Various Artists – Blind Raccoon and Nola Blue Collection Volume 5
Blue Heart Records BHR 039
30 songs – 134 minutes
One of the busiest partnerships in the music industry, Blind Raccoon and Blue Heart/Nola Blue Records have released dozens of high-quality albums in the past few years and celebrating their artists with beefy, two-CD compilations. As in the past, this release – the fifth in the series – features a smorgasbord of talent – ranging from major, established talents to rising stars — across the blues and roots spectrum.
The brainchild of Memphis-based Betsie Brown, the head honcho at the artist management organization, Blind Raccoon, and Sallie Bengston, who operates Blue Heart and Nola Blue out of Pennsylvania, this set follows the same formula as the four previous releases. It’s a mix of fan favorites, unreleased bonus tracks, early listens to tunes on upcoming albums and more from their large — and steadily growing — talent base.
One glance at the names on this one – which include 2023 Grammy nominee Teresa James, BMA keyboard player of the year Anthony Geraci, soul-blues giant John Németh and Freddie King brother/bassist Benny Turner — and you’ll know you’re in for a treat. And with 26 more artists from coast to coast to choose from, the hits keep on coming.
James and her Rhythm Tramps kick things off in style with “I’d Do It for You,” in which she delivers a laundry list of things she’ll do for her lover than she won’t do for anyone else. R&B keyboard player Floyd Dixon left us at age 77 in 2006 but lives again through the ballad “Time Brings About a Change,” which features a young Kid Ramos on six-string, leads into the uptempo “Jefferson Way” by female harp player/guitarist Stacy Jones and a bluesy reading of “The In Crowd” by Steve Howell & the Mighty Men.
A new star who makes her debut in her mid-50s, Gayle Harrod will grab your attention with “Come on People” before former Band collaborator Professor Louie & the Cromatix’s deliver the encouraging “Elevate Yourself” and veteran British guitarist Dave Thomas revisits his “Repossession Blues.” Things heat up again for Carol Sylvan and the Uptown Horns’ “Savin’ Up for Your Love” before sultry vocalist S.JA joins New York guitar great Robert Hill for “Maybe You Will Someday.”
Other must-listens on disc one include the Canadian supergroup The Maple Blues Band’s “Hey Nola,” Big Easy favorite Tiffany Pollack’s “Dissent,” harp master Kenny Parker’s rock-steady “Tight Black Sweater” and Reverend Freakchild’s acoustic, gospel-tinged “Good Shepherd.”
Geraci opens disc two in style with “Haven’t Seen My Baby,” a two-fisted barrelhouse workout that echoes the greats of the 88s before Németh and his Blue Dreamers celebrate their decades-long partnership with “My Baby’s Gone.” One of the top organists in the world, John Ginty dazzles with the instrumental, “Switch,” before Minnesota veteran Mark Cameron bemoans lost love in “That’s a Fact” and Debbie Bond adopts a world beat for “Blues Without Borders.”
David Lumsden pays tribute to Hendrix with “Ode to Jimi (Slow Burn)” before the label pays tribute to late Philadelphia bluesman Frank Bey with inclusion of “Imagine” from his final, Grammy-nominated CD. Trevor B. Power’s guitar-fueled “Troubled to the Core” drives steadily before yielding to Texas firebrands Rochelle & the Sidewinders’ “My Baby Came Back.”
Other choice cuts from disc two include Anthony “Big A” Sherrod’s Howlin’ Wolf send-up, “Everybody Ain’t Your Friend,” rising Alex Lopez’s uplifting “See the Light,” Carlos Elliot and Bobby Gentilo’s Spanish ballad, “Cielo,” and Turner’s unhurried, deep-blue closer, “Born in This Time.”
There’s no better way to discover new artists than to dive into a collection like this one. Dive in, and I’m sure you’ll agree!