Issue 9-50 December 10, 2015

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Chris O’Leary. We have 6 music reviews for you including reviews of music by John Ginty, Jeff Fetterman, Sugar Brown, Noam Dayan, Randy Volin & The Hard Ones and paoloDEMOntis.

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

On Our Website: Tee Watts has some photos and commentary on a benefit for Freddie Roulette,
CLICK HERE to see it!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

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Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

John Ginty – No Filter

American Showplace Music – 2015

11 tracks; 56 minutes

John Ginty has been a very busy man recently, this being his third album in little over two years. John is a keyboard player who does not sing, so there are a number of guest vocalists, notably Cris Jacobs who plays guitar on four cuts and sings three of those. Other vocalists include Alexis P Suter, Cara Kelly, Billy Harvey, Paul Gerdis and rapper Redman and guitarists Lou Pallo and Jimmy Bennett also feature. The core band is John on all keyboards, Mike Buckman on guitar, Paul Kuzik on bass and Dan Fadel and Andrei Koribanics who both play drums, one for each speaker! John wrote all the material, with some help from the band members on a few tunes and the album was recorded in John’s home state of New Jersey and produced by Ben Elliott.

“Fredo” opens and closes the album, the opener being an instrumental with Lou Pallo playing some delightful jazz-inflected guitar at the start before John’s swirling organ takes over. Cris Jacobs sings and plays lead guitar on the impressive “Ball Of Fire” which is not really blues but has some fine Santana-esque playing over a latin beat, probably the pick of the album for this reviewer. Alexis P Suter brings her deep, resonant vocals to bear on “Old Shoes” with Jimmy Bennett on guitar and this one is definitely a blues! The instrumental “Elevators” fizzes along with John’s organ and Cris’ guitar vying for supremacy on what sounds like a prog-rock band from the 70’s. Cara Kelly sings “Battlegrounds”, a good tune again more in a rock vein. “Rock N’ Roll Sunday” opens with some interesting piano/organ from John before Paul Gerdis sings an unusual song about a pastor who is perhaps not all he seems: “The shades he wore helped to ensure the congregation never knew one Friday night he rolled the dice”. With a blend of rock n’ roll and gospel that matches the title this is a catchy tune.

The title “Annandale” recalls Steely Dan’s tale of “My Old School” but in this song the central character has spent “ten years in the big house, cell block B with a mountain view” and musically we are close to slow blues with some atmospheric guitar from Cris who also takes the vocal here. John’s opening organ statement on “No Jelly” reminded this reviewer of bands like Colosseum and Jimmy Bennett’s guitar also takes from that era of classic rock. “Pirates” again features Cris on guitar and vocals with Billy Harvey providing the harmony vocal on a very strange song lyrically though musically this is closer to blues than much of the album. Cara sings rather histrionically on the title track which uses photographic terminology to describe a failing relationship in a slow tune with doom-laden organ and Jimmy Bennett’s pedal steel. The second version of “Fredo” again opens with Lou Pallo’s guitar but with Redman’s extended rap which was difficult to understand even with the words printed on the sleevenotes, but that may be a generation thing!

There is little straight blues here though there are some good songs to enjoy if your tastes extend to a wider range of styles.

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


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 Featured Blues Interview – Chris O’Leary 

‘Play the song.’

A rather simple and innocuous little comment, isn’t it?

Could be something as innocent as a request directed at a disc jockey or a plea from an impatient club owner to a beleaguered band.

But no, this time those three words are a nugget of advice from one of the most legendary and well-respected musicians in the annals of modern music – Mr. Levon Helm.

“That’s one of the greatest pieces of advice he gave me. Play the song, don’t use the song for whatever it is you’re trying to do … like getting up there and showing off or showing everybody what you know. I remember him telling a guitar player, ‘There’s a lot of notes, did you really have to play all of them?'” said singer, song-writer, harpist and bandleader Chris O’Leary. “He would say, ‘Play the song. Go up there and if you’re soloing, if you’re singing or if you’re playing rhythm, forward the song. Whatever the song may be, support it. That’s a lesson that has carried me – among a zillion others that he taught me.”

As any good student should, O’Leary not only absorbed the lessons he learned while fronting Levon Helm &The Barnburners for six years, he put that tutelage to good use. He won the 2011 Blues Blast Music Award for Best New Artist Debut (For his album, Mr. Used To Be) and was also nominated in the same category at that year’s Blues Music Awards (BMAs) in Memphis.

The early returns for his latest album – Gonna Die Tryin’ – looks to have O’Leary positioned for similar success at next year’s awards ceremonies.

“The new label that we’re on – American Showplace – has really pushed the record, and it’s been really good on the roots music report ( radio charts. We were as high as number three and I think we’re still in the top 15 right now, three or four months in,” he said. “We’re doing really well that way and also, the critics really love it. I think it’s my best record to date.”

Gonna Die Tryin’ was not the only big news for O’Leary in 2015. His son, Jackson Ronald Thomas O’Leary, was born in late July of this year.

It can sometimes be a difficult thing for an artist to truly evaluate the work they have just created after being cooped up in a studio for months on end. But with Gonna Die Tryin’ having been on the streets for a few months now, and with O’Leary able to look at the album in the bright light of day, he really does feel like it is the best record he has created thus far in his career.

“I really do. I think my songwriting has gotten better and the band over the years has gotten tighter,” he said. “And we worked with a producer, Ben Elliot, and he was great. He was really good in the studio and I’m really happy with the way it came out.”

The album features 11 tunes penned by O’Leary, eschewing cover songs and standards for fresh, original material.

“I love Muddy Waters and I love Howlin’ Wolf and live we do those songs, along with some B.B. King and some of Levon’s songs. I mean, that’s the music I grew up on. But if I do a Muddy song, I don’t care how good the band is and how good I sing it or how much I can play like Little Walter, I’m never going to do it as good as Muddy Waters. Nobody is, I don’t care who you are. Muddy is Muddy,” he said. “So why not just be you? I read an interview with James Harman and that was basically his sentiment. That’s why he’s such a fantastic song-writer and has his own sound. I have something to say, so why not put it to music?”

O’Leary does indeed have plenty to say and he also has the experiences of a stint in the Marine Corps and a few trips around the world to draw from. He says that’s where the bulk of his song-writing stems from.

“Yeah, it’s mostly from life experience. I’ve lived a pretty-crazy life, so I’ve got some pretty-varied experiences and I mainly draw upon those,” he said. “Whether it’s from my time in the Marine Corps or going off to war or from relationships, or what have you. It’s mostly from life experience.”

His sound can easily be defined as traditional blues, and knowing who his earliest musical influences were, that’s hardly shocking news. But there’s more to O’Leary’s tunes than strictly Chess-era blues. There’s something more eclectic and more modern contained within the body of his songs that make them uniquely their own thing, giving them their very own legs to stand on.

“Years ago, when my time with Levon started, he offered us to be the house band at his club in New Orleans on Decatur Street. Before I went down there, I was tunnel-visioned completely with Chicago blues. I lived, breathed, ate and slept Muddy, Walter, Wolf, Sonny Boy, Junior Wells … 24-7. That’s what I did,” O’Leary said. “And sometimes to get good at something, I think you have to do that. I learned the masters and that’s all I listened to. When I went down to New Orleans, it blew my mind … completely blew my mind. It was like someone kicked the door in. It was all roots music … all blues … but it was completely different. Any night of the week, you could go out to a club, or even on a street corner, and see people that will just blow your doors in. It’s truly amazing and New Orleans is my favorite place in the world, musically and culturally. And then you have the food and the people, I just love that place. I don’t know if it breaks down the tradition a little bit, but between New Orleans and Memphis and Chicago and the influences with Levon and that whole thing, it think it does add more of an eclectic feel to my music. It’s still a blues record, but it does have other elements to it, as well.”

But as O’Leary quickly acknowledges, at the end of the day, if the listener can’t feel the music, then all might just be lost.

“If you’re listening to someone really digging in and playing New Orleans-infused blues, or someone’s up on stage just killin’ it, and you don’t feel it, I really don’t know what to say,” he said. “That’s what’s so special about this music. A song might only have three chords, but if someone’s up there just pouring their heart into those three chords, and you don’t feel it, I don’t know what to tell you. Blues music is just so viable and hard-hitting and so alive, it just has to break through to people.”

As a youngster, O’Leary was more in tune with popular bands of the day like Kiss, instead of with older blues artists like James Cotton and Buddy Guy. But that soon changed and when it did, it was like a revelation for young Chris.

“As far as that (getting into the blues), I attribute that to my dad. I grew up in a musical household; my dad was a singer and my uncles were all players. Everything from Mantovani to Bruce Springsteen could be heard at my house on any given day. I was pretty young and was listening to Kiss or someone and my dad threw a record on the bed. It was Muddy Waters’ Hard Again. He said, ‘Chris, check this out.’ I looked at it and there was a picture of this old man on the front. I said, ‘Dad, what is this?’ He said, ‘Just check it out.’ So I did and I was like, ‘Dad! What is this?!! He said, ‘Give it some time,’ so I did. Eventually, James Cotton’s playing grabbed me. And then shortly thereafter, my dad got me an old (Hohner) Marine Band (harp) and said, ‘Here.’ So that was pretty cool … and it still is. But that was the record, for sure, and it was Cotton’s playing that really got to me and grabbed me. I was hooked.”

His brush with the blues as a youngster didn’t stop with discovering Hard Again. When he was just 10-years-old, O’Leary attended his first concert. While it’s really no big deal for a pre-teen to be in attendance at a concert, in O’Leary’s case, this one certain concert proved to be a bit of divine intervention, perhaps.

“My dad and my uncle Mike took me to my first concert when I was 10 and it was a show by The Band at the Palace Theater in Albany (New York). It was after The Last Waltz and was the re-united Band when Richard Manuel was still alive. It was Levon, Garth (Hudson), Rick (Danko), Richard and The Cate Brothers, who were playing with them at the time,” he said. “It was great.”

It has to be almost surreal for O’Leary to think back about looking at The Band up on stage as a kid and then going on to later look out on the crowd with Helm behind him in the Barnburners. Helm also helped to calm some troubled waters between O’Leary and his family, as well.

“When I finally hooked up with Levon, that’s when all was forgiven. I dropped out of Marist College after I got out of the Marine Corps and nobody in my family was all too happy about that,” he laughed. “It was like, ‘Yeah, I’m playing in a band.’ Well, that didn’t go over too great. But when Levon took me on, all was forgiven (with his family) then. Finally, I had legitimacy with them.”

In addition to Muddy’s cats like Little Walter and James Cotton, as well as James Harman, O’Leary was really influenced by the great Kim Wilson.

“Definitely, both vocally and on the harp. He was a big influence. I’m also a (Paul) Butterfield guy, too. I love him,” he said. “And some of the newer guys are great, too. Whenever I get to play with or listen to Dennis Gruenling, I’m amazed. He’s amazing … and Steve Guyger, too. There’s just a ton of them. But playing with Levon, I got to play with a lot of my heroes, like Kim and Cotton. Both of them were very open and very forthcoming with advice and knowledge and it was greatly appreciated. Sometimes musicians can be guarded, especially with a younger musician coming up. But the two of them were not.”

He may have started out using Hohner Marine Band harps, but these days, O’Leary prefers Seydel harmonicas.

“I was an endorsee of Marine Band for a while, but Brandon Santini hipped me to these Seydel harps. They’re made like old Marine Bands. I bought an ‘A’ harp and I was blown away,” he said. “It played like butter. They’re made in Germany and are a company that’s as old, or older, than Hohner. They were on the other side of the wall in East Germany, so when the wall came down, they really started exporting their harps. They’re amazing instruments. I also saw that Cotton plays them now, so that was a big push, too. He’s rough on his harps and I blow hard on them, too; I’m not a finesse player, as you might say. I’ve got an endorsement deal with Seydel now and I’m really happy.”

Being the singer and harp player when you’re fronting someone else’s band is one thing, but as O’Leary has come to find out, when it’s your name up on the marque, there are a whole new set of flaming hoops to jump through.

“I never really appreciated what my bandleaders did over the years, until I had to do it myself. I’m like a plug-in and play guy, you know? I just want to plug my amp in, turn it on and play. But it can be rough. Thankfully, gas prices have went down (recently). We did a west coast tour and gas averaged like four dollars a gallon. That was brutal,” he said. “And I’m making the same in clubs now that I was making 10 years ago. It’s not like you get a cost of living allowance. So it can be tough, especially with a horn section. But I’ve gotten so used to having them. Not only with their horn playing, but with their (vocal) harmonies. When they’re not there, I feel like I’m missing a limb or something. I’ve written a lot of my original songs to incorporate horns … it opens up so many avenues for me, as far as getting a New Orleans or Stax kind of sound. But you’ve got to feed those guys, you know?”

O’Leary may have been raised many, many miles from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, where Levon Helm was reared, but if he ever needed any kind of insight as to just what the late, great Helm meant to the people of the Natural State, he found out a couple of years ago when his band played the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, not too far from Helm’s old stomping grounds.

“I was down on Cherry Street (in Helena) and there’s an old music store there. I went in and there was this old man in there – he must have been 85. I looked up on the wall and there was a picture and an article about The Barnburners (when they had played at the King Biscuit a couple of years earlier, with O’Leary in the band). I asked him if I could take it down and he said, ‘Why do you want to see that?’ I said, ‘That’s me in that picture.’ So we started talking about Levon and it turns out that guy sold Levon his first guitar,” O’Leary said. “Levon had bought his first guitar there when he was just a kid. I got choked up about that. The old man said, ‘I can’t say this about many people, but the world is a lesser place now that he’s (Levon) not in it.’ That was powerful stuff … just a great moment. Levon basically showed me the country. I mean, before that I’d been around the world with the Marine Corps, but I had never been to Chicago or New Orleans. He showed me all different parts of this country and how amazing it is. It was six years of my life that I thank God for. Even now, it breaks my heart that he’s gone … it just breaks my heart. He was an amazing artist.”

His time with Helm will understandably never be forgotten and it continues to have a major impact on the way that O’Leary creates music to this very day.

“Levon’s later-period stuff, like the Dirt Farmer record, led me to start getting into Appalachian music and more Americana-type stuff. That’s kind of led to a stylistic change on how I approach writing music. I’ve always been a big Steve Earle fan and fans of Townes Van Zant and Guy Clark,” he said. “I’ve started to listen to more singer/songwriters in that vein and have gone as far back as Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe and the bluegrass guys. So some of my songwriting is not blues, it’s more along those lines. I don’t know what I’m going to do with some of those things, but it’s fun to write. So who knows? Maybe at some point I’ll record them.”

Visit Chris O’Leary’s website at

Photos by Marilyn Stringer and Joe Rosen as marked © 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 6 

Jeff Fetterman – Bottle Full of Blues


CD: 11 Songs; 45:31 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Funk-and-Soul-Influenced Blues

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” So says J.K. Simmons, playing band taskmaster Terence Fletcher in the 2014 movie Whiplash. His point is that, in his opinion, these two words are a stopping point for many artists. Those who are satisfied with “good job” don’t often push themselves beyond their previously-established limits, because they’re popular and have “made it”. What they’re missing is the sometimes hair-thin gap between good and magnificent. Pennsylvania’s Jeff Fetterman stands on one side or the other when it comes to his new CD, Bottle Full of Blues. He’s best when pushing his own envelope.

Some songs, like the opener “Paradise”, are good enough to get people grooving, but they won’t make headlines. Others reviewed below, such as “Southbound” and “Wash My Blues Away”, are the hits of the album. On the whole, it’s an electric extravaganza a la the Jeff Healey Band and 38 Special. In fact, Fetterman has been the supporting act for that band, as well as Ana Popovic, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, renowned drummer Tony Coleman, Chris Duarte, and Molly Hatchet.

Alongside Fetterman, as he performs on lead guitar and vocals, are drummer John McGuire, Ralph Reitinger III on bass guitar, Anthony Brown on keyboards, Otis James on harmonica, Judy Kessler on background vocals and percussion, and Amy Shallenberger and Bea Antonelli on backup vocals. The following three tracks are perfect for a blues-rocking good time:

Track 03: “Southbound” – In blues songs, almost no one writes about heading east or north (except to Chicago). They might be traveling west, but they’re almost always “Southbound”. This throw-down boogie contains fantastic harp from Otis James and kicking piano keyboards courtesy of Anthony Brown. The best part of the song, however, is the line, “I can hear the gospel. It’s blowing through the wind. Welcome to the Delta. Welcome home, my friend.”

Track 04: “Bottle Full of Blues” – Alcohol is supposed to drown one’s melancholy mood, but in our narrator’s case, there’s nothing he can do to escape it. “I went to the crossroads to make myself a deal. Now I got these hellhounds – they’re barking up my trail. Scratch says, ‘Son, I was the wrong man to choose, and all you’ve got is a bottle full of blues.’” Gregg Allman would be proud of the wickedly-good intro and guitar solo.

Track 09: “Wash My Blues Away” – Haunting, harmonic background vocals infuse this ballad with the sorrow of lost love. Three sirens by the names of Kessler, Shallenberger and Antonelli ring out with golden voices throughout this mid-tempo ballad. The lyrics may not cover much new ground, but this song’s sadness lies in the fact that so many people have traveled the road of broken dreams. “I never was an angel,” Fetterman says, “but you could never see the light.”

Jeff Fetterman should never settle for “good job”. His Bottle Full of Blues will help bridge the gap between okay and outstanding, satisfactory and sensational. He’s reaching for the stars!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 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 – 3 of 6 

Sugar Brown – Poor Lazarus


CD: 14 Songs; 53:45 Minutes

Styles: Pre-1950’s-Style Blues, Blues Covers

As a recent Saturday Night Live sketch taught viewers worldwide, there’s heartache, and then there’s heartache. Musicians sing the blues about cheating lovers, drudgery, and being broke and hungry, not about their fantasy football team behaving in the manner of a vacuum. That’s why this magazine’s favorite genre has stood the test of time, right into the second decade of the 21st century. Canada’s Sugar Brown, real name Dr. Ken Kawashima, knows this well and seeks to preserve a pre-1950’s oeuvre in his newest album. Poor Lazarus contains five covers of the old blues masters, including songs by Frankie Lee Sims, R.L. Burnside, and Tom Waits. In his own right, Sugar Brown and his band have composed six original numbers, out of fourteen. The other three are original arrangements of classic tunes, including the title track.

According to his promotional info sheet, “The 2014 release of Sugar Brown’s debut recording, Sugar Brown’s Sad Day, stunned listeners across Canada with his ease and force in playing and singing blues. He quickly earned recognition for his classic style and raucous performances, from the media and festival bookers coast-to-coast.” That album contained Chicago blues, but Poor Lazarus features a mixture of sub-genres: blues rock, traditional electric, and even an avant-garde song in Japanese called “Tokyo Nagaremono (Tokyo Drifter)” by Hajime Kaburagi.

Accompanying Sugar Brown, as he performs on lead vocals and guitar, are harmonica maestro Bharath Rajakumar; drummer Art Makris; Julia Narveson on upright bass, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, saxophone, and whistle; Pat Phillips on drums, percussion and vibes; Tyler Stoddart on maracas; and Brad Levia, Tyler Stoddart, and Charles Chiu on background vocals.

The three songs below are originals by Sugar Brown, with near-perfect American blues sound:

Track 02: “Meet Me in the Country” – This Chicago-style selection showcases Kawashima’s best guitar, and explores a classic theme: “Well, my thoughts are getting dusty. My tires kick up gravel on the road. I’m looking for some shade; I got to take off my heavy load.” If one didn’t know better, one might think this was an obscure release from Chess Records in its heyday.

Track 07: “Blue Lights Hooker” – Some of the finest blues songs of all time have been instrumentals. Lucky number seven puts Bharath Rajakumar’s chromatic harp on magnificent display. It roils with passion, echoing and trilling with a life of its own. If any track on this CD deserves national airplay, it’s this one.

Track 09: “Train Sixty-Four” – More harmonica magic ensues two songs later, on this homage to one special train, and its cherished passenger. Only you, only you can show me how to get that levitation in love right here, and right now. I got to see my baby. Get on that Train 64.” Julia Narveson and Art Maky provide skillful backup on upright bass and drums.

Vocally, Sugar Brown may be a tad hard to understand, but that’s understandable. He clearly comprehends the emotion that infuses blues, as do the comrades in his band. Poor Lazarus sure brings pre-1950’s-style blues back to life!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 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 – 4 of 6 

Noam Dayan – Corner Of Blues And The City

Soul Records – 2015

10 tracks; 63 minutes

Noam Dayan is an Israeli guitarist and singer who was bitten by the blues bug at an early age. He lived for a while in Chicago and is now back in his homeland. His website explains that he plays solo, in a duo and in a band format. In 2013 he released a solo acoustic album in Delta blues style but this entirely original album is firmly electric and often a big band format. A large number of musicians contributed to the sessions: Noam on guitar and vocals, Zeev Zilberman on upright bass, Amit Lorber on drums, Avishay Borovsky on piano and Moshe Levi on Hammond are joined by a three man horn section of Erez Hodara on trumpet, Alon Ben Shalom on tenor and Rami Alster on baritone sax on seven of the ten songs; Yair Dalal plays violin, Eyal Kdoshim harp and American Guy King guitar on one track each; Rudy Bainesay sings one song instead of Noam.

The album has a relaxed big band feel on most of the tracks courtesy of the horns, Noam playing some excellent guitar and singing in a light voice with just a slight trace of accent which does not detract from the enjoyment of the album.

Most of the songs here are long enough to allow the main players plenty of space and Noam takes full advantage but leaves ample space for his band mates too. Opening track “Little Place Called Pai” is a jaunty shuffle with Noam’s warm guitar in BB King mode, superbly supported by the horns and piano, a song about what seems an ideal place to kick back and relax. “Shores Of Simplicity” has some great Albert King style guitar from Noam as well as a convincing vocal, the horns in a restrained background role on a minor key blues.

Some varied drumming introduces “Plays The Blues And Proud”, Noam’s advice to those who, like him, cannot help but want to play the blues, despite the lack of money: “Be wise with your career, your music probably will get refused, but what can I do, all I know is just the blues”. Moshe’s swirling organ gives the tune a late night supper club feel, only to be overtaken by the violin attack from Yair. We don’t often hear the violin but it works fine here alongside Noam’s sensitive plucked solo. “Keep It Cool” has a jazzier feel, a quartet performance with plenty of opportunity for organist Moshe to shine and for Noam to play some nice T-Bone style guitar.

The centerpiece of the album is the enigmatic “The Beating Heart Of The Camp (Blues For Etty Hillesum)” which clocks in at over eight minutes. It’s a slow blues which opens with Noam plucking the strings against moody organ which sets the mood for Rudi’s dramatic lead vocal, a heartfelt tribute to the person of the title who clearly inspired author Noam to aspire to higher attitudes: “You find the good in everything. They all tell me, but they’re wrong. The good is always everywhere along with the evil, they sing a song.” The horns offer support later in the tune but it is Noam whose solo that stands out here, capturing the tone of the lyrics so well.

Noam lightens the mood with the bouncy “Fifteen Hours” which opens with ringing guitar again in T-Bone vein from guest Guy King, lyrically the story of being stuck in an airport together, ending up falling in love! Perhaps that resulted in the passion of the short, jazzy “All Of You” where Noam sings of wanting literally every bit of his lover and names most of them: “Give me your skin – your smell is all the air I need”.

Harmonica player Eyal is featured on the classic 12 bar sound of “Smiles And Cries” which sounds like the sort of tune that Noam would have learned during his time in Chicago before the band take us on the extended instrumental “Only Peace” which offers lots of opportunities for everyone to show their talents. Over a funky rhythm aided by Avishay’s electric piano everyone gets solo opportunities, the whole horn section providing a lovely chorus line in between.

The final track “Let The Man Go Free” follows on thematically with lyrics that rather echo the sentiments of John Lennon’s “Imagine”: “Up on this tree you won’t find no religion or society. We all gather here to breathe air with no ideas, we do believe you can let the man go free”. Another long track, this one has a samba rhythm and some suitably Brazilian sounding guitar from Noam, once again beautifully framed by the horns.

This is a subtle and interesting album with plenty of excellent playing. It is not all blues by any means but every track has the blues DNA running through it and it is all thoroughly enjoyable. The disc is available from CD Baby and is well 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 – 5 of 6 

Randy Volin & The Hard Ones – Detroit Thang

Self-Release – 2015

11 tracks; 50 minutes

Detroit native Randy Volin has been playing the blues for some 30 years. This album is his third solo effort and seems to have been recorded in several sessions, both in Detroit and in LA to where Randy recently moved. Consequently there is a large cast of musicians involved: Randy plays all guitars and sings lead; there are four drummers involved – Todd Glass, Steve Kohn, David Salinas and Vinnie Dombrowski –three bass players – James Simonson, Steve Nelson and Tad Wadham – and four keyboard players – Chris Codish, George Canterbury, Dennis Wesalis and Phil Parlipiano who also adds mandolin. Scott Page’s sax beefs up a few tracks and there is an unnamed horn section on two tracks. Randy wrote most of the material with just one cover, Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” which closes the album.

The general style here is rocking blues. Opener “When She Says Jump” finds Randy completely in thrall to his new lady, to the extent that she has got him round her little finger! It’s an easy grooving shuffle with plenty of piano and rocking riffs from Randy who is double-tracked on twin guitars, the chorus having plenty of ‘oomph’ from the sax and backing vocals. There is plenty of good slide work from Randy on the raucous “Come Back Home” which is propelled by the drums, keys and horns from the start. Randy’s gruff tones suit this style very well and this one is a definite winner. A funky riff with horns opens “Mr Johnson” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright” finds Randy on acoustic and electric guitars on an autobiographical song about growing up in Detroit. “I Want Your Lovin’” has a relaxed Bo Diddley beat, Randy singing in his deepest voice and band mates adding plenty of harmony vocals. The instrumental “Mofocito” acts as a sort of halfway interlude with Randy giving us some Albert Collins style licks over a bubbling beat.

The ‘second half’ starts appropriately with “Brand New Day” which opens with some keening slide, followed by a naggingly catchy riff. Clearly a tribute to his new home, “Mulholland Drive” is a second instrumental with another catchy core riff over which Randy double tracks some solid solo work in two very different styles, separated by a cool organ break. “Two Worlds Collide” finds Randy singing in a smoother style over an insistent riff with some heavy soloing while “She’s Fine” has some more good slide work and some fine drumming – both songs appearing to celebrate Randy finding some new ladies in his life! One supposes that “Route 66” was chosen for its historical linking of the Mid-West and LA and Randy clearly enjoys celebrating his change of location with this well-traveled old song in an all-rocking version.

If rocking blues with plenty of slide work appeals then this album is worth investigating.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

paoloDEMOntis – Loopin’ The Blues

Self Release

9 Songs Time-38:30

Blues purists need not apply. The sole instruments employed by Paolo Demontis the self-proclaimed Italian “harmonica player and a new modern one man band” are harmonicas, vocals, Boss Re-300 Loopstation and a bit of imagination”. Beat-box and programmed bass lines underlie multi-layered and electronically tweaked harmonicas and vocals. His magnificent harp technique doesn’t get lost amid the techno-tampering at work here. With his thick Italian accent you are need to have the lyric sheet at hand to decipher things, but the accented words lend a mysterious and exotic European pop-blues atmosphere that in the end works.

The songs tend to get repetitious at times, but Paolo’s genius for overlaying interesting harmonica parts is a listener adventure that never ends. Leave your preconceptions behind and enjoy some techno-blues peppered with rap, funk, hip hop, rock, reggae, dance and Afro-Beat.

Beat-box, mouth percussion, treated and accented vocals fly by in “Busy Crossroads”, a song that brings to mind Anthony Kiedis’ vocal delivery on The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away”. Paolo uses percussive Rice Miller-style harmonica technique on “My Band”, scratching as he overlays other harmonica parts. “Lonesome train harp effects intro into some wicked Sonny Terry harp, and an echoed vocal is featured on “Don’t Touch My Blues”.

Multiple harmonicas are layered over a harmonica drone with echoed vocals on “Hard Drinkin’ Woman” as the refrain seems to be repeated endlessly. A nice rhythmic, chugging harp pattern is the foundation for the treated vocal on “Baby Please Go”. Here as elsewhere Paolo’s harp skills are very much in evidence.

Alien space ship noise kick off “Funk You”, a song that is nicely played over a bouncy bass line and also features some melodic harp figures. A hauntingly melancholy harp figure plays over the rhythmic harmonica on “Reggaetime Blues” which features a rough-hewn vocal over what else…a reggae beat. Paolo blows some high, whiny notes at song’s end.

Seems Paolo has the “Dirty Clothes Blues” as he sees fit to sing an ode to unkeptness. The tune being highly rhythmic as usual. He takes great pleasure in extolling his abilities to move a club crowd in the funky and jumpy “Stomp & Go”.

Paolo Demontis manages to take chances while still having one foot immersed in authentic blues sounds. Even if his music isn’t quite your cup of Espresso, there is a cornucopia of interesting musical ideas within this recording. Give yourself a chance to experience something new that still has a ring of familiarity to it.

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

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Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The Southeast Iowa Blues Society presents the 5th Annual “Rockin’ in the Blue Year” January, 2. the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Fairfield, IA featuring an Evening with SAMANTHA FISH, with Opening Act – Quay Thomas.

You don’t want to miss a chance to see her live, she will rock your Blues and Quay is a local favorite who is young and going places. What a way to kick off the new Blue year !!

Doors Open at 6:30 and Music Begins at 7pm. Tickets-$16 Advance & SIBS members; $20 Day of Show.

For more Information go to or call 641-919-7477

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

The DC Blues Society rings in the New Year with Full Power Blues and special guest Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner. The evening includes a traditional southern-style dinner, party favors, midnight champagne toast, raffles and a very reasonable cash bar. Seating is limited. Buy tickets at or call 301-322-4808: only $35 in advance ($30 for DCBS members) and $40 at the door ($35 for DCBS members). Metro accessible and ample parking. Full Power Blues provides the groove to dance into 2016, playing smooth Chicago-style blues with a side of modern soul. Appearing with them: Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner, who was inspired by the songs of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf at the age of 8. Clarence never fails to entertain with his skillful and joyful guitar playing.

Join DC blues lovers on December 31 for electrifying entertainment, great food and a friendly atmosphere. The DC Blues Society provides the best New Year’s Eve value in metro DC.

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. There will 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: 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. 12/11 is Macyn Taylor. There are 7 more Friday games in 2016.

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. Dec. 14 – Brother Jefferson, Dec. 21 – Hurricane Ruth, Dec. 28 – James Armstrong

Additional ICBC shows: 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

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


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