Issue 9-12 March 19 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Mississippi’s own, Vasti Jackson.

We have 5 music reviews for you including music from Big Apple Blues, Blues Condition, Robin McKelle & The Flytones, My Own Holiday and Roy Mette.

Our Video of the Week is the amazing John Németh performing his song “Sooner or Later”.

We have the latest in Blues Society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Our friends at the 2015 Blues, Brews, and BBQ Festival have announced their lineup for this years festival in Champaign, Illinois. This year’s theme will be Women Of the Blues featuring performances by female artists including Kayla & Friends, Upshot, Adrianna Maria, Sena Ehrhardt and Carolyn Wonderland on Friday June 26th and Laura Rain, Joanna Conner, Janiva Magness, Shaun Murphy and Ana Popovic on Saturday June 27th.

As you may know, this wonderful annual event is FREE and is put on by the great folks at the Fluid Event Center who did such a super job producing last fall’s Blues Blast Music Awards for us.

It is a top notch company and event so expect this to be one of the best produced festivals of the year again this summer. This is one you want to put on your summer schedule NOW! For more information, please visit

Also, We still have 5 FREE music tracks for you to download from our
February Blues Overdose Issue including music by Benny Turner, Low Society, The Sidney Green Street Band, Kyle Jester and The Jay Willie Band. So click HERE to get yourself some free Blues music before this 30 day offer ends!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

Festival Early Bird Ad Special


Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2015 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-week discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2015 Advertising rates start at $150 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $400. (A $1200 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything. More than 33,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 45,000 visitors a month at our website.

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by APRIL 15th, 2015!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2015.

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 350,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit To get more information email or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2015!!!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Big Apple Blues – Energy

Stone Tone Records – 2014

9 tracks; 49 minutes

Big Apple Blues is a NYC collective of musicians, several of whom have other gigs that they probably call ‘the day job’: for instance, Zach Zunis (guitar) and Jim Alfredson (keys) are part of Janiva Magness’ current touring band. The rest of the personnel is Barry Harrison on drums (replaced on two cuts by Tom Papadotos), Admir ‘Dr Blues’ Hadzic on bass, Anthony Kane on harp, Chris Emenizer on sax and Matt Becker on “effects”, of which more later. The CD was recorded in Brooklyn and produced by Admir. All the material is original and credited to the whole band.

This is an all instrumental concept album, the premise being that it covers a day of life in NYC. The album opens with the first of several sound effects, an alarm call on the I-phone as the band takese band a funky approach to the new day on “Wake Up And Do Something” which offers opportunities for all the front-line players to show their chops. A car engine starting up signals the drive to work on “I-278 Grind” which has plenty of shrill harp and wah-wah guitar well supported by the organ. “Morning Jive” ups the pace at work with more blissed out wah-wah from Zach and energetic harp from Anthony.

A funeral is the setting for “Remembering Eni”, a slow blues introduced by tolling bell effects. The slower pace is welcome after three fairly relentless cuts and there is some smouldering guitar from Zach with horn and organ support but Anthony’s harp is rather histrionic. Tom takes over the drum seat for “Lost In Thoughts” and “Day Dreaming”, two tracks which are supposed to capture the afternoon session at work, both more reflective than the earlier “Morning Jive”. The sound of waves rolling in opens “Lost In Thoughts” with some lovely playing from Zach accompanied by some gentle sax and electric piano; the track builds up in intensity as Zach moves from almost acoustic picking at the beginning to sustained notes later on.

“Day Dreaming” is slightly faster in pace but follows a similar pattern, Zach’s guitar taking a more aggressive approach which is mirrored in Anthony’s harp approach, the horns helping the tune to build up in intensity as it progresses. The pace changes with “Happy Hour” which has a soul vibe with handclaps and a catchy riff whilst “Unwind” finds our character back home relaxing after the day’s labours; some ringing guitar chords open this one and it follows the previous track in taking a soulful approach which is accentuated by Jim’s organ stylings. The album closes with the title track “Energy” which returns to the upbeat approach with Jim’s swirling organ and Zach’s frenetic lead riff launching another of Anthony’s trademark harp solos. Some aeroplane sound effects open and close the track, even a fake PA announcement hoping we “have enjoyed this flight”.

This album was something of a mixed bag for this reviewer; some good moments, some not so good, often quite a long way from straight blues.

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.

2015 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions Open

It is that time of year for publicists, labels and Blues industry contacts to let artists know that submissions in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards are open until April 15th, 2015.

We again offer you the opportunity to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our nominators for consideration in this years awards. Your submissions are accepted from March 1st until April 15, 2015.

To submit YOUR music visit:

The Blues Blast Music Awards honor the BEST in today’s Blues music and are voted on by music fans all over the world. This years release eligibility period is May 1st 2014 to April 30th, 2015. All music released during this period is eligible for consideration.

Mark Your Calendars! – 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies Announced

The 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held on Friday September 25th, 2015 at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, Illinois. This amazing 10,000 sq ft facility still has folks raving about last years event! Look for more information on hotels and artists later this year at:

 Featured Blues Interview – Vasti Jackson 

With all that Vasti Jackson has going on, he could be forgiven should he ever suffer through an identity crisis. He’s an exceptionally-gifted guitarist and singer. He’s a first-call orator, an ambassador for – and a Hall of Famer in – the state of Mississippi and he has a deep understanding of the blues and its long and storied history. He’s a clever song-writer and a skilled producer and arranger. And lest we forget, Vasti Jackson is also a natural under the bright lights of motion picture cameras and has appeared in several big-time movies and film projects.

But make no mistake about it; Vasti Jackson is not battling through an identity crisis. He knows precisely who he is and just what he does.

“Listen, I am music, OK? Anything you see beyond that is just an addition to that. Everything to me is music. My pulse rate, the sound of the engine in my car … if the water is boiling, if the wind is blowing, everything to me is rhythm and pitch,” he recently said. “Absolutely everything; everything I do, I equate with music.”

The Hattiesburg-based Jackson – who was inducted into the Mississippi Musician’s Hall of Fame in 2012 – has traveled the world for over three decades now, playing his brand of acoustic and electric blues, sprinkled with generous doses of jazz, funk and country. His tireless devotion to all things Mississippi led to his recent appointment as a cultural ambassador to the Magnolia State.

“I was honored with the prestige of being named a cultural ambassador to the state of Mississippi. Basically, it entails what I’ve been doing since 1989, which is promoting the culture of Mississippi the world over,” he said. “Over time, it’s my assumption that they became aware of that. As an official cultural ambassador, my task is to continue to share the great culture of Mississippi – of course through music, like blues and gospel and jazz and all other kinds – but blues is the foundation and bedrock of what I do. As it’s been said, ‘Blues is the root and everything else is the fruit.’ And that’s definitely true with me. But (as a cultural ambassador) I talk about everything in the wonderful state of Mississippi -which is the hospitality state – including the amazing culinary experiences. And as for music, wow! This where B.B. King and Elvis Presley are from and this is where the blues were born, as far as a genre of music.”

Mississippi was once at the epi-center of the Chiltin’ Circuit, a series of legendary venues that helped give rise to the now iconic careers of musicians such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Johnnie Taylor – to name just a few. And although the state may not have as many clubs and juke joints that feature nightly live music as it did even 30 years ago, Jackson says there’s still plenty of music to feast on in Mississippi; you just have to know where to look.

“I live in the community and just like everything in life changes – we’re riding around in cars now instead of horse and buggies and we’re speaking on cell phones and so forth – change is something that we can’t run from. I find that what has happened is that you don’t have as many of those venues to play,” he said. “You have casinos – I did a song for the film Infidelity called “Casino In The Cotton Field” – and the song spoke about the imagery, like in Robinsonville (Mississippi), where you drive through there and where there used to be cotton fields, now there’s casinos. So the people that worked in that community back then would go to the juke joints and so forth, but now they go to the casinos, where you’ve got the buffet and the lounge where live music is playing. So that’s part of the demise of many of the common, local cafes and juke joints and establishments of that nature. So there are less places to play, but the culture is still vibrant.”

That seems to be especially true from the up-close-and-personal vantage point that Jackson has.

“A lot of people in places like say, New York, or wherever, or who write for magazines, they’re not in the community. It’s OK to speak to someone like me (about the still-thriving blues scene in Mississippi), because I’m in the community,” he said. “I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m on the inside looking out. So I can say, ‘Oh, yeah. There’s this little club in Hattiesburg and it may not be poppin’ every night, but they do have live musicians playing there.’ So by no means has it dried up.”

While it’s by no means some kind of well-kept secret, it may also not be that well-known that there are plenty of blues musicians still plying their trade in the Magnolia State that have neither left Mississippi, nor have they any huge plans at becoming the next big thing. In other words, those craving a face-to-face with the real-deal Mississippi blues would be richly rewarded with a visit to the state.

“You still have these pockets in Mississippi where people are playing music and they’re not looking to become professionals; they’re playing for strictly the love of it. In a family situation, a gathering at church,” said Jackson. “It is music that’s born of the love of playing music, which is the way it should be. If you want to know what’s going on in the Chitlin’ Circuit, in the village and in the neighborhood, come on in to the neighborhood. Don’t wait for someone to expose it at the IBC (International Blues Challenge). That’s great for what it is and the Blues Foundations and all these societies are doing fantastic things, but if you want to get to the crux of the culture, go where it is.”

While most blues lovers may not take the time to stop and think about it these days, a lot of the forefathers of the genre were looked at differently some four or five decades ago. Jackson easily acknowledges as much.

“B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland … it’s important to realize that those guys were pop stars in their hey-day. They were popular within the black community,” he said. “Robert Johnson was a popular guy during his present time. Those guys were important to the blues back in the day when they were pop stars and they’re important to the blues these days as blues icons. I love the foundation, the roots and the tradition of this music.”

One of the challenges that the modern-day blues is saddled with is its aging fan base. The music may be as essential and vibrant as ever, but the truth is, the same thing can’t be said of a vast majority of its audience.

“When you look at the demographics of say, people that were the same age that B.B. King was when he was a pop star, many of those people are dead. And the ones that aren’t are 80-some years old and they aren’t going and hanging out in the hot sun at these festivals,” he said. “They’re not spending too much time at the casinos, either.”

However, that doesn’t mean things are as bleak as they sound. A touch of updating and tweaking of the formula is all that’s really required.

“Just as the music evolved when B.B. King modernized it, just as we got on up in time and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, in his ‘second career’ modernized it from his first recording of “Gangster Of Love” to his later hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s (a blend of his blues with heavy dose of funk and a hint of disco), all he did was just update what he was already doing … he reinvented himself,” said Jackson. “So even though I love the people that honor the tradition of the blues – both acoustic and electric – that’s not where the culture is in ‘the hood.’ That ain’t where the culture is in the village, you get me? B.B. King was not trying to replicate or duplicate Robert Johnson. He was combining his life experiences to that and that’s what makes the blues vibrant.”

That line of thinking is exactly what has made Jackson such an in-demand bluesman – whether in Mississippi or across the ocean in Milan. Sure, he can play Robert Johnson tunes all day long with the best of them, but he’s always been dead-set on adding his personal twist to the music, pushing it forward instead of keeping it mired in the same place it’s been for 75 years.

“With me, even though I can play that old stuff – and I do – I mean I do a theatrical presentation on Robert Johnson (Robert Johnson – The Man, The Myth, The Music!) and I love the one guy sitting there with an acoustic guitar – but I also have a song called “My Computer Turned On Me.” It’s an acoustic blues song about a common and current problem (that people have with their computers acting up) that can make you mad or frustrated,” he said. “Now that’s a contemporary blues story. I’m not singing about being tired of picking cotton or driving my Terraplane. I may sing about driving my Prius, but not my Terraplane, you see? As opposed to catching a train, I’m catching a plane. That’s the blues, but that’s the modern blues. When I see people – with almost a sense of parody or buffoonery – trying to create a persona of someone in 1937 – it’s like, why? I understand the tradition, because I am the tradition. But the thing is, for the blues to become even more vibrant, it has to become current and intrinsic in the lives of people. The blues just have no boundaries; we should not try to restrict it.”

By no means is Jackson trying to set any kind of limits as to who can and who can’t play the blues. He’s quick to point out that all contributions are more than welcome. However, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that just playing the blues makes a musician a bluesman.

“Listen, I’m a musician, I’m a writer, I’m a composer, I’m an arranger and a producer and I work in all forms of music – jazz, blues, gospel, hip-hop, so I can look at things from a technical aspect without the culture. So I understand the fact that you can take a great guitarist and they can almost all learn the notes and the rhythm of a piece of music and they can walk out in front of an audience and play that,” he said. “But here’s the clincher – you can’t play a culture that you’ve never lived … you get it? You can play the song, but you can’t play the culture. What happens is, you have people that try to imitate the culture, but we people in the culture – we hear how un-natural it is. It can become a paint-by-number performance, because the people in the culture know that’s not real. There are people that don’t understand this, and they learn the song and go, ‘I’m a bluesman.’ But wait a minute, bro, you may be playing a blues song in a blues style, but you’re not a bluesman.” Jackson elaborates –

“In Mississippi, where it’s hot and it’s humid … and there’s mosquitoes, there’s a certain phrasing that goes along with all that. The timing in the music is more malleable (in the south). A lot of people don’t understand that metronomic time doesn’t work really well with the blues and jazz. Therefore, it’s so hot down here (Mississippi), that we have to breathe a little deeper … we have to take our time. Things are a little more drawn out and we sing almost like we talk down here. All the words are drawn out, so we play with a little more legato. And that’s got nothing to do with being black or white. Matter of fact, I’ve never met anyone that’s black – I’ve been to Africa four times and I know the color black and I’ve never seen anyone that color and I know the color white and I’ve never seen anyone look like that color, either. Black is an attitude and white is an attitude.”

Cultural experiences can be transient and move from one end of the country to another, undergoing a natural transformation along the journey. The way Jackson sees it, that’s all part of the process that has led to some amazing music being birthed.

“What Muddy Waters did was, he took that (Mississippi) culture up to Chicago and merged it with the culture of the inner-city … all the noise and everything. Then he began to experience the culture of Chicago and mixed it with his culture from Mississippi,” he said. “He mixed the acoustic and electric in both cultures. In New York, where they have the subways and everybody’s moving really fast, you get the jazz music where they play very much on top of the beat; life is much more hectic there.”

His grandmother – who was of Irish descent, had a deep love of country music and that helped heighten Jackson’s appreciation for that particular strain of music.

“I’m talking about country music like Hee-Haw and Grandpa Jones … like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I heard all of that stuff growing up and they had their style of blues,” he said. “Let me give you a blues song – “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” by Willie Nelson. That’s a blues song, but guess what? It ain’t the blues. That’s blues from another culture. Another example is “Frankie and Johnnie” by Jimmie Rodgers. Frankie shot Johnnie … that’s really the blues. But the world doesn’t embrace that as the blues like they do Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson and Son House blues.”

A veteran of numerous country and bluegrass sessions in Nashville, even though Jackson is well-versed in that style and is friends with a whole host of Music City pickers, he stops short of calling himself a dyed-in-the-wool country musician.

“Yeah, it’s the same thing for me; I’ve worked in Nashville and if you tell me to play a bluegrass song, I can learn the parts. But I’m not playing the culture. I’ve not lived in Appalachia. I can play the song, but there are certain things that you can only learn by going there and spending time there,” he said. “That will give you an understanding of that music and culture, especially if you’re around people who are not musicians. You see the pacing of life and the way they walk and the way they cook. All that comes through – especially sonically – when art is displaying life. I’m not saying when art is imitating life, I’m saying when art is displaying life.”

Jackson knows exactly what he’s talking about, because he’s been around music since way before he can remember and it’s always been a family affair.

“My family shaped me. Music was a vital tool that gave us joy. We didn’t have a car, but we had a piano in the pantry. That’s how vital music was to our family. I come up from five generations of musicians you can go back to; my grandfather (Samuel Jackson, Sr.), Little Freddie King (his uncle), Rev. Charlie Jackson (his cousin) … I grew up at the feet and in the lap of these people playing gospel and the blues. It was a family affair, where no one was trying to make money at.”

Those living room, front porch and church sessions around McComb helped make Jackson a musician before he ever knew he was one.

“It comes from being in a house where there was always music … it was just a fabric of life and a form of fellowship and joy,” he said. “Before I could make a decision on what I would do professionally, people were tipping me and paying money for me to play music. So before I could decide not to be it, I already was it.”

Partly because of his deep and thorough academic understanding of this rich form of music known as the blues and partly because he’s such a gifted musician and an engaging personality, Jackson has became involved in numerous television and movie projects throughout the past couple of decades. He was in involved in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues as an actor and also wrote the song “Train Rolling Blues” for Warming By The Devil’s Fire, an episode of the series directed by fellow Mississippian Charles Burnett.

Jackson also narrated and performed his original “Hurricane Season” in Last of the Mississippi Jukes; and was featured in HBO’s critically-acclaimed series, Treme.

More recently, Jackson worked on a multi-part documentary for PBS with Robert Mugge called Zydeco Crossroads that showed the blues’ influence on Cajun music and the Zydeco genre. He composed the theme song for the project, which is tentatively-scheduled for a fall, 2015 release date.

If that seems like a whole world away from the days when he was in his late teens and was just starting to get his feet wet on a big-time level, that’s simply because there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since Jackson’s first sessions at the venerable Malaco Records took place when he was barely 18 years old.

“They were hiring me because I could sound like older players. They hired me because I could sound like the people I spent my childhood with,” he said. “I was just doing what I was doing. The feel and the culture was in me, although I really didn’t know that at that time. Other people, having been around the culture, could hear that in an 18-year-old, though.”

When Jackson says he is music, he couldn’t strike the nail any more squarely right on the head. He is music and he is the blues. Heck, Jackson’s image was even used by H.C. Porter on the posters promoting the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards (BMAs) last year; that my friends, is music. And as long as Vasti Jackson has anything to say or do about it, the blues and the wonderful culture and people of the state of Mississippi are not going to fade away.

“Let me tell you something; the blues ain’t dying; the blues are not dying man. Now, if you think that someone sounding Charley Patton or Son House or Robert Johnson is the key to the blues being alive, you got it wrong,” he said. “There are blues going on right now and the blues don’t let someone outside of the culture define what it is. It is what it be, whether you’re aware of it or not.”

Visit for tour info, video and downloads.

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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 5 

Blues Condition – Moon Over Main Street

Big Cellar Records

CD: 15 Songs; 49:15 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues

At the beginning of their writing careers, novice fiction authors commonly attempt certain kinds of stories: those of the first kiss, family quarrel, haunted house, and extraterrestrial encounter, to name a few. By the same token, blues bands who are beginning their musical journey, with only one or two albums to their name, commonly attempt certain cover songs. Such is the case with the Virginia-based Blues Condition, a trio consisting of Larry Benade on guitar and vocals, Bruce Thomas on bass and backup vocals, and Kenny Gott on drums and background vocals. To their credit, their first CD, Swingin’ Blues and Rockin’ Roots Music, was nominated by the Washington Area Music Association for Best Roots Rock CD of 2009. However, their new release, Moon Over Main Street, contains thirteen covers out of fifteen tracks.

The rest are blues covers that have been so thoroughly covered they’re almost clichés. Among them are “It Hurts Me Too” by Hudson “Tampa Red” Whittaker, “Howlin for my Baby” by Willie Dixon, “Dimples” by John Lee Hooker, and “Five Long Years” by Eddie Boyd. The band can certainly play them with aplomb, especially Benade on his powerhouse electric guitar. However, imagine if more bestselling authors these days tried to rewrite Moby Dick or Romeo and Juliet. Even though their efforts would be commendable, they wouldn’t match the source material with the same masterful effect. They would be entertaining – as are Blues Condition’s renditions – but some fans might wish that this new posse had more new songs to sing. With that said, here are their two originals and the catchiest one of their covers:

Track 04: “Lucky Star” – Although the title of this rockabilly song seems to refer to our narrator’s lover, it’s actually a tribute to one of Blues Condition’s favorite places: “Thanks to the Lucky Star Lounge, Front Royal, VA,” they state in the CD liner notes. In the ditty, they sing, “You’re the kind of place I can spend my pay. I’ve made it through another day. You’re my lucky, lucky, Lucky Star.” Grab a partner and hit the dance floor, especially if wearing cowboy boots.

Track 13: “How Do I Know” – Can money buy devotion? The Beatles didn’t think so. Neither does our wealthy protagonist: “I gave you a Benz, nights without end, crystal and caviar, your very own star…That’s all real fine, but what’s on my mind? How do I know that you love me?” Lucky thirteen sounds the most like classic blues, with a familiar theme and swaying tempo.

Track 14: “Harlem Shuffle” – Bob Relf and Earl Nelson started this dance craze in 1963. Blues Condition continues this tradition with perky vocal harmonies. Baby Boomers might remember it – and teach their Millennial kids how to perform an old-school masterpiece.

Moon Over Main Street mostly reflects other artists’ work, but it still illuminates the blues!

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 Video Of The Week – John Németh 


John Németh performing his song “Sooner or Later” in this studio quality video.

John Németh is performing at the Tampa Bay Blues Festivalat 4:30pm on Friday April 10, 2015.

For tickets and info to to see this amazing artist at the fest CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Robin McKelle & The Flytones – Heart of Memphis

Doxie Records – Vizztone Label Group

13 tracks/49:34

It certainly is rare to read about a soul/blues singer who once finished third in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal competition. Originally from Rochester, NY, vocalist Robin McKelle migrated to France, where two recordings of big band swing material made her a star. Five years ago she began a transformation that took her through songs from composers like Willie Dixon and Doc Pomus to this latest recording that celebrates the musical legacy of the city of Memphis.

McKelle’s band, the Flytones, quickly serve notice that they have an innate understanding of sweet soul music with Al Street on guitar, Ben Stivers on a multitude of keyboards, Derek Nievergelt on bass and Adrian Harpham on drums 7 percussion. Producer Scott Bomar certainly brings a wealth of experience to the project. He is the bass player for the Bo-Keys and learned how to work a studio alongside the legendary Willie Mitchell, leading to Bomar engineering two Al Green recordings. Two other members of the Bo-Keys add their considerable talents to the mix – Mark Franklin on trumpet & flugelhorn and Kirk Smothers on saxophones & flute.

Sounding like a modern-day version of Dusty Springfield, McKelle possesses a rich, resonant voice that is used to tell stories, minus most of the vocal gyrations that infect many current vocal performances. She is a singer’s singer with a voice that can break your heart on “Easier That Way,” which borrows a horn riff from Rev. Green, or breathe fire into the dance-floor stomper, “Good Time”. On the title track, McKelle offers a reverential tribute to the people and magical sounds of the famed city over an easy-rolling rhythm punctuated by horn accents.

“About To Be Your Baby” sounds like it was borrowed from one of Ann Peebles classic recordings on Hi Records. The full scope of the singer’s voice is revealed on “It’s Over This Time,” which starts out simmering at a slow boil as it builds to the climatic coda. The addition of a string section give tracks like “Control Yourself” and “Down With The Ship” a more contemporary R&B feel. McKelle’s powerful voice cuts loose on “What You Want” as she demands some answers from a reluctant lover.

Two covers head in opposite directions. O.B. McClinton’s “Forgetting You” adds a soulful country flavor while the Animal’s hit, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” gets an updating complete with Stivers on Farfisa organ injecting an eerie feel to the proceedings. The band is hitting on all cylinders on the up-tempo romp “Good & Plenty” while “Like A River” sports a stone-cold, seductive Memphis groove for more of McKelle’s forthright testimony on love and happiness.

This project validates McKelle’s decision to move on from her jazz roots and embrace a new career course. Her gorgeous voice and spirited delivery combined with an exceptional brew of original material puts this one in the “Highly Recommended “category!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

My Own Holiday – Reason To Bleed

Electro Groove Records EGRCD517

13 songs – 45 minutes

Based north of San Bernardino, Calif., My Own Holiday is a hard-driving duo who play a synthesis of blues, rock and pop music that’s hard to categorize, but definitely bluesy and a style all their own.

With two previously self-produced CDs in their arsenal, guitarist/vocalist Joey Chrisman and drummer Nick Bartolo have been working together for the better part of a decade after meeting when Chrisman traveled to Florida to audition for Bartolo’s band. They based themselves out of Los Angeles for a while before settling about an hour to the east in the resort community of Lake Arrowhead. Christman has written all of the material on this disc, influenced by Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, the Black Keys and White Stripes, producing a raw, stripped down sound with a propulsive rock/blues groove. The album was produced by Mike Delaney, who retained the feeling of a live performance in the finished product.

“Hold On Me” kicks off the performance with a droning guitar riff as Chrisman delivers a powerful message that there’s nowhere in the universe he wouldn’t go to find someone who’s done him wrong. His vocals are powerful even without the electronic effects that are present in the tune. And as it is throughout, Bartolo’s work on the skins is slightly behind the beat, driving the material forward. “Razorblades” is a two-minute warning that “it hurts me when you speak/I’d rather just go chew on razorblades.” Harsh. The sound gets funky for “Two Coins,” a blues shuffle that sings of redemption, before the mood and tempo change dramatically for “Memphis,” about an ill-fated romance.

Another nice circular riff kicks off “Devil In Me,” a passionate pure blues about a woman the singer can’t figure out. Her constant stance between high and low drives him crazy. Next up, the title song, “Reason To Bleed,” finds the vocalist breaking his back on the graveyard shift to support a woman he loves, but folks can’t trust. Painfully good. The ballad “Whiskey In The Well” follows as Chrisman performs solo to deliver a song of regret about another failed love affair.

A late-night encounter with an ex who’s been up for days is the subject of “On The Floor Blues.” She’s in such bad shape, he won’t even let her sleep on the carpet. “Smile” kicks off with a John Lee Hooker feel before the first change. It’s introspection from the position of a man who wants nothing more than a one-night stand. “Stone Free” tells the tale of a wanderer who has no luck at all, while “Stranded” is a sweet slow blues love song that simply requests his lady not be cruel because the singer’s out of cures. The funky “Don’t Shine On Me” — about someone who seems to support him, but really holds him down – and “Right Back Where I Started” – a simple song about returning to basics – conclude the disc.

My Own Holiday delivers with gusto, using great lyrics and a direct musical approach rather than a lot of flash. Lyrically fresh, the music is never boring or repetitive despite the nature of the band. And there’s enough blues here to keep traditionalists interested. Available through Amazon or through the City Hall Records, it’s highly recommended, especially if you’ve got a taste for something different.

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 5 

Roy Mette – Vibralism

Self-Release – 2014

14 tracks; 63 minutes

Roy Mette is an experienced musician from Essex in the UK and this is the sixteenth album of his career. He has always mixed things up and has recorded in both blues and folk idioms. Live he plays solo acoustic as well as in an electric band where live he often mixes original numbers and Rory Gallagher covers, keeping true to British blues/rock roots. This album is something of a departure as the all original music ranges quite widely across styles. The band is Roy on all guitars and vocals, Andy Bostock on bass and Dave McCarthy on drums; Dave Woodcock adds piano to three tracks.

The album opens with “Like A Ball And Chain”, Roy on both acoustic and electric guitars playing a menacing riff, well supported by the rhythm section, on a song about a solitary guy with a drink problem who ends up talking to his whisky bottle. “Just Because” harks back to some of the gentler work of the original Fleetwood Mac with Roy’s guitar and Andy’s bass producing a lilting tune enhanced by Dave’s piano. “Love In The First Degree” is a solid shuffle with an interesting lyric; Roy wants to enter a plea to the court that he is suffering…. from the title of the song! An extended ballad of lost love “Heartbreak Time” offers plenty of scope for Roy to play some classic guitar licks, at times double-tracked against himself and with Dave’s piano again adding depth to the arrangement.

The title track “Vibralism” is an instrumental that pounds along on top of a core riff from Roy and plenty of guitar flourishes on top. There is a Rory Gallagher feel to this one, hardly surprising as Roy is clearly a fan of the late Irish guitarist. A tragic tale of an alcohol-dependent friend is played with minimal drum accompaniment to Roy’s vocals in “The Drop Below (Song For John)” – “All the time we were flying we did not see the drop below”. Roy is worrying about what others think in “Paranoia”; the rhythm section plays some great jazzy stuff here and Roy does some Al Stewart style picking in another interesting change of style; “Big Daddy C” has something of the same feel at a slightly faster pace.

Some deep chords propel Roy into the moody “Honey Trap”: “Something is out of place, something has moved, someone has left a trace. Now you know how it is to be an open case, now you face the honey trap”. Roy shows us his sense of humor in the rockabilly “Big In That” which is great fun both lyrically and musically. The title “Electric Grass” gets our attention and it is certainly a strange song which includes references to Vietnam, surveillance and 1960’s fashions! The rhythm section sits this one out as Roy accompanies himself on electric guitar.

The whole band is back for the catchy groove of “Easy Money”, a tale of a girl who wants “it all now, paid for by easy money”, Roy taking a solid solo before Dave returns to assist on the instrumental track “Blue Surf Shadows”. Now, those who know the English climate and the area of Essex will be aware that surfing is not a common occurrence there but The Shadows were once as influential an instrumental band in 1960’s Britain as The Ventures were in the USA which probably explains the title as Roy finds his inner Hank Marvin on this one! Another odd title “White Men Sing The Greens” closes the album with a piece of late night jazzy blues and a comical lyric spoken by Roy in an exaggerated English accent which may be provide an interesting challenge for American listeners!

This album shows that Roy is a talented writer and guitarist who has several strings to his bow. As a consequence this CD is not all blues but there is plenty of good material to enjoy across the range of style presented.

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

 Blues Society News 

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Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. March 24 – Marty Sammon Band – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, April 16 – Back Pack Jones – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, April 28 – Mississippi Heat – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, May 12 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, May 21, The Ori Naftaly Band – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, June 9 – Frank Bang & Secret Stash – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, June 23 – Victor Wainwright – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, July 7 – Brent Johnson & Call Up with Sugarcane Collins – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, July 21 – Nick Moss Band with Chicago Blues Angels – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, July 30 – Studebaker John & Hawks – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, August 5 – Damon Fowler Band – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club – Bourbonnais IL, August 18 – Too Slim and Taildraggers with Polly O’Keary and Rhythm Method The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, August 27 – Albert Castiglia with Maybe Later – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL

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. March 23 – Jeff Jensen from Memphis, March 30 – Liz Mandeville from Chicago, April 6 – The Blues Deacons from Champaign, April 13 – Jason Elmore from Dallas, April 20 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans from NY, April 27 – Tom Holland and the Shufflekings from Chicago

Additional ICBC shows (all held in Springfield, Illinois): Mar. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, March 21 – Ronnie Baker Brooks ICBC 29th Birthday Bash w/opening act the Blues Expressions. K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Road, Springfield, Illinois, April 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Stone Cold Blues Band, April 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet.

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

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


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