Issue 9-38 September 17, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with legendary bass player Melvin Smith. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by John Cocuzzi, Henry Gray & Bob Coritore, Rick Vito, Mitch Mann and Mississippi Fever.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Wow are we ever swamped here at Blues Blast getting ready for next week’s Blues Blast Music Awards!

As you know, voting in the awards ended this week after more than 10,600 of you cast your ballots for your favorite artists and recordings.

Want to know who won? You can be there when the results are announced next Friday September 25th at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, IL.

And we have more great news concerning the awards ceremonies next week.

First, we recently announced the 2015 Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Blues legend Eddy Clearwater and former director of the Blues Foundation, Jay Sieleman. Both of these outstanding Blues dignitaries will be at the awards ceremonies so be sure to join us in celebrating their amazing accomplishments.

Plus even more good news concerning the awards! Both Eddy Clearwater and the amazing Mud Morganfield are going to perform at the awards show bringing the number of artists playing at the biggest Blues part of the year to 25!

You don’t want to miss this one! For tickets and information visit

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

John Cocuzzi – Ding Dong Daddy

EllerSoul Records

13 songs time-59:42

John Cocuzzi instills tons of energy into his music via his exuberant piano and vibraphone expertise. His Hammond organ playing plays more of an underlying role. His voice has a natural sounding New Orleans inflection that gives a “fonk” resonance to his delivery. Offered up here is an eclectic blend of swing, jazz, blues, ballads, boogie-woogie, standards, New Orleans piano mastery and a even a touch of country music often occurring as an amalgamation of several in one song.

John has spent over twenty five years entertaining in the Washington D.C. area as well as performing across the United States and Europe with jazz and blues greats at various festivals. He presently calls Sacramento, California his home. The musicians of choice here are up to the task of providing just the right amount of support-knowing when to lay back and when to step out into the spotlight for a solo.

Right from “jump street” John proves he surely knows how to radiate the eighty-eights, to paraphrase the New Orleans piano guru Dr. John, with a thorough piano pounding on “Swanee River Boogie”. Guitarist Jerry Krahn commits himself nicely on acoustic slide guitar on Lowell Fulson’s classic “Reconsider Baby”. Jerry’s command of various guitar styles through the course of this recording is quite extraordinary. This song also finds John in fine voice to compliment his intense piano playing.

John dusts off the vibes for the title tune as Dan Levinson makes his first appearance to display his amazing clarinet technique. Paul Kellar steps up for an upright bass solo here as well. Next the band brings forth a cool version of Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright” that owes a nod to Mose Allison. A repetitious and overlong ode to a cellphone called “Call Me”, features some jaunty jazz piano styling.

“Come Sunday” is a slow melancholy jazz piece with vibes and late-night saxophone courtesy of Dan Levinson. The old chestnut “Ballin’ The Jack” finds John in New Orleans piano glory land. John’s dad Frank Cocuzzi plays delightfully jazzy drums here as well the remainder of the CD. Sexy electric piano and clarinet color the mellow love song “Nina Never Knew” in grand fashion. “Kambucha Boogie” is a hipster ode to a tea concoction purported to induce higher brain performance.

Cole Porter’s “You Do Something To Me” is taken at a sprightly pace on a swinging journey with seamless vibes and heavenly clarinet. Wow this really evokes the swing era. Mom and dad were on to something. Another instrumental “The Boss” finds some wailing sax and vibes as the tune moves along nicely. “Tennessee Waltz”, a song that Patti Page made famous is given a spare treatment with just piano, bass and drums. The slow and deliberate delivery is just way cool. This guy even does country music up right, it’s a gift. Frank Cocuzzi handles the vocal on Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” with a rich, warm and lovely voice. This old standard is a delightful ending to a truly enjoyable musical excursion.

A band with such a sure grasp on various genres of music is a rare and delightful thing. The jazzy and bluesy playing is so well executed that hopefully you will do as I do and return this recording back to your stereo countless times.

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

25 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 – Melvin Smith  

Those already indoctrinated into the wonderful world of the blues can recite the music’s amazing properties at the drop of a hat:

The blues are healing; the blues are uplifting; the blues are soul-cleansing; the blues are joyful; and the blues are celebratory.

Those not fully-versed into the wonderful world of the blues, however, are also quick to show why they have a disdain for the music, and it’s usually quick and to the point and it goes something like this:

The blues are depressing.

Thankfully, Chicago bass maestro Melvin Smith is armed with a quick rebuttal for those in the camp of that later line of thinking.

“I’ve met people along my journeys that say, ‘Oh, I can’t stand the blues. It’s so depressing.’ I’ll be like, ‘Wait a minute. When was the last time you were at a blues concert?’ If you really think about it, country music is more depressing than the blues,” Smith laughed. “I tell them, ‘Go to a concert and see what these blues artists are really putting out.’ I mean, it’s basically a big party when you go to a blues concert. But people that automatically turn up their noses when they hear the word ‘blues’ don’t seem to grasp that. They’re closing the book on the blues before they even know what it’s all about. The blues are all about a party, man.”

His name might not be instantly-recognizable, but his smiling face sure is.

Blues fans all across the globe have probably seen Smith up on the bandstand at one time or another and have undoubtedly heard his in-the-pocket bass playing on countless albums.

It doesn’t matter if he’s heading into the studio or if he’s hitting the road to play in front of thousands of blues-hungry fans, Smith’s sole focus is on just one task.

“My number-one thing is to give my best. I enjoy all the different settings that I play in,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m playing in the studio for a recording session or I’m on stage at a big festival, or if I’m just jamming in a small club … or church … or wherever. I enjoy it all.”

A small sampling of Smith’s resume includes stints helping to lay down the rhythmic foundation for the likes of Billy Branch, Deitra Farr, Lefty Dizz, Zora Young, John Primer, Lurrie Bell and Koko Taylor.

While the names may change, his duty never wavers.

“For me, it’s second nature. I adapt to whoever the artist is and what they want. I study what they do and I adapt to that,” he said. “That way, I can give them what they want.”

In order to ‘give them what they want,’ it’s imperative that Smith be on the same wavelength as the drummer that he’s playing with. When the four hands of the bass player and drummer (along with the drummer’s feet, of course) can somehow manage to mesh together as one unit, that’s when the magic begins.

Some of Smith’s favorite drummers to play with include:

“Willie Hayes … ‘The Touch’ … we go all the way back to the Lefty Dizz days. And I like playing with Pookie Styx and Freddie Williams,” Smith continued. “Of course, there’s Kenny Smith, he has a nice touch back there. I’ve known him – and I knew his father – for years. I played a few times with Willie, and at one time, they were trying to get me into the Legendary Blues Band (Smith, Pinetop Perkins, Jerry Portnoy, Louis Myers).”

Smith’s steady gig with Zora Young precluded him from being able to join up with the remnants of Muddy Waters’ old bandmates in the Legendary Blues Band, but he did hook that crew up with a bass player who is better known as an outstanding guitar player and producer these days.

“I was Zora’s bandleader at that time and I didn’t want to leave her. So I gave them the name of Nick Moss, who was playing bass at that time,” Smith said. “I recommended him and that’s really how he ended up getting on the map. I ran into his brother, Joe, not long ago at Buddy’s (Legends Club) and we hadn’t seen each other in years. He said, ‘Man, my brother is so appreciative of you.’ And even when I do occasionally see Nick these days, we’re good friends and he appreciates the fact that’s what I did for him.”

Regardless of name or reputation, Smith says as long as the drummer he’s playing with is locked in on the task at hand, the results are sure to be pleasing to everyone, from the bandleader front-and-center, all the way to the fan at the back-end of the hall.

“It all depends on their (the drummer’s) mentality. If they’re thinking about themselves, that makes it kind of hard, because they’re playing for themselves instead of the band,” he stated. “If they’re trying to show off their abilities, they’re not playing for the group as a unit. When I play with Willie (Hayes), for instance, we play as a group.”

For an outstanding example of just how well Smith and ‘The Touch’ work together, slide Lurrie Bell’s critically-acclaimed 2013 disc – Blues In My Soul (Delmark Records) – into the CD player. That’s old school Chicago blues at its finest.

His prowess as a first-call bass player is a given. But Smith is more than just a dynamite instrumentalist; he’s also highly-skilled at handling the day-to-day functions that keep a band on the road, running at full speed. In addition to playing bass for Blues Hall of Famer Koko Taylor, he was also her tour manager for a spell, to boot.

“From Koko I learned that the show must go on. That was probably the most important thing that I learned from her; that and to always give it your all,” he said. “That’s what she always did and I’ve taken that same thing and ran with it.”

Bell, too, was a member of Taylor’s Blues Machine, but that was before Smith joined the fold. It was just a little before the great Queen of the Blues passed away that Smith and Bell joined forces.

“Me and Lurrie have been knowing each other for over 25 years. Near the end of Koko’s reign – about three or four years before she passed – his (Bell’s) management came to me and they wanted me to take the same job (bass player and tour manager) on with Lurrie,” Smith said. “So I was like, ‘OK, cool. I can handle that.’ It’s been a little bumpy at times, but it’s all been good.”

When Smith was cutting his teeth, the blues were just the blues. Cross-pollination between musical genres was largely frowned upon by most blues bandleaders in the Windy City, although that philosophy has eased somewhat over the ensuing decades.

“It is a little different now, largely because a lot of the young players coming up seem to play more funk or incorporate some other genre inside of the blues. When I started, you played the blues,” he said. “For instance, I used to play a lot of jazz and R&B and gospel. One of the first shows I did on the blues scene was with Dion Payton. I was at a rehearsal for the gig and I threw a few little jazz runs into the mix. All of a sudden, Dion turns around and goes, ‘Hey, man. No. We’re not playing jazz, we’re playing blues.’ The two can be similar and just have slight differences, but jazz is not the blues. If you pay attention, you can hear the difference. Once he mentioned that to me, I understood and I play blues for blues people and I play jazz for jazz people. It’s as simple as that.”

As a youngster, Smith went through several different spells concerning instruments of choice, starting with drums and then guitar, before he finally turned his attention and efforts into mastering the four-string.

“The band that I grew up playing with, we never did have a bass player in the group. I ended up playing the bass lines on my guitar. And then I said, ‘To Hell with it (guitar playing).’ I really enjoyed playing the bass … I was more relaxed,” he said. “So I just got me a bass guitar and that’s what I’ve been playing ever since. I still play a little guitar and drums and even keyboards. I even used to play a little horn.”

His initial jump into the deep and raging waters of music came when he was a pre-teen.

“When I was kid – like eight, nine or 10, something like that – I had a friend that I grew up with who’s father played guitar. He taught me, his son and another friend of ours the basics of playing,” he said. “And from that point on, I’ve been playing something ever since. It’s (playing music) really been a lifelong passion of mine.”

Once he learned the nuts and bolts of the bass, he quickly fell under the spell of cats like Rufus Reid, Alphonso Johnson and Stanley Clarke. Smith even had the chance to meet the great Clarke for the first time a couple of years ago.

“I was playing in Brazil with John Primer and Stanley was one of the headliners at the gig. So I met him and we got the chance to hang out,” said Smith. “He was a really nice guy and that was a lot of fun.”

More and more over the course of the last several years, Smith has been stepping out of the shadows – so to speak – and placing his own name on the marque as leader of his own band. This has received an overwhelmingly positive response overseas.

“I’ve kind of been dwelling on doing my own thing a little bit. For the past few years over in Europe – a few festivals over there – I’ve put together a band under my name,” he said. “Usually what I’ll do is invite bandleaders to join me on a tour, over in France and Spain and Belgium and places like that. I’ll put something together and it’s like a little revue.”

There’s even a chance that sometime in the future, Smith might utilize that very same concept stateside.

“Me and my wife was discussing that the other day. She was saying that I need to do that kind of thing more in the United States,” he said. “The thing is, though, they’re more receptive to that in Europe.”

Smith has a point there.

It seems bluesmen like himself are found in vastly more favorable circumstances over there than right in their own backyard in the U.S. They may tend to be undervalued on one side of the pond, while on the other side, they’re treated like true kings.

“I think it’s because over here, the availability of blues artists is plentiful and that’s not really the case over in Europe. Another thing I think is, it has to do with the background of the artists,” Smith said. “Most of the artists I’ve played with have their own original take on the blues, because that’s all they play and that makes it authentic. But when I’m over in Europe, there are a lot of people that live there that are trying to interpret the blues that they hear from here (the United States). Most of them do a good job of that, but it’s not the authentic thing like it is over here. That’s why European audiences really love American blues players … it’s authentic, it’s the real deal and they know that.”

The pulse of the blues continues to beat strong and vibrant, even though the same may not hold true for a large core of the music’s staunchest supporters.

“For people to say the blues are dying … it’s not the blues that are dying, it’s the audience that is dying. As along as people continue to accept the blues, the blues will continue to grow. Every other commercial you hear and see on television these days has got a blues tune in the background,” Smith said. “To me, the key to pulling in new and younger fans is education. It’s all about education. I used to do Blues in the Schools programs with Billy Branch and that’s what that program is all about; spreading the word and the message of the blues to a younger audience to keep the music alive and thriving.”

It may not have happened overnight, but little-by-little, bit-by-bit, blues fans are connecting Smith’s name with his face. It’s not like he was ever an invisible presence up there on the stage, but he’s for sure starting to reap the long overdue recognition that he deserves.

“Yeah, people know more of me now and they know of what I can do. They see what I bring to the table,” he said. “And that goes with the artists out there, as well as the fans. It’s easier for me to get work these days because they know the kind of standards that I have. They know what I can do and that I give it my all every time out.”

Photos by Bob Kieser © 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  

The Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions – Vol. 1 Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest

Delta Groove 2015

14 tracks; 52 minutes

Bob Corritore must be one of the hardest working guys in the blues! As well as running a successful blues club he is a prolific broadcaster, musician and recording artist and a serial nominee at both the BMAs and the Blues Blast Awards where he is a regular performer. As well as his own recordings Bob is also a frequent guest on other artists’ discs and has taken the opportunity over the years to record studio sessions with many blues artists, especially when they have been passing through his home base in Phoenix, Arizona to play at his club, The Rhythm Room.

The sessions on this CD were recorded across a span of twelve recording sessions over nineteen years, from 1996 to the present day and all feature Henry Gray on piano and vocals who is now into his nineties but still an active performer. Only four tracks from these sessions have previously been issued, so this is a treasure trove for fans of classic blues. The collection includes performances by many different artists, some of whom have since passed away, so the collection serves as both an historical document and a testimony to Henry’s longevity as a performer.

Not surprisingly the cast list is huge with so many different sessions: Bob plays harp and Henry piano on every track and Henry sings on most. Joining them are vocalists Nappy Brown, Tail Dragger, Dave Riley, John Brim and Robert Lockwood Jr. Johnny Rapp is the most frequent guitarist but the following also contribute on guitar: Robert Lockwood Jr, Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher, Big John Atkinson (who also plays drums on one cut), Little Frank, Chris James and Danny Michel. Paul Thomas is the most used bassist but Bob Stroger, Pops Macfarlane, Kedar Roy, Patrick Rynn, Mario Moreno, Troy Sandow and Yanni Riley also appear. On drums the late Chico Chism appears on six tracks with Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, June Core, Eddie Kobek, Steve Cushing and Brian Fahey also appearing. There are no keyboards other than Henry’s exuberant piano playing but Doug James adds sax to one track. Bob and Henry also adhere to the principle that performers should be smartly dressed, as can be seen by the dapper suits they are wearing on the cover!

Whilst there are only two of Henry’s original tunes the collection ranges far and wide across tunes that are very familiar to some that are far less so. Henry’s barrelhouse piano leads us into “Let’s Get High” (Grant Jones) which sounds like a good invitation for an opener, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and Bob Stroger adding some enthusiastic backing vocals and Bob adding some great harp. The title cut is Henry’s tune, a classic blues with Bob Margolin’s slide and Bob’s harp setting a menacing background to Henry’s rolling piano work. Fats Domino is the source for “I’m In Love Again” and Doug James’ sax adds to the New Orleans feel as Henry sets the pace on piano, a really catchy piece of NO rock and roll. Henry passes the mike to others on the next two tracks and we hear two greats who have since left us as first Robert Lockwood Jr sings Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind” in a country blues stomper of a version with Henry’s piano simply terrific.

Nappy Brown’s deep voice rings out clear on Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues” with Kid Ramos on guitar and Bob stepping in to take another of those harp solos that sounds almost like a wah-wah guitar; June Core’s great drumming here also deserves special mention. A pair of upbeat tunes follow as Henry takes the mike for “They Raided The Joint” (Joe Eldridge, Aristine Jackson, Oran Page), a super song that we don’t hear that often, then Dave Riley (a regular collaborator with Bob) sings “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight” (Scott Moore); both songs rock along superbly with everyone on top form and Henry giving us some double handed soloing on the latter tune. Lowell Fulson’s “Trouble Blues” slows the pace with Bob Margolin’s electric slide very distinctive in a classic Chicago style blues that evokes Muddy Waters’ spirit. Henry’s second composition “I’m Gonna Miss You” follows in similar vein on what one suspects is a more recent recording as Henry’s voice sounds older than on some of the cuts here, but it’s another solid track with plenty of great harp and rolling piano.

John Brim is on guitar and vocals on his own “That Ain’t Right” with Big Jon Atkinson on drums before Jon switches to guitar on Ernest Lawler’s “Can’t Afford To Do It” which is great fun with Henry’s almost comic vocals. Tail Dragger provides the pounding “Boogie Woogie Ball” in which he namechecks everyone playing (which includes great guitar from Kirk Fletcher and Chris James), almost like a MC. Some Jimmy Reed comes in the shape of “Honey Don’t Let Me Go”, Bob adapting his harp style to fit and Henry’s piano to the fore with some gentle guitar from Johnny Rapp. The final icing on this cake is provided by “She Don’t Move Me No More” which takes us way back in BB King’s career for another classic blues.

Throughout this fine collection the playing is first class, the song selection good and the guests all contribute well without taking over. Bob and Henry are superb throughout, stepping up for solos where needed but essentially both men are ensemble players who can clearly, on the strength of this collection, work expertly with a wide range of players. As this is marked Vol. 1 we can assume that Bob Corritore has more where this came from, so more great music in prospect. Meanwhile this one can be easily 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 

Rick Vito – Mojo On My Side

Delta Groove 2015

14 tracks; 52 minutes

Rick Vito has been around for some years, making his name in the early 90’s incarnation of Fleetwood Mac and then producing a series of solid solos albums as well as making some stellar guest appearances with artists such as Bob Seger – that’s Rick’s slide on “Like A Rock”. On Rick’s first Delta Groove album Jim Hoke plays sax throughout and Charles ‘Mojo’ Johnson drums, with Rick Reed replacing him on one track, and Dan Serafini adds B3 on one cut: Rick plays everything else, all guitars, bass, keys and vocals. Rick wrote most of the material, there are three covers and the album was recorded in Nashville with Rick producing.

Variety is the name of the game here as Rick ranges across delta blues, Chicago blues, rock and roll and New Orleans rhythms and proves himself a more than capable vocalist. The opening six tracks prove the point: the title track kicks things off with a swampy beat, trash can drums and plenty of Rick’s trademark slide with Hawaiian tones as Rick reckons that he has the “Mojo On My Side” and that his conquest of the girl is therefore inevitable. The cover of Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby” is really well done with Jim Hoke’s sax underpinning Rick’s guitar stylings on a relaxed take on the classic tune before “Pretty Women” takes us into pure rock and roll territory on a tune that sounds like it must have been written in the 50’s but is a Vito original and a definite winner with this reviewer! “My House” features Dan Serafini’s B3 and describes Rick’s home improvement project on a funky rocker before we get “Missy Brown”, Rick’s steel guitar supported only by minimal percussion, bass and foot stomps, a piece of Delta blues in which Rick is warning off anyone who tries to get close to his lady. Closing out the initial run of six tracks is “Life Was Just A Struggle” which takes us to the Crescent City of its authors, Chris Kenner and Frank Douglas, with Rick’s trademark slide and Jim’s sax both heavily featured.

“Femme Fatale” is the first of three instrumentals here and it’s a feature for some moody slide playing, Rick double-tracked against himself, the twin slides being followed all the way by the sax. “Who Were You Thinking Of” takes us back to the blues as Rick gets suspicious that his lover has another man in her life. “House Party” returns to rock and roll and it’s another outstanding track with Rick’s slide playing terrific and his lyrics name-checking some of the greats of the blues as a source for the music at this particular shindig – who wouldn’t want to be there?

The third cover is Arlester Christian’s “Let A Woman Be A Woman”, a chunky piece of NO funk with a great sax arrangement and is followed by a second instrumental, the strolling “She’s Got It All”, Rick’s slide crying out the refrain over more solid sax accompaniment. “Help Me Lord” returns to the Delta on a song that is a close relative of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”, stripped back to the basics very effectively with Rick solo on steel guitar. The rockabilly “You Can Run” is a fun track before Rick closes the album with a final instrumental entitled “River Of Blues” which opens with some distinctly eastern tones that make you think that the river here might be the Ganges. The tune then develops into a more recognizable blues format with Rick’s acoustic steel slide featured.

Overall this is a very listenable album with a good variety of styles covered, so it is definitely worth checking out.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Mitch Mann – Blackwater Creek

Crazy Chester Records

14 tracks, 13 songs

Mitch Mann is an Alabama native who adopted the Muscle Shoals areas as how over 20 years ago. And outstanding acoustic guitar player with an impressive fingerpicking style, Mann delivers these 10 original tracks and 3 covers with style and grace. His work is impeccable; the guitar work is hauntingly beautiful and his vocals are well paced and sonorous. He’s got a little help here and there and the additions make the cuts even more interesting.

“Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” opens the set. It’s a bluesy, traditional folk song. It’s swinging and a lot of fun. “Baby Don’t Forget” has a little harmonium thrown in for effect and it’s well done. Mann analogizes all the good things his woman’s kisses are and asks here not to forget that she belongs to him. The slide here is a very nice addition, too. “Crows” begins with an intro track with harp and guitar doing a call and response and then it moves into the regular cut. Mann and Jimmy Hall on the harp work this one up into a very bluesy piece. The harp is crisp and the guitar remains fresh and clean. Mann redoes the classic “St. Louis Blues” in his sweet acoustic style and Charles Rose pops in for some trombone, adding to the morose feel of the song. Nicely done! “Make This Last Minute Last” is a poetic ballad with a lot of deep feelings expressed. There is some beautiful finger picking here. “More Than I Could Ever Show” is similar, perhaps a bit more stridently expressed.

“Sometimes a Rock” changes things up with a blaring tenor sax being added to the mix. Harvey Thompson does the sax work and he’s got a great sound. The song was written in part by Andreas Werner ad she also shares he vocals. “Black Water Creek” is a sweet instrumental. The title track is a mix of flamenco and folk, with some magnificent guitar work by Mann. “Detour You” mixes the blues with rockabilly in this cool cut and then “Hold You While You Got Her” switches to more of a rock base for the song. There’s some good variety here. “Tom Clark,” a song about an Alabama sort of Jesse James anti-hero, saunters to a hoof-beating tempo as Mann again switches up the styles. “It’s Time” is a dark number about loss with some ghostly harmonies thrown in for effect. “Good Things” concludes the album, a nice ballad with a more positive outlook.

Fans of acoustic blues and folk tunes will love this album. Mann is a superb finger picker with a flair for making the guitar exude emotion. I enjoyed this album and recommend it to those who like really good acoustic guitar and vocals!

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 – 5 of 5 

Mississippi Fever – 300 Miles to Memphis


10 songs – 42 minutes

Mississippi Fever has been together as a band since 2009. Guitarist/vocalist Brent Barker and bassist Ted May have known each other for over 25 years, playing together off and on until a jam with Ted’s brother Tom (drums) in 2008 led to the formation of Mississippi Fever six years ago.

300 Miles to Memphis is the band’s second album and a highly enjoyable slice of blues-rock it is too. The album features eight self-penned songs, together with covers of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” and ZZ Top’s “Jesus Left Chicago” and the two covers are a pretty accurate reflection of Mississippi Fever’s influences and sound. Opening with “I Feel Like Superman”, a wah-wah-inflected funky rock song with great keys from Steve Grimes, Barker’s warm, husky voice sings “Get Your Body Feeling Free, come on here, sit down next to me. It’s time to liberate your mind. Let’s get it started, ain’t wasting no time. I feel like Superman with a master plan.” The May brothers’ rhythm section nails down the Hendrixian groove with authority.

“Traveling Riverside Blues” is next up, with the band nicely updating Johnson’s classic. They start with single noted acoustic guitar and subtle rhythmic backing from the May boys, replacing Johnson’s classic slide guitar riff with a cool descending run, before overdriven guitar and more assertive drums and bass kick in on the second verse. Barker’s singing is a particular pleasure on this track, truly inhabiting the lyrics.

The ZZ Top-ish “Steal Away Your Love” is a fine, slower-paced groove, with guest Rick Steff adding sensitive piano before the pace picks up again with the funky riff-based “Downtown Train”. Barker is a fine guitar player with a gritty, slashing style that suits the music perfectly, playing short, muscular solos that never overstay their welcome. He cleverly varies the texture of songs by adding wah-wah (“Black Dress”) or using an acoustic in unexpected places (that last song….) And when he steps up to solo, the May brothers perfectly demonstrate the art of filling out (but not over-filling) the spaces that inevitably arise in any trio group. Grimes and Steff add keys to a couple of songs and Brandon Santini adds fine harp to the rollicking title track.

One of the highlights of the album is “Jesus Just Chicago”, which the band again re-works in an innovative fashion. Staring with a solo acoustic guitar playing a single note descending riff that contains echoes of the band’s earlier re-working of “Traveling Riverside Blues”, Barker suddenly merges in one of the reverend Willie G’s patented turnarounds and the band kicks off the ZZ Top classic. Apart from the added keys of Rick Steff, at the first it sounds like they are playing a relatively faithful recreation of the original, with Barker even channeling Billy Gibbons’ guitar style on the first verse of the first solo. But then the guitar drops away entirely and the rhythmic section pull back, highlighting Steff’s subtle keys and Barker’s voice, before the band builds the tension back up as Barker returns for a second solo. Great stuff.

Recorded and mixed at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, 300 Miles to Memphis is a fine album of good-time barrel-house party blues-rock. If your tastes lean towards late-era Buddy Guy, early-era Johnny Winter or any-era ZZ Top, you will find a lot to enjoy in this release.

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.

 Blues Society News 

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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. 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


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