Issue 9-1 January 1, 2015

Cover photo by Gary Eckhart © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with 2014 Blues Blast Music Award nominee, Annie Mack.

We have 9 music reviews for you including new music from Ty Curtis, Jay’s Xperience, Murali Coryell, Sons Of The Delta, Paul Thorn, Paul Lamb & Chad Strentz, Lil’ Red & The Roosters, Marcia Ball and a new DVD by John Ginty.

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,


To celebrate, we are offering a clearance sale on Blues Blast t-shirts. Until the end of February we are offering Free Shipping on all Blues Blast Ts. We ordered a wide array of colors and sizes in both men’s and women’s. We even have a few long sleeve ones.

But hurry. Sale ends at the end of February or when our supply is gone. For more info or to get yours now with FREE SHIPPING
click HERE

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music in 2015!

Bob Kieser

 Blues Wanderings 

I made it out to catch a great show by James Armstrong at Blue Monday the other night. It was a packed house and James was definitely getting the reaction he deserved! The place was ROCKIN’!

At one point James even made a walk down the bar and the crowd loved it.

Later James got Mary Jo Curry and Illinois Central Blues Club president Mike Rapier up for a few songs too.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 9 

Ty Curtis – Water Under The Bridge

Self-Release – 2014

11 tracks; 43 minutes.

Ty Curtis is based in the Pacific North West and “Water Under The Bridge” is his fourth album. Ty wrote all the songs on the album which was recorded in Texas with Ty on vocals and guitar, producer Jacob Petersen on second guitar, Brian Ferguson on drums, Kiko Hanna and Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Dane Farnsworth on keys and Jeff Bryant on pedal steel and Rhodes piano.

This is definitely blues rock with plenty of reference points into classic American rock styles; there are nine band tracks and two bonus tracks with Ty on acoustic guitar and vocals in singer-songwriter mode.

The album opens in full blues-rock mode and what is immediately evident is the quality of the recording where every note can be heard. “Key To My Heart” rocks along pretty well and “Bad Break” has a catchy riff at its core, the organ and guitars are solid, Ty cutting loose in his solos. Both tracks owe much to the likes of Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The title track “Water Under The Bridge” drops the pace a little and the classic rock feel is quite attractive. “True Love” is a gentle ballad written for Ty’s girlfriend, a stripped-back production with acoustic guitar, pedal steel and distant keyboards giving a country feel to the tune.

“Your Desire” hurries along on an insistent pop-rock refrain while “Thief Of Hearts” has more of a rocking Stones style thanks to the choppy guitar riff and some fine slide work. “Seen My Chance” is another ballad enhanced by some lovely guitar in the solo and interplay between Ty and Jacob on the outro while “Alright Now” is a catchy rocker with a good hook, the harmonies here sounding very 80’s AOR. A shuffle rhythm and some soaring guitar make “All It Took” the bluesiest track on the album. Ty sings this one particularly well as he sings of “following you down to the cheating side of town”.

The final two tracks are both solo acoustic but give us a chance to hear Ty without the full band and his voice stands up well to that inspection. “Loveless Time” has a touch of country and “Shame On Me” has more of a soulful feel.

This album shows that Ty and his bandmates can rock out as well as play more sensitively. Blues Blast readers who enjoy rock will probably find some enjoyable music here but, for this reviewer, there is very little blues to be found in the mix.

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 Interview – Annie Mack 

The traditional pyramid of strength starts off with ‘Foundational Strength’ at its base, before moving on to ‘Aggressive Strength’ in the middle, and finally ‘Super Strength’ at the top.

But after hearing her amazing story of perseverance, perhaps a new level should be added to that pyramid – a level at the very top that dwarfs all those below it – the ‘Annie Mack’ level.

The Rochester, Minnesota-based blueswoman has steadfastly refused to let anything derail or detain her, and when looking back on an eventful 2014 – a year that was highlighted by the birth of her son, along with a trip to the International Blues Challenge (IBC), while she was still carrying her child – her indomitable will and spirit comes shining brightly through. “When I was pregnant, I was really competitive. It was like, ‘No, I’m not canceling these gigs, I’m playing.’ So there I was down at the IBCs and was six-and-a-half months pregnant and all I wanted to do was nap and eat,” she laughed. “Those were my priorities … eating and napping. It was funny to be on Beale Street and not be in party-mode.”

Although she eventually was forced to slow down a bit, as soon as her son was born, it was back to business at hand for the dynamic Mack.

“I was only out for about four weeks. I had him May 2nd and then June 2nd I went back to work and had my first show. But honestly, I don’t know if I’d do that again, because I’m still recovering from that. We hit the road and did a lot of festivals and it was what it was … which was kind of crazy … crazy but fun,” she said.

Mack and her band have been crazy-busy supporting their debut release, Baptized in the Blues. The disc was nominated for New Artist Debut at this year’s Blues Blast awards and has managed to rack up a number of glowing accolades, despite most of the promotional groundwork having been done by Mack herself, without much outside aid.

“Well, without a marketing agency and without a label, I think we did pretty well. I did know that we wanted to go big with our debut album, because we don’t have all those things (marketing tools),” she said. “We knew the production had to be good and we weren’t concerned with being something that we’re not. If we set the bar and say this is who we are; we love all kinds of music, but the foundation is blues, that’s what’s important. I really like the old-school, organic, word-of-mouth process that we followed with the album.”

You might say it’s something of a surprise that Mack ever found her name emblazoned on a record sleeve to begin with. A relative late-comer to the vocation of playing music (basically just the last six years or so), she never really intended to take the charts by storm or play concerts all across the United States. No, Mack’s reasons for playing the blues were a lot simpler than that.

“This whole music thing has been such a whirlwind. I just did it because I thought it would be cool to do something that I liked before I die. I was doing all these weird jobs and just kind of getting by and I’ve always liked music, so I thought I would do this little hobby-band thing and see what happens,” she said. “So this is something that’s really been forming my whole life, honestly. The album is basically my life and the songs are about some of the great things in my life, or are things that I’ve overcome and I can say, ‘Hey, I’m still here.’ I also wanted to leave a little legacy for my daughter, so she could say, ‘Man, that’s my mom and that’s her story.’”

With notebook after notebook containing her memories – mostly put down on paper for therapeutic reasons – scattered around, Mack knew deep down inside that the next logical step was to try and put them to music. The only problem was; she really didn’t have a band.

“When I first started this, I really didn’t have a band. The guys that are now in my band, I was just kind of working with at that point in time. And everyone kept saying, ‘Annie, you have to do a blues album.’”

In short order, Mack managed to come up with a band to help turn her memories into songs (guitarists Paul O’Sullivan, Tom Kochie and Charlie Lacy; bass player Tim Scribner; and drummer Miles Johnson).

“They’re not just wonderful players; they’re men of integrity,” she said. “And they don’t drink! I’m the only one (in the band) that drinks. We go into these bars and they’ll give us a tab and I’ll go, ‘I’m the only one who drinks and I’m a mom, so good luck with that.’ But they (bars) love us.”

Paul O’Sullivan brought more to Baptized in the Blues than just his skills on the guitar and pedal steel. He also produced the disc, and co-wrote five of the songs with Mack. And oh, yeah – he’s also Mack’s husband. According to Mack, it’s a good idea to have some defining boundaries when your spouse is also a member of your band.

“You have to make a line between what goes on in the band and what goes on at home; there can’t be any carryover. We’ve definitely had to say, ‘Look, what goes on at home cannot carry over to the band.’ But I’ll keep it real – we’ve gotten into it in front of the guys, like when we were making the album,” she said. “It was work – hard work. He had a vision and I had a vision and we had to make sure that our visions worked together. We had to take the best of what we wanted to see happen and put it together. He really pushed me out of my comfort zone on part of it and I kind of reined him in, in some cases. It was all about communicating and putting our pride down and being humbled and being loving, all without our egos getting in the way.”

Stumbling blocks such as the ones mentioned are one thing, but just being able to share your work on a daily basis with your soul-mate makes those little speed bumps seem totally non-existent on most days.

“To be able to work and do something you love with your spouse is amazing; because honestly, a lot of musicians that I know have significant others that are not a part of that lifestyle. They’re not into music, they’re not players or they’re not vocalists,” Mack said. “To me, that’s strange when music is a big passion in your life and your significant other doesn’t share that with you. It’s just crazy. That’s why I knew that I had to be with someone that at least understood the passion and would be supportive of it.”

The tunes contained within Baptized in the Blues is an eclectic mix of a large variety of roots-based music, including some rockabilly, along with a dash of New Orleans jazz and it also features horns, as well as O’Sullivan’s pedal steel stylings, making the album blues with a different slant to it.

“We wanted to do different styles of blues, do things like Chicago blues or do this little train beat here or do this little shuffle there … just different styles. And as I started doing the songs, I felt convicted to give each song its own light and own proper voicing and styling,” Mack said.

The music may have several different facets to it, but the message contained within the lyrics all boils down to one universal theme: the truth.

“It may sound cheesy, but it’s just testimony and I do believe in the Lord. I do believe that we all have a purpose here and the beauty about music is, it’s a cool platform to encourage people,” Mack said. “I’m not here to preach, but the artists that I really admire are the ones you can hear the truth in. Etta James could sing anything, but there was just something about her that you hear the truth in … you could hear the conviction and you could tell she knew what she was talking about. And you could hear that in Mavis Staples, as well. There’s just something that resonates with your spirit when you hear her. That’s what I try to bring – truth and relatability. I want people to be encouraged and I want to share the journey; I’ll talk about dark things, but I also talk about the hope that comes if you just kind of withstand it (dark times). I just love hearing the truth … it sends shivers up your spine.”

Growing in Minneapolis, a city known worldwide for its funk, R&B and soul, Mack didn’t hear a whole lot of blues music. She truly feels that her eventual destination of playing blues music as an adult is a choice that was made for her from above.

“It was God. I know I was called upon to do blues music by Him. I was really surprised when I was pulled into it (playing the blues), it was like, here I am,” she said. “But it just seemed natural to me, because blues music is real and blues music is raw and there’s truth in it and there’s beauty in it. I really do believe that I was called on to sing blues music, because I sure didn’t grow up in it. I love that God is unique like that. People want to put Him in a box, but He meets people where they’re at and He knows exactly what we need. And for me, going into the blues has definitely been a spiritual journey. It’s certainly not for the money, or for the fame, wherever that is. I needed to get some healing and deal with the things that I’ve gone through.”

Some of those things that Mack went through as a child border on the unthinkable.

Mack’s mother raised her and her sister Lanette (who is eight years older than Annie) in a single-parent home in Minneapolis. Battling poverty conditions while also raising two daughters meant that conditions were in no way ideal for Mack’s mother, or for the family. Some of those frustrations came out in the physical beatings of Lanette by her mother. In 1988, when Annie was 10 and Lanette was 18, the older sister came home late one night – at 3 or 4 a.m. – to find her mother waiting for her. When quizzed about where she had been, Lanette talked back to her mother. For that, her mother pulled out a gun and shot Lanette. Just like that – in the blink of an eye – the family was torn apart. Lanette survived the shooting, but her mother was sent to prison and Annie was sent into foster care. That was when Annie Mack learned how to make it on her own.

“What I learned early on, was to survive. What I really learned was, you can have it all taken away. I learned that you had better find your foundation in something besides this world, because before you know it, it’s gone,” she said. “I had put my faith in my mother, and she was an abusive woman. But now that I’m older, I see things more clearly. Back then they didn’t have the support for a single mother like they have these days. I’m not making excuses, but it was very different back then. But you have to know who you are. If you don’t find out who you are, or what you do in this world, you’re going to live a very empty, unhopeful existence. So when my mother went to prison and I was 10 years old and in the foster system, I learned about people and I learned how to read people. That was my survival for so long. And I’ve taken a lot of that into my adulthood; being a survivor and understanding you’ve got to have a solid foundation. For me, that foundation was the Lord.”

That spiritual foundation helped Mack break free from what easily could have been a path toward self-destruction and helped send her on to a place much more productive and much more positive. And it all started when she realized someone really did love her.

“Yeah, it was like, wow! God’s going to love me, no matter what I do or what I say. He’s not going to beat me … He’s not going to leave me. So my faith came from believing that I have a future and that I’m supposed to be here,” she said. “It’s a really difficult thing to have a parent say they love you, but yet their actions don’t follow that. You don’t believe you’re loved; you don’t believe you’re worth anything. For the first part of my life, I believed I was worthless. I was suicidal, before I even knew what that word was. I was like, ‘Why am I here?’ And God said, ‘This is why you’re here.’ If you don’t have truth in your life to combat that, you will become another casualty.”

That’s precisely the message that Mack tries to impart on audiences when she plays the blues; seek the truth, believe in yourself and understand you do have a purpose, even in the darkest of times.

“I understand that battle better than anybody, so when I sing, I’m speaking to that person that may be struggling, or may be in that battle. I’m telling them, don’t believe those lies, because you do have purpose. I speak from the experience, not because I’m pretending to be somebody I’m not. I’ve been there and done that.”

Her message is spread from more than just the bandstand, too. Mack has long been actively involved in making sure that other youngsters do not have to go through what she did.

“I love non-profit work and I love working with teenagers. In fact, I had a job in the ministry for a short amount of time, working with kids whose parents were incarcerated. We were trying to keep the kids from falling into that cycle of being in the prison system; I loved that job and was very good at it. It was hard work, but I loved it. It was really fulfilling,” she said. “The only reason I gave it up, was because I needed to be home for my family. I need to be there for my own family, so I stepped back. But when my kids are older, I definitely want to go back and do prison ministry. I’m thinking about doing like a Johnny Cash thing (concerts for the incarcerated). Those people (in prison) are the forgotten and they need to be ministered to.”

Mack’s mother got sick and passed way in 2006. She has long been forgiven by Mack and the song “Hey, Hey Mama” is done very much in the style of music that her mother loved to listen to back in the day.

“It was like a revelation. My mother loved doo-wop and soul and I wanted it to be true to her story. I wanted it to be true to my experience and I wanted to bring about the feeling that my mom would really dig this,” she said. “This is my mom right here. And people that knew her would say, ‘Yeah, that’s Delia.” It was like each song (on the album), God kind of revealed. I said to Paul, ‘When I hear this “Fool to Believe” I just want to do this old-school, throwback kind of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland thing. I wanted to capture that in that particular song, but each song has its own personality that I felt needed to be respected.”

Mack attended a local jam session held in a garage not long after her mother passed and that’s when she decided to give singing a try. A true natural, Mack rapidly came to realize that she might enjoy doing something that one of her idols – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – did for so many years.

“He just had a way … Bobby could sit down and it was like he was having a conversation with you. He knew just when to do everything; the restraint, the smoothness … when to be gruff … he was just such a big personality and such a grown-man,” Mack said. “So when I perform, I think like that – I’m a grown-woman and I’m going to have a conversation with you. We’re going to talk like we’re sitting in my house. Bobby would have a 10-piece band behind him, but that didn’t matter. They were on top of it and he was in control of it. There was just something about hearing him sing where I would go, ‘Man, this is it.’ It’s the same way with Etta James. If you watch her, you could see that she could also relate to you and she knew how to talk to you and how to draw you in and take you places. It was like church. That’s how you know when people are listening. Those types of performers amaze me and I try and think about that when I’m performing; how do I have that truth and relate to the audience?”

To see a video of Annie performing at the 2014 Blues Blast Awards, CLICK HERE!

Visit Annie’s website at

Photos by Gary Eckhart © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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 9 

Jay’s Xperience – Happier Now or When Jive Was Cool

Return of the King Productions

CD: 13 Songs; 57:35 Minutes

Styles: R&B, Soul, Funk, Rap

“Come see real R&B ALIVE! & on the inside”. So proclaims the newest CD from Cincinnati band Jay’s Xperience. This is truth in advertising for a nearly-pure R&B CD, with traces of soul, funk and rap. Anyone searching for traditional blues won’t find it here. With that said, fans of the four other kinds of music mentioned will be Happier Now. In his promotional materials, Jay (whose real name is Brian J. Atkins) clearly states, “My style is a mixture of genres, but blues is the base.” The promo sheet continues: “Even though the theme is death (Jay has lost childhood friends, his mentor Jerome ‘Spoon’ Crawford, and most recently grandma), [there is] albeit the bright side. The sound: Hope. The last two years he has been showcasing this ‘hope’ with the experienced versatility of Gideon ‘Guitar’ Watson, Garrett Lee (drums), Tony Butler (sax), Renee Peters (trumpet), Eric Lattimore (bass), and as always, his New Street Choir.” Together they present “neo-blues”, which might be too “neo” for purists. Others will savor it.

Alongside Jay in the New Street Choir are taskmaster Lynne Moon, Mary B. Dunklin, Daria Acus, Dez Burns, Tryna Rashun, Rhonda Rheed, Melody Tye, Tori Barbour, Marisha Atkins, Kenzi Felder, Ebony Whitney and Stephon Hinton. The featured Nihilistic Horn Section consists of Peter “2 Saxy” Jordan, trombonist Terry Twitty, and trumpet player Michael Dudley. Also performing are Salt of the Earth, Legend E, Camille Saba Smith, Michelle “Dimples” Conway, guitarists Tim Robertson and Don Manor, Jr. Additional musicians include Red Empress, Katiane Ayiti, Milton Blake, Willia Ann Crenshaw, and Takalani.

Together they present thirteen songs – ten originals and a traditional spiritual “ghost track” at the end. As the CD liner notes reveal, “Track 5 contains an interlopation [sic] of ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin & is free domain”. The other songs frequently have funny and interesting titles such as “Whatever Happened to the Icecream Man”, “The Duck Is Bad”, “Kung Fu Mike”, and “Back When Gang Banging Was Fun”. They all have high energy and lovely harmonies by the New Street Choir and other vocalists. However, are they blues songs? That depends entirely on one’s interpretation. There is electric guitar, but no rhythms on it that could be described as Chicago-style, Texas-style, or otherwise. There are repeated lyrical lines, as in “Moving On”, but this song is not similar to “Tore Down”, for example. Jay’s Xperience has its own postmodern oeuvre.

Nevertheless, Jay’s Xperience received the honor of opening the Cincinnati Blues Festival this year. It was his first major concert, where he and his posse performed alongside such acts as Sweet Alice, The Juice, and the Leroy Ellington Blues Band. His bio says that “Jay has always went [sic] against the grain as far as his peers were concerned.” Truer words were never spoken, especially when it comes to the blues in 2014!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 9 

Murali Coryell – Restless Mind

Shake-It-Sugar Records

12 Tracks; running time/46:14

Murali Coryell is the son of jazz-rock fusion guitar man Larry Coryell. Murali started out his musical career on drums at the age of eight, but by the age 15 he had a passionate love of guitar. In his late teens is when he got serious about the music and cites B.B. King as being a main influence for his overall musical passion and drive. Murali graduated college with a degree in musical theory and composition. He has played with such greats as Duke Robillard and Joe Louis Walker. He was recently inducted into the New York State Blues Hall of Fame in November 2013.

The sound of the CD can best be described as funky, bluesy, jazzy, and guitar driven. Murali does a great job of being a “standard” bluesman by singing about everyday woes such as love, life, money, struggles, and women. The Marvin Gaye classic, “Let’s Get It On” is featured as the last track on the album. It is hard not to like this timeless tune and the funky spin that Murali lays down on it. Track Seven is “I Can’t Give You Up” which features some brilliant trumpet playing and a beat that ties the song together with a nice Motown dance feel.

Another mentionable song is track nine, “I Need Someone to Love” which is a bluesy mix-up about relationships and love. Song one, “Waiting and Wasting Away” will catch the listeners’ attention by describing what we all can understand about needing money. Being broke, living paycheck to paycheck, and feeling like you are wasting your time just to earn a dime is more than relatable for the common man. The title track, “Restless Mind” has an all-encompassing, feel good sound that has an interesting island type aura. Smooth lyrics, almost Jamaican type, bongo “ish” drums, and a hook line chorus will entice the audience leaving them wanting more!

Other artists on the disc include Ernie Durawa on drums, Chris Alcaraz on bass, Joe Morales on the sax, and Jimmy Shortell on the trumpet. Coryell tours regularly including dates ranging from coast to coast including California, New York, and Pennsylvania. The artist has multiple influences as well aside from the great B.B. King. Coryell tends to model his style after the likes of Santana, Hendrix, & Otis Redding. He has also been credited with being “an artist on top of his game by mixing and matching like an enthusiastic chef.”

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 – 4 of 9 

Sons Of The Delta – Tasty Nuggets

Rawtone Records 20075

13 songs – 1 hour 7 minutes

Take a quick glance at the cover of this CD and you might expect a collection of swamp music from the banks of the Mississippi. Despite the bandy-eyed chicken staring at you and the name Sons Of The Delta, this quartet hails from the southwest corner of the United Kingdom and fires away on all cylinders as it delivers modern blues that fit comfortably in any format.

Formed as a duo by vocalist/harp player and slide guitarist Mark Cole and guitarist/vocalist Rick Edwards about 12 years ago, they switched flawlessly from acoustic to full-charged electric blues after releasing their first disc, One For The Road, in 2004. Frequent visitors to the real delta, they were joined in the studio by two legends, pianist Pinetop Perkins and former Jelly Roll Kings drummer Sam Carr, for their critically acclaimed CD, Made In Mississippi two years later. They liked the expanded sound so much, they decided to their lineup to a four-piece, and now feature a rhythm section of drummer Martin Fitzgibbon and bassist Lyndon Webb. Adding to the mix here are special guests Mike “Mossman” Myers (electric guitar), Bill Blair (keyboards), Jake Carpenter (piano) and a backing chorus of Dionne Andrews, Patricia Bailey and Darrel McCalla.

A lilting harp line kicks off “Just Want To Make A Living,” a song any musician can relate to with the message: “I don’t want to make a name/I just want to make a living.” The ensemble’s collective light touch effortlessly drives the tune forward with Edwards contributing an extended solo at the break while Cole’s vocals are powerful, clean, and swing. The theme continues, driven by a syncopated drumbeat and doubling harp line to propel “Never Had Nothin’ When Times Were Good.” A cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic, “People Get Ready,” follows, borrowing a little from the song’s treatment by Bob Marley.

The Sons take a little liberty with Robert Petway’s “Catfish Blues” for their rendition of “Spaceman Blues.” The original borrows rhythm and lyrical patterns from the 1941 classic, aided by a control-room voiceover. This time, however, Cole wishes he were a spaceman and could explore the girl of his dreams through the day as he makes the song his own. “Scared Of Love” borrows the opening guitar lick from Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby” as it delivers the story of a woman who’s scared of love and runs away. Edwards’ fretwork is featured throughout as he lays down his own stylish patterns.

“Time Marches On” adapts a walking rhythm and driving circular harp line as it sings to the benefits of the blues: “Blues is like wine./It gets better with age./And I’m a-gonna keep playin’./Just wheel me on stage.” Next up, “Downhome Blues” is a Southern blues-rock original about the population of the Delta through slavery, not a cover of the Z.Z. Hill blockbuster. Bukka White’s “When Can I Change My Clothes” follows, delivered with reverence, combining acoustic and electric guitar patterns as it delivers the first-person message of someone working on a chain gang.

The band gets funky for the sexually fueled “Get Down And Let Me In” before a little old-style Chicago slow blues, “Too Little Too Late,” a nine-minute grinder about a relationship gone bad. “Thirtynineteen” features a swamp blues rhythm pattern as it describes a mature woman with playful ways, while “Water Will Rise” is an acoustic tune that recounts flooding around the world with a strong Delta/gospel feel. The disc concludes with “Out On A Saturday Night,” a plea leave the TV behind to enjoy live music somewhere outside.

Available through all of the major online outlets, Tasty Nuggets is well-named. The Sons Of The Delta are unrelenting as they deliver one rock-solid tune after another. The disc will grow with each subsequent listen. Strongly recommended.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 9 

Paul Thorn – Too Blessed To Be Stressed

Perpetual Obscurity Records 2014

11 tracks; 44 minutes

Paul Thorn has established a reputation in blues circles in recent years though his music is not really blues. In that way he is similar to John Hiatt, another outstanding singer/songwriter who produces music that is of interest to blues fans while staying outside the usual zones of shuffles, slow blues and 12-bars. Indeed, the comparison with John Hiatt stands up when listening to this excellent album, not least in Paul’s voice and nowhere is that comparison clearer than on the opening track “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” with its ringing guitars and rousing chorus.

For this album Paul used his touring band and they provide great support throughout. Bill Hinds is on guitar, Michael ‘Dr Love’ Graham on keys, Ralph Friedrichsen on bass and Jeffrey Perkins on drums. Paul restricts himself to lead vocals apart from some guitar on one track and The McCrary Sisters add backing vocals to three cuts, producer Billy Maddox adding some handclaps/snaps to a couple of the tunes. Paul has a good sense of humour and that is evident on several of the songs here, as well as in the title of his record label, Perpetual Obscurity! Paul wrote all the material here bar one song, Ralph assisting on one and producer Billy Maddox on two.

The title track is a good example of what Paul’s music is about. With the McCrary sisters in full gospel mode Paul celebrates a few incidents in which the characters are saved (a young mother who finds a decent man to replace her neglectful man) as well as showing us his sense of humour: “they all wear the same red T-shirts. On the front it says these five words: too blessed to be stressed”. “Everybody Needs Somebody” starts as a gentle tune which celebrates what love can do to us all – “a little love can put a smile on your face” – before a joyous chorus delivers the title line.

For this album Paul intended to write songs that were not personal but “I Backslide On Fridays” certainly is personal, as the chorus explains: “I sin on Saturday, I repent on Sunday. The I tell myself I won’t procrastinate on Monday, Tuesday I do like I should, Wednesday I do pretty good. Thursday Paul drops the ball then I backslide on Friday”. Paul’s intentions are to be a good guy but sometimes fails to meet his high expectations, all this played to a country rock tune.

A serious note appears in “This Is A Real Goodbye” in which Paul sings of this not being a joke, the relationship really is over. This one is as close to a blues as we get on the album though the harmonies (Paul multi-tracked) keep it light and tuneful. Paul keeps on a serious tone in his critique of modern life “Mediocrity Is King”, railing against some of the injustices today: “In this crazy world we all abide a wise man walks and a foolish man rides. They manufacture stars on a TV stage, Johnny Cash couldn’t get arrested today”. Large supermarkets driving out the small stores, politicians of both main parties, they all get lambasted in this song which is played at a mid-pace with some excellent harmonies from Paul and Bill, who also contributes a strong solo.

In contrast “Don’t Let Nobody Rob You Of Your Joy” takes a phrase of Paul’s grandfather to send a message to us all to follow our dreams and not let others’ criticisms get to us. This one is played at a slow pace with plenty of acoustic guitars, even harmonium in the mix!

The McCrary sisters return on the sole cover “Get You A Healin’”, their gospel tones well suited to the handclapping, almost religious revival feel of the song which was written by New Orleans songwriter and producer Carlo J Ditta. Shifting styles and topics again on “Old Stray Dog And Jesus” which recounts life at the bottom as the narrator bemoans the death of an old friend who supplied his drugs, leaving him scratching around for a high, on this occasion supplied by some old aircraft modelling glue! As he concludes, “this old stray dog and Jesus are all the friends I’ve got”, the guitar crafting a suitably country tone for the tune.

“What Kind Of Roof Do You live Under?” is the question on the penultimate track as Paul wonders how well protected we are in times of difficulty.  A rocking track, again in Hiatt territory musically, has the Sisters reinforcing Paul’s questions on the chorus and another fine solo from Bill in the middle.  Closing track “No Place I’d Rather Be” must be another personal song as Paul tells of life at home with his family, his wife Heather receiving a nice tribute in the sleevenotes.

This is a fine album, well played and well-crafted songs. For those unfamiliar with Paul Thorn’s music this makes a good place to star and if you like what you hear Paul’s website shows a large number of earlier recordings available.  Hard to see this guy remaining in ‘perpetual obscurity’ for long!

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 – 6 of 9 

Paul Lamb & Chad Strentz – Goin’ Down This Road

bluRoots Records

15 songs time-56:50

Paul Lamb and Chad Strentz have taken on a side project with “Goin’ Down This Road”, as an acoustic duo much like in the tradition of Paul’s idols Sonny Terry And Brownie McGhee.

It’s just Paul’s harmonica and Chad’s vocals and guitar doing their interpretations of others’ songs and three originals. Chad strums along as Paul weaves his harmonica magic. They run through blues staples and give other genres the blues treatment.

Among blues greats covered are Big Bill Broonzy, Rice Miller, Sticks McGhee and Roosevelt Skyes. Chad’s gritty voice works well except it gets to be grating on Solomon Burke’s “Don’t You Fell Like Cryin'”, a tune of which I’m most familiar with Professor Longhair’s version.

“Summertyne” is a solo harmonica instrumental done up in Paul’s inimitable style. Paul gives Sonny Terry a full-blown “whoopin'” harmonica tribute with his original “Hootin’ And Tootin'”.

The dedication to and true love for the blues idiom shows through. The combination of blues knowledge and musical skill touches everything these guys do. As a long time follower of their music, my only regret is that they have never graced our country with their presence.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 9 

Lil’ Red & The Roosters – Out Of The Coop!

self release

songs-14 time-47:57

Ohioan Jen “Lil’ Red” Milligan and her French cohorts churn out some energetic and convincing blues in acoustic and band settings. She is in possession of a strong and clear voice well suited to all songs. Pascal Fouquet brings his forty years of guitar experience to the proceedings along with Thomas Troussier on harmonica. A rhythm section joins them on four tracks. They contribute three songs of their own along with eleven cover songs.

An authentic old-timey blues sound is given to Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love”, highlighted by tasty guitar and harmonica work. Lil’ Red’s sexy and sultry vocal delivery enlivens Memphis Slim’s “The Come Back”. The band gets the energetic rhythm just right on Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips”. The Four Blazes’ “Don’t Lose Your Cool” delivers on some really nice guitar-harmonica interplay, once again showing the tightness of all players involved.

A cool presentation is given to J.B. Hutto’s “Slow Down” in the three-piece acoustic setting. “Hound Dog” comes off with a fresh and sprightly approach, howls and all. I’m sure Big Mama Thorton would approve of their version. The original “Gritty Pretty” is a snappy jump blues is one of those songs that you wish would never end. “Fever” works well in an acoustic setting with Jen’s spare percussion. The slinky “Sneakin’ Up On You” contains a neat guitar “hook”. “I’m a one-eyed cat sneakin’ around the corner”.

Proof that they can handle many genres of the blues is presented in the country-blues of “Keep On Lovin’ You”. They stay true to the Chicago grittiness of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More”. The torch song “Why Don’t You Do Right” features Toots Thielmans-like harmonica by Thomas Troussier and double-tracked Lil’ Red’s at songs end.

This is a well thought out and executed record performed by well-honed musicians. Excellent vocals backed by top-notch players, what else could one ask for? They have an obvious admiration and genuine feel for the blues. No bumps in this blues road as it is a seamless project that makes no wrong turns.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 9 

Marcia Ball – The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man

Alligator 2014

12 tracks; 44 minutes

Tom Hambridge is the producer of choice at the moment for many artists and Tom is in the producer’s seat for Marcia Ball’s latest album which was recorded in Austin, Texas, her sixth for Alligator. Overall it is business as usual as Marcia delivers another outstanding addition to her extensive discography though Tom does seem to have found a way to put Marcia’s excellent piano playing more firmly to the fore than on previous releases.

Marcia wrote eleven of the songs here, two in conjunction with guitarist Michael Schermer, with just one cover. Marcia’s regular road band is featured throughout: Marcia on piano and vocals, Don Bennett on bass, Damien Llanes on drums, Michael Schermer on guitar and Thad Scott on tenor sax. Thad was responsible for the horn arrangements and his sax is augmented by Mark Kazanoff’s baritone on four tracks and by Jimmy Shortell (trumpet) and Randy Zimmerman (trombone) on three tracks. Roscoe Beck plays bass on three tracks, Red Young B-3 on three tracks, Delbert McClinton adds harp to one cut, Terrance Simien plays accordion and harmony vocals and Van Mouton frottoir on one track. Other backing vocalists include Tom Hambridge, Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland, Amy Helm and Wendy Moten.

The album opens with a circus style piano introduction, appropriate for the title track “The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man”. This song has nothing to do with Bruce Iglauer, CEO of Alligator Records, but recounts the story of two larger than life characters who work in the travelling shows and circuses. “When she was just 18 she got her first tattoo. It was a little green gator with a smiling face, she put that critter in a private place. She said, ‘don’t you know that’s just a start’ – she turned herself into a work of art.”

The song rattles along with the larger horn section and Marcia’s great piano playing and the song gives a good excuse for Marcia and her creative team to have some fun with the artwork of the CD, including a nice picture of Marcia with a full set of tattoos sat alongside her ‘Alligator Man’, relaxing outside their caravan. The horns stay on board for “Clean My House” as Marcia tells us how she loses her blues by cleaning up the place, more strong piano, guitar and sax on this one.

“Just Keep Holding On” is another of those emotional songs that Marcia always handles so well; her tender vocal is backed by gentle horns and Wendy Moten’s discreet harmonies and Thad finds a glorious solo. Marcia sings of the great love in her life, something definitely worth holding on to, in a superb ballad. Another of Marcia’s staples is the party song and “Like There’s No Tomorrow” fits that description very well: “Forget about your troubles, come see us on the double, got a cure for you. Throw your cares away and live for just today, put on your dancing shoes. We came to party like there’s no tomorrow – let’s get it started before the sun goes down.”

The sole cover here is Hank Ballard’s “He’s The One” the twin saxophones of Thad and Kaz, Marcia’s repetitive piano and Mike’s guitar chords harking back to the era of classic rock and roll balladry. Terrance Simien’s accordion propels “The Squeeze Is On” as Marcia returns to Louisiana for inspiration in a catchy tune which includes a fine piano solo.

Michael’s guitar opens “Hot Springs”, an uptempo rocker in which Marcia reveals that she needs to go to Arkansas to rescue her guy from all manner of temptations there! “Human Kindness” is another fine ballad with excellent harmony work from Shelley, Carolyn and Amy and some lovely, warm organ from Red Young: “When we open up our hearts the light comes shining through; human kindness flows and compassion grows”.

The horns sit out the next two tracks: some uptempo boogie piano and Delbert’s harp are at the heart of “Can’t Blame Nobody But Myself” and “Lazy Blues” is very much as the title describes, a gentle late night blues with Marcia’s piano supported by gentle guitar and bass. The horns return in a support role for the fast-paced rocker “Get You A Woman” before Marcia closes the album with another reflective, late night piece: “The Last To Know” has something of a Billie Holiday feel, especially in the jazzy piano and the swell of the expanded horn section. Lyrically we are also in refelctive mood as Marcia wishes “I had seen it coming, you know how I hate to be surprised. And even when it wasn’t great there was still that little something that made me think our sweet love couldn’t die”.

Gentle ballads, rocking Texas roadhouse tunes, New Orleans party music, even jazzy flourishes, Marcia Ball has it all. This excellent album is likely to be a strong contender for recognition in awards and ‘Best Of’ lists and can be strongly recommended to all blues and roots fans.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 9 

John Ginty – Bad News Travels

American Showplace Music

12 tracks

If you are an organ fan then this DVD is for you. With this recording I must say that with this album and now a DVD, Ginty may be to the blues what Keith Emerson was to rock. He adds a variety of effort, from huge and over the top solos that leave one exhausted and gasping for air when he’s done to thoughtful and soulful stuff. He is quite the keyboard player, using his B3 and other keys with aplomb!

Backed by a solid band and a cast of all-star musicians, Ginty goes high energy in this live recording with an audience in the studio. He does all the tunes off his album Bad News Travels in this first recording as part of the Live at Showcase Studios Concert Series. Located in Dover, NJ, the studio has a great sound and the musicians feed off each other, the great sound and the crowd listening in.

The DVD opens with the band jamming on some solid instrumentals called “Switch” and “Arrivals” that really begin furiously with John and his band warming things up nicely. I was breathless and spent listening. Albert Castiglia is then added to the mix on guitar and vocals for the thoughtful and poignant “Black Cat” and “Elvis Presley.” On the former, it remains so until the temperature rises to fever for a solo by Albert and then John where they just burn it up. The latter offers some more stinging solos by Castiglia as Albert sings “Elvis Presley is alive” as he describes a chance “encounter” with Elvis. Ginty adds more flavors to the pot with his big solo, too. Driving and cool stuff as Castgilia really shows his stuff off along with Ginty.

Todd Wolfe then comes on for a couple of cuts. He does “Peanut Butter” to start things off for him and he intros the song with a stinging guitar lead in, maintaining the huge guitar sound that Castiglia gave to us. He and Ginty smoke as they go back and forth with some heat on this really tight instrumental.

“Rock Ridge” follows; Ginty opens with an almost churchy sort of intro that is somewhat ethereal. The band joins in and Wolfe begins to slide into the stratosphere with him. They pick up the beat as Wolfe goes ballistic picking out a fine lead with Ginty following him solo for solo. Another high energy instrumental that is wickedly cool.

Alexis P. Suter and Jimmy Bennett on guitar (from Suter’s band) then do two songs with Ginty, “Seven and the Spirit” and “Damage Control.” Suter offers up some gravelly and almost gruff vocals; her deep voice is mesmerizing and quite gripping. The first cut is dark and soulful with a great beat and some nice work by Bennett and Ginty in support.

Castiglia returns for “Damage Control” and Cris Jacobs also joins the fray on guitar. This peppy uptempo cut has Alexis on lead vocals and harmonies by Jacobs. Jacobs and then Castiglia add some solos back to back that Ginty seems to enjoy on the video as he listens and plays along; I know I did! The two trade licks after the solos- hot stuff as Ginty grins and plays on! Castiglia offers up one verse on vocals and then all three sing together. Ginty then gives another emotional solo to close out the number.

Castiglia and Jacobs then perform “The Quirk” with Ginty. He begins things on the keys and then they all get into a funky and fun instrumental. It’s like Booker T and the MGs on steroids here with some huge organ work with a cool hook of a melody line. Castigila then grabs the hook and does a more relaxed solo to start that builts in sound and emotion and then switches off to Jacobs. Ginty comes in and then it’s back to the Castiglia as the tune just rises and rises in emotion and sound! Ginty then maintains the energy as the two axemen back him to the finish.

The band performs “Off the Cuff,” a jazzy cut that Ginty and company again kill. He and the dual drummers battle it out in a huge solo and then they all once again work things to a feverish pitch. Ginty concludes with some psychedelic organ rumblings a la Keith Emerson. Jacobs returns to the studio for “Mirrors” where he and GInty soften things up to start. It does not last too long as the band then picks up the beat and the cut begins to drive and get your feet tapping in rhythm. Then Jacobs blasts off in a Carlos Santana-esque guitar as Ginty and he play to a somewhat controlled abandon. The album concludes with the entire set of musicians returning to a frenetic “Trinity” where Ginty takes us to church at 100 miles an hour. Things slow a bit as Jacob’s guitar fill in, then Ginty changes the tempo and key. then the other axemen make things blaze as all four solo and then trade off licks; it’s spectacular.

There are two extras on the DVD. Ginty shows us how the Hammond gets transported to gigs as an added feature and then he and Ben Elliot talk about the studio and its’ analog sound and history. Elliot describes his vintage equipment that has been used in places like Abbey Road and in support of greats like Hendrix and the Stones. Ginty offers that he has computerized version of all of Elliots’ equipment but Elliot offers the sound can never be replicated by a computer. His real equipment and the suspended floor and ceiling and walls that do not reflect make the sound better than any digitized equipment in a home studio.

Ginty’s own band is Mike Buckman on guitar, Paul Kuzik on bass, and both Dan Fadel and Andrei Koribanics on drums. My heart was racing after this hour and a half of exceedingly frantic and big time music by Ginty, his great band and the guests.

It was powerful stuff and not for the faint of heart! I thoroughly enjoyed this DVD! Kudos to Ginty, the musicians involved and the production team at Showplace Studios for making a fine video and music!

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.

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The Columbus Blues Alliance – Columbus, OH

The IBC is only a few weeks away, and we need to raise more money for our Challenge Winners, so please come out on January 10th to the Roadhouse 66 and have some fun with The Good, The Bad & The Blues and Li’l Red and the Rooster!

We award the winners of our Challenge with prize money to help pay the way to Memphis, but it’s an expensive trip and we want to send them off with a little more cash in their pockets. We’re asking for $10 donations at the door, and 100% of any proceeds that night go directly to the musicians.

Doors are at 7:30 pm, and the music starts at 8pm. We really appreciate all the support you’ve given our Challenge winners over the years, so please come out and help just a little more. For more info visit

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

“Rockin’ in the Blue Year” Double Feature…Sena Ehrhardt and John Nemeth, two of the hottest Blues Singers around, all in one night, January 3rd, 2015. All happening at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center in Fairfield, Iowa. Doors open at 6:30 music begins at 7pm. Tickets $15 advance and SIBS members…$18 Day of Show

For more information visit or call Gary at 641-919-7477…you don’t want to miss this one!!

10:30 – 11:30 p.m. Candy’s River House Band Special guest appearances by Utah’s stellar all-star blues musicians too!

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.  January 5 – Juke House, January 12 – Blues Expressions, January 19 – The Groove Daddies, January 26 – The Greg Glick Blues Band, February 2 – Robert Sampson & Blues Junction, February 9 – Nigel Mack & the Blues Attack, February 16 – David Lumsden and Friends, February 23 – RJ Mischo

Additional ICBC shows (all held in Springfield, Illinois): Jan. 2 – John Nemeth @ Thirdbase Sports Bar, 9 pm, Jan. 15 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Jan. 23 – Maurice John Vaughn @ Post 809, 8 pm, Feb. 5 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Feb. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, March 21 – Ronnie Baker Brooks ICBC 29th Birthday Party w/special guests the Blues Expressions. K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Rd. Springfield, Illinois.

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

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P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425


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