Friday, July 15, 2011
Sunday finds us providing Music In The Park in the little town of Colfax, just a few miles east of Des Moines. The directions I've been given say: The address of the park is 13 East Division Street. Take the IA Hwy-117 exit, EXIT 155 off I-80, toward COLFAX/MINGO. Turn south, toward Colfax, onto IA-117/N WALNUT ST. Turn LEFT onto E DIVISION ST. (Highway 117 or N Walnut is the "main street" going through Colfax. Go over the river, go over the rail road tracks. Park is on your left hand side, three blocks after the rail road tracks.) We start playing at 7pm, fireworks happen after we're finished, as part of the county fair. Al has been using this week off to record his first ever solo record/cd. He needs to be back in the studio on Sunday. We are fortunate that our guitar playing friend Joe Cuttell, from California, is back in the state this weekend and has agreed to be the 6th player! (wow, after 30 years we go back to the original sound of two guitars and one saxophone) (as much as things change, they stay the same)...
Here's next week's gig junkie driven, tough, but dumb tour: Fri. July 22 Up In Smoke BBQ Bash, East Park, Mason City, IA , 7-11 p.m. Sat. July 23 Liberty Centre Blues And BBQ Redux! North Liberty, IA. We're the first of many acts noon-2 p.m. Sat. July 23 Smith-Maass Anniversary Party (open to the public) The Hub, 4th & Main Cedar Falls IA, 7-10:30 p.m. Sun. July 24 Private Party for the Beers To You auction winners, LaPorte City, IA Mon. July 25 The Wayne Mc Cracken Memorial Evening of The Blues, outside of Grace Methodist Church, 37th & Cottage Grove, Des Moines, 7-8:30 p.m. (open to the public, free of charge) Whoa, I'm worn out just looking at that run! I'll have more on all those gigs next week, but I wanted you to know, so you could make plans to be there, that part of The Blue Band's contract for the Smith/Maass Anniversary party (along with NO BROWN M & Ms) is that our long-time friend/soundman/technical advisor, Phil Maass is mandated by the band to play a couple of songs ON DRUMS! This, along with the party being an effort to raise funds and food stock for the NE Iowa Food Bank, should make your social priority list for early Sat. evening July 23. BRING CAKE!...
I was tickled to hear that Iowa Public Radio has tweaked some of the program offerings on some of their frequencies around the state, resulting in the shows that I produce now being broadcast on their Fort Dodge, Carroll, and Lamoni frequencies! You can find out more about IPR's Studio One offerings at: http://iowapublicradio.org/studio-one.html The Fort Dodge frequency easily carries to Storm Lake and Okoboji and the Lamoni frequency covers a good deal of ground along the IA/MO border, and I think the Carroll frequency carries into Cherokee and Jefferson, Backtracks, the rock'n'roll history show, runs Sat. 7-10pm, (this week the 8 o'clock hour is all listener requests that I could not get to on last week's live show) Blue Avenue, the blues show, runs Sunday 5-6:30p, followed by The Beatles Medley 6:30-7p. (this week, the Fabs as a live performance band) Please help spread the word of this new distribution for the shows...
Just in the last week or 10 days, I've slowly gotten some of my sense of taste back. It left the second week of April, so it's really great to actually (kinda) taste an ice cream sandwich again. I like the taste of the ice cream sandwich so much that I have gained back 4 of the 12 pounds I lost (not necessarily a good thing) I still seem to be fighting some kind of fatigue (or is that gig addiction just wearing me out?) But this week, I added another new first EVAH in my life. I had an ingrown toenail on my big toe cut out. You can call me Chester. If you don't get that joke, YOU'RE TOO DAMN YOUNG to be on this list!! (Sorry Dolores) (editor's note: there have been quite a few recent additions to the email list, Dolores is my mother's last living sister and my moral compass) Anyway, so just as I was beginning to feel ever so sorry for myself because of these minor on-going health issues, I read on Facebook that guitarman Jeff Petersen had passed out/fainted and was going thru two days of tests to try and find out why. When I talked to him this afternoon, he said he felt fine, all the tests say he's the picture of health and he was heading to the golf course! Jeff does everything from drive the extra sound equipment to the festivals to finding and stringing the electricity to setting up the lights, then actually musically leading the band while I'm doing the front man thing, to physically being the truck packer when we're done. Frankly, it scares the Jimminy Christmas out of me (Dolores approved exclamation) to have to do a gig without that guy. Hopefully it's just the toe nail that I'll have to deal with this weekend!...
Lots of cool stuff going on in the Sparkle City metro area for the last day of vacation (Fri) College Hill Arts Fest with The Ramblers headlining the evening, Matt Woods & The Thunderbolts at BBQ-loo, and Checker & The Bluetones at Jamison's. If you see me hobbling along, say HEY CHESTER!! (speaking of Matt Woods & The T-Bolts, they're on the New Year's Eve bill again this year. A full NYE line up will be announced next week)...
See ya on the Blue Highway, remember, in the heat, WATERMELON is the perfect substitute for CAKE, rub yer washboard tie to the tune of On The Road Again, help me with my gig addiction by booking your Christmas Holiday party today, and always know that we love you. Bob Dorr & The Blue Band
© 2011 Blues Blast Magazine
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For those of you who are planning to come to Chicago for the Blues Blast Music Awards at Buddy Guy's Legends in October, we have some good news. We have negotiated a block of 25 rooms at a discount rate of only $139. Our official hotel for the awards is the Essex Inn located just around the corner from Legends.
It is a nice hotel within walking distance. Hurry though because there are only 25 rooms guaranteed at this rate. Get your reservation before they are gone.
Voting in the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards continues until August 31. More than 2700 votes have been cast so far!
This Weeks Prize Winners!
We drew three weekly prize winners today from those who have voted. Bobbi Mongeau won a signed copy of Buddy Guy's latest CD, Living Proof. (This CD won a Grammy, A Blues Music Award and is nominated for Traditional Album of the Year in the Blues Blast Music Awards!) Also Nadine Rae and BJ Allen both won Blues Blast T-shirts.
If you haven't voted yet then you are missing out on a chance to win FREE Blues CDs, Blues Blast T-shirts or even a couple tickets to the Blues Blast Music Awards. We are randomly drawing for prizes each week from those who vote in this years Blues Blast Music Awards.
NEXT WEEK WE ARE DRAWING FOR 2 FREE TICKETS to the Blues Blast Music Awards so don't miss out! CLICK HERE to vote NOW!
Speaking of tickets, Blues Blast Music Awards tickets are now on sale. The Blues Blast Music Awards are Thursday, October 27th at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. Get your tickets for this great event now, CLICK HERE.
Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival
We are headed to Bloomington, Illinois, this weekend for the Ain't Nothin Bit The Blues Fest. The festival is put on by our good friends at the Blues Blowtorch Society and WGLT Radio. The lineup includes performances by Bernard Allison, Big Time Sarah, Lionel Young Band, Steve "The Harp", Janiva Magness, Bryan Lee, Cee Cee James, Matthew Curry & The CurrFew and The New & Slightly Used. Visit www.aintnothinbuttheblues.com for tickets and information.
Look for the folks in the Blues Blast T-shirts and say hello! See you there.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Randy Chortkoff. Bob Kieser has a photo essay of the 2011 Urbana Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Gary Sellers. Steve Jones reviews a CD by Harpdog Brown. Ian McKenzie reviews 2 CDs from John “Scootch” Cugno. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Demetria Taylor. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a compilation CD of artists from the Blues Society Of Western Pennsylvania. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Randy Chortkoff
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
That’s an age-old riddle that may never be solved.
That’s almost as perplexing as when an out-of-work hardware store employee applies for a job at a bank and finds out that experience is required for the position. Nothing wrong with that, but how does he get that experience without first having that job?
That paradox is also relevant to groups other than poultry, retail clerks and bank tellers.
Apparently, it applies to blues musicians, as well.
So says Randy Chortkoff.
“There’s a huge catch-22 that musicians are caught in that is a sad thing, but it’s also one that I think is important for people to know about,” he said. “Labels won’t sign bands because they don’t have booking representation. But then a booking agency won’t take them on and sign them, because they don’t have good label representation. So the musician is caught right in the middle. It’s really a frustrating situation. There’s only a few booking agencies and they’re filled up. They just can’t take on new acts. It’s just a tough way to go for good blues musicians.”
Chortkoff has experience with both sides of that coin.
Not only is he a blues musician, playing harmonica for the southern-California based Mannish Boys, he’s also a manager, a promoter, a record label executive and the founder and guiding light of Delta Groove Records (www.deltagroovemusic.com).
And according to Chortkoff, even some of the brightest new players on the scene are tangled up in finding the right balance between record labels and booking agencies.
“We just put out an album, probably one of the best blues albums in the last 10 years, on a guy named Shawn Pittman,” he said. “He’s from Austin and he’s young, good-looking and is just a monster guitar player. He’s also a monster singer and writes these incredible blues songs that sound like they were written in Chicago years ago. And he recorded the whole album himself. He played drums, he played bass, piano, guitar, vocals, background vocals - did everything himself. He’s got a van, a band and he’s ready to go out and work. And I can’t get him signed to a booking agency. They’re full and are just not taking on any clients. They don’t have enough staff. So it’s just difficult for musicians these days.”
And, as stated above, that can make it extremely difficult for an artist to get an album out to the masses for public consumption, because even you have an album ready, but no label muscle behind you, what do you really have?
“Well, I will stick my neck out on occasion and put out an album, like Shawn’s, just because it’s so good,” Chortkoff said. “And Terry Hanck (former horn player for Elvin Bishop) submitted an album to me that was already recorded and was just so good, I couldn’t say no. And I just finished doing an album on Big Pete, a white harmonica player and singer from Holland who is just incredible. And that’s a real risky situation, because not only does he not have representation over here, he’s also not from over here. But he’s just so good.”
So just like with other rules-of-thumb, thankfully, there are exceptions in the world of the blues music business.
Especially at a record label that has went from zero-to-60 in about two seconds flat. Just barely a half-decade old, Delta Groove has already managed to find a sweet spot with blues lovers from all ends of the globe.
But with the failure rate for startup businesses at a staggeringly-high rate since the dawn of the new millennium, especially when the music industry is involved, how does one manage to carve out a niche for himself in such rapid time?
“The answer is - I’ve done this because I have a really strong passion for the music. So I will not put anything out that I feel will just be commercial and will only make money,” Chortkoff said. “I only put out music that I feel passionate about. I don’t do it for the monetary gain, because there really is no monetary gain. So I think the success of the label is due to; A: the music, which managed to really appeal to the true blues lovers, and; B: I felt it was really important when I started the label that the three people I hired in the beginning – my cousin who is great with graphics and art, along with the guy I hired to do radio promotion - had the same pride and passion for the music that I did. Jeff Fleenor was one of the founding staff and a great producer, too. We’re a family-oriented label. And getting back to the radio promotion, when we started out, I insisted that the people that did promotions make personal contact with the stations and the DJs and the reviewers. Instead of just sending out e-mails like most companies do, I wanted us to establish personal relationships, have a personal touch.”
That, along with some eye-catching, attention-grabbing announcements, certainly helped speed up the process of heralding the debut of Delta Groove.
“I believe in promotions and marketing, so I took my savings and I put it into doing big, full-page color ads in magazines, really trying to make a big splash,” he said.
And as history will show, that big splash turned into something of a tidal wave.
Delta Groove won the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in 2009.
“Even in the first year that I had Delta Groove, it almost surpassed all the labels that had been around for years, in the sense that we got nominated for 10 or 12 Handy Awards,” Chortkoff said. “And that has continued over the course of the following years, too. We haven’t won a lot of them, but I think it’s more important to just get the nominations, because the people that nominate are the ones that really know the music and appreciate it. The radio programmers, the writers, the DJs, the reviewers, they’re the ones doing the nominating. And then the voters usually vote for the big names.”
It sure doesn’t hurt matters when you can have veterans of the blues like Elvin Bishop, Tracy Nelson, Phillip Walker and Rod Piazza calling your label home.
But Chortkoff also realized that today’s blues-buying public have their ears wrapped around a host of different sounds, moving from the storied 12-bar, country blues progressions, all the way to the balls-to-the-wall wail of the buzz-inducing jamband practitioners of 2011.
So, wisely paying attention to what consumers crave, a new member of the Delta Groove family was birthed.
“I realized that in order to keep the label going and keep some money coming in so we can continue; I had to do some blues/roots music that was more on the commercially-oriented side. Stuff that appealed to the rock/blues element,” said Chortkoff. “So rather than put it out on Delta Groove, which I would like to keep rather pure and true to the traditional side of blues, I created a subsidiary that I wanted to be very eclectic, with a mix of rootsy music that could lean over to the rock or even jazz side of things. And that’s how Eclecto Groove was born. And I signed Ana Popovic and Mike Zito and Nick Curran and put Jason Ricci on that label. And Kirk Fletcher’s last record had more of a jazzy/rock sort of feel, so that album’s on there. So the subsidiary that is Eclecto Groove was done so as not to disturb the purity of Delta Groove.”
Learning how Randy Chortkoff spent his free evenings as an impressionistic young man helps explain the thought process behind the diverse roster of artists that make up Delta/Eclecto Groove.
It’s a lot like the way that Bill Graham ran the Fillmore West, or the way that Chet Helm booked talent for the Family Dog in the psychedelic 60s.
Take chances, have fun and let it all hang out.
“When I was listening to a lot of rock music in the 60s, I was fortunate enough to be in San Francisco when Bill Graham would have people like Jimmy Reed and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells playing with bands like The Cream and Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac, which at that time was just a blues band,” said Chortkoff. “And that mixture of bands really attracted me. And then down the street from my house in Los Angeles was a place called The Ash Grove, a guy named Ed Pearl ran the place, and you could go in there, even if you were under 18. It was like a coffee house and he’d have Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf play there. So I got to experience all that stuff.”
Like many of that era who came under the spell of the blues, Chortkoff really can’t pinpoint exactly when the blues bug bit. He just knows he got bit in a big way.
“I think it’s really like anyone who likes the blues – when I was young, for some reason, black music appealed to me. Like when I first heard James Brown, or Sam Cooke … even when I was in my early teens – 13 or 14 – for some reason, that music really touched me,” he said. “And then of course, being a product of the 60s, I heard a lot of other kinds of music, like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and The Yardbirds, but I was always drawn to the bluesy side of things. I really can’t explain what the attraction was, but I just think that kind of music touches people in a certain kind of way that is really profound.”
After taking up the harmonica, courtesy of the inspiration provided by some of those British Invasion bands, Chortkoff later found himself immersed in the Los Angeles blues scene even deeper, becoming a promoter.
“Yeah, later I became a promoter and put on shows in L.A. with some of the blues artists that I had been fortunate enough to meet. Guys like Jimmy Rogers and Dave and Louis Myers,” he said. “I ended up working with a bunch of Chicago players and it was just a really cool experience. Luther Tucker, who played guitar for just about everybody, helped get me in touch with all these people. It just kind of blossomed from there and I started these yearly events called The Blues Hall of Fame Festivals – A Tribute to Little Walter, and I was working at the same time as a harmonica player with, and also managing, King Ernest. And we went in the studio and recorded an album.”
“Then I found that Billy Boy Arnold was still alive and in great shape, living in Chicago, at the time,” Chortkoff said. “So I brought him out for a Little Walter show and then ended up doing a little tour with him. At the end of that tour, I brought him in the studio and recorded an album. And I shopped that album and the King Ernest album to various blues labels. Well, Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records picked up the Billy Boy album (1993’s Back Where I Belong) and Jerry Gordon at Evidence Records picked up the King Ernest album.”
That’s not too shabby, going two-for-two on your first two attempts at finding a home for your initial two projects.
Though he would soon end up going three-for-three, as Chortkoff soon found out, the wind can change directions in a hurry in the music business.
“I also recorded a Finis Tasby album called Jump Children and Evidence Records picked that one up, too,” he said. “Finally, I produced one on Kirk Fletcher, called Shades of Blue. It had Kim Wilson on it, Janiva Magness on it, Finis Tasby on it … all kinds of great people on it. And then I produced one on Paris Slim, who is in the Mannish Boys. And I went to shop those. Well, something had happened, I don’t know what, but nobody picked them up. So here I had these two albums, so I just said, ‘well, if I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em.’ I knew nothing about running a record label, but I had a little bit of money saved up from my day job – working in the film industry – so I started Delta Groove. That was going on seven years ago. And those were the first two albums, followed by albums from Rod Piazza, and then the Hollywood Blue Flames, and it just progressed from there.”
And although he’s knee-deep in the blues from the standpoint of being a label owner, producer, marketer and talent scout, Chortkoff still manages to work enough time into his weekly schedule to step out front, instead of behind the scenes, to blow off steam, and a mean harp, for the Mannish Boys.
“It gives me a chance to play. I don’t consider myself the kind of harmonica player that Mitch Kashmar or Rod Piazza or Kim Wilson are,” he said. “But I’ve got my own little shtick and I seem to get over a bit. But I just never had the patience to make it a full-time career and sit and study like those other guys. I’m just not at that level.”
With a rotating cast of some of the biggest and best players on the west coast, the Mannish Boys is more like a living, breathing, ever-evolving organism, than it is a typical blues band.
All part of the plan, according to Chortkoff.
“For me, the whole concept of the Mannish Boys was to put together something similar to what Ike Turner and Johnny Otis used to do with their shows – they were revues,” said Chortkoff. “They were wonderful. There wasn’t just one band playing at a concert, it was like a little blues festival all rolled up into one performance. So since I knew so many wonderful musicians in Los Angeles, I decided to put together a core band and have a revolving list of guest artists. And right now, we’re in a transition, where the Mannish Boys will be doing our next album with a whole new lineup.”
In addition to Chortkoff, this edition of the Mannish Boys features Jimmy Bott, Willie J. Campbell, Kirk Fletcher, Shawn Pittman, Paris Slim, Finis Tasby and Sugar Ray Rayford.
With its warm, sunny climate and show-biz glitter, southern California often gets the short shaft when discussing blues hot-spots.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the tremendous history the blues has in California. But to name a few, you’ve got T-Bone Walker, George Smith, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Pee Wee Crayton … I could go on and on,” Chortkoff said. “Those are guys that recorded in Los Angeles. And in the 70s and 80s, the L.A. scene spawned people like William Clarke and James Harman and Rod Piazza, so there’s always been a heavy blues scene here.”
A heavy blues scene that Chortkoff was involved in before he probably even knew what the blues were.
“My dad was a carpet layer when I was young and that’s how he supported his family. But he was a big jazz fan and him and his buddy Abe used to go to Central Avenue (the Mecca for jazz and blues in L.A. in the 40s and 50s). Somehow, he got backstage at a Louis Armstrong show and ended up meeting Louis,” he said. “And he and Abe became very good friends with Louis Armstrong. So whenever he was in town, he’d bring his wife and band-mates to our house. I was just 5 or 6 years old, but they’d have these informal jam sessions and eat and drink. And I absorbed a lot of that. Maybe that’s where I got that initial influence.”
Wherever that initial influence came from, one thing is sure – it’s served Randy Chortkoff well over the course of the ensuing decades.
Even in these musically-turbulent times.
“Today, it’s very, very, very difficult to keep a record label going. There’s so much download rip-off stuff happening,” he said. “And the CD stores are vanishing. Right when our label was gaining some momentum, Tower Records closed, Virgin Records closed … all the major record stores closed. So I can’t really predict the future – I don’t have a crystal ball. Our Web site, www.deltagroovemusic.com, is a great place to buy our music at a discount and there are lots of great videos, photos and information on our artists there. But I don’t know where the label industry and the music industry is headed - I kind of live in the ‘now’ and try to stay in the ‘now’ – I’m just hanging in there until the bitter end. And until the money drives up completely, I’ll be involved one way or another.”
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staple 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, Mississippi, eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Gary Sellers -Soul Apparatus
It is a familiar tale – a wily veteran performer schools a young musician until the student gains the confidence to head off on his or her own. This apprenticeship period serves two purposes by not only imparting valuable instruction on the art of making music but also providing lessons on living the musician’s life out on the road. The process has been repeated over and over again, ensuring that the musical traditions are passed from one generation to the next.
Gary Sellers had Sam “The Bluzman” Taylor as his mentor. Taylor was a highly regarded singer, guitarist and songwriter who was a fixture on the Long Island, New York blues scene. Elvis Presley, Freddie King, Joe Tex and other well-known singers recorded Taylor’s songs. Sellers shares Taylor’s ability to mix soul and blues elements into a heady brew of music that takes an honest look at life’s ups & downs.
The duo collaborated on writing the opening track, “Chewin’ Ice”, which offers a sure-fire way to tell what a woman is thinking. They also co-wrote “Slow and Steady” with Sellers delivering tasty guitar licks over a funky backbeat.
Sellers does a nice job of covering Memphis Slim’s “Beer Drinking Woman”, his guitar work echoing the frustration covered in the lyrics about a no-good woman.
The faster tempo on “Done Sold Everything” lends a light-hearted feel to Sellers’ description of his attempts to satisfy the taxman.
Sellers has a voice with a slightly pinched, nasally tone and a limited range. His cover of “Let’s Straighten It Out” works because he takes his time and doesn’t push his voice too hard. Equally good is his run-through of “Sideshow Blues”. Sellers voice has a harder edge while his stinging guitar work punctuates Todd Snider’s humorous look at dealing with life’s issues. On “Dark End of the Street”, Sellers makes a valiant effort but his voice isn’t strong enough to make his version one that you will return to. The same issue occurs on “Living For the City”, where the soulful backing vocals from Taylor and Danny Kean are what capture the listener’s attention. But Sellers comes through on “It Don’t Hurt No More”, a slow blues that finds Sellers pleading vocal enveloped by his stinging guitar work.
The backing musicians include Mario Staiano on drums & percussion, Kean on keyboards, Gerry Sorentino and Dan Travis on bass plus Judi and Amy Sellers on backing vocals on “The Dark End of the Street”. But the focus stays on Sellers, who acquits himself well, especially on guitar. He joins a legion of other singers/guitarists fighting for attention in the crowded marketplace. From what I have heard, he is one of the better musicians that you have never heard of. Check out his music on his website and see if you agree.!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Harpdog Brown (featuring Graham Guest) - Naturally
Dog Breath Records
Harpdog Brown is a deep voiced crooner with a dirty and mean harp who has joined forces with Graham Guest on grand piano to produce a great CD. These Canadian blues men toured as a duo and decided to lay down some tracks together based on the success of the tour. Guest is a superb piano player with a clean and crisp sound on the keys. The duo are a great pair- Brown belts out his songs with a gravelly tone and plays some down home harp with it. Brian Coughlin joins them on clarinet for some tracks and he adds more of that old time blues sound to the CD. Gordie Matthews also does backing vocals. I did not know what to expect from this CD and was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the sound and how it presents itself in such a fantastic manner!
We first get to hear Brown with both Guest and Coughlin on "I'll Make It Up to You". Brown's vocals are superb, Guest is exemplary on piano and Coughlin's clarinet is just fantastic. Trading solos from vocal to piano to clarinet is seamless and natural, and has a real old style sound to it (as does all of the album) that is warm and inviting. The trio also plays with "Ain't Misbehavin'", giving it a new, old-time sound. Brown holds his harp out of the mix on these as he does on some other songs so as not to overly complicate things; he seems to aptly know when less is more.
Brown and Guest romp through Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" on vocals and piano (there's some welll done backing vocals here, too), sounding like they could be in some old honky tonk cafe early in the last century. "Tell That Woman" is another period piece where Brown and Guest just go at it on song and piano in an interesting upbeat metered pace.
Brown closes with a solo on Rice Miller's "Movin' Down Side the River Rhine". He sings and plays his harp back and forth in this jazzy track. His gruff bass voice is soulful and his harp mean and dirty. Less is more, once again. The opening "I Had My Fun" is a blast- they swing though Jimmy Oden's song and give the listener a great look at how the two can play off each other, Brown on harp and vocals and Guest pounding and pumping his grand piano.
Whether they are taking it way down with cuts like "Blue Light Special", "Sacrifice" and "Fine Little Girl Rag" or take it up-tempo in cuts like "I Only Gamble on Love" and the aforementioned upbeat tracks, Harpdog Brown and his piano playing buddy Graham Guest are the real deal with a sound like the 1920's and modern day charm. I'd love to meet up with these guys and hear them live- the ten tracks presented here have really wet my appetite for more! This is not music for those who want big guitar rocking blues; this is blues as it was played in small piano clubs almost a century ago. Brown's got a very cool sound to his vocals and punctuates the songs with some well-done harp or alternately adds in the clarinet. Guest's piano is flawless- I am floored by him and his sound, too. It's an old time sound that is made new and clean and bright by some great musicians. This one is a real sleeper of a CD worth exploring! .
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary 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, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.
Featured Live Blues Review
2011 Urbana Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival
June 24th & 25th, 2011
Photos by Bob Kieser
Blues Blast Magazine headed to Urbana, Illinois to catch the 4th Annual Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival. This FREE festival keeps getting better and better each year.
On Friday June 24th we arrived to hear some real Blues heavyweights with Alligator recording artist Guitar Shorty. Shorty showed why he is consistently in the lists of top Blues guitar players as he and his band tore it up for a great set.
Next up was another great artists on Alligator Records, Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials. We love watching Ed as he always has a real blast performing for his many Blues fans. The Blues Imperials—guitarist Mike Garrett, bassist James “Pookie” Young, drummer Kelly Littleton—are celebrating 20 amazing years together
Word is they have a new CD in the works. Cant wait for that one!
On Saturday Saturday June 25th the music started with a band called Kings Highway from Westville, IL. The band is Greg Lamb. Vocals/Guitar/Harp, Brian Dalbey -Bass and Spencer Ely- Drums and an unknown keyboard player (sorry). It was our first time hearing them and they were pretty darn good. They are releasing a CD soon.
Next up was Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat. Suhler came into the national spotlight as the second guitarist for George Thorogood and the Destroyers. He is quite the guitar slinger. Real tasteful stuff. Catch him if you get the chance!
Next up was one of our favorite guitar players, Chicago Bluesman John Primer. John is one of the great Chicago players on the new Chicago Blues: A Living History CD. This is the second one of these and the first CD in the series was nominated for a Grammy and won a Blues Blast Music Award in 2009. Look for a review of this great new CD in this publication soon!
Jimmy Thackery was up next. Jimmy is one rocking Blues guitar player. He put on a great set that the crowd loved.
Duke Robbilard was up next. A former guitarist for the legendary band Roomful of Blues, Duke has really made a name for himself with his great playing and singing.
There was a second stage on the other side of the festival that hosted a few local artists, the harmonica workshop and other activities. The last act on the second stage each night was Matthew Curry and The Currfew. Matthew is just 16 years old but this youngster has an old music soul.
Matthew is an amazing guitar player and singer. Rumor has it that a representative from one of the major Blues record labels made a special trip down from Chicago to check him out at this festival. It is easy to understand why when you see this kid sing and play!
The final act on the main stage was Coco Montoya.
We wish to congratulate our friends at Fluid Events, Jeff & Perry. You guys do a great job with this festival. See you again next year!
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Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
Cincy Blues Society presents the Cincy Blues Fest August 5 & 6, 2011. Cincinnati's Sawyer Point Park will be rocking with local and national blues performers. This year, the Budweiser Main Stage features Eden Brent, Big James Montgomery and the Chicago Playboys, Rick Holmstrom, Moreland & Arbuckle, Ben Prestage, and Tad Robinson, as well as Cincy Blues Challenge winners Miss Lissa & Company and Brian Keith Wallen.
Festival admission is $15 per person Friday and $15 per person Saturday (2-day passes will be sold for $25 at the gate on Friday), children 13-18 are only $5 each day, and children 12 and under (with parent/guardian) are free. A full list of performers and scheduled times is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincybluesfest.org
Blues Society of the Ozarks - Springfield, MO
The Blues Society of the Ozarks based out of Springfield, Mo is happy to announce the line up for the 15th Annual Greater Ozark Blues Festival to be held at Chesterfield Village in Springfield, Mo September 9 & 10, 2011
We are proud to present on Friday September 9, 2011 Mary Bridget Davies Band, Larry Garner & Lil Ed & the Imperials on Saturday September 10, 2011 the line up includes: Terry Quiett Band, Grand Marques, JP Soars and the Red Hots, Shaun Murphy, and Joe Lewis Walker. For more information and tickets visit our web site at www.greaterozarksbluesfest.com or 417-860-5078
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at The GE Employees Club 1750 General Electric Rd, in Bloomington, IL. The festival includes performances by Bernard Allison, Big Time Sarah, Lionel Young Band, Steve "The Harp", Janiva Magness, Bryan Lee, Cee Cee James, Matthew Curry & The CurrFew and The New & Slightly Used. during the Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival. For further information please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: Deborah464@aol.com or visit www.bluesblowtorch.org and http://www.aintnothinbuttheblues.com/
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. July 18 - Chris Bell & 100% Blues, July 25 - Bill Evans Birthday Party, August 1 - Lionel Young Band, August 8 - Ben Prestage, August 15 - Bryan Lee, August 22 - Grady Champion, August 29 - RJ Mischo. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 3 & 4 of 6
John “Scootch” Cugno - The Road Leads Home
14 tracks. 50 mins 16 secs
John “Scootch” Cugno - Compilation Blues
16 Tracks. 59 mins 26 seconds
Every now and again, the mail-deliverer, drops a CD (or two) through my letter box that on first hearing, I know I will go back to time and time again. These – of course – are two that fall into that category.
Candidly, I had never heard of Scootch or his music ‘till I stuck the first CD in the player but I am delighted with what I heard. Mr Cugno delivers a wonderful mix of riff driven hard edged blues, music that is almost Western Swing (ie without a fiddle or a steel guitar) which does swing (with a vengeance), acoustic slide stuff, sax driven jump blues and much more. In short, a wonderful mix of expertly delivered music, with enough contemporary blues to please the dedicated fan.
Scootch is an accomplished drummer, guitarist and singer songwriter and he played for many years in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver and Nashville clubs. He now lives in the Boise, Idaho area, although, that said he gets gigs all over the place.
So to some details of the music: By and large, there is not much overlap between the two CDs and where there is, it is possible that the songs have been remixed as there are differences in the length of them (sometimes by as much as 10 second). There is on both CDs a delightful folky paean to John’s New England roots in (surprise) a song called New England; a workout with harp ace John Nemeth on Blues Bouquet, a nice riff driven piece called ‘Old Dog’, (some days you feel like an old dog –ain’t that the truth), excellent harp and guitar fills (the former from Mr Jim Brauneis) and Texas, song writer Shifty Henry’s Let Me Go Home Whiskey. My fave is one that is on the Compilation CD. Called Potholes, it is a nice jump blues complaining about road potholes in Idaho and comes with an unidentified horn section that really drives it along. Super stuff.
I’d love to see Mr Cugno live, and his music deserves as wide an audience as possible. Recommended.
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 (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Demetria Taylor – Bad Girl
12 tracks; 66.49 minutes
The late Eddie Taylor left a considerable musical legacy, with many of his children now playing the blues for a living. Eddie Jr. is a well-established guitar player and Tim plays the drums for Eddie Shaw; daughters Edna and Brenda both sing. Now youngest daughter Demetria is ready to launch her recording career, having already appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival and doing on vocals on Eddie Jr’s releases. For this release Delmark has assembled a who’s who of Chicago blues players to support Demetria brilliantly throughout. The core band is Eddie Taylor Jr. and Shun Kikuta on guitars, Roosevelt “Madhatter” Purifoy on keys, Greg McDaniel on bass and Pookie Styx on drums. Guest spots include Billy Branch on harmonica on four tracks, Eddie Shaw on sax on five tracks, Big Time Sarah on vocals on two tracks and Luke Pytel (Shirley Johnson’s guitarist) replaces Kikuta on two tracks.
Trading on one of her father’s songs, Demetria has entitled this CD “Bad Girl”, a tag that the record company is looking to use as a tag for her! Demetria’s voice has the classic combination of power and grit and it is no surprise to discover that she is a great fan of the late Koko Taylor (but not related!). The material on the CD all comes from the greats of Chicago blues – Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Koko Taylor, Luther Allison, plus some songs of more recent vintage such as Nora Jean Bruso’s “Goin’ Back To Mississippi” and her brother Eddie’s “I Can’t Take It No More”.
The CD opens with a powerful medley of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A (Wo)Man and Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie (Wo)Man”. As with most of the CD the version is extended, allowing plenty of solo space for the players, in this case the two guitarists and Purifoy’s piano. Magic Sam’s “All Your Love” (not to be confused with Otis Rush’s song of the same name) follows and there is some lovely accompaniment on the guitars and piano.
Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” moves along at a funky pace, the sound embellished by Eddie Shaw’s sax and Purifoy’s soulful organ playing. Eddie stays around for the title track and Billy Branch also jumps in to lead off on a classic Chicago shuffle. Demetria’s voice suits the song perfectly and the whole piece swings like crazy. After that we get a breather with a slow blues from the pen of Stan Banks who wrote the song for his bandleader Artie “Blues Boy” White. Eddie Shaw is still aboard for this one and takes a fine solo amidst great ensemble playing from the band.
“Goin’ Back To Mississippi” is a stomper, Eddie’s sax again supporting the vocals throughout. It’s a strong song and I am surprised that it is not covered more often, especially by strong female singers, so it’s a good choice for Demetria. “Big Boss Man” on the other hand is probably over familiar, but the band does a good job with the warhorse, Billy Branch leading off on harp and Demetria wailing hard on vocals. “Cherry Red Wine” is a personal favorite of mine from Luther Allison’s original, so I was interested to hear how Demetria and her band tackled the song. For a start Eddie Taylor Jr. does an excellent job providing the passion and angst on guitar that the song’s tragic lyrics require while Eddie Shaw marks his final appearance with another sterling performance. Shun Kikuta also hits the spot for me on his middle solo before Eddie’s tumbling notes on his sax solo seals the deal – this is a great version of a great song.
Eddie Taylor Jr’s “I Can’t Take It No More” sees Roosevelt Purifoy’s organ blending nicely with the guitars. Luke Pytel replaces Shun Kikuta on this upbeat tune and brings a different style to proceedings with a slightly jazzy feel to his playing on a tune that recalls “Messin’ With The Kid”. Pytel stays for the next track, “Trying To Make A Living”, written by Cadillac Baby (Narvel Eatmon), a 1960 hit for the little known Bobby Saxton. It’s an upbeat tune with some BB King references in the guitar playing. Demetria’s singing on both these lesser known tunes is excellent.
The final two tracks feature Billy Branch and Big Time Sarah who trades verses with Demetria on Willie Dixon’s two classics, “Little Red Rooster” and “Wang Dang Doodle”, paying tribute to Howling Wolf and Koko Taylor. Sarah’s voice is a little deeper than Demetria’s and both singers acquit themselves well. Shun Kikuta provides some slashing slide work on “Rooster” and Billy’s harp work is all over both tracks, making a strong finish to the CD.
Overall this is a promising debut CD from Demetria who plans to do more original material the next time round. Meanwhile this one is recommended to all fans of classic Chicago blues.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Blues Society Of Western Pennsylvania - Blues From The Burgh 2
Taken as a whole this compilation strikes pay dirt about one third of the time. As is the case with most collections of local blues bands, you have to sift through to find the gold. You get the usual suspects here along with the strong contenders. Blues wannabes, tired bar bands and the clichéd tough-girl blues singers make up the former. The mediocrity of some make the gems shine even brighter.
If this was a fair world Jill West And Blues Attack would already be household names to any self-respected blues fanatic. Their polish, drive and sheer musicianship virtually jump from the grooves. Jill’s gritty “big-mama” vocals are backed by a crack band featuring Gregg Krupa, a scorching guitarist that ranks up there with the best of the current crop. He has originality and chops to spare. Bubs McKeg possesses “soul of the blues” voice that he commits eloquently in “How In The World”…”how in the world did the world get away from me?”. His partner in crime Dr. Blue adds a short and sweet harmonica solo to the piece.
Eugene Morgan contributes a workingman’s blues song featuring his gritty pipes and tasty guitar chops. Ron Yarosz And The Vehicle tack new words to the music of “Parchment Farm” on their “$200 Car”. They capture the sound of “The Turning Point” era of John Mayall perfectly, complete with chug-a-chugga harp and “chica-chica” vocal percussion.
Riff-heavy blues-rock is handily represented by The Ian Arthurs Band. Robert Peckman serves up some funky R&B courtesy of his well-honed voice. The powerful shuffle-drumming of John Erskine leads into and moves along the pleasant blues tale offered by Ms. Freddye And Blue Faze. It doesn’t hurt that she has just the right amount of blues angst in her voice.
An un-credited talented guitarist as well as the harp of Chris Nacy add to the blues vibe of Ms. Freddye’s “These Are My Blues”. Angel Blue And The Prophets infuse their “Short Chain” with an infectious groove under her bad-girl vocals. Even though the rest of the offerings are well intentioned misfires, there is enough talented players in the otherwise misguided entries. Hotshot slide guitarists, bass players and harp-slingers give something interesting for the listener.
After all is said in done, this is all a matter of opinion. Maybe I’m too much of a blues stickler. These hills are a little rocky and rough, but by golly there IS gold in them thar hills. As a great American, Batman, once said-“To each his own said the lady as she kissed her cow”.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com.
Not familiar with some of the 2011 nominees?
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Contemporary Blues CD
Traditional Blues CD
Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire
Eddie Turner - Miracles & Demons
John Németh - Name The Day
Damon Fowler - Devil Got His Way
JP Soars - More Bees With Honey
Buddy Guy - Living Proof
Bob Corritore & Friends - Harmonica Blues
Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings - That's the Way You Do
Charlie Musselwhite - The Well
Magic Slim - Raising The Bar
Song Of The Year
New Artist Debut Release
| Shake Your Boogie (Big Joe Williams) |
from Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys - Shake Your Boogie Still the Rain (Dennis Walker/Alan Mirikitani)
from Still The Rain- Karen Lovely
Living Proof (Tom Hambridge/Buddy Guy)
from Buddy Guy - Living Proof Don't Walk Away Run (Chuck Glass)
from Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire
The Well (Charlie Musselwhite)
from Charlie Musselwhite - The Well Almost A Memory by Wayne Russell
from Reba Russell Band - 8
| The Sugar Prophets - The Sugar Prophets Chris O'Leary Band - Mr. Used to Be |
Rob Blaine - Big Otis Blues Vincent Hayes Project - Reclamation
Matt Hill - On The Floor Peter Parcek - Mathematics of Love
Female Blues Artist
Male Blues Artist
| Teeny Tucker || John Németh |
Best Blues Band
Sean Costello Rising Star Award
| Gina Sicilia |
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