Issue 9-6 February 5 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue 

Senior Blues Blast writer Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues musician and historian Scott Ainslie.

We have 12 reviews for you including a review of a great new website that offers great Blues guitar instruction and reviews of new music from Tinsley Ellis, Shaun Murphy, Joakim Tinderholt, The Mike Henderson Band, Jeff Jensen, D.A. Foster, Blue Highway, Scott Ainslie, Kyle Jester, Markus James and Geoff Carne.

We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

We are excited about a new advertiser,

They are a website that offers music instruction by subscription. You can get lessons on Blues guitar, rock, jazz, bluegrass, classical or fingerstyle guitar, any styles of bass including acoustic upright, harmonica, dobro, mandolin, banjo, fiddle or violin, clarinet, french horn, trumpet, flute,piano, percussion, vocals and even scratching for DJs. In all they offer 26 “schools” to choose from.

I tried a sample lesson on dobro and I have to say I was impressed at how clear and easy the teacher, Andy Hall, made it to grasp the material.

They also feature a unique feedback method for students. You can record yourself and the teachers of each “school” actually listen to your recordings and give you individualized feedback and help on the recordings you submit.

They are offering Blues Blast readers a 10% discount on any of their schools.

Reviewer Rhys Williams took a few Blues guitar lessons with Keith Wyatt and he has a review of his experiences below in this issue.

Check out Rhys’ review below and then visit their website at Be sure to use the code BLUES10 to get your Blues Blast discount.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 12 

Tinsley Ellis – Tough Love

Heart Fixer Music

10 tracks/46 minutes

Tinsley Ellis epitomizes the music of his home state of Georgia. Filled with soul and a vibe that embraces and yet goes beyond the blues, his work is masterful in both technique and feeling. Born in 1957, his career took off in 1988 with Georgia Blue and has not looked back since. Having produced CDs for in several stints for Alligator, one with Telarc and other labels, Tough Love is his third offering on his own label.

In 2013 he released Get It! and then he gave us Midnight Blue in 2014; this third release in three years has Tinsley backed by some of Delbert McClinton’s band. Kevin McKendree on keys, Steve Mackey on bass, and Lynn Williams on drums are also complemented by Jim Hoke (sax) and Steve Herman (trumpet) on “All In The Name of Love.”

Using vintage, classic equipment, the sound here ranges from smooth to rocking yet each has its’ own uniqueness and charm. “Seven Years” kicks things off and Ellis begins with a finger picking, soulful groove. He sings of his relationship of seven years that is thrown away after a one night stand by his woman. He sings with emotion and a hollowness in his soul that represents having his feelings ripped out from him. The song brings it all out as he bares it all and then he gives us a stinging solo on his six string.

“Midnight Ride” is a jumping and jiving song that bounces and gets you wanting to dance. There is lots of that great Tinsley Ellis signature guitar work that really burns it up here! “Give It Away” follows; Ellis takes it down several notches and gives us a distinctively soulful ballad to savor. Well done! In “Hard Work” Ellis gets another groove going as he sings how hard it is to live when you have no work. Some excellent commentary surrounded by some excellent music!

The big hit song for this album is next: “All In The Name of Love” is quintessential Tinsley Ellis. It is a really soulful, bluesy slow cut with a distinctive beat that grabs you and does not let go. Great vocals and the added horns with sweet organ work make it a big time hit. Add in Ellis’ guitar and vocals and it goes right over the top- in my estimation it is one of his best songs ever.

“Should I Have Lied” is slow blues done up sultry and sweet. A dirty guitar solo opens things and sets the tone. He then similarly guts out the lyrics as he wails on about lost love. He picks it up again with “Leave Me.” The tempo is certainly built up and the intensity grows as the song completes. More great guitar work with everyone in solid support. “The King Must Die” takes things back down as Ellis offers a big time solo with echo and reverb that gives an even broader feeling to the solo. He apparently sings of mythical times gone by here in a dark and strikingly cool song and performance.

Ellis plays a little harp for us in “Everything.” It’s a jumping swing cut with some barrelhouse styled piano and Tinsley squeaking out some cool harp. “In From the Cold” concludes the set and Ellis adds a little Wurlitzer piano to the mix. Another slow, bluesy ballad again here as Ellis emotes and asks to be taken in from the cold. He goes into the stratosphere with his guitar solo and the band is right there with him, building up to great heights on the chorus. Lots of bass makes this darker and cool and the organ adds more layers of feeling.

Ellis claims he has never been prouder of his work and I can see why. This is an album of original cuts that focus on the theme of the album, Tough Love. Ellis has hit another home run here. This is really a super set of tunes that build on and complement each other. Every listen seems to offer up something new and enjoyable. I highly recommend this one, blues fans!

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 Interview – Scott Ainslie

It could be something as complex and spiritual as destiny or even the perfect alignment of the stars with the planets.

Or, it could be something much simpler, something like a happy accident or even the stubborn refusal to give up pursuit.

Whatever you choose to call it, the end result is the same; Scott Ainslie ended up with a guitar he had long coveted.

And with that prized possession – a Gibson L-50, circa 1934 -nestled firmly in his hands, Ainslie’s latest album, The Last Shot Got Him (Cattail Music), was quickly given birth.

The album – with just Ainslie on guitar (plus a touch of banjo) and vocals – is like a love letter to another glorious time, a time when legends like Robert Johnson, the Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt were still alive and in their prime. Ainslie’s sixth solo offering seemed to strike a responsive chord with lovers of authentic acoustic blues far and wide.

“Last year ended on a lovely high note. Here in the state that I live in – Vermont – The Times Argus (newspaper in the state capital of Montpelier) gives out yearly awards for various records and they gave The Last Shot Got Him the award for Best Album of the Year for 2014,” Ainslie said. “The award is called a Tammie Award and I’m honored. The album also ended up in a lot of radio top 10 lists for the year as the record started to find its legs, so that’s a delight.”

The album, named for a line in Mississippi John Hurt’s “The First Shot Missed Him” features Ainslie’s takes on tunes not only from Hurt, but Rev. Gary Davis and Robert Johnson, as well. Ainslie also ushers cuts from Irving Berlin and Fats Waller – along with the eternal “Over the Rainbow” – into the 21st century with warmth, charm and much love on the long-player. The ‘newest’ song on the disc is the Ainslie-penned “Late last Night” from all the way back in 2008.

“In many ways, it’s a very simple record, but those can also be the scariest ones, because you can’t cover up by turning up the bass,” he laughed. “There’s no place to hide.”

When an instrument as magnificent as the L-50 is in the room, hiding places are usually not needed. It did, however, take Ainslie a bit of time to get that Gibson into the same room that he was in.

“I first heard that guitar in around 2008 or ’09 in Louisiana, when I was down there working and visiting friends. I taught a slide guitar workshop at the Dewey Balfa Cajun & Creole Heritage Week that Christine Balfa runs. I heard Linda Handelsman play that guitar, accompanying David Greely, who is a dear friend and a wonderful fiddle player. It was fiddle and guitar and two voices and it was just lovely – about a 30-minute set during lunch at this music camp,” Ainslie said. “After it was over, I asked Linda if she minded if I looked at that guitar, because it was an archtop with a big, round soundhole in the front of it, and most archtops have F holes and have a really-compressed sound and have not been my favorite guitars. But I liked the way that this one sounded in her hands. I asked if I could play it and she very graciously handed it to me and I sat down and put on some fingerpicks and played about three notes of a Robert Johnson piece, knowing it was made when Robert was 23-years-old, in 1934.”

Ainslie was immediately overwhelmed by the undeniable charisma of the 80-year-old L-50 that day in south Louisiana.

“It sounded more like Robert’s recordings than any instrument I have ever picked up. I thought, ‘Damn. The ghosts are here.’ My mouth fell open and Linda casually said, ‘I brought it out here because I don’t play it very much and I’m thinking about selling it.’ I said, ‘What do you want for it?’ She said, ‘A thousand bucks.’ I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ And I could hear eight guys behind me – kind of like the seven dwarves – slapping their foreheads going, ‘Damn …’ But it turned out over the course of the next eight to 10 hours that Linda was not actually ready to part with the guitar. So I told her, ‘Look, if you don’t want to sell me this guitar now, I couldn’t take it. It’s clear you’re not ready to let go of it. But when you DO want to sell it, give me the first refusal.’”

Fast forward another two years down the road back in Vermont …

“Late one night I found myself on eBay, looking longingly at small-bodied, archtop Gibson guitars and I thought, ‘You idiot, you know where one of these things is, you should give Linda a little tickle and see if she’s thought any more about selling it to you.’ So I did that and she said that it hadn’t been out of the closet since she’d played that gig (at the music camp in Louisiana) and that she had thought it might be time to sell it to me. So it took about another two months after that, but I eventually got the guitar in the house,” Ainslie said. “I then started exploring it. It needed a little bit of work; it had an open crack in the back and some other small things. Since I made the recording, I’ve had some more work done on it, which has transformed the guitar in a really beautiful way.”

With a lengthy decades-long background of playing acoustic blues – along with plenty of old-time fiddle and banjo – it would seem like Scott Ainslie and a vintage 1934 Gibson L-50 would be a union forged in heaven. That’s precisely the case.

“It turns out the guitar likes what you’d think it likes. If you want to play Jimmie Rodgers on it with a flat-pick, it does that; it sounds like 1927 in Bristol. If you want to play John Hurt, it sounds like that. If you want to play Robert Johnson, it sounds like that,” he said. “So I started letting the guitar lead me around by the nose around the repertoire that I play that hadn’t fit on previous records. A bunch of them were songs that came up around the time when that guitar was new, so I thought that’s an interesting story for a record. I thought I’d just follow my nose and try it. I think the record has worked well – partly because of the story.”

No matter which way the river of fashionable musical trends flows, no matter how much technology comes and goes and no matter how many years separate the days of their performing prime from the current days and times, cats like Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt – along with a host of other forefathers of the authentic county blues – never seem to be forgotten about. Ainslie explains why he feels those artists and their music is as relevant today – if not more so – than they were back in the day.

“It’s just great music and great music doesn’t die; it continues to find its legs in new generations as people encounter it. And the fact that someone can do this kind of music without a synthesizer, without a band, without an amplifier, without a drum machine – that one person can play this music with a guitar in their lap and make music of this quality, is an important element of what I’ll call this ‘handmade music.’ That’s part of the reason that this music is still hitting us so hard and finding its legs now, when people are so seduced by the screen in front of them – whether it’s the iPhone or the computer or the television. The handmade nature of this music is consoling in a world that we feel is getting out of control technologically. With a wooden box with even just one string on it – and your voice and two hands – you can express yourself to the world. You can scream into the wind. That is a really powerful thing.”

A musician since the tender age of three, Ainslie really fell under the spell of the blues – and became a guitar player – after seeing bluesman John Jackson perform during the middle of a Mike Seeger concert back in 1967. Although he basically went from 1967 to 1982 without ever touching an electric guitar, Ainslie does own a beautiful Paul Reed Smith. However, he has somehow managed to keep from being seduced too far into the dark side of high-voltage noise.

“I’ve always been interested as a musician to see how far you can push the expressive power of one person’s voice and hands. Having been raised on rock-n-roll and soul music and rhythm and blues, that’s what drew me back into the 1930s, where you hear those solo guitarists at the absolute zenith of their powers working up this remarkable kind of pre-rock-n-roll passion that eventually changed rock-n-roll from a ‘bubble gum, let’s go dating and race cars’ music to something much more formidable,” he said.

One of the unique things that certainly helps to make Ainslie the gifted purveyor of authentic music that he is, has to be due in part to his academic background. He is a Phi Beta Kappa and honors graduate of Washington & Lee University and if he wasn’t busy playing the blues, would probably be right at home in an institution of higher learning on a daily basis. Ainslie got to use his academia a little bit when he delved pretty deeply into the world of Robert Johnson by transcribing his original recordings in a published book – 1992’s Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads (Hal Leonard) and instructional DVD from 1997, Robert Johnson’s Guitar Techniques.

“When I first heard Robert’s music, I did what everybody else did – my life stopped. I sat on the floor and stared at the 33 r.p.m record. There were years when if I dropped the needle on a Robert Johnson LP, I’d better not have anything else to do for the next 25 minutes, because I was not going anywhere,” he said. “I, as many of us did, chased down the only book that seemed to be available, which was Samuel Charters’ book (1959’s The Country Blues), which was very early – and although he did the best he could – was misleading. He moved things into guitar keys that they were not in and he didn’t have the lyrics right and didn’t have the accompaniments set where they were set, but again, he did the best he could. As I started to unpack Robert’s playing, I realized that I could write a book that would serve guitar players, so I did. It took about six years and cost me about $12,000 in legal fees before the book came out. Robert didn’t sell his soul at the crossroads, but he did give up his publishing rights. The book was hailed as a landmark, precisely because it had so much information in it. The historical context for the music really empowers the songs, it gives them more power, rather than taking it away. When you get academically involved – and God knows there’s no quicker way to kill a musician’s career – when someone goes after something from a scholarly perspective, generally they lose emotional power and immediacy. It’s almost like looking at a painting that looks great from 40 feet away, but the closer you get to it, the less cool it is because the brush strokes are not that good, because it was painted to be viewed from 40 feet away. But the closer I got to learning Johnson’s music and its details, the more interesting the music became. It was an incredibly-rewarding project to work on.”

That process of looking deeply into a song and its origins is always first and foremost with Ainslie, whether he’s on the bandstand, whether he’s giving a lecture on musical or sociological history, or whether he’s teaching slide guitar techniques to eager students.

“I am very invested in apprenticeship in the sense of digging into a tradition or body of work deeply and letting it transform you, before you transform it. I think part of the price of becoming a musician is becoming the song,” he said. “I mean, I’m not a jazz singer in a piano bar just singing Billy Joel and whatever else, all night long. I don’t want that life; I wouldn’t have that life; I couldn’t do that life. What I’m interested in is being emotionally and deeply involved in the music and its history and background and what it feels like to sing it. My hope is that I’m open to being transformed by the songs that I sing. If I do that well, there’s a chance that it will move somebody else.”

That little peek behind the curtain of what keeps Ainslie from merely being a pre-programmed human jukebox also helps to explain why his stage performances are more than just singing songs and playing the guitar. He also takes valuable time to give his audiences some history of the music, its authors and events surrounding the creation of the tunes, as well.

“My first real gig playing the blues – previous to this I had played old time fiddle and banjo as a musician – was back in the 1980s, being hired into a program in North Carolina called the Visiting Artists Program. It was a program that put professional artists of all kinds on community college campuses and charged them to get out and teach the community. I wound up in a highly racially-divided part of eastern North Carolina, where they had just had a sheriff’s race in the Democratic Party that pitted a black candidate against a white candidate and divided the Democrats along racial lines and there was a lot of hoorah about that; the white candidate won,” Ainslie said. “I was chosen by the coordinator at the college precisely because I was white and I played blues. I found myself in front of black and white audiences – sometimes integrated, but largely segregated – and I would go and play music and talk about it. I was in front of a lot of people who either thought I didn’t have a right to play the music, or didn’t care for the fact that I was playing black music. I very quickly sized up that the music wasn’t going to be enough for these audiences. So I started looking into the history and to what the stories behind the music was to engage an audience that either didn’t know or didn’t care to know (about the music). I started looking for a repertoire that would unite an audience around the story. Even in the world of the blues, there are many, many people who don’t know about the history of the music. Hopefully people will leave one of my performances slightly better educated and more entertained than they would had I just stood up there and played the tunes. The story opens the door and the song goes in.”

As much as the music and its history has long motivated Ainslie to keep playing the blues, at the end of the day, the friendships he’s forged – some maybe unexpected – have really became the foundation that he has built his life on. One of those lasting bonds of friendship was formed with the late George Higgs, a legendary bluesman from North Carolina who was inspired to play the blues after seeing Peg Leg Sam perform back during his youth.

“I met him in 1986 and the last time I saw him, I brought a guitar in, like we were going to play music like we usually did. It was a hot day and we pulled a couple of chairs around the kitchen table and he poured me a huge glass of Coca-Cola, which I generally don’t drink,” said Ainslie. “But we didn’t hit a note that day. We talked about our families and our kids. And I realized in that moment, that across what people consider the barriers of time, money, educational background and race, we’d become friends. That’s something that I wouldn’t trade. That’s made me who I am. If you could somehow take all the old men and women out of me – take the experiences, some very fleeting exchanges, out of me – no one would recognize me. I think that’s absolutely true. In my world, you can’t be a good musician without being a good person and the people that I revere – the people who made me what I am – were all extremely fine and refined human beings.”

Visit Scott’s website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist 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 12 

Shaun Murphy – Loretta

Vision Wall Records

12 tracks; 47:10 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Blues Rock; Rock and Roll; Electric Guitar Blues

Some things are unexplainable: self-destructive habits, poor people not voting, and Shaun Murphy not appearing at any of the Blues festivals listed in the 2014 “Blues Festival Guide.”

How have festival talent buyers missed this three time Grammy nominee and 2013’s only double winner at the Blues Blast Music Awards (Best Female Blues Artist of the Year and Best Contemporary Blues Album “Ask For the Moon”)? How have Blues cruise operators and festival buyers not noticed her tours and album credits with Eric Clapton (“Behind the Sun”), Bob Seger (since 1973, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2010), Bruce Hornsby, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey and The Moody Blues – to name a few?

Did the festival talent search committees miss her at the first “Live Aid Concert” in 1985? Were they unaware of her appearing in both of the Broadway productions of “Hair” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – On The Road”? Did festival talent chairmen sleep through her duo album with Meatloaf for Rare Earth/Motown Records (“Stoney and Meatloaf”), when a teenage Murphy arrived in Detroit MI and was known as “Stoney”? Did they not hear and see her lead singing for the legendary band Little Feat from 1993 through 2009; did they miss her appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight show and Conan O’Brien? Will they, now, notice Shaun’s Jimi Award for “2014 Best Female Vocalist” from Blues 411?

Currently on tour, again, with Bob Seger, doing 33 dates across late 2014 and early 2015, Shaun Murphy has quietly (?) carved out a “new” solo career since 2009 as Blues chanteuse and leader of the Shaun Murphy Band. Deciding to return to her Blues roots, Shaun released the album Livin’ The Blues in September 2009. A second album, The Trouble With Lovin’, followed in 2010. Late in 2011, Murphy released a DVD and live CD both titled Shaun Murphy Live at Callahan’s. Her album Ask for the Moon, released in 2012, was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won a Blues Blast Music Award. 2013 brought the CD “Cry of Love,” and, now, her sixth CD, Loretta, is now released.

Murphy’s magnificent vocals are showcased on each selection (there are no instrumentals). As one might surmise, Murphy possesses a vocal instrument with broad range, clear diction (even I can understand the lyrics), and pleasing pitch and timbre. Her superb deliveries exhibit expert meter and are full of vibrant passion. Of the 12 songs, 7 were penned or co-written by Shaun.

Right off the Launchpad, Murphy announces that this CD is a little more het up than previous works. The Rocking-the-Blues-like-a-barreling-freight-train arrangement in the opening original song “Don’t Lie to Me” is powered by stellar studio musicians. Throughout, here are the seasoned cats that throw down deftly: Jack Pearson – slide and lead guitars, Rob McNelley – lead guitar, Jimi Fiano – lead guitar, Kenneth Michael Cramer – guitar, Randy Coleman – bass, George Lilly – drums, Mark T. Jordan – keyboards, Larry Van Loon – keyboards, and Matt Workman – background vocals along with Randy Coleman and Shaun herself. The CD was produced by Murphy’s agent T.C. Davis and Randy Coleman.

By track 3, “Kiss My Like Whiskey,” Murphy slows it down to mid-tempo to soulfully plead beside Allman Brothers alum Jack Pearson’s plaintive yet insistent slide guitar. The protagonist is begging for passion, “Kiss my like whiskey; leave your taste on my tongue.”

In the rollicking up-tempo title track, Murphy takes the roll of scold. Her acquaintance “Loretta” is about to give her husband a “heart attack” with all her “sneaking around.” Sings the protagonist, “I’ve been down that road; I’ve walked in them shoes. Oh, Loretta, you need to slow down, or you’ll be singing those dead man Blues!” Again, Pearson paces the proceedings powerfully with his slithery slide guitar.

“Strange Life” is a slower number featuring welling organ by Larry Van Loon and harmonic guitar from Jimi Fiano. For some Rock and Roll fretboard fireworks courtesy of Rob McNelley, try Shaun’s version of the standard “Big Train Stops at Memphis.” A nice full-band treatment rides atop Van Loon’s organ in “Careful They Say,” a song penned by Laura Creamer, Murphy’s long time co-vocalist in Bob Seger’s band. John and Sally Tiven helped write a ballad of lament in “24 Hours from Memphis.” Paced by Randy Coleman’s pulsing bass guitar lines, the CD concludes with Murphy powerfully pouring herself into Bettye Crutcher’s “How Strong Is a Woman.”

Perhaps the “unexplainable” mentioned in the opening paragraph can partially be blamed on fans. It is up to fans to request her at festivals, theaters and clubs. Further, call radio stations and request Shaun. Fans just don’t know how much power they collectively have in these areas. Someone needs to wake up the talent buyers to what they are missing in Shaun Murphy.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard Saturdays 8 pm – Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 12 

Online Blues Guitar School With Keith Wyatt

It’s a great time to be an aspiring musician. It wasn’t that long ago that beginners started out on poor quality instruments and the only way to learn was either to find a local teacher or to spend hours wood-shedding in one’s room, learning off records or your friends, basically through trial and error. The former was not always a viable option, especially if one wanted to learn to play piano like Otis Spann but the local teacher insisted on teaching the complete works of Chopin. The latter took patience, dedication and a high tolerance for the sound of a cat being strangled.

Thankfully, good quality instruments are now widely available (and affordable) and there is an astonishing array of teaching tools available for musicians, from printed magazines and books that come with their own CDs or DVDs, through to high quality YouTube clips of great musicians demonstrating their techniques in close-up. A number of online music schools have also sprung up, offering lessons that vary significantly in style, format, quality and cost.

ArtistWorks recently launched a new online music learning resource, and they are cleverly bringing something new to the table.

The ArtistWorks website is structured around a series of online “schools”, each run by a highly respected artist and teacher. There are individual schools for certain instruments, such as piano, voice, harmonica, percussion and scratching, but broader schools covering Bluegrass, Bass, Classical and Guitar. Within each of school, different artists teach different approaches and styles, such as the Online Rock Guitar School with Paul Gilbert or the Online Mandolin School with Mike Marshall. Students, or members, pay a monthly fee, with different payment plans depending on whether they sign up for a month, three months or a year.

Each school is built around a core video lesson library that guides students from the fundamentals through to advanced techniques and concepts. All of the videos benefit from slow motion isolation and video looping. What sets ArtistWorks apart, however, is that students are able to submit practice videos of their own playing and receive personalized video responses from their teachers, providing custom feedback. Each video interaction between a teacher and the student is then paired together on the site and made available for all members to learn from. These video exchanges form the basis of a constantly growing online learning resource.

There are two immediate benefits to this approach. First, it is a learning experience for every musician simply to listen to other players, whether because the other musicians are inspiring and have something to “steal”, or perhaps because they demonstrate how something should not be played. Secondly, there are few better (or more humbling) ways for a musician to really improve than to record him or herself and then listen back with a critical ear. What may sound wonderful in a live (or bedroom) setting often does not bear repeated listening afterwards. Note selection may be poor, rhythm can be inconsistent, bends may not reach their intended pitch. When you record yourself to submit a video to a teacher, you may well learn a lot about your own playing even before receiving feedback from the master.

We reviewed the Blues Guitar School run by Keith Wyatt. Wyatt’s own resume is impeccable. Apart from holding down the guitar seat in The Blasters, he has for many years had a stellar reputation as both a musician and a teacher. His ArtistWorks Blues Guitar Lessons are split into different levels, each with approximately 30 or so different video lessons. In each video lesson, Wyatt addresses a specific aspect of blues guitar, analyses it and provides practice tips. At the moment, the four levels are: Fundamental (covering the basics of blues guitar, such as gear, terminology, notes on the neck, the 12 bar blues progression, vibrato, etc); Intermediate (riff chords, turnarounds, chord tones, phrasing with the 6th, blues tonality, etc); advanced (tremolo picking, jump blues, self-accompaniment, pedal points, etc) and Beyond Classic Blues (New Orleans blues, rockabilly, swamp blues, etc). There is also a section on music theory available to all students. After watching Wyatt’s lessons, students can submit their own videos on a particular topic, such as “Big Bends”, or just for general feedback. The upload process is very simple, and the site accepts videos in .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .flv, .wmv and .mp3 format. Tablature is available in relation to each lesson, as are .mp3 backing tracks, to enable students to practice what they have learned.

Wyatt has also added a series of fascinating blogs to the site that make great reading, for example of recommended classics blues albums to listen to or great blues guitar solos to transcribe.

The camera work for Wyatt’s videos is simple but effective, enabling students to follow Wyatt’s fingering as well as absorbing what he is saying. He has a very natural, relaxed approach to teaching and comes across in each video as warm, intelligent and genuinely interested in his students. Needless to say, his guitar playing is first class, but he is also very good at identifying positive aspects of a student’s playing when commenting on a video, as well as coming up with sensible, achievable ideas for the student to work on in order to improve. He also comments on and explains the techniques that the students use, which helps other viewers to adopt similar techniques. What is especially engaging about Wyatt’s teaching, however, is that he encourages his students to find their own individual voice, which has to be the ultimate aim of every blues musician.

ArtistWorks and Keith Wyatt are to be commended for having produced something very impressive with this learning tool. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced musician, you will find a huge resource here to improve your playing in these lessons. Certainly, this reviewer did. After using this product for this review, I put my money where my mouth is, and signed up for more!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 12 

Joakim Tinderholt and His Band – You Gotta Do More

Big H Records

11 tracks; 30:02 minutes; Suggested

Styles: 1950s Styled R&B and Blues; Rock and Roll; Electric Blues Guitar-West Coast style

In the year 2000, Atlanta’s Sean Costello, at age 20, broke nationally with an extraordinary album, Cuttin’ In. It featured a young man playing guitar and singing in 1950s, retro-style R&B and Rock and Roll. Costello was not the only artist in 2000 playing these styles; he was just the most inventive, most creative, and most exciting with his singing and his guitar runs, especially the up-tempo ones.

15 years later, another young man (still in his 20s) is playing guitar and singing 1950s, retro-style R&B and Rock and Roll. Norway’s Joakim Tinderholt is not the only artist in 2015 playing these styles, but he is just one of the most inventive, most creative, and most exciting in his singing and his guitar runs, especially the up-tempo ones (think Hollywood Fats). Considered one of Norway’s finest performers, Oslo’s best Blues shouter is a force that is kicking tail in the garnering-attention department.

According to Håkon Høye of Big H Records in an email to me, “Joakim has always been an admirer of Sean Costello and his music.” Indeed, one will find three cover songs on You Gotta Do More that also appeared as covers on Costello’s Cuttin’ In album. Høye reported, “The cover songs you mention have been part of Joakim’s live show for years….” As it turns out, Tinderholt has been influenced by many of the masters. Høye continued, “He’s [Joakim] also a big fan of T-Bone [Walker], B.B. and Freddie King + the whole West Coast scene with Lynwood Slim, Hollywood Fats Band, Kid Ramos, etc. … and Rock n Roll: Nick Curran, Nikki Hill, etc. He [Joamim] is Chris ‘Kid’ Andersen’s [younger] cousin, and I (Håkon) and Kid used to play and hang out together before he [Kid] left for the States with Terry Hanck.”

While this debut CD only clocks at 30 minutes, the from-the-gut-and-heart excitement is undeniable. There are 11 songs; only one is more than three minutes long, which was a 1950s standard. Tinderholt does not copy, but instead translates, the music that was created before even his mother was born. The songs are a mix of originals and obscure cover favorites from his live set. There are inspirations from the Rock & Roll of Little Richard to the Blues of Otis Rush and to the beats of Bo Diddley. In the liner notes written by Kid Andersen, he says, “I’ll put him and his band, and this record, up against anything going on in the Blues world today.”

Performing at high standards in expressing a foreign musical language that they obviously treasure are: William “Bill” Troiani – bass and back-up vocals, Håkon Høye – producer, second guitars, back-up vocals, Robert Alexander Pettersen – drums and percussion, and Kjell Magne Lauritzen – piano.

The album kicks off wisely with an original song, “Stumblin’ & Fumblin’,” which joyously informs listeners to the direction of the album. Tinderholt’s wonderful vocals lament how he (the protagonist) has fallen on hard times. Guest sax player Kasper Skullerud Vaernes helps create a full supporting sound. Joakim gets bursts of a stinging-shimmer-tremolo sound from his guitar that is a highlight for this fanatic of the instrument.

“I Need a Woman (‘Cause I’m a Man)” showcases Joakim’s finest West Coast style electric guitar as he picks and bends single notes, over chording. The song swings with tinkling piano plus solid bass and drums. The highlight is Tinderholt’s singing. His plea is convincing without being corny. His vocal power is intense but, uniquely, not loud. And, his range is incredible – even shifting into slight falsetto in the final line. Another original where upbeat and swing rhythm is dominant is found in “Another Rainy Day.”

Fat toned harp courtesy of studio guest Arne Rasmussen highlight the set’s 1961 Bo Diddley cover, “You Don’t Love Me.” “Gold Top” is a popping, guitar-led instrumental composed by Tinderholt. The title track, “You Gotta Do More,” is good old Rock and Roll written by Høye and Troiani. Baritone sax from KS Vaernes highlights C. Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working” – a track full double edged sword misery and pleasure. Willie Dixon’s 1954 song, “I Don’t Care Who Knows” is given a delightful full-ensemble treatment with tinkling piano, crashing cymbals, pocket bass, tenor saxophone, and Håkon Høye shows off on lead guitar while Joakim exclaims vocals of declarative love.

The final three tracks are the aforementioned covers done also by Sean Costello. As with the rest of the CD, there is inspiration without imitation as Tinderholt makes each song his own. “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights” from Earl King and Johnny Vincent is a get your baby in your arms on the dancefloor kind of arrangement. Otis Rush’s misery-filled “Double Trouble” is played slightly faster than most versions but with all the original passion and more stinging-shimmer-tremolo guitar. Costello’s influence can be felt most strongly in “Little” Bob Camille’s “I Got Loaded” from 1964 Louisiana. It was a hit party song for Camille, and the Norwegian’s version should fare the same.

Joakim Tinderholt and His Band are already big in Norway; bet on this being a breakout record on the American scene!

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard Saturdays 8 pm – Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 12 

The Mike Henderson Band – If You Think It’s Hot In Here….

EllerSoul Records

11 tracks/51:34

Blues fans may recall guitarist Mike Henderson from the two well-received recordings he released with his band the Bluebloods more than fifteen years ago. Some people may remember him as the original guitar player for the Bel Airs. Other listeners may have heard his two country projects or more recently his part in the popular bluegrass band, the Steeldrivers. Henderson is also an accomplished songwriter with a number of hits to his credit including “Powerful Stuff,” done by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. You can count Emmylou Harris and John Hiatt among the artists who have utilized Henderson’s guitar skills on their own album projects.

For his first release on the EllerSoul label, Henderson is back playing the kind of low-down blues that would be the perfect soundtrack for a night in any beer-soaked roadhouse across the country. The disc opens with the dark, foreboding sound of his slide guitar on “I Wanta Know Why,” followed by the first of two Hound Dog Taylor covers. “Send You Back To Georgia” gets a rousing treatment with Kevin McKendree, formerly with Delbert McClinton, pounding the piano with the gusto of Jerry Lee Lewis before Henderson uses his slide guitar to whip things into a frenzy. Michael Rhodes on bass and Pat O’Connor on drums create the propulsive drive on “It’s Alright,” with McKendree’s rollicking solo eclipsed by some rambunctious slide from the leader.

The disc has a darker-hued, foreboding sound that works particularly well on the Robert Johnson classic, “If I Had Possession”. Henderson’s fingers dance around the fretboard on the taut opening segment. Then the band joins in, setting up a loose shuffle behind some stirring barrelhouse piano from McKendree. A rough-hewn version of “Mean Red Spider” features a straight-forward, sturdy vocal from Henderson bolstered by McKendree’s sparkling runs. The pace slows on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Unseen Eye,” with Henderson’s stinging licks creating a web of pain & sorrow. On the title track, he wonders what is in store for those who leave this life only to find the pearly gates shut tight.

Other standout tracks include the original “Weepin’ and Moanin’,” with McKendree channeling the best of the traditional Chicago blues piano style. Henderson unleashes another string-bending gem of a solo over the swaggering pace of “Gambler’s Blues,” giving us a ferocious reminder of the perils of trying to beat the odds. A soul-shaking take of “Matchbox” rocks with the intensity of a sanctified preacher. “Rock House Blues” closes the disc with Henderson blowing some harp over relaxed, steady-rolling accompaniment from McKendree’s piano.

If you are ever in Nashville on a Monday night, make a point to get to the Bluebird Café to hear Mike Henderson tearing it up live & in-person. Just make sure you get there real early if you want to get a foot inside the door. In the meantime, grab a copy of this release, turn it up loud and enjoy a band with a no-frills approach powered by the instrumental prowess of Henderson & McKendree. Heartily recommended!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 12 

Jeff Jensen – Morose Elephant

Swingsuit Records

11 tracks/47:01

Anyone who has ever witnessed a Jeff Jensen live show is fully aware of how much energy the guitarist expends as flies across the stage, seemingly lost in a world that only he can navigate. The rock-solid support he gets from Bill Ruffino on bass and Robinson Bridgeforth on drums serves as his musical life-line tethering him to the world of reality that the rest of us live in.

His new release finds Jensen in a calmer, more focused state of being that brings his many talents into sharper focus. At the start we get a dose of pure Memphis soul on an original “Make It Through,” Jensen’s soaring vocal riding the lush Wurlitzer organ wash courtesy of Victor Wainwright in addition to the bright horn accents from two members of the Bo-Keys, Kirk Smothers on saxophone and Marc Franklin on trumpet/flugelhorn. “Fall Apart” is another Jensen original with an expressive, yearning vocal wrapped around a cushion from the horns and a deft guitar solo. Reba Russell adds her vocal harmonies as Jensen takes us to church on a stirring version of “Going Home,” a traditional hymn that O.V. Wright also covered.

The arrangement of “Paper Walls” features Chris Stephenson on organ & a toy piano, giving the track an otherworldly sound. Jensen’s dramatic vocal conjures up visions of a world of chaos similar to the vistas of Tom Waits best work. “Ash and Bone” is a beautiful ballad enhanced by the breathtaking fiddle playing from Anne Harris. The band is far more aggressive on “Get Along,” with Jensen’s hard-rocking guitar in the spotlight before the horns join at the end to drive home an appeal for understanding. Drummer James Cunningham propels the swirling instrumental “Elephant Blue” with Stephenson taking the organ on a wild ride. Jensen follows up with fleet-fingered, fluid solo that builds to soul-wrenching climax.

Other highlights include the light-hearted vocal duet between Jensen & Wainwright on the Memphis Minnie classic, “What’s The Matter With the Mill,” with plenty of Wainwright’s two-fisted piano playing. Jensen switches to acoustic guitar and Eric Hughes joins in on harmonica to create the laidback feel on Amos Milburn’s “Bad Bad Whiskey”. Ruffino and Cunningham inject “Always Be In Love With You” with a swinging rhythm elicits strong solos from Jensen, Smothers, and Wainwright.

The disc includes a bonus track, “Empty Bottles,” another acoustic number with Gary Allegretto on harmonica accompanying Jensen through a frank assessment of the financial turmoil that has overwhelmed so many in recent years. It offers one final glimpse of Jeff Jensen’s maturing musical perspective.

The fact that Jensen can articulate his vision so well throughout the stylistic changes puts this one in the “do not miss” category!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 12 

D.A. Foster – The Real Thing

VizzTone Label Group

12 tracks / 48:45

It is appropriate that D.A. Foster titled his new album The Real Thing, because if anybody is the real thing, he is. He was the heart of The Shaboo Inn of Connecticut from 1971 to 1982, and during that time the 1000-seat venue hosted almost 3000 concerts, featuring young and upcoming acts that included the likes of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Journey, Cheap Trick, and the Police. It was like a 1980s rocker’s dream come true! But a lot of great blues acts made their appearance there too, such as John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, and a probably a few hundred more. After the club closed its doors (thanks to the scourge of the disco era), a few months later it was destroyed in a fire.

But the story does not end there, as D.A. had a lot left in his tank. He started a production company and ran his own band with luminaries such as Matt “Guitar” Murphy” and Harvey Brooks. Foster brought his fine blues vocals to the table with this project to continue on with a performance career that has been brewing since 1979. Over the past 35 years, everybody under the sun has joined him onstage, including Keith Richards, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. You would be hard-pressed to find a better pedigree than his.

Moving forward to 2015, D.A. has cut a fine disc, The Real Thing, which has its own roster of strong personnel; all of them are first-call musicians. Besides D.A.’s vocals, there is the Grammy-winning Phantom Blues Band to contend with, including Mike Finnigan (Big Brother and the Holding Company) on the keys, Tony Braunagel (Robert Cray, and many more) behind the drum kit, Larry Fulcher on bass and Bonnie Raitt’s Johnny Lee Schell on guitar. Other Phantom alumni to be found here are Darrell Leonard (trumpet), Joe Sublett (sax), and Lenny Castro (percussion). Braunagle and Finnigan produced this effort, and it is a polished piece of work, to be sure!

The twelve tracks span classic rhythm and blues and jazz ground as well as a few lesser-known covers, starting off with Dave Steen’s “Good Man Bad Thing.” This is a straight-up funky R&B tune which is a nice intro to Foster’s soulful voice, backed by some excellent B-3 work from Finnigan, sweet backing vocals from Julie Delgado and Nita Whitaker, and horns aplenty.

Not surprisingly, there are a few tunes by Don Robey, who was one of the most prolific R&B writers of the 1950s and 1960s. “Ain’t Doing Too Bad” puts the horns in the spotlight, and Schell brings a little more funk to the party with his syncopated rhythm guitar work, as well a rocking solo. The other Robey contribution is “This Time I’m Gone for Good” which shows off more of Foster’s impressive vocal range.

For pure fun, Eddie Hinton’s “Super Lover” takes first prize. It brings a little bit of everything to the table: fun lyrics, offbeat percussion (courtesy of Castro), machine-gun horn arrangements, and seductive backing vocals. This one should definitely go into your next party mix!

A different line-up was used for three of the songs, with uber-versatile Grammy-winner Josh Sklair on guitar and the hard-working veteran David Garfield on piano. With Josh’s leads and David’s subtle chording, “We All Fall Down” ends up with more of a jazz-rock feel. Bill Withers’ 1985 ballad, “You Just Can’t Smile it Away,” puts Garfield more forward in the mix, and gives guest artist Lee Thornberg a chance to shine on a beautifully muted trumpet (or is that flugelhorn?) solo. And the band’s remake of the oft-covered “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You” provides room for FInnigan to take over a bit on his Hammond, lending it a gospel/roadhouse feel.

The album closes out all too soon with George Henry Jackson’s “Down Home Blues,” which is the grittiest and most traditional blues track to be found on this disc. For this one, D.A. pushes his voice into the raspy range, which is a lovely contrast with the backing vocals of Delgado and Whitaker. The backline of Braunagel and Fulcher hold tight in the pocket as this awesome songs ends things on a killer note.

If you were a fan of the good old days at The Shaboo Inn or if you just like solid rhythm and blues, D.A. Foster’s The Real Thing would certainly be a wise investment. Check it out and see for yourself!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 12 

Blue Highway – Carpe Diem: Live At the Coach House

Far West Mississippi Recordings

8 tracks

Blue Highway hails from Southern California. Mourning the death of John Harrelson in 2013, they celebrate his legacy with this 2014 release of a live recording of theirs from 1995. Opening for Charlie Musselwhite, the band was obviously psyched and energized. Formed in 1993, the band is a high energy rocking group of musicians. In addition to Harrelson on vocals and guitar, the 1995 band was Rob Donofrio on vocals and bass, “King” Roger Ehrnman on tenor sax and Rick Campos on drums.

Harrelson’s career spanned 45 years. The band dissolved for a time due to Harrelson’s health, but Harrelson continued to perform in his home town of Claremont, CA. The band had a reunion in 2008 and now has reformed with new members. The film Dead Man Rockin’ was released prior to John’s death and highlights Harrelson’s career. It has also won some film awards. This album was recorded in nearby San Juan Capistrano in California as the band was opening for one of the many greats that they had opened for.

I must say that there are lots of highs and some lows here. Harrelson’s vocals are earthy but also strained on the three tracks he sang as he fronted the band that night. He’s gutsy and very rough hewn as he sings on “Fire and Gasoline,” “I Want Your Ass,” and “The Shuffle King.” While the vocals are strained, the rest of the performance is pretty darn good. Blending the sax with guitar leads, the band really has an interesting groove going. The first song is slow blues and Ehrnman gives a really standout performance on the sax. Harrelson’s guitar is well done, too. On “I Want Your Ass” Harrelson made me chuckle a bit with the lyrical topic he sings about and Ehrnman is again quite the showman here. “The Shuffle King” features Harrelson going over the top on some big guitar solos; he teases the crowd with tidbits of many rock classics as he closes this driving shuffle.

Donofrio’s lead vocals are much more precise and smooth. He’s a rocker who likes to belt one out. “Cut You Loose” opens and is a driving cut with big vocals, sax and guitar. “You Make Me Smile” is a short and frenetically high paced rocker. “Full Time Lover” follows and Harrelson picks out some wicked slow blues. Donofrio, Harrelson and Ehrnman all offer emotive performances. “24 Hours Of The Day” is an upbeat swinging cut that led into the closing tune “The Shuffle King.”

A bonus track from 1994 features Harrelson acoustic off a video tape that the tune was extracted from. Recorded at the Espresso Yourself in Upland, CA, the tune shows a softer side of Harrelson solo as he picks out some good stuff and sings. The vocals are rough as that was his style, but it’s a cool little cut.

Now with D.J. Alverson on guitar and Steve Rios on drums, the band continues the free wheeling and rough hewn style of this energized blues rocking band. Harrelson’s legacy continues as the new band plays many of the tunes from his huge repertoire. I’d not heard this band before; Harrelson never was “found” despite his huge catalogue of work. Kudos to the band for their dedication to their friend and fellow band mate and keeping his legacy alive!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 12 

Scott Ainslie – The Last Shot Got Him

Cattail 2014

14 tracks; 44 minutes

Musician and blues historian Scott Ainslie’s sixth album was inspired by the acquisition of a 1934 Gibson L-50: “She’s an old lady who knows what she likes”! Scott brings together a series of songs mainly recorded between 1928 and 1941, all played on the L-50 with just a little additional instrumentation, everything played and sung by Scott. Everything is beautifully recorded with crystal clear instruments and vocals.

Mississippi John Hurt is the source for no fewer than six of these tunes, from his tribute to his home town “Avalon” to the catchy “Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied”, both from John’s New York session for Okeh in 1928. The title of the album comes from MJH’s “The First Shot Missed Him” on which Scott adds fretless gourd banjo. The gentle “Honey Right Away” dates from 1966, after MJH’s rediscovery and first recorded at his final recording session; a steel string banjo adds color to Scott’s warm delivery of this charming song.

The jaunty “Monday Morning Blues” is another from 1928 and “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” from 1929 has lyrics supplied by record company executive WE Myers to a tune inspired by Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting For A Train”. Not surprisingly Robert Johnson also gets a look-in with “Love In Vain” and “Cross Road Blues” (Scott pointing out in the liner notes that, despite the mythology about this song and RJ’s life there is no mention of the devil in the song) Reverend Gary Davis is represented by the irreverent “Sally Whiskey”, a song he wrote before his conversion to preacher.

Scott’s only composition here is “Late Last Night”, written at the time of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, so the lyrics have more of a contemporary resonance than most of the album: “Late last night rich and powerful men set the dogs loose on our throats again”. However, the music sits well alongside all the pre-war songs here.

Scott also takes in a wider spectrum than just blues by covering Irving Berlin’s 1932 song “Say It Isn’t So” in a lovely, gentle version with added bass, “When I See An Elephant Fly” from Disney’s “Dumbo” (1941) and Fats Waller’s cheeky “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (1929) which Scott has been playing live since the 1980’s. Reminding us that the song almost failed to make the final cut of 1939 movie “The Wizard Of Oz”, Scott’s slow and respectful adaptation of “Over The Rainbow” closes the album.

Through all these vintage songs Scott and his old guitar sound absolutely superb and fans of pre-war acoustic blues should certainly seek out this album.

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 – 10 of 12 

Kyle Jester – After All This

Self Released

14 tracks/52 minutes

Kyle Jester offers up fourteen cool and fun tracks that showcase his talents along with the talents of his supporting cast. Kid Andersen on bass, Brian “Nucci” Cantrell on drums, Aki Kumar on harp, and Sid Morris on piano swing, jump and jive as Jester lays out some classy vocals and guitar. Kid Andersen recorded, engineered and mastered the album and the sound is cool- he’s create a classic blues and early rock sound! The sound transports us back 50 to 60 years to a time when music ruled the airwaves and bands traveled from town to town impressing the youth of America with their wares.

Originally from San Diego and playing in the southern California area, Jester was weaned on all the acts touring the area. He became part of Candye Kanes’ band and after a five year stint with her he moved to Chicago to support his wife as she attended medical school. He took a break from music but did spend a year with Perry Weber and the Devilles from Milwaukee. He recalls the time and his playing with Jim Liban and Gerry Hundt which he said, “Was super cool.” Now it’s seven years later he’s back in California (Bay Area) and he apparently has not missed a beat!

He begins with Eddie Taylor’s “You’ll Always Have A Home.” The guitar and harp lead into a great little boogie with an almost rockabilly feel to it. As Jester began singing about his baby with “hair as long as his right arm” I was sold after just a few bars. He sings extremely well, the guitar is impeccable and the band is totally solid. Ahmet Ertegan’s “Whatcha Gonna Do” swings like it’s 1958 with Jester and his backing vocalist harmonizing and the sweet guitar sounds. They get into a great groove with the keys and hand claps and even I felt like dancing! “Drive It Home” is a Snooks Eaglin cut and Jester nails it. The vocals are spot on as he wails and Kumar’s harp punctuates the vocals nicely. Jester of course solos and it is solid as he is throughout. Professor Longhair makes an “appearance” in Hadacol Bounce” and we get a little New Orleans swing flavor to savor. Very cool cover with great piano in the mix! “Big Fat Wallet” follows, the first of two originals. The piano goes full barrel house style s Jester’s guitar effort goes back and forth with Morris.

Snooky Pryor’s “You Tried to Ruin Me” and it’s time for more harp along with some great blues vocals. “Ace of Spades” is an old O.V. Wright (Don Robey) song that Jester gives new life to. Thoughtful, soulful and cool- Jester really has some chops! The Lee Baker (Guitar Jr.) tune “Knocks Me Out” takes us back to Memphis with another swinging groove. Great piano, guitar and vocals again! “Number Nine Train” (Bobbie Robinson, aka Tarheel Slim) gets moved into the rockabilly realm with this cover. Jester’s interpretations are really well done! “How Can You Be So Mean” by Johnny Ace hails from 1955 but songs fresh as a daisy as Jester spins it his way. Kumar’s harp and his gritty vocals make this great and then Jester gives us a huge and ringing guitar solo to suck up and love.

The other original is a sultry “After All This” where Jester picks out some sweet guitar and then sings lovingly to his woman. The Don Dally Orchestra adds to the mood with strings and a full sound to make another special cut for us! “BB Boogie” lets Jester give us his interpretation of Lucille and Mssr. King’s classic. The song rocks as he and the band lay out the boogie so well. The piano really makes this one over the top. Lester Butler’s “No Fightin'” is very west coast and Jester pays homage to the Red Devils of two decades past. The harp is amazing here and Jester is just right there in the mix, making this just another outstanding cut. The wrap up cut is Jerry “Boogie” McCain’s “Turn Your Damper Down.” Dirty harp, a little distortion on the vocals and mix and some super musical effort and we have another great cut!

This a a swinging albums of blues with enough variety and spice to keep even the fussiest of blues fans interested. Jester offers up some fine performances on originals and covers alike, having chosen a superb set of songs to cover and interpret for us. He is entertaining and the musicianship is excellent. I really enjoyed this CD a lot and I think blues fans all over will also really appreciate it! This is a no-holds-barred fantastic album that you must own!

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 – 11 of 12 

Markus James – Head For The Hills

Firenze Records

16 songs – 56 minutes

This is something special. The multi-talented Markus James (he plays guitar, gourd banjo, three-string cigarbox guitar, slide dulcimer, one-string diddley bow, beatbox and harp on the album as well as singing) initially made his name in the mid-1990s while based in Mali, later releasing five critically-acclaimed albums incorporating local influences. His last album featured collaborations with trance groove hunters and a shaman in Mali, as well as Calvin Jackson in Mississippi, travelling Tamasheks in California and African Diaspora musicians in the US.

Over recent years, James has been investigating the relationship and connections between West African music and the Blues. This is an area that has been touched on by other musicians previously, perhaps most successfully by Taj Mahal and his 1999 release, Kulanjan. James’ own investigations led him to the North Mississippi Hill Country and the recording of Head For The Hills, on which he is backed by a veritable “who’s who” of North Mississippi Hill Country drummers, including Kinney Kimbrough (the son of the great Junior), ex-R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough drummer, Calvin Jackson, Aubrey “Bill” turner and R.L. Boyce. Former John Lee Hooker drummer, Marlon Green, also appears on drums and beatbox. There are no other musicians. No bass players, no keyboards, no horns. And the result is a powerful, moving selection of heavy blues.

This album comes roaring out of the speakers with the opening track, “Just Say Yes”. “Can’t put the bullet back into the gun. Can’t undo it, when it’s already done. Hard to stop, once you’ve begun” sings James over Kinney Kimbrough’s vicious, driving drums. Then James’ roaring, wailing slide cigarbox solo cuts through the song like an impassioned scream.

Beautifully recorded, there is a clarity to each instrument and a warm depth to the sound that is impressive. On some tracks, such as the cover of R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South”, the moving instrumental “For Blind Willie” (on which James creates a remarkable homage to the great Texan slide guitar player) or the closing song, “Green”, there is some background noise of cicadas and the like. Whether over-dubbed or not, the subtley of the effect only adds to the overall ambience of the album.

Highlights abound here, but one track in particular that stands out is the title track, which is included in two different versions: one acoustic and one electric. On the former, delicate finger picked guitar is underpinned by Calvin Jackson’s gentle hambone percussion. On the latter, Kinney Kimbrough’s irresistibly forceful drumming drives a harder, sharper version. In both versions, James’s striking vocal images stay in the mind long after the song has finished: “Well, it’s hard out there, all the pimps and pills, all the dealers and all their pretty shills. The first one’s free and the last one kills. Time to head for the hills.”

James is a superb guitar player, whether strumming simple chords on “Sleepyhead”, creating a rubbery groove with a diddley bow in “Nomo” or unleasing electric slide like an amped-up Muddy Waters on “Woke Me”. He possesses a distinctive, powerful singing voice and also wrote 15 of the 16 songs on the album. The songs are all blues songs, but James successfully avoids the old 12-bar blues clichés, both in structure and lyrically. His lyrics in particular have one foot in traditional blues and one foot in the modern age. In the curiously affecting love song, “Woke Me”, for example, he sings “Woke up this morning, sky was bleeding red. I tried to remember what you did or said that shook me baby and woke me from the dead.”

There is a raw, almost visceral edge to this album and the result is a memorable, highly enjoyable album that bears repeated listening. Great stuff.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 12 of 12 

Geoff Carne – One to One

Advision, United Kingdom

11 Songs Total (2 Acoustic Versions); 45 Minutes

Geoff Carne can best be described as a British rock/blues guitarist and vocalist. Major influences include musicians Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale, and Don Henley. This CD has 9 originally written rocking tracks with the last two songs being acoustic versions of the aforementioned originals.

Carne started out gigging in the early 80’s doing the pub scene prior to locating to his home base of London in 1987. Near the end of 1988, Geoff teamed with West London rockers, Dream State City. He continued playing locally with a few breaks until 1994 where he toured mainly as an acoustic artist in United Kingdom pubs and bars. In 1998, Geoff joined with producer/musician Paul Mex and that helped broaden his musical abilities. “One to One” showcases the artists rocking roots, flair for guitar driven tunes, and blues roots background.

Highlights from the record include:

Song 7: “One to One”-This one is sexy song about connecting and passion. The upbeat musical arrangement makes for a feel good experience for the ears. The lyrics are about two people being attracted to each other and the journey that follows when everything is hitting on all cylinders. Carne’s web site notes the record One to One as being an album for the ladies. This track highlights that description. This tune is also featured at the end of the CD as a bonus acoustic version. The passion really shines though on this song.

Song 8: “Deep and Dirty”-This tune is grooving from the opening note. Erotic lyrics and steady guitar help this song along nicely. “Take me down deep and dirty with you” leaves nothing to the imagination as to what is on the artists mind! Here again Geoff has decided to make this tune a bonus track at the end of the disc with the acoustic version. There is something to be said for the rawness and feelings of acoustic music.

Song 2: “Crazy Blues”-A track about love, lust, and longing. We have all had twisting, confusing, uncontrollable feelings in a relationship; these songs lyrics tell of just that. “Holding on to what I cannot control, without reason we win and we lose, still I wait for you…

Artists on the album include Geoff Carne on vocals and guitar; Paul Mex playing bass, keyboards, drums, and guitar; and Mick Armstrong making a guest appearance on drums and percussion.

Carne has performances in and around the London area at random; you can keep up with him and track happenings via Facebook and Twitter.

Reviewer Shannon Courto has been a Blues enthusiast since 1999. Her favorite types include delta Blues, Chicago Blues & jump/swing. She is lucky to live in St. Louis, Missouri where the music is flourishing.

 Blues Society News 

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

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The Colorado Blues Society – Windsor, CO

The Colorado Blues Society Remember John-Alex Mason. The legacy of John-Alex Mason’s music is an essential part of Colorado Blues History. Please join us for this amazing event, headlined by the Cedric Burnside Project, as we celebrate the memory of John-Alex on Sunday, February 22nd. Held at the beautiful Soiled Dove Underground in Denver, all seats are reserved, so get yours early for what promises to be a celebration of one of Colorado’s own.

The Colorado Blues Society is putting together a special show to benefit the John-Alex Mason Scholarship Fund. In addition to Cedric Burnside this will be an acoustic blues show with some interesting pairings, the tentative lineup has Dan Treanor & Randall Dubis; Erica Brown, MJ and Michael Hossler; Nic Clark, Andy Sydow and Curtis Hawkins; Dr. Izzy, Robert Morrison and Richard Yale; Rex Peoples & Jack Hadley; Eef & Stacey Turpenoff, and possibly more. John-Alex was a huge believer in getting our youth involved in blues and music and his scholarship continues that belief today. Doors open at 1PM and the show starts at 2PM. Info at

Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI

Madison Blues Society will host the 8th Annual Wild Women of the Blues featuring Lisa Wenger and her Mean Mean Men on March 5, 2015, 7:00PM at the High Noon Saloon, 01 E. Washington Avenue in Madison.

This is a Benefit for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), the only Dane County area shelter for survivors and children of domestic violence. DAIS continues to promote awareness and education to our communities through several vital programs, and has made phenomenal strides in providing necessary resources for those in crisis and need. More info:

Also supporting MBS Blues in the Community programs. This event celebrates the talent and empowerment of women in an environment of inspirational musical performance. An exciting national blues act and her band result in a not-to-miss event.

Tickets: $15 advance / $18 day of show or MBS for members: $12 advance / $15 day of show. More Info:

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 16th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on 3/14/15.

The Lineup will include Left Wing Bourbon, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, Bobby Messano, The Chris O’Leary Band, and Samantha Fish. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn utilizing the Code: “BLUES20”. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/14/15. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at –

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.  Junction, February 9 – Nigel Mack & the Blues Attack, February 16 – David Lumsden and Friends, February 23 – RJ Mischo

Additional ICBC shows (all held in Springfield, Illinois): Feb. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, March 21 – Ronnie Baker Brooks ICBC 29th Birthday Party w/special guests the Blues Expressions. K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Rd. Springfield, Illinois.

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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