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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ron Santo RIP

It was bad enough yesterday that Dr. Dean Edell retired from his radio show, one of the last voices of reason on the Am dial, but then my all time favorite baseball player Ron Santo died yesterday.  Santo is not a bluesman, but if anyone ever lived the life of the blues and could relate to the music it was Ron Santo.  A young man blessed with athletic ability cursed with Diabetes after he was drafted to play for the Chicago Cubs.  He secretly played with the chronic illness for several years, until the early 70s when he told the world.  This guy was one of the greatest 3rd basemen of his era. A multiple gold glove winner, perennial all star, captain of a team that featured future hall of famers, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ferguson Jenkins.  He did all of that and had Type One Diabetes.  However, that is not the end of the story.  Years later he was considered a shoo in for the Hall of fame, and yet every year he was left out.  It was agonizing waiting each year for the baseball hall of fame to do the right thing, and year after year it was disappointment after disappointment. then to make matters even worse his diabetes took away both his legs.  He suffered from heart problems, and then bladder cancer, which I thought he had beaten a few years ago, but unfortunately is what finally claimed his life. Ron Santo was the eternal optimist, and to be a true Cubs fan you have to be.  For me the Cubs were the team we watched down on Grampa's farm on his old b&w TV.  Me, dad, uncle Melvin and Grampa would watch the Cubs who played great in the spring, and fall apart in the dog days of summer. Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, Banks, and Williams were my boyhood heroes.  Years later Santo became my favorite because I loved to listen to him doing play by play on the radio.  However, it was in 1999 when I became a Diabetic that Santo became not only a hero, but some one to look up too, and realize that Diabetes is not the end of life, but a new beginning.  In many ways it made me a better person by loosing weight, watching what I eat, and trying not to be a coach potato.  I am going to miss Ron especially this spring when the Cubs return, because unfortunately Ronnie won't be there in the booth to cheer them on, and it won't be the same without him.  God bless you Ron.

Here is some blues from the late great Steve Goodman:  A Dying Cubs Fans Last Request

Here is Steve Goodman's Go Cubs Go with Ronnie making an appearance at the 1:10 mark

Finally a nice video that sums up Ron's life and why he is my hero.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Chicago Bluegrass And Blues Festival

Just received this through email Check it out this weekend!!!!!!

The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festivalhas grown.  Now in its third year, the festival has expanded to 35 bands across three nights at three of the city’s favorite venues.
From December 3rd-5th, Chicago’s favorite independent producers and worthwhile charities will host an eclectic tribute to the genres that started it all.  From the cultish explosion of psych folkers Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros to the undeniable sexual energy of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, the current derivations of roots music are alive and well.  Yet the link to Robert Johnson is also alive and well, literally.  95-year-old David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Johnson’s lifelong friend and witness to his mysterious death, joins the bill as the oldest remaining Delta blues musicians touring today.  Ending the weekend with a dub-infused dance party, Studio One legends The Skatalites help remind us how boogie-woogie became wobble wobble.

About the Festival

The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival is a festival celebrating our city’s unprecedented appreciation of roots music and culture. Hosted by the KingtelloReact Presents, and Silver Wrapper, a bevy of homegrown talent will unite with some of contemporary music’s most accomplished and influential artists for three days of collaboration and cause. 3rd year. 3 days. 3 venues. 35 bands. And all in the name of a just cause and a plethora of musical styles that have evolved from the Bluegrass and Blues traditions that started it all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Illinois Blues Blast!

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November 25, 2010
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Hey Blues Fans,
As promised we have the complete 2010 King Biscuit Festival photos finished and posted on our website.  To see the Day 3 photos of all the Blues fun, CLICK HERE.
For a sample of the great artists that performed, here are photos of Bobby Parker, Reverend Robert, Charlie Musselwhite and Bob Margolin.

In This Issue
Blues photographer Marilyn Stringer sends Part 2 of her photo coverage of all the fun from the recent West Coast Blues Cruise.
We have five Blues music reviews this week! Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Shaun Murphy.  Steve Jones reviews a new CD by BB & The Blues Shacks. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by Buddy Guy. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Rob Blaine. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 5

Shaun Murphy - Trouble With Lovin’
10 tracks/42:49
At the 2010 Blues Blast Music Awards last month, one memorable moment in an evening filled with highlights was the set turned in by singer Shaun Murphy. Her first Blues release, Livin’ the Blues was nominated in the Best New Artist Debut category.
Murphy was may have been unknown to some at the awards show but that was quickly remedied as Shaun captivated everyone with her powerful voice and dynamic stage presence.
Her performance came as no surprise to anyone familiar with Murphy’s lengthy resume. Early in her career she was signed to a division of Motown Records as a duo with Meatloaf. Her Detroit connections lead her to work with Bob Seeger, a relationship that has endured since 1978. She also recorded and toured with Eric Clapton. Starting in 1993, Murphy spent sixteen years as a member of Little Feat.
Based on her latest recording, the blues community should soon be welcoming Murphy with open arms. Sounding like a mix of Bonnie Raitt and Koko Taylor, Murphy’s voice can sooth one minute, then adopt a harder edge without a hint of strain, which is what transpires on the opening cut, “Bed of Roses”. Murphy utilizes her impressive vocal range to describe the perils of life on the fringe of society.
She eats up the faster pace of “Mississippi Water”, snarling out her disgust for an unfaithful lover. Her gritty rendition of “The Blues Don’t Tell It All” leaves no doubt that Murphy has experienced some trouble in her life.
Another highlight is the title cut with Mike Finnigan sitting in on the B3 organ. Murphy takes her time, steadily building the emotional impact until her final cries of anguish shake you to the roots of your soul. Equally impressive is her subtle run-through of “Blue Tears” as Murphy wallows in the aftermath of a relationship gone bad. “Deservin’ of Love” gets an anthem-like treatment complete with a backing vocal chorus and Danny Pelfry howling tenor sax. Murphy sings with conviction on her original composition “Rio Esperanza” but the ballad of love and Texas is a dramatic departure from the rest of the disc.
The liner notes have a lengthy list of other musicians who made contributions to this project. The core band consists of Kenne Cramer on guitar, Larry Van Loon on keyboards and Boyd La Fan on bass. Finnigan is back on “Hopelessly in Love with You”, trading soulful vocal lines with Murphy over a driving rhythmic pulse. Another standout is “Did You Call” with Murphy delivering a sassy put-down of a recalcitrant lover. The disc ends with Murphy screaming and shouting about her good man, played by Johnny Neel, on “That's What Love Will Make You Do”. Neel provides some B3 and trades vocal asides with Murphy.
I suspect that Shaun Murphy may be nominated for more awards next year and she will certainly deserve any attention she gets. Her amazing vocal talents are on full display on this release, singing with an ease and confidence developed over decades of backing other stars. Now it is her turn in the spotlight – and she delivers a bravura performance that will delight you through repeat listens. This one gets our highest recommendation !!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Blues Society News

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Colorado Blues Society - Boulder, CO
Sunday November 28th The Colorado Blues Society and Boulder Outlook are presenting Otis Taylor’s Trans Blues Certified Jam Work Shop. Join Otis for a rare opportunity to learn his unique perspective on music. Otis has played with a virtual who’s who of Blues stars over the years and has won numerous Blues Foundation awards. The workshop runs from 1PM to 5PM with a Live one hour jam with Otis and the Students at 6PM. Followed by an open Blues Jam hosted by Lionel Young.
The workshop is open to all ages and all levels. It’s for musicians, singers, writers and educators, even poets. All instruments welcome, acoustic and electric (bring your amp if electric). The cost is $40 per student. To reserve your spot call the Boulder Outlook at 303-443-3322. 800 28th Street, Boulder, CO. There is no specific level or age, kids are particularly welcome, as are teachers. The Colorado Blues Society will be providing four scholarships for hardship cases.
Also The Colorado Blues Society is holding their 1st Annual Holiday Party & Benefit December 11, 2010. Headlining the show will be 2009 IBC winners, JP Soars and the Red Hots. Opening the event will be young guitar wizard Taylor Marvin, the Colorado Blues Society two-time Youth Showcase performer at the IBCs in 2010 and 2011.
Show starts at 6PM. Tickets are $10 and on sale at the Boulder Outlook. In addition to seeing a great show this is for a great cause. We are collecting for the Emergency Family Assistance Association ( E.F.A.A), so please bring your donations to help. EFAA can use canned goods (chili, tuna and peanut butter are hot items, but all are welcome) and also these families can use toiletries like—shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and lotion. Tis the season for giving so bring as many items as you like! Plus, all money, after expenses will go to E.F.A.A
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society invites you to a holiday party Friday December 10 at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf. John Resch and the Detroit Blues will providing music. Their sound is reminiscent of Chicago electric blues from the ‘50s and ‘60s. John Resch and the Detroit Blues were voted Best Band in the Quad Cities in 2001, won the Iowa Blues Challenge in 2002, released a well-reviewed CD in 2004 and have played numerous festivals and venues around the Midwest.
Doors open at 7pm with food being served at 7:30; the music starts at 9:00. Admission is $10, $5 for MVBS members. 
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Nov 29 - Scotty Daniels Blues Band, December 6 - The Mojocats, Studebaker John & the Hawks, Dec 20 - Brooke Thomas and The Blue Suns, Dec 27 - The Sally Weisenburg Blues Trio. 
2010 Friends of the Blues shows - Tuesday, December 14, Shawn Pittman (Texas Blues trio), 7 p.m., Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Boulevard, Kankakee IL 60901. (815) 936-1699.

2007 Blewzzy Award Best CD Winner & Blues Blast Magazine Best Song Nominee Release Second CD
Steve Gerard & The National Debonaires
Words Are Like Bullets
Order at  plus CD Baby and iTunes

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 5

BB and the Blues Shacks - London Days
Crosscut Records
15 tracks/52:23
Wow! I did not know what to expect here. The CD cover was artistic and retro. The band was plugged as one of Europe’s leading blues and roots bands. So I popped the CD in and what I got was a great soul blues album featuring a very fine singer and a tight band accompanying him.
Michael Arlt fronts the band and plays harp. His vocals are a beautiful and wonderful thing, giving the listener a smooth and mellow sound to savor and enjoy. His brother Andreas plays an understated and skillful guitar. Dennis Koeckstadt on piano, Henning Hauerken on bass and Bernhard Egger on drums and a few others on horns here and there round out this nice little band who play a flowing and mellow soul blues that I fell in love with. They have a jumping and swinging late-‘50’s early-‘60’s proto rock sort of sound. Whether it be slow blues, jump, swing, rocking or whatever, I was impressed with these guys.
Arlt’s vocals are authentic and smooth when he needs them to be and gutsy and down home when he wants them to be. He also wrote 14 of the 15 songs. My favorite has to be “It Hurts So Good”, a bopping, jumping and swinging track with super vocals. He shows off his equally good harp work on songs like “My Baby’ Alright”. Brother Andreas guitar and Koeckstadt on piano also showcase themselves as they off solos throughout, and Raphael Wressnig on B3 on all but two tracks also gives them some great depth of sound in addition to his solos. The horn section of Martin Winnig and Matt Holland (who also did the arrangements) are also quite good; the band’s sound is not big and overdone. I was very impressed. The final bonus track “Autumn Sunset” is a jazzy number showing off a different side of the band and they sound equally good in this style.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the CD. Lots of soul, blues and rocking good fun on this seventh CD by the BB’s. This band has little exposure here in the States but once anyone hears them they will be hooked!!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Live Blues Review

2010 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise –The Bands – Part 2
The Blues Cruise story continues. The week at sea includes pool deck BBQ’s with menus contributed by different performers, a desert extravaganza and fine dining, workshops and panel discussions, parties, jams in the piano bars and Pool Deck stage all night and well into the morning, pro/am jams in the Crow’s Nest, and jams anywhere two or three musicians can find a spot to play together. As we waved goodbye to San Diego our sail-away band was Larry McCray, featuring Noel Neal on bass. Later in the week Mikey Capone joined Larry’s band.
(As last week, I will feature the remaining bands alphabetically)
A great treat was having Los Lobos on the boat again. They are so versatile and could be found playing with a lot of other bands throughout the week. The band included Louie Perez: guitar, David Hidalgo: guitar, Cesar Rosas: guitar, Steve Berlin: sax & keyboards, Cougar Estrada: drums, special guest Harold Brown: congas, and Conrad Lozano: bass.
What a blast from the past! With Cisco Kid, Why Can’t We Be Friends, and every other song that we all loved over the last 40 years, The Lowriders were one of the most popular bands on the boat. Can we Happy Dance? Howard Scott loved to find other performers in the crowd and pull them into the fun – Sista Monica was happy to oblige. The Lowriders included Howard Scott: vocals/guitar, BB Dickerson: bass, Chuk Barber: Percussion, Lance Ellis: sax, Telvis Ward: keyboards, and (my lifetime hero) Lee Oskar: harmonicas/vocals.
Marcia Ball was dynamic on the keyboards and we were really happy to have Mighty Mike Schermer on board – he had sailed with us many times with Elvin Bishop’s band. Along with Thad Scott: sax and Damien Llanes: drums (not pictured), the band was on top of their game. Marcia also hosted one of the nightly jams and it was fun see her surrounded by all the men and totally keeping them hopping.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King played acoustic sets in the Ocean Bar-they always had a good crowd. I know they jammed all over the boat, including the pro/am jams in the Crow’s Nest.
Another one of the Revues was Tommy Castro’s Legendary Blues Revue. Similar to Elvin’s Revue, he added some new players to his band, was recording for a future CD, and everyone had a great time. Tommy’s band consists of Tommy Castro: vocals/guitar, Keith Crossan: sax, Scot Sutherland: bass, Tom Poole: trumpet, Ronnie Smith: drums, and Tony Stead: keyboards.
The additions to the Revue included Kid Andersen: guitar and Rick Estrin: harmonica (both from Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. (Just a note – I left Elvin’s Revue at the indoor stage and ran down to the pool deck stage to catch Tommy’s Revue. When I got there, they were wondering where Kid was. He was about five feet behind me all the way across the boat to the pool deck– he had just played with Elvin. Kid was everywhere!!) Also part of Tommy’s Revue as Larry McCray (who was also everywhere and won the award for the most jamming performer) , Sista Monica, Jimmy Thackery, Theodis Ealey, and Commander Cody snuck on for a few songs too. It was all great blues!
And last (alphabetically), but not least, was Chicago’s own Wayne Baker Brooks. Wayne had been on a previous cruise with his family’s band, but this was the first time with his band. Fresh, contemporary, Chicago style blues – everyone loved Wayne!! And during one set, he was also joined by Larry McCray. Wayne’s band includes Nicholas Byrd: guitar, Ken Kinsey: bass, Daryl Couts: B3, and Jerry Porter: drums (not pictured).
One of the cruiser’s favorite workshops (other than our photo workshop for which there are no photos) was the Boogie Woogie Piano Jam hosted by Commander Cody. I actually refused to answer any questions after our second photo workshop and zoomed down to the stage so I could catch all the piano players lined up and cutting loose. From left to right are: Eden Brent, Steve Willis, Kelley Hunt, Leon Blue, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Commander Cody, and Marcia Ball. Imagine the energy…..
The first morning on the boat there was a Returnee Party for the veteran cruisers featuring Jimmy Thackery, Commander Cody, and Smokin’ Joe Kubek, while out on the pool deck the Virgin cruisers got lei’ed to the sounds of Virgin Performers: Vasti Jackson, Lightnin’ Malcolm, and Cedric Burnside.
The night time jams on the pool deck start some time after 12:15 a.m. and are hosted by one of the main performers. They invite people all day to come play with them. You never know who is going to show up and how many will be on the stage at the same time. And you are guaranteed to have as much fun as the performers. The jam I am highlighting is the one put on by the Lowriders. At one point there were at least 15 performers on stage. I think Sista Monica had a pretty good time being the only female in the testosterone pool.
Marcia Ball filled the stage on her jam night and few more players surfaced, including Tommy Castro, Scot Sutherland, Nathan Keck, Tom Poole and Randy Oxford on trombone.
The last night was upon us and we needed to pack in as much fun as we could. I passed by Sista Monica making a list- she was putting together a gospel jam up in the Crow’s Nest at 6pm. It was a one of the most fun jams as there were very few “shake your tambourine/booty – hallelujah!” events. And the word spread fast-it was a party! Pictured: Kelley Hunt, Grant Dermody, Harold Brown, Ronnie Smith, Sista Monica, Chris Gill, Julia Cruz Magness, Vasti Jackson, Bobby Pickett, just to name a few.
The Ocean Bar, which was half way between the two main stages, always had some acoustic jamming going on. I was delighted to catch Kelley Hunt singing with Smokin’ Joe & Bnois. Normally she is behind her keyboard, so the acoustic jam was a great way to see Kelley in a different light. Another time I passed by and found Elvin playing with Lightnin’ Malcolm.
And not to be forgotten were our Piano Bar hosts. They played shifts every night until early in the morning and always drew a crowd of cruisers and performers who wanted to sit it. Although I never did see Eden Brent at the PB this cruise, I did enjoy the rest of the hosts: Leon Blue (joined by Al Schneider & Elvin), Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Steve Willis, and Commander Cody.
So many events were occurring at the same time and the fun never ended until we disembarked in San Diego. And this year – NO BAD WEATHER!! IT was a perfect cruise. Thanks to all the LRBC staff, Holland America staff, performers, and awesome cruisers who, all together, make it the best October cruise yet.
For a full set of photos from this and previous cruises, go to See you on the January 2011 cruise!!

Commentary & Photos by Marilyn Stringer
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

I Got The Blues... All Because Of You is an eclectic mix of female blues classics and of originals written by G'Jai. This CD will make you reminisce of a time when women reigned supreme in the Blues world.
I Got The Blues All Because Of You
Available at
With some blues classics like "Chirping The Blues", and a link to the present with originals like "Little Lady From Detroit". "You can't look to the future without embracing your past!"

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 5

Buddy Guy - Living Proof
The title in this case really means something. Buddy has struggled through the ups and downs of his career and come out of the other side as one of the most vital and relevant current practioners of the blues. He along with B.B. King and Otis Rush are about the only living major players left from the formative years of electric blues. He possesses the vocal chops and guitar fire of someone far younger. He has survived and evolved his sound to sound current, not relying on his original guitar sound, to the dismay of some blues purists not keen on his soaring, string bending antics. To my ears it’s an extension of his straight forward lyrics that portray life’s realities.
“74 Years Young” is the perfect lead in for what is to come. In it Buddy relates his romantic and musical adventures and proclaims at the song’s conclusion-“I ain’t never had enough of nothin’”. The tale is punctuated by a sizzling guitar attack.
What sounds like the intro to a Muddy Waters song introduces his recounting of learning and practicing his guitar skills much to the chagrin of his family members in “Thank Me Someday”. His brash vocal skills are shown to good affect hear as well as throughout the cd. The lyrical and guitar energy of “On The Road” are equal to or greater than any blues guitar slinger working today. Thankfully the “star” guests are kept to a minimum here and well done. B.B King’s duet with Buddy works fine in the well-worn tradition of melancholy reminiscence blues songs. Carlos Santana keeps the blues vibe intact on “Where The Blues Begin” with his guitar and congas complimenting another of Buddy’s odes to the blues. The approach to the promised land is broached on the slow gospel-tinged “Everybody’s Got To Go”, encased in organ sweet electric piano courtesy of Reese Wynans. The patented Guy feistiness shows up in the bouncy “Let The Door Knob Hit Ya”. An instrumental, something not often seen on a Buddy Guy record, closes out the program. “Skanky” is a funky guitar workout that calls up the ghost of Freddie King.
Yet again Buddy has come up with a solid serving of invigorating blues in a career that shows no sign of slowing down or sinking into mediocrity. The able backing band featuring second guitarist David Grissom and drummer-producer Tom Hambridge do much to bolster the sound of Buddy’s blues vision. For my money this outing lacks some of the imagination, song diversity and stronger song structure of ‘Skin Deep”, but doesn’t lag behind in blues power. Here’s hoping that “The Real Deal” keeps putting out blues music of this quality for a long time. He sho’ nuff’ supplies us with the living proof here.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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 Featured Blues Review 4 of 5

Rob Blaine - Big Otis Blues

Swississippi Records

12 tracks 52:41

A fixture in Chicago clubs (from Rosa’s to B.L.U.E.S) for some time now, Rob Blaine and his boys grab you from the first note of the first song on this CD. This is Blaine taken out of his usual band (The Chicago R&B Kings) and placed in the spot light.

The CD is a nice mix of originals and a small number of covers. If there is anything to complain about its not in the music but in the liner notes which are a tad over-wrought: “sometimes it’s a long run of splintery notes, sometimes it’s big chunks that he yanks from the instrument.” could be a definition of what is meant by hyperbole. Still, if that’s all there is to complain about let’s get back to the music.

On the opener Blaine delivers the vocal with considerable power and the outstanding bass work from Joewaun ‘Man’ Scott nicely balances the Wha-Wah guitar delivered with panache by the front man.

‘Only Mine’ is a nice song, but it is a vehicle veering towards the middle of the road. The song, which features some expert axe work, comes with a rather strange kind of country (ie Nashville) tone to the guitar part. (Is it a ‘tele rather than the usual SG?) ‘Affection and Pain’ is a nice slow-burning tune with a Hendrix sounding guitar and a super bass part.

On ‘Same old Blues’ Blaine produces some BB King sounding licks on this oldie written by Don Nix wich comes with piano and organ filling out the ensemble. It’s terrific.

Check out ‘Don’t Burn Down The Bridge’ for an excellent, driving version of an Albert King original and whatever you do don’t miss ‘Hourglass Baby’ a stomping shuffle which deserved to be covered by someone like Buddy Guy before long. A nod here to the wonderful driving bass work again by Joewaun ‘Man’ Scott.

There is an instrumental (‘Gone But Not Forgot’) principally featuring Nigel Mack on National Steel, which is nice but is little more than a filler. Blaine just strums away on an acoustic. IMHO an ill-advised and wasted opportunity.

That is followed by ‘Trouble’ which is a nice change of pace although the Popa Chubby style guitar chops are a tad noodly. "Must Be Nice" appears twice, first as a blues rock tune with some Hendrix fills and later as a solo acoustic guitar tune.

Blaine has the talent, and the chops, both vocally and instrumentally, to say nothing of the drive, to survive on the contemporary blues scene. Just a tad more care in selecting the songs and a reining back of the noodle factor, will help immensely.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( 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 ( and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central)
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 5

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Live! In Chicago

14 tracks, 75.15 minutes

Kenny Wayne Shepherd was, of course, one of the teenage prodigies of the 90s who, alongside Jonny Lang, brought in a new wave of young blues players, many influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan. After the initial success, Kenny experienced a few leaner years but his last project, the CD/DVD “10 Days Out” brought him a high level of acceptance within the blues community. Now comes his first live CD, recorded during that tour, and featuring his excellent band: Chris Layton on drums, Scott Nelson on bass, Riley Osbourn on keyboards and Noah Hunt on lead vocals. This concert was recorded in Chicago at The House Of Blues. In effect the CD splits into two parts: 6 tracks feature the KWS band and there are four guests who each have two tracks.

enny’s second CD “Trouble Is” (1998) provides no fewer than four of the six band performances, with one song from his debut CD and a cover of “I’m A King Bee”. The CD opens with the triple whammy of “Somehow, Somewhere, Somehow”, “King’s Highway” and “True Lies”, all of which are rock tunes with a strong blues influence. Kenny’s guitar playing throughout is excellent (check out the solo on the first track where I could swear there was a rhythm guitarist present) and the backing of the band first rate, especially the vocals of Noah Hunt whose gravelly tones recall classic rock singers such as Paul Rodgers. “Deja Voodoo” follows with Riley Osbourn’s piano underpinning Kenny’s guitar beautifully on a slower, moody piece from “Ledbetter Heights”.

First guest is Buddy Flett with whom KWS played as a teenager. First tune is “Sell My Monkey”, made famous by BB King and played here as a classic shuffle. The interplay between the two guitars is excellent and it is interesting to see how well KWS adapts his style to suit a different type of blues. Indeed, throughout the guest sequences this is a feature of his playing that demonstrates what a fine player he has become. The second is a Buddy Flett original “Dance For me Girl” that KWS has apparently contemplated recording before on one of his own albums.

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith is the next guest, playing harp and singing on Jimmy Reed’s “Baby Don’t Say That No More” and his own composition “Eye To Eye”. Perhaps it’s the harp introducing the shuffle of the first song, but you immediately feel immersed in Chicago blues here. “Eye To Eye” is the classic Muddy Waters sound, a slow blues with lots of harp and a rousing solo from KWS at its centre.

Next guest is Bryan Lee, another player who gave the young KWS the chance to perform live. Now KWS returns the favour on Wolf’s “How Many More Years” and a rocking slice of New Orleans in “Sick And Tired”. Some tough guitar playing on these two tracks!

Final guest is the great Hubert Sumlin who does one of his own compositions “Feed Me” which is a fast paced rocker with some references to Highway 49: you can debate which of the solos is the wilder, Hubert’s or KWS’! The second Hubert selection is, inevitably, a Howling Wolf song and the choice is “Rocking Daddy” as it features one of THE riffs for which Hubert is rightly renowned.

After ably demonstrating his ability to blend in with classic blues performers the band closes the concert with Kenny’s atmospheric “Blue On Black”, arguably his biggest hit to date and “I’m A King Bee”, written by James Moore but most associated with Muddy Waters. This rocked up version of the song makes a barnstorming finale to an excellent concert.

I suspect that a DVD version will follow at some point but this CD is well worth a listen, both for some exhilarating guitar playing from KWS and for the appearance of some of those who most influenced him as he was developing. As KWS is on the LRBC in January I am now even keener to see him live!
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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