Issue 9-21 May 21, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Tweed Funk front man Joseph “Smokey” Holman. Editor Bob Kieser has Part I of the pictures and commentary from the Nevis Island Blues Fest. We have 5 music reviews for you including music from Cold Sweat Roc, Cary Morin, Billy Walton Band, Darren Watson and King Biscuit Boys.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

This week I have the pleasure of presenting photos and commentary about a great little Blues festival, The Nevis Blues Fest. I hope you will check it out as this is one for those who hate large crowds and enjoy tropical paradise. This week we present some background on the Island of Nevis and some of the wonderful places on the island you WILL want to visit. Plus photos of the first night of the festival.

Also a reminder that if you have a festival to promote, we can help for free! Simply visit our Blues music calendar and enter in the dates for your favorite Blues festival. It is free and easy. Check it out, click HERE.

Finally, a reminder that you can still visit our soundcloud page to get some free Blues music from our April Blues Overdose Issue. There are 5 free tracks there including 2 from artists reviewed in this issue. But do it now as next week we have another Bl;ues Overdose Issue and these will be gone and replaced with 5 new ones for you. Check it out at

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Cold Sweat Roc – Introductions

Self-produced CD

12 songs – XX minutes

Don’t let the appearance of this debut CD fool you. Although Cold Sweat Roc is a hard-hitting three-piece ensemble from Rochester, N.Y., as symbolized by the muted sepia-tone image of a flaming guitar on the cover, they’re a solid blues band beneath their initial flash.

In this incarnation, the band’s led by Ray Sciarratta on bass and lead vocals, with Steve Casilio handling guitar and contributing backing vocals. Mike Giugno, a longtime veteran of the Rochester music scene, handles the drums. As announced in the liner notes of this CD, on future endeavors, Roger Reddy will join the group on keyboards and vocals. He’s in the Guinness Book Of World Records as a member of the band Cleveland, which is credited with the longest rock concert in history.

Sciarratta and Casilio contribute 11 of the 12 Introductions originals, which kick off with “Tease My Baby,” a guitar-powered blues-rocker atop a fast shuffle rhythm pattern. Sciarratta’s vocal delivery is clear and solid within a limited range, while the bottom is solid on the beat. Next up, “All Alone” is an image-filled rocker of regret after a woman’s sudden departure. The bluesy “Black & Blue” describes a rocky relationship that resembles a revolving door. Casilio’s mid-song solo stands out.

Next up, “Magic Grapes” is a jazz-tinged blues instrumental with a funky feel and is driven by an extended and tasty guitar run throughout. It’s a real departure from the previous material and shows clearly that, when they put their minds to it, Cold Sweat Roc truly is a solid blues ensemble. Sciarratta displays vocal gymnastics on “Blaze,” a rocker that features a challenging melody pattern doubled on guitar. Another song describing a difficult relationship, “Just The Same,” follows before another solid blues number, “Mississippi Hot Sauce.” Written by Gary Twentymon, it’s a driving boogie in the style of John Lee Hooker that features a spoken intro that launches into a lyrical description of a trip to a barbeque.

“Out Shootin’ Dice” delivers a blues feel and the message that the singer would have been much better off at home with his baby who doesn’t like being alone instead of losing his money, drinking too much and messing with another woman. He definitely fears the repercussions. The band adopts blues flavored Latin rhythms for the instrumental “Spanish Dance” before the syncopated “Test Of Time” and the rocker “Things We Do For Love” before the fiery “Hard Livin’” concludes the set.

Available through CDBaby and Amazon, this disc seems to display a band with potential in its formative stages. It will be interesting to hear what they produce next.

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 Interview – Joseph “Smokey” Holman 

“There is a thing about me and music that nobody knows. That is – without it I would perish. Music saved my life. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, but I have always come back to music”.

Powerful words from Joseph “Smokey” Holman, lead singer for Tweed Funk, the blues & soul band based out of Milwaukee. Like many of his generation, Holman started singing in church. One of ten siblings that included three sets of twins, Holman has a twin sister. His mother was raised in Mississippi and his father was born in Alabama. They met in Chicago shortly after his father completed his military service.

“My mother was a church-going lady all her life. My father didn’t have much education but he was a provider. He was kind of hard on us – but he also took care of everybody. I grew up with a mother and a father, what we used to call a nuclear family, which isn’t so prevalent these days. Now mothers have the most influence over the children. We always take care of each other. We are a really close-knit family. I talked to my mother about it once. She said it might be because at one given time, all of the kids slept in the same bed. If one of us came down with the measles or chicken pox, she would put us in the bed so that we’d all be sick at the same time. That way she wouldn’t have to go through it over and over again”.

On Sunday’s you could find Holman sitting in the front row of the Zion Temple in Gary IN. “The pastor had a son who could sing and play piano. His daughter sang like a songbird. They were really talented – had me singing my little butt off!” At age thirteen, Holman started singing acappella with friends in the school bathroom, doing songs by the Temptations and Major Lance. A friend, Robert Griffin, was there to provide instruction on harmony singing. “We used to hide in the ventilation system. The janitor had a little spot up there over the gym with a small TV and a bottle of whiskey. We would ditch class and be up there singing away. They never could find us! The secret was for each of us to hold our pitch. Grif knew all that stuff and was really good at teaching us. That was a long time ago but I can remember it like it was yesterday”.

Eventually Holman and his friends formed a band originally known as the Domestic 4 – later changing to the Domestics. They were a hot band around Gary, getting selected to open a show for a revue featuring Rufus Thomas and Willie Mitchell. Thomas was suitably impressed by what he heard from the band, telling Mitchell to bring them down to Memphis to record. So the group loaded up a station wagon belonging to the bass player’s father and headed south seeking fame and fortune.

The sessions were held at the famous Royal Studios for the Stax-Volt label. But when their manager went down to Memphis to work out the contractual details, it was made clear that the manager would have to step aside. The Domestics decided to pass on the deal out of loyalty to their manager for all of his work to get the group to that point.

Holman’s next brush with fame came in 1967 when a new lead singer, Charles Simmons, was added to the band. A first cousin to Stevie Wonder, Simmons was able to get the band an audition with Motown Records. But an issue with the label’s executives sent a potential deal flying out of the window.

“We were getting ready to break-up. But we went to Chicago to play at a club where my brother had a band. He was drawing big crowds, so they put us on the bill. That night, after the first set, we got back to the dressing room to find Curtis Mayfield and his bass player waiting there. They had heard a lot about us. After hearing our show, they wanted us to come in and sing for Eddie Thomas, the President to Curtom Records. Once we did, Thomas signed us up right away. We knew that we were on our way.”

“I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie, The Five Heartbeats. That was basically us. We had an awesome singer named Ernest Thomas. Sometimes he would get mad as we were going on stage. He would get into it with our manager because Ernest thought the manager was trying to replace him.” Mayfield got the group to change their name to Love’s Children, releasing several singles on Curtom including “Soul Is Love,” “This Is The End For Us,” and “Why Should I Stay” before the group’s run came to an end.

One memorable moment during this period occurred in Columbus, Ohio. “We were at the Sheraton Hilton – the company had bought the whole top floor of the hotel. After our show, I was thinking here we come, Jackson 5! I come from dirt-poor people, so that night was fascinating to me. I looked around at all the people, the media, the bodyguards – everybody was there. It kind of moved me that I was actually, finally somebody”.

After graduating high school, Holman spent time in the Gary steel mills before a stint in the U.S. Marine Corp handling different vehicles including tanks. During that period he acquired his nickname, “Smokey,” for participating in amateur, unsanctioned boxing matches referred to as “smokers” due to the thick haze of smoke that filled the small halls & gyms were the fights took place.

In 1986, Holman made a trip to Milwaukee for a visit and never left. “I met some cats singing Temptations tunes over a bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine. I joined in and started singing. One guy looked over and asked for my name. I said they call me Smokey. He said we need to do something together. So the two of us and his cousin starting going around singing acapella, singing for whatever money people would put in our hat.”

His new partner was Charles McCurtis, better known around town as Marvelous Mack. Originally from Chicago, Mack was a singer, songwriter and self-taught keyboard player. The duo did well until Holman got caught up in drugs, entering a truly dark period in his life. “It was really bad. I was out of it for several years until 1990, when I finally woke up and got my life in order. At that point, Mack was kind enough to invite me back into the band. So we are on stage with Mack playing keyboards. I came in and started singing. I was surprised at what came out of my mouth. I was wondering where it came from but it seemed like my head had finally gotten hooked up with my ass. I was singing as a whole entity”.

“There is a difference between singing and just emulating someone else. I’m a soulful singer due to all of the things I have been through in my life. It took time to learn to control my emotions because I almost passed out a couple of times singing on stage. The singers I learned from, my all-time favorites include Aretha Franklin, Sly & the Family Stone, David Ruffin, Smokey Robinson, and George Clinton.”

Fast forward a few years to point where Holman was contemplating discontinuing his singing career. “I was frustrated because the band I was in, I found myself getting pushed further and further to the back. A friend asked me to go to a jam with him at the Painted Parrot in Milwaukee. I got up and sang a few tunes. Afterwards, a guy named JD Optekar introduced himself, asking me where I had been! JD was putting a project together that would be built around a female vocalist. But he really liked my voice. He said it would be an honor if I checked them out.”

“I was going to pass on it at first. I was tired of people constantly telling me that I wouldn’t be this place or that without them, blah, blah. I sat down with JD and discussed this with him. So we decided to give it a try. That is the start of Tweed Funk. It overwhelmed me at first because we grew by leaps and bounds. I didn’t expect people to receive me the way they did. It has worked out very nicely”.

“The group of guys we have now is awesome. I’m the oldest guy in the band but the other guys have “old” souls. They aren’t overly influenced by new music. They really get into stuff from the 1970 decade. JD is genius at the marketing and booking. He is very persistent, too! He is an outstanding songwriter in addition to getting better & better on guitar. We brought horns onto a show one time. It sounded so good the band had to have live horns. Our sax player, Jon Lovas, is a music instructor. It took him a while to come out of his shell. Now he is blowing his horn real good. On trumpet, we have Kevin Klemme, who has a real knack and feel for R&B. He also plays in a New Orleans style brass band”.

“Nick Lang is our drummer and a music instructor in the jazz field. He has a Master’s degree in Music so he is really in-tune with the things you have to do because he understands the theory of it all. On bass, we have Eric Madunic, who is versed in quite a few instruments. He started playing in a band with his father when he was eight or nine years old. That bass guitar is an extension of him. I look over at him and his fingers are moving so fast it looks like something from the Matrix! He really works that bass”.

The band members sing the praises of Holman, well-aware of how Holman has influenced the band in a variety of ways. Madunic recalls meeting the singer for the first time at an open jam at the Astor Hotel that was his audition for the band. Having never played at a jam, the bass player had no idea what to expect.

“Smokey was quiet at first. When I was called to the stage, he called for a shuffle in the key of G. On the last song, he broke it down and then gave me the solo. I had never done a bass solo! I just went with what I felt – it was a real trial by fire. There is no more auto-pilot for me on stage because we never know where Smokey is going to take the train”.

“When we were recording our First Name Lucky album, I was very nervous about doing the lead vocal on “Knock On Wood”. Smokey picked up on that, so he pulled me aside and put his arm around me, then gave some words of wisdom on vocal inflections and phrasing. He coached me through my nervousness. Some of our best moments happen post-gig when we are just hanging out listening to Smokey some of his hilarious stories, which the band calls “Smokeyisms”! He has lived a lot of life, which has given him plenty of wisdom and that really helps the band bond together.”

Lang thought he was thoroughly prepared for the recording sessions. He had done his homework, writing out notes and planning every detail. “And, of course, nothing went according to plan. Every take was live. Something or somebody was a little off on each take. But Smokey nailed the vocal every single time. We could have used any one of his takes. He taught me a lesson that day about what mastery really is. He is the same way on stage. If we had a slow night with a small crowd, the long sets used to make me a bit salty. Smokey always keeps it going, no matter what. Another lesson learned for me – how to be humble”.

No one has spent more time with Holman than Optekar. “Smokey is loyal and good friend, whether he is supporting us or bailing somebody out of jail. My favorite example occurred when my daughter, Grace, was eight years old. She was performing at Summerfest as part of the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Youth Showcase. Smokey was having car problems, so he hopped on a bus, made to Summerfest to hear Grace sing one song. That is how committed he is to supporting his friends”.

Holman appreciates the band and relishes the opportunities that continue to come their way. The band has steadily built up a presence on the festival circuit with their dynamic live show. They were nominated for a 2014 Blues Blast Music Award in the Soul Blues Album category in addition to a number of WAMI Awards for the band and its individual members. Holman has been nominated four years in a row for Male Vocalist of the Year, taking the award home in 2013. But don’t think for a minute that all of attention has gone to his head.

“If you let things get out of your hands, it can tear you down. I try to stay humble. I’m a simple person who doesn’t believe in getting above himself. Sometimes when we have a few shows back-to-back, JD will ask me to hold back a bit. But when I open my mouth, what comes out is all me. If I can get it up, I can get on!”

Visit Tweed Funk’s website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer 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 Live Blues Review – Nevis Blues Fest Part I 

Nevis Blues Festival – April 16 – 18, 2015

This year I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend the 1st Annual Nevis Blue Festival held on the tropical island of Nevis thanks to generous support by the Nevis Tourism Authority. If you are like me when I was first notified about this event on Nevis Island, you will ask, “Where in the heck is Nevis Island?”

I had to look it up on Google maps and I found it here:  As it turns out, it is an Island in the Caribbean located just off of St Kitts. And man was it ever a cool event and location!

I left for Nevis on Tuesday morning April 14 and arrived in St Kitts around 8:30pm. After a short trip through customs we were met by a driver who took us off into the darkness. I mean that literally as just after we left the St. Kitts airport area we seemed to have left civilization in a time warp. There were no street lights and the roads were passable in our 4 wheel drive vehicle but it required speeds under 45 mph on the paved roads winding down into the night. Eventually we arrived at the eastern shore of St Kitts where a short drive across the beach took us to an awaiting boat in the darkness.

Now some without an adventurous spirit may have panicked a bit as the transferred our luggage into the boat in the darkness. But the friendly van driver and the 2 operators of the boat seemed not the least bit concerned and it was in fact not at all alarming after the driver of the boat asked, “Would you like a beer?”

This was the perfect question after a 12 hour trip and I enjoyed my first ever Carib beer. It is a refreshing lager beer sold in the Caribbean and it really hit the spot. We then started off in our water taxi into the dark. After a minute when my eyes got used to the darkness I could see some distant lights that our pilot was headed for. Nevis awaited!

After a 20 minute or so ride in complete darkness we arrived at the Oualie Beach Resort dock. When we got off the boat there was a hotel and a open air bar with someone playing guitar to a few patrons. We stopped for a minute when I noticed a guy with an soft acoustic guitar case strapped to his back. I said hello and introduced myself to John Yearwood, who I later found out was one of the resort owners and sponsors of the festival along with his brother Alistair and Richard Paviit from Nugene Records.

After a short conversation and sharing a second Carib, we were off to my lodging for the night which was at Nisbet Plantation Inn, a former sugar cane plantation located right on the northern shore of the island. The staff was incredible and shortly took me to my room for the night. You couldn’t ask for a better view, my cabin was the closest one to the beach.

Wednesday morning we were met by Julie Clayton of Nevis Tourism Authority who took us for a tour of Nevis Island. First we visited a few of the local churches, some quite historical like the Cottie church which was the first church were Africans and whites worshipped on Nevis years ago.

We also visited St Thomas Church, the capital city of Charlestown and the Alexander Hamilton museum and then dipped our feet in the volcanic hot springs at the Bath Hotel before having a great lunch at the Indigo in Montpelier Plantation Hotel for lunch. On the way back we stopped in at Sunshine’s Beach Bar And Grill for one of their famous “Killer Bee” cocktails. While the ingredients are secret, I can tell you it has LOTS of rum in it. Tasty!

Later that evening Devon Liburd, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Nevis Tourism Authority (NTA) took us to Hermitage Plantation for a hog roast feast. It included many dishes all of which were made with local ingredients. One of the ones I liked best was Rabbit Pie! Yummy!

On Thursday afternoon Devon was again our tour guide and he took us for lunch at the world famous Rodney’s Restaurant. Rodney Elliott, an island woman who serves genuine local cuisine using authentic recipes handed down from generation to generation. We even tried a glass of soursop juice, too. Soursop is a local fruit and it was really delightful.

After Rodney’s Devon dropped me off at Oualie Beach for a 2 tank scuba dive. What an awesome place to dive. We saw lots of coral, tropical fish, sea urchins, crabs and lobsters. But the coolest thing was a group of green sea turtles who appeared fearless and were so close to us we could have reached out and touched them! . Now that is really showing some hospitality, Thank You so much NTA!

After a trip back to the Nisbet to freshen up we headed out to the islands top restaurant, Indian Summer for dinner. Indian Summer is as the name suggests serves Indian cuisine and our host was the owner Vikas. We let him order for us and he made it a memorable experience, the best Indian food I have ever enjoyed.

After dinner it was off to the first night of the Nevis Blues Festival. There were a couple of local artists we missed called Cultural Express and Greenhouse but we arrived just in time to get our VIP passes and grab a drink at the unlimited free VIP bar as the Ian Siegal Band was setting up.

Now I did not know what to expect for the festival. We were on an island in the middle of the Caribbean with only 12,000 inhabitants and just over 400 hotel rooms on the entire island. It is a tropical paradise with roads and infrastructure that seems straight out of the 1960’s so I was not sure of the lever of professional production that could be found for this first ever Blues festival but I needn’t have worried. Richard Pavitt the owner of Nugene Records in the UK who came up with the idea for the festival had it all worked out.

They had a huge stage that I would guess to be about 40 X 40 and four feet high. It was a covered stage with a great concert sound system and professional lighting. Ian Siegal Band took the stage and my Nevis Blues Fest Experience began.

Ian’s band consisted of himself on lead guitar and vocals, Dusty Ciggaar on guitar, Danny van ‘t Hoff on bass and Rafael Schwiddessen on drums. These guys were very tight.

It was the first time hearing them and I must say they have a great sound. A couple of times Ian threw a lead break to Dusty and man this kid from the Netherlands is a monster guitar player. I think he is something like 23 years old but he must have an old Blues soul.

Ian and the band played for 45 minutes or so and then called up Zac Harmon. It was a good jam and a great performance.

Later anther local artist Nu Vybes finished out the night. It was a rap/reggae kind of sound the crowd seemed to tolerate well. So that was the end of the first night at the Nevis Blues Fest.

Next Week Part II of the Nevis Blues Fest. For more information on Nevis visit

Comments and photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Cary Morin – Tiny Town

Self Released

14 tracks

Cary Morin is a finger picking guitar player, singer and songwriter who won both the 2013 and 2014 Solo Duo Colorado Blues Challenge. The son of an Air Force officer and a Crow tribal member, Morin hails from Billings, Montana. Touring and recording with Pura Fe, Morin gained acclaim in France; he has toured successfully across the globe and has appeared on NPR and BBC radio programs as well as programs in France, Switzerland and Belgium.

The acoustic music he plays is timeless. It could come from any period in the last 100 years yet it sounds fresh and in touch. Featuring a dozen originals and two covers, Morin is joined by French harp player Jean Jaques Milteau. Morin is featured on vocals, guitar and pedal steel guitar.

The top tunes here are the two covers, the title track and “Obstacles to Negotiate.” Morin delivers this tune with his slightly gravelly voice and super guitar picking. The song is really a story where Morin effectively captivates the listener and tells us about the obstacles in life we must negotiate. The title track is a complex finger picking tune with a story about leaving a small home town. Morin fingers picks with a controlled sort of reckless abandon, making the frets do his bidding as he navigates up and down the neck of the guitar. Quite impressive! Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks” has the harp accompanying Morin’s vocals in this minor keyed slow blues. The story is told in a downtrodden sort of way with the harp huffing and puffing and Morin playing and singing in a totally different approach than the original. WC Handy’s “Yellow Dog Blues” is the other featured tune. Morin sings and picks out this classic and gives it his own spin. His style is a mix of many perhaps (promo materials claim he’s like a mix of Taj Mahal, Kelly Joe Phelps, Greg Brown, Chris Smither and Jorna Kaukonen), but it is all his own. I enjoyed his approach to the guitar and vocals.

While the album promotes these tunes, the others are also well up to snuff. The opening tune “Angels and Devils” introduces the listener to Morin and his excellent finger picking blues and Americana music. He demonstrates his talents and intrigues you with his style. “Endless Possibilities” goes on for a minute with Morin shouting his blues unaccompanied and really holds your attention. “Wrong Side of the Law” is another harp accompanied tune with a story of an arrest where no one comes to bail him out. He waits but no one comes. The vocal tone and harp create the emotional backdrop for the words.

There are another 7 tunes here to enjoy. I think fans of acoustic blues will love this. Morin is an adept guitar player and delivers vocals beautifully. His fame overseas is warranted and one can only hope exposure to American blues fans will get this artist the same recognition at home. I enjoyed this CD!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Billy Walton Band – Wish For What You Want

Vizztone Label Group

12 tracks/46:45

Fans of Southside Johnny & the Ashbury Jukes will be familiar with guitarist Billy Walton, who is a former member of that formidable organization. Blues Blast Magazine readers in Europe may have seen Billy with his own band on one of their frequent tours overseas over the last eight years. Now the band is looking to capture the ears and hearts of listeners throughout the USA.

They burst out of the gate with the title track, complete with an organ wash courtesy of guest Mike Finnigan that simmers underneath Walton’s fierce guitar licks. “Mountain” is a relentless, grinding number that finds Walton armed and ready to defend himself if necessary. He preaches about letting go on “Forgive And Forget,” adding some wah-wah flavoring to the guitar part while Sean Marks on sax, Steve Hyde on trumpet, and Ian Gray on trombone strut their stuff.

On cuts like “True Lovin’ Man” and “Till Tomorrow,” the band unveils their rock & soul nature. Walton’s higher pitched vocals floats over the solid rhythm support from William Paris on bass and John D’Angelo on drums. One of the singer’s finest moments occurs on a touching rendition of “Walk That Little Girl Home,” co-written by Willy Deville and Doc Pomus. The other cover, Felix Cavaliere”s “Come On Up,” is certain to get the dancers feet moving at live shows.

“Blues Come A Knockin” settles into a laidback, country blues mode with Walton on slide and Southside Johnny blowing some fine harmonica. The country feel is even more pronounced on the opening of “Hudson County Star,” with Walton and Paris trading vocals. After two minutes, the band kicks it into gear and the song morphs into a surging, up-tempo rocker. “Change” establishes a melancholic atmosphere but would have benefited from a stronger set of lyrics. Things get a bit better on ”Worried Blues” with Walton making several strong statements on slide guitar. Joey Stann on sax fills the Clarence Clemons role on ‘It Don’t Matter,” celebrating the famed New Jersey musical tradition.

Producer Tony Braunagel makes sure that that each arrangement has a fat sound and the band stays focused. There is plenty to enjoy here – and all indications are that the Billy Walton Band can bring some of the same energy to the live stage as several other renowned New Jersey groups.

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 

Darren Watson – Introducing Darren Watson

Beluga Records, New Zealand

CD: 10 Songs; 42:49 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock

Ah, the perils of postmodern technology. When our main sources of connection to the world, the smartphone and the Internet, fail, what then? What can help us feel we aren’t adrift in a fog? Music is one powerful answer, especially blues by a New Zealand maverick. Introducing Darren Watson, his 2014 debut on Beluga Records, is a fantastic companion on a miserable day when our digital lifelines are down. Want some proof? Check out his promo info:

“…Darren also fulfilled a lifelong ambition working alongside one of his childhood R&B heroes, touring extensively as sideman for Midge Marsden, and more recently performing as sideman to Chicago blues legend Billy Boy Arnold. He’s also opened for New Orleans funkster Dr. John, Doug McLeod, Joe Cocker, [and] Keb Mo…. In 2009, Watson won first place in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition (Blues), judged by artists like Tom Waits, James Cotton and John Mayall.” Need more proof of his greatness? LA blues legend Rick Holmstrom sent Watson an unsolicited message on Facebook: “Darren, I recently saw a clip of you on the youtubes [sic: YouTube]. You’re a mutha!”

Watson’s style is infectiously good-natured. Even when he’s singing the blues, listeners can tell he has a smile in his heart. On this album he presents ten original, fearless tracks that strike the optimal balance between raw feeling and studio polish. With Darren are Alan Norman on piano and Hammond organ, Craig Denham on accordion, Elliotte Fuimaono on bass, Steve Moodie on double bass, Richard Te One on drums, Chris Selley and Michael Costeloe on trumpet, and saxophonists Andre Paris (baritone and alto) and Andrew Clouston (tenor).

The following three songs show exactly why he took first prize in the ISC blues category in ‘08:

Track 01: “Some Men” – With a beat slightly reminiscent of “The Boy from New York City,” track one demonstrates what kind of male Watson is not. “Now, some men lie. Some men cheat. Don’t you know, darling? That ain’t me.” The two best instrumental performances are Watson on sly electric guitar and Alan Norman on barroom piano.

Track 05: “Who Gave Up?” – Grab a partner for a quick boogie, even though this ballad is more conducive to breaking up than dancing cheek-to-cheek. “Who gave up on who? I never gave up on you…All of my inheritance will be this mess. Wishing you the worst and hoping for the best. Wasn’t everything you wanted what the preacher blessed?”

Track 08: “I’m So Shallow” – How do bad relationships start? Watson gives us one clue in this slow burner: “I have to admit, I put up with your [expletive] ‘cause you’re so pretty and I’m so shallow…The things that you did, I should have run, but I kept thinking I was the lucky one.”

Introducing Darren Watson is the perfect thing to hear when hungry for 21st-century 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 Review – 5 of 5 

King Biscuit Boys – All in a Day’s Work


CD: 10 Songs; 38:03 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic and Harmonica Blues, Country Blues

What does “King Biscuit” mean? It’s a brand of flour, a syndicated “Flower Hour” radio program, another daily radio show followed by the word “Time” (the longest-running American radio broadcast in history, according to Wikipedia), and a blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. There was also a Canadian blues musician known as “King Biscuit Boy” (1944-2003), with the real name of Richard Alfred Newell. Into this confusing jumble of similar names comes the UK’s “King Biscuit Boys,” a duo featuring Jonathan Townsend on vocals and guitar, and Craig Stocker on chromatic and diatonic harmonicas. Even though the harp instrumentation is above-average and the acoustic fretwork average, the remarkable aspect of their second CD, All in a Day’s Work, is this: Townsend literally does not sing one note throughout the entire album. Calling his vocals “conversational” would also be a stretch; “recitational” is a much better descriptor.

According to their website, “Craig and Jonathan met up in the summer of 2011 and have been writing, finding and arranging songs that suit their style ever since…. The King Biscuit Boys play country blues from the modern world. They play a great mix of classic blues covers and originals using an array of instruments including slide guitar, harmonica, melodica and washboard.”

Their claim to pure blues is bona-fide. The ten songs offered (seven originals and three covers) contain no rock or other ingredients to compromise the flavor of the true genre. The following three songs, two originals and one traditional piece, are the best of their lot:

Track 08: “Live Life and Take the Consequences” – This jaunty number is the one song in which Townsend plays his “A+ game” on acoustic guitar. In a gravelly patter, he warns certain listeners who may be up to no good: “Cheat on your friends and neighbors when you think you won’t get caught. Take time and think what you are doing, or you will end up in nobody’s thoughts.” Craig Stocker’s spicy harmonica solo will make live crowds get up and dance.

Track 09: “If You Want Loyalty…Buy a Dog!” – The next tune is almost a complete 180-degree turn from the message of the last one: “I won’t come back when you call me. I won’t sit when you tell me to. I’m always looking around for somebody new. Well, you want loyalty…buy a dog!” This track’s best feature is its humor.

Track 10: “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark?” Townsend establishes a clear tempo on his acoustic guitar, which might cause fidgety blues fans to stomp their feet. However, how come his vocals rarely match it once the final song starts in earnest? Mr. Fletcher in the movie Whiplash would have fits. However, the lyrics are quite piercing: “Now I’m real busy strangulating, mutilating, and cremating my old lady….”

Country blues is All in a Day’s Work for the King Biscuit Boys!

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.

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is excited to bring the Ori Naftaly Band to Central Illinois. The band plays 9:00 pm Saturday May 23 at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St. in Champaign. Ori is a fiery blues guitarist from Israel who currently calls Memphis, TN home. During the last couple years the Ori Naftaly Band has covered more than 30 US States and toured Europe twice. The band won the Israeli Blues Challenge Competition and advanced to the Semi-Finals of the 2013 International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. The band has won awards for their first two albums and plans to release their third album later this year. Ori has recently added new lead singer, Tierinii Jackson, to his band. Ori discovered Tierinii singing in a Baptist Church in Memphis and she adds a love of Gospel, Soul and Funk to the band’s Blues roots. For more information visit

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads Blues Society and the Byron Park District have scheduled FREE Sunday Blues in the Park shows in Blackhawk Meadows Park in Byron from 3 to 6 PM. June 14th – Doug MacLeod and Dan Phelps, July 26th – Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama, August 23rd – Bobby Messano.

Crossroads also hosts blues shows on the second Saturday of each month at the Hope and Anchor, an English Pub in Loves Park, IL from 8 PM to midnight. July 11th – Altered Five, August 8th the New Savages. $5 cover after 7 PM.

The Friday Fish Fries at the Lyran Club on 4th Ave in Rockford also continue. June 5th – Ron Holm, Bob Levis and Justin Gates, the Kryptonite Blues Jams leaders, July 3rd – Collins-Grayless Band, August 7th – the New Savages. Free shows, plus a fish fry and steak dinner are available!

First Sunday’s in June through August Crossroads has Free blues at All Saints Lutheran Church from 4 to 6 PM. Dan Phelps (June 7), Macyn Tylor (July 5) ad Justin Boots Gates (August 2); a free will donation for the local food bank, will be accepted.

The 6th Crossroads Blues Festival at Lyran Park is Saturday, August 29th. Featuring Albert Castiglia, Dave Specter with Sharon Lewis, the Mike Wheeler Band, Stormcellar with Jo Fitzgerald, and Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama $5 advanced tickets. for more info and tickets.

Central Mississippi Blues Society – Jackson, MS

The Central Mississippi Blues Society hosts Blue Monday every Monday night at Hal & Mal’s in downtown Jackson. Blue Monday features a Front Porch segment starting at 7:15 PM, followed by a set by the Blue Monday Band featuring King Edward Antoine on guitar. Blue Monday is an open jam, with visiting performers drawn locally and internationally.

For more information visit or Email: or visit Facebook:

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. 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. May 25 – The MojoCats, June 1 – Kilborn Alley, June 8 – Ghost Town Blues Band, June 15 – Dennis Gruenling & Doug Deming, June 22 – The Daddy Mack Blues Band, June 29 – Brandon Santini, July 6 – Laurie Morvan.

Additional ICBC shows: May 16 ICBC Jam & Fundraiser @ Casey’s Pub. Host band The MojoCats, 7 pm, May 21 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm, June 4 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm, June 18 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm

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

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



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