Issue 9-30 July 23, 2015


Cover photo by Reed R. Radcliffe © 2015

  In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Delta Blues harmonica player and builder Deak Harp. We have 11 Blues reviews for you this week including a great tribute album to Muddy Waters at 100 plus music from Sherwood Fleming, Jackie Payne, Layla Zoe, Black Patti, JC Crossfire, Steve Krase, The Blues Disciples, Beth Hart, Niecie and Sugaray Rayford. Our video of the week is Larry McCray.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

As I write this on Wednesday night more than 3,000 fans have voted in the Blues Blast Music Awards! Be sure you vote at

Tickets are on sale for the Blues Blast Music Awards on September 25th at our “earlybird” discount ticket price of only $35. With 23 artists performing it is sure to be a great show. But hurry! The earlybird pricing ends on August 1st!

To see all the great acts coming, visit our Blues Blast Music Awards website at Click on the CONFIRMED APPEARANCES tab on the right when you get there to see this great event that is shaping up for Blues fans.

Don’t miss this one

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 11 

Various Artists Featuring John Primer – Muddy Waters 100 – A Tribute

Raisin’ Music Records

15 tracks/53:33

Producer Larry Skoller is back with another project that takes a fresh approach to the blues tradition. Skoller received a Grammy nomination for the first volume of his Chicago Blues: A Living History series, which utilized a bevy of musicians to explore the many facets and stylistic variations of the city’s rich history with the music. (EDITORS NOTE: Chicago Blues: A Living History won the Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional Album in 2009)

Now Skoller is focusing on the legacy of the iconic Muddy Waters in honor of the centennial anniversary of the bluesman’s birth.

Like his other releases, this one comes with deluxe packaging – a hard cover booklet complete with numerous pictures of Waters at various stages of his life plus a lengthy essay from author Robert Gordon discussing Waters’ influence that extended well beyond the blues realm. Also included is a track-by-track listing of the musicians that appear on each song, a welcome feature that sorts through the rotating cast.

Skoller also contributes a shorter commentary in which he discusses the extent of Waters influence on music, then sings the praises of several key members of the project – John Primer, James Cotton, and Johnny Winter. The producer zeroes in on his take on the project with these comments, “By design, this album has not taken a strictly archival approach in its treatments of Muddy’s songs. Some tracks are handled traditionally, in deference to the original recordings; there are also contemporary treatments and new arrangements that focus on today’s sounds. Whether it be rock, pop, hip-hop….the earliest five-watt amplifiers or digital samples, drum loops, and electronica – ….these sounds all lead back to Muddy Waters”.

John Primer is the sole constant, handling the lead vocals on every track and plays guitar on most of them. His tenure as a member of Waters’ band provided an immersion into the bandleader’s trademark sound, making Primer a logical choice to lead the project. He sounds right at home on “Rosalie,” a tune that dates back to Muddy’s Stovall Plantation recordings. He is backed by Bob Margolin on acoustic guitar, Billy Flynn on mandolin, Steve Gibons on fiddle, Felton Crews on bass, and Khari Parker on drums.

“Good News” finds Kenny Smith laying down a sturdy shuffle, Margolin ripping off a nasty solo, and James Cotton blowing some meaty harp licks. Cotton is back for “I Feel So Good,” a song he recorded with Waters. Johnny Iguana gives his piano keyboard a workout on the cut. Things are scaled way back on “She Moves Me,” with Primer’s assertive vocal supported by Smith, Flynn on guitar, and Matthew Skoller filling the Little Walter role. Primer really captures the magic on “Feel Like Going Home,” supported by Crews and Smith. His slide guitar and moving vocal are the essence of the blues.

A cover of “Got My Mojo Working” is elevated by Primer’s spirited duet with Shemekia Copeland over Smith’s electronic drum patterns, which also appear on “Still A Fool”. Derek Trucks adds his usual stellar slide playing on the latter cut. Johnny Winter’s distinctive slide is the highlight of “I’m Ready,” recorded shortly before the guitarist passed away. “Last Time I Fool Around With You” proves that Keb Mo can hold his own with the other distinguished slide players. The electronic drums create an eerie setting on “Forty Days And Forty Nights,” featuring a moody solo from Gary Clark Jr., joined by Primer and Vincent Buchner on guitar and harmonica. “Can’t get No Grindin’” gets an energized treatment lead by Iguana’s mesmerizing keyboard efforts plus the usual strong harp licks from Billy Branch.

There is quite a contrast when Margolin’s gritty slide guitar collides with drum loop programming from Blaise Barton on “I Be’s Troubled”. Barton also plays spoons and tambourine on the track while Keith Henderson fills in for Primer on second guitar. The drum programming seems an odd distraction on an otherwise powerful rendition of “Mannish Boy”. Barton handles synth bass, Farfisa organ, and drum programming on “Trouble No More”. Tim Gant on clavichord adds another modern element that is tempered by Branch’s harp.

In total, this is a first-class tribute to one of the giants of the blues. The list of top-tier guest artists certainly adds to the appeal. Instead of rehashing classic tracks, Producer Larry Skoller makes the bold move to reimagine part of the program to project what Muddy Waters might sound like today. Listeners who share Skoller’s vision will be very pleased with this one.

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 Interview – Deak Harp 

He heard what they were saying about him, but try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way.


‘Messed –up’;

‘Five-time loser’;

Those were the words that followed Deak Harp and nipped at his heels like the proverbial Hellhound some two decades ago.

“That was me … I was all of that and I was blacklisted back in the ‘90s. In New York City, I played Manny’s (Car Wash) and Terra Blues and Chicago B.L.U.E.S and they all had enough of me when I was drinking. I had a bad reputation for being a drunk back then,” Deak recently said.

Then, one day after failed rehab attempt after failed rehab attempt (five tries in all), Deak Harp finally found the conviction to said enough is enough.

“One day I got so sick and said, ‘That’s it. I’m tired of throwing up all the time.’ I had to clean up my act and I did. I was tired of letting alcohol control my life. I’ve been sober since 2001and that’s helped me out a lot. I mean, nobody wants to go see a drunken bluesman anymore,” he said. “That’s old stuff … back in the fish fry days when they would go out to the juke joint after picking cotton all week. These days, people don’t want to pay good money to go see a drunken performer.”

With all that Deak has on his plate these days, even if he were still tempted to climb back inside a bottle (which he’s not), it’s highly unlikely that he’d have the time needed to get smashed on a regular basis. He’s one of the premier harmonica players currently playing the blues, as his latest album – Clarksdale Breakdown – so purposefully proves. He’s also a highly in-demand harmonica instructor, and since 2007, he’s also been a staff writer for Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine. But the thing that gets Deak the most excited – and rightfully so – is when he talks about a little piece of real estate located at 13 Third Street in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

That’s the location of the one-of-a-kind Deak’s Mississippi Saxophones and Blues Emporium.

“I have the only – the only – brick-and-mortar harmonica store, where you can walk in and say, ‘Deak, I blew out my 5-draw (reed), could you put one in for me?’ I’ll pull out this $500 tool I’ve got that looks like the keyboard of a Hammond organ and I’ll pull out one of the draw-bars for that one note and I’ll replace the note and put a new ribbon in it – and some screws if needed – and they can walk out with their harmonica fixed,” he said. “This is the only store in the world where you can do that. You can buy a regular harmonica, you can buy a custom harmonica, you can get one fixed, or you can take a lesson from me, or hey, maybe you just want to hang out in here. When Charlie Musselwhite’s in town, he’ll spend two or three hours in here just hangin’ out and tellin’ stories. This (Deak’s store) is the best idea I’ve ever come up with.”

It also bears mentioning that Deak possesses laser-sharp focus and seems to be a natural born multi-tasker. He can carry on a meaningful conversation on the telephone, while at the same time he’s using a drill press to work on the restoration of a harmonica (a Hohner, circa 1985-90, in this case) that would later that afternoon be slipped into a mailing sleeve and sent out to another one of his many satisfied customers – this one in Australia.

“I kind of do what Hohner doesn’t want to do to their harps. It’s not that they’re bad harps, because they’re not. I mean the best harp you can get is the (Hohner) Marine Band harmonica. Almost all the blues players use those,” he said. “But they have little problems. Years ago, the wood used to swell up and cut your mouth when you got them pretty wet.”

No one wants their mouth to start bleeding from both corners when they break into a version of “Juke,” so Deak put on his thinking cap, rolled up his sleeves and came up with a solution to rectify that problem.

“What I did was to figure out a way to re-seal the cone by taking the harmonica completely apart and eliminating that problem. And I also fine-tune the harmonicas so they are exactly in tune,” he said. “A lot of professional players that use octaves when they tongue-block – which is an advanced way to play harmonica – those imperfections stick out like a sore thumb, because if you’re trying to play two of the same notes and they don’t ring perfectly together, that drives the artist nuts. So basically they (Hohner) don’t spend as much time on the last phase of production – the tuning – before they send their harps out, as I would. When I get done with them, they’re tuned perfect on a strobe tuner. My harmonicas have sold all over the world. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Mississippi-made blues whistle?”

Not only do the harps sound like a million bucks when they leave Deak’s Mississippi Saxophones and Blues Emporium, they also look like they should be hanging on the wall of an upscale gallery, to boot.

“What I kind of do is make them into a work of art … like on the outside of them … so they all look really neat, too. Each one of them has a mind of its own,” he said. “And they play like butter and they bend so easy.”

As one might expect, Deak’s workshop space is knee-deep in harmonicas in various stages of life – including bits over here and pieces over there.

“Yeah, people send me boxes of broken harmonicas with something wrong with them. And I completely take them all apart, go through them outside and inside and completely restore them and get them back into service and they’re better harmonicas than what come out of the factory,” he said. “And they’re something that you can’t get anywhere else … period. I also have Harp Gear amplifiers in here and am soon to have the brand-new Lone Wolf harmonica amps, which are 25-watt amplifiers.”

That same spirit and willingness to roll the bones and do things his own way certainly spilled over to Deak’s latest album, as well. In a nod to the grass-roots promotion methods of days gone by, Deak has pretty much taken care of most of the marketing for Clarksdale Breakdown all by his lonesome.

“I gave the Blues Foundation some copies and then I sent 160 of them out through Todd Glazer (blues/roots music radio promoter) and that’s really all that I could afford to do to promote it,” he said. “It did debut at number 18 on the blues charts, but it took a couple of months to do that, but I guess that’s normal.”

As impressive as his harmonica restoration skills are – along with his ability to flat-out peel paint off the walls when he puts a harp up to his mouth –equally impressive is the way that Deak has managed to morph himself into a one-man band over the years. He sings, blows harp, plays a guitar – or diddley-bow – and keeps beat on the drums, all at the same time up on the bandstand. That requires a certain level of dexterity, along with a brain that can focus on several things at once. But once again, for a multi-tasker like Deak, that’s really no issue at all.

“Well, I leave about two of them (brain wavelengths) on auto-pilot,” he laughed. “The guitar playing and drumming go on auto-pilot. Then I think about the rest. Mainly, what I’m doing is matching notes with the guitar, so I don’t fall off track if I stay in one groove. To be honest, I never really knew anything about Hill Country blues until I started coming to the (King) Biscuit (Blues Festival, in Helena, Arkansas) in like ’04 and ’05, when I started seeing cats like Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean and Bill Abel (who guests on Clarksdale Breakdown). They hipped me to listening to R.L. Burnside and guys like that. My style is kind of in the Hill Country blues, but it’s like the Hill Country blues on steroids.”

Lately, Deak has kind of stepped away from playing the drums himself during his live shows and went back to more of a standup, in-your-face, wild and energetic stage show that’s kind of difficult to pull off when you have to remain seated with your foot tethered to a drum petal up on stage.

“I hire drummers now; I’ve got four or five different ones that I work with. I use Ardie Dean from the Music Maker Foundation – he travels the world playing drums and he plays a 1930’s Ludwig set. My number-one drummer here in Clarksdale is Andrew Lee Williams and I just worked with Joe Eagle for a gig at Red’s Lounge recently and it was like walkin’ in the park, man,” he said. “I just set the groove and they follow me and it’s like a juke party, man. I mean, I could cause a riot with this show.”

Deak and the legendary Charlie Musselwhite – who labels Clarksdale as his home-away-from-home – have become fast friends and they also share the love of the tone of a certain amplifier that Deak has in his store.

“It’s an old Ampeg from the ‘60s and Charlie wanted to buy it, but I said, ‘No, Charlie, I don’t want to sell it, but whenever you’re in Clarksdale, you can come get it and use it.’ And he just recorded his latest album (I Ain’t Lyin’) on it,” he said. “Charlie also invited me to be on his newest DVD to play backup harmonica while he’s running through five different positions on the harmonica. I play in the other key that doesn’t interfere with what he’s doing (in the DVD). It’s coming out in three or four months.”

With all that he’s got going on in and around his store, it’s understandable that Deak channels most of his energies and efforts –as well as his time – into running that, instead of traveling all over the place, playing gigs here and there. However, that doesn’t mean that he won’t travel at all.

“I don’t leave the shop unless it’s a really cool experience. I get paid for what I do and I don’t work for free and I don’t need no exposure,” he said. “I’m playing at the Bean Blossom Blues Fest (in Nashville, Indiana) on August 29 and I’m going to Switzerland and Germany in 2016 for a seven-night tour and I’m going to Norway in April of 2016 with a band I recorded with at the Shack-Up Inn, called the J.B. Blues Express. They’re out of Norway.”

Deak initially hooked up with the J.B. Blues Express when they were in Clarksdale and were in need of an amp. Instead of charging the Norwegians – who probably would have paid a pretty penny – for the use of an amp, he simply lent them one.

“That’s just the way I am. When people come into town, I’m not trying to make a quick buck off them, because I don’t need to,” he said. “You get more bees with honey than you would with a bag of dirt, you know? Money doesn’t come from that, money comes after doing things like that … and I sure don’t have any ulterior motives. I just want to help anyone that I can.”

Back in his younger days, Deak spent a good five years following the great James ‘Superharp’ Cotton up and down the left coast. That led directly to a spot driving Cotton and his band around for several years, which in turn resulted in Deak opening up shows for Cotton and ultimately ended up with Deak playing with, living with and becoming a lifelong friend of the great Cotton.

“That was really a dream come true,” he said.

The warm, rich and deep tone – readily acknowledged to be among the best of the best – that Deak coaxes out of his harmonica didn’t happen by accident. It happened because Cotton instructed him on how to summon up that sound.

“He told me to stop playing harmonica with my lips … that’s what it is. When I worked for him, I’d have to do the soundchecks and he would be there standing by the soundboard in the middle of the venue and he’d be going, ‘Come, on … dig a little deeper. Come on!’ He would be working me to get that tone that I needed,” he said. “That’s how I learned to emulate James Cotton’s tone. He forced me … beat it into me, to get that tone. He called me more names – in a good way – to get me where he thought I needed to be. You know, I learned from James and he learned from Sonny Boy (Williamson), so I’m third generation, man.”

Just because he learned to blow like Cotton doesn’t mean that Deak sounds like James Cotton, even though he most definitely could. It’s by choice that Deak sounds like … well, like Deak.

“Cotton and William Clarke – who was another great mentor to me back in the ‘90s, would always say, ‘Deak, I’ll show you anything you want to learn about the blues and the business, but you’ve got to make your own name, your own music.’ That was some of the best advice I ever got,” he said. “I mean, I can sound like Cotton, but I don’t use any of his licks. If you listen to my records, you really don’t hear anybody else’s (licks) but mine. I’m not the fanciest harmonica player and I know that … but I do have my own thing goin’ on. The beauty of the harmonica is, you can take it in so many different directions and everybody can sound like themselves.”

That spirit of giving – much like what Cotton provided for him back in the day – is what motivates Deak to do for the students that he teaches and mentors these days. It’s more about passing on traditions than it is about pocketing a paycheck.

“Carson Diersing’s mom called me up, worried about his career. He wasn’t getting anywhere and his teacher said it was looking like he just didn’t have that drive. His mom didn’t know what to do and really couldn’t afford to pay for hourly lessons. She wanted to arrange for him to come and stay with me for a couple of weeks and pay for his expenses (food and lodging). I said, ‘Pay me? No. This is the perfect opportunity for me to pass this on to somebody that is a well-deserved musician that needs that extra kick.’ I made sure he was fed and taken care of and I didn’t want a darn thing for it, that’s just the way I am,” he said. “I did say, ‘Now, if he comes down to me, I’m gonna’ be his papa and he’s going to listen to me.’ He was 16 at the time. Well, sure enough, he came down and he’s been learning from me. We just did a show with Gip Gipson who’s 94-years-old and I let Carson play with me and note-for-note, he was backing me up … I’m just so impressed with the way his playing is coming along. That’s what James Cotton did for me. I stayed at Cotton’s house for months, learning from him. He took me to The Checkerboard Lounge and everywhere. I was his step-son. That’s just what he said I was.”

Although it was just for a couple of fleeting years (2009-10), Deak was a member of Kilborn Alley Blues Band, a group that has carved out quite a nice reputation as a top-notch and hard-working outfit for itself over the years.

“I love those guys. The reason I left was because of my harmonica business. I was taking orders but was not able to fill them because I was on the road so much. And I didn’t want things to keep going on like that,” he said. “I just needed more time to build my harmonica business.”

He still keeps in touch with his old mates from Kilborn Alley – and as a matter of fact, their relationship goes well beyond the occasional long-distance phone chat.

“I just went up there to Chicago to Nick’s (Moss) studio and I’m going to be featured on their new record. They allowed me two days to record four songs and we started rolling and I banged through the first song in about 15 or 20 minutes. Before long, about an hour-and-a-half into the session, I had recorded the whole thing,” he said. “Nick Moss said, ‘You’re done! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!’ I banged ‘em out and it was up to my par. I reckon I saved them some time and studio money.”

Even though he still does make the occasion trip up to his old Windy City stomping grounds from time to time, you won’t find Deak’s Mississippi Saxophones and Blues Emporium in a metropolitan setting like Chicago or New Orleans or Memphis. No, sir.

You’ll find it nestled perfectly into the vibrant heart of Clarksdale, just down the block a bit from Ground Zero Blues Club. So just how did Deak – who spent a great deal of his younger years several hundred miles to the north in Illinois – end up picking Clarksdale as home for his entrepreneurial venture?

“I was into documentary films about Clarksdale and there I was living up north in the middle of the corn and the tourists sure weren’t coming to my house (there) and saying, ‘I’m a harmonica player from Brazil.’ But being down here, I get people all the time that come in and just drool over my shop,” he said. “Like I said, Charlie Musselwhite comes by, Harrison Kennedy’s (Chairmen of the Board) been in here, Mike Wolfe (from American Pickers) has been in, Dan Aykroyd … they never would have found me up there in the corn, you know?”

Visit Deak’s website at:

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 11 

Sherwood Fleming – Blues Blues Blues

Dynaflow Records

12 songs – 43 minutes

Sherwood Fleming’s story reads like something from the 1950s or ‘60s rather than 2015. He grew up picking cotton near Lula, Mississippi, on land owned by a man called Limping Jesus. In the 1950s, he moved to California, recorded a few songs for labels such as Modern Records and Highland without any (financial) success, despite the likes of Larry Davis covering his songs, and he then gave up on music. Fast forward to 2014, and Dynaflow Records track Fleming down and coax the now nearly-80 year old to play a few gigs and record a new LP. Most blues fans are familiar with the tales of the re-discoveries of the likes of Son House or Mississippi John Hurt, but it comes as something of a surprise that such events are still happening today. Dynaflow, and in particular label boss Eddie Stout, are to be roundly congratulated. The result is a little gem of an album.

The 12 songs on Blues Blues Blues include four Fleming originals, together with some choice lesser-known classic covers. The two most familiar songs are probably Ike Turner’s “Bold Soul Brother (Bold Soul Sister)” and “My Time After Awhile”, covered by everybody but perhaps most famously by Buddy Guy.

Fleming’s muscular voice remains supple and powerful, reflecting the influence of both Howlin’ Wolf (on songs like “Gotta Hold On” and “Non Support Blues”) and Otis Redding (on the glorious 60s-style soul of Sandra Rhodes’ “Lay It On The Line”). He is also unafraid to hurry a vocal line, or to hang it off the rhythm slightly, providing an emotionally powerful impact on tracks such as “Good Woman”. His most moving moment however comes in the closing track, an achingly beautiful acapella version of Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble Of The World”, on which he sounds as old as Methuselah but still sings with a powerful undercurrent of hope and belief. There is also a surprisingly effective rap on “History”, a furious and articulate rant against racial abuse.

While Fleming’s voice is voice is fine fettle, Stout’s choice of some of Austin’s leading musicians as the backing band is inspired. Featuring the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Johnny Moeller on guitar and Jason Moeller on drums, together with Nick Connolly on piano/organ, Kaz Kazanoff on saxophone and Burly Manor on bass (Stevie Fulton also adds guitar to “Bold Soul Brother (Bold Soul Sister)” and “Gotta Hold On”), the band absolutely tears it up. Inviting famous musicians to contribute to albums always carries a slight risk. They may over-play and try to make everything about them. Or they may under-play to such an extent that their contribution is lost in the mix. The musicians on Blues Blues Blues however play with such authority and passion and such an irresistibly greasy “tight-but-loose” groove that the album sounds like a band at the top of their game rather than a collection of random musicians. Johnny Moeller in particular adds myriad top drawer (and left field) fills and solos without ever overwhelming the main attraction while Kazanoff’s warm and emotional sax is typically tasteful and supportive.

When an album is titled Blues Blues Blues, and the track “Blues Blues” even has the nerve to open with the line “I woke up this morning”, then the listener usually has a pretty fair idea what to expect. In this case, you have one of the better traditional electric blues albums of the year, served up with a healthy infusion of soul and a dash of gospel. Warmly recommended.

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

 Featured Festival Review – Champaign Blues Brews & BBQ Festival 

The Champaign Blues Brews & BBQ Festival is held in downtown Champaign, IL the last weekend in June each year. This is the 8th year for this FREE festival. It is sponsored by the folks at Fluid Events, the same organization Blues Blast is partnering with for the second year on the Blues Blast Music Awards. These guys really have it together!

This year they tried something different, they had a festival featuring all Blues women performers! A great idea. I loved their logo.

The festival started off with a duo called No Solid State.

A good set to start.

Next up was a band called Upshot.

Lead singer Sara Hall gave it her all and it was a great set!

Then we got to see Adrianna Marie and Her groove Cutters. Adrianna is from California and was a nominee in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards last year.

Talented lady, great band!

Next up was Sena Ehrhardt. Sena is a Blind Pig Recording Artist and is also a past Blues Blast Music awards nominee.

Her set was great but I truly do miss her old man Ed Ehrhardt laying down some great guitar behind her intense vocals.

The headliner for Friday night was Carolyn Wonderland. It was my first time hearing her live.

Carolyn is one great performer. Her set was a great way to cap off the first night of the fest.

On Saturday, the fest started off with Laura Rain & the Caesars.

A Detrot based band with the dynamic Laura out front was a fitting way to kick off the second day of great Blues women performers.

Next up was Chicago’s own Joanna Conner.

This lady can hold her own with any guitar player. Her slide work was awesome!

Next up was Blue Music Award and Blues Blast Music Award winner Janiva Magnus.

Janiva’s latest album is an independent release and she sang a few songs from it and many from her previous Alligator releases too.

Then we got to hear one of my favorite artists, Shaun Murphy! She has had gigs singing and recording with both Eric Clapton and Bob Seger and was the lead singer for Little Feat for many years.

Shaun is a double Blues Blast Music Award winner and she had a killer band with her.

Saturday’s headliner was Ana Popovic. Ana’s striking appearance belies the fact that she is a good vocalist and a GREAT guitar player.

Her set was a fitting way to end another successful festival.

Put the 2016 Blues Brews & BBQ Festival on your calendar for the last weekend in June next festival season.

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 11 

Jackie Payne – I Saw The Blues

Blue Dot Records

12 songs time-59:39

Jackie Payne began singing professionally at the age of thirteen in his hometown of Athens, Georgia then relocated to Houston, Texas at seventeen were he recorded his regional hit “Go Go Train” on the Jetstream label. The success of that recording prompted Stax Records to ask him along on a forty-five city tour with the Stax Revue featuring Otis Redding, Sam And Dave and Rufus and Carla Thomas. After that he was the featured vocalist with The Johnny Otis Orchestra for fifteen years. He and blues guitarist Steve Edmonson formed the Jackie Payne-Steve Edmonson Band in the late 1990s. This CD was finished in the spring of 2014, but plans to release it were thwarted when in October of that year Jackie suffered a major stroke. Guitarists Kid Anderson and Anthony Paule picked up the baton to make Jackie’s longing to it release it come to fruition. Six of the twelve tunes on this CD were written or co-written by Jackie.

Jackie’s blues-rhythm & blues approach owes a lot to old school blues supper club artists, mainly Bobby “Blue” Bland. He knows his way around the blues and isn’t afraid to get a little bawdy at times. He also interjects some spoken comments, which is somewhat of a blues tradition. The production by himself, Kid Anderson and Anthony Paule is solid as a rock and benefits greatly from the top rate musicians assembled here.

Jackie leads right off with his warm and smooth with rough edges voice with the melancholy “Back To Normal” with tinkling piano, horns and Kid Anderson’s tasteful guitar solos. The self-penned title track is a nice stroll through Jackie’s recollections of his blues life featuring Aki Kumar on harmonica and Lorenzo Farrell on organ. Anthony Paule’s slide guitar and Aki’s harp give “Full Moon Blues” a nice and lazy blues vibe that takes you right to a Chicago blues joint.

Jackie’s rougher vocal performance on “When The Blues Comes Knockin'” brings the best moments of Bobby “Blue” Bland to mind. Kid Anderson plays B.B. King to Jackie’s vocal. He delivers an old school blues ballad on “Wife, Woman, Hootchie”. Kid Anderson on rhythm guitar and Anthony Paule’s lead guitar along with Lorenzo Farrell’s organ and Bob Welsh’s piano sync-in with the horn section to conjure up some feel good blues on “Kicking Back With The Blues”.

Bob Welsh’s boogie-woogie piano energizes the ode to clubbing “Feel Like Doing My Thing”. “Six Million Dollar Man” is sheer love=making braggadocio and bravado. Bob Welsh’s late night piano features on the smooth and sexy ballad “Rock Me With A Steady Roll”. It also includes some nice horn solos. Ari Kumar’s harp blends in nicely with the horn section on the bouncy “Somewhere Down The Line”, a lovely “you’ll be back” narrative. Sadly things end on kind of a sour note. Jackie delves into dirty old man territory on “I’ll Drink Your Bathwater Baby”. It includes too much talking and is over long. It isn’t the subject matter that bothers me, it’s the poor execution of the song.

So we get a fine blues and rhythm & blues album with one minor flaw. The song writing is solid and backed by top notch players. Here’s hoping Jackie recovers to deliver more of his classy music.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 11 

Layla Zoe – Live At Spirit Of 66

Cable Car Records

13 songs time-93:49

Canadian native Layla Zoe finds herself playing largely to European and Canadian audiences with her crack power trio backing her. This is her second live record and a double CD to boot. The high energy show was recorded at Spirit Of 66 in Verviers, Belgium in 2014 in front of an enthusiastic crowd. German blues-rock maestro Henrik Freischlader, whose CD I recently reviewed, produced and co-wrote the original songs with Layla. Layla’s weapon of choice is a strong and husky set of pipes. The closest comparison would be with fellow tough-girl singer Maggie Bell. Along with Henrik they manage to write fresh and interesting lyrics.

Jan Laacks on guitar is the master of quite a few styles including blues-rock, blues and the Eddie Van Halen school of pyrotechnics. Gregor Sonnenberg on bass and Hardy Fischotter on drums provide a solid foundation. The band can bring it down slow and/or tender when it’s called for. Layla’s voice and delivery demand attention and gels well with the band.

Layla’s powerhouse voice is evident from the first few moments of “I’ve Been Down”. At song’s end it quickly segues into “Pull Yourself Together”. It isn’t subtle as wah-wah notes fly like shrapnel including a brief guitar quote from Jimi Hendrix. The only lyric that doesn’t ring true is “I’m married to the blues”. There are blues elements here, but this isn’t blues per se. This music owes more to hard-edged rhythm and blues. “I Choose You” clearly shows Jan Laacks’ commanding guitar technique. He easily jumps from rhythm to lead guitar.

Jan gets a nice blues sound utilizing what sounds like a Leslie speaker to great atmospheric effect on “Green Eyed Lover”, an ode to a former lover of Layla’s. The guitar playing gets jazzy and bluesy on the slow and deliberate “Gemini Heart”. “They Lie” finds Layla expounding on the deceitfulness of politicians, CEO’s and such. “The Lily”, the title song of a previous album, reveals a tender and soulful vocal.

The last original tune “Never Met A Man Like You” is a perfect lead into James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World” that is transformed into an eighteen minute tour-de-force featuring a long guitar segment. The encore is a gritty and heavy cover of The Beatles’ “Yer Blues”. The second encore is Layla singing “Let It Be” as a solo.

Considering Layla is an unknown quantity in the states, she and the band deliver the goods over a ninety-three minute set featuring seamless performances, well thought out lyrics and guitar virtuosity. They should have little trouble in finding success in the U.S.A.. These tough girl vocals with a heart of gold do the trick for me.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 11 

Black Patti – No Milk No Sugar

Rhythm Bomb Records

12 songs time-39:39

The duo of Peter Crow C. and Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Kraemer from Munich, Germany focuses on the sound of prewar blues… either covers or originals. The name Black Patti is taken from a short lived Chicago record label from 1927 that lasted less than a year. Their intent is sincere. The instrumentation of acoustic guitars, mandolin and harmonica is great, but their unison singing gives it more the feel of folk musicians playing the blues. This is something that isn’t done that often in blues music. For my money I find it more effective with one singer to focus on the nuances in his voice. It seems like they are trying too hard to sound authentic. The slight accents popping up occasionally obscure some of the words. There is no doubting their ability as instrumentalists and after repeated listening’s the approach seems more acceptable.

The original “Jelly Roll Swing” is ok, but the pronunciation of mandolin as “mandolean” is rather odd. The incessant repeated refrain of “It’s too good” is just over the top. The cover songs are pretty close to the original versions. The original “Black Patti Boogie” is a jaunty theme song. Another self-penned tune, “I’m So Worried About My Baby”, could easily be mistaken for a prewar blues song it is that authentic sounding.

Alvin Youngblood Hart’s “Big Mama’s Door” is taken at too slow a pace, thus taking away the energy that made the original so appealing. Charley Patton’s “I’m Goin” Home” is a fitting album closer.

There is nothing extraordinary here, but the playing is first rate and they are bringing a taste of prewar blues to Europe. Well intentioned musicians such as this duo help to keep older traditional blues alive. It’s a good thing.

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

 Video Of the Week – Larry McCray 

Our video this week is Blues legend Larry McCray playing the song “Don’t Need No Woman”  Click on the video below to see this amazing artist now.

Hailing from Saginaw, Michigan, Larry is regarded as one of the great Chicago Blues style guitar players of our time. And you can hear him live at the Prairie Dog Blues Fest. Larry is playing on at 7:00pm on Friday July 31st. To see all of the great artists at this years Prairie Dog Blues Fest, visit their website at or click on their ad below.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 11 

JC Crossfire – AWOL Blues

self release

10 songs time-40:12

South Florida native Joe Cannizzo(JC) is the driving force behind JC Crossfire. He is an above average guitar player with an average voice. His guitar really goes into orbit at times, but his songs suffer from mediocre lyrics. He needs to seek out some outside material to put his chops to. The rhythm section and keyboard players are competent. One of his songs kind of covers it -“It Is What It Is”.

The afore mentioned song is blues rock as is everything else here. Sounds kind of thin to me. He pulls off a real tricky guitar riff on “Working Man”. One lyric is “Gonna play the blues til the day I die”…When is gonna start? It’s all blues rock. Some very good until the lyrics kick in. Marybeth DeSarle lends her soulful voice to a duet on “Sweet Thing”.

Joe comments on his sexual prowess at his age and condition on the forthright “I Can Still Pump”. We get nice slide and regular guitar on “Plain & Simple”, but there come those lyrics again. Matt “Guitar” Murphy contributes the first song he has co-written in twenty years “Sunflower Mississippi” containing the closest thing to blues guitar included here.

This is the part of my job that I hate. This CD just doesn’t do it for me. There are bits and pieces of fine music…some tasty guitar or piano here and there, but not much in the way of consistency. Hopefully these guys can pull it together.

JC is a hot shot guitar slinger in need of a good singer and stronger material. It is what it is.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 11 

Steve Krase – Buckle Up

Connor Ray Music

10 tracks

Steve Krase was a finalist in the 2004 and 2005 IBCs and with this CD we can see why. His style is no holds barred and his songs are meant to be listened to loud. Krase does the lead vocals and harp work; joining him on guitar is James Henry, on bass is Terry Dry, on drums is Michael Morris, on keys is Bobby Markoff and Trudy Lynn appears on a couple of songs on vocals. A few other friends and relatives of Steve stop by for a song or two or three, and all in all the band here makes a a great musical sound.

“Jolene” gets things off to a red hot, rockabilly start. Krase blasts out the lead vocals with effect and Marknoff gives a great performance on the piano lead. Krase then cuts in with a solid harp solo and I was all set to listen to a very cool album! Cherae Lerie offes up nce backing vocals and James Henry on guitar is super. The band cools it off a bit with “Daddy Drives a Cadillac (Mama Rides A Mule)” with harp and slide intro-ing the song. Krase explains to us that the relationship got this way because he’d have to bail his lady out for driving too fast but by song’s end things are reversed. The song is more of a bluesy southern rocker and it’s enjoyable. Krase along with Trudy Lynn offer up a rocking cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” with a huge, greasy harp, strident vocals, big guitar and a huge, driving beat. “Misery” follows, a straight up blues cut where Krase testifies of his of being tired of living in misery. Big harp solos here and he follows that up with “Night Train (From Oakland),” penned by his old band mate Jerry Lightfoot. Staying with the deep blues, this cut is a very heavy slow blues; Krase emotes well with the vocal lead and then Henry offers an extended and luxurious guitar lead for us to savor.

“Blueshound” gets more into the road song mode and Krase is comfy in his approach to the cut. “I Like Them All” is a semi-comical number where Krase explains to his woman how he likes them all. Another big guitar solo and then the harp before the guitar returns make this rollicking song a fun ride.

“Buckle Up” gets traditional in approach as he tells his woman to buckle up for the ride that he’ll deliver up ahead. “Big Bad Woman” takes us back to a rockabilly sound and Krase is again cool in his approach to swinging and jiving. It’s a fun cut that Krase handles well. He concludes with “Now,” a song he wrote which is jazzy and almost sublime. It begins with a big harp intro backed by a nice groove but then we realize it’s an instrumental and Krase carries it off well. His harmonica work is effective and he offers up a very cool song to close with.

If you like blues harp with a big and in your face style, go out and grab a copy. I enjoyed the album and I think you will, too!

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 – 8 of 11 

The Blues Disciples – Big Beat

Land O’Blues Records

12 tracks

The Blues Disciples have been Jim “Barefoot Jimmy” Schwarz and Paul “Pauly Walnuts” Stilin on harp/vocals and guitars since 1990. Other members have come and gone, but this version features Matt Liban on drums, son of Midwest harp great Jim Liban, and Chris Lehnert on organ for 7 of the 12 tracks. A host of speial guests are featured; of most notoriety are Billy Flynn on guitar for 4 cuts and Reverend Raven on guitar for 2 tracks. Rev’s keyboardist Danny Moore is featured on 6 cuts, too, along with three bass players, another organist, a vocalist and a percussionist. Delivering 1950’s and 1960’s blues with a modern and original touch is their forte, and they do it well! 10 originals here; they really showcase the songwriting and performing talents of this great Milwaukee band!

Opening with the title track, the groove is a heavy shuffle and the beat throbs as Schwarz belts out a cool one. A nice, stinging guitar solo by Stilin is featured, a great addition to the poignant harp work and the pulse of the backline. “Never Gonna Be the Same” is a slow, swinging tune with Schwarz bemoaning how his relation to his woman has changed to his detriment. An organ solo by Moore followed by Stilin’s solo helps set the tone for this dark but cool cut. Lehnert adds some nice piano to fill up the sound and Schwarz punctuates with his harp. “Eloise” has Flynn on guitar but opens to Scwarz’ harp and Lehnert’s organ. Schwarz come in to ask who is making love to the woman named. The beat is medium tempo and hopping. Flynn’s solo is quite sweet and flowing. “My Heart’s Already Broken” opens to some piano and guitar setting the tone for this slow blues. Schwarz testifies effectively with his vocals. Danny’s piano is quite nice and the organ by Chris is sweetly layered. “What I Need” opens with a funky groove; Flynn and Lehnert are grooving, then Schwarz and Stilin take over. A big organ solo is followed by a mashup of harp and guitar; quite the groove! In “You Got it Girl,” Jim Schwarz offers up a powerful vocal line. His daughter back him on this and prior cut, too.

Moore and Lehnert both do keyboard work on “Frankie Kapankie,” a swinging tune with Moore on piano and Lehnert on organ. Schwarz vocals remain solid and Stilin plays his guitar with, well, style. “Tell It Like it Is” features Reverend Raven on guitar while Schwarz sings and Moore more tickles the keys on some very well done organ. Moore returns with some barrelhouse piano as the band offers up the high energy “Internet Love.” It’s a swinging and rocking blues that talks about love across the world wide web.

“Funky Woman” is quite funky and was written by Robert Brantley, Jr., the only non-Schwarz song on the CD. Rob Waters is on organ here, but it’s Schwarz harp and Flynn’s guitar that sell this one. “Squeeze It” has the Rev playing with Stylin on guitar. It’s a sexy little number that Schwarz does a great job with. Stinging guitars and a chorus of the boys asking their baby to do what the title track says make this a very cool cut. Lehnert offers a good organ solo here, too. The album concludes with “Turning Point,” a very soulful song written by Leo Graham, Jr. The organ is very retro and the beat is pure soul. Schwarz delivers another great vocal performance to finish out the set.

I’ve seen these guys a couple of times in and near Milwaukee and they are a great band. This CD highlights their abilities and their fantastic sound. Great songs, great musicians and great performances make this an overall great album and I recommend it! There are some superb blues coming to us from out in America’s Dairyland!

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 – 9 of 11 

Beth Hart – Better Than Home


CD: 11 Songs; 48:14 Minutes

Styles: Mellow Ballads, Soul-Influenced Blues

What’s Better than Home? Nothing, as L.A. chanteuse Beth Hart proves on her relaxing twelfth album. Blues purists and idealists be warned: Only two songs, “Might As Well Smile” and “Trouble”, might be up to the genre’s exacting standards. The rest are low-key, soul-influenced songs, with all eleven tracks being originals. This CD is nothing like recent claims to fame on her collaborations with blues rocker Joe Bonamassa. Here, she’s squarely found a niche in mellow ballads. Sadly, in the liner notes of the promotional copy of Better than Home, there is zero mention of Hart’s studio musicians on the album.

Beth possesses a robust alto voice that’s one part Sheryl Crow, one part Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs, and one part Tracy Chapman (even though Hart herself is Caucasian). She frequently employs a Chapman-style vibrato, rougher than most, with a breathy touch. No one can accuse her of sounding like every other female pop or blues artist out there, and that’s fantastic. In Beth’s career so far, she has had hit after hit on chart after chart. She has had iconic guitar legends performing with her, top music producers and musicians eager to work with her, ever-growing audiences flocking to her shows in the US and Europe as well as newer ventures into Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Armenia, and several other countries.

Looking over the last 15 years, this is her most introspective work yet with songs from the depth of her soul. It is a mature piece of work full of sincerity. The themes and musical messages are about acknowledging that things weren’t perfect, and there’s always a better place that you can go to help you move on. This album isn’t about what’s been wrong with Beth’s life. Instead, she’s choosing to find the good things that have been there all along, like in “Might As Well Smile” she faces her fears head on: “When the talking on the tv /Tells me I should be scared / I don’t let it overwhelm me / I know that joy will be there / Behind every tear….”

In “Mama, This One’s for You”, Beth finally accepts and loves her parents for who they really are: “For all the things I never said / I’m sorry that I never did / I thank you for your precious time / For teaching me how to climb….”

The song “Tell Her You Belong to Me” finds Hart tenderly appreciating her good husband,“… And you belong to me / Tell me to come / And like hell I will run / Back into your arms / Cause you belong to me….”

Ultimately, in both “Better Than Home” and “As Long As I Have a Song,” Hart finds ways to heal and convert that positive energy into music that moves people. She sings in the former, “I am not afraid or lonely / I am not chasing the ghosts of the past / I have found the place where hunger / Meets the edge and now I’m facing God….” In the latter, Hart reflects, “Pour me a dream / And play me a tune / And I’ll get along / Just as long / As I have a song.”

For Beth Hart fans ready to hear a mellow, deeply reflective and personal album, check this one out. To a sincere Beth Hart, naught is Better than Home!

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 – 10 of 11 

Niecie – The Other Side

Self-release through Ride the Tiger Records

13 tracks / 48:08

Detroit is a truly soulful city; if you stop into most any bar there you will surely hear killer Motown on the jukebox, or if you are lucky, discover a fine band on the stage. This is the musical environment that inspired the amazing Niecie, whose powerful voice has been rocking the blues world since her debut album in 2005.

Niecie has lived all over the country and each locale gave her new experiences and enhanced her abilities. After growing up in the Motor City, she moved on to Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Boston, before finally settling down in Nashville, Tennessee. Once there she was able to take advantage of the gifted songwriting scene there, as well as the city’s population of incredibly talented producers and musicians. These folks helped her craft three solid solo albums, and there is a sampling from each on her latest disc, a compilation titled The Other Side.

As The Other Side is made up of thirteen tracks from these three different projects, there is a huge cast of characters there were involved, but besides Niecie there was one name that kept popping up: Johnny Neel. Johnny is a first call producer and keyboard man (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and Dickey Betts), and he is also a terrific songwriter. He had a hand in all three of Niecie’s earlier projects, and you will see (and hear) that he gets some sort of credit on no less than eight songs on this album.

The opener, “Strange Way” is the first of four songs from Niecie’s 2013 release, Wanted Woman. This Neel-penned tune is a mid-tempo blues rocker that has an impressive array of Niecie’s cutting lyrics and some lovely guitar work from Chris Anderson – this lady has nothing but killer axe men on her albums! Also from this release is the spiritual funk of “God’s Got This,” the comedic hard rock of “Traffic Light,” and a touch of fusion with “Wanted Woman.” The latter is one of the standout tracks in this set, as it is a good example of Niecie’s songwriting with some tasteful Hammond and backing vocals from Johnny to bring it all together.

Niecie also included a trio of tunes from her first album, Peace of My Mind, and these songs from ten years ago guarantee that there is a good representation of all of the bluesy genres on this greatest hits disc. One favorite is the slow and heavy guitar blues of “Bed of Lies,” but the surprise hit is “I Used to Have a Brain (Then I got Married).” From the title the listener might expect a light-hearted and funny track, but Niecie is dead serious as she howls the blues on this one. Besides her voice, the highlights of this song are the killer lead guitar of Larry McCray and a take-no-prisoners horn section that was blessed with an incredibly tight arrangement.

Lastly, from somewhere in the middle of the timeline of her recording career, there is a nice selection of songs from Beyond the Surface, which was cut in 2011. Of these, Niecie wisely chose to finish her set with “Draw the Line” an upbeat rhythm and blues song that is right in her vocal wheelhouse. There is a bit of everything in this song: vintage organ, fat bass from Steve Forrest, a funky guitar ostinato and slick solo from Mike Durham, and smooth backing vocals from Crystal Tallefero. It may sound like a cliché, but ending with this song it really does leave the listener wanting more.

If you have not heard Niecie sing before, trust me when I say that she is the real deal. Her range, timing and feel are spot on, and she is a real pleasure to listen to no matter what type of music she is fronting. Check out her website for gig dates as she gets around the country quite a bit, and if she is not playing near you track down a copy of The Other Side. This is a fine set of music, and besides providing 48 minutes of soulful blues the chances are very good that it will turn you into a fan too!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 11 of 11 

Sugaray Rayford – Southside

Nimoy Sue Records – 2015

9 tracks; 45 minutes

Sugaray Rayford describes himself in one of the tunes here as “six foot five, 300 pounds” and he is most certainly a giant of a man in the blues world – literally as well as metaphorically. As the lead singer of the Mannish Boys he has been introduced to a far wider audience than in his earlier career and all the evidence is that he is now on a strongly upward path. This is his third solo release and it builds on previous releases by showing that he is equally at home with the sounds of Memphis soul as he was with Chicago blues on 2013’s Dangerous. This album was recorded with his regular touring band: Sugaray on vocals, Gino Matteo on guitar, Ralph Carter on bass, Lavell Jones on drums, Leo Dombecki on keys, Allan Walker on sax and Gary Bivona on trumpet. Jade Bennett, Zara Davis and Rachele Quiogue provide occasional backing vocals and there are guest performances from John Thomas on keys, Bob Corritore on harp, George Pandis on trumpet and Bill Bixler on baritone sax. Sugaray and Ralph Carter wrote all the songs here apart from “Texas Bluesman” which is Sugaray on his own.

The CD is front-loaded with four outstanding cuts. “Southside Of Town” is uptempo and sophisticated with Ralph’s strolling bass and the light keys/horn arrangement which reminds you of Albert King’s “I’ll Play The Blues For You” (a song that the band often open with in concert). However, that is not all the tune has to offer as at the half way point Gino delivers a superb solo that ranges far and wide across the second part of the song. Raising the tempo a notch Sugaray tells us about “Miss Thang”, clearly a lady who left a vivid impression on him: “You oughta see Miss Thang when she’s walking down the street. She walks like an old fishing boat in a very rough sea. I like it when you’re walking to me baby, I love it when you turn and walk away”. The horn arrangement is terrific and the addition of the baritone pushes the tune along, Gino taking another fine solo. Probably the pick of the songs here is “Live To Love Again”, a classic piece of Memphis soul with a wonderful horn arrangement and a great hook in the chorus – impossible to stay still when this one is playing! Sugaray’s voice is great throughout the album but nowhere better than on this one which also benefits from the backing vocalists on the chorus and another exciting solo from Gino. The horns are absent from “Texas Bluesman” as Sugaray tells us how he sees himself following in the footsteps of the blues heritage in his native state as he namechecks several Texas greats such as Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc. It’s a churning blues with appropriately tough guitar and bass backing Sugaray’s strong vocal.

After that opening salvo “Take It To The Bank” acts as a sort of acoustic interlude which sounds as if it was recorded in a bar at the end of a long evening, complete with chinking glasses. Bob Corritore adds his harp to give a downhome feel alongside Gino on dobro. “Call Off The Mission” returns to the soulful tunes but carries a serious message as Sugaray decries the hypocrisy of attacking others when “we’re in no position to say we’re wrong or right” – a strong song with catchy horns and vocals but serious intent. “All I Think About” adds some funk to the mix as Sugaray admits that he cannot get his girl off his mind: “It’s a serious addiction, I think I’m going mad. All I think about is getting next to you”. The horn choruses scream Memphis on another strong track. The pace drops on “Take Away These Blues”, Sugaray’s crystal clear vocal right in the centre of another fine horn arrangement and the album closes on the longest cut, almost seven minutes of moody soulfulness as Sugaray lets us know in no uncertain terms how well he plans to treat his lady: “If you rub my back I sure enough will rub yours. I’ll bring the lotion, rub you in slow motion”.

With several outstanding tracks, Sugaray Rayford has shown his mastery of the soul blues genre. This is a very good CD which deserves to get a lot of attention and comes recommended by this reviewer. Anyone who is lucky enough to have Sugaray passing through their town should book their tickets immediately – he and his band are on fire!

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.

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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the Golden Star – Lone State Revue with Mark Hummel, Little Charlie, and Anson Funderburgh on July 27, at Harley Carrine’s formerly The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA on Monday, July 27.

Larry Davison and Charlie Hayes will start the night of Blues at 5:00 p.m. and the band of five masters will take the stage starting at 6:30 p.m. The cost to see these performances will be $20 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $25 if you are have not joined the Blues Society (application will be available at The Muddy Waters door). Rolling Smoke will be cooking some bbq items and will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the Mississippi Valley Blues Society.

Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara Blues Society, the oldest existing U.S. blues society, founded in March 1977, is proud to present lauded guitarist, singer, and songwriter Debbie Davies at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St., on Saturday, July 25, 2015.

Doors will open at 7:00 PM; music starts at 8:00 PM. There will be free BBQ snacks and door prizes, an outdoor patio, room to dance, and ample parking. For further information, visit, or leave a message at (805) 722-8155.

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, Iowa

The 2nd Annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest” will be held on Saturday August 1st, 2015. Gates open at 4:30 and music begins at 5:00pm on the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Fairfield, IA. Featuring Van & the Movers (5:30-6:30) and then The Nick Schnebelen Band (7-8:30)and finishing with Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King at (9-10:30). In Between acts brings Uno-Blu (Tony Blew)

Along with some great Blues there will be a Beverage Garden and BBQ, Bring your chairs …No outside food or drink. Ticket are $20 Day of Show and $15 in advance and SIBS members Call 641-919-7477 for tickets 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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 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: 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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