Issue 9-27 July 2, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

  In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues legend Bobby Rush. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including music from Cécile Doo-Kingué, Joel Da Silva & The Midnight Howl, Angels Sing the Blues featuring Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane, Shirley Johnson with Johnny Drummer and the Starlighters, Thorbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado, Barbara Blue, Vanessa Collier, Michael Falzarano and Tad Robinson.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

We are getting ready to start the voting in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards. Voting will begin July 15 on our website.

We are also hard at work putting together a great show at the Blues Blast Awards ceremonies on September 25th. So far we have 17 artists who are planning on attending the awards and performing for the show. Tickets will go on sale as voting begins July 15th and we will announce all these artists then.

Also we will have a special “early bird” discount for folks who want to buy their tickets for the awards during the first 2 weeks of the voting.

So stay tuned for the exciting news coming soon!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Blues Wanderings 

Blues Blast made it to the Champaign Blues Fest last weekend for some great female blues artists. Pictured below are Carolyn Wonderland, Joanna Conner, Shaun Murphy and Ana Popovic. These gals kicked butt! All of them had amazing sets.

We will have complete coverage of the Champaign Blues Fest in an upcoming issue.

Then to top off a great Blues weekend, I made it out to Illinois Central Blues Club’s Blue Monday Show at the Alamo in Springfield, IL to catch a set by Brandon Santini.

Brandon was just nominated for Best Live Blues Album and for Best Male Blues Artist in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards. It was plain to see why the nominators thought he deserved the nominations. His show was killer!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

Cécile Doo-Kingué – Anybody Listening, Part 1: Monologues


CD: 9 Songs; 33:27 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Solo Acoustic Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues

In the common sense of the word “communion”, people refer to the bread and wine consumed as part of Christian ritual. However, its roots lie in “communication”, whether religious or otherwise. In the spiritual and secular world, music is one of the most powerful forms in which one person can “commune” with another. That is what Montreal, Canada’s Cécile Doo-Kingué does, with indomitable power, on her third solo album. It’s called Anybody Listening, Part 1: Monologues. One would think that’s the title of a stage play instead of a blues CD, but if there’s anything at which Cécile excels, it’s surprising and shocking people. Two tracks on Monologues contain explicit lyrics, but they are neither misplaced nor unnecessary. Sometimes, to get one’s point across, a vulgar vocabulary is keenest.

When Doo-Kingué communes with her audience here, all she needs is her Chardonnay-dry voice and her vibrant acoustic guitar. However, the next two installments in her Anybody Listening trilogy will be Dialogues, featuring a full band, and Communion, a live release. What gives Cécile the blues? Prescient social issues such as police brutality, homophobia, racism and her desire for universal understanding are frequent song topics. Nevertheless, don’t mistake her for a preacher. She also covers the spicier side of human emotions, otherwise spelled L-U-S-T.

All nine songs on the album are originals, speaking to Doo-Kingué’s razor-sharp songwriting skills. Some blues fans might wish she had more vocal range, but then again, this isn’t opera. In The following three songs are not only the most pure-sounding blues, but the most pointedly written:

Track 03: “Six Letters” – Featuring an opening chord that’s more jarring than the one in “A Hard Day’s Night”, track three is the dark highlight of the entire CD. The title refers to a word no one would ever put on a Scrabble board: “Six letters that’ll make you smile when you’re joking with your friends. Six letters spelled from an evil I will never, ever comprehend.” Such letters are no laughing matter when facing police brutality.

Track 04: “Little Bit” – What does one need in order to have an enjoyable life? “A little bit of moonshine, a little bit of grub, a little bit of good times, and a whole lot of love.” Lighthearted but never syrupy, “Little Bit” features an irresistible guitar hook.

Track 06: “Bloodstained Vodka” – Even though track seven is unsuitable for radio airplay, this is 90-proof blues. It’s also an indictment of Russia’s anti-democratic and homophobic laws, which came to the forefront at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Not only did LGBT athletes and spectators face discrimination, but “Pussy had a Riot, and Pussy got locked up in the hole.” Nevertheless, the human spirit triumphed on both counts, so go ahead and drink a toast to it.

Monologues is a giant stick of political and social dynamite, with acoustic blues as the fuse!

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 Interview – Bobby Rush 

We may never again witness such a symbolic and pivotal passing of the torch as the one that just took place a few short weeks ago.

On May 8, 2015, we learned that Bobby Rush had been named the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year at the 36th annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

Then, just six days later, we learned that the great Riley B. King himself had passed away at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 89.

As one would expect, Rush struggles for words and fights back tears when thinking of the synergy that those two closely-related events inspire.

“Oh, man … let me tell you, how blessed am I that I won the B.B. King Award on May 8 and he left this world on May 14? I won the last B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award while he was still living,” Rush said just one day before King’s funeral procession from Beale Street to Handy Park in Memphis and three days before his service in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi. “I’m just so sad he’s gone, but I’m so happy God let him live for 89 years. I may be mistaken, but I think I’m the next oldest bluesman in this category. I mean, I’m older than Buddy Guy and I’m older than Little Richard. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino would be the only ones older than I am, but they don’t consider themselves to be bluesmen. I never expected to hear that Bobby Rush and Buddy Guy were two of the original bluesmen left … I never would have ever thought about that for one second … I was always just so busy doing what I do.”

With the undisputed and unrivaled King of the Blues – along with his magical companion Lucille – now serenading the good patrons of Heaven, the list of bluesmen who can lay claim to having been around near the birth of the electric blues is a decidedly shorter one. The list of bluesmen who can say they were friends as well as contemporaries of B.B. King from back in that time is an even shorter one, with Bobby Rush and Buddy Guy quickly coming to mind as two of the remaining few.

Although Bobby Rush certainly has nothing left to prove to anyone based on the track record that he’s amassed over the years – rightfully earning the title as greatest soul bluesman of all-time along the way, along with receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from Blues Blast magazine last fall – he does acknowledge a new burden being placed on his shoulders as he now dutifully steps into the breach left by the passing of B.B. King.

“I am so blessed to have been around and to have been B.B.’s friend for 62 years. He made a mark for all of us. I do feel kind of alone since he passed and I do wonder what I’m supposed to do now. Am I supposed to carry this torch alone?” Rush asked. “I’m reaching out and I hope that Buddy Guy will reach out to me and maybe the two of us can get together and try to make one B.B. That’s just how great B.B. was in my eyes. I just want to reach out to Buddy and all the blues guys around my age bracket and do what all we can to keep these blues alive. We also need to encourage all the young people that want to do it to feel free to do it and to help keep the blues and B.B.’s legacy alive. You can think of a King as someone who crowns people and sits in a big chair. Well, there’s a lot of work that goes into that from the time you’re a teenager to the time that you’re 80-years-old. That’s a lot of time and work that’s been put in. I want the world to know that didn’t nobody give B.B. King anything; he earned it because he lived and at times earned little or nothing and put up with all the times he was slighted. None of that stopped him from becoming the King of the Blues. If I could ever become half the bluesman that B.B was, I’d be satisfied.”

For close to the last 30 years or so, a person could easily walk into any bar, grocery store, or even high school campus, and mention the name ‘B.B. King’ and be almost 100-percent guaranteed that all those present would nod their heads in the universal signal of ‘I know who you’re talking about.’ Rush says that a lot of that is due to the man upstairs.

“God blessed him to be around a long time and made him the King of what he was doing. And he was such a kind person … God gave him the grace to be around long enough to travel all the avenues that he did,” he said. “Because he was not just known to blues people, he was known to all the people in pop, rock-n-roll, jazz, country. Even if some of those artists may not have liked him, they sure knew about him. He had a little bit of something for everyone. Everybody knew about B.B. King, you know? That certainly made him the King of the Blues, but it also made him the King, period.”

Just a casual glance at a few of the major awards that B.B. King was honored with will blow a person’s mind. It’s no wonder that the Blues Foundation has named their performer of the year after him, considering that King possesses over 15 Grammy Awards and was also bestowed with their Lifetime Achievement Award in the late 1980s. He’s also a member of both the Blues and Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fames and has been nominated for nearly 50 Blues Music Awards (BMAs), taking home over a dozen trophies from the ceremony in the Bluff City where he famously got his start. Despite the bar being set so impossibly high by B.B. King, Rush figures that there may one day be another icon worthy of all the attention that King has gotten the past six-plus decades.

“I think that God always has a rabbit in the bush for everything. I think the biggest artist has not yet been born. Somewhere down the line, someone will come along that will be as just great. Not so great that people will forget about the greatness of B.B. King, mind you, because he came along at a time when it was not popular to be a blues singer,” he said. “Especially to be a black blues singer. That was not popular when B.B. first came around, because back then it was not called blues; it was called race music. But B.B. stood the test of time and because of what he did, you had a Bobby Rush, you had a Buddy Guy, along with many other artists that came along. We’re here because of what B.B. did and what he stood for. I don’t believe he was doing it to be the King. I believe he was doing it because of his personality and because of his love to play and sing the blues. He did it from his heart and did the best he could do. God wrapped his arms around B.B. and took care of him, so in turn, he could take care of people like myself and Buddy Guy and many other musicians. They’ll be some young guy to come up and come along and make a name for himself and be just as good, or maybe even better, but they’ll never take the name of the King.”

A couple of the more remarkable aspects about B.B. King’s career would have to be his constituency, along with his refusal to get swept too far down the treacherous river of current trends. Put it this way; when you heard B.B King, you were going to hear the blues, end of story.

“From the word ‘go’ B.B. has stood still, ever since I knew him. He never changed very much, which was good … maybe because he didn’t know how, but nevertheless, it’s all good. A lot of guys that came along with B.B. and myself, when the disco days happened, we tried to change to what was going on, so we could fit in,” said Rush. “But B.B. King never tried to fit in to anything. He was always B.B. King.”

Unfortunately, there has been no shortage of controversy or leveled accusations as to King’s death and the handling of his estate in the immediate wake of his passing, with B.B.’s daughters on one side and his longtime manager on the other.

“It has cast a shadow on things, but you’ve got to understand B.B was an easy-going man. Maybe him and his daughters didn’t have much of a relationship. Who knows? Only B.B. and his daughters know that,” Rush said. “I sure don’t want to get into that. I personally don’t know the manager, who I think had been with him for 40 years. I just hope that somewhere down the line, people that have been with him for all this time will recognize his friends – especially his blues friends. I don’t know what went down and what happened with the kids and I don’t want to get into that. I’m not taking sides with the children or the manager … what’s right is right and what is done is done. The main thing is I want to leave it with the love of a man who did so much for me and other people like me. I just want people to let him be at peace.”

Even though the familiar sight of a tuxedoed B.B. King, perched in a folding chair and cradling his beloved Gibson ES-355 with a huge grin on his face, may be missing in the coming years, Rush insists that the spirit of the man will forever be alive and well and with us.

“B.B. King will live on through people like me and Buddy and the people that will be coming up after us. He lives on through this, through the blues. It’s just like T-Bone Walker lived on through B.B. King. B.B. loved T-Bone,” said Rush. “You can hear Blind Lemon in B.B. King. He lived on through B.B., too. You see? You can hear Louis Jordan and Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf in me. They live on through me. You keep passing this on and on; because there ain’t nothing new under the sun. Everything has been done before.”

Blues Blast publisher Bob Kieser once referred to Rush as ‘the Susan Lucci of the blues.’ Considering that during the first couple of decades of the Blues Foundation’s awards (from the Handy Awards to the current Blues Music Awards), Rush was nominated almost every year but always walked away empty-handed, that description seems rather apt. However, the tide has most definitely turned the past few years and Rush has probably had to add more mantle space for all the BMAs he’s captured (including Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year this spring). So why the change in perception of Rush’s craft among voters?

“Well, it’s better to be late than never,” he laughed. “But I’m not bitter of what I didn’t win or for what didn’t happen. I’m blessed to have ‘Bobby Rush’ be a household name now and to known all over the world.”

Rush has been on quite a hot streak the past couple of years and has churned out a couple of albums that have already found a spot among some of the best endeavors of his long and illustrious career, including 2012’s Down in Louisiana (Deep Rush Records) as well as his brilliant hookup with Blindog Smokin’ on last year’s Decisions (Silver Talon Records). It was on Decisions that Rush teamed up with Dr. John to cut the instantly-memorable song, “Another Murder in New Orleans” (which was nominated for Song of the Year at this year’s BMAs). The subject matter tackled in that song might be a little different from the kinds of things Rush normally sings about, but according to the man himself …

“That’s what makes Bobby Rush. You see, I’m not trying to invent another wheel; what I’m trying to do is grease the wheel so it will roll smoother. You have to modify yourself into today’s times … I don’t mean change, I mean modify,” he said. “I always use this; when I was a child, we had an outhouse and you used the bathroom outside. Well, now you have a bathroom inside and it may smell better, but you do the same thing in both, you see? The bottom line is we may change were we do it, but we haven’t changed what it is we do in the bathroom. That hasn’t changed and probably never will, the location has just been modified. Musically, some of the grooves may have changed, but we really haven’t changed what we’re talking about a whole lot over the years. Here’s what we’re talking about: making love, being in love, short money, long money, no money, some money, a little money and a whole lot of money. Sometimes we talk about troubles – up and down – and we talk about buying a house and living up on the hill and good times and bad times. All that is about the blues. We all want the same thing, whether we’re black, white, green, brown … we all want the same thing … a good living and a good life and some money in our pockets.”

Rush threw his faithful fans a bit of a delightful curveball back in 2006 when he took things way back to the old-school days by unplugging, strapping on an acoustic guitar, hanging a harmonica around his neck and heading into the studio to cut what would become the Raw album. It was immediately hailed as an all-time classic, and thankfully, it appears that another such project is currently underway.

“Yeah, I’ve already recorded it and it’s rawer than Raw. It’s just me, my guitar, my harmonica, my big feet on a board and I’ve got about 12 or 13 songs done and I think it’s great and will be something that people want to see and hear,” he said. “I think people will be knocked off their feet when they hear Rawer than Raw. I don’t think anyone’s recorded the kind of record that I’m trying to record. It’s down, dirty, greasy and to the point, man.”

The way that Rush views it, the blues is music to be celebrated no matter how you’re feeling – up or down.

“That’s right. When you look at the blues, they’re nothing that’s only there to make you sad and they’re nothing that’s only there to make you glad, because the same things that make you cry are also the same things that make you laugh. When I was a young man, we would work all day in the cotton fields, picking and chopping to make a living. When the weekend came, we were happy because we knew we’d be heading off to the juke joint. We were going to party and have a good time and listen to the blues. That was a good time,” he said. “The only sad time about the weekend happened at about 9:30 or 10 on Sunday night when it would start getting close to Monday morning and work-time again. That was the saddest time. Then, from Monday morning to Thursday night, you’re sad because you’re working, but you’re also happy because you’re one day from Friday afternoon and the weekend and back to the party. That’s the way life is. A man will go to work all year just to get a vacation. A man will work all week to get a payday. And a man like myself and B.B. will work all these years to get famous, where we can be popular enough to earn a little bit of money and to be liked for what it is you do.”

All that work to make a name for yourself throughout the decades leaves a person little time to think about the ultimate level of success that they might hope to obtain, and this includes Rush, who has basically been a self-contained bluesman from the get-go.

“When I started out, I was going to write songs until I found me a good song-writer. I was going to promote myself until I found an agent. I was going to produce myself until I found a producer. I was going to do all these things until I could find someone to do them for me,” he said. “Well, all those things that I wanted to get someone to do for me I found out 40 or 50 years later that I was the man. I didn’t know that at the time, but I was the man for the job. About 10 or 12 years ago, B.B. came to me and asked me to write him a song and Bobby Bland did the same thing, too. Can you believe that? They wanted me to write them a song. I was looking up to those guys and I wanted to have the kind of writers that those guys had, and here they are, asking me to write them a song. Man, I was flattered.”

A dozen or more scorebooks would not even begin to hold all the names of the musicians that have been a part of Rush’s band over the years. A good deal of those even went on to earn enshrinement in the Blues Hall of Fame (including Rush himself, who was inducted in 2006), cats such as Luther Allison, Freddie King, Elmore James and Magic Sam, to name just a very few. So did Rush have any idea he was mentoring some of the baddest of the bad?

“I do now, but back at that time, you didn’t think about that. Forty or 50 years ago, I was just playing and when a band-member would want to go do their own thing, I would say, ‘Go ahead. Go do your own thing.’ Someone asked me one time if I could name all of the musicians that had played with me through the years and I told them I could not,” Rush said. “I’m talking about thousands and some of them went on to do really well for themselves. Some of them were even more qualified at doing what I was doing, but I was the band-leader, you know? I couldn’t get fired by any of those guys, the only person I could get fired by was the club-owner if they didn’t hire me back.”

Regardless of whether or not Bobby Rush had been cast into the role of blues crusader now that his long-time friend B.B. King has passed, there’s little doubt that slowing up or easing the pace has never once crossed his mind. Just like it has always been, from here on out, it’s business as usual for the great Bobby Rush.

“Man, retirement don’t cross my mind. I’ll retire when I have to, not because I want to. There’s no retirement in my sights,” he said. “I’m going to do this until I can’t.”

To see the video of Bobby’s performance at the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards CLICK HERE.

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

Joel Da Silva & The Midnight Howl – Durty Howlin’ Blues

Self-produced CD

11 songs 41 minutes

Hard-hitting guitar slinger Joel Da Silva comes by his musical talents genetically. His guitar-playing father and vocalist mother toured the world as a duo, ranging as far as the Ukraine and Brazil from their home base in Chicago. Their fuses blues, rock and rockabilly in Durty Howlin’ Blues to create wave after wave of hard-hitting, in-your-face music.

Stylish both as a guitar player and vocalist, Da Silva relocated to South Florida in his late teens and quickly impressed the locals with his potential. By the time he was 18, he was holding down the guitar spot for Junior Drinkwater And The Thirstquenchers, Palm Beach County blues scene regulars. Now in his 40s, he’s worked in a succession of highly respected local bands – including the Regulators, a jump blues ensemble, The Underbellies, a psycho-billy and surf group, and fronted the blues-rocking Hep Cat Boo Daddies before launching a solo career with Midnight Howl. This is their debut album.

Since their inception, his group has been a popular opening act for artists that include Nick Curran, Foghat, White Stripes, Black Crowes and the Nighthawks, among others. Joining Da Silva on this project are sax player Doug “The Grenade” Treen, bass player Robert Cleary and drummer Stefano Rotati, who died a few weeks before this review was posted. All of the songs contained on the disc are Da Silva originals.

A brief military drumbeat precedes powerful bass line interspersed with flashy guitar chording and single-note runs kicks off “Rock N Rollin,” a tale of having still fun even after your woman’s just walked out the door. Da Silva’s a powerful, energetic vocalist with a guitar style all his own. Sax plays a prominent role in the intro to “Howl With Me,” a straight-ahead blues full of sexual innuendo. Treen handles all the solos and swings from the first bar.

The rhythm section lays down a steady shuffle for “Nice And Slow,” which gives Da Silva plenty of room to show his vocal talent as it features the positive message that taking your time improves your life and love life as you age. “Love My Gal” is a jump blues that charges out of the gate and gives Treen a chance to stretch out mid-tune before Joel launches into a brief, tasty solo. The syncopated blues-rocker “Runnin’” finds Da Silva wanting to take a break from a relationship in which the object of his affection seems to have the Devil at her side before the realization he has to “Move On,” the song that follows and features a long six-string solo to make his point.

A fast-paced rocker, “Michigan Girl,” replete with percussive rhythm and searing guitar licks, precedes “Let’s Not Fight, Let’s Make Some Love,” a loping tune that allows Da Silva to display his blues guitar stylings before the full-out rocker “Boogie Real Low.” A slow blues, “Home,” finds the singer to returning to pain and misery after the loss of his lady, never having had the chance to say goodbye. The psychedelic “Come Undone” concludes the set.

Available through all the major online markets or direct from the artist’s website, Durty Howlin’ Blues is right up your alley if you like the music full force and in your face. There’s no attempt to hold back on this one.

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 – 3 of 8 

Angels Sing the Blues featuring Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane, Shirley Johnson with Johnny Drummer and the Starlighters

Earwig Records

17 tracks (15 songs, two spoken)/73 minutes

Earwig Music presents us with a live show from 2007 recorded at Chicago’s Taste Entertainment Center. This is a continuation of the musical shows that are done for the American Society on Aging Events. The liner notes are a little bit disjointed, but what we have here is Johnny Drummer and the Starlighters show band performing and backing Shirley Johnson, Mary Lane and Liz Mandeville. Produced by Michael Marcus and John Migliaccio, the duo has also done 20 years of Blues Brothers impersonations. They reenact the “Please Don’t Kill Me Sequence” from the film.

Al “Guitar” Short and bassist Danny O’Connor open the CD vocally with “A Real Mother For Ya” and “Cold Women With Warm Hearts” respectively and do a good job. Drummer then comes out and is featured for a couple of songs on “Gonna Sell My Cadillac, Buy Myself A Mule” and “Born in the Delta,” two songs he wrote. He gives it his all and entertains the crowd. Shirley Johnson is then featured on track that has no crowd noise, so I’m guessing it’s one of three studio cuts. The vocal mix is very different, too. She does a nice job with “Get Your Lovin’ Where You Spend Your Time” and the keyboard work by Drummer is especially good behind her. Mary Lane then is on a couple of live tracks, “Just As Grown As You” and “Ride in Your Automobile.” She struts her stuff and shows us what has sustained her in the business since she came on the scene in the 1950’s. Drummer is then featured on the vocals in “Rockin’ In The Juke Joint.”

Shirley Johnson then does “I’m Gonna Find Me a Lover,” “Unchain My Heart” and “You Can Have My Husband But Please Don’t Mess with My Man.” Her deep and breathy voice impresses and the guitar solo on the latter track by Anthony Palmer is the finest of the live ones on the CD. Drummer then introduces Liz Mandeville for “Use What You Got” and “I Just Want to Make Love To You.” She gives us the sexiest and sultriest performances of the night here. Back to the studio we go with all three ladies and Drummer and others to perform “Angel From Montgomery.” The songs stands out as different due to the big production and sound compared to the live stuff with lots of backing vocals overlaid on the cut. Nicely done, but it does not fit in well. By the way, the guitar solo here is fantastic. The Blues Brothers dialogue follows; while I guess it was perhaps fun to witness in my mind it might have been better left off the CD and let the music speak for itself. But it is captured from the event and it was part of the show. Then we have the final studio cut with Mary Lane doing “Run a Red Light.” Another nice cut, but again it is different in timber and tone from the live stuff. Mary lets it all hang out and delivers a great performance.

While I enjoyed the CD, the song selection ranges from ok to very good and the recording tends to be a little unbalanced at times with the live vs. studio stuff. It’s almost as if they threw in a few studio recordings to give us some filler. Maybe putting them all together as a bonus track section at the end would have been better for the sequencing.

If you are a big fan of the artists here or you want a souvenir of the event, you might want to pick this up. The artists are having a good time and play to the crowd. The ladies and gentlemen featured here are putting on a show and the crowd loves it.

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 reer 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 – 4 of 8 

Thorbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado – Too Many Roads

Ruf Records

12 tracks/48:24

After one listen to this potent album, you will probably be wondering why you have never heard of Thorbjorn Risager. Once you do some research, you will find that this is his tenth release in the last decade. And then you will start playing Too Many Roads again, this time turning up the volume to get the full effect.

What you hear is a crack band playing a swirling mix of musical styles and everything held together by the deep, muscular vocals of their dynamic Danish leader. Listen to how easily Risager commands your attention while the band rages behind him on “If You Wanna Leave,’ drummer Martin Seidlin pounding the beat, horns wailing away over crunching guitar chords. Risager stands tall right in the middle, his voice a beacon in the midst of the musical mayhem.

The title track finds the leader and Peter Skjerning mixing acoustic and electric guitars to great effect. “Paradise” has Risager accompanied by acoustic guitar to start. But then the band kicks in with a slinky groove created by percussion playing off the potent horn section, comprised of Hans Nybo on tenor sax, Peter W. Keil on trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and sousaphone plus Kasper Wagner on a variety of saxophones and clarinet. “Drowning” shifts to a Tom Waits-like landscape before the group gets mean & evil on “Backseat Driver,” pushed along by a thundering bass line from Soren Bojgaard.

“Rich Man” glides along on a New Orleans second line rhythm before Emil Balsgaard lights up his piano keyboard on the frantic boogie “Play On’. The band cranks it up on “High Rolling,” showing that they are ready to take over whenever the Stones decide to hang it up! “Red, Hot & Blue” has a quirky, danceable pace initiated by chopped guitar chords. Risager’s finest moment takes place on “Through the Tears,” his voice filled with the raw hurt of a man unable to overcome a broken heart. It is a truly mesmerizing performance finished off with guitar coda.

Thorbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado are the real deal. They use blues as one of the starting points for their potent sound but keep things interesting with intricate arrangements and lots of energy. The secret weapon is the staying power of Risager’s vocal offerings. Rest assured that you will give this one plenty of play time on your favorite playback system!

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 – 5 of 8 

Barbara Blue – Memphis Blue: Sweet, Strong And Tight

BIG Blue Records – 2014

13 tracks; 51 minutes

Memphis’ Barbara Blue has stayed close to home for this album which was recorded at Royal Studios, produced by Lawrence ‘Boo’ Mitchell and features songs mainly taken from Memphis writers past and present, with Barbara having a hand in five of the songs. As one might expect from the recording location, the album covers a wide range of styles including soul, rock and roll and country.

The musicians are a who’s who of Memphis music: The Royal Rhythm Section has Lester Snell on Wurlitzer, Rev Charles Hodges on B3, Leroy ‘Flick’ Hodges or David Smith on bass, Steve Potts on drums and Michael Tols on guitar; The Royal Horns feature Lannie McMillan on sax, Joe Spake on baritone, Marc Franklin on trumpet and Steve Graham or Jason Yasinsky on trombone. The guests include Bobby Rush on harp, Ronnie Earl on guitar, Sonny Barbato on accordion and piano, Dedric Davis on trumpet, Cody Dickinson on washboard and Shontelle and Sharisse Norman on backing vocals on two tracks.

Demonstrating the variety of the music here Barbara starts with the jump style of Jay McShann’s “Hands Off”, a song covered by many female singers including Janiva Magness. The horns punctuate the song with some soulful blasts that root the song in Memphis and Bobby Rush’s harp solo is the icing on this particular cake. “No Time To Cry” is an interesting song from Joe Sanders which fits Barbara well with its lyrics about making one’s way in the music business, Ronnie Earl taking a poised solo in the middle.

“Rudy’s Blues” is another strong song lyrically as Barbara tells us about one of the old-time Memphis characters: “Rudy had a three-handed woman, she kept giving him the blues; she was right-handed, left-handed and underhanded too.” Guest Dedric Davis adds some fine trumpet playing that also fits with the story of old Rudy. Accordion and shakers give a suitably swampy feel to “Voodoo Woman” before another change of style in the superb “Me And Jesus”. PW Cox’s song has a strong gospel and country feel with rolling piano and churchy organ and talks about belief and whether one needs to demonstrate one’s faith in public: “I talk to God at least once a day and I don’t need anyone to know” sings Barbara before concluding that “Me and Jesus are all right”.

Barbara co-wrote “Rolling Up On Me” which takes us right on to Beale Street with an insistent beat and some soulful guitar and organ rhythm interplay, Ronnie Earl again providing a beautiful solo section. For those of us who developed our musical interests in the 60’s no names are more evocative of Memphis than Hayes, Porter and Cropper and those three are the writers of the funky “Love Is After Me”, a classic piece of Memphis soul. Barbara’s vocals are well supported by the backing vocalists and the horns provide the punch we associate with the heyday of Stax to provide one of the highlight tracks here.

“Coat & Hat” again features the accordion and it’s a strong song (credited to T Plunk) lyrically though Barbara’s deep voice is less suited to this slow country song. The sub-title of the album, “Sweet, Strong And Tight” brings back the horns for a barnstorming tune written by Barbara on her own in which she explains what she can bring to a relationship and Bobby Rush plays the main solo.

Another classic Memphis artist was Ann Peebles and one of her best known songs is covered here. “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” is a great song and it suits Barbara’s voice well in a very polished version with wonderful horns. Memphis singer Reba Russell is the writer of “SuperBlues” which brings Bobby Rush back on harp and “Memphis Stomp” is a co-write between Barbara, Lester Snell and Boo Mitchell which pays tribute to the late Willie Mitchell and appropriately has more fine horns.

To close the album “800 Mile Blues” really takes things back to basics on a quiet country blues with minimal instrumentation, just bass and guitar, a tune credited to Barbara and Ronnie Earl.

For this reviewer the highlights here are the tracks with the horns, but Barbara has done a good job in selecting material across styles and making most of them work well so that the album provides something for everyone to enjoy.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

Vanessa Collier – Heart Soul & Saxophone

Self-Release 2014

9 tracks; 42 minutes

Vanessa Collier is a young graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and this is her debut recording. After graduation Vanessa toured with Joe Louis Walker and some of Joe’s eclecticism has rubbed off on her as this CD covers quite a range of styles. Her band is also made up of several former Berklee students and features Eric Finland on keys and backing vocals, Jordan Rose on drums, Justin Schornstein on bass, No Socha on guitar and harmonica and Doug Hinrichs on percussion. Vanessa takes the lead vocals and plays alto and soprano saxes and also produced the album. The material consists of five of Vanessa’s compositions and four covers.

The album opens with a disconcerting blast of 70’s style synthesizer which leads into “The Run Around” with plenty of aggressive drums, slide and, towards the end, some alto sax from Vanessa who sings well on this opener. The second track “Tongue Tied” follows a similar style with funky bass leading the way before “So What” moves into the smooth jazz area with plenty of shimmering electric piano and some ethereal vocals from Vanessa and a nice soprano solo feature. “I Can’t Stand The Rain” is an oft-covered song and to make an impression a new cover needs something distinctive but unfortunately this version is played at a plodding pace though Vanessa sings it quite well.

The original “Bad News Bears” was commended in a songwriting competition and is dedicated to a fellow sax player Max Cowan who passed away at a very early age. Starting with some trashcan drums, harp and piano this one has something of a jump blues style and is the closest to blues so far on the album. Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” has been covered many times and, again, Vanessa sings it fine but this version really adds nothing special. The featured soloist is Noé on harp though Vanessa adds some short sax notes to the uptempo coda. “Keep It Saxy” is an instrumental that is beautifully played in a cool jazz style which acts as the filler between two covers from more contemporary sources: Tedeschi Trucks’ “Learn How To Love” receives a fairly straight makeover, a good song which Vanessa sings well, her strident sax replacing Derek’s slide as the featured solo instrument; the album closes with James Morrison’s ballad “Right By Your Side” which is just Vanessa and a piano accompaniment.

It is great to find a young musician as multi-talented as Vanessa who can sing, play and write. However, this album only really intersects with the blues on a few occasions.

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 – 7 of 8 

Michael Falzarano – I Got Blues For Ya

Woodstock Records 2015

12 tracks; 62 minutes

Michael Falzarano is a veteran musician who has played with Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen and still plays with The New Riders Of The Purple Sage. This project, however, is centred upon New York where all the material was recorded, across three studio sessions and one live performance. Michael wrote all the material apart from two covers and his gruff vocal is the common thread across all these tracks. The studio sessions were recorded in Brooklyn and Woodstock and feature Michael on guitar and vocals with a wide range of supporting musicians: Kane Daily, Josh Colow or Kerry Kearney on guitar, Chris Matheos, Klyph Black, Frank Campbell, Peter Bennett or Frank Celenza on bass, Ray Grappone, Christian Cassan, Gary Burke or Eileen Murphy on drums, Professor Louie, Jon Marshall Smith, Pete Sears or Harley Fine on keyboards, Vassar Clements on fiddle, Jimmie Fleming on mandolin, Charlie Wolfe on harp, Lisa Bouchelle, Alexis P Suter and Miss Marie on backing vocals. The live track was also recorded in Brooklyn and finds Michael on acoustic guitar and vocals with Jam Stampede: Mike Miz and Tom Circosta, guitar; Freeman White, keys; Klyph Black, bass; Dave Diamond and Johnny Markowski, drums; Barry Mitterhof, mandolin; Jason Crosby, fiddle.

That live track is an extended acoustic version of Rev Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” with fiddle and mandolin to the fore. “Crossroads Avenue (Crossroads Revisited)” is remastered from an earlier CD “The King James Sessions” and it’s a good blues with plenty going on: Alexis P Suter’s background vocals brings gospel tones, the piano and mandolin bring some honky tonk feel and the harp and slide combination bring us back to Delta blues. The three tracks recorded in Woodstock offer three very different approaches with the raucous “Snake Box Boogie” being sufficiently extended to allow plenty of dazzling piano work from Professor Louie and flashing leads from Josh Colow. The sardonic lyrics of “I Never Think About You” provide the ultimate putdown: “I know you think I still love you, babe, but nothing could be further from the truth, the truth is I never think about you”. Michael’s voice fits this one like a glove and Josh’s lead guitar is right on the money on one of the highlight tracks here. “We Got A Party Going On” delivers on its title with a very ‘live’ feel though the keyboard sounding like a thin-toned harp did not work well.

The main sessions make up the remaining eight tracks. Opener “The Night King Curtis Died” is a churning blues with Michael’s booming vocal and Kane’s slide work particularly strong. The title track has a Bo Diddley beat and “Big Fish” some jaunty slide work from Kerry which, along with Vassar’s fiddle, gives the tune a country blues feel. Lyrically Michael takes another swipe at someone who has an inflated sense of importance: “Baby, you think you’re such a big fish. I got news for you, honey, you don’t mean that much to me”. “Good Good Lovin’” is a strong cut, a rocker with plenty of slide from Kane and a catchy chorus and “Trouble” follows a similar path, Michael’s vocal reminding us of Dylan in his country blues period. “The Devil’s Gone Fishin’” is a slower blues with Kerry’s lead guitar well supported by Professor Louie’s piano and organ work and the album closes with a decent stab at Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” with more excellent guitar playing from Kane.

Solid playing from a wide range of musicians on some good songs makes this a set worth checking out.

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 – 8 of 8 

Tad Robinson – Day Into Night

Severn Records

12 tracks

Guys like John Nemeth, Curtis Salgado and Tad Robinson have invaded the soul side of the blues scene and deliver performances with such feeling and emotion that continually impress me. Tad Robinson’s latest release on Severn Records is one of those iconic performances that showcase his talents and make him a viable, award-considerable soul man.

I last saw Tad in Davenport last summer at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest. He delivered one of the best performances, if not the best performance, of the day. Assembled with him is a fine band : Johnny Moeller on guitar, Robb Stupka on drums, Steve Gomes on bass, and Kevin Anker on keys. Severn uses these guys to their and artists’ advantage. Also appearing are other stalwarts of Severn or the industry in general, including Anson Funderburgh on one track, Alex Schultz on four tracks, Benje Porecki on organ on one track, and a great four piece horn section. These are fantastic artists who work together incredibly well.

“Soul Lover” opens up the album. Written by bassist Steve Gomes, this is a slick and sexy cut where lyrics and melody blend with the groove extremely well . Robinson’s exceptional approach with guitar, organ and horn backing him explode emotionally in this excellent tune. “Call Me” has two versions; the first follows “Soul Lover” and the second closes the CD. Penned by Tad and two other band members, this funky piece is a delightful love song. Robinson asks for his woman to show him some sort of sign and give him a holler every once in a while. He growls softly as he calls on his woman to contact him. “Lonely Talking” has Tad apologizing for what transpired between he and another lonely soul who physically took advantage of their loneliness. “It’s not love talkin’…” A short but stinging set of guitar solos by Anson Funderburgh adds some nice punctuation mark to Tad’s vocals. Next we have ”He’s Moved On” where Tad sings a tender and soulful ballad with a strident backing vocal line that builds with Tad’s vocals before fading out. “Lead Me On” features Tad doing a Bobby Bland cut written by Don Robey. Picking up the pace a bit, Robinson hangs it out vocally a little for us here. “Mellow in Love” has Robinson doing a little falsetto as Kevin Anker supports well on the keys.

The original “Love is a Winner” has a little swing to it as Robinson gives another fine performance. “Blue Yesterday” slows down to let Robinson emote for us as he tells of his love lost. The band all gives us some tasty stuff to savor as Robinson bemoans the past. Tad gets the harp out for “While You Were Gone.” He sings of a stranger who became his lover while his woman left him. The harp is greasy and the groove is deep as Tad wails on and on. “Nightwatch” opens with the horns who are great in support and Moeller does a great job on guitar. “Need Some Better” is next and opens with the organ setting the tone. Robinson testifies as Anker waxes eloquently on the keys. Robinson and company close with“ Call Me” set with bigger instrumentals and a slightly slower beat than before. He also gives us a soulful spoken bridge where he talks to his woman about sitting down and talking some more. A beautiful close to an award-worthy record!

This is soul music done up fine. Robinson is a master bluesman who can sing with the best. I love his approach; his vocals are never overdone and in showing restraint he is able to really get his emotions expressed so effectively. This album will be garnering award nominations for the superlative vocal work by Tad and the great band backing him up. Most highly recommended!!!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

 Blues Society News 

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DC Blues Society – Washington, DC

Come to the free DC Blues Society’s 11th Annual Hotter-Than-July Fish Fry and Veterans Appreciation on Saturday, July 11, 2015 from 4:00 to 11:30 p.m. Honor our Veterans and enjoy non-stop blues from area artists at the American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910. Building entrance on Fenton Street near the large public parking lot. Fish dinners are free for Veterans and their families. Fish sandwiches ($8) and other foods available for purchase from 4:30 to 9:00 pm; very affordable cash bar.

Dr. S.O. Feelgood deejays downstairs. Two of the 7 bands who’ll be cooking upstairs are, Full Power Blues – smooth Chicago-style blues with a side of modern soul, always a favorite at DCBS events and The Mojo Priests – 2014 DC Blues Society Battle of the Bands winners. Thanks to our Sponsor, Walter Reed Society!

For details: or call (301) 322-4808.

Boise Blues Society – Boise, ID

On Sunday July 19, Boise Blues Society presents the 2015 Boise Blues Festival , 6 hours of great live music, dancing, eating, and outdoor fun, noon-6pm in Julia Davis Park. All ages welcome. Admission price: 3 cans of food for Idaho Foodbank.

2015 lineup features incredible guitarist and showman Matthew Curry, who played two sold-out shows in Boise last year. The Idaho Statesman raved that Curry “has it all—unreal-wicked guitar chops and a soulful singing voice that belies his years.”

Local band Freudian Slip kicks off the Festival with a rare performance of blues songs from the 30’s and 40’s, then the Hoochie Coochie Men deliver a set of tightly honed traditional blues. Jimmy Lloyd Rea and the Switchmasters promise to get folks out of their seats with a helping of raw, rockin’ blues before Curry takes the stage for the grand finale.

More info at and

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is offering a “Blues Cruise for Two” raffle for a 7-day cruise on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise sailing in January 2016 and featuring Taj Mahal & the Phantom Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Elvin Bishop, Mickey Thomas, Latimore, North Mississippi Allstars, Tab Benoit , Tommy Castro, Samantha Fish, Ruthie Foster, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Colin James, Phantom Blues Band, Danielle Nicole Band, Sugar Blue Band, Kelley Hunt, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, and more!. Raffle ticket sales will officially begin on May 23, 2015. Only 150 tickets will be sold for $100 each chance. State of Iowa gambling regulations do not allow on-line purchase of raffle tickets. However, the MVBS “Blues Cruise for Two” raffle ticket mail order forms can be found at This raffle is a fundraiser for MVBS and proceeds will go towards producing the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival held September 5 -6, 2015.

The 31st annual Blues Festival is September 5 and 6, but we need your. This raffle is a great way to keep the blues alive and support our organization.” For all rules and facts about this raffle and to get your ticket 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. 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. 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 July through August Crossroads has Free blues at All Saints Lutheran Church from 4 to 6 PM. 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.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. 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. July 6 – Laurie Morvan, July 13 – Southside Johnny July 20 – Anni Piper, July 27 – Holland K Smith Blues Band, August 3 – Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxes, August 10 – “Bad” Bill Robinson and the Hard Road Blues Band, August 17 – Polly O’Keary & the Rhythm Method, August 24 – Albert Castiglia, August 31 – Maurice John Vaughn.

Additional ICBC shows: July 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: David Lumsden Factor, July 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Blues Expressions, August 6 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Black Magic Johnson, August 20 – 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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