Issue 9-16 April 16, 2015

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

  In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Lionel Young.

We have 5 music reviews for you including music from Willie May, Blue Lunch, The KingmiXers, Brad Absher & Swamp Royale and Blueheart Revival.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Willie May – Shaken Tree Blues

Booman Music – BMCD 4024

10 songs – 39 minutes

Willie May has been around for decades, having started performing in the 1960s but, surprisingly, he did not release his debut album until 1986. After suffering serious injuries in the 1990s, which prevented him from performing, he disappeared from the scene for several years. Since his re-emergence in 2009, his output has been prolific, releasing six albums in just three years. His previous album, Moon Chillun, was favorably reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine issue 8-16 (17 April 2014) and now Shaken Tree Blues is another impressive release.

Opening with the Latin-tinged instrumental, “Dos Teresa”, it is immediately apparent that Shaken Tree Blues is not a run-of-the-mill blues album. Funky drums lead into a muted horn riff that itself meshes into a laid-back, sliding octave guitar pattern. It is atmospheric and airy. It is then followed by the upbeat blues-rock of “Talk Is Cheap”, which features a central riff not dissimilar to Grace Potter’s “Medicine” before morphing into the type of down-home rock ‘n’ roll beat that might be found on an early Fabulous Thunderbirds or Anson and the Rockets album.

May uses a variety of different musicians on various tracks, which reflects the wide range of different styles found on the record. Apart from drummer Owen Eichensehr, most only feature for two or three songs at most. May himself contributes guitar, bass, ukulele, Kalimba (an African thumb piano) and Ocarina (an ancient type of vessel flute), in addition to adding his rough-hewn, magnetic voice. Other musicians include Dwane Hall, Evan Laedke, Jim Bohm, Jim Whitford, Ken Parker, Mark Panfil, Owen Eichensehr, Randy Bolam, Robert Parker, Ray Hangen and Ted Lambert. The fantastic Mark Hummel lays down some seriously fine harmonica on the fast shuffle of “Everybody But Me”.

Several of the songs take unexpected turns. “Greta” starts in a folk music style, with gently strummed acoustic guitar and Mark Panfil’s accordion, before picking up the pace with drums and dobro and sounding like something out of Bayou country. In “Shaken Tree” however, May’s downbeat lyrics about impending environmental disaster are nicely contrasted by the upbeat rhythms, merrily strummed ukulele and curiously upbeat backing harmony vocals.

One of the (many) highlights on the album is “She’s Leavin’”, which sounds like Tom Waits singing an undiscovered Skip James song. Kevin Espinosa’s haunting harp perfectly fits the melancholy tone of the track.

May is a talented songwriter, with a clever turn of phrase and a great ear for a melody. He is also blessed with a lived-in, spit and sawdust voice that suits his songs perfectly. His songs contain hints of rock, country and folk, but it is the blues that is the key to his music, even on acoustic rock ballads like “Heartbreak”.

There are some curious moments, for example the falsetto singing on the closing track, “I’m Going Home”, but part of the attraction of the album is that May is constantly challenging his listeners. Nothing is quite as simple as it initially appears to be.

Shaken Tree Blues is May’s 15th album, but there is no indication that his apparently limitless musical imagination is becoming exhausted. With an intoxicating mix of electric and acoustic instruments and well-written and well-played songs, this is a great release, and will be of particular interest to fans of the likes of Tom Waits or Keb’ Mo’.

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

 Featured Blues Interview – Lionel Young 

Lionel Young is a violin-playing bluesman from Colorado, and as such, his understanding of inter-planetary travel is probably somewhat limited.

However, he understands plenty about the wondrous – and propulsive – powers that music possesses, even though he doesn’t work for NASA and has yet to set foot aboard a spacecraft.

Better than a galactic tour guide ever could, he explains:

“Well, you know if (Jimi) Hendrix would have lived five years longer, we’d probably be on the planet Saturn by now. I hope to be able to take people to other worlds,” he recently said, while enjoying a brief respite from the rigors of the road. “I would love to be like Hendrix and give people the feeling that if I keep going, maybe we’ll get to see Saturn some day. You know if he (Hendrix) were still alive, I really believe we would have contacted aliens by now and the world would be a peaceful place. But for me, Hendrix made it possible to dream about playing the blues on the violin.”

Lionel Young did more than just dream about playing the blues on the violin. He practically changed the game and set the template for playing blues on the fiddle. In addition to that, Lionel Young has the rare distinction of being the only double-winner in the history of the International Blues Challenge (IBC). He took first place in the solo/duo category in 2008 and then followed that up with an impressive top finish in the band division back in 2011. And as one might guess, things are different these days than there were back in the pre-IBC days for Mr. Young.

“It’s totally changed …changed more than I expected it would. And some of the changes are negative. A lot of the things that I used to enjoy doing, I can’t do anymore. I really enjoyed teaching and I had a lot of students. I found that was part of my calling,” he said. “And I haven’t been able to be in one place enough to be able to teach. But somewhere down the line, I want to be able to do that at a high level. I think I’ve got something to offer to today’s modern musicians.”

But, as Young goes on to explain, there have also been plenty of positives garnered from capturing the IBC.

“The good side of it is I’ve had lots of opportunities come my way that probably wouldn’t have had I not been successful (at the IBC),” he said. “But in the end, the more valuable thing I’ve gotten hasn’t had anything to do with winning or losing; it’s had more to do with the people I’ve met and the friends that I’ve made. That’s way, way, way more important than winning or losing.”

If you stop to think about it, it was a fairly risky proposition – career-wise – for Young to take a stab at winning the band division after taking first place in the solo-duo category. He actually could have lost more ground than he had already gained, especially in his own eyes, had he not come home with a top-flight finish.

“I did have a lot to lose. If I had gone and didn’t happen to win, it would have been like, ‘Wow! Who’s this guy who’s already won once?’ And I wouldn’t have been satisfied with that,” he said. “The main reason I went back and did it again, was the first time I did it, I wanted to do it with a band. But my band that I had at the time didn’t want to go. I paid them well and told them this was a situation where we don’t get paid and they didn’t understand that.”

So Young entered the solo/duo competition and won, even though a few around his local stomping grounds may not have been totally impressed with the victory.

“There were also a couple of people in Colorado that were complaining, saying, ‘Well, the only reason he won was because he played a novelty instrument.’ And that got back to me.”

Perceptions aside, Young knew that he would have to be more than just on top of his game for round number-two.

“Going in the second time, I told myself it was going to be even harder, because if people see somebody coming back that already won it, they’re going to want give somebody else a shot. That’s just a natural inclination. I thought that you have to be so good that you can overcome that, too,” Young said. “I thought that might be an imaginary thing on my part, but I found through some of the judge’s scoring that was a real thing, especially locally. I almost … almost approached the second IBC like a sporting event.”

To say that Young was thoroughly prepared when he got to Memphis with his band would probably be an understatement. Not only was his group running like a finely-tuned Ferrari – musically – their mere presence on stage had to catch plenty of eyes, as well. Looking sharper than a serpent’s tooth in their pressed suits, Young and company even switched instruments in mid-song and busted out into full acappella mode, something that’s certainly rare in the blues these days.

“I didn’t do a whole lot of acappella tunes before the IBC, but that kind of grew out of where we did a couple of things where we were singing background vocals for each other, so then we thought ‘Why don’t we just do one whole song that is nothing but vocals?’ Everybody knows we’re instrumentalists – we know we’re primarily instrumentalists – but why don’t we put our instruments down and take a chance, take a risk?” Young asked. “It was fun for us and we all learned a lot and it’s became kind of a standard. People still ask us to do the acappella number that we did at the IBC.”

And as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery …

“Well, after that, there were a lot of people dressed in red and black and white … I saw a lot of bands looking like that,” he laughed. “And a lot of them started walking into the audience singing and grabbing other instruments, but I had no idea this would turn into an off-shoot.”

The visual effect that his show has long delivered is just the icing on the cake. The full-meal deal that Young and his band serves up is all about the music, a splendid blending of the blues with New Orleans jazz, bee-bop, funk and even hints of country at times.

“I’ve got a lot of influences and I don’t mean to betray any of them. I want to include all of them, but I can’t. But with the blues Nazis that are out there, if you branch out into funk, or make it too jazzy, some people will get upset,” Young said. “But you can’t worry about that. You just have to do what you do.”

Young’s reach on the blues world extends way beyond the borders of Colorado, or the city limits of Memphis. He has rapidly developed a worldwide following and this really seemed to hit home on a trip to China last year for an event that the University of Shang-Hi and Beijing collaborated on.

“They (the audiences in China) knew more about my music than most Americans do. Some of the songs I’ve written are politically-based; there’s a song that’s not on any of my CDs about the big oil spill that we had in the Gulf. They asked me about that. I think the song was on an album that Bob Margolin put out and had an involvement with the Wetlands (Foundation). So in China, they had that song … they had it and I’ve barely got it; it’s on my computer,” he said. “Then I wrote a song that’s basically about George Bush before the 2008 election called “There’s a Devil in the White House.” But you know, when I think about it now, he’s (Bush) just a person, but at the time I was upset about being in a war that I thought we had no business being in. And they (the audiences in China) asked me a lot of questions about that. They asked me if I heard from the government over that song. I told them that nobody came after me about it. I played it over there, but also told them that it really doesn’t apply anymore.”

Young has a couple of irons currently in the fire, recording-wise.

“One is pretty done – it’s with my old band – and should come out this summer if I get the finances to finish it. And I’ve been recording some stuff that I’m doing with my new band,” he said. “That stuff is a lot more personal, it really needs to come out. It’s about healing sounds and healing light and healing water. It just seems like the world really needs to be healed and maybe that will help. That’s my intent.”

With the way things are going in this topsy-turvy world currently, Young has not had to scratch very hard or to dig very deep to come up with the inspiration for fresh material. All he’s really had to do is just to look outside his own front door, or even at his TV screen.

“It’s just a complex world right now. I mean, you don’t always have to be a commentator on the world, but the stuff I’ve been writing is a little heavier and a little more … I don’t know, just very personal to me,” he said. “I’m just trying to be really conscious of what’s going on in the world right now. I’m trying to speak to that. It’s (song-writing) my only real vehicle to have a voice on these issues. It’s my way of being able to put out how I feel on a lot of this stuff.”

One of Young’s main influences is the extremely under-rated and immensely-talented Homesick James (who was a cousin to Elmore James). Young had the opportunity to forge a friendship – and play with – James, before his passing in 2006. Another bluesman who is also a bit below the radar, but one who also deserves to be heralded on a much larger level, John Long, is responsible for hooking up Young with James.

“He (Long) was called by Muddy Waters ‘the greatest country bluesman alive,’ after he had opened for Muddy back in the ‘70s. He opened for John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt and sat in with Howlin’ Wolf in Chicago during his ‘60s hey-day,” he said. “He played a lot with Homesick James and he ended up introducing me to Homesick and then we ended up playing with Homesick when he came to Denver back in the ‘90s. Homesick, like Johnny (Long) was a big influence of mine. I listened to Blues on the Southside until I wore the record out. I didn’t understand it, I mean the bass player wasn’t with them and the drummer was kind of on the wrong beat … it was just so free. When he (Homesick) changed, if they (the rhythm section) followed him, great, and if they didn’t, they picked him up a little further down. It’s just really beautiful music … just great. I was just so impressed with how free the music sounded, even though it was deeply steeped in the blues tradition.”

Long has also been a huge ally – and friend – of Young’s, helping him out at a point in his life when such help was truly essential.

“I had a band called the Last Fair Deal and we broke up in like ’91. Johnny took me in and I did gigs with him for like two years. I didn’t really do a whole lot under my own name for awhile. So for a couple of years, I just played with Johnny and I learned so much. It freed me up. He did it Homesick’s way and never used a set-list,” Young said. “You just started a song and if you could hang, great. It was really a rich experience. I look back and say that even though it was a tough time for me, that path was really a good way to go. If I could choose a different way, I don’t think I would. And I’d take the hardship with it, because you learn from it; it’s not like hardship doesn’t teach you anything.”

Young also spent some valuable time with another legend, one that could at times be a bit temperamental and sometimes downright crotchety when he wanted to be – Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown. Young had the good fortune to hang out with Gatemouth on his home turf down in Louisiana on a few occasions, and even brought some instruments along for use in a seminar.

“He was really cool with me. I found out that not only could he play guitar and violin, but he could play harmonica, he could play bass and the squeezebox. He could play the squeezebox really, really well,” said Young. “People didn’t realize that, but he was an all-around musician. Not only did he play blues, he played Cajun music, really well. He had a deep understanding of a lot of musical principles.”

The late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan was the one responsible for really setting the wheels in motion for Young’s friendship with Gatemouth.

“I met Stevie in a couple of different situations and was able to talk with him for awhile. I first met him at a record store in Boulder and told him that I did a lot of his tunes on the fiddle. He took me aside in the record store and started talking to me about Gatemouth,” he said. “Stevie said, ‘You’ve got to seek out Gatemouth’ … and he told me about his brother, Widemouth. The next thing you know, I’m meeting Gatemouth and going to New Orleans and hanging with him really heavily. I always wanted to tell Stevie that I sought out Gatemouth and it was really cool – it was like I was fulfilling what he told me to do. The last time I saw him (SRV) was in Denver when he was on a tour with Joe Cocker in 1990. They allowed me to go backstage and Stevie remembered me. I thought, ‘Whoa, this is a really cool guy.’ As far as his playing goes, he just played so furious. It was like he was playing for his life.”

New Orleans is where Young’s family roots are firmly planted, and as he tells it, music of all kinds is as important to the Crescent City as the very earth that the city is built on.

“You go around New Orleans and that’s one city in the United States that doesn’t feel like the United States, first of all. It feels different,” he said. “I’ve been enough places, and New Orleans – it’s a little like Paris with all the iron railings, but you hear music there and it’s in a different time/space continuum; you’re not on this planet anymore. Or, you’re in a place on the planet that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the rest.”

Young is a classically-trained musician and even though at first look that might seem to be in direct conflict with a lot of the forefathers of the blues, and the way that they learned how to play their instruments, Young says not so fast on that theory.

“Lonnie Johnson – a guy who influenced T-Bone (Walker) and B.B. King and Chuck Berry, along with a lot of others – he was a classically-trained violinist. And of course there’s Sugarcane Harris and Bo Diddley, he played the violin before he played the guitar,” Young said. “It’s been there. Then there’s Anne Harris who plays with Otis Taylor. She’s classically-trained. But you know, it don’t matter how you learned, because there are classically-trained people that can’t play classical music. There are plenty of those. They haven’t reached the level where they can make you feel something.”

Making people ‘feel something’ is a skill that Young has become quite adept at over the years. That skill may involve being able to play the notes scribbled on a piece of paper, but that’s hardly where that skills starts. Its origins are much deeper than that.

“It (the music) has to be in you to begin with. It has to be there. You’ve got to have love for it. If you could take it with you in your casket, you would. Your love for the music has to show,” he said. “With real love for the music, there’s nothing you can’t do, there’s just no limit. If you don’t have that love, no matter how hard you try and how close you get, it’s just not going to be satisfying enough. I do love classical music, but I’ve been in love with blues since I can remember.”

Who knows – maybe sometime in the near future, the International Blues Challenge might unveil a third category (not counting the ‘youth’ division) for competition, giving Young an opportunity to become the first three-time winner in the annals of the event. However, don’t expect him to be setting on his hands waiting for that moment to happen. His goals are much simpler – and much more important – than that.

“Yeah, I’m really not awards-centric, or anything like that. I mean, if a BMA or a Grammy were to come my way, that would be cool,” he said. “But I’m much more interested in being a good influence and making good music. That’s what’s important; that and helping to lift up those that influenced me. That’s the important things.”

Visit Lionel’s website at

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Blue Lunch – Above The Fold

Rip Cat Records– RIC 1117

15 songs – 61 minutes

Blue Lunch’s previous release was the compilation album, Blue Lunch Special (reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine’s issue 8-28, 10 July 2014). Their new CD, Above The Fold, shows the band continuing to mine the same rich seam of upbeat, up-town, horn-driven jump blues.

In addition to the core band members of Pete London on harmonica and vocals, Bob Frank on guitar and vocals, Ray DeForest on bass and vocals, Scott Flowers on drums, Mike Sands on piano, Mick Rubin on trumpet, Bob Michael on trombone and Chris Bruge on tenor sax, the album also features the guest talents of Evelyn Wright on vocals, Tim Longfellow on organ and Sammy DeLeone on congas on a couple of tracks. Given that London was a founder member of the band back in 1984 and that many of the others have been on board for several years themselves, there remains an impressively infectious enthusiasm about Blue Lunch.

Bob Frank is an gifted songwriter, with a clever turn of lyrical phrase, capable of penning songs that tread a delicate line between dry humour and gallows desperation, for example on opener “Ain’t Trying To Kill Nobody”. He is also a fine guitarist, turning in several short, punchy, yet melodic solos (his break in the French-flavoured “Woman I Bleed” is particularly nice, meshing nicely with Burge’s sultry saxophone). Frank contributed seven songs to the album. Burge wrote three toe-tapping instrumentals on which the various band members have an opportunity to stretch out and London added two songs of his own, one of which is the harp-driven instrumental, “Katt’n Around With Moe”. The only cover versions are carefully selected to fit in with the band’s style (Andre “Mr Rhythm” Williams’ “Tossin’ & Turnin’ & Burnin’ All Up Inside” and Dave Bartholomew’s “Love No More” are both under-appreciated 1950s gems). The closing track is the traditional gospel song “Good News”, sung a cappella by the band – a striking way to finish the album.

There is also a gospel influence discernable in Evelyn Wright’s backing vocals in “Where Do You Think It’s Going?” but it is clear there is a wide range of influence at play on this album. There is the funk instrumental of “One Fine Day”, with Burge’s sax to the fore; there is the (second) Sonny Boy Williamson-esque “The Long Game” featuring superb harp from London; and there is the T-Bone-like “Everybody’s On The Phone”. The great Mr Walker’s influence is even more evident on “Venita”, a slower track with some gorgeous guitar from Frank.

To add to the overall enjoyment, Above The Fold is also beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve, with entertainingly idiosyncratic liner notes from Harlan Ellison.

For a band now in its third decade, Blue Lunch continues to turn out top class jump blues with a twist. If you’re already a fan, you will want to add Above The Fold to your collection. If you’re not yet a fan, a listen to this album will quickly convert you. Very impressive stuff.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

The KingmiXers – Flyboy


CD: 12 Songs; 53:44 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues, Harmonica Blues

If ever there was a genre of music conducive to travel, it would be the blues. Few people talk about Mississippi rock versus Houston rock versus Los Angeles rock, and so on. Wherever touring artists go, they pick up the local and regional flavor of their latest venue. A case in point is the Canada-based ensemble The KingmiXers, consisting of Gary Preston on harmonica, vocals and keyboards, David Schade on guitar and vocals, and Anita Bonkowski on drums, bass and keyboards. They play jazz-influenced blues with a mosaic of styles, from Chicago to West Coast to New Orleans. Their new album, Flyboy, displays their instrumental versatility.

According to their promotional info sheet, they have done seven tours of Europe, and this year’s tour is already set for June. They have also performed at festivals across Canada and the U.S., including main-stage performances, workshops and group panels. Their albums have earned international airplay, and their personality and humor are clearly reflected in their songs. The only flaw on an otherwise-solid collection is that the lead vocals are talk-sung, but otherwise it’s great – especially Preston on harmonica. Together, this trio performs nine original tunes and three covers: “Walking Blues” by Robert Johnson, “Let Me Explain” by Sonny Boy Williamson, and “Guilty” by Randy Newman. Of the originals, these three are this reviewer’s top picks:

Track 08: “Lacy’s Place” – This 1950’s-style rocker is a hopping homage to good eats and good company. “At Lacy’s Place, she’s serving Mountain Dew in Mason jars and hush puppies, too. A picture of her mama up on the wall, picture of her daddy in his overalls. They’re frying catfish, ooh, at Lacy’s Place.” Listeners will wonder if this is an actual restaurant, especially if their mouths are watering. Their ears shall also have a tasty fill of the sizzling keyboard solo.

Track 10: “The Real World” – “I’ve got to strangle my imagination just to preserve a little semblance of peace,” gripes our narrator in this shuffling lament. “Who is emerging from the dark? Who’s going to light up a spark?” Truly, no one really knows, as we all “come up against the real world.” The band’s vocal harmonies here are slightly reminiscent of the Steve Miller Band, infectious and pointed at the same time.

Track 11: “You’ll Never Get the Blues” – As this Chicago-style blues ballad reveals, in the world of music, many are called, but few are chosen. “Went to the juke joint. My bowling shirt was on. Harmonica in my belt, ready to have some fun. Blowing in my mic, I started to really get down. Somebody said, ‘Sounds like Mr. Rogers. Man, who is this clown?’” Even a gypsy lady gives his money back: “You can cross my palm with silver, but you’ll never get the blues.” Hilarious!

According to the liner notes, this CD is dedicated in memoriam to “flyboy” Trevor Dossett.

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 – 4 of 5 

Brad Absher & Swamp Royale – Lucky Dog

Montrose Records – 2015

12 tracks; 49 minutes

It is very surprising that Brad Absher is a new name to me as his music is right up my personal street! In fact this is Brad’s fifth album release and it’s a keeper. Raised in Louisiana and based in Houston, Texas, Brad’s music combines many elements of blues, soul and R n’ B with horns added to several tracks. The album was recorded in Houston and produced by Brad, label head Richard Cagle and Larry Fulcher. Larry is, of course, bassist in The Phantom Blues Band and is ever-present on this album.

Brad’s regular bandmates Mike Patton on drums and Barry Seelen on keys form the core band with Brad (guitar and vocals) and Larry (bass); Andy Saad (tenor sax) and Anthony Terry (baritone sax) appear on half the tracks. Additional musicians are: Kyle Turner, tenor sax on one track, Nicoya Prolar, B/V on five tracks, Ed Starkey, bass vocals on one track, Samantha Banks, percussion on one track, Brian Thomas, pedal steel on one track. Brad wrote six of the songs, Larry and fellow Phantom Tony Braunagel contributed one, there is one traditional gospel song and four covers. For guitarheads Brad has provided the details of which guitar is used on each track.

The album opens with four outstanding cuts. First up is Brad’s “Woman Who Loves Me” which opens with Brad’s choppy guitar (and later slide), Barry’s organ and the horns on a mid-paced rocker with a powerful chorus to which Nicoya’s backing vocals add considerably. Next up is “I Need A Drink” which is simply superb, definitely the top pick from the album. Propelled by a funky bass line and wonderful horn arrangement, Brad’s vocals are right on the money as he sings of how he can get past the current difficulties in his life: “I need a drink and I need some time, a quiet place where I can ease my mind. I really don’t have any kind of plan, gonna try to come out of this thing, come out a better man.” A rasping sax solo and Brad’s emotional guitar solo top off this great slab of Memphis soul.

Bill Withers’ “Same Love” is well done with Kyle Turner’s sax featured and Larry’s funky bass driving the song, Nicoya’s soothing accompaniments blending well with Brad’s main vocal. “I Can’t Wait” is another solid soul-blues tune written by Brad with Barry’s piano and the rising horns pushing the tune towards its uplifting chorus. William Bell’s classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water” is often covered and Brad’s version takes the song back to its gospel roots on the longest track here. “Wanna Be Your Man” has swirling organ, growling horns and Brad’s strong vocal on another winning original.

There is then a run of tunes without the horns. Leon Russell’s “I’d Rather Be Blind” (covered by Curtis Salgado on his 2001 album “Soul Activated”) suits Brad’s voice well, another slice of soul-blues with a fine solo from Brad. Brad’s own “Not Tonight” has a distinctly country feel, accentuated by Brian Thomas’ weeping pedal steel, and a classic chorus for a country song: “I know you want my love, not tonight, I’ve got a heartache.”

Allen Toussaint’s “Lipstick Traces” features a stripped down quartet with Larry’s funky bass, Brad’s choppy rhythm work, Barry’s Hammond and Mike’s crisp drumming. The traditional “Jesus On The Mainline” adds Ed Starkey’s bass vocals to good effect, especially on the acapella opening section; Brad’s slide work here is excellent and fits the tune well. Larry and Tony Branaugel’s “Trouble” is an uptempo piece which rocks along well with solid backing vocals supporting Brad. The album closes with “Memphis On The Way” which sees the return of the horns to beef up a tale of travelling south to avoid cold winters, Memphis being a logical stop en route. As befits such a theme there is a sax solo and the piano work also shines. Brad’s vocals are again spot-on, as they are throughout.

This is an excellent album that deserves to be widely heard. Anyone who loves soul-blues will enjoy this one and it comes highly recommended. Now, I’m off to find some of those back catalogue Brad Absher CDs!

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 – 5 of 5 

Blueheart Revival – Stone Feathers

Self release

9 tracks / 46:03

It is always fun when a band goes outside the box and adds tangible elements from other types of music to an established genre, and blues is no exception. Blueheart Revival does this well, combining their blend of blues, funk, soul and rock with solid musicianship to create their own niche in the music world.

Blueheart Revival is a Washington, D.C. based band that brings a lot of original material to their listeners, as their debut LP, Stone Feathers, has eight original tracks and only one cover tune. This five-piece band formed in 2012, put out an EP in 2013, and is fronted by Bobby Thompson on lead vocals and guitar, with local hero Tommy Lepson on keys, Colin Thompson (no relation) on guitar, Kurt Kratch on bass, and Gary Crockett behind the drum kit.

Despite their almost Yankee origins, there is a southern rock feel to the first track, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Early in the Morning.” There is no shortage of hearty Hammond B3 from Lepson, and the two Thompsons lay down some righteous guitar riffs, including masterful slide work. For this lone cover tune on the album, they reworked the original into a more modern tune and did it just right, making it one of the standout tracks on the album. It is always cool to get off to a strong start!

The second song, “On Her Wings Again,” is also solid and things gets funky with wah on the rhythm guitar and a neat dry sound to Crockett’s drums. The backline holds this song together with a tough groove of bass and drums under Bobby Thompson’s growly vocals. A cool element on this track is the guest percussion work by Leon Mobley of Ben Harper’s Innocent Criminals. If you are not familiar with his work you should check out his bio, as he is a fascinating cat who has a diverse musical background.

This quintet can also cut loose with a blues rock jam or two, as found in “Until We Shine” which wins the heaviest guitar riff of the day award. This sounds like the kind of song that was refined from a Tuesday night blues jam where everything went right. “Setting Sun” has a similar feel, but this time with a little more classic blues influence combined with the hard rocking beat, and terrific vocal harmonies between Thompson and Crockett.

Lepson takes the helm on “Consider Me,” bringing his hearty vocals and strong organ work to the party. This song has more of a rhythm and blues vibe, and this more laid-back feel allows the meaning of the words to come forward, and shows the mature songwriting skills of Blueheart Revival. This also goes for the sole acoustic track on the disc, “Get it by the Grace,” which has Delta and gospel influences, plus a bigger than expected sound thanks to the stereo effect of the two acoustic guitars and the rich vocal harmonies.

This release finishes off with the two most polished tracks on Stone Feathers, and they are also the longest songs, which is all right because they are both pretty awesome. The title track is a radio-friendly with a catchy guitar melody and the story of a girl who is hard to connect with. And the closer, “Morning Stranger” has a crazy slow funk-rock AOR mood that takes advantage of every vintage effect that they did not find a place for anywhere else on the record (and that is a good thing).

Stone Feathers is a fun album with no two songs that sound alike, and it certainly never gets boring. Blueheart Revival put together a strong debut, and they are not sitting still. They are putting together a gig schedule, and are releasing a live EP with three tracks that were recorded in November at the their CD release show at the IOTA Club & Cafe in Arlington, Virginia. If this album is any indicator of what their live show is like, the EP should be a good buy too!

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

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, Illinois

Friday, April 24, Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is proud to bring legendary recording artist, Johnny Rawls, to the Chanpaign-Urbana community. Join PCBS at 9:00 pm at The Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., in Urbana for this great show. Johnny’s CD “Ace of Spades” won the 2010 Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Album and this year he has been nominated for Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year and Soul Blues Album of the Year for “Soul Brothers”, with Otis Clay. Cover is $10 ($8 with current PCBS membership card). For more information visit;

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Iowa Blues Challenge FINALS will be held at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines on Saturday, May 16 at 6:30 PM. Admission is $10 with a $2 discount for current Iowa Blues Society members with card. For more information and band bios go to

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

The DC Blues Society proudly announces the DC-area appearance of the Nick Moss Band on Saturday, April 18, 2015. The dance floor will be jumping when Nick and his band play guitar-fueled blues from 8 pm-midnight at the American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring MD, 20910. Doors open at 6 pm and parking is plentiful. Tickets are $15 in advance ($12 for DCBS members) and $18 at the door (no member discount). Buy your tickets early! Go to to purchase online or call (301) 322-4808.

Nick’s style uses a broad sonic palette, weaving textures of R&B and blues-influenced rock into his playing and songwriting. Time Ain’t Free, his most recent release, “reaches deeper into soul, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll,” according to, with shades of P-Funk, Little Feat, Faces, and world music, all filtered through Moss’s deep blue lens.

Blues Kids Foundation – Chicago, IL

Fernando Jones’ Blues Camp – For Kids 12 – 18 years Old – “Summer 2015”  The Blues Kids Foundation proudly presents, in partnership with host sites below, Fernando Jones’ Blues Camps. We will award tuition waiver scholarships to over 250 music and audio/visual students (ages 12 to 18), collectively, who attend.

Through this priceless, fun-filled experience the Blues Kid will learn and perform America’s root music in a week long program with like minded others under the direction and supervision of highly qualified instructors. Entry is competitive. Audition dates can be found at under the host city’s name.

Openings for entry-level student musicians may also be available. Participants are expected to audition online at International students may audition. Out-of-town Blues Campers must be accompanied by a legal parent or guardian, and are responsible for their own lodging and accommodations.

2015 Blues Camps will be host cities include Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Nashville, Miami, Hampton, and Corona.

For more details or call 312-369-3229.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. 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. 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): 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

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