Issue 9-37 September 10, 2015

Cover photo by Gary Eckhart © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues rock legend, Walter Trout. Bob Kieser has photos and commentary from the Prairie Dog Blues Fest. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by Arthur James, Danielle Nicole, Clayton Doley, Dennis Herrera Blues Band and Travis Haddix.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Have you voted for your favorite artists in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards yet? There are only 5 days left to get your vote in! 9,000 of you have already voted. Don’t let your favorite Blues artist lose because you didn’t vote! To vote now, CLICK HERE!

Our good friends from the Paramount Blues Fest have a great show planned for you this weekend. The festival is held at Lime Kiln Park just outside of Milwaukee and they have a killer lineup. On Friday they feature Aaron Williams and The Hoodoo, Davy Knowles and Gary Hoey. On Saturday they have Matt Hendricks, Joe Filisko Harmonica Workshop, Altered Five Blues Band, Eric Noden Guitar Workshop, Joe Moss, Sharrie Williams, Zac Harmon and Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. Sounds like a big Blues party! For complete information and tickets visit or click on their ad below.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Arthur James – Me, Myself and I


CD: 12 Songs; 38:24 Minutes

Styles: Solo Acoustic and Electric Blues

Once upon a time, publishing was an entirely corporate affair. Authors needed well-respected “houses”, such as Random House and Harper and Row. Artists rejoiced when their work was auctioned at Sotheby’s, and profiled in pristine museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Blues musicians, flocked to Chess Records in hopes of getting a recording contract. The primary question in all the above cases is this: “Will I make the cut?” The standards to be met were those of seasoned executives, not the performers themselves. Now, with the advent of the new millennium, this paradigm has been flipped on its head. Certainly, record companies hold the lead in terms of promoting and marketing musicians, but they are no longer the only option. In the case of self-publishing, who sets the standard for excellence? Me, Myself, and I – no more “boss” or “middleman”. Artists and performers make their own rules, choosing when and where to break them. New Hampshire’s Arthur James demonstrates this on his sophomore album, released in 2014.

No one else performs along with Arthur here. Only he and his guitar stand poised on the brink of acoustic blues stardom, with a touch of electric shredding for musical color. Blues purists be warned: Me, Myself and I is no Eric Clapton: Unplugged. For starters, no one else can sing like “Slowhand”, but James mostly talk-sings through eleven original songs and a traditional arrangement of “Kumbaya” (on a blues album?!). Secondly, his acoustic talent is muffled by a few repetitious grooves and riffs that don’t quite fit in certain sections of his songs (see below).

With those things said, James has a significant amount of blues potential. This shows on the two instrumental tracks on his latest CD, which are “292 Nashua St.” and “Life”. They are the first and final songs, resembling two bookends that encompass the world of the tunes in the middle. When songs have no words, listeners surrender to their feelings, unencumbered by lyrics. Arthur realizes this keenly, and uses this knowledge to great advantage. His songwriting skills range from serviceable to searing, especially on track eleven, “Waiter, There’s a Bomb in my Soup” (yes, that’s the actual title, and it’s one never to be forgotten). Neither is its message:

Track 11: “Waiter, There’s a Bomb in my Soup” – “Got fish that are dying in this stream. It’s enough to make a grown man scream. People, people, now, can’t you see, this is not the way it’s supposed to, supposed to be…I know that you don’t care [ominous, jarring riff: do-do-do-do-do], but you will.” It’s as if James is cursing, with his guitar, at those who are apathetic about pollution. On the other hand, maybe that riff will wake some of them up to Mother Earth’s plight. Is this a blues song? Not in a traditional-rhythm sense, but in a thematic sense. Check out the fast-paced and frenetic outro.

Arthur James’ newest album is meant for Me, Myself, and I, and you too, acoustic fans!

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.

24 Amazing Artists – GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

 The 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards 

September 25th, 2015 at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, Illinois

For tickets and information visit

 Featured Blues Interview – Walter Trout  

Now I get the feeling/Something’s going wrong/Can’t help but feelin’/I won’t last too long – from the song “Almost Gone.”

It may arrive a couple of years later than originally scheduled – and the Chinese Zodiac may proclaim it to be the Year of the Monkey – but here’s hoping that 2016 will long be remembered as the Year of the Trout.

Back in 2014, in an effort to celebrate his 25th year as a solo artist, Provogue Records had set up the shindig to end all shindigs for famed bluesman Walter Trout. Not only was his entire back catalog reissued on 180-gram vinyl, but his 22nd album – The Blues Came Callin’ – hit the streets, while noted British author Henry Yates penned Trout’s autobiography (Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout), and a documentary film was readied to accompany that tome. There was also the matter of a major tour that was scheduled, as well.

But as blues fans know all too well – to put it bluntly – the rug was yanked out from underneath all those planned festivities when Trout underwent liver transplant surgery on Memorial Day of 2014.

That surgery, however, saved Trout’s life.

As jovial and upbeat as he sounds these days, it’s hard to believe that back about 14 short months ago, Trout was literally less than two days away from stepping through death’s doorway.

“I’m feeling great, man. I’m feeling healthy and energetic and above all, I’m feeling grateful and blessed and amazed that I’m still here … it’s almost hard to believe that I got through all that and that I have another chance,” Trout recently said. “I’m feeling like my perspective on things is radically different than it was two years ago, you know?”

Healthy, re-energized and ‘feeling like 17 again,’ Trout is back to business as usual these days, trekking around bandstands everywhere on a tour fittingly dubbed as ‘I’m Back.’

“I’m Back” is also a song by Luther Allison that I did on my tribute to him (Luther’s Blues) and I never realized when I recorded it that it would have so much meaning for me,” Trout said. “This last tour I just did, I started my show with that. I do “Help Me” by Sonny Boy Williamson, which is really sort our soundcheck, it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going to do this song, and help me, cause I can’t do it by myself.’ That has some meaning, too, and as soon as that’s over, we whip into ‘I’m Back.” Those songs have a lot of meaning.”

Lookin’ out my window/At the rain/I need somethin’ for the pain/But I don’t want to get strung out again – from the song “Omaha.”

The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha is where Trout spent five long and agonizing months in the facility’s liver ward, waiting on a transplant. As his body grew weaker with each tick of the clock, the hospital bed was really the only thing that Trout knew. For many of those days, he was unable to speak or move and was in so much pain that he even wished for the end to come in a desire for some relief.

“There were times that I lost the fighting spirit. There were times I would tell my wife that I just wanted to go, because it hurt too bad and I couldn’t take it,” he said. “ I even said to my wife, ‘Look baby, I’ve had a good life and I’ve got three beautiful kids to leave behind – they’re awesome. I wanted to be a musician and have made 22 albums … I’ve had a great, great ride.’ But she’d go, ‘No, no. You have to fight; you have to hang in.’ She was there every day. She moved to Omaha with me from California and she was in there every day, standing by me and holding my hand and giving me strength. She would not let my fighting spirit lag – and there were times that it did. She wanted me to stick around, and I really wanted to stick around. She was my strength, and to her, I owe my life.”

Trout was even prepared to do without the one thing that he’s always done – play guitar – if that meant he would be able to spend even one more day on this earth doing the thing that’s most important to him, being with his family.

“I thought if there’s the slightest chance this (transplant) can work, I’ll do it. If it means that I get back and I’m able to be a father and a husband and maybe never play again, or never get to go on stage or make another record, at least I’ll be able to have a life with my family, who mean the world to me,” he said. “If there was the slightest chance of that, I wanted it, you know? But there were a lot of days of desperation and seemingly no hope.”

As much as his wife Marie was trying to stoke the still-burning embers of resistance and triumph in Trout, so too was his legion of fans.

“Marie would come in every day and read me cards and e-mails and the messages on Facebook from the blues community. A lot of those messages were people telling me that my music meant something to them. Maybe there was a song that had gotten somebody through some hard times,” Trout said. “There were a couple of people that had sent messages saying they had been suicidal and there was a song of mine that had helped them get through those days … that what I was doing actually meant something. She (Marie) would say, ‘You have to stay for me, you have to stay for our kids and you have to stay for these people. You’ve done something that matters.’”

If he never really had given much thought to the fact that his music was important and had a significant impact on the lives of others before his time in Omaha, hearing that outpouring of stories from his fans definitely drove that point home while he was in the hospital.

“There’s so much serious stuff going on in the world and I just make these little ditties, you know? I would tell that to my wife and she’d go, ‘They’re not little ditties.’ She’d read me these messages and that helped me hang in,” he said.

Blues fans have long been heralded for their intense passion abut the music they love. But as the world found out, they also proved to be one generous and caring group, helping to raise over $240,000 in a real short amount of time for Trout’s liver transplant. That act of kindness is certainly one for the history books.

“I had to cancel an entire year of work; three different tours, all in one day. And our medical expenses were up around $2 million. I do have insurance, but I have a co-pay and we’re still trying to get that paid off,” he said. “It came down to, do we sell our house and move into a little trailer in the woods someplace? Or do we do this and ask for help? We asked for help and the response was overwhelming. Along with the donations, there were beautiful messages, which you can still read at – Walter Trout. It was beautiful and moving and overwhelming. I feel so grateful and I feel that I want to give back to those people now. My way of giving back is to go out and play for them and to play my very best every night … play my heart out for them.”

Minute-by-minute/I’m waitin’ on a call/For somebody to save me/By giving it all – from the song “Tomorrow Seems So Far Away.”

One of the most mind-numbing aspects of what Trout went though was the the seconds, the minutes, the hours and the days spent waiting for word of an available liver for the transplant surgery. The little strength and focus of mind that was still with him was locked in on the telephone in his hospital room.

“When you’re waiting on a liver transplant, they don’t come into your room; they call your room or call your cell phone. So you sit there every day and every time that phone rings, you think this is it. And then it’s not it,” he said. “After days and weeks and months, you can get pretty despondent and it can seem hopeless. The phone in your hospital room is next to your bed on the food trey. You’re waiting for this call and somebody comes in to take your blood and they move the food trey away from the bed and they leave. So you’re laying in the bed and the phone rings, but you can’t get to it because you’re not capable of standing up. Then it stops ringing and you think, ‘Shit, that might have been it.’ You don’t know who to call back …that’s desperation.”

Prior to his illness, Trout – who has been a professional musician for five decades now – had never sat his guitar down for what seemed like more than a few minutes at a time. But thanks to his health woes, his trusty Stratocaster remained untouched for two long years.

“In 1974, I moved to California (from New Jersey) and had been here two weeks when I got a gig in a house band at a restaurant in Corona del Mar and from that day on, I was never without work,” he said. “When I joined Canned Heat on New Year’s Eve, 1980, that’s when the tours really began. From then until I got sick, I was doing over 200 cities a year, every year. When I got with John Mayall, we worked our asses off. When I went solo, I was gone for at least eight months of the year, every year, up until I got sick. And in 24 years, I made 22 albums.”

Despite that two-year absence – and even though he had a bit of a rough encounter with his guitar in the hospital, Trout never fathomed for long the notion of not getting right back into the saddle as soon as he could.

“I didn’t want to shelve the guitar. I wanted desperately to get back to being who I am and doing what I do. But it was difficult,” he said. “My oldest son came to visit me in the hospital in Omaha and he brought a Strat. He said, ‘You need to keep in touch with who you are. You’re sitting around in a hospital with nothing to do – here, play.’ They laid the guitar on my lap because I was too weak to pick it up. I could not get the string down to the fret … I didn’t have the strength to get a note to come out. I said, ‘Please take this thing away, I can’t look at it.’ It was too painful … it (his ability to play) was just gone, I couldn’t do it anymore.”

After a little water had passed under the bridge and the scenery changed from a hospital ward to his own living room, the old mojo returned for Trout.

“I sat down and said, ‘OK, I really don’t have anything to do, besides going to physical therapy three times a week. I’m going to do this.’ So I started working with the guitar. I had to start over, you know? I had to begin at the very beginning,” he said. “I had no callouses and there’s that old cliche about your fingers bleeding. I remember saying to my wife after I picked it up the first day or two, ‘This is like the most painful thing I’ve ever done. How does anybody do this?’ But I went at it and worked at it for months and it finally came back.”

It doesn’t require much imagination to understand that the making of Trout’s last disc – The Blues Came Callin’ – was a labored process. His health was failing and you can certainly pick up on that by spinning the CD. Looking back on its creation, it has to be something of a minor miracle that it was even completed.

“I was really sick when I made that and what I hear on there is that I was really struggling. I had no breath … I would fill up with fluid in my abdomen and every two weeks, they would put a drain in my abdomen and take out half of the fluid, which would be about 25 pounds,” Trout said. “So it was all pressing on my diaphragm and my lungs and I didn’t have any breath. You can hear it on there. I didn’t have any strength in my fingers. That was a difficult album for me, so it’s hard for me to listen to that one, because I hear myself being very sick. I finished that album and about a week later, I was put in the hospital. That’s how close that was. The photos on the cover shots were taken two days before I was hospitalized.”

This IV is beepin’/It’s hurtin’ my head/Spirits are creepin’ all around my bed/I’m haunted by the night – from the song “Haunted By The Night.”

Trout’s newest album, titled Battle Scars, is set for an October release and although it was made under very different circumstances than The Blues Came Callin,’ the subject matter is a lot heavier than singing about rainbows and butterflies.

“After I started getting the guitar to come back, I started getting all these musical ideas. I told my wife, I wanted to do another album and write about where I’m at now. I would go into my home studio and record these melodies and grooves and stuff, but every time I tried to write about doing great and life being beautiful, it all came out like ‘daises and smell the roses.’ It was cliche, flowery-stuff. I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say,” he said. “My wife said, ‘You know what you need to do; you need to go back and re-live what you went through. That last album, you hadn’t had your transplant and been to the hospital. You were on the verge of all that.’”

Once he sat down and started thinking about all he’d been through, the flood gates opened and Battle Scars was born.

On the floor there’s people dyin’/I can’t take it no more/I can hear their families cryin’ – from the song “Omaha.”

“What I came up with is a concept album about the experience. It’s about being in the hospital. There’s a couple of songs on there where I asked myself, ‘What was it like laying in that bed?’ You can’t walk, you’ve got brain damage; it’s hard to speak, you don’t know if you’re going to live or die. You lay there for hours and hours and you hear people in the next room,” he said. “One night in the liver ward, right around me, three different people died. You hear their families in the hall and they’re weeping and being comforted and you’re in this bed and you think you’re going to be the next one. When I thought about all that, the songs just started coming out, lyrically, and some of it ain’t pretty, man.”

Battle Scars doesn’t shy away in the least from Trout’s plight and it tackles his darkest hours head-on, starting with the album-opener, the self-explanatory, “Almost Gone.”

“That’s where my wife is standing over me and I’m looking in her eyes and we’re trying to be hopeful, but I can see in her eyes – and she can see in mine – that we don’t think I’m going to make it. Even the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it. And then every song on there is looking at a different aspect of what happened. The album ends with a song called, “Gonna’ Live Again” and that’s an acoustic song where I’m having a conversation with God, asking him why he kept me here. Why did he give me this other chance? What does he expect of me now?”

Lately I’ve been wonderin’ why you kept me here for so long/With all my indiscretions/All the people I’ve done wrong – from the song “Gonna’ Live Again.”

Trout really does bare his soul for all to see on the new album and if it was something that he went through along the journey from his illness to recovery, he put it down on paper and ultimately turned it into a song.

“One of the songs is called “Fly Away” and its about a near-death experience. I tell people about this and they go, ‘You’re crazy.’ Well, no, this is real and I wasn’t high or on pain-killers. I had some spirits come visit me and take me out of my body,” he said. “I looked at myself laying in the bed and I saw myself from up above. They (the spirits) said, ‘Now you feel what this is like. This is the other side. Do you want to come with us now?’ I knew that meant I would die, so I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go yet.’ The song is written about me talking to those spirits.”

Another song deals with Trout’s inability to fully take advantage of what Provogue had set up for him with the Year of the Trout campaign.

“It’s called, “My Ship Came In ( and it sailed away again).” It’s about my record label, Provogue, planning for five years to do a push on my 25th year as a solo artist. They commissioned a biography, they commissioned a documentary of my life, they re-released all my back catalog on vinyl … they were going to call it the Year of the Trout,” he said. “I had huge gigs booked, like the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Queens Royal Theater in Holland … it was the promotional push that I had been waiting on my whole career. This was a big thing that was going to happen for me and I ended up having to cancel the whole thing. That’s what the song is about. My ship sailed away and it left me here. If you were just to hear some of these songs on the radio and not know the story behind them, you’d go, ‘What the Hell is this about?’ You’ve kinda’ got to know the stories behind these songs.”

Trout’s return to the bright spotlight of the public eye began in earnest back in June when he stepped onstage at England’s fabled Royal Albert Hall, as part of the Lead Belly Festival. While he was naturally thrilled to be up on the bandstand after two long years away, there were a host of other emotions running through his body at the same time.

“Oh, yeah … I was apprehensive. I mean, it had been almost two years. I was thinking, ‘What’s gonna’ happen? Am I going to go up there and have my hand cramp up?’ The last two tours that I did before I was hospitalized, I would get these insane cramps in my hands and they would both close up. Not only could I not fret the guitar, I couldn’t even hold a guitar pick. So I was concerned with that,” he said. “And I was also afraid I might fall over or have dizzy spells or open my mouth and have nothing come out. All that was in my mind, and then of course, that’s (Royal Albert Hall) quite an imposing venue. But I’ll tell you, as soon as I walked out, plugged into the amp and played a note, got on the mic and spoke to the crowd, I felt like, God, I’m back home. I felt completely at ease playing. I had the time of my life. It was an incredible emotional experience.”

Being incapacitated for the length of time that he was gave Trout more than enough time to reflect on his amazing career of playing the blues. Looking back, he says there were really two pivotal occasions that sent him on his way to becoming one of the most respected and renowned guitarists of his generation.

“It has been a long one (career), for sure. The first day that changed my life drastically was when I was playing in a bar band in Costa Mesa, California. We had the house gig and played covers of tunes by The Stones and Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff like that. This buddy of mine said he had been up on the Redondo Beach pier and found this club with these older black guys that were playing the blues. He told them that he had a friend that was a really good guitar player and he asked if he brought me over there, could I sit in? They said, ‘Yeah, bring him up.’ So I rode up there with my buddy on a Sunday afternoon and he said, ‘This is my friend, Walter, and he’s a really-good guitar player. Can he sit in?’ They looked at me and went, ‘Well … we don’t know about that.’ My friend said, ‘Look, you said if I brought him up here, he could play. We drove an hour, you’ve got to let him play a song.’ So they said, ‘OK.’ So I played a song and they said, ‘Hey, play another song.’ Then after that, they said, ‘Stay up for the set.’ Then after that, they said, ‘Hey, you want to join the band?’ That was the Coast to Coast Blues Band – John Lee Hooker’s band. John Lee was not there, but his band had a house gig every Sunday on the Redondo pier. It was Deacon Jones and Finis Tasby … so all of a sudden, I quit the bar band and started playing the blues. With those guys, I got to play with all the great blues musicians we backed up, like Pee Wee Crayton, Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulson and Joe Tex.”

For two years Trout played with those cats and even became the lead guitarist for Tasby’s own group, as well.

“That was life-changing, for sure. Suddenly, I wasn’t playing Eagles songs at a bar, I was playing with real bluesmen. That was an education.”

Trout went from that setting to playing with the legendary Canned Heat. But the second day that had an immeasurable impact on his life was when the phone rang and on the other end was John Mayall.

“He said, ‘I would like you to join the Bluesbreakers.’ At that point, as far as being a sideman in the blues, that was the pinnacle. If you’re a guitar player and you get asked to join John Mayall … I mean, who’s bigger? You could say B.B. King was, or Buddy Guy, but with those fellows, you’re going to play chords and be in the background. With John Mayall, who’s one of the top blues acts in the history of the world, you get featured. You play solos all night and you get to sing and at the end of every song, he yells your name over the microphone. He makes you into a solo star. In the blues, he’s the ultimate band-leader. When I got that call, I knew my life had changed forever.”

Little did Trout know back then just how much his life would change some 30-odd years down the road, as he lay fighting for his life in Omaha, Nebraska. And although Battle Scars is a look into the rear-view mirror, Trout has turned his steely gaze onto what lies ahead, not behind, from this point forward.

“I don’t take this (second chance at life) lightly,” he said. “Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have. I just want to keep going. I’m loving every minute of it and getting up to play is such a joy; I’m just havin’ a blast … a blues blast!”

Photos by Gary Eckhart © 2015

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 5 

Danielle Nicole – Wolf Den

Concord 2015

12 tracks; 51 minutes

When the Schnebelen siblings split up Trampled Under Foot it would only be a matter of time before Danielle recorded a solo album. Having issued a four track EP last year as an interim measure here is a full length album and it’s a great piece of soul and New Orleans-infused blues. Whenever TUF played the music was always great but when Danielle stepped out to sing this sort of soul you always wanted more – well, here it is, twelve tracks recorded in NO with Anders Osborne producing and co-writing six of the songs here with Danielle. Danielle wrote four more herself, sings one of Anders’ tunes and there is one cover. The band is Danielle on bass and vocals, Anders on guitar, Mike ‘Shinetop’ Sedovic on keys and Galactic’s Stanton Moore on drums; Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) guests on guitar on two cuts.

The album opens with the title track “Wolf Den”, the description of a club lost in the backwoods which comes across rather like Tina Turner’s homage to her place of birth in “Nutbush City Limits” with Mike’s stabbing organ, Anders’ oblique guitar licks and Danielle and Stanton locked into the rhythm from start to finish. Things get really soulful on “How You Gonna Do Me Like That”, Danielle’s fine voice ideally suiting the gentle funk of the tune, reminding one of another contemporary female singer who adapts well to soul tunes – Susan Tedeschi. Next up is “Take It All”, a sumptuous ballad of the kind that the late Etta James sang so well in her prime and Danielle matches that level, her voice demonstrating the total commitment that the lyrics suggest: “Take my heart, don’t leave it behind, I can’t help have your loving on my mind, I said take it, please, take it all”. With Mike’s piano a constant throughout and a fine, gentle solo from Anders, this is a standout performance.

The uptempo “You Only Need Me When You’re Down” opens with a drum and guitar workout and provides a muscular contrast to the previous track, but whether it’s a smoldering ballad or a rocker, Danielle’s voice stands out. “Just Give Me Tonight” returns to the ballads with a beautifully understated piano and organ intro to a rousing vocal performance from Danielle before the jazzy blues intro to “Easin’ Into The Night” takes us on a finger-snapping trip to New Orleans. “Didn’t Do You No Good” brings a range of guitar embellishments from Anders and a thundering chorus with the whole band locked into a crunching riff – certainly the rockiest track so far.

Luther Dickinson makes his appearance on the next two tracks: “Waiting For Your Love” returns to the soul vibe with some nice shimmering guitar additions from Luther and Anders working in unison and Danielle singing perfectly to match the style, just a hint of grit in her soaring voice; the cover of Ann Peebles’ “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” has plenty of wah-wah guitar and another crunching bass line, Stanton’s drums very much to the fore and Mike’s churchy organ leading the tune as Danielle testifies forcefully before Luther’s dramatic slide solo.

Anders’ “It Ain’t You” proves to be a wise choice, another great track with its insistent riff and catchy chorus which again suits Danielle’s voice well. “In My Dreams” evokes New Orleans with its funky bass lines and drumming that sits just behind the beat, Mike laying down a classic NO piano solo. Danielle sounds a little teasing in her vocal delivery as she declares that she “will be on your mind all of the time (and in your dreams)”. The album closes with “Fade Away”, another tune with a funky bottom line and a solid chorus, Anders using the wah-wah throughout.

Those who wanted to hear Danielle out front on vocals will find lots to enjoy here. The band plays well in support but this one is all about the voice and Danielle nails it, proving herself to be one of the strongest female singers on the current scene. Recommended!

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 – 3 of 5 

Clayton Doley – Bayou Billabong


8 tracks/40:00

An original album of excellent tunes from an intriguing Australian keyboard player, singer and songwriter that is recorded in New Orleans and Sydney with a heavy dose of fine horns, and a lead digeroo ought to catch some ones’s attention. Well, it has caught mine, at least.

Doley has a heady and smooth sort of tone to his vocals, mixing a crooner’s style of jazz and the swing into his blues and soul. Recorded at The Music Shed in New Orleans with the Monster Gents and The Treme Funktet and at Free Energy Device in Sydney with The Clay-tones and The Hi-Fi-Doley-T Horns and special guests harry Manx, Ganga Giri (digeroo) and Lachy Doley. The backing vocalist Clay-tones are Mahalia Barnes, Jade Macrae and Juanita Tippins and I really loved them throughout. The Monster Gents are Derwin Perkins on guitar, Cornell Williams on bass, and Eddie Christmas on drums, a solid band for sure. The Treme Funktet are Corey Henry on trombone, Travis Hill on on trumpet, and Drew Calhoun on tenor sax. The Hi-Fi-Doley-T-Horns are James Greenling on trombone, Matt keegan on saxes and Nick Garbett on trumpet. Both horn sections did a great job.

“Disbelief” starts things off in a very straight up and honky tonk manner. The Treme Funktet are subtle on the horns; Doley’s piano and vocals are the feature here. The horns and backing vocals are great support, too. “I Live For You” is a swinging bluesy pop jazz tune with Doley crooning in grand style. Harry Manx appears here and the next tune giving us some Canadian slide. The Australian Hi-Fi-Doley-Horns are excellent and Perkins offers a slick little guitar solo. The title track comes in with the digeroo and blends Cajun and Outback styles into a Vegamite gumbo of funk and soul. Doley switches to organ and The Treme Funktet do the horn work here. The backing vocalists give a Philly sort of soul sound to the cut. Strange but cool. “Lose It” brings in the Aussie horns again as Doley again sets the pace with his piano and vocals. Blending soul and blues, Doley offers another interesting cut up for us. He shows restraint, building as the song progresses but never out of control. He adds some really nice organ to the cut, too.

“Truly Amazing” is a slow soul song with some pretty organ work and nice backing vocals. Doley is solid, reminding me a little of Darryl Hall with a lower register here. “Waiting for the Coffee” offers up a very special groove and some nice solo work on guitar, trombone, piano. A funky piece and the girls give it a little push backing Doley. A Chicago-esque intro for “We’re Still Changing” switches more into a funky soul tune as it progresses Doley does a great job on the vocals and the Clay-tones remain solid with him. The horns add some cool chords of sound throughout. “Starting Right Now” starts with the organ tapping out a morse code-like beat and then gets in to a high paced groove and some beautiful vocals. This would have made a great tune for Diana Ross and the Supremes or a group like that; I love Doley’s songs. He turns in a nice performance with the Clay-tones. The guitar plays lead for much of the funky groove. Doley lays out a super organ solo for us to enjoy and Doley is here on clavinet to add to the mix.

This is a great soul album with blues, funk and jazz blended into a great mélange of sound. One complaint- 8 songs, 40 minutes is a little short in this day and age, but other than that I liked it a lot. Doley is a fine vocalist and keyboard player and his soulful singing is really well done. The backing vocalists and musicians are in step and work well in this funk-filled album. I would not classify this as blues as much as I would soul, but it’s a fine album and fans of good soul, keyboards and vocals will find this a great album to sample and enjoy! Well done, mate!

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 5 

Dennis Herrera Blues Band – Livin’ Life Not Worryin’

DAS Entertainment/Ardent Audio Productions

CD: 12 Songs; 56:45 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock

Deep down, what is the blues all about? Some people believe that this genre is a sad one, meant to move people to tears. It’s true some of the most common themes are heartbreak, deprivation, and irritation. Blues are meant for catharsis – an emotional release, though not necessarily one in the vein of weepy romance dramas. San Jose, California’s Dennis Herrera Blues Band is Livin’ Life Not Worryin’, and in this reviewer’s opinion, the cathartic nature of the blues is the reason why. On twelve dynamite original tracks, Herrera and several outstanding guest stars give their all to the “Hakuna Matata” (“No worries”) sentiment that they express.

Performing alongside Dennis Herrera, as he tackles vocals and guitar, are the regular members of his band: harpist Dennis Depoitre; drummer Lee Campbell; bassist Hank Van Sickle; Rich Wenzel on piano, organ and Wurlitzer, and guitarists Alan Maggini and Bill Bates. Joining them as magnificent musical guests are guitarists Anson Funderburgh, Tommy Castro, Igor Prado, and Jeffrey Paul Ross; vocalist the late Lynwood Slim, and bassist Dan McCann.

Dennis Herrera’s vocals verge on talk-singing on several songs, but that’s a minor issue. The band’s promotional info sheet states that their style is “an excitingly provocative fusion of Texas, Chicago, California howlin’, shufflin’, muddy rockin’, raw blues.” Purists should read that product description twice, and then decide if they will find that mixture of musical flavors appetizing. For those who prefer a blues smorgasbord over particular entrées, Livin’ Life Not Worryin’ will be a tasty treat.

These three numbers are the top “orders” on the twelve-selection menu of the CD:

Track 03: “Damn Uncle Sam!” – There are two universal truths about taxes: 1) They’re as certain as death and 2) Everybody hates paying them. “You know I jump, and yes, I holler, but it makes no difference if I still ain’t got a dollar. I say, that damn Uncle Sam left me nothing again.” This Chicago-style number minces no (swear) words. Neither does Dennis Depoitre on a harmonica hotter than New Orleans’ Augusts.

Track 06: “Slim Baby Slim” – Being healthy is no cake walk, as this brilliant boogie proves: “If you want to get slim, you’d better listen to me. Eat a whole lot less; make it sugar-free. Looking like a mess for too many years, sucking down the pops and drinking all of those beers.” Naturally, Lynwood Slim performs lead vocals – one of his last, Jeffrey Ross nails his guitar solo, and Rich Wenzel plays a savory barroom piano.

Track 10: “Somethin’ I Read” – Another fitting title for track ten would be, “Facebook’s Done It Again”. Social media junkies know the drill: They read a comment, and it gets stuck in their craw for the rest of the day. As for Dennis? “It don’t worry me. I don’t care. It’s just a passing thing: Facebook’s done it again.” Shuffle your computer over to the nearest “Recycle Bin”.

Dennis Herrera and his posse are Livin’ Life Not Worryin’, in order to encourage all of us!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Travis Haddix – Love Coupons

CDS Records

10 tracks / 47:01

Travis Haddix has been rocking the blues since before many of us were born, but he is still a stone cold bluesman of the highest order. This Mississippi native transplanted to Cleveland (the Cancun of lake Erie!) in 1959, and is still doggedly touring the United States and Europe at an age where most folks would be sitting at home on the sofa and napping though retirement.

Love Coupons is Travis “Moonchild” Haddix’s most recent album, and it is a sweet blend of Midwestern blues and soul with plenty of horns, organ, and ripping electric guitars. Travis takes care of the vocals and the lead guitar parts, and the rest of his main crew is Gilbert Zachary on keys, Robert “Red Top” Young on the Hammond, Edward Lemmers on bass, and Jeremy Sullivan behind the drum kit. There is also the righteous horn section of Tony “T.J.” Fortunato, David Ruffin and Norman Tischler to contend with.

Haddix wrote all of the songs on this disc (his 20th, if I counted right), and it was recorded in just a month in a Beachwood, Ohio studio. The set kicks off with the title track, and everything is right in the world as the band delivers heavy and soulful blues. Guest artist Mike Calhoun plays a steady rhythm guitar part throughout, helping set the tone over Young’s spooky B-3 and the super-tight horn section. Moonchild’s voice has held up well, and he delivers the humorous vocals with a pleasant growl.

Though Love Coupons is a studio album, the recordings have a live feel and avoid the overproduction that is so tempting with all of the wonderful digital technology that is so readily available today. A good example of this is “Art to Gettin’ Even,” which is a gloriously funky track. This song has a lot going on, but the horns are well arranged over the gnarly rhythm section of Lemmers and guest bassist Ray Deforest. Haddix puts out even more tasty guitar leads and solos throughout, again with Calhoun on rhythm guitar.

The band can slow things down too, and “Dinner with the Devil” is a guitar-heavy ballad with a cool horn ostinato. The lyrics make clever parallels between the culinary world and a frustrated man’s love life. One cannot go wrong with lyrics like, “They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I know you disagree / Lean Cuisine is not part of your scene, that’s why you never cook for me / I never say that I’m hungry when we’re out in the street / Because it’s like having dinner with the devil every time we sit down to eat.” Note that there is also some great harp work on this track courtesy of Bob Frank.

Travis saved a dramatic mid-tempo show-ender to close out the set: “Sweet and Sour Loving.” Again, the lyrics lament a miserable love life, which appears to be mostly caused by not being picky enough in the dating process! Haddix has a good formula down for his songwriting, as the lyrics are self-deprecating and humorous, and the music fits in perfectly with the message. Of course, it helps to have the musical skills to back it up.

Love Coupons delivers over 45 minutes of very good contemporary blues and soul, and Travis Haddix and his band once again put a solid performance on wax. But he is not just a studio hero — he gives his all in his live performances too, and he will be touring Europe and the United States for the rest of the year. So, head over to his website to check out his schedule and make the time to go see him up close and personal!

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

 Featured Live Blues Review – Prairie Dog Fest 

Prairie Dog Blues Fest September 31 & August 1st, 2015 – Prairie Du Chen, Wisconsin

The 2015 Prairie Dog Blues Fest was one good time! The weather was good (Lower 80’s and sunshine) and the lineup was top notch. The festival is held on an island in the Mississippi River and this was the 18th year for the fest.

The first day started off with the 2015 edition of Ruf Record’s Blues Caravan road show called “Girls With Guitars”. The trio featured Heather Crosse on bass and 18 year old Sadie Johnson on lead guitar. Sadie proved that she is not just an attractive young woman by playing the hell out of standard Blues and rock and roll classics. Great start for the Blues fans attending.

Next up was Detroit’s own Larry McCray. Larry is a real deal Blues player and he showed he still has the powerful vocals and guitar playing to wow a crowd.It doesn’t get any better than this one!

Davina & the Vagabonds were up next as the sun went down and the evening cooled off. Her band is always a treat. She provides a break from all the guitar driven sounds at most Blues festivals.

In the beer tent stage between acts all day was Owen Campbell. Owen is from Australia and did a good job of entertaining the crowds as they went on beer runs between acts on the main stage.

The headliner for Friday night was Devon Allman. Devon of course is the son of Greg Allman and it is obvious he inherited some of his fathers musical chops. A great show to close out the first night of the festival.

On Saturday the music started with Reneé Austin. Reneé was a rising star with a 5 octave range when she released her first album on Blind Pig Records in 2003. Sweet Talk was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the ‘Best New Artist Debut’ category. In 2006 after thyroid surgery she was left with a paralyzed vocal nerve and could no longer sing. Recently her voice miraculously returned and she just began touring again. Welcome back Reneé!

Next up was vocalist and musician Danielle Nicole, aka Danielle Nicole Schnebelen from the famous trio Trampled Under Foot. If you have ever heard this woman sing you know she is one of the best out there. Her enthusiastic performance in her new band left the crowd screaming for more.

Next up was Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mamma. Jimmy’s high energy performance and stage antics are quite a show. He never disappoints!

Next up was the Sugaray Rayford Band. Sugaray has been the front man for the Mannish Bys for the last several years but lately has been releasing his own recordings. If you have not had the chance to catch his show yet, put it on your list!

The entertainment for the beer tent stage between sets on Saturday was a band called The Katz Sass. They played some rocking Blues! They also had Tallan Noble Latz sitting in for a set. Tallan, who was once billed as the world’s youngest Blues guitar player at the age of 9, is now 16 years old and you can see the growth and maturity in his playing and stage presence.

The final act I caught before the 4 hour drive home on Saturday was Moreland and Arbuckle. They play great Mississippi Hill Country Blues. With Aaron Moreland on guitar and Dustin Arbuckle on harmonica and vocals these guys got the crowd foot stomping and clapping along to finish a great fest of music for me.

If you have not made it the Prairie Dog Blues Fest yet, it is a real gem. Put it on your list for the last weekend in July in 2016!

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser © 2015

 Blues Society News 

 Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to:

Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format.

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. Sept. 14 – Joe Tenuto, Sept. 21 – Dennis Jones, Sept. 28 – Harper and the Midwest Kind, Oct. 5 – Nigel Mack, Oct. 12 – The Cadillac Daddy’s, Oct. 19 – The 24th Street Wailers, Oct. 26 – Rockin Johnny

Additional ICBC shows: Sept. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Juke House, Sept. 20 – Candye Kane w/Laura Chavez @ K of C on Meadowbrook 5 pm, Oct. 1 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Robert Sampson, Oct. 15 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Steve the Harp Blues Band

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

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. September 17 – Reverend Raven and C.S.A.B. – Kankakee Valley Boat Club

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

Please follow and like us: