|As a pre-teenager, Christmas Eve was always THEE night of the year and abounded with naive wonderment and magic that can only be experienced by the innocent. I was an only child who was over indulged by essentially TWO sets of parents, my actual mom and dad plus my mother's sister Alice and her husband Bruno, who had no children and were my designated Godparents. Living in Chicago, my Aunt Alice would take me downtown every year via bus and 'The L' to have my picture taken with Santa at Marshall Fields AND Carson Pirie Scott. Looking back, I'm sure this was mostly a chance for my mom to get a day off from looking after me, but I looked forward to those trips with Alice for years. I was spoiled rotten by those four adults. Every year I couldn't wait for Bruno and Alice to get to the house. When we moved to Madison, they made the trip every Xmas Eve. When we moved back to the 'burbs, they drove out from the city. After dinner, Bruno, my dad, and I would go riding around in Bruno's latest Super Car (I loved that '57 Chevy with the fins on the back) looking at Christmas light decorations while Alice and my mom stayed behind and "did the dishes". And I'll be damned, EVERY TIME we returned, Santa had been there just 10 minutes before and we "just missed him" and countless presents, 90% of them for me, were under the "long needled" tree. (my mother, the neat freak, hated trying to vacuum up the "short needled" trees) My Christmas wish for you and me is to somehow, once again, be able to experience the wide eyed joy and innocence of being a child at Christmas...|
There are still tickets and room packages available for the New Year's Eve Happy Blue Year celebration. I am told that the usually reliable music source, The Juice magazine in Des Moines has printed the wrong band line up. Somehow they printed last year's info. Damn. We've got such a great lineup this year! So please help us spread the word about the show, with THIS year's lineup! Tickets/reservations/band line up/photos from last year/minute by minute schedule plus a link/phone number to the hotel can be found at http://www.theblueband.com/newyear.htm See ya a week from tonight. Carolyn and I are bringing the anniversary CAKE!...
Tonight will be the 37th of the last 39th Christmas Eves that I've spent with my radio family. I look forward to this, just like I looked forward to seeing Aunt Alice and Uncle Bruno on earlier Christmas Eves. The sense of family, for me, (the only child of an only child) is joyous. Some people, who have moved away from the Iowa Public Radio broadcast signals, tune in from around the world at www.iowapublicradio.org because they've established a family tradition of having this Rockin' Christmas Eve show on while they celebrate with friends and family. It's all styles of holiday music from all eras, much of it picked out by request. (I've searched and searched and searched for a Johnny Mathis Christmas song that I could stand, so I could fill my brother-in-law's annual request, but I've not been successful. YIKES! Maybe his punk rock/ska loving son, who'll be home from Oregon, will get him to phone in a request for The Raver's, It's Gonna Be A Punk Rock Christmas This Year or Root Boy Slim's, Xmas At K-Mart) I DO, however, stand prepared for the annual request for Jingle Bells by The Barking Dogs) I hope you can tune in, the show runs from 7-10pm, feel free to use the toll free number at 800-772-2440, ext. 5 for suggestions, requests, or just to say Ho Ho Ho! WARNING: this will be a NO fruitCAKE zone...
Many of the people on this list have encouraged me to bite the bullet and get a snowblower. Now, even my chiropractor is encouraging me to get a snowblower. Looking out the window, it looks like we've gotten another 3" since 9 o'clock tonight, with another 3" possible. I think I should get a snowblower. Maybe I'll try and find a cheap one in the spring...
If you're traveling on The Blue (Xmas) Highway, WATCH OUT FOR THE OTHER GUY slip slidin' away and be careful for reindeer in the headlights because the snowflies are swarmin'. Rub yer washboard tie to the tune of Santa Claus Is Comin' Town (isn't it kind of disturbing that he knows when you've been sleeping and he knows when you're awake) (THE FAT MAN IS A STALKER!) And may you experience the innocent joy that this holiday season can bring. Give smiles and your love for Christmas. You've already got ours. Bob Dorr & The Blue Band
Friday, December 24, 2010
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RIP Robin Rogers 1957 to 2010
Hey Blues Fans,
It is with great sadness that we bring you the news of the death of Blues musician Robin Rogers. Robin has been ill for some time and we will miss her talent, friendship and kindness. This news comes just 2 days after Robin was nominated for Contemporary Blues Female Artist for the 2011 Blues Music Awards. This week her latest CD reached # 4 on the Blues Roots Music Charts.
The news was first reported by our friend Bob Corritore:
"Singer / harmonica player Robin Rogers has died today in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. She had been struggling with terminal liver cancer for a month now. Robin was well loved within the blues community and had some highly successful CDs which frequently ended up with nominations, and she was honored with a Blues Blast Music Award in 2009, for "Best Female Artist".
Her humble and sincere personality, coupled with her unmistakable talent, made us all take her in as an adopted little sister. She had lead a very hard life, complete with homelessness, and drug and alcohol abuse, but she had turned her life around, and found a positive outlet in blues music. She had been sober for 21 years and happily wed to her husband, and musical partner Tony Rogers who was by her side until the end.
Many benefits sprouted around the country and her latest record Back In The Fire, on the Blind Pig label, was met with great success, and has recently been nominated for a Blues Music Award. Please spend a few minutes to hear the NPR interview with Robin, from a few weeks ago. . Thank you Robin, for your great music, and your strong heart. To read more about Robin Rogers, please visitwww.robinrogers.com "
CORRECTION: Last week we ran a list of the 2011 Blues Music Award nominees with a headline that said "Blues Music Awards announced!" Of course we meant to say that the NOMINATIONS were announced. Sorry for the confusion. The winners of the awards will be announced in Memphis, TN on May 5, 2011. More info at The Blues Foundation www.blues.org.
We made it out to hear 16 year old guitar player, singer and songwriter Matt Curry. His new band The Blues Fury played a show for the Blues Blowtorch Society last week end. The young Bluesman is backed by a crew of real veterans including Jeff Paxton on bass , Gregg Neville on drums and Randy Hoffman on guitar.
They are headed to Memphis in a few weeks to compete in the International Blues Challenge. Check them out!
In This Issue
We have five Blues music reviews this week! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Fabrizio Poggi & Chicken Mambo. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Franc Robert. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Twist-O-Lettz. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Mitch Kashmar and the Pontiax. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Mark Robinson. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Fabrizio Poggi & Chicken Mambo - Spirit & Freedom
Ultra Sound Records
Italian singer-harmonica player Fabrizio Poggi is an unknown quantity to me. Having never heard his previous work I have nothing to compare his latest to. Which isn’t necessary as his band and a laundry list of guest players have given us a thoughtful and comforting experience. If you need a label, it’s his interpretation of American roots music. Gospel, folk, country and blues have found a place to rest here. The guests, known and unknown contribute to the sound, but the main drive seems to come from the band itself. The interplay of slide guitars, harmonica, accordion, organ, voices and whatever else lull you into a peaceful place that you don’t want to leave. Fabrizio’s accent forces you to strain your ears in places, but his warm talk-singing lends an authenticity to the overall sound. Various cover songs, traditional songs and one original convey Fabrizio’s vision of “Spirit & Freedom”. In his media handout he states-“Indeed, there is no spirituality without freedom and there is no freedom without spirituality”.
What better way to kick off a concept album of this sort than with The Blind Boys Of Alabama lending their mournful gospel vocals to “I’m On My Way” with Charlie Musselwhite providing his harmonica magic on this slow spiritual. Dobro, harmonica and accordion provide the cushion for this tune to float on. The interplay of organ, accordion and harmonica give “I Shall Be Released” that “Band” vibe, and even a gentle wah-wah solo adds to the effect. Stefano Intelisano enhances nicely here and elsewhere with his Hammond organ washes. “Stayed On Freedom” bops online nicely abetted by legend Augie Meyers tasty organ and the gruff vocals of Guy Davis, helped by the Texas Hill Country Gospel Choir. Leonard Cohen’s over used “Halleuja” is mercifully mostly just hallejula repeated over another brilliant turn on organ by Mr. Intelisano. Fabrizio’s lilting accordion drifts through Gram Parson’s “In My Hour Of Darkness” along with the harmonica of Mickey Raphael. Erica Opizzi sounds delightfully little-girlish with her counterpoint backup vocal.
The Reverend Gary Davis is represented with “I Heard The Angels Singin’”. The other-worldly of organ and church-like vocals of Eric Bibb add to the revival feel along with Fabrizio’s warm-your-heart vocals. Kris Kristofferson’s “They Killed Him” is given a particularly poignant reading by Fabrizio, a song that features a brief electric slide solo by Gianfranco Scala that aches.The song talks of the assassinations of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The lone Frabrizio composition “Jesus Called Me In Heaven” fits in perfectly among the sound of the traditional fare. It’s about his wish to join the heavenly band along side such heroes as Mississippi John Hurt and Johnny Cash. Hearing Debbi Walton’s voice for the first time on “Spiritual” is an Oh-My-God moment. Once again the combined strengths of voices, guitar, Fabrizio’s Harmonica and Stefano Intelisano’s organ lift this song to a higher level. Nora Guthrie’s reading of her father Woody Guthrie’s poem “My Peace” as a lead-in to Woody’s “Jesus Christ” is a guaranteed tear-jerker. “Mr. Bojangles” seems out of place among these spirituals, but it speaks to the individual’s spirit persevering against personal demons. Folksinger Tish Hinojosa helps out Fabrizio with her crystalline pipes.
Prepare to have more of your tears jerked by “He Was A Friend of Mine”, with its melancholy lyric and reading underscored with instrumental plaintiveness. Accordion master Flaco Jimenez blends well with Fabrizio’s harmonica on Willy Deville’s romatic “Heaven Stood Still”. Billy Joe Shaver’s world weary voice along with Fabrizio’s makes us believe they will “Live Forever” on this rendition of Billy Joe’s song. Guy Davis and the Texas Hill Country Massed Choir close things out with a rousing “Glory Glory” and a snippet from Martin Luther King…..”We want to be free”.
Upon finishing my listen to this, I couldn’t help but feeling I had crossed through years of American history and suffering across this land, buffered by this intertwining music that gives you the sense of traveling the country. Mr. Poggi, his band and able friends can be proud of what they accomplished here. Sometimes it takes outsiders to get into and under the real spirit of someone else’s music to full light. The whole band shines throughout especially Fabrizio’s vocals and harmonica, Mr. Intelisano’s organ playing and that of string-master Gianfranco Scala on guitars, ukulele and mandolin. After hearing this, these guys are sure to provide many more years of enduring music.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com
Blues Society News
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Colorado Blues Society - Boulder, CO
On Feb 13, 2011 please join CBS for an afternoon of Blues and Heart Awareness at Jazz at Jacks in the Denver Pavillions (500 16th Street Suite 320 Denver, Colorado 303-433-1000) . National recording Blues star, Deanna Bogart is headlining the event. Deanna, the 'Girl in the Band', is a multi talented award-winning pianist, writer, songstress and saxophone player, who has performed with the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise Revue in addition to fronting her own outstanding band. Joining Deanna on the marquee are three extremely talented Colorado Blues bands: Papa Juke, the Delta Sonics, and Eef & She Grooves.
In addition to a fabulous Blues lineup, the afternoon will present valuable information on cardiovascular disease and strokes. There will be an AHA informational booths and Heart Check America will provide free heart scans to emphasize the importance of heart health awareness and early detection. There will also be silent auctions and raffles with some pretty amazing prizes.
The funds raised will be presented to AHA and will go towards public health education, early detection, research and community service. Tickets are $20. www.coblues.com
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents theCharlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011in Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV Here is the lineup: Friday May 20 - Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Mojo Theory, Lil Bryan & The Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker. Sat. May 21- IBC Band Winner, Slim Fatz, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich. The Charlie West Blues Fest is produced by the West Virginia Blues Society, Inc.www.wvbluessociety.org and www.charliewestbluesfest.com
Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
The Cincy Blues Society celebrates its hottest Winter Blues Fest line up yet! On January 28 and 29, 2011 The Southgate House in Newport, KY, will be rocking with 25 of the best local blues bands.
At 6:00 pm on each evening, the Fest will be kicked off with special performances by Cincy Blues Society's Blues in the Schools (BITS) Band. The full line up includes: B. Hatfield Band, Bad Men on a Mission, Balderdash, The Blue Birds, The Blues Merchants, Blues Therapy Rx, Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project, The Electric Souls, G. Miles & The Hitmen, The Gear Shifts, John Redell & Company, The Juice, Kayneevol, Leo Clarke Band, Miss Lissa & Company, The Mudpies, Ralph & the Rhythm Hounds, Richie & The Students, Sonny's All Blues Band, Tempted Souls Band, Them Bones, Thomas Long & Blue Sacrifice, and Voodoo Puppet. This line-up may be subject to change.
Advance tickets will be available for purchase on January 1 online -- a link to the new ticket vendor will be on the CincyBlues.org website -- for $15 (plus a $2.75 service fee per ticket) On each day of the show, tickets will be $20 at the door. A full list of performers and scheduled times is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincyblues.org
The Southern California Blues Society - Los Angeles. CA
The Southern California Blues Society presents Eric Sardinas and The Delgado Brothers for a This year's New Year's Eve Blues Party & Concert with a sizzling Tex-Mex theme. Show time is 9:00 pm until 1:00 am. Advanced tickets are highly-recommended: SCBS Members $27.50 /non-members $37.50. Nick's Taste of Texas is located at 545 N. Citrus Avenue, Covina, CA. So join us for two outstanding, internationally-known, rockin' soulful blues bands. As one of the best NYE values in So Cal, it truly has all of the elements for an amazing time: an exciting double bill, fantastic down-home atmosphere, incredible Tex-Mex menu (optional), dancing, raffles and a roomful of blues fans ready to party, as well as ample free parking! For details: www.socalblues.org or call 714-209-7347.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is proud to sponsor a benefit for the Lance Corporal Alec Catherwood Memorial Scholarship Fund on Saturday, January 15, 2011. The benefit will be at the American Legion hall in Byron, IL and will run from 7 to 11 PM. JB Ritchie and the Power Blues band will play their rocking style of hot Chicago blues.
The evening will also feature silent auctions, ticket raffles and a 50-50 raffle. The suggested donation to attend is $10 per person. All proceeds from the door and event go to the Alec Catherwood Memorial Scholarship Fund. Alec was killed in action in Afghanistan on October 14, 2010 and the scholarship fund was set up in his honor. To donate items for the silent auction and raffles or for more information call Steve Jones at 779-537-4006.
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will host the 19th Annual River City Ohio Blues Competition on February 18 & 19, 2011, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta. Blues Bands and Solo/Duo blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, in early 2012.
First place will receive $1,200 in cash and BJFMS sponsorship to the IBC. Second place wins $600 and third place wins $300. No geographic restrictions apply. Any serious blues musician is invited to apply. Winning this preliminary competition gets your ticket punched to Memphis, and offers valuable exposure to record labels, A&R representatives, blues industry professionals and festival promoters capable of providing real career advancement.
Complete information, format, Application & Rules are available online at www. bjfm.org. Deadline for application submission is January 8, 2011. For more information contact Steve Wells at 304-295-4323 or email email@example.com
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
Join MVBS in Memphis for the IBC in February! The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge [IBC] will take place in Memphis February 2-5, 2011, and the Quad-Cities’ Steady Rollin’ Blues Band will be there to represent the state of Iowa. We are trying to organize a contingent to go down together for this event.
If you are interested in being part of a party bus traveling to Memphis in the early hours of Wednesday February 2 and returning on Sunday February 6, please contact Lonnie Britt. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 309-737-5087.
We have also reserved a block of rooms through Linda Kibak, the travel agent for Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine. Unless you are a member of the Blues Foundation, rooms at the host hotel, the Doubletree on Union Avenue, are already sold out. Linda has reserved us a block of 25 rooms for February 2-5 at the Benchmark, right across the street from the Doubletree on Union Avenue, about 3 blocks from Beale Street. The rooms are $114 per night, both kings and doubles, smoking and non-smoking.
To reserve your room, please contact Linda by e-mail before January 12 at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . You will need to tell her what kind of room you want (king or double, smoking or non) and give her your credit card number to guarantee the room. www.mvbs.org PH 563-322-5837, MWF 11:30 - 1:30, 2:00 - 5:30
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Dec 27 - The Sally Weisenburg Blues Trio. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Franc Robert – 49 x 61
Self Release 2010
11 tracks, 42.52 minutes.
Franc Robert is the lead guitarist for Tampa Bay area band Back Alley Blues Band and here steps out for his first release as leader. This is a mainly electric CD but unfortunately the CD does not list any musicians by name; bass, drums and keyboards are present on most tracks. A significant problem with the CD is the quality of the recording or mastering: the sound is indistinct and needed a considerable hike in volume to be heard. This may be a problem with the advance copy I had, but it made for a less comfortable listening experience than normal, particularly when I put the new Kenny Wayne Shepherd CD into the player afterwards without altering the volume and was nearly deafened!
All bar one track are credited as originals, the exception being a very strange version of “House Of The Rising Sun” which features a not unattractive Spanish guitar figure set against a very dull version of the familiar tune which lacks either the drama of the classic Animals version or the pathos that could be wrung from the tragic story. Mind you, “Cross Roads Stomp” is so close a relation to the Robert Johnson classic that you can hear RJ spinning in his grave! As an upbeat, slide driven version of “Crossroads” this is OK, but no better than one might hear in many bars.
The best tracks for me were the more restrained “Troubles Be On My Mind”, an instrumental not far away from “It Hurts Me Too”, well played on guitar and “The Boxcar Tourist”, the only track to feature National Steel guitar which made a pleasant change to the more electric tracks. Of the straight electric songs I liked “Moving To Splitsville” which rocks along well with quite an interesting lyric about the demise of a relationship.
The title track finds us in SRV territory and works quite well, certainly more enjoyable than the aforementioned “Rising Sun” and opener “Goin’ Down South” which I found monotonous. “Queen Of Hearts” features a Bo Diddley style riff on guitar and organ while final track “Back Alley Blues” is another instrumental with quite interesting playing between two guitars – again, a pity not to know who the second player is (or are they both Franc?).
Overall I found this a disappointing CD with poor sound and insufficient originality to get its head above the many CDs that are released in the blues field.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
The Twist-O-Lettz (Rick Holmstrom John “Juke” Logan and Stephen Hodges)
Rick Holmstrom has a look of swagger and some major league mojo going. He’s trying to give us a raw and energized CD with a truly live sound. It is a live studio CD and It seems like they tried to replicate the live and limited sound from a small club; sometimes it comes across as clipped, distorted and limited in range in a few spots but it is interesting (to say the least). At times I think they tried too hard and missed the mark with the sound but if you like your blues really dirty and grungy then this is for you. I stress the dirty and grungy. Really dirty and really grungy.
The CD begins with a cover of Chris Kenner’s “The Land of 1000 Dances”. The big percussion and guitar with distorted vocals is raw and very interesting. It’s not exactly my cup of tea per se, but it’s an interesting and very different approach from the original song recording. Very wild and untamed stuff! This raw percussive beat, fuzzy guitar and angry, distorted vocals continue to a lesser degree with the next two cuts penned by Rick Holmstrom. It’s very edgy stuff. What really intrigues me the most is the harp and bass harp work. “Let’s Rock and Roll”, “Waiting’ Too Long”, “Jukestaposition” and most of the rest of the cuts that feature the harp give us some great licks by John “Juke” Logan. I think his efforts are by far the highlight of the album for me and I enjoyed his work immensely. Steve Hodges gives us some interesting things on drums, tom-toms, jungle-drums and all sort of other percussive stuff and Holmsstrom is just a wild man on guitar and lead vocals.
Holmstrom and Company are trying to be minimalistic, angry and down-home-a la-West Coast. It is not traditional blues by any stretch of the imagination. Very raw, at times very angry, and always loud and making a statement. I’d love to hear these guys live; the stuff I saw of them on You Tube was also interesting. The CD is not for the faint of heart- it will evoke strong emotions for sure. If you are a fan of blues and loud, garage punk music, you’ll like this one a lot. They go out on a limb and it’s a looooong one! Very interesting stuff, to say the least; it is probably the most different album I’ve reviewed in awhile.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Mitch Kashmar and the Pontiax - 100 Miles To Go
12 tracks 50mins 24secs
Let’s say right at the start that Mr Kashmar has a very fine singing voice and (particularly in the higher register) a fiery and forceful approach in his harp work. He and his band have been gigging and travelling for some time with three different line-ups to the band; Tom Lackner (dms); Jack Kennedy (b) and Bill Flores (g, and ts) in most of them.
Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, in 2005 his CD "Nickels & Dimes", featuring guitar great Junior Watson (Delta Groove Music, 2005), saw him really start to make a name for himself. Kashmar was nominated in two consecutive years for Blues Music Awards (previously the Handy Awards). In 2006 he was listed as a nominee for Best New Artist Debut and in 2007 as Best Instrumentalist - Harmonica. In 2008 he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the band War (with whom he was gigging) and Eric Burdon, founder of the UK band The Animals, for a reunion concert.
There have been two other CDs on Delta Groove, Wake Up & Worry (2006) and Live At Labatt (2008).
With the exception of two bonus tracks, the CD is a re-issue of a 1988 album issued under the same name. The music is nothing short of excellent, all of the tracks featuring the original Pontiax line-up. MITCH KASHMAR - hca/voc, BILL FLORES - gtr, JOHN LAWTON – gtr (except bonus tracks), JACK KENNEDY - bass, TOM LACKNER – drums, and come with the special guest: WILLIAM CLARKE - hca on the opener, a storming Night Creeper (which has shades of the wonderful Honky Tonk Night Time Man, written by Merle Haggard (1973) and covered by the fabulous Lynyrd Skynyrd (1977).
I do have to report, however, that the years have taken their toll, as the two bonus tracks while workman like have (to these ears) a rather strange, thin sound. However that may not be the effect of the aging of the musicians. Is it possible the originals were recorded on tape and these bonuses were recorded digitally? An audio engineer friend tells me that it DOES make a difference.
Anyway that aside, this one is recommended to any and all fans of harp music and west coast blues. Go for it! You won’t regret it.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (seewww.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Mark Robinson - Quit Your Job - Play Guitar
Blind Chihuahua Records
There has been a dramatic reduction in recent years in the costs associated with getting a cd professionally manufactured. And musicians now have a variety of creative avenues available to them on the internet that allow them to market their recordings inexpensively while building a solid fan base. The days of needing the support of a major record label to bring a project to fruition are long gone. This leveling of the playing field can be a blessing - and a curse. We now get a chance to hear talented artists that not that long ago would have remained local legends. It is also difficult to find these gems amidst the glut of recordings that are now flooding the market.
Guitarist Mark Robinson has finally arrived at the point of realizing his dream of having a CD of his own. A native of Indiana, Robinson spent time in Chicago bars playing the blues before returning to Bloomington, where he spent two decades toiling at a day job. Six years ago he finally had enough, quitting his "monkey job" and moving to Nashville with the intent of making his living playing music. He also has a studio in the Music City where he has recorded and produced a number projects for local musicians.
The multi-talented Robinson handles all of the guitar parts as well as the dobro, banjo and lap steel guitar. He wrote five songs, co-wrote two other tracks and filled the role of producer. His soulful vocals bring life to his tales of heartache and betrayal in the midst of pool halls and beer joints. The rhythm section is Paul Griffith on drums and David Roe on bass while Randy Handley and Johnny Neel cover the keyboard parts. There are a number of backing vocalists on the disc, including the great Tracy Nelson on one cut.
Robinson's rendition of the traditional tune "Poor Boy opens the disc with an insistent beat and an edgy vocal from the leader. The band rocks hard on "Runaway Train", a Robinson original with the leader's slide guitar and Ben Graves wailing harmonica lines creating the sense of urgency needed for this tale of a man on the run from the law. Even better is the horn-driven arrangement on "Back in the Saddle", with Robinson delivering a performance in the classic style of the Rolling Stones. On "Back-up Plan" the band switches gears, laying down a rollicking New Orleans R&B groove with strong contributions from Handley and Dennis Taylor on tenor sax. Robinson utilizes the banjo and dobro to create a country-tinge feel to start "Memphis Won't Leave Me Alone" before he turns up the heat on the lap steel guitar. "Payday Giveaway" was written by Bill Wison, who Robinson played with for years, and describes many of the vices that can rob a hard-earned paycheck from a working man. The repetitive lyrics on "I Know You'll be Mine" are offset by Robinspn's inspired guitar work.
Given the opportunity to show off his skill on guitar, Robinson quickly provides plenty of evidence as to why he had the confidence to follow his dream. He invigorates the the classic instrumental "Sleepwalk", picking out intricate lines that embellish the melody while Neel on the organ helps create the proper mood. "The Fixer" is a slow blues that could have been written about the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction. The leader plays with restraint, letting his solo slowly build to a brief outburst that ends abruptly as Robinson switches back to the vocal. The disc closes with another highlight, "Try One More Time", possibly the best of Robinson's compositions. His pleading vocal perfectly captures the emotional turmoil of a man struggling to carry on after the end of a love affair.
Undoubtedly Mark Robinson is justifiably proud of how his "dream" disc turned out. His mix of musical styles will prevent people from pigeon-holing his work as anything more than American roots music as he delivers on all counts - song writing, production, singing and guitar playing. Hopefully he can manage to grab the attention of enough listeners so that this solid effort gets the attention it deserves.
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
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