Issue 9-9 February 26 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

  In This Issue 

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues Blast Magazine’s Best New Artist winner, Shawn Holt.

We welcome a new writer, Jonny Meister, to Blues Blast Magazine this week. Among his many accomplishments Jonny has hosted a blues radio show on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia since 1977 and received the Keeping Blues Alive award in 2000 for work in public radio. He has written liner notes for several noted artists including J.B. Lenoir, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, Koko Taylor, John Lee Hooker and others. Jonny reviews a very special new 5 CD box set of music by Lead Belly from Smithsonian Folkways.

We also have a review of a book by Sly Stone’s sister plus reviews of music by Funky Butt Brass Band, Old Gray Mule, EG Kight and Lisa Biales, Donnie McCormick and the Fat City Wildcats, Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts, Ricky Nye, Pass Over Blues Band and a double CD set of Blues guitar picking called The Blues And Salvation which features some unreleased material by artists such as the Reverend Gary Davis, The Wooten Singers, George Higgs, Louisiana Red, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and others.

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 kick off the first Blues Overdose series for 2015 in this issue. We have 5 FREE music tracks for you to download including music by Benny Turner, Low Society, The Sidney Green Street Band, Kyle Jester and the Jay Willie Band. Scroll down to the bottom of this issue to get yourself some free Blues music!

Artists interested in having their music included in Blues Overdose issues coming up in March, April and May should send check out the details of this free program to help artists promote their music at:

For those in Central Illinois area, there is a great show coming up in Peoria, IL on Sunday March 9th at the Limelight Eventplex, 8102 N. University called The Young Guns Of Blues featuring Samantha Fish, Mike Zito, Matthew Curry and Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Momma. For more information and tickets, click on their ad below.

Also, we want to let you know that we will be releasing the details of the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards and how artists and labels can have their music considered in next weeks issue. Get ready!

Also, again these are the last few days to get one of the new Blues Blast Magazine t-shirts for as low as $12 with FREE US shipping. The sale ends on February 28. So show your support for Blues Blast Magazine and get yourself one.

We had a huge response from mentioning this last week but we still have lots of sizes and colors available, some in long sleeve, plus we also have ladies sizes to fit the stylish Blues woman in your life! The free shipping ends on Sunday. Get yours now. Click Here.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

  Blues Wanderings 

I made it out to Blues Monday this week to catch a set by RJ Mischo. RJ often does short tours in areas of the country and this one was a 5 day tour through the Midwest with stops in St Louis, Indianapolis and Springfield, IL. He had a backing band from St Louis with him that included Paul Niehaus IV on bass, Derek Bonn on drums and an amazing guitar player, Rich McDonough.


RJ released a new CD called Everything I Need late last year. Look for a review in Blues Blast Magazine in the coming weeks. You can hear some of the new CD at You ARE gonna want to get this one!

Early Bird Ad Special


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings – 2015

5 CDs – 109 Songs

Includes 140-page, large-format book

We can perhaps forgive Moe Asch, who recorded Lead Belly extensively for his Asch, Disc, and Folkways labels for a little exaggeration. Asch is quoted in the book accompanying the five-disc box set Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, ” … we had a life together for about twenty years in which he recorded for me over 500 different songs.” The author of the book and co-producer of the box set, Jeff Place, sets the record straight: it was eight years. Leadbelly’s recording career actually ran a total of fifteen years, and interestingly, he answers a question about how many songs he knows on a 1941 radio show in New York, which is only newly available to us now in this set, reissued from a transcription record, saying he knows 500 songs.

In his introduction to the book, the box set’s co-producer Robert Santelli offers a familiar quote from Woodie Guthrie: “Leadbelly is a hard name. And the hard name of a harder man.” Huddie Ledbetter apparently acquired the nickname Lead Belly while an inmate at Sugarland Prison in Texas in the 1920s, and for some decades it was rendered as “Leadbelly,” which is still probably its more familiar form, though his family has said it should be two words – – which is how it appears in the Blues Foundation’s list of Blues Hall of Fame inductees as well.

The box set offers us plenty of information, and the music to go with it, about this singular figure in American folk and blues music. While there are places in his well-known story where fact may give way to legend, the familiar story of a man with a 12-string guitar and a bottomless supply of songs who did serious time in prison for violent crimes and “sang his way out of prison,” not once but twice, is largely accurate. Lead Belly was born in rural post-Reconstruction Louisiana, where anger about losing the Civil War connected synergistically with resentment about Reconstruction to produce virulent racism, exemplified by, but not limited to, the Ku Klux Klan. Given such adverse circumstances, Huddie Ledbetter may still have been initially better off than some of his contemporaries, growing up in an intact family with parents determined to get ahead economically and socially.

Lead Belly’s first instrument was actually a button accordion, and there are several dance tunes in this set where he plays it, including “Sukey Jump” and “John Hardy,” a song about an African-American outlaw in West Virginia that has been popular among folk performers for many decades, many of whom learned it from Lead Belly.

Visits to Shreveport, and to the area where there were some rough bars and brothels on Fannin Street, gave young Ledbetter exposure to other sides of life, and a song title too. “Fannin Street,” which was also known as “Mister Tom Hughes Town” and “Cry To Me,” but is best-remembered today as “Last Go-Round,” features Lead Belly’s guitar-style on his 12-string Stella at its best. Not as technically adept as Blind Lemon Jefferson, with whom he travelled for a while in the 1920s, Leadbelly still offers an absolutely identifiable signature as a guitarist, made bolder by the use of a 12-string. His frequent use of walking, boogie woogie-like, bass runs probably draws from boogie woogie piano music, which actually started itself in Texas and Louisiana where he was based. Lead Belly often uses a descending bass line, major seventh to fifth to root, only half a step from Jefferson’s distinctive seventh, fifth, root.

“One Dime Blues,” a Blind Lemon Jefferson song, taken from an undated acetate recording is listed as also being entitled “Fore-Day Blues,” though on Lead Belly’s discussion of the song before he plays it, he is clearly talking about “four-way,” and also “three-way” blues. He is likely referring to the fact that the song uses an a-a-a-b (three matching lines and an answering line) theme, instead of the familiar a-a-b blues theme (two matching lines and an answering line).

Lead Belly’s talk about his songs and their history is of great interest throughout the set, occurring in formal settings such as the radio shows, and informal ones. The fifth and final disc in the set offers recordings from Lead Belly’s last sessions, recorded by Frederic Ramsey using an exciting technological innovation, a tape recorder, which allowed for longer recording durations – – and for Lead Belly to ask him to play back what was just recorded, which he does on a song Lead Belly composed on the spur of the moment about then Princess Elizabeth of England getting married in 1953.

“Princess Elizabeth” is an example of one type of song Lead Belly did – songs about current events. Lead Belly also wrote a “news” song called “The Hindenburg Disaster.” He also drew on blues songs that other artists had recorded for commercial releases, including Tampa Red and Georgia Tom Dorsey’s “It’s Tight Like That,” Washboard Sam’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes,” Leroy Carr’s “How Long, How Long,” Bumble Bee Slim’s “Sail On Little Girl,” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s aforementioned “One Dime Blues.” The father-son team of John and Alan Lomax, who helped him get his second prison pardon, from Louisiana Governor O. K. Allen, had gone into prisons hoping to find some almost mythological sort of “pure” folk music, uncontaminated by the commercial music business. Yet when Lead Belly joined them as a driver and assistant, he picked up songs in prisons they visited, including “Rock Island Line” at Cummins Prison Farm in Arkansas, which he adapted to his liking, making it his own. There have been many cover versions since. The folk process drew no boundaries around any kind of songs.

Lead Belly’s repertoire was full of work songs, many acquired no doubt in prison, such as “Black Betty,” “Linin’ Track,” and “Haul Away Joe” (an adaption of a sea chanty). He did plenty of children’s songs and seemed to have a special delight for them, and he sang his fair share of spirituals. Plus, he wrote a large number of new songs, such as “Irene, Goodnight.” That song topped the charts recorded by The Weavers, including his friend Pete Seeger, in 1950, just a year after his death. Others of his songs became folk-revival classics like “Bourgeois Blues.” That song could probably be more accurately entitled “Racist Blues,” (it’s about racism, not bourgeois capitalism) but Lead Belly had acquired the word “bourgeois” from his left-leaning friends such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and wanted to use it in a song. The song is probably more memorable because of its title.

The large number of songs of many sorts in this set make it clear why it isn’t possible to describe Lead Belly with a simple category label like “folk” or “blues.” “Songster” used by John Lomax is descriptive. That word may not have been well-used during Lead Belly’s lifetime, but it appears in the title of the very first release in 1960 by the now-celebrated folk label Arhoolie Records, an album by Mance Lipscomb, whose style – – a hard driving, anchoring bass line, with simple but incisive leads on the higher strings, certainly evokes Lead Belly’s style.

The songs, together with the extensive information and analysis offered by producers Place and Santelli, present both Lead Belly’s contradictions – – a poor man who dressed to the nines for at-home jam sessions with wealthier friends who wore blue-collar work clothes, and a convicted murderer who sang wonderful children’s songs and beautiful love songs – – and his consistencies – – a love for all sorts of music and a unique talent for making songs his own.

What you won’t find in •Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection• are his commercially released recordings. None of these were successful sellers, but some do feature his piano work, which, like his guitar playing, was not technically dazzling but did possess a very identifiable signature. There is only one song on which he plays piano in this set, and it isn’t one of his best on that instrument.

Like many African-American blues and folk artists, even to this day, Lead Belly faced the problem that, to his fellow African-Americans, his music was anachronistic and a reminder of times and places not fondly remembered, appealing more to white audiences, some of whom could be cluelessly condescending, and often possessing political ideas not always so cherished by the artist.

His major influence was to other musicians. From The Weavers, to Lonnie Donegan – – England’s “skiffle” star who was a major influence not only to The Beatles but to England’s greatest folk artists including Martin Carthy – – to Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Curt Cobain (who sang a chilling version of “Black Girl Where Did You Stay Last Night),” and many others. The Animals picked up “House Of The Rising Sun” from him, though he probably got it from commercial recordings by Clarence Ashley or Roy Acuff.

Lead Belly died in 1949 shortly after his first and only trip to perform in Europe. Surely there would have been more and larger tours if he had lived, and some major place for him in the incipient folk revival, if not actual popular music hits from some of the songs he already had or new ones. He was a key, special link in the folk process of his time, extending beyond the boundaries of what was considered “folk music.” The box set Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection presents us with a compelling selection of his music, and informative and thought-provoking information about the man and the times behind it.

Reviewer Jonny Meister is the host and producer of “The Blues Show” WXPN-FM Philadelphia and also host and producer of “Blue Dimensions” PRX (Public Radio Exchange)

 Featured Blues Interview – Shawn Holt 

“There’s some good young players out there these days. I got a son named Lil’ Slim and he’s really comin’ on.
He’s got his own band and he ain’t playing nothin’ but the blues.” – Morris ‘Magic Slim’ Holt – August, 2011.

Music has long been dubbed the universal language.

It’s prowess to soothe savage beasts, calm frayed nerves and inspire the world to dance have long been heralded as a mystical talisman.

Music can also serve as the bridge over some pretty deep chasms, such as a generational gap between a busy father and his teen-aged son.

One of the fastest-rising bluesmen currently on the scene, Shawn ‘Lil’ Slim’ Holt, explains.

“My father used to tour a lot and he would be gone for weeks upon weeks and we really didn’t have much of a relationship because he was never home. Of course, he was my dad, but I didn’t understand his job … you know, I was just a young teen at the time,” Holt said. “Well, this one certain time, when I was 16, he left a guitar and amp sitting at home while he was gone to France for a month. I saw that guitar and amp and figured that if I could learn to play, that would give me and my father something in common and we could gradually have a relationship based on that.”

And that – along with a lot more things a few years down the road – is just precisely what happened.

“I sat in my room and picked up that guitar – with no lessons whatsoever – and would put one of my father’s CDs on and I would learn to play what he was playing on his CDs,” said the Nebraska-based Holt. “And when he came back from his trip, I showed him what I had learned in that short period of time and my father could not believe it. That’s when our relationship started. He sat down and started showing me stuff. He couldn’t believe that I had taught myself – alone in my room – in a month’s time, to play stuff that he was playing. I think I made my father the happiest man in the world when I started playing guitar.”

With his father’s playing serving as a template, Holt could have chosen to venture off into other forms of popular music to jam to – rock, rap or funk … but instead, even though his ears were tuned into what was topping the charts on commercial radio, he remained true to the blues when it came time to pick up the guitar.

“I do love all kinds of music and of course, I listened to rap and hip-hop as a youngster, but I really fell in love with the blues after I started playing guitar,” he said. “I’ve never taken a lesson and I can’t read music, but I can play that (the blues). It’s like it was in me and it just needed to come out.”

It wasn’t too long after that when Shawn Holt began to show up on stage with Magic Slim and The Teardrops. There was always an old adage around the Magic Slim camp that stated you could not become a Teardrop until Magic Slim said you were good enough; family or not. And it wasn’t too long after that when Magic Slim said Lil’ Slim was indeed ‘good enough’ and he became a regular on the bandstand as rhythm guitarist for Magic Slim and The Teardrops. Then, after Magic Slim left this earth way too early in February, 2013, Holt assumed full-time front-man duties for the band. Shawn Holt and The Teardrops issued their first album – Daddy Told Me (Blind Pig) – and have not slowed down to look back for one second since.

“I really don’t have words for how fast last year went by … I think that we’ve been really blessed as a band. We won an award for Best New Artist Debut from Blues Blast and we won the same category from the Blues Foundation (Blues Music Awards). That just shows that there are some true blues fans out there, still. I had no idea that it (the album) would do as well as it did,” Holt said. “We’ve just been working hard, trying to take things one day at a time.”

Don’t expect things to ease off any for Shawn Holt and The Teardrops over the remaining course of 2015, with return trips to France and Denmark, along with another sojourn into the studio to begin work on the follow-up to Daddy Told Me, on the horizon.

Holt doesn’t fault blues fans for thinking of his late, great father when they see him up on the bandstand, fronting The Teardrops. He also realizes that the path he’s chosen to travel will have a certain amount of pressure built in, and he’s fine with that, as well.

“There’s always going to be people that compare – those comparisons will probably always be there. But I’m not here to be compared to my father. My father left this to me. This is what he wanted and this is what I accepted,” he said. “I accepted my role a few years ago when I started touring with him. I realized that this was my destiny. He wanted me to take over when he passed away, just so the legacy could keep going. And to date, I’ve never had a bad review or any negative feedback from any show that we’ve done. I give it my all and my track record speaks for itself.”

Keeping a legacy alive is one thing, but doing that while also trying to forge a name and reputation on your own is another beast entirely. However, as Holt – who also had an extremely talented uncle that was also a member of The Teardrops at one time, Nick Holt – has proven thus far into his young career, it is possible to accomplish both tasks at the same time.

“I love my booking management and Blind Pig Records. They told me straight out, ‘No one’s going to know who you are. You have to keep the familiarity with your father’s music in front of them. You have to let them know who you are by giving them a couple of your father’s songs, first.’ And I don’t have a problem with playing some of my dad’s songs,” he said. “I love paying homage to my father. After all, it is because of him that I’m doing what I’m doing. I love traditional blues, but at the same time, I don’t want to just play my dad’s songs all night. I’m pretty sure on this next CD that they’ll get even more of a taste of who I am.”

Daddy Told Me hits the nail right on the head when reflecting on the above strategy. The disc contains a nice blend of songs penned by Holt – including the title track – along with songs written by his father (“Please Don’t Dog Me” and “Buddy Buddy Friend”), as well as tracks from legends like Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley.

There’s no question that Holt – as a ton of other blues players are – is heavily-influenced by Magic Slim’s guitar playing. Holt and his father share common phrasings, licks and turnarounds in their guitar playing – along with a distain for a bunch of effects pedals – which is really cool. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a guitar played straight through an amp with no coloring to get in the way. Even more impressive, is that not only does Holt not use a flat pick; instead preferring to play with a thumb pick and his fingers –that’s the way he learned to play from the get-go, which is certainly unusual.

“I guess that’s just another amazing gift that I have – I started out playing with my fingers and a thumb pick. Being able to play with my fingers … that Delta picking, I’m able to pick out maybe four or five times as many notes as a guitarist using a flat pick,” he said. “I can pick out five notes with my thumb and four fingers. A lot of people will tell you that’s the hardest way to play guitar, but really, it came really easy to me.”

Holt’s real coming of age as a full-fledged bluesman took place on a stage in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, as Magic Slim and The Teardrops were set to open a show for the iconic Johnny Winter. Just two hours before show-time, Slim became ill and was rushed to the hospital. Instead of finding a last-minute replacement opener, the decision was made for the opening act to go on with Holt taking center-stage as front-man in his ailing father’s steed. And like they say, the rest is history.

“Well, before then, I was there just to support my dad as the rhythm player for The Teardrops. When my father got sick, my whole life changed. He told us … some of his last words to this band were, ‘Shawn’s going to finish the tour, he can do it.’ So I played that one show without my father, because the promoter and Johnny wanted to hear us,” he said. “And we got a standing ovation. Johnny came up and told our management that he wanted us (Shawn leading The Teardrops) to finish the tour. That was it. That’s when my life really started, right then. When somebody like Johnny Winter takes interest in you and says, ‘Wow. This kid is something special,’ that right there was the starting point.”

Just as important as winning over an audience full of people or the magnificent Johnny Winter and his management team, was the way that Holt quickly earned the trust and respect of The Teardrops (Levi William, guitar; Chris Biedron, bass; Brian Jones, drums). Instilled with the belief that young Shawn Holt really was capable of being a front-man, the band has not missed a beat since that trail-by-fire in snowy Pennsylvania. That’s pretty heady stuff, considering that during a fairly-recent 10-year span, Magic Slim and The Teardrops were nominated for BMAs as Blues Band of the Year eight times.

“Those guys let me lead the ship; they let me be the captain and I’ve taken them to land … we’ve reached land,” laughed Holt.

Judging by the reaction when Holt took the stage with The Teardrops in tow at the March 28, 2013 memorial concert held in Chicago for his father – A Night For Magic – true blues lovers wouldn’t cotton for anyone else standing in the larger-than-life Morris Holt’s boots.

Audiences overseas got a glimpse of Shawn Holt last fall as part of the New Generation Blues Tour, a pairing that most definitely left the crowds wanting more at the conclusion of the evening.

“Wow … that was fantastic, just a great learning experience. I was away from home for a month, but being able to play with those players – players of that caliber – was great,” he said. “Wayne Baker Brooks is one of the best at what he does and Russell Jackson is a phenomenal bass player … just a tremendous heartbeat, along with Jerry Porter (drums), who played with my dad many years ago. And then there’s Tasha Taylor; Johnnie Taylor’s daughter. It was just a real treat, man. I was in a foreign country, on stage playing with four people I’ve never played with before and we were all professional enough to make it work. In France, we got rave reviews … they called us a highly-respected band. I look forward to doing that again, sometime soon.”

In the eyes of the blues world, Magic Slim will always be touted as one of the all-time greats, and rightfully so. But in the eyes of Shawn Holt, Magic Slim was also dad, and some of the best times the two spent were talking about life’s lessons, far removed from the bright spotlight of the bandstand. Those are times that Holt will remember forever.

“Me and my father talked a lot towards the end. He realized that he didn’t have that much time left. Something that my father told me more than once was not to worry about the small stuff … always look at the big picture. He said, ‘If you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you made it amongst the stars.’ And that right there stuck with me to this very day,” Holt said. “That’s how I feel. I give it my all, my best, and if I don’t hit something 100-percent, I know that I’ve given it a great run and I have to be happy with the effort. Every time I play a show, I think of my father’s words. That advice really fits into anything you’re doing.”

Just like his father did, Holt largely shrugs off all the trappings and glitter that supposedly go along with so-called fame and fortune. And, just like his father before him, Holt’s mission is really very basic in nature.

“I just want people to be able to say that I’m good. I don’t care about being rich and I don’t care about the fame or making it to Austin City Limits. I mean, it seems like only about one in a thousand bluesmen become very well-known. I just want people to say I’m good and I want them to remember my father,” he said. “I want people to remember how this music has struggled – this dying American art form we call the blues – and how it continues to struggle today. If they can look at me and say that I’m trying to keep the blues alive and preserve this wonderful music, I’ll be satisfied.”

Visit Shawn’s website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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 10 

Funky Butt Brass Band – Sugar Sugar Whomp Whomp

Self-produced CD

12 songs – 48 minutes

The sounds of New Orleans are alive and well far north of the Crescent City. Several bands across the Midwest deliver the syncopated sounds of the deep South. But few ensembles internationally venture into the territory of the Funky Butt Brass Band, a unit that calls the south side of St. Louis home.

Practicing an art form that dates to the 1800s and remains a popular feature of a traditional New Orleans funeral, the brass band format features the sousaphone in place of the upright bass and utilizes a full-fledge horn section to drive the music home. Funky Butt is a six-piece band that includes Aaron Chandler on trombone and vocals, Adam Hucke on trumpet, toy piano and vocals, Ben Reece on saxophone and vocals, Matt Brinkmann on sousaphone, Tim Halpin on guitar and vocals, and Ron Sikes on drums and percussion. With several previous releases to their credit, they demonstrate respect for the format. At the same time, however, they attempt to imprint the music with a taste of the quirky nature of life along the Mississippi a short walk down river from the Gateway Arch.

They’re joined here by several special guest artists from their hometown, including Dave Grelle (keyboards), Bob Lohr (piano), Matt Henry (percussion), Tom Martin (accordion), Thayne Bradford (fiddle), Phil Wright (harmonica), Cody Henry (trombone), Bob Bennett (tenor sax), Aaron Lehde (baritone sax), Brian Casserly (trumpet), Big Mike Aguirre (slide guitar), Tandra Williams and Erminie Cannon (background vocals) and the Virginia Avenue Choir, which includes Damon Mitchell, Alexia Rowe, Dione Kerney, Krystle Grinston and Tiffany Woods-Jones.

This album consists of nine Funky Butt originals as well as three covers – two New Orleans standards and a gospel classic done like you’ve probably never heard it before.

A horn flourish kicks off “Sugar Sugar Whomp Whomp,” which features Grelle on the keys and Halpin on an extended guitar solo. “Funk In The Trunk” delivers a rapid-fire, rap-style vocal message atop a beat that swings from the jump. The uptempo Dave Bartholomew penned “Yours Truly” follows, giving Lohr a chance to step out on piano, aided by a trumpet solo.

Next up, is a cover of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” delivered with gusto and true New Orleans feel. The original “Orange Crush” is targeted at a woman who delivered goosebumps at the first touch, and delivers the message: “If I were an orange/You would be my crush./Ooh baby I just love you so much.” It leads into “Release Me,” a slow blues lament in which the singer needs to let go by the woman who’s basically ruined his life. The mood changes abruptly for “Dirty Up,” another bit of funk in which the singer “Can’t get enough/Of your lovin’ stuff.”

The band shifts gears slightly for South Side Suite. It’s composed of four tunes that Funky Butt uses to deliver the feel of St. Louis below Poplar Street Bridge. First up is the Cajun-flavored “Down Broadway To The Oyster Bar.” It’s message: “No need to go/Down to Bourbon Street/To hear a brass band/Or to catch a few beads.” A funky rap, “South Side Swamp,” follows and leads into “River Despair,” a complaint about the intense summer heat, and “Saint Lou Bliss,” which praises summer picnics, pork steaks and snoots, barbequed pig snouts, a local favorite. The disc concludes with a New Orleans funeral favorite, a stirring, horn- and chorus-fueled take on the A.E. Brumley gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away.”

Available through CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. If you’re a fan of bands like Bonerama, you’ll like this one. It’ll definitely put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

Vet Stone – Blood Is Thicker Than The Mud

Little Sister From The Inside Out

Self-released – 144 pages

This book chronicles the efforts of Vet Stone to lead her brother, the troubled musical genius Sly Stone, back to the live stage. Born Vaetta Stewart, the youngest of five siblings, Vet had some hits with the vocal group Little Sister as well as providing backing vocals for the early Sly & the Family Stone recordings, a fact not mentioned in the credits for those records.

The story starts in Texas where K.C. and Alpha Stewart raised their family. Her father was a man who struck fear in the hearts of others before turning to religion, joining the Church of God in Christ. The children sang at services and cut a record as the Stewart Four in the early 1950s. Father K.C. was a tough but fair parent who protected his family with a watchful eye. Vet also details the life-threatening situation that she found herself in as a teenager during the birth of twins coupled with untreated head trauma from a fall out of bed. Her miraculous recovery astounded doctors while giving the family a vivid lesson in the power of faith.

The story picks after the glory days of Sly & the Family Stone, who turned out an impressive chain of hit records. Brother Freddie leaves to become a minister in the Evangelist Temple where his guitar skills are used to make a joyous noise. After years of discussion, Vet gathers many of the original band members in the studio to cut some tracks in the hope getting Sly involved in the project. Her business partner, Skyler Jett, lends a helping hand as they incorporate key elements of Sly’s music into the band’s repertoire. But soon egos and pride start to threaten to derail the plan.

You get a glimpse of the turmoil in two chapters penned by Jett. A singer with over 2,000 records to his credit (a point he makes several times), Jett outlines the effort it took to book the band in order to create a path for Sly’s return to the stage. He does not hold back in holding others accountable for causing rifts or their failure to support the project. Even Sly himself does not escape Jett’s indignation, as witnessed by a letter sent to Sly taking him to task for failing to acknowledge Jett’s efforts on his behalf.

Somehow through all of the drama, Vet eventually does manage to coax her brother back on stage. Their brief tour through Europe is a mixed bag of performances with Sly’s contributions varying from night to night depending on his mood. But the tour is a triumph for sister Vet, fulfilling a promise to her parents to care for her brother. Her faith is tested time & again, yet she stayed focused on the goal.

In the end, even she can’t escape the emotional turmoil that often accompanies fame. Recriminations over expense reports followed by issues with the band drive a wedge between sister & brother. Vet looks back without regret, continuing to pray that her brother will find peace in this life. While not specifically about blues music, this book certainly gives reader’s a look behind the curtain of stardom, a portrait that cries out the lingering question, “What price fame?”

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 – 4 of 10 

Old Gray Mule – Have Mercy

Cash Munkey Records – 2014

11 tracks; 42 minutes

Old Gray Mule may be based in Texas but their heart is in the Mississippi Hill Country, heavily influenced by the music of RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and contemporaries like Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm (with whom comparisons may be drawn as OGM is also a drum/guitar duo). This is their sixth album and was recorded in New Orleans with some occasional assistance from local musicians. OGM is CR Humphrey on guitar, bass and vocals and JJ Wilburn on drums and vocals, with Anthony Dopsie on accordion and Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. on frottoir on one track and a host of additional musicians appear on one other cut: Buckwheat Zydeco on accordion, Bobby O on saxes, Erich Morel-Ensminger on trombone and flugelhorn, Geoff Kent on trumpet and Jonathan Bachrack on bass. The band tour in Australia quite often and Australians Chris Parkinson and Dom Turner play guitar on one track each.

Most of the album is in Mississippi Hill Country style, opening track “Skinny Woman” being typical with relentless drums and guitar; the vocals are a little low in the mix but this music is all about the rhythm, not the lyrics. “Ain’t You Sorry” also has a repetitive guitar figure but is less frenetic, the two vocalists singing together. “Don’t You Mind” drops the pace another notch as the vocalist sings in unison with the guitar, his partner singing harmony set against the main riff to almost hypnotic effect. A positively jaunty riff opens “Alice Mae” who may well be a distant relative of Muddy Waters, the tune bouncing along with frantic drumming. CR opens “All Night Long” with some atmospheric guitar before he finds another insistent core riff.

The hypnotic quality of title track “Have Mercy” is helped by the additional guitar of Chris Parkinson. Very much the longest track on the album, the slow pace and quieter feel allow us to hear the two vocalists to advantage. “Kimbro Style” is an instrumental which clearly pays tribute to one of OGM’s great influences whilst “Edge Of My Head” has CR playing some heavy riffs in Hendrix style, including some clear teases from “Voodoo Chile”.

The final three tracks offer a slightly different take on OGM as they are joined by an extended band of NO musicians for “Stop Playin’”, a straight ahead slow blues with Buckwheat Zydeco’s accordion providing almost a keyboard backdrop to CR’s solid blues playing and the horns adding warmth to the track.

More typical of NO is the instrumental “Ass On Fire” which zips along at a frantic pace with the accordion and frottoir pushing the duo to even greater speed of delivery. The album closes with an acoustic piece, appropriately titled “Front Porch”, a conversation between CR and another slide player Dom Turner. The tune is, in fact, really a re-working of “Rollin’ And Tumbin’” and finishes with some whistling from one of the participants.

Those who enjoy the simple pleasures of the Mississippi Hill Country style will find plenty to enjoy here. They may also want to know that the band recorded an additional vinyl album at the same time which is available under the title “Hump Night 55”.

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 10 

EG Kight and Lisa Biales – Peach Pickin’ Mamas


3 tracks

Peach Pickin’ Mamas combines the fine vocals of Georgia’s peach of a blues diva with Ohio’s belle of the blues. EG Kight has worked to produce Lisa Biales’ music and they are now appearing together as The Peach Pickin’ Mamas. The three songs on this sampler come from Biales’ last album, Belle of the Blues, which was produced by Kight and featured Biales singing solo on the songs (which are performed here by the duo on this CD).

This sampler begins with some nice fingerpicking and then Kight comes in on vocals to start “Graveyard Dead Blues.” Biales swaps with Kight on the vocals in this version and they show us that they are a great team. Written by Kight, Biales and Tom Horner, the piano and guitar blaze as the women sing threats to their men. In no uncertain terms do they ascertain the penalty for cheating on them. It’s a cool song performed superbly by the two women.

“Mask” features the duo on a song that was written by Kight. The lyrics revolve around the mask that they sing about figuratively wearing that hides their true emotions. It is an emotional ballad with some great organ backing that Biales and Kight nail.

They close with “Peach Pickin’ Mama,” a tune Biales wrote with Richard Fleming. On the original record’s liner notes Biales says EG sings, “I’m A Peach Pickin’ Mama from down Georgia way.” EG then says, “Peaches come from Georgia,” and Biales then says, “We have peaches in Ohio, they are just smaller.” So as the girls compare their peaches, we get a cool duet with a slick harp playing in support.

Intended to promote their joint touring as a duet, this savory little sampler offers a nice appetizer to the listener in order to whet their interest in these two fine singers and musicians who are sharing the stage together after sharing the studio. I can’t wait to see them perform together sometime, hopefully soon! They are a great duo!

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 – 6 of 10 

Donnie McCormick and the Fat City Wildcats – Live at the Northside Tavern

Fat City Records


Purchase CD:


8 tracks; 37:21 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Electric Blues, Male Artist Vocals, Americana

The first time I saw Donnie McCormick’s name was early 2008 in the liner notes for Sean Costello’s final studio album, Sean’s only Delta Groove Music CD, We Can Get Together. It was Donnie who co-wrote one of Costello’s biggest tear-jerker songs, “Have You No Shame” which appears on the CD. McCormick is in the studio with Sean to record his song singing background harmony vocals, and he played percussion on an instrument called a “chicken coop” because, it was, well, an actual chicken coop like farmers used to transport chickens to fairs and markets. The coop was embellished with plywood, a cowbell, and various antlers and animal bones. Donnie and his chicken coop are included in “Told Me a Lie” – also on the We Can Get Together album. McCormick performs on one additional song and receives a “thank you” in Sean’s liner notes.

My second encounter with the name Donnie McCormick came while writing a review of 2013’s Skydog – The Duane Allman Retrospective box set. Donnie was a founding member of a Southern Rock band named Eric Quincy Tate, and McCormick was the drummer, vocalist, harmonica player, and, along with Tommy Carlise, principal songwriter. Their song “Comin’ Down” was included in the Allman box set because Duane had added some slide guitar to a demo done during late 1969 recording sessions at Capricorn Studios for their debut album, Eric Quincy Tate. Note: Eric Quincy Tate was not a person, but a band known throughout the southeast US which released several albums.

Now, a third and more definitive chance meeting with stories of Donnie McCormick and his work has, sadly, come after his death in 2009. A 2014 trip to Atlanta by Blues Blast Magazine’s publisher Bob Kieser brought us all more information about some of Sean Costello’s contemporaries, in particular, Donnie McCormick. Always keen to learn more about Sean, who is the namesake for the annual Blues Blast Music Award “Sean Costello Rising Star Award,” Kieser met musician and guitar maker Stephen Talkovich. Stephen explained more about how Donnie McCormick was an inspiration and influence on Costello and countless others. Thankfully, McCormick has friends and fellow musicians keeping his music and memories alive. Many who knew him were in awe of not only his musical artistry but also his amazing creative artistry in paints and other mediums. That devotion was the impetus for finishing and releasing this CD, Live at the Northside Tavern, Atlanta GA, which was recorded in 2007.

By 2007, McCormick was a well-worn veteran of the entire scope of the Southern Rock scene. At this point, Donnie didn’t so much sing the Blues as exude them; the music and local music scene were critical to his being. The notes he “sang” didn’t come from his vocal cords, they were ripped from his gut and tortured through his heart. It would be hard to find someone who sang more convincingly, with more conviction, or more passionately. On this CD and especially on “Have You No Shame,” one gets a deeper understanding of his influence on Sean Costello’s vocal deliveries.

Joining McCormick as members of the Fat City Wildcats are an accomplished group of players who make the CD very entertaining beyond McCormick’s artistry. They are: Stephen Talkovich – electric guitar; Nathan Nelson – vocals and amplified acoustic guitar; Dave Roth – vocals and electric bass; Scott Callison- drums and percussion; Matt Wauchope – electric piano and vocals. (Note: Matt Wauchope was a member of Sean Costello’s 2000 band and appears on his breakout CD, Cuttin’ In.)

Live at the Northside Tavern, Atlanta GA opens with an easy loping cover version of “Let’s Go Into Town.” The song sets the mood for the entire CD which is fervent devotion to music and absolute joy in being out of the house with good friends, making music, enjoying food and cocktails. These songs were recorded at one of the weekly Sunday night jams.

“Undertaker” seems a little eerie in retrospect, but those thoughts are soon dismissed upon hearing McCormick’s lyrics – some quite humorous like, [when I die] “…empty all of my pockets and … pay my tab.” Some lyrics are, also, frankly honest, like “I don’t want no one to see me dead – remember me the way I looked; don’t want no gawkin’ – close my coffin, after my goose is cooked.”

“Have You No Shame” is the set’s standout song for me. The song relates how the protagonist has accidentally seen his woman in the arms of another man under the parking lot lights. This is one of those songs you just know is based on a true story experienced by the writer (Donnie Mac). His vocals are a cross between physically crying and grittily singing. The hurt is simply palpable. The plaintive guitar lines from Nelson and Talkovich complement Donnie’s vocals perfectly. The applause from the audience shows their appreciation for the realness and grief that has just been poured out through song.

“13 Hours on the Highway” is a road song in which Nathan Nelson does a great job on lead vocals. For some fun and giggles, Donnie does his best to convince some comely lass to “Take Off Your Clothes”. More fun is found on the traditional “Busy Bootin’”- again with Nelson on lead vocals.

“Fishbone Joe,” the most poignant song, is a tribute to an actual hobo whose obituary was read by McCormick while he was in “government vacation.” Since he had plenty of time, Donnie created a story about the wandering minstrel. Played mid-tempo with haunting slide guitars, the ode again finds Donnie pouring out vocals like he himself had lived it. Bandmates add touching background harmony vocals, to the audiences delight.

Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome…” is a perfect ending song for one more opportunity for Donnie to sing it like he owned it. To fully appreciate, keep in mind that by 2007, McCormick was “in physical pain and would play every moment as if his existence depended on it” – from the liner notes.

Known mainly to fans and friends in Atlanta and the Southeast, Donald Eugene McCormick has been paid a worthy and fitting tribute with the mastering of tapes and release of this CD. Kudos to Scott Callison and Stephen Talkovich for their loving efforts and resulting highly entertaining CD.

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 – 7 of 10 

Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts – Guilty of the Blues

Memphis Blues Records

CD: 13 Songs; 45:02 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Mellow Blues, Blues Rock

What kind of “blues electricity” might one expect to be struck by, courtesy of Kentucky’s Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts? Blues fans might crave a “shock” of “high-voltage” electric guitar, made even more powerful by an amplifier’s “amps”. Surprisingly, the band’s “current” is warm and low-key as it courses through the “wires” of listeners’ ears. On their third release, they’re Guilty of the Blues. This CD will be a guilty pleasure on long road trips or quiet evenings. According to the band’s promotional information sheet, “Rod’s music has been called ‘Bob Seger meets Eric Clapton at Muddy Waters’ House.’ But, those who try to pigeon-hole his music will be left scratching their heads. Always a blues rocker at heart, his music also has shades of soul, Motown, gospel and acoustic influences.” He won both the Grindle Award and Gold Artist Award for his 2008 release, “After the Storm.”

Joining Lightnin’ Rod Wilson on vocals, guitars, six string banjo, and percussion are bassists Calvin Johnson, and Shannon Link; drummer/additional percussionist Roy Edmiston; Bob Hopps on keyboards and harmonica; Joe Kleykamp on saxophone and horn arrangements; trombonist John Pope; trumpet player John Francis; William McNeil on violin; and additional vocalists Tiffany Wilson Bays and Jennifer Adkinson Doser on harmony. The following three songs, out of twelve total originals, capture the easily-flowing essence of the Lightning Bolts most clearly:

Track 06: “Livin’ in a Smokescreen” – “They want the power; they’ve got the greed. Don’t care about nothing that the people need…Politicians lie; good people die in a smokescreen.” Swinging track six is a blues rocker exposing the political fog in which we currently stumble. “You own the press; you own the schools – but you don’t even know the Golden Rule,” Rod states of so-called “public servants”. His wah-wah guitar solo coupled with Shannon Link’s perky bassline is terrific.

Track 08: “Midwest Boy” – This is Lightnin’ Rod’s ode to his home region: “You can take the boy from the Midwest, but you can’t take it out of the boy. I mix Detroit-rocking Motown with Chicago, Illinois.” He drops names (Seger, Mitch Ryder, and Buddy Guy, to name a few), and plays decent acoustic guitar. Even though there’s nothing revolutionary about the song, it does sound the most like traditional blues.

Track 12: “Rooster in the Hen House” – The Thunderbolts go all out in this highly-danceable instrumental, as Rod struts his stuff on six-string banjo. It’s not exactly rock, blues, or country, but right in the sweet spot between all three genres. Listen closely for the popular musical refrains from “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Dixie Land”.

The one flaw in this CD is that the Thunderbolts’ music might be too mellow for some – especially for those looking for hair-raising party tunes. However, peruse-ers in a more laid-back mood will surely find themselves Guilty of the Blues!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

Ricky Nye – Swingin’ Some Blues


11 songs – 39 minutes

The cover of Swingin’ Some Blues features a brightly-colored retro image of a young lady from the early 1950s, dressed in a bikini and energetically working out on a child’s swing, her hair blowing and with a huge grin on her face. In many ways, it is the perfect cover shot for Cincinnati-native Ricky Nye’s new album. There is a retro vibe to the whole release, from the warm-but-not-in-your-face production, to the emphasis on piano rather than guitar and the heavy jazz influence on many of songs. Perhaps more importantly, however, this is music that really swings with controlled abandon and there is a sense that all the musicians were playing with huge grins on their faces throughout the session. This is old-fashioned, good-time dancing music, played with no little vim and wit.

Nye plays piano and organ as well as singing, and he is backed by the seriously good rhythm section of Chris Douglas on upright bass and Paul Ellis on drums (Ellis’s musical swing on “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” is simply outstanding). Guest musicians include Brian “Boss” Hogg on tenor sax, Sylvain Acher on guitar, Tom Moore on harmonica and Dan Dorff on percussion.

Nye’s keyboard skills are to the forefront of every song, but he resists the urge to overplay his hand, always giving the other musicians plenty of space in which to express themselves (check out Moore’s funky, staccato harmonica on “Low & Slow”). His piano playing however is top drawer, in particular when he pulls out an old classic like Jimmy Yancey’s “The Rocks”. The rhythmic thump of his left hand on a boogie is a joy to behold.

The 11 songs on Swingin’ Some Blues comprise a neat selection of standards (“Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” are the first three songs on the album); four songs written or co-written by Nye himself, a rollicking cover of NYC boogie woogie maestro Dona Oxford’s “Let’s Have A Ball”, plus a few piano classics such as Albert Ammons’ “Monday Struggle” and Charlie Booty’s “Davenport Stomp”.

This is uptown, swinging music that is reminiscent of the likes of Big Joe Turner, Charles Brown or maybe Jimmie Witherspoon, where blues meets jazz and the result is good old-fashioned party music.

One of the many highlights of the album is the jungle rumble of “It’s Wrong”, which features more excellent harmonica from Moore and another demonstration from Douglas and Ellis of how a rhythm section should operate.

The closing track, “Epididymitis Boogie”, is a fine way to finish the album. It’s a barreling instrumental, led by Nye’s pounding boogie woogie piano but also featuring short but entertaining instrumental breaks by Hogg, Ellis and Douglas. In contrast to its name, this song will have people up and dancing rather than wincing at the mere thought of it.

Swingin’ Some Blues is a short but highly enjoyable slab of good-time, piano-led, upbeat and fun music and is warmly recommended, especially if you like your blues to include a hefty dose of melodic jazz.

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 – 9 of 10 

Pass Over Blues Band – The

Self-Release – 2014

13 tracks; 47 minutes

The Pass Over Blues Band is based in Germany. Established in 1991 the band is guitarist Roland Beeg, vocalist, harp player and occasional guitarist Harro Huebner, drummer Michiel Demeyere and bassist Lutz Mohri. Additional musicians are Andi Geyer on keys, Christian Hartung on accordion and Roland Leisegang on percussion. All the material is original, mainly written by Harro with some assistance from Roland and there is an additional bonus track, a cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Harro was born in East Germany and spent time in prison for writing protest songs against the regime and trying to escape to the West – no surprise that he has a genuine reason to feel the blues! Each of the titles here starts with ‘the’, hence the name of the CD.

The style here is classic blues, as epitomised on opener “The Mistake”. Harro’s voice reminds you of late period Jim Morrison (think “LA Woman”) and he generally sings well, without too much by way of accent. Lyrically this one is a song of regret about how he mistreated a woman, Roland’s angular guitar solo hitting some suitably ‘blue’ notes over a laid-back rhythm section. “The Distance” is a shuffle with piano and some nice guitar in the opening section, Harro sounding a little gruffer as he claims that he is not the reason she is looking around. Some stinging guitar and clean harp lines stand out here.

“The Day” is pretty laid back with Roland’s stinging guitar at low volume, all a suitable intro to Harro’s gentle vocals and wistful harp. “The Decision” is a co-write between Harro and Roland, the organ being the featured instrument here over a catchy rhythm guitar riff, a successful track which takes the band a little away from their standard blues approach. Changing tack again “The One” is a gentle, almost folky, acoustic tune with accordion and gentle percussion providing a fine backdrop to Roland’s plucked acoustic solo. “The Sense” stays in acoustic mode, this time with banjo from Harro who tells us that all that makes sense to him is “wasting time, beautiful time”.

“The People” is a longer track and the band return to electric mode for this one, Roland’s ringing chords introducing a menacing rhythm from the band as Harro criticises people who “believe they know how everything works”. That Jim Morrison comparison comes up again here vocally and Roland finds some great chords, the chorus supported by Andi’s organ to give another recollection of The Doors here. “The Question” returns to acoustic mode as Roland’s delicate chords open the short piece before Harro’s world-weary vocals take centre stage.

There is some fine acoustic playing (guitar and bass) on “The Past” which has a touch of classic rock about the way that the chorus comes in and an excellent solo from Roland over the rumbling bass and swirling organ. The album proper concludes with three short tracks: Harro’s harp leads the way on an uptempo tune “The Move”, a co-write with Klaus Fiola-Müller with whom Harro collaborates in other ensembles; “The Time” is a brooding rocker with the depressing refrain “I hope it will be easy to go without anger, trouble or fear; I hope it will be easy, easy when I go to die” – fortunately Roland’s guitar is there to provide an uplifting solo to offset the mood of the lyrics! “The Answer” opens with Roland in relaxed mood on guitar as Harro seems to be in a more positive mood than on the previous track: “It’s a good life because I am alive”. Harro gives us a final harp solo to good effect.

The acoustic cover of the George Harrison song is well done but makes a strange bedfellow which adds little to the themed approach of the rest of the album though it does remind us that there was a third great songwriter in The Beatles.

This is an unusual and interesting album, well played and thoughtfully written.

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 10 

Various Artists – The Blues & Salvation

Labor Records

38 Tracks-Running Time 1:39:49

This double CD set is a great primer for the uninitiated and a required addition to the collection of the connoisseurs of folk inflected country Blues. Much of this compilation is heretofore unreleased adding it to the Holy Grail of Blues guitar pickin’.

Several traditions and artists are represented here; Piedmont Style, Blues, Gospel & Spirituals from the trailblazing stylings of Reverend Gary Davis. Gospel from The Wooten Singers. Country Folk from Jemima James, Piedmont Style Blues from the recently deceased George Higgs (including a duet with Jemima James. Louisiana Red with and without Lefty Dizz. Blues duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee are included at their peak. Obscure artists Deneen McEachern and Bob Malenky are also included.

A pleasant surprise were the Piedmont stylings of North Carolina native George Higgs. He is the first artist heard on disk one. First influenced by Deford Bailey, first African-American artist ever on the Grand Ole Opry, Higgs also studied the licks of fellow North Carolinians Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry. Higgs has five tracks on the compilation including a duet with folk stylist Jemima James. Tasty stuff.

Louisiana Red has four tracks, one a lively duet with Lefty Dizz entitled, “Going Train Blues.” Though the imagery of riding by train is a common motif in the Blues, these two conductors take us on a nice ride, nonetheless. Witness Louisiana Red calling for his own solo in the 3rd person- “Awrite, Red got it now, Lefty!” Shades of effortless mastery from these forerunners of funk.

The great Brownie McGhee is featured on two tracks. “Rainy Day” is McGhee’s vocal and guitar juxtaposed against a snare drum with brushes, suggesting perhaps raindrops on a rainy day. The second track is a duet with his long time performance partner, harmonica ace, Sonny Terry in a live recording of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” Sonny Terry also duets with eclectic Folk Blues practitioner Bob Malenky on “One Woman Man.”

The Blues & Salvation is anchored around the 12 track offerings of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis. Much of the lore surrounding his mystique is the duality of his conviction to Christianity and his excellence as a Piedmont Blues player, Gospel and Ragtime master, capable of playing four part harmonies with rhythm and lead parts simultaneously.

The right Reverend gave instruction to many notable players including Dave Bromberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Dave Von Ronk, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan and countless others including Stefan Grossman who quotes Davis as teaching him that, “You’ve got three hands to play guitar and only two for piano…”

All 12 of the Reverend Gary Davis tracks are worth the price of admission. From the suggestive double entendre (cd1 track 14, “Come Down And See Me Sometime”) to the spiritually uplifting balm of Christ crucified (cd1 track 10, “Crucifixion”), the fiery guitar of Reverend Davis, talks, cries, shouts, wails and whispers the trials and tribulations of a street artist/preacher/teacher whose Blues flame still burns in the consciousness of many players past and present.

A highlight for this reviewer is the six minute sermon on CD 1 track 11. The Reverend Davis explains how he “ran from preachin’ for eighteen years,” then confined to a sickbed of affliction, gave in to the calling. The theme of the sermon is simply living right vs. living wrong. Eerily, the loudest “Amen” in this recording sounds like Mississippi Delta Bluesman Son House. A Son House cover contained within a Blind Gary Davis sermon. Phenomenal. Only on earth and Heaven.

Reviewer Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, CA and road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto.

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Ventura County Blues Society – Simi Valley, CA

The American Cancer Society is the new beneficiary for this year’s 10th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival, happening Saturday, April 25 in Moorpark, Calif. and presented by the Ventura County Blues Society. Coco Montoya, John Nemeth, and Deana Bogart highlight the 2-stage, day-long event. Info:

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. March 2 – The Cadillac Daddy’s Revue from Canada, March 9 – Chris O’Leary from NY, March 16 -24th Street Wailers from Toronto, March 23 – Jeff Jensen from Memphis, March 30 – Liz Mandeville from Chicago, April 6 – The Blues Deacons from Champaign, April 13 – Jason Elmore from Dallas, April 20 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans from NY, April 27 – Tom Holland and the Shufflekings from Chicago

Additional ICBC shows (all held in Springfield, Illinois): Mar. 5 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts Kicked to the Curb, Mar. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, March 21 – Ronnie Baker Brooks ICBC 29th Birthday Bash w/opening act the Blues Expressions. K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Road, Springfield, Illinois, April 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Stone Cold Blues Band, April 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet.

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

Blues Overdose 2/26/2015 – These free tracks are available for 30 days. More info below.

Download Instructions

1.) Click the link below where it says “Click HERE to download” just after any of the artist descriptions below. (You only need to do this once as all the tracks are there!)

2.) The link will take you to the Blues Blast Magazine page on

3.) On The Blues Overdose Page click the on any artist to listen to the song. You do NOT have to join to listen or download these tracks!

4.) To automatically download the artists song click on the download icon

Benny Turner

“What’s Wrong with the World Today” from the album Journey

Benny Turner plays the blues because he has lived the blues. He always says that if he can’t feel it, he can’t play it! In a song that expresses his deep concern with the gun violence in cities such as New Orleans and Chicago, as well as worldwide issues preventing peace, Turner tackles the heavy topics that we ALL can feel. Although his musical influences include country blues, r&b, soul and doo-wop, this song showcases Benny’s gospel background, with a choir of voices giving impact to his message. The final track from his October 2014 release Journey, this song has been called “a splendidly effective closer for one of 2014’s best contemporary blues releases” – Bill Dahl Chicago Blues Guide.

Click HERE to download these Free tracks on our Soundcloud

Low Society

“This Heart Of Mine” from the album Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down

“Let’s not insult Low Society lead vocalist Mandy Lemons by noting she was influenced by Janis Joplin. That is the lazy critic’s out. Better we describe her as the love child of a serious Amy Winehouse and Big Mama Thornton, irradiated by beta particles that had once passed by an AM radio, late at night, playing “Ball and Chain” in 1968. Lemons is a tornadic force of nature laying waste to all of the blues-rock produced since the 1960s. Lemons is who Sass Jordan wishes she was and who Susan Tedeschi almost reaches…. “This Heart of Mine” mines the Jimi Hendrix-Stevie Ray Vaughan blues axis of all its guitar gold and silver.” – C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz, 11/11/2014

For more info visit

Click HERE to download these Free tracks on our Soundcloud

The Sidney Green Street Band

“Bama Bounce” from the album SGSB

Bama Bounce is a swampy, bluesy trip down to the Kudzu of Alabama through the songwriters web of self doubt as to whether he should have ever gotten out….of the south…….Heavy guitars, drone bass and funky drums underpin this Sidney Green Street band original song and is one of the stand outs of the new CD, ‘SGSB” available on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes). Check out the whole CD….it’s tasty in a classic way…..

For more info visit

Click HERE to download these Free tracks on our Soundcloud

Kyle Jester

“Whatcha Gonna Do” from the album After All This

I recorded my new album at Greaseland in 2014 with Kid Andersen, Aki Kumar, Sid Morris, and Brian “Nucci” Cantrell, and I think you might like it so have a sample track!

I formerly played and recorded with Candye Kane and Earl Thomas, and I’m now gigging with Mark Hummel, Alabama Mike, and Andy Santana in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more info visit

Click HERE to download these Free tracks on our Soundcloud

The Jay Willie Blues Band

“Dirty Two Thirty” from the album Rumblin’ and Slidin’

On their second ZOHO release, the Jay Willie Blues Band lays down 14 vintage Texas blues and ballads, including six scorching originals plus classics by Muddy Waters, Link Wray, and more.

Influenced by the incendiary guitar work of Texas blues legend Johnny Winter, guitarist/singer/songwriter Jay Willie fortifies his band with Winter s high-energy ex-drummer Bobby T Torello.

Other special guests include R&B singer Suzanne Vick ( Fly Away ), and harmonica ace Jason Ricci.

For more info visit

Click HERE to download these Free tracks on our Soundcloud

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

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