John 'blueshammer' Hammer
Blue Monday Monthly Magazine
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In This Issue
This weeks issue has lots of Blues! We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues legend, Lonnie Brooks. Tim and Becky Richards have a photo essay on the South Bend Blues Fest. Marilyn Stringer has Part I of a photo essay from the 2012 Portland Waterfront Blues Fest.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from Matt Hill. Sheila Skilling reviews a new release from Rory Block. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Chris Smither. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from HowellDevine. Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Eddie Martin. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new album from The 24th Street Wailers. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
we are almost halfway though the busiest part of the summer Blues fest season. That means there are Blues fests all over the country each weekend.
If you are located in the Midwest, there is a great Blues Fest with a unique twist. The Prairie Dog Blues Fest is actually held on an island in the middle of the Mighty Mississippi River. They have a great lineup that includes Matthew Curry & The Fury, Indigenous, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats and Trampled Under Foot on Friday and Terry Quiett Band, The Steepwater Band, JJ Grey & Mofro and Shemekia Copeland on Saturday. For the complete lineup and more info visit their website at www.prairiedogblues.com or click on their ad below in this issue.
If you are near the East Coast, there is a great festival put on by our good friends at the Pennsylvania Blue Mountain Blues Festival. This great fest features Marquise Knox, Otis Taylor, Joe Louis Walker, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson & Demetria Taylor on Saturday. On Sunday they have Eugene Hideaway Bridges, Teeny Tucker, Earl Thomas, Corey Harris and The Brooks Family Blues Dynasty with Lonnie, Ronnie & Wayne Baker –Brooks on Sunday. For the complete lineup and more info visit their website now, CLICK HERE or click on their ad below in this issue.Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Blues Hall of Famer Lonnie Brooks had become accustomed to hearing his 6-year-old son, Ronnie, making all kinds of hair-raising racket on the guitar.
Not on Lonnie's good guitar – the one he used to play in clubs and on his albums – but on an acoustic guitar that he kept around the house to practice on.
Ronnie would pick up that old acoustic, un-tune it, pull the strings and scrape his hands up and down the neck, just doing the stuff that kids normally do to guitars.
But this particular time was different.
After a long night of playing in a club – and then hanging out at an after-hours joint on the south side of Chicago until early the next morning after that, Lonnie wearily made his way back home, only to find out he was saddled with baby-sitting duties that A.M.
“I used to go to bed as soon as I got home, but I knew I couldn't watch the kids without staying up. So I made me a pallet on the floor and started playing my guitar until I fell asleep,” Brooks said. “Well, Ronnie picked up my guitar and started playing it. And he was playing it with a touch that I'd never heard from a kid. I didn't turn over, I just laid there and listened to him. And when I did turn over, he put it down and ran. He thought I was going to be mad. But I called him back and asked him to keep playing what he was playing. I told him whatever he was doing, he was sure doing it right.”
As a teenager, Ronnie went on to play bass and guitar in his dad's band.
And although Ronnie's brother, Wayne, at first resisted the urge to play music, instead preferring to play video games, he did eventually come around.
When he did get bit by the music bug, Wayne took up the drums. But he soon witnessed the magnetic appeal of playing the guitar.
“Wayne saw Ronnie playing with me on stage at a festival and saw the way all the kids started running up to the stage screamin' and hollerin'” said Lonnie. “Then Wayne was like, 'I want to play the guitar.'”
And like they say, the rest is history.
Not only did Ronnie Baker and Wayne Baker Brooks follow in their father's footsteps, but both have managed to carve out very successful careers for themselves as blues musicians.
And over the course of the last several years, things have came full-circle at the Brooks' residence, with Lonnie, Ronnie and Wayne playing together at festivals all over the world, billed as The Brooks Family Blues Dynasty.
Plans are in the works for the Brooks family to enter a recording studio and cut an album together. While they have all made appearances on each other's records over the years, this would mark the first time the trio cuts a full-length outing under the family name.
Ultra-talented as they are, Ronnie and Wayne's blues don't exactly sound like their pop's blues.
And judging by the way that Lonnie has always approached his own music, that's cool with him.
“I just try to play what I feel and what I've been through in my life. I listened to all kinds of music and I tried to pick out the things that suited me, in whatever I do,” he said. “In other words, I didn't want to do the I-IV-V blues like everyone else was doing when I first got to Chicago.”
Spending a big part of his younger years in Louisiana and Texas, when Lonnie Brooks made his way to Chicago in 1960, he had his sights set on doing anything but the same-old, same-old.
“All the musicians were writing songs and trying to make them sound like Muddy Waters and all them guys, but I was trying to make my songs sound like me,” Brooks said. “I tried to stay away from other people's beats and sounds and put my own stuff in there. Some of it was blues, some of it was rock … I put all those little pieces of stuff into what I was doing. I took a chance with it and it worked.”
It certainly did work, but it didn't work without some strong persistence on Brooks' part.
“The people that was recording you wanted to keep you in the same bag all the time. They didn't want you reaching out and doing things that were different. I had a lot of people turning my stuff down because they said, 'That ain't the blues.' But I didn't care. I did not want to sound like everybody else. To me, it was the blues because I was speaking about how I was treated or how I was feeling at the time,” he said. “But I tried to make my things a little different, because the blues can be a happy thing, too. But a lot of the producers would take a song and play it for 20 people or so and ask if they liked it. And if those 20 people liked it, the producer would go ahead and cut the song. They didn't want you doing different stuff because they were scared people wouldn't buy it. But they was wrong.”
Just like his sons would incorporate bits of funk and hip-hop into their blues – music that surrounded them- their dad inserted chunks of the music he liked into his blues while making a name for himself.”
“Well, I played Zydeco music, I played rock-n-roll, the blues and country music. I loved it all – put it this way – I just love music of all kinds,” he said. “I just mixed my things around. It took a little while, but then I started hearing other people doing what I was doing. After the records started selling, everybody jumped on it, too. People just got used to what I was doing.”
Brooks, whose grandfather was a banjo-playing musician, really started to get into blues music while living in Port Arthur, Texas in the 50s.
There, he became enthralled with the guitar playing of Gatemouth Brown, T-Bone Walker and Long John Hunter (who he would later team up with, along with Phillip Walker – another Gulf Coast veteran - to record the outstanding Lone Star Shootout (Alligator Records) in 1999).
Even though he was not old enough at the time to legally enter the establishments where those stars were playing, Brooks still manged to find a way in.
“Well, I was too young to get into the clubs and I didn't have a fake ID like a lot of the kids did. But I found a way to get in,” said Brooks. “I went and bought me a Fender guitar and then I acted like I was a professional musician and they let me in. I'd come in with my guitar in hand like the other musicians and they'd let me in.”
While that technique worked like a charm for Brooks, he used another approach to gain entrance into a ballroom in Port Arthur, Texas to see the king of the blues – B.B. King.
“They had them big, 'ole fans in Texas that used to really blow the air to keep the club cool. Well, what we did was stop the blade with a stick and then sliced the screen a little bit to crawl through. We were hoping nobody would see us sneaking in,” he said. “Then, we had somebody else bring us some clothes in, because we got dirty from the fan. Then we ran in the bathroom, put our clothes on, got some shoe polish and made us some mustaches.”
Brooks then parlayed that into an opportunity to jam with the King.
“I kept telling him, 'Man, I can play the guitar.' And everyone that had seen me play kept telling him to let me play,” Brooks said. “And I went out there and played a song and then I was famous, you know? People kept saying, 'Man, he played with B.B. King!”
It wasn't long before Brooks was noticed by Clifton Chenier and was offered a spot in the touring band of the King of Zydeco.
Brooks also had the rare opportunity to play with an icon at the other end of the musical spectrum from Chenier and Zydeco – Sam Cooke.
“I did a thing in Atlanta, Georgia and it just happened he got a ride with me back to the hotel. When Sam got off the bandstand that night, the girls was after him and then chased him to the limo. And he didn't have the door locked and he ended up going out the other door while they were after him,” Brooks said. “He came out the other side, ran through the gate where we were at and asked if he could ride with us. And for that, I got a chance to go to Chicago with them. He had his brother, L.C. Cooke look after me, because he knew I didn't know nuthin' but the big city. And I started sitting in with him and ended up playing with him for awhile.”
In 1961, Brooks played guitar on Jimmy Reed's Live at Carnegie Hall album.
Maybe even more impressive than playing with B.B. King as a 20-year-old, or even than being on the road with Sam Cooke, Chilfton Chenier or Jimmy Reed, Brooks has one feather in his ever-present cowboy hat that not many other bluesmen can lay claim to.
He made an appearance on the end-all, be-all of country music TV shows – Hee Haw.
The seed for Brooks' gig on the long-running television series was born in, of all places, Switzerland.
Tabbed as a late fill-in at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980, due to some last-second travel plans that took Brooks from Milwaukee to Switzerland, he ended up at the festival with his guitar still behind him, in transit.
“I had like 10 minutes to get on the bandstand, but I couldn't find a guitar to borrow. So I decided that I would go downstairs and just buy one. On my way down, I walked by this dressing room and these guys were playing country music. Well, I like country so much that I stuck my head in the door,” Brooks said. “And it was Roy Clark. And he said, 'Hey, I know you.' (Clark had contributed some fiddle to Brooks' “The Train and the Horse” song back in 1968). I told him I would talk to him later, that I was without a guitar and was going to buy one. He said, 'You can use mine.' So I did.”
Later that evening, after headliner B.B. King finished his set, Brooks got another chance to play Clark's six-string during the show-ending jam.
“We were all on stage and I broke a string during my solo pass. Well, they (guitar tech) put another string on there, but he didn't tune it. So I get it back and B.B. points to me to take another turn. And I'm basically just playing the E and D (strings),” Brooks said. “Roy saw this and came on stage and started tuning the guitar while I was playing it. The people saw this and thought Roy Clark was playing the guitar while I was playing it. And they went crazy, screamin' and hollerin.' Roy's real sharp and he saw they dug it and he started playing the bass strings, going real low down. So we were playing together and it sounded real good. We stole the show from everybody. And after that, he invited me on Hee Haw.”
For any fan of country music back in the day, to show up on Hee Haw would be akin to showing up in Heaven.
“That was a dream come true. It's funny, but when I was back in Texas, I wrote four or five country songs and I told myself that I was going to be on Hee Haw some day. I didn't really believe it back then, but it sure came true,” Brooks said.
Not only that, but Roy Clark ended up giving Brooks the guitar he loaned him that evening in Montreux.
And even though he's been offered a boat-load of money for that axe over the years, it's home is still in Lonnie Brooks' collection.
“All I ever wanted to do was play music. I've had some tough times, but that's never stopped me,” he said. “During the disco era, I had to get a day job. I wasn't making no money and I had to support my family and my kids, so I worked six days a week and played music four nights a week. I did that for three years.”
The end to Brooks' day job at a die-casting plant came when he cut his first album for Alligator.
“They (Alligator) said, 'How much money you making out there?' And I said, 'Three or four hundred a week.' And they said, 'How would you like to make that much a night?' I thought that was alright, but I didn't know I was going to have to pay the band out of that,” laughed Brooks. “And at times since then it's kind of slowed down, but every time I put a record out, I'm ready to get back out there.”
Lonnie Brooks may have had retirement in the back of his mind since he cut Lone Star Shootout with Hunter and Walker almost 14 years ago, but his sons had other ideas.
“Well, they won't let me retire. They talked me into going out and playing with them,” he said. “But that's really what I wanted to do in the first place. I wanted them out there with me.”
Visit Lonnie's website at www.lonniebrooks.com.
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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 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.
Matt Hill And The Deep Fryed 2 – Tappin’ That Thang
Deep Fryed Vizztone
11 tracks; 41.36 minutes
Matt Hill broke through in 2010 with “On The Floor”, an album that won him the Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut and two Blues Blast nominations. “On The Floor” was produced by Bob Margolin but for this album Matt recorded with Felix Reyes in Chicago. Eight of the songs on the CD are originals and Matt sticks to a trio format with his band The Deep Fryed 2 (great name!): Paul Niehaus, bass and B/V and Joe Meyer, drums, plus a single backing vocalist, Nikki Hill.
Title track “Tappin’ That Thang” is by Yank Rachell and provides a great opener to the album with a slow boogie beat and suggestive lyrics, reinforced by the CD artwork! The other covers are Roy Orbison’s “Down The Line” which is given a classic rock and roll treatment with some excellent percussion effects and guitar work, and AC/DC’s “Let Me Put My Love Into You”. That choice will not surprise Matt’s fans as he covered one of the Australians’ tunes on the previous album too! On an album which is generally hard hitting and upbeat this track counts as something of a quiet interlude!
The first original is “Same Old F***ing Thing”, a song with a rousing chorus and an amusing lyric about the tedium of the everyday routine. Nevertheless, the choice of adjective will limit the opportunity for airplay which is a shame as it is a great piece of rockabilly (co-written by Matt and drummer Joe Meyer). The whole band wrote “Ain’t No Boy” which takes a look at old-school soul, Matt’s guitar using some of Steve Cropper’s rhythm tricks with a chorus of “I ain’t a boy, I’m a man” that could have been written for Sam & Dave.
The remaining originals are all Matt’s work, starting with a ballad “Always Alone” which provides quite a contrast to much of the album and Matt’s vocal ventures into soul as well as country influences here. Normal service is resumed on “Crude Man”, a real rock and roll piece clocking in at just over two minutes. The title refers not to manners but oil exploitation: “I don’t give a damn about you and your land, I’m a crude man”. “Mow My Baby Down” is deep into John Lee Hooker territory, a song about getting revenge on a cheating woman. “Caramel Baby” has more of a jump rhythm and could have been a lost BB King song whilst “High And Dry” bounces along with some nice twanging guitar, also a feature of “Soul Twang” though here the guitar is placed within an instrumental tune with definite Memphis roots.
Matt and his band have created a range of styles to suit different tastes to create a solid follow-up to “On The Floor”. If you have not yet caught Matt’s stage show, make sure you see him next time he passes your way – he is a dynamic and amusing performer. Meanwhile I can recommend that you check out this release.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.
2012 South Bend Blues & Ribs Festival
Colveleski Stadium, South Bend, In.
One thing that I admire is a festival that learns. Last year was the inaugural year for this fledgling festival and they made a few rookie mistakes. They held it on the same weekend as the juggernaut Chicago Blues Festival and they weren’t prepared for the crowd of 1,200+ that showed up. But they adjusted on the fly and pulled off what was a really good day of top notch entertainment. The week before was filled with rain storms and the park that they choose to have the festival in was under water as little as three days before the event. Now there’s no way they could have anticipated this and Howard Park itself was really nice, right on the banks of the St. Joseph River. It was just really soggy.
This year they moved the festival to Colveleski Stadium (known to locals as ”The Cove”) where you have much better drainage even if it does rain. There were structured bathrooms, a separate area for food vendors with a dining area and a play area set up for the kids. They even had the bands up on the jumbotron. They added an 18’ area around the sides and front of the stage for the safety of the people and for a photo pit. After the tragedy last year at the Sugarland concert and the several that have happened since then, Including the Radiohead drum tech that was killed in Toronto on June 7, this just seems like a smart move. Seating was much better and the bathrooms were great. The entertainment level jumped up a few notches as well.
Besides good music, great food and a wonderful new venue, the South Bend Parks and Recreational Department is using all the proceeds (after expenses) to build Miracle Park, a uniquely designed recreational area for special needs individuals and special needs programming. This will be a one of a kind area and will cater to all people at all levels of needs. Personally I can’t think of a more worthy cause and I’m proud to help promote this event.
Before the music started a group of 120 people that will benefit from Miracle Park marched up to the front of the stage waving America flags. It was quite a sight. Then Javaughn DeGraffreed, grandson of Elwood Splinters singer Harvey Stauffer, sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem officially starting the party.
As with last year, local blues heroes The Elwood Splinters Blues Band kicked off the festivities and no surprise here, they smoked the place and got the crowd primed and ready. Mixing covers with originals, lead singer “Ole” Harv put the band in overdrive from the get go. Sharing the lead vocals and providing the thundering bottom was Paul Thode on bass while Tommy Barrett laid down some fiery grooves on guitar. Adding spice to this mix was David Lee (saxes and flute), Kris Hammerstein (keyboards, sax, backing vocals) and pounding out the rhythm was Tommy Hunter on drums and backing vocals.
Following Elwood was the Cleveland based Blue Lunch, an eight piece jump blues band led by guitarist Bob Frank. Their music runs in the same vein as Roomful of Blues and Cherry Poppin’ Daddys. High energy horn driven good time get up and dance your tush off music! The great thing about this band is they can switch things up at the drop of the hat. Going from a calypso beat to a straight ahead 12-bar Chicago blues, the band kept the crowd guessing as to which direction they were headed next. It’s the sign of a talented versatile band. While each member is a showman, the unofficial leader of the band is founding member and singer, harpist and front man Pete London. Laying down the pulsating rhythms are drummer Scott Flowers and bassist Ray DeForrest. Horn charts galore are the specialty of trombonist Bob Michael, trumpeter Mike Rubin and saxophonist Tony Koussa who added punch top each number. With six CD’s out and more on the horizon, this band is here to stay. And after Saturday, they won a lot more fans.
Ever since his first CD Next Generation on the Mondo label was released, Bernard Allison has been headed down that blues highway. As if he really had any other option. When your father is the late great Luther Allison you pay attention and learn from one of the masters of music. Beyond his father, Bernard had mentors you just can’t ignore. Everyone from Johnny Winter to Stevie Ray Vaughan mentored him. How can you not learn when a week after graduating from high school you get a call from Koko Taylor asking if you’d be interested in being her band leader. That sure falls into the category of a silly question. So for the next three years he toured with her. Now he has grown into a musical star in his own right. Backed by the relentless rhythm section of Vic Jackson (bass) and Eric Ballard (drums), Bernard was free to roam the guitar neck with the dexterity and confidence that the band would always be there. Rounding out the group was Tom Hunter (Keyboards), and Jose James (sax, percussion). If this didn’t get your motor started, give up, lay down, you’re dead.
What can I say about The Siegel-Schwall Band that hasn’t already been said by somebody some place? They have such a rich history both together and individually, that only amazing things can happen when you bring such a talent pool together. There is no standout; each takes a turn showcasing their talent. Corky Siegel on keyboard, harp and vocals, Jim Schwall on electric and acoustic slide guitar, vocals and mandolin, Rolo Radford on bass and vocals and the king of double shuffle drumming and vocalist, Sam Lay.
These days it takes a lot for me to be in awe of a band, but these guys do it every time I see them. There is such cohesiveness with them that they pretty much know what each will do and when they are going to do it. But make no mistake; this doesn’t make for a predictable show because there is no set list. They play whatever they feel like on the spur of the moment. If you’ve never seen them, make a point to do it soon.
Headlining the day was Texas guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band. The last time I’d seen Jimmie was several years ago in Tampa and honestly, he looked tired. Not tonight, he was smiling, posing for pictures back stage and when he hit it, it was in high gear all the way. Seems like every time I see him he has a different band configuration, but tonight’s band was one of the best. Tree bark tight rhythm work coupled with an aggressive horn section and Jimmie’s unmistakable less is more guitar style tying everything together. Starting off with Comin’ and Goin’ from the 2010 Shout Factory release, Vaughan was in control of the crowd, the stage, band and everything in between. Following that with It’s Been a Long time, I Ain’t Never, and Dirty Work, Jimmie’s staccato guitar runs pierced the night. Joining him on vocals was Lou Ann Barton and the two blended seamlessly. It just wouldn’t be a Jimmie Vaughan show without hearing 6 Strings Down, Boom, Sugar Coated Love and the duet with Lou Ann on In the Middle of the Night. I can’t say enough about the Tilt-A-Whirl band. They preformed flawlessly with Billy Pitman on rhythm guitar, Ronnie Weber on bass George Rains on drums and the horn section consisting of Doug James on sax, Carl Querfurth on trombone and Ephram Owens on trumpet. It was a great capper to the day.
Once again I have to give credit to Mark Bradley and his crew for making such vast improvements in just one year. Also Audiobahn Productions for excellent sound. Nothing can ruin a good show quicker than bad sound. No worries here.
Even though it just ended, I’m already looking forward to next year to see what changes they come up with. It’s a winning combination: good music, good food, great venue, wonderful people and a worthy cause to support.
See you next year!
© Tim & Becky Richards 2012
Rory Block – I Belong To The Band/A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis
11 tracks; 49:25 minutes
The Reverend Gary Davis (1896-1972), also known as Blind Gary Davis because he was blind since infancy, was a Christian convert turned Baptist minister. In the 1930s, he became known for his Gospel-based “Country Blues” music and distinctive guitar style – which involved finger-picking, using only his thumb and index finger. He was rediscovered during the 1950s-1960s folk music revival, and in 1964, a teenage girl visited Rev. Davis’ home. She was accompanying her friend, Stefan Grossman, who was then taking guitar lessons from the Reverend. That girl was Aurora (Rory) Block; and now, 40 years later, she has released a CD of Reverend Davis’ songs called I Belong To The Band/A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis.
This CD is the third in Block’s “Mentor Series” – a collection of albums that pay homage to important bluesmen she has encountered in her life. The first in this series was Blues Walkin’ Like a Man/A Tribute to Son House, and the second was Shake ‘Em On Down/A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell. In 1997, she had also launched a tribute album of Robert Johnson covers (though he died before Block was born), called The Lady and Mr. Johnson, which won an award for Acoustic Album of the Year.
I Belong To The Band features 11 songs written or arranged by Rev. Davis, and Block worked hard to recreate Davis’ style as accurately as possible, with her intricate finger-picking and slide playing. Block performed all the guitar tracks and vocals herself, and although the general Country Blues style is consistent throughout this release, each cut has its own unique sound.
I felt that the first cut, “Sampson & Delilah,” had the most unusual sound of any on the CD. Each chorus ends with a repeated riff (and sometimes a hoot) that sounds like it would normally come at the end of a song. Just for comparison, you might want to check out Peter, Paul & Mary’s version of this song on YouTube, called “If I Had My Way.”
The fact that Block supplied all the voice tracks on this album accounts for a seamless choral blend that adds a lot of beauty and interest to the songs - sometimes sounding like an angel chorus, other times including hoots, yells or spoken segments. In several of these tracks (for example, Cut 3, “Let Us Get Together Right Down Here”), Block drops her voice down into a somewhat male vocal range, resulting in a haunting sound, almost like she is channeling the spirit of her subject…copying things like diction, accent, and phrasing, as closely as possible.
One of my favorite songs on this CD would be the last track, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” The style of this song is perhaps the most similar to that of modern blues music, with it’s dark sound and lyrics that carry some universal truths about a force that’s been giving people the blues since the dawn of time…Death.
The subject matter of all these songs is religion, and they would have traditionally served to teach biblical stories, verses, and principles, while building camaraderie among the faithful. The messages are simple, and the faith expressed in these songs is based on the promise of a better life in Heaven. Despite whatever kind of hell people might be going through here on Earth, the faithful are a thankful band, and Block liberally seasons her performance with heartfelt exclamations of “Thank you, Lord!” and “Praise God Almighty!”
According to Block’s life story on her website, Son House wondered, “Where did she learn to play like that?” However, it never really occurred to her that it might be unusual for a young Caucasian girl to play the County Blues, which had primarily been performed by African American males. She only knew that she loved the music, and wanted to make it her life’s mission to preserve it. While I cannot guarantee that you will like Block’s performance of these songs on I Belong To The Band, I do believe that we owe Rory Block our respect and admiration for dedicating her considerable talent and hard work to the preservation of this priceless bit of musical history.
Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.
Chris Smither – Hundred Dollar Valentine
11 tracks / 38:56
Chris Smither describes his sound as “cosmic blues”, and though I may not be on the same spaceship as him I really like his sound and his message. And he has had plenty of time to work out his sound and figure out who he is, having released his debut album in 1970, when I was just a lad. He has recently finished his 12th studio album, Hundred Dollar Valentine, which is his first that is comprised solely of original material. You will find that it is not all new, as he has revisited a few of his older tracks and approached them from a different direction.
Smither moved to New Orleans as a youngster, which accounts for the delta blues influence in his sound, but he has long been a fixture of the northeast, where he has garnered a loyal following. He does not have a regular band, so they brought in some fine folks to work with him on Hundred Dollar Valentine. This includes Billy Conway on drums, Chris Delmhost on cello, Jimmy Fitting on harmonica, Ian Kennedy on violin and the golden-voiced Anita Suhanin on vocals. Producer David Goodrich kicks in some slide guitar, diddley bo, and xylophone, while Chris provides the vocals and the lion’s share of the guitar work.
Goodrich has worked with Smither a few times before, and has done a fabulous job of keeping things from getting out of hand, and the album sounds natural and uncluttered. As I said earlier there is a delta blues sound, but there is also a folk element to this album. These combine together with his unique voice to give Smither his own sound that is hard to fit into any one box. Maybe that is what the cosmic blues are.
The album starts off with the title track, “Hundred Dollar Valentine,” and true to its name it is an ode to a love that describes how nothing is right when they are separated. The lyrics are a poetic and clever use of words, and are a bit more melancholy than the upbeat score would imply. The overall sound is not over processed, with a perfectly raw drum sound and a dynamic harmonica tone. Anita’s backing vocals work well with Smither’s voice.
“On the Edge” comes next, and the tone of the music becomes more somber at the same time as it becomes more polished with smooth violin and cello that merge well with Mr. Smither’s fine picking. The words to the song provide a few surprises, as it ends up in a totally different place than it starts – it is not the usual love song I expected it to be. This is the blues, and Chris has a great voice for it: raw, strong, emotional and experienced. By the way this is the only track on the album that has any co-writing credit, and it goes to David Goodrich.
From there, the songs use fertile lyrical material, such as disillusionment and disappointment (“What it Might Have Been”), love and loneliness (“I Feel the Same”), getting older (“Place in Line”), and death (“Feeling b y Degrees”). A bright spot in the midst of these blues is “What They Say,” a jaunty tune featuring Chris’ daughter Robin Smither on the violin. She is a fine fiddler, for sure.
“Every Mother’s Son” is the final regular track on Hundred Dollar Valentine, and pretty music cannot hide that the lyrics provide plenty of food for thought. It dares to speak of today’s all too common theme of young men who see no solutions to their problems other than violence. That “this could happen to every mother’s son” is a parent’s nightmare, and might make you hug your kids a little tighter and longer the next time you see them.
The album finishes off with a hidden track that is not terribly well hidden – it is credited on the liner notes as “Rosalie,” which is an “after-hours ‘B’ Room field recording.” This song is the closest thing you will find on this album to his live show, a weary-voiced man and his six-string guitar. It makes me want to seek out one of his shows the next time I am in New England.
Hundred Dollar Valentine is not what one would expect from a modern blues album (not a Howlin’ Wolf cover in sight), and that is one of the things that is so great about it. Though it is not conventional, Chris Smither’s original work has gotten closer to the roots of the blues than most, and his songs’ unique tonal character and smart lyrics combine with superb production and true emotion make this album an enjoyable listening experience.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
From the Oregon Food Bank: PORTLAND, Ore., (July 10, 2012) – The rain left just in the nick of time to shower Oregon Food Bank’s 25th Waterfront Blues Festival with sun rays. Perfect festival weather, dazzling performances, committed sponsors, 2,300 enthusiastic volunteers and generous blues fans helped make the 2012 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, presented by First Tech Credit Union, a rousing success. Festival attendees contributed $902,000 through donations at the gate as well as advance purchases of special passes and DME blues cruise tickets, just shy of the festival’s goal of $945,000. In addition, the festival raised an estimated 116,584 pounds of food, exceeding its goal of 100,000 pounds.
The annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is owned and operated by Oregon Food Bank. The festival is OFB’s largest fundraising event. One-hundred percent of entry donations help Oregon Food Bank fight hunger throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. More than 120,000 people thrilled to five jam-packed days of the best blues in the world including Steve Miller Band, Elvin Bishop Band with James Cotton, Booker T., Charlie Musselwhite, Toots and the Maytals, Bobby Rush, Otis Taylor, JJ Grey & Mofro, Galactic, The Mannish Boys with Sugaray Rayford, Roy Rogers, Lionel Young, Cedric Burnside Project, James Hunter and more.”
The 4th of July landed on Wednesday this year. The PWBF is always four days around the 4th of July so this year it was extended to 5 days!! What an astronomical feat to keep a festival running for that long but they did, with two short days on Thursday and Friday. Five days of great bands, four stages, river cruises, fireworks, and perfect weather. As the biggest festival west of the Mississippi, (and the best !), there is no better entertainment for the price of admission: Two cans of food and $10 gets you in to 10 hours of music each day.
(It is impossible for this cub reporter to cover all the shows but I did manage to cover over 50 of them. And with that in mind, this article will be split in two sections. And in the interest of time (mine) I alphabetized the performances, cut the list in half and this week is the first half of the alphabet. ) Let us begin!
On the 4th of July, after the final performance, long - time resident and Portland’s Queen of The Blues, Linda Hornbuckle, sang the national anthem before the fireworks on the Willamette River began.
Hailing from Moscow, and transplanted to Vancouver, Canada, Arsen Shomakhov has been named as a “new emerging artist”, “on the move”, and hit the Top 50 Blues Albums of 2010. It always great to hear new blues performers that are also really good!! His band includes: Bruce O’Neill (bass) and Adam Drake (drums).
Portland, and the Pacific Northwest, is packed with great blues musicians - it reminds me of the SF Bay area – who all know each other, play in different bands together, and were present throughout the festival. Two of those performers are Louis Pain, who not only plays a mean B3 for so many but also has quite a collection of B3’s and rents them out! Secondly is Peter Dammann, who is best known as the Artistic Director for the festival (and does an amazing job every year), and plays a mean guitar. The next band - King Louie & Sweet Baby James – includes those two plus Sweet Baby James on beautiful vocals, Renato Caranto (tours with Esperanza Spalding) on sax, and Micah Kassell on drums.
Over on the main stage, tough-emotional-spiritual-soulful Betty LaVette unleashed her side of the blues on an adoring crowd. Betty can throw it your face or pull you into her heart but in the end, she is still one of the great blues & soul women out there. He band included: Brett Lucas (guitar), Chuck Bartels (bass), and Darryl Pierce (drums).
For those of you who have never seen Bobby Rush’s show, you are either laughing with him or kind of shocked (as I was the first time). But once you get into the fun with the booty girls and really hear him sing and perform with the band, he is great! And if you can ever hear him sit down and play acoustic, don’t miss it. For a 76 year old man, he can still get down and funky with anyone!!
Another great performer this year was Booker T. Muli-talented on the B3 or organ, guitar, and vocals, Booker T’s soothing tones have been a staple to so many bands since the 60’s and was one of the highlights of the festival.
The Cedric Burnside Project, with Cedric on drums and Trenton Ayers on guitar, is a combination of Hill Country Blues, funk, soul, R&B, and just high energy foot-stompin’ fun. Cedric is considered one of the best drummers in the world. Trenton Ayers is both a guitar and bass player and offsets Cedric’s intense style with his quiet demeanor and steamy guitar.
The California Honeydrops showcase Lech Wierzynsk on trumpet, guitar, vocals, and leads the band through the blues, R&B, NOLA jazz, gospel, and back to blues. With Johnny Bones on sax, Doug Stuart on bass, and Charlie Hicks on keyboards, the band keeps the crowd dancing and singing.
Charlie Musselwhite graced the stage with his always impressive blues harmonica and great band - Mike Phillips (bass), June Core (drums) and Matt Stubbs (guitar). Everyone loves Charlie & the band!!
And everyone, especially Portland, loves Curtis Salgado!! He lives and plays here and is always entertaining everyone around town when he is not out on tour. (And we are all so thankful that he is recovering nicely from his recent surgery and will be back performing for the first time at the Harvest Moon Festival in Lebanon, OR, on August 18-19th!) Curtis brought the big band to the main stage this year and performed a lot of his new CD’s cuts - Soul Shot. The big band included: Tracy Arrington (Bass), Dave Fleschner (keys), Brian Foxworth (drums), Vyasa Dodson (guitar), Chuk Barber (percussion), the soul singers Margaret & Mary Linn & LaRhonda Steel, the Big Horns section led by Dave Mills’composing (trumpet), Lewis Livermore,Timothy Bryson, Ron Regan, and Gary Harris.
So many great performers hit the stages and one of the headliners was Elvin Bishop with James Cotton-two greats together with a quick appearance by Finis Tasby from the Mannish Boys. And they had so much fun together although Elvin is always having infectious fun. And his long-time band is part of that fun: Bob Welsh (guitar), Steve Willis (keys), Ed Earley (trombone), Ruth Davies (bass), and Bobby Cochran (drums).
A fantastic Etta James Tribute unfolded on one of the afternoons featuring the Pacific Northwest’s (PNW) best women in the blues: Amy Keyes, Duffy Bishop, LadyKat Tru Blues, LaRhonda Steel, Linda Hornbuckle, Lisa Mann, Ellen Whyte and Rae Gordon. Those women belted out Etta James, who had to be smiling from above!
Another headliner –Galactic - with Corey Glover (Living Colour) singing vocals - was packed. Although they are not considered blues, they are funk at it’s finest and were a huge draw for the younger crowd. They are similar to Trombone Shorty but funkier and Corey just hypes up the funk even higher. The fun part was when Betty LaVette thought she should go out and join Corey on stage. That was fun!!
James Hunter brought the English accent to the blues. He is soulfoul blues with some old-fashioned high noted “Oh-Oh” thrown in which gives him a 50’s-60’s hop-rock flavor. And by the end of the set he is dancing up a storm too. His band includes: Jason Wilson (bass), Jonathan Lee (drums), and sax players Damien Hand & Lee Badau.
Another PNW favorite is JJ Grey & Mofro. JJ describes his style best on his FB page ““Just tell the story—there’s nothing else to do”. Grey [tells] his thought-provoking stories through original songs, informed by a mixture of old school rhythm & blues and down-home roots rock ‘n’ roll” but his resume is long and extremely well-rounded. His band includes: Andrew Trube (guitar), Anthony Cole (drums), Anthony Farrell (Organ), Art Edmaiston (sax), Dennis Marion (trumpet) and Todd Smallie (bass).
A Portland mainstay in the blues is The Jim Mesi Band with Johnny Moore (drums), Ed Neumann (keys), and Scott White (Bass).
Every year I look forward to Judy Tint’s Jersey Soul. Her band is soul & blues with some east coast attitude thrown in. Judy can be found singing with other bands throughout the festival. Joining her this year was special guest Kenny Lavitz on guitar. A nice surprise was to see Dave Melyan (Insomniacs fame) on drums, Dave Fleschner (Curtis Salgado) on keys, and the horn section with Pete Moss, Tim Bly, and Jon Hughes.
This was the year of “big bands”. Kevin Selfe, another Portland favorite, brought a big band to back up his blues. Also playing with him were Portland muscians Steve Kerin (keys), Jimi Bott (drums – Mannish Boys), and Lisa Mann (bass).
Lloyd Jones, longtime Portland musician and another favorite of the PNW, brought his blues band with Dave Mill’s (trumpet) Big Band Section. Lloyd is a personal favorite and is always a great show –he has so much fun every time he plays! He also had LaRhonda Steel singing with him, a double treat. His band included Dover Weinberg (keys), Denny Bixby (bass), and Dave’s horn section: Tim Jensen, Rudi Draco, and Warren Rand.
Colorado’s offering, Lionel Young Band, winner of the IBC/Group this year, is always fun. Lionel is a blues electric fiddle player but also plays guitar and uses his fiddle like a guitar on many songs. His band is tight and they play well together with all performing vocals and Andre Mali filling in the well-rounded band on the trumpet. The band includes: Kim Stone (Bass), Dexter Payne (Sax & harmonica), and Jay Forrest on drums.
And one of the biggest treats for both the performers and the very packed audience was a workshop with James Cotton, Jim Miller (bass player & festival staffer), Randy Chortkoff (Delta Groove/Mannish Boys Harmonica) and Franck Goldwasser (Guitar/Mannish Boys). It was really a rare treat to be able to interact with James Cotton in a workshop!!
Next week will be the second half of the bands for this five day festival!! (can you say “I sure missed a good holiday blues festival!!”?)
Comments By Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
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Orange County Blues Society - Orange, CA
Fullerton, Calif.) - The recently-formed Orange County Blues Society presents its first-ever concert event - "The Muck Blues Roots Festival" - under the stars at the scenic outdoor Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, Thursday, August 16. 8 p.m. Advance tickets available at www.orangecountybluessociety.com or through the Muckenthaler (www.themuck.org). Info: (714) 328-9375 or (714) 738-6595. Portion of proceeds to benefit San Diego-based Better Vision For Children Foundation, a non-profit charity working to prevent and cure partial or total blindness in pre-school children resulting from Amblyopia (Lazy Eye), Autisim, Diabetes or Eye Cancer.
Ventura County Blues Society - Ventura, CA
Ventura County Blues Society presents: Sunday Matinee Concert Series II - A Benefit For The Moorpark Center For The Arts featuring Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers plus Alastair Greene Band and Mikey Mo Band, at High Street Arts Center, 45 E. High St., Moorpark, Sunday, August 5, 1 p.m.-6 p.m, Admission $20. VCBS members, $25. General Public. For more info visit www.venturacountybluessociety.org.
Decatur Blues Society - Decatur, IL
Decatur Blues Society will hold their annual "Road to Memphis" blues challenge on Sept 22, 2012. Open to both band and solo/duo. Winning band and winning solo/duo will represent the Decatur Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis in Jan 2013. Entry forms and complete info can be found at www.decaturblues.org.
Minnesota Blues Society - St. Paul, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame inductees. MnBS would like to congratulate this years' honorees: Big Walter Smith, "Blues Performer"; James Samuel "Cornbread" Harris, Sr., "Blues Legend"; Dan Schwalbe, "Blues Sideman"; Electric Fetus, "Supportive of the Blues (non-performer)"; Cyn Collins, "West Bank Boogie", "Blues Art and Literature"; Lamont Cranston, "Tiger in your Tank", "Blues Recording"; Will Donicht, "Blues on the Bank", "Blues Song". 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame event will be held, Sun, Oct 14, Wilebski's Blues Saloon, St. Paul. Mn details to follow @ www.mnbs.org
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois - Aug 8th at 7:00PM • Chris Beard Admission: $5.00 or $3.00 for members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Long Island Blues Society - Centereach, NY
The Long Island Blues Society will be hosting the following events:
8/12/12 Tas Cru. Frank Celenza opening, at 2PM Bobbique in Patchogue NY. LIBS Members $8, all others $10.
9/16/12 Long Island Blues Talent Competition (LIBTC) to select a representative for IBC. $10 donation to help defray winners expenses in Memphis. Location TBA. Now accepting applications for Band, Solo/Duo categories. Requirements on website www.liblues.org
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 8:00pm $3 cover. •• 7/30/2012 - Biscuit Miller and the Mix • 8/6/2012 - Matt Hill • 8/13/2012 - Rockin Johnny • 8/27/2012 -Dennis Gruenling • 9/3/2012 - Eric Guitar Davis • 9/24/2012 - The 44s • 10/1/2012 - Levee Town • 10/8/2012 - Rich Fabec 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore. Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thur, August 9, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Wed, August 22, Smokin’ Joe Kubek w/ Bnois King, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Sept 6, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Tues, Sept 18, Smilin’ Bobby, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA
HowellDevine - Delta Grooves
HowellDevine is a trio of Bay Area musicians whose sound is more like something from the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country than the San Francisco and Oakland area. Harp/guitar player (and former guitar maker) Joshua Howell teamed up with drummer/percussionist Pete Devine and added bassist/composer Safa Shokrai to form this eclectic and deep blues band. The backline depth and vibrancy adds richness to the electric slide work and harp, making for an interesting sound and giving a new edge to classic Delta blues.
Two originals and ten covers comprise this set. The originals are very cool and well structured pieces. The first is a train song simply called "Train", a full instrumental with harp, bass and drums inter-playing and giving us an emotional ride. The drumming over lays the harp blows so well, and the bass beat makes for a great feel. Well done! The other new cut, "Harmonica Wobble" begins with the bass and drums laying out a groove and then the harp joins the fray in a mix of what is almost classical, Latin, jazz and Delta sounds. This instrumental also sells itself, with the trio winding themselves into a musical vortex of sorts. Howell and Devine get credit for both songs and they are quite good.
Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Write Me a Few Lines" opens the CD. Howell's guitar slides and moans nicely here and the groove is sweet. They stay down home in the Delta with Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen" with Howell moaning and groaning on slide and vocals. They keep it short and sweet, with the electric guitar and almost tribal drums featured throughout. "When You Got a Good Friend" follows the first new track, another RJ cover. I like it, but perhaps the vocals were almost too clean sounding; the guitar makes up for this and is more visceral and gutsy.
Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman" gets taken down perhaps a notch further in tempo than James did it. Howell skips imitating the James falsetto, focusing on a clean vocal presentation and picks out some nice guitar. Devine's drumming here at reminds me at times of a military march, evoking a different sort of picture but it plays out well. Sonny Boy Williamson's "Mighty Long Time" and Muddy Water's "King Bee" are next, and Howell's harp on the former and guitar on the latter are well done. The vocals here and throughout are also good, but again perhaps too "clean." The vocals are more folksy rather than bluesy; not bad at all, but not as guttural as the songs perhaps call for.
Two traditional cuts follow; on "Boats' Up the River" and "Long Haired Doney" the vocals work with their folksy charm. The stick work by Devine is really cool on the latter, too. Jimmy Reed's "You Got Me Running" follows the original instrumental. It shuffles nicely- great guitar work here. The vocals are smooth, slick and appropriate. The traditional "Poor Boy" closes out the set. Howell croons effectively: "I'm a poor boy and a long way from home." The guitar and drumming are primal and gutsy, and Howell and Devine conclude with their trademark approach.
I must say this CD grew on me. The first time through I thought it was just another set of Delta covers packaged up together because they could be. But then I listened to the drums and the guitar work and the harp and the words and it was like a fire growing from a spark to a glow to full flames. These guys are well-honed musicians who have a good approach to their sound. I'd love to see more original stuff from them and get a better appreciation for their own work, but the glimpses in the two new cuts were promising and the covers were really well done. An impressive set of electrified Delta blues!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 work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
Eddie Martin - Looking Forward Looking Back
About a year ago, I reviewed Eddie Martin’s previous project, a solo acoustic affair that embraced the tradition through a strong batch of original material and Martin’s compelling performances. Now he does a 180 degree shift by plugging in his guitar while getting backing from a band filled with horn players. This time the all-original material pays tribute to the rocking blues of T-Bone Walker, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Elmore James.
Martin is right in the middle of everything, handling all of the vocals and guitar parts while adding doses of harmonica and piano. John Paul Gard covers the bass line and chord fills on his KeyB organ and Richard Law fills the seat behind the drum kit. The exuberant “Little Big Horns” consists of Patsy Gamble on baritone sax, Julie Kimber on tenor sax, trumpeter Steve Trigg and Andy Gilliams on trombone. The presence of Pee Wee Ellis, one of the stars of the James Brown band, on tenor sax further enhances the sonic power of the brass ensemble.
It doesn’t take Martin long to establish that he has a real affinity for the music he is paying homage to, the band roaring through ‘Frog in the Long Grass” before the leader ignites the proceedings with some electrifying slide work on “Sorry for the Rain”, taking a friend to task for all of their wrongdoing. The tension builds at the start of “Wannabe Me” until Martin finally breaks free with a fluid guitar passage. The song encapsulates the Watson style with a driving beat and the horns riffing behind Martin’s barnburner solo. On ‘Let It Slide”, Martin’s vocal bears a striking resemblance to Peter Green’s tone from the glory days of Fleetwood Mac while his frantic slide work with keep your blood pumping.
The disc doesn’t suffer any momentum when the pace slows on cuts like “Supermodel” with Gard getting a chance to shine, but not before Martin shows he can navigate a chromatic harp. Another highlight is the title track as Martin convincingly pleads for the chance to work towards a better life. “Headspace” has a hypnotic pace as Martin threatens to go unhinged if he doesn’t get a chance to catch his breath. There has been plenty of interest in the living dead lately, so Martin penned his own horn-drenched tribute entitled “Zombie Attack” with Gamble delivering a short, memorable sax blast.
The humorous lyrics and Martin’s rollicking piano accent his description of a fateful moment of discovery on “She’s a He”. Gamble and Martin trade robust solos on the up-tempo “I Want That Girl” before Ellis stretches out on the aptly named instrumental “Funky One Too”, his impeccable lines a counterpoint to the leader’s biting fretwork. The final track is also the longest as Martin steadily builds the intensity with his gritty vocal and sizzling slide work.
The well-done packaging includes an eight page booklet with numerous photos and complete song lyrics, completing another strong offering from Eddie Martin. While they don’t blaze any new trails here, Martin and his friends obviously had a lot of fun with this project. The end result is an unrelenting party with multi-talented Martin as the master of ceremonies. I now have a sneaking suspicion that there are similar gems waiting to be discovered amongst Martin’s eleven previous recordings. You can mark this one down as well-worth a listen
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
The 24th Street Wailers - Unshakeable
Produced by Lindsay Beaver, Charles Austin and the 24th Street Wailers
11 songs; 40:08 minutes
Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues, Swing Blues, Blues Rock
All over the world, people love the blues, and that’s no exception in Canada. Toronto’s 24th Street Wailers made waves in the tightly-knit blues community by winning the Toronto Blues Society talent search. They’ve graced prestigious festival stages including the Frankfort Island, Lighthouse, Summerfolk, and Dutch Mason Blues Festivals. Most notably, however, is that the Wailers were the only English band to take part in and win both prizes of the Festiblues International du Montreal and Prize of the Bourse Air Transat/Blues-Sur-Seine. They were also semifinalists in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee in early 2012. Their newest release, a follow-up to last year’s “Dirty Little Young’Uns,” is “Unshakeable!” Fans of zesty horn sections in blues songs will slaver over this album. Powerhouse drummer Lindsay Beaver’s raw, visceral vocals are slightly reminiscent of Etta James, and they’re an acquired taste. Nevertheless, she and her quartet are best on these three out of eleven original numbers:
Track 03: “Love Triangle”--Guest guitarists Carter Chaplin and Marc Doucet join in with regular guitarist Emily Burgess in this rollicking instrumental. Each member of the trio must have pepper sauce flowing through the power cords attached to their respective guitars instead of electricity! This “Triangle” expresses pure love for the blues, and it’s the finest selection on the album itself.
Track 07: “I’m Not Free”--Lindsay Beaver slows it way down on this ballad that’s both hot and cool. The good news is that she has an admirer, but the bad news is that she’s already taken. “How should I say words that can only be locked in silence for a lifetime, maybe more?” Listen very closely for her pensive “Hmmm…” as she ponders her predicament. Barry Cooke guest stars on organ, providing soulful resonance as Lindsay’s vocals enter Joplin territory.
Track 09: “Jack, Jim, Johnny and Me”--Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes when listening to this alcohol-favorites-song, because this vibrant mixture of blues and big-band swing is the CD’s most danceable number. Guest musician Gary Potts takes a wild turn on the drums, while band member Jonathan Wong takes saxophone fans to new heights of rapture. Michael Archer backs everyone up on bass, reminding everyone that the 24th Street Wailers are a true ensemble, and none of them stand alone. Abandon your armchairs and grab a partner before it’s too late!
The 24th Street Wailers were nominated for New Artist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards and nominated for Blues Album of the Year at the Indie Awards in 2012. With their Unshakeable energy, enthusiasm, originality, and passion for blues music, their star will continue to rise nationwide in the U.S.!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 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.
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