Issue 9-46 November 12, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Cedric Burnside. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by Galactic, JJ Grey & Mofro, Marius Tilly Band, Midnight Breakfast and Samantha Fish. Bob Kieser has Part I of the photos from the King Biscuit Festival.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Galactic – Into the Deep

Provogue Records – Mascot Label Group

11 tracks

Galactic is a staple of the New Orleans music scene, playing a blend of funk and jazz jam band music. Ok, so let’s start this review off by saying this is not a blues album. Not because I’m some sort of purist, but because it’s just not a blues album. It perhaps has basis in the blues but it certainly is a mish mash of New Orleans jazz and funk, and there is some very cool stuff here. It’s just not blues.

The CD starts off with a vibrant, horn-forward instrumental called “Sugar Doosie” and if that doesn’t get the blood flowing then nothing will. JJ Grey then appears on “Higher and Higher,” which is pretty much straight up soul and funk mixed with some modernistic siren noises but very cool in and of itself. Macy Gray lends support to “Into the Deep,” a somewhat blues influenced jazz and rock ballad that she grits andgrowls out. “Dolla Diva” features David Shaw and Maggie Koerner and it is straight out hip hop laid on New Orleans funk. “Long Live the Borgne” is a heavy instrumental funk tune with a huge bass groove, outer space B-movie electronic sounds and a killer organ lead. Back on earth, “Right On” features Ms. Charm Taylor from the group Honorable South. Hip hop and pop are the order of the day; she has a really unique vocal presence.

“Domino” features Ryan Montbleau, a Boston based folk, blues, funk and American singer. He’s got another interesting voice and this funk tune showcases it well; this is probably my favorite cut. “Buck 77” is an huge, effect laden instrumental that reminds me of an amalgam of current horror movie soundtracks and New Orleans funk. Strangely, it works well. Mavis Staples then joins in for “Does It Really Make a Difference.” The music takes a turn back into the realm of reality with Mavis delivering a fine performance on this song of relationships overlooking the little things. Here we have blues and soul done with emotion and feeling. The song builds from a level of restraint to a set of bigger instrumental solos and then Mavis comes back with more of a vengeance. She then takes it down for the final verse and then sings the chorus where she and the instrumental backing take the song out nicely. Brushy One String is the artist featured on “Chicken in the Corn.” In reality he is Andrew Chin, son of Jamaican artist Freddie McKay. He is known for his guitar work, including a one-stringed guitar that he takes his name from. Here we have a funk tune with him in the lead and Galactic providing great instrumental support. The CD closes to “Todays Blues,” a soulful instrumental that is very blues centric in its’ approach and tone. The organ plays the lead here and it sings to us as be sway to the groove. This is a beautiful, sedate number that showcases the band playing with restraint again and yet delivering some expressive music.

Now in their 21st year together, Galactic’s 11th CD is their first on Provogue and it’s a good one. Not for blues purists, but it is something for those who like a modernistic approach to New Orleans music that chas evolved into using hip hop, funk and jazz to deliver a great sound. Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines, Richard Vogel, Stanton Moore, Ben Ellman and Corey Henry are the current lineup of the band; if you ae a fan this is something you’ll want to own. If you want to hear how todays’ sounds blend with the sound of New Orleans, you should also pick this one up. It’s different than your standard blues and it may take a listen or two to grow on you, but it’s worth the effort.

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.


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 Featured Blues Interview – Cedric Burnside 

If there were such a thing as a Mount Rushmore of the Hill Country blues, it might be located somewhere in between Senatobia and Holly Springs, Mississippi – the rich, fertile land that gave birth to what is now a world-famous sound.

The faces carved into the side of the landmark would probably look a lot like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Otha Turner and Jessie Mae Hemphill – all former originators and practitioners of the beloved genre.

As most blues lovers know, that foursome is no longer with us. It seems like in all of their cases, just as they were poised to really take the world by storm, their time was at hand. However, just because R.L., Junior, Otha and Jessie Mae are no longer playing their blues down here, that doesn’t mean that the Hill Country sound is also dead and buried. A new generation is helping to make sure the vibes of Tate and Marshall County, Mississippi are as alive and as vibrant as ever.

Names like Kinney and David Kimbrough; Sharde Thomas; Olga Wilhelmine Munding; and Duwayne and Garry Burnside are all working tirelessly to cultivate, promote and keep the Hill Country legacy growing.

Not to be forgotten among that roll-call is one of the most exciting and dynamic drummers to play the blues. Backing up his grandfather during the height of his late-90s success, he was always introduced thusly by R.L. – ‘Ladies and gentlemen, on the drums, my grandson … Mr. Cedric Burnside.’

“I come from a little town called Holly Springs, Mississippi and we’re known for the Hill County – instead of Delta – sound. My Big Daddy – R.L. Burnside – is a big part of why I am and where I am in the world today,” Cedric recently said. “I played drums behind him for a bunch of years. When I was 8- or 9-years-old, I started playing drums at the house parties they used to throw. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was playing in the juke joints. I just kind of looked and learned, you know, playing behind my Big Daddy and Mr. Junior Kimbrough.”

Cedric’s work on the drum kit is ultimately deeply rooted in the blues (he considers the late, great Jelly Roll King -Sam Carr – as one of his idols), but the way that he mixes influences of funk and hip-hop into his time keeping is really something to behold. There are drummers that lay back and groove and then there is Cedric Burnside, who pushes the song along like an out-of-control bulldozer, which is a wonderful thing. And although he does acknowledge his duty to help keep the Hill Country sound a current and relevant part of today’s roots music experience, Cedric says he does not feel any kind of pressure or burden to do so.

“I think about that all the time, but pressure? There’s no pressure. This is music that I grew up around and I feel that I am that music … all of it. I played with Mr. Otha Turner and I grew up around Mr. Junior Kimbrough, as well as my Big Daddy,” he said. “Their music is a part of me, even if I didn’t want it to be. It’s just a part of me and always will be. To try and fill their shoes is something that I would never do. It would be impossible to fill their shoes. But to keep the music going and to let people know that’s where we come from and that’s what we love, that’s the most beautiful thing of all.”

Cedric Burnside has come a long ways from those days when he and his Big Daddy, along with guitarist Kenny Brown, formed one of the baddest blues trios on the face of the earth. These days, Cedric and guitarist Trenton Ayers have been traveling the world, spreading the Hill County gospel as the Cedric Burnside Project. The first edition of the group started with his uncle Garry and his younger brother, Cody, who passed away three years ago.

“I’ve been knowing Trenton for a pretty good while – ever since he was about 4 or 5 years old. My Big Daddy and them used to throw house parties and Trenton’s dad, (Little) Joe Ayers, was one of the original bass players for Junior Kimbrough. So just like me, Trent had that in his blood. So he was always around,” said Cedric. “Before I developed the Cedric Burnside Project, I was with Lightnin’ Malcom for a good while, about six years. When we went our separate ways, it just happened that Trent was around, because his band (Electric Mudd) had just stopped touring on the road. He was playing bass for them and after they stopped touring and me and Malcom went our separate ways, I went to Trent’s house to pay him a visit and see how he was doing and what he had going on.”

That informal visit between two old friends ultimately spawned a new musical group and has issued two albums – Hear Me When I Say (2013) and Descendants Of Hill Country (2015).

“He (Ayers) just happened to be free, so we went to my house and practiced in the front room for a couple of months on songs that I had written that he hadn’t heard,” Cedric said. “And here we are today, man, we’re busting ’em wide-open.”

Once together, the Cedric Burnside Project spread like wildfire, going from playing informal gigs around Holly Springs to more exotic locales in New York, California and even Paris, France in 2015.

“It’s been good … been real busy. It started off a little slow at the beginning of the year, but we got a new booking agent by the name of Highway Key Touring and it’s going amazing, it’s been beautiful,” Cedric said.

Those that have seen the Cedric Burnside Project do its thing might have noticed that the group’s namesake has taken to moving from out behind the drums to the front of the stage from time to time, picking up a guitar instead of a set of sticks.

“I love to do it (play guitar) – it’s a whole lot of fun, playing guitar and writing songs. I would also like to let people know that hopefully before I leave this world, I’ll be able to play every instrument,” he said. “Three, four or five instruments, if I can. But I love guitar and I’m looking forward to expanding my guitar playing on down the road.”

Cedric may be selling himself a bit short by limiting himself to ‘three, four or five instruments.’ With his unique talents and the way that he can absorb music faster than a sponge soaks up water, there is no ends or limits to his ability to grasp musical theories. That’s one reason why he stops short of calling himself just a drummer or just a guitarist.

“I consider myself a musician. That’s just about it and I want to take that as far as I can,” he said. “I just love to play music – it’s my heart, my passion.”

Just like most forms of popular music, the blues is often times talked about – or labeled and explained – in sub-categories. A few include Chicago blues, Delta blues, Bentonia blues, and in the case of the kind that Cedric plays, the Hill Country blues. So what helps to separate the Hill Country sound from the rest?

“The Hill Country blues are unique. It’s totally unorthodox music. You can’t put it into 12 bars or 14 bars … I like to call it ‘feel music.’ What you feel is what you get,” he said. “Growing up with the Hill Country blues and playing behind my Big Daddy and Junior Kimbrough and Otha Turner, they seemed to have their own timing and their own style. It’s just a hypnotic, droning rhythm that people came to love. It’s a sound that became famous and I’m proud to keep it going. My beat became kind of famous and people enjoyed dancing to the rhythms. That’s kind of how I developed my style … just playing the Hill County blues up in the Hill Country for so long.”

The cats that young Cedric Burnside cut his teeth drumming behind did not use metronomes or any other kind of technology such as that. The stomping feet of the guitarist set the tone and time, and after that, it was up to the drummer to hang on and adapt to all the starts and stops on the fly. According to Cedric – who is a four-time Blues Music Award (BMA) winner for Best Instrumentalist – Drums – drumming behind R.L. and Junior was simply a case of watch and learn.

“That really comes from growing up where I come from. Growing up as a kid, I would listen to my Big Daddy do his music on the front porch, which I was a part of. Then I’d watch Junior Kimbrough in the juke joints – even when I was too young to be in there. Me and my uncle Garry Burnside were playing in juke joints when I was about 10 or 11 and he was 12 or 13,” Cedric said. “They had to hide us behind the beer cooler when the police would come in to check the juke joint. We were too young to be in there, but we were in the band. Being around all those cats … once you are around something long enough, you pick it up and get used to it. I think that’s what I did. I was around it so much that it became me. I got used to it and then it became second nature. It was like my oxygen.”

Had his grandfather not passed away back 10 years ago, there’s a good chance that Cedric would still be playing drums behind the legendary ‘Rule.’ However, he thinks that he would still have managed to start his own career, with his own name up on the marquee, by now, as well.

“I would probably be doing a little bit of both (playing solo and with R.L.). My Big Daddy, being the person that he was, he understood life and was a very kind and humble man. I think he understood that the older you get in your life, you have to advance and sometimes go your own way. I think if he was still living today and I decided to go my own way, I think he would be proud of me,” he said. “Also, he showed me just about every damn thing I know. The streets can consume us. I mean, you can be the most awesome musician out there and not go anywhere. Due to my Big Daddy, along with God, I was able to dodge those bullets in the street and I’m glad that I’m where I am today.”

In 2006 Cedric and his uncle Garry teamed up to form the Burnside Exploration. Three years after that, his pairing with Lightnin’ Malcom resulted in Two Man Wrecking Crew (Delta Groove), an album that nabbed Best Artist Debut at the 2009 BMAs.

The path has not always been smooth and easy for Cedric. Just like about every artist has to, he’s had to navigate his way through some tough spots along the way. But in the end, it’s the music that matters the most and that knowledge is always front and center for the 37-year-old.

“I did a lot of things that I didn’t want to do to get where I am today. I played with a lot of people that messed over me and I didn’t like that,” he said. “But you know, shit happens every day. You just have to find ways to get over it and hope that one day it will get better. In my case, I thank God that he helped me out of the ashes and now I’m on top and am going to try and stay there. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just play my music at home, because I love it so much. Nothing is going to stop me from playing it.”

Since he first picked up the drumsticks as a pre-teen, things have been in a state of forever moving forward for Cedric Burnside. He’s created an impressive resume at a relatively young age – especially for a bluesman. He’s not only led his own group and backed up the Burnsides, Kimbroughs and Turners, but he’s also played with everyone from Bernard Allison (the two cut an album together, last year’s Allison Burnside Express (Jazzhaus)) to Richard Johnston to Paul ‘Wine’ Jones to Jimmy Buffet. He also appeared on the big screen in a trio of movies – Black Snake Moan (the lead character in the film, played by Samuel L. Jackson, gives many nods to R.L. Burnside), Big Bad Love and Tempted. All those wonderful things aside, the thing that Cedric Burnside is most proud of – other than helping to keep his Big Daddy’s legacy alive and well – is how audiences many, many miles from Holly Springs have fallen in love with the music of the Cedric Burnside Project.

“I just got back from Israel a couple of months ago and I’ve been places all over the world, but I never would have thought I would have the chance to go over there. When I got to Israel, I really couldn’t believe that people over there were listening to my music,” he said. “I don’t know why that seemed strange to me, but of all the places I’ve been, Israel really made me feel good. I mean, I wasn’t playing with anybody else; it was the Cedric Burnside Project. My Big Daddy had taken me all over the world, but this was something that I did on my own, by keeping the music alive and not quitting. Being in Israel and watching people sing the songs I played, word-for-word, was a beautiful thing, man. I just thank God for everything, along with my Big Daddy – R.L. Burnside. One day, I’d like to be up there with him in the Blues Hall of Fame. I’m just loving it and I want to keep this thing going … I hope it gets bigger and bigger, every day, every year.”

Visit Cedric’s website at

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 Live Blues Review – King Biscuit Blues Festival – Part I 

There are some events worth going to every year. The King Biscuit festival in Helena Arkansas is one of them. I have been fortunate to make this wonderful event 8 of the last 9 years and this year was another super event.

This 3 day fest starts on Thursday in early October each year and after the 8 hour drive we made it just in time to catch a couple songs from Zak Harmon.

Next up were the Kentucky Headhunters. This is a band that has been around for a few years first forming under the banner of the Kentucky Headhunters in 1986. They have a new album on Alligator records called Meet Me In Bluesland. They are still going strong after all these years.

Next up were The Cate Brothers. The Cate Brothers are the singer-songwriter-musician duo of Earl and Ernie Cate from Fayetteville, Arkansas who first recorded for Asylum records in 1976. They are a local favorite and play at the King Biscuit Festival often.

Next up was the great Bobby Rush. Bobby just celebrated his 82nd birthday but you would never know it.

Bobby keeps going strong and as we heard from him in a recent feature interview in the July 2nd issue of Blues Blast Magazine (CLICK HERE to see the interview), he has no plans to retire anytime soon. “Man, retirement don’t cross my mind. I’ll retire when I have to, not because I want to. There’s no retirement in my sights,” he said. “I’m going to do this until I can’t.”

So after a fun set of music from Bobby and his dancin’ girls, we all headed off for a bit more celebrating on a great first night at the King Biscuit Festival. Next week, Day 2 of the King Biscuit Festival.

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

JJ Grey & Mofro – Ol’ Glory

Mascot Label Group

12 tracks

JJ Grey and the band offers up a dozen new tunes that demonstrate the growth of their music from “swamp pop blues” into something deeper and with more feeling. The blending of soul and funk into the country-styled blues of North Florida with more complexity and arranging has allowed Grey to become quite the band leader on top of being a great singer and songwriter. Ol’ Glory is his and the bands’ biggest and best work yet.

Grey’s web site lists his musical repertoire as: “Vocals, Guitar (PRS Guitars, Gibson SG, Gibson 337, and Gibson Southern Jumbo Acoustic, with vintage Fender Showman w/ Tone Tubby 2×12, Fender Super Reverb, and Fender Champ amps), Keyboards (Wurlitzer 200a, Nord Electro), Harmonica (Lee Oskar, Hohner).” Quite the musician, and if you’ve seen him live or are a fan you know what a great act this is. Along with the 48 year old Jacksonville, Florida resident on the record are Dennis Marion on trumpet, Anthony Farrell on organ, Andrew Trube on guitar, Todd Smallie on bass, AC Cole on drums, Art Edmaiston on sax. Luther Dickinson adds his dobro and Derek Trucks makes one guest appearance.

“Everything is a Song” opens the CD. A tune that sways and swings in a very R&B manner, the song showcases Grey’s vocal prowess and saxophonist Art Edmaiston’s special horn arrangements. The songs builds and fades a few time as Grey gives a very emotional performance. The song eventually builds to a frenzy and then fades out smoothly, a very cool opener that regales about life being a symphony of music to enjoy. “The Island” follows, a down tempo, acoustic cut where Grey lets it all hang out in a starkly haunting manner. He sings, “All beneath the canopy or ageless oaks whose secret keep forever in her beauty, this island is my home.” Poetic and deep, Grey presents a very cool cut with acoustic guitars layered over some steel guitar and harmonica providing that canopy for us. “Every Minute” starts out slowly and the instrumentation and backing vocals come in and the song builds into a huge, soulful testimonial by Grey who says he is, “Loving every minute of living.” Derek Trucks adds his special touch to this song. The next cut gets even more soulful as Grey delivers “A Night to Remember.” Taking an almost syncopated approach to the vocals, Grey sings of his upcoming rendezvous. There is a nice guitar solo and then the bass transitions back to Grey as he culminates his conquest.

In “Light a Candle” Grey gives another soulful performance as he asks his woman to light a candle for him as he’s on his way back home to her. The horn work is stalwart here as it is throughout. The blend of the horns, guitar and all the vocals is somewhat symphonic in nature. “Turn Loose” turns the sound into to a very syncopated funk and Grey and company deliver another winner. “Brave Lil’ Fighter” has sort of a retro sound and beat that hearkens to the 1970’s, blending soul and rock. He belts out the vocals as the band builds up the sound around him. The song takes a brief respite and then goes out in a long blaze of soul, rock and funk. The stratospheric trumpet work and the guitar groove are beautifully done here. “Home in the Sky” takes things down several notches with Grey offering up a very pretty ballad for the listeners.

Things then explode with “Hold on Tight.” There is a big intro with distorted guitar and horns that then transitions to a very interesting, soulful cut. Grey sings to his woman that, “He can’t wait for the kids to go to sleep,” and then the guitar returns for a huge solo. The vocals line comes back to earth again and Grey woos his woman some more. The guitar again returns to great effect and the song then fades; very interestingly done! “Tic Tac Toe” has a Southern, country blues feel to it. The song again starts a bit mellow and then things get interesting as the horns and vocals ebb and flow; Grey repeats the approach as he sings about how life can play games with us and we can also play games within it. The title track is next, a big number with Grey emoting heavily over a very funky beat and the band is in full support. The tune reminded me of something that would be a perfect James Brown tune. Grey is a wild man who delivers a fantastic performance here as do all his cohorts on the album. Big horns, big vocals, a big backline beat and a big guitar groove. Grey testifies his way through this and by the end of the song you believe! The album closes with “The Hurricane,” where Grey goes acoustic and delivers another great ballad. Thoughtful and sublimely done, Grey is masterful in all ends of the spectrum of pacing, tone and timber to his vocals. This is some great stuff and if you register with JJ Grey on line you can download a free 13th cut, “Day Three Jam.”

This album really sets the bar high for JJ. He relaxes by tending to his nut trees on his old family farm where he also has a recording studio. The music comes from and is recorded right in the swamps and marshes of North Florida. One can feel the dampness and heat that emanates from this music and the sounds of the band. For those not familiar with this, let me describe it for you; I spent 7 years living around the marshes of southeast Georgia, right across the river from Florida. As with other hot places, the heat ripples up from the ground, distorting your vision as you gaze off towards the horizon. There are lots of rivers and marshy areas that evaporate in the heat, and those waters hang around you like wet, personal wall paper. It does not allow you to move at your fastest paste; life slows down this stagnant volume of evaporated water surrounds you and will not leave you. There are smells of a little mold and rotting vegetation that are always present; not bad, not good, but just there. There may also be some good spicy smells from a nearby house boiling up some shrimp or blackening some wonderful fresh fish or from the smell of sweat from a lover or close friend that fills your nostrils as the heat par boils both of you. Music is still played on some of the front porches and in town squares, where you become part of the country and the country becomes part of you. There are the blues that remind us of days past and the hopes for a future of plenty and health; the love of life that we are blessed with: families, friends and loves. That is the world of JJ Grey and that is his music. Buy this record and you, too, can become part of all of this.

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 – 3 of 5 

Marius Tilly Band – Come Together

String Commander

11 tracks / 45:03

The Marius Tilly Band is a trio that draws inspiration from the hard blues-rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and blends these sounds with modern songwriting structures and lyrics. Based out of Dortmund, Germany, the members of this young band are Marius Tilly on vocals and guitar, Benjamin Oppermann on bass, and Maximilian Wastl on drums. Come Together is their sophomore effort, following up on their very good debut, Blues Colors, Red Lights. The new album’s eleven original tracks clock in at a touch over 45 minutes, and during that time a lot of musical ground is covered.

Though the content is mostly amplified and rock-based like the opener, “Believe,” there is also some nice acoustic blues to be found on this disc. “Fly” is a lovely traveling blues song with a bit of a Delta feel thanks to Tilly’s resonator guitar and howling lyrics, and “Far Away” builds with layers of guitars and textures as it sets a somber mood to close out the disc. It should be noted that through these guys are from overseas, all of the words are in English. These lyrics are quite good, and are not presented with the awkward syntax and feel that sometimes result when songs are sung outside of the vocalist’s native language. By the way, the CD includes a book of lyrics, which is a cool touch that has become quite uncommon in recent years.

Their blues work is good, but blues-rock is where the Marius Tilly band really shines. Two songs in particular, “Headaches” and “Skin’s Electric,” have a majestic infusion of funk that make them the standout tracks on Come Together. It does not hurt that both songs are very well written and the backline of Opperman and Wastl are innovative and extremely tight. Combining these elements with Tilly’s strong guitars and vocals makes these tracks a fine listening experience.

Their more conventional blues-rock songs are also solid, and like the rest of the songs on the album they are radio-friendly. “Hold On” features throaty vocals that double up with the guitar at times, which is strikingly effective and musical. Also, “Water Falls” features some lovely Hammond work from guest artist Artur Kuhfub that adds another layer of complexity to the band’s sound. There are not any two songs that sound alike here!

The trio even throws down a few pop tunes that are quite good. “Elevator Girl” is a high-energy song with heavy drums and wah pedal -infused guitar that includes some cool call and response from Wastl and Oppermann on the chorus. “Take Off” has almost the polar opposite feel, with a moody feel that is brought out by heavily processed 1980s style guitars that are processed with an abundance of delay and reverb. The final product ends up being like a mash-up of INXS and U2, if that makes any sense to the Generation X readers out there.

Come Together is a solid effort from the Marius Tilly Band with healthy servings of accessible rock, pop and blues music. Their unique sound is very likeable, and their live shows are chock full of contagious energy. Unfortunately they are only touring Europe right now, so American fans will have to make do with listening to their CDs and viewing their YouTube videos until someone starts paying attention and gets them to come to a festival here in the states.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Midnight Breakfast – Close to the Wall

Glitterhouse Records

10 tracks / 48:13

There are times that it is not possible to put a label on a band or their music, and Midnight Breakfast from Bergamo, Italy is a perfect example of this. Over the past 30 years this blues band has developed their own tone and sound, one that bridges the roots of the genre with modern songwriting. Their latest album, Close to the Wall, is a heady piece of work that fans of any type of blues music should enjoy.

Midnight Breakfast is fronted by Marco Valietti on vocals and guitar, and for this latest project he was joined in London’s Master Chord Studio by Stefano Albertini on guitar, Luigi Cortinovis on bass, and Fabio Carenini on the skins. There are no keyboards or horns to be found on this release! Breaking with the homegrown tradition of their earlier albums, the band brought in a producer, Paolo Legramandi, to help them record all ten of their original songs over just four days. As a bonus, somehow they arranged to have the mastering completed at the venerable Abbey Road Studios. If only those walls could talk…

All of that work paid off, as Close to the Wall is a slick piece of work that has the feel of a live performance. The set kicks off with “There is a Bird” which has a Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp rock vibe, but the similarity stops once Valietti starts to sing. The words “raspy” and “throaty” are overused in album reviews, but Marco redefines these tired words with his beautifully croaking baritone. This effect plays well with the sound of the rest of the band, which uses a sparse arrangement to provide additional drama for the vocals. “You’re Talking About Your Feet” brings back the swamp rock sound (“Suzie Q”, this time), with some very tasty call and response between Marco and the lead guitar. As with the other tracks on the album, he adds a lot of extra sounds to his vocals that are not exactly words, and the overall effect is stunning.

From there they drop into a more conventional Chicago style blues on “Trying to Satisfy Myself,” with crystal clear guitar leads and a walking feel to the backline. A jangly guitar solo is the icing on the cake for this song. “Close to the Wall” is also a fine piece of fairly normal guitar-centered blues, this time with some crazy falsetto vocal work from Valietti.

The band mixes things up throughout Close to the Wall, and “One of These Mornings” is a neat song that could have been programmed on a mid-1970s progressive AOR radio station. This song has high quality guitar leads that could have come from Robin Trower, and the ostinato of bass and rhythm guitar moves things along at a markedly retrained pace. Marco shows even more vocal diversity and delivers the words in a breathless whisper.

With “I Missed the Man” and “Take Me,” Midnight Breakfast flirts a little with country blues-rock, and they do a respectable job. In fact, these tunes raise the question of whether this band could actually pull off a credible version ZZ Top’s “La Grange!”

The disc closes out with “Let Me Smoke My Last Cigarette” (how appropriate!), a slow burning blues track with subtle guitar interplay between Valietti and Albertini. A plodding and dramatic song like this would have been perfect with a little Hammond thrown into the mix, but these guys made it work anyway, and this was a perfect way to finish things up.

Midnight Breakfast’s Close to the Wall is one of the best modern blues albums of 2015, and it would definitely be worth your while to give it a listen. All ten songs are awesome by themselves, but as a whole this set is amazing and this record is the best work the band has done to date. There are no planned gig dates in the United States on their website, but hopefully they will make their way over here soon!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Samantha Fish – Wild Heart

Ruf Records RUF 1213

12 songs – 53 minutes

Long-legged head-turner Samantha Fish was barely out of her teens when she exploded out of the gates to win Best New Artist honors at the 2012 Blues Music Awards with her intense, pyrotechnic take on blues-rock, but she’s turning heads for another reason with the release of Wild Heart.

A Kansas City native from a musical family, the guitarist/vocalist is rapidly maturing into a blues superstar, and it’s clearly evident in this disc, which is a major departure from the first two highly received CDs in her catalog. While powerful examples of high-intensity guitar slinging fans have grown to love are still present, she mixes in a strong dose of Hill Country blues on this go-round, and the end product is head-and-shoulders her best.

Now in her mid-20s, Samantha developed an interest in Hill Country early through the music of R.L. Burnside, although much of the music she produced until now had the feel of more diverse influences, including Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Her earlier releases, Runaway and Black Wind Howlin’, were produced by friend and sometimes touring partner Mike Zito and kept her in a comfort zone.

Zito’s work in the control room was exceptional. This time, however, Luther Dickinson, a driving force behind the North Mississippi Allstars and Black Crowes, took command and the sound and feel are completely different. Recorded at four sites across the South, including Memphis’ legendary Ardent and Royal Studios, the disc includes 10 Fish originals, half of which were written in collaboration with Jim McCormick, a Nashville veteran whose work has been covered by Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood, among others. She’s backed by a superstar lineup that includes Dickinson on lap steel, bass, mandolin, rhythm and lead guitars and Grammy-winner Brady Blake and Sharde Thomas on drums. Lightin’ Malcolm makes a guest appearance on guitar, Shontelle Norman-Beatty and Risse Norman provide backing vocals, and Dominic Davis adds bass on one cut.

The self-penned “Road Runner” kicks off the disc with a sound and feel that would be comfortable in any back country juke. It delivers a warning that the man of the title can’t be trusted and that “he’ll run all over you.” Samantha’s guitar lead is as fiery as the flames streaming from her long dress in the artwork on the inside cover, and she’s in total control. The pace drops off dramatically for “Place To Fall,” a slow blues that speaks of searching for a lost love.

“Blame It On The Moon” is a blues-rocker with a slight country feel that credits the celestial body with every wrong the singer does in life, while “Highway’s Holding Me Now” is an interesting love song that plays off the need to be on the road against the need for romance. While connected in title,“Go Home” is a ballad that speaks of a desire to return to a place where “Daddy was a drunk and your Mama ran away.” Samantha’s delivery is sweet and tender, putting on display considerable vocal qualities that usually take second place to her guitar playing.

“Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1,” written by first generation star Charley Patton, is delivered in a traditional manner and features Dickinson on mandolin before “Turn It Up,” an in-your-face blues-rocker about breaking free from the chains of short-sighted friends. “Show Me” is a slow shuffle that demands communication in a relationship so powerful that the singer “would burn with your ashes till we’re one and the same,” while “Lost Myself” is a slow-paced acoustic lament about a troubled love affair.

The cover tune, “Wild Heart,” a rapid shuffle, is a declaration of surrender and total devotion. “Bitch On The Run,” a song of female empowerment in a male-dominated world, follows before a cover of Junior Kimbrough’s Hill Country classic, “I’m In Love With You,” brings the album to conclusion.

Available everywhere, this album is so good, it’s earned an early spot on my list of the 10 best blues CDs of the year. Even if you’re already a Samantha Fish fan, you’ll be surprised at where Wild Heart takes you. Highly recommended.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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River Basin Blues Society – Evansville, IN

The River Basin Blues Society will host the 5th annual River Basin Blues Blast from 4 p.m.-midnight at Lamasco’s Bar and Grill at 1331 W. Franklin St., Evansville, IN, on Saturday, November 28, 2015. The $5 cover will benefit the River Basin Blues Society. Bands performing include Ryan Rigdon & the Hi-Rize Hillbillies, Honey Roy, Dale Niehaus & Bad Mojo, 2 Miles Back and the Boscoe France Band. There will be items for auction. For more information, visit the River Basin Blues Society on Facebook.

Central Mississippi Blues Society – Jackson, MS

Central MS Blues Society presents Blue Monday, a blues jam – November 2, 2015 and every Monday night at Hal & Mal’s, 200 Commerce, Jackson, MS. The Front Porch portion of Blue Monday starts at 7:15 pm, and the Blue Monday Band comes on at 8:45pm. Blues entertainers are invited to sign up and participate in the jam! Admission $5 ($3 for Central MS Blues Society members). Cash bar, food service available, free parking, security.

Check out our events calendar at!calendar/cf5a Join us for the best blues in Mississippi on a Monday night!

Piedmont Blues Preservation Society – Greensboro, NC

This year’s Piedmont Blues Preservation Society Blues Challenge winners in the Band category: The Dangerous Gentlemen’s (Anderson, SC; Brevard; Lexington; and Mooresville, NC), in the Solo/Duo category: Michael “Blind Dog” Gatewood (Greensboro), and our first Youth Challenge winner, Seth Williams (Reidsville, NC)

To help the winners with expenses, The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society is having a Telecaster Guitar Raffle in which one lucky winner will win a beautiful black limited edition Telecaster Guitar! Raffle tickets are available through their website: One may also make a tax-deductible donation directly to the Memphis or Bust Fund at the Society’s website. (PLEASE NOTE: Raffle ticket holders do not have to be present to win)

A Memphis or Bust Fundraising Party will be held January 10 at The Blind Tiger, 1819 Spring Garden St. Greensboro, 27402. The winners will be on hand to perform at the event. The benefit will have silent auction items, raffles, and the winner of the Telecaster Guitar will be announced.

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Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads Blues Society continues to work hard to keep the blues alive.

Our second Saturday monthly blues at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL go on. The Jimmy’s are in on November 14th and our annual Christmas Party and show will feature Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama at the Pub. $5 cover after 7 PM. There will also be a special New Years Eve Show featuring Dave Fields and then 2016 starts off with John Primer on January 9th and Tad Robinson on February 13th.

First and third Fridays at the Lyran Society Club on 4th Ave in Rockford: 11/20 and 12/4 with the New Savages and 12/18 The Blues Hawks. All shows are 7 to 10 PM and there is a fish fry or steak dinner available. No cover, open to the public.

The AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs will once again feature blues bands from 5:15 to 6:45 PM prior to every Friday home game. 11/27 is Dan Phelps and 12/11 is Macyn Taylor. There are 7 more Friday games in 2016.

First Sunday Blues at All Saints are from 4 to 6 PM.  Macyn Taylor on 12/6. Shows are free, donations go to People Helping People, the local food pantry.

We are almost ready to announce our 2016 festival lineup for August 27, 2016. Stay tuned for more upcoming events!

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. Nov. 16 – Noah’s Back Alley Blues Band, Nov. 23 – John Lisi and Delta Funk, Nov. 30 – Studebaker John, Dec. 7 – Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Dec. 14 – Brother Jefferson, Dec. 21 – Hurricane Ruth, Dec. 28 – James Armstrong

Additional ICBC shows: Nov. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, w/ guest host Sally Weisenburg, Dec. 3 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/ guest host, Dec. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/ guest host

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

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

DC Blues Society presents the 8th Annual College Park Blues Festival Saturday, November 14, 2015 from 6:00 pm– 11:30 pm. This FREE fundraiser (Ritchie Coliseum, College Park MD 20742) sends the winner of the DC Blues Society’s Annual Battle of the Bands, DC Mudd, to the 2016 International Blues Challenge. No tickets required for exciting concert of different blues genres. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Patty Reese has been a fan and critic favorite of the Mid-Atlantic Region for many years. The Patty Reese Band is celebrated for its ability to fill the dance floor with blues rock or to bring tears to your eyes with a soulful ballad. Patty’s band will move your feet and your touch heart with its infectious rhythms and grooves. Also appearing: Jesi Terrell and The Love Mechanic Band, featuring the exuberant, powerhouse vocals of their lead singer and Chicago blues veteran Jesi; The Ron Hicks Project – one of the best local blues band playing music spiced in the south, cooked in Chicago and served in the DMV; and DC Mudd.

Be a part of the excitement and spirit at the premier DC Blues event!

Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota Blues Society presents the Blues Studio For School fundraiser will be held on Sunday, November 15 from 12:00pm – 5:00pm at Minnesota Music Cafe 499 Payne Ave. St. Paul, MN. 100 percent of the proceeds benefit MN Blue Society’s Blues for Kids program. The suggested donation is $10. The “Blues Studio for School,” is a six-week workshop that seeks to instill in children a deeper appreciation and awareness of blues music, its history, and influence in contemporary culture. The event will feature live performances by Joe Filipovich’s band. The Blue Cities. Squishy Mud, Armadillo Jump and Joyann & Sweet Tea are also scheduled to perform. In addition to live music, there will be a bake sale, auction and a cash lottery. Support for the Blues for Kids program can also be shown by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign     For more info:

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


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