The Las Vegas Blues Society Presents – Blues Las Vegas Volume One
Write Answer Records
20 tracks – 80 minutes
The Las Vegas Blues Society (LVBS) released this sampler to highlight the local talent and to promote the vibrant blues scene in the city. Some of the artists on the album will probably be well known to many listeners, but most are the talented musicians that are likely only regionally known. Dan Harrell, a local blues aficionado, executive produced the album. Award winning Jimmy Carpenter, the current LVBS President, acted as the consultant overseeing the recording of the album. Ten artists each provide two songs showcasing the music of Las Vegas.
Leon Blue – Leon has the first and last songs on the album. Leon is a 91-year-old keyboard player. He has been playing piano for 80 years and playing professionally for over 70 of those years. He has been a band member of Ike and Tina Turner and Albert Collins among others and has been a regular on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. He opens with the rollicking “Blues Bender”, a great promotion for the giant blues festival held annually in Las Vegas and currently scheduled for September 7 – 10, 2023. Terry Hawk Johnson joins him on bass, Cameron Tyler on drums, and Jimmy Carpenter on sax. The bouncy “Slow Dance” concludes the album in fine form with a piano instrumental and gives a great accent to all the excellent music on this album.
Scott Rhiner and the Moanin’ Blacksnakes -Scott has been playing in Vegas for 40 years and the last 25 with the Blacksnakes. The group has been selected as LVBS’s Best Blues Band multiple times. Two original compositions “Hard Lovin’ Woman” and “Love My Baby” feature Scott on guitar and vocals and Mark Foster on keyboards. The first song reminds me of a Deep Purple song. The latter song is more laid back. Mike Rector on bass, Brett Barnes on drums, and Curtis Craft on congas complete the group.
Jimmy Carpenter – Jimmy is a nationally known performer with many solo records as well as performing with other musicians like Tinsley Ellis, Mike Zito, and Marica Ball. In 2022 he won the Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and has won a Grammy Award as a composer. He provides the vocals and, of course the sax, on “Bad Case of Love”, a song made famous by B.B. King, and Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “Stop Breaking Down”. His band includes Chris Tofield on guitar, Mike Merritt on bass, and Cameron Tyler on drums.
Junior Brantley and the Shuffle-aires- Junior Brantley has six decades of performance experience. A talented vocalist and keyboard player, he got his start playing in bands in Milwaukee. He settled in Las Vegas in the 80’s after performing with some touring bands. The Shuffle-aires also first formed in Milwaukee 40 years ago. The group is led by Al Ek, a harmonica and bass player, with Jim Lovgren on drums and Johnny Z (Zoroya) on guitar. Brantley and the group joined together 30 years ago when the Shuffle-aires relocated to Vegas. They perform Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start me Talking” and Big Joe Turner’s “Juke Joint Blues”.
Boyz in the Parking Lot Featuring Billy Ray Charles- Guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player Billy Ray Charles got his start in Louisiana but settled in Las Vegas in 1994. The first song is his very able version of “Further on Up the Road”, a song covered by Eric Clapton and many others. He follows that with an original, “I Treat My Woman”, a humorous song in which he states that ” I treat my woman better than I treat my wife”. The group includes Terry Hawk Johnson on bass and Conrad Csogi on drums.
Monk and the Po’ Boys- Dennis “Monk” Andriaccio is a talented harmonica player and vocalist who is known as Las Vegas’ jam master leading more than 40 jam sessions every year. His group includes Trevor Johnson on guitar, Alex Martella on guitar and vocals, Al Guzman on drums, and Bill Bailey on bass. The group has been together for 40 years. They open with Taj Mahal’s “She Caught the Katy” followed By Lowell Fulson’s “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
Chris Tofield – Mentioned above as guitarist for Jimmy Carpenter, Chris also leads his own group which also includes Mike Merritt and Cameron Tyler and adds Brian Triola on Keyboards. His guitar work has been compared to that of Roy Buchanan and Gary Moore and offers distinctive vocals on Big Joe Williams’ “Big Legged Woman” and Elmore James’ “Mean Mistreatin’ Woman”.
Vegas Strip Kings Featuring Billy Truitt, Jimmy Carpenter and Al Ek – Billy Truitt, who plays keyboards, the accordion and provides vocals joins with Carpenter and EK in a Vegas crowd favorite band that provide everything from blues and rockabilly to Cajun and Zydeco. Justin Truitt on drums and Robert Edwards on bass complete the group. Here they perform Tom Wait’s “Temptation” and Memphis Slim’s “My Dog Is Mean” which has a strong accordion lead.
Trevor and the Swingin’ Johnsons – Trevor Johnson, an Ohio native, plays guitar on these songs, but also plays harmonica, lap steel and sings. On these songs Julia Finger is a guest vocalist. Jimmy Carpenter also guests with Al Ek providing upright bass. Al Guzman on drums and Alex Martella on vocals, guitar and trumpet are the remaining members of the band. The swinging “Forty Cups of Coffee” originally recorded by Bill Haley and The Comets is the lead song. It is followed By Teddy Daniel’s “Trying to Make a Living”, which was previously recorded by Mark Hummel.
Carlos Guerrero and Friends- In 2006, Carlos relocated from Connecticut o Vegas where he has become a fixture on the music scene playing a cross of influences from blues and jazz. His friends include Fernando Tort on bass, Brian Triola on keyboards, and Rob Whited on drums. Two original songs a jazzy “Music Is My Mistress” and “Pandemonium” with a crying guitar are presented.
The album definitely shows the great blues talent that exists in Las Vegas and makes me eager to return there to check it out further.