is throughout. Oscar’s vocal contributions on Jimmy Rogers’ “I’m In Love” (where the lead guitar is played by Gerry) and Muddy’s “Standing Round Crying” are superb. Two Memphis Slim tracks early on demonstrate the range of styles here with “Rockin’ The House” driven hard by Kenny’s drums while “Messin’ Around” is a slower tune enhanced by Joel’s improvisations. Otis Spann’s “I Got A Feeling” has possibly Lee’s strongest vocal of the album and plenty of fine foot-tapping piano well supported by Joe’s harp and Joel’s stinging guitar break.
The duo tracks with Billy include the excellent original instrumental “Humboldt Stomp” which bounces along at such a lick that it is hard to realize that there is no rhythm section present, just Lee’s left hand! JB Lenoir’s “How Much More” and Big Maceo’s “I’m So Worried” both find Lee singing with Billy playing some lovely accompanying lines to support her piano work.
The trio pieces include a run through “Black Cat Swing” with WABI’s harp featured and his composition “I’m Not The Only One” on which he sings, Shoji’s guitar adding some nice slide accents. The bonus track was recorded as an afterthought as the date was the third anniversary of the Tohuku earthquake in Japan about which WABI had written “Sunshine On My Knee” which depicts the terrible tsunami which, ironically, occurred on a beautiful sunny day. It’s a slow blues, again sung by WABI with some fine guitar from Shoji and plenty of rolling piano from Lee, the lyrics depicting some of the aftermath of the event.
The solo piano piece is Lee’s composition “Dedicated To Blues Giants”, played on the Steinway that Pinetop Perkins once played, certainly an emotional moment for Lee who cites Pinetop alongside Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, Big Maceo and Leroy Carr as her main influences. It must have been extremely satisfying to cover songs from most of her heroes in this set.
Lovers of classic Chicago blues and piano blues in particular should seek out this fine album which is recommended listening. Released in Japan, it is available through CD Baby, I-Tunes and Google Play.
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
Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat : The Spirit of Satch
13 Tracks; 56:25 running time
Dr. John has been doing his musical thing since 1968 and is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as of 2011. He is also a six-time Grammy winner and quite possibly the most prominent living musical icon from New Orleans. His latest release pays respects to the one and only jazz great, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. It is a little known fact that Armstrong grew up in the same neighborhood as Dr. John albeit decades apart. The artist quotes Armstrong as “the United States’ ambassador to the world.” This album is fantastic and does a fine job stabilizing the traditional New Orleans style Dr. John is well known for. There are also many note worthy musicians that are key players on this CD including Terence Blanchard, Bonnie Raitt, and Shemekia Copeland. To say this disc isn’t lacking with talent and potential would be an understatement.
There are several classics and notable tracks on the CD including “What a Wonderful World” featuring Nicholas Payton & the Blind Boys of Alabama, “Mack The Knife” which features Terence Blanchard and Mike Ladd, & finally “When You’re Smiling” featuring the amazing Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
“What A Wonderful World” provides happiness, and amazing harmonizing to please the listener. “Mack The Knife” has unique drum work as well as a mid-song rap. The rap provides a special feel for the track and surely will get the fan thinking of various forms and interesting ways to hear a song. Lastly, how can one not feel great hearing “When You Are Smiling”? This tune is timeless as it should be. Every bad mood turns good when hearing this song and positive words!
An overall jazzy feel and wide variety of musicians, music, & instruments make this and enjoyable music experience. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band does an astounding job throughout the record. Horns, rhythms and funkiness bring so much to the table in terms of talent and flow of the music. Other songs on the disc provide the meat and potatoes with jazzy notes, eclectic tunes, and a varying range of interesting vocals to hold the listeners attention. The title proves true as there is plenty of sprit and soul bursting through the tunes.
This record succeeded in getting this blues gal hip to some jazz. Listening to this music jolted me straight out of my comfort zone and helped to broaden my musical tastes. You can’t lose with Louis Armstrong, piano, horns, and a gang of gifted musicians. Dr. John is a staple in the blues, jazz, and piano music world. Like many other legends and icons, he will not be around forever. Be sure to give him a listen and catch him while you can.
Reviewer Shannon Courto has been a Blues enthusiast since 1999. Her favorite types include delta Blues, Chicago Blues & jump/swing. She is lucky to live in St. Louis, Missouri where the music is flourishing.
Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6
Micke and Lefty featuring Chef – Up The Wall
CD: 13 Songs; 46:10 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Acoustic and Electric Blues, Roots-Influenced Blues
When hearing the words ‘three-part harmony’, what types of music come to mind? Gospel might be first and foremost, with soul and country close behind. How about this magazine’s favorite subject? Most of the harmony there typically comes via instrumentation, especially guitar and keyboards. However, Finland’s Micke Björklöf (Micke, pronounced ‘Mickey’), his colleague Lefty (Lefty Leppänen) and frequent trio member Chef (Chef Kivimäki) aim to bring this vocal specialization back to the blues.
Up The Wall is the fifth album on which Micke and Lefty have collaborated, featuring eleven original songs and two covers (Willie Dixon’s Big Three Trio’s “Come Here Baby” and Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie”). This duo has been together since 1997, when lead vocalist and harmonica guru Björklöf sought a new guitarist to join his band – Micke Björklöf and Blue Strip, formed in 1991. Lefty Leppänen, a world-class slide virtuoso, is also known from his previous work with the Keystone Cops. The two of them, along with bassist Chef, present a smorgasbord of songs. These three are scrumptious:
Track 02: “I’m a Guitar Man” – This autobiographical, up-tempo tune with a rollicking beat and witty lyrics could (and probably should) have been first. Lefty Leppänen launches into it with friendly ferocity: “Started out as a troubadour; I played the streets and bars. I never made the headlines like ‘em rock and roll stars. But I don’t mind – I’m a boy no more, and I’ve found the thing that I’m looking for.” His mastery of the National steel guitar is consummate, especially on the song’s bridge. He also sings carefree lead vocals, which are only a trifle hard to understand.
Track 03: “Up the Wall” – The title track is a traditional electric blues stomp, featuring a killer electric guitar refrain by Lefty and whip crack-style sound effects to mark the beat. Everything about “Up the Wall” screams ’blues purist heaven’ in blazing red neon lights. “Gimme your number,” Micke pleads repeatedly, but when punctuated by the cracking sound, it seems far more like a command than a request. Is this a romantic song? Maybe not, but it’s danceable anyway.
Track 08: “Busy” – Number eight may be considered the flip side of “Up the Wall”, after all the metaphorical ‘climbing’ has been accomplished. Our narrator has found that it’s time to settle down: “Workin’ like a bee, lovin’ like a man. Feeding the tribe, I do the best I can. I’ve been busy – I’ve been a good ole family guy. I’ll keep the big wheels a-rollin’ until the day I die.” Micke plays suitcase, hi-hat drums and triangle while Lefty takes the vocal lead again.
Included with this album is a handy lyrics booklet. Micke and Lefty will drive blues fans Up the Wall – with desire to hit the ‘play’ button on their CD players!
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 – 6 of 6
Sena Ehrhardt – Live My Life
11 tracks/46 minutes
Live My Life follows 2011’s Leave the Light On and 2013’s All In. From debut to three hit albums in just about three years is amazing. She and her guitar player Cole Allen have written seven of the eleven tracks for her third album and they’ve done a fine job. Her keyboard player offered up another and add in thoughtfully selected covers and we have a smoking hot album!
Sena’s band features Allen on guitar and vocals, St. Paul Peterson ad Rick Rousell on bass, Michael Band on drums (except for two tracks with Paul Peterson), and Bruce McCabe on keys for 8 tracks. Smokin’ Joe Kubek makes a guest appearance on one cut and Jimi “Primetime” Smith plays rhythm guitar on another track.
Things start off with “Stakes Have Gone Up” which was written by McCabe. Sena growls her way through this jumping hot tune as the band provides a super backdrop for a great opening cut. Rocking blues with a driving beat with Allen and McCabe leading the cause make for a cool and interesting hook. “Things You Shouldn’t Need to Know” follows where Allen gets to offer up a very wicked guitar solo and Kubek appears with his even more wicked slide but it is Sena’s vocal prowess that really sells this song long before the solo. She nails it. As she states “Nobody tells you” what the title says you become a believer fast. “Slow Down” offers up Sean doing her sultry best. Allen does another great solo and they rock on together for another nice cut. “Help Me Through the Day” slows things down significantly as Ehrhardt’s delivers this Leon Russell ballad with thoughtfully restraint; Cole also show the same approach on his solo; another winner! Allen’s “Life My Life” is a mid-tempo swinging blues rocker that works and then Sena’s rocker “Chilled to the Bone” follows that also works quite well.
“Too Late to Ask” is another Allen tune where Ehrhardt and Allen share the vocals on this softer side of rock duet. He holds his own vocally with Sena and both deliver a superb performance. The funk comes out for “Everybody is You” as Sena does a little more growling and Allen offers up a stinging solo. Albert Collin’s “If Trouble Was Money” has McCabe tinkling the piano keys as Allen cautiously intros with his guitar. Sena then comes in and sings the blues for us sweetly. “Did You Ever Love Me at All” has Ehrhardt asking the question and Allen answering it in another well done blues rocker. They conclude with “Come Closer,” a slow, country rocking blues ballad that closes with big finish.
The album is a good one. More rock than blues, Sena and the band she has assembled takes a more mainstream approach and they’ve assembled an album that could gain a lot of cross-over notice for her. Her vocals are strong and she is confident in her approach. I enjoyed listening to this one!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
Blues Society News
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DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.
The DC Blues Society rings in the New Year with Severn Records’ newest recording artist, Ursula Ricks. On December 31, 2014 from 7:00 pm – 12:30 am, the “Queen of Baltimore Blues” will provide the dance groove at the American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902. The Party includes a southern-style dinner, party favors, midnight champagne toast & a reasonable cash bar. Seating is limited. Buy tickets at www.dcblues.org or call 301-322-4808: $35 in advance ($30 for DCBS members); $40 at the door ($35 for DCBS members). Metro accessible. Ample parking.
Ursula Ricks is a blues singer & songwriter with a rich, sultry velvety voice evocative of Etta James. She brings her soulful, deep-throated, blues-driven approach to a wide range of songs.
“Ursula’s unique vision and vocal ability made recording her debut album a real pleasure….Ursula has flown under the radar for so long. We are excited that the world will finally get an opportunity to experience her incredible music.” –David Earl of Severn Records, on Ursula’s new release “My Street”
Colorado Blues Society – Windsor, CO
Join the Colorado Blues Society for 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 www.coblues.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/
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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at email@example.com or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org
P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425