Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2011 Blues Blast Magazine
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In This Issue
Chefjimi Patricola has our feature interview with Shun Kikuta this week.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Andy Poxon. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Eli Cook. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Sharrie Williams. Eric Steiner reviews a new CD by Sean Costello. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from B. C. Read. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Chris Thomas King. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Another year gone! How did that happen so fast?
As we come to the close of the year we are happy to report that we brought you more than 280 CD reviews, 41 feature cover story interviews, dozens of live show reviews, hundreds of great photographs plus lots of news of Blues events, videos and more.
We are looking forward to a great New Year. 2012 will bring more great Blues content and some exciting changes to Blues Blast Magazine. Stay Tuned!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music in 2012!
Featured Blues Interview - Shun Kikuta
Shun Kikuta – Shogun of the Blues
Shun Kikuta is a name many Blues fans may not know. But if you had the pleasure of seeing Koko Taylor perform live in the last 10 years of her life, you have heard this great young guitar player who traveled the world with her!
BB: Shun how are you ? How is living, and most especially working in Asia going?
SK: I'm doing fine, real fine. Actually besides playing the Blues I am working in a lay 'Anything Goes' it's a musical. It's very different from what I am used to with charts covering each note, no improvising allowed it is very challenging for me even though I went to school for music theory and all. But I think I have forgotten more than I remember !
BB: Well how different is it to go from Berklee School of Music and all that it encompasses to the world of the Blues, which is more free form, is it harder ?
SK: When I went to Berklee it is a great school for music, but to me, there are limits to analyzing music – scales, notes, chords but music is so much more than that stuff or theory. When I first heard BB King it was like 'man that’s what I'm saying', it's something that you can't analyze but you feel good hearing it. It was his 'Live at the Regal' record and I was maybe nineteen or twenty I realized that this was it. I was happy, sad, all of the emotional things involved with the music. It moved me the way he sang his ass off and played great guitar – it was the whole package to me.
Before that I was playing heavy rock music, so I had some chops, heavy rock always uses Blues licks and the like. It was easy for me to get deeper into the Blues because I had some chops but just didn't know they were the blues. Then I started listening to guys like Otis Rush, Albert King, Buddy Guy Stevie Ray Vaughn all those good Blues players.
In Boston I saw Johnny Winter and John Lee Hooker, and also saw Ronnie Earl, Duke Robilliard and that big band sound from Roomful of Blues all local Boston area bands. The more I heard of the Blues the more I liked it and wanted to play it.
I started to go to jam sessions at the clubs in Boston, and started writing song sand learning how to play. I was still at the Berklee and playing Jazz but wanted to move in a new direction.
BB; It's amazing how many artists cite B.B.'s 'Live at the Regal' as the pivotal recording that turned them on to the Blues.
SK: Yeah man, those cats were amazing and it really made me want to learn more. So within a week of graduating Berklee I moved to Chicago. I packed all my little bags into a mini-van and drove to Chicago. I found me a job at a Japanese restaurant washing dishes, but I got laid off because they were not doing well, so I was the first to go.
So I went to City Hall and got a Performer's License for like $25 and started playing on the street. Set up in subway stations and stuff like that, it was around Christmas time and I was making like $70 in three hours and I was so excited about that – it was good money ! That was cool, playing on the streets and making good money but then after New Year's the money dried up. I made like $1.25 in three hours so that wasn't going to cut it.
At the same time, at night I would carry my guitar with me and go to the clubs where they had jams, places like Rosa's Lounge, Buddy Guy's Legends and Wise Fools Pub and do jam sessions and started meeting people and would pass around my cards. But after awhile I stopped that because not everyone was a professional at these jams and it was sometimes hard to really play out. I then started going to the clubs where bands were playing and then during the break I would introduce myself and tell them I am from Japan and play the Blues and could I sit in with them. So many times they would say yeah, and I would wait till they called me up, usually the last song late at night, and we'd play together. So I got to know so many people.
It's an amazing thing about Chicago they are so open about letting you play with them – they all give you a chance. That’s how I met Otis Rush. It was like a month after I got to Chicago he had a gig at the Wise Fools Pub, on a Tuesday and I was sitting right in front with my guitar. So at break he walked by me and asked if I play guitar, I said yes and he asked if I would want to sit in with him ! Imagine that, Otis Rush asked me to jam with him. Chicago is like that very open for musicians it's a part of the great tradition to keep the Blues alive, and help others learn these great songs and how to play the real Blues.
A few months after that I got my first gig at Rosa's with Louis Meyers. Tony, the owner of Rosa's took a liking to me and kept me in the loop and helped me network with these great artists. That was the first gig that I got that was paying me money!
BB: So chronologically what year is this going on. I am trying to see how you went from the subways to playing with Koko Taylor.
SK: That was in 1990, I started playing with Koko in 2000. I didn't know about Chicago Blues all that well back then. The sound was different then from what it was in the sixties, when I get there they were funkier and more hard-edged overdrive guitar sound. James Brown, Tyrone Davis, Funk, R&B, Al Green even Prince influences so I had to learn to adjust my style. It took me a little while but I can play a lot of different styles of music from classical, to Jazz and Rock that it helped me to adjust and learn from my past experiences. I observed the style and learned it well and I think that helped me get jobs.
A lot of cats came to Chicago expecting to play old style music like Muddy Waters, Little Walter and that but it wasn't being played at that time unfortunately.
So around 1995 I was hired by Junior Wells for the US and Canadian tour which lasted about six months. That was my very first experience to travel outside the Chicago area to other parts of the country and the world while playing the Blues for people. We were played clubs like House of Blues and all the big festivals and by doing so I met Dan Aykroyd, Lee Oskar and guys like that through touring with Junior.
I learned a lot from Junior Wells, before I played with him I didn't sing at all I only played guitar. So one day he comes to me while we are in the dressing room, and says to me “you don't sing, you have to sing to be a Bluesman” - I was shocked and I said that I am a young Japanese guitar player and I don't even speak English, never-the-less sing the Blues. He shakes his head and smiles and says I don't speak English well either so you have no excuse. So he's singing 'Little By Little' and tells me to follow him and sing along. So after that I started singing more and I appreciate what he did for me. I still work on my singing, and do more and more.
BB: Great story, especially singing Little By Little, he was right of course on all accounts. I saw a video of you on YouTube singing Little By Little in a club in Asia, very cool.
SK: Yeh, yeh I love it, I sing so much more now. So I first met Koko Taylor in 1996 when I cut my second album 'Chicago Midnight' for King Records in Japan. I had been working with them since 1994 so I have had Chicago artists play on my records. So they asked me who I wanted to be a guest on this record (big named people), so I said I'd like to have Koko. Koko was with Alligator and they had a relationship with King Records, so Bruce Iglauer introduced me to Koko and she said OK. We did two songs together in the studio for the release tracks 5 and 6 actually.
I didn't see her again till 1999, I was playing together with JW Williams at the Kingston Mines every Friday and Saturday. JW and I have been together for a long time, until last year we were together sixteen years. JW is another great musician and guy. One night Koko came into Kingston Mines and she was just hanging out – she's sitting right in the front row watching us play. So after the set I just went to say hello to her but she didn't remember me from the recording sessions, so she said she was pleased to meet me etc., and I give her my card and say that I don't have a day job this is what I do and I can go on the road if she ever needs me to. I never expected her to call me.....
So she calls me a few months later and says 'do you remember me, it's Koko Taylor' ! Well she asked me for two shows and she really liked my playing and said she would call me again. After a few months she called me again and asked me join the 'Blues Machine'.
BB: See if you don't ask how will you ever know.
SK: Exactly, very true, you never know I'm glad I asked. So that was in October 2000 and had been with her up until she passed.
BB: So you are currently living in Asia, how are the Blues doing there?
SK: Yeh, I have been in Taiwan since February. I tour frequently in Japan, but mainly stay in Taipei, Taiwan. The Blues is getting very hot in Asia right now. There is a big festival there that I am supposed to play in called the INA Blues along with John Mayall – we also have a Japan Blues Festival as does Beijing and India – Asia is starting to grow up more here. For me, being an Asian I feel it is important for me to be here to play the Blues that I learned in Chicago. I can also work on bringing more artists here to open the doors so everybody does well.
Indonesia is very hot now and I am looking forward to playing there at INA Blues. This is like their fifth or sixth festival, they have a lot of money to put into it. Last year they had Ana Popovic and they seem to have a large enough budget to bring big acts over here to play.
Chicago is still my home and I miss it, but being here right now is very important and I can do so much good for the Blues. Yet I think I am ready for the change, it is challenging and I am ready for it. Taiwan is not a big city like Chicago where there is a gig almost every night, but that's OK. It is a very centrally located city it is near many cities and countries so it is a good place to be.
BB: Any plans on new recordings?
SK: I have about ten songs right now that are roughed out, not finished. Since I am in Taiwan I am talking to management company and seeing what interest there is and as soon as we get that done we will get it out there. I hope to get stuff out in 2012 in one form or another. I can even do it myself but it is always good to have someone backing you up and promoting you.
For more info on Shun visit his web site: http://www.shunkikuta.com/english/index.php .
Interviewer Chefjimi Patricola is a classically trained chef, blues loving writer and photographer, and creative master of Blues411.com. He can also can be found on FaceBook and at festivals and clubs in your neighborhood and town. Photos by Bob Kieser © 2011 Blues Blast Magazine
Blues Blast Advertising Special - Lowest Prices Of the 2012 Season
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Andy Poxon Band - Red Roots
13 songs; 56:29 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Blues-Rock; Rock and Roll; Ballad
The Executive Director of a popular American print magazine was approached about surveying a debut CD from a 16-year-old guitarist, singer, and song writer. His response was basically, “Oh hell no – not another kid. I get inundated with their CDs.” Now consider, this same person the next hour was probably talking about the importance of “keeping the Blues alive.” For one, I have had enough of the hypocrisy.
To Maryland’s 17-year-old Andy Poxon, I say, “Welcome aboard.” Many thoughtful experts have pointed out that plenty of other artists like Buddy Guy and Little Walter were pretty young when they started themselves. If we are really serious about keeping the Blues alive, then we can not set the entry level at some arbitrary (and capricious?) age.
I am not going to tell you that Andy Poxon is the greatest thing since Muddy Waters, but his self-produced (at 16-years-old) CD of all original songs is inspiring, entertaining, and full of solid promise. His guitar playing displays inventive, creative licks and studied riffs reflecting plenty of talent plus research; his young voice reminds me of an early Jonny Lang. Lyrically, Poxon follows the Son House school of thought: Blues is between a woman and a man.
The opening track, “Hottest Thing in Town,” is 2:24 minutes of foot stomping, Rock and Roll bliss that is so good that I have already played it twice on my radio show. With the bass strings thumping (Russ Wasson) beside a snappy snare drum (Mike O’Donnell), the song is just wonderful. Then, at 1:03 minutes into the song, Poxon plays a head turning, eye opening, inventive guitar solo that makes south of the Mason-Dixon line migrating ducks turn back north! For the next 53 seconds, Poxon’s guitar owned me – and he could have it all!
Aired next was track 6, “I’ll Sing the Blues.” Lost love sends him to his room to try to feel better by writing a song and playing some Blues. It certainly made me feel better as the crisp song opens with familiar power riffs and, again, has a killer guitar solo.
At some point in his youth, Poxon has paid attention to Country guitarists, because he nicely throws some top-string-twang into “Quitters Never Lose” which is predominantly a Rock and Roll number with Zach Sweeny on rhythm guitar.
For slow dance numbers, try Andy’s three ballads. “I Want You So Bad” features Ray Tilkens on backup vocals, and Tilkens is also credited with “CD recording, mixing, and mastering – plus all keyboards.” Another slow ballad with a little more moodiness is “Raining In” featuring a tear-jerking guitar solo. “When” is played on an acoustic guitar with an electric guitar solo at mid song and with Carol Anne Drescher on perfect-harmony backup vocals.
The album concludes with reverb-rich organ and guitar propelling an upbeat shuffle. The song is like a fun dessert at the end of a holiday picnic.
Looking at the total package, full of song and style variety, it is pretty amazing that a 16-year-old could have self-produced and generated such a fine work. It was already finished when the good folks at EllerSoul Records heard the album and decided to license and distribute it. My guess: that decision was a no-brainer!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. Amy Walker contributed to this review. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Eli Cook - Ace, Jack & King
14 Tracks, 49:34
Eli Cook is a young blues artist from Charlottesville, VA. He has developed quite a following in the last few years and has steady gigs in and around Washington, DC. The rest of the country, indeed, the world, is now getting the word of his talent. All Music Guide has called him the best blues singer of his generation and Guitar Edge Magazine has called him a blues legend in the making. Extraordinary claims for sure, but not without merit. His guitar playing is powerful and his voice is mature beyond his years. Eli has taken all the praise in stride, remaining dedicated to his craft and melding his influences into a unique musical vision.
Ace, Jack, & King is Eli Cook’s fifth album since his 2004 debut Moonshine Mojo. He incorporates and embodies all of his influences, creating a superb concoction of post-grunge blues. Beyond his parents’ collection of old blues records, Eli grew up listening to the sounds of the Seattle-based grunge revolution and his blues bear a striking resemblance to the music of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and their followers like Days Of The New. He combines the Delta blues of Son House and Charlie Patton with the blues of Generation X. The jobs are gone, the mules are dead, and the Company Store is closed. These blues are for the disillusioned, disenfranchised youth whose future has been bought and sold by the Company, never to be seen again.
Blues purists might be dismayed by the grunge references, and Eli Cook’s vision may seem strange in print, but on record it makes total sense. He sublimely melds Skip James with Layne Staley in a fresh, compelling manner that transcends classification. The amplified acoustic guitars emit unnatural harmonics and make the tracks seem to emanate from the Netherworld. Cook occasionally plays the acoustics sans amplification but his deep voice and Seattle grunge style of singing never allow the menace to be far away. Even a marginally peppy, eminently catchy song like “Draggin’ My Dogs” never sounds happy.
Opening the album, the “Death Rattle” shakes the strings of an amplified acoustic guitar, gritty and grim as though the Reaper himself has laid his pocket-scythe across the strings to affect a soundtrack for the last moment of your life. If you escape the Reaper and make to the end of the album, Eli riffs on one of his heroes – Jimi Hendrix – by reprising the song in full electric regalia as “Death Rattle (Slight Return).” “Catfish Blues” is finger picked in a rolling style that takes the listener on a dusty country road to a watering hole in an arid landscape bereft of forgiveness and unimpressed by your pleas.
“Better Man” is a layered stomp with strummed acoustic guitars enforcing the beat, mildly distorted slide guitar lines that sounds eerily like harmonica and shimmering slide chords that sound like the wind rustling through the trees. “Afrossippi Breakdown” is a haunting solo acoustic piece featuring delicate finger-picking, and Eli’s voice has a richness that amplifies the emotions of the song to nearly unbearable levels. Skip James’ “Crow Jane” borders on being over-done, with so many versions of it already in existence but James himself would barely recognize Eli Cook’s rendition. The leaden drums and thick wall of guitars work hard to hold back the surging harp. This arrangement owes much to Led Zeppelin’s rendition of “When The Levee Breaks” but Eli makes it all his own. It is electrified Delta blues for the 21st century.
Ace, Jack & King proves that Eli Cook has a musical vision that is close to fruition. His albums to date have been occasionally unfocused as Cook learned as he went, trying ideas, songs, styles, and instrumentation. Here he offers an even balance of originals and covers, with his originals melding perfectly with the old gems. The tracks are layered and conversely stripped to the bone when necessary. His voice is intense and nuanced and his guitar playing is exquisite. The album is full of cohesive choices, great performances, and excellent songs. Ace, Jack & King pans the stream of consciousness of the first four albums and comes up with musical gold.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Sharrie Williams – Out Of The Dark
14 tracks; 54.08 minutes
For a native of Michigan it is surprising that Sharrie Williams, “The Princess Of Rockin’ Gospel Blues”, is not better known in the States. However, the fact is that she plays more in Europe where she is a frequent visitor than in her home country. On this release Sharrie wrote or co-wrote every track bar one, that exception being the title track which is a cover of a Walter “Wolfman” Washington tune. Interestingly the recording appears to have been made in a variety of places, the main tracks being recorded in Northumberland PA, Sharrie’s vocals in Saginaw MI and the horns in Dresden, Germany! Nevertheless, the sound quality is excellent and credit for that is due to producers Sharrie and Lars Kuschke who also plays all the guitar parts on the CD. Alongside Lars the core band is Marco Franco on bass, Anthony “Tee” Burns on drums, Pietro Taucher and Sjan Sahm on keyboards. The horns are Chris Hermann on trombone and trumpet and Michael Skulski on saxophones who appear on six of the cuts.
The CD opens with “Can’t Nobody” which, despite the odd grammar, is an effective love song, a slow-burning gospel groove with the horns providing a powerful finish to the verses. “City Limit Musicians” bemoans the lack of ambition of some musicians who do not want to travel away from home, a slick groove with a strong bass line and fluid guitar and piano solos: “Road warriors are hard to find, we are a breed, one of a kind. Our home is the highway but you can’t leave your driveway.” Title track “Out Of The Dark” is a ballad with a secular lyric but which could well be interpreted as religious: “Out of the darkness, into the wonderful light, that’s what you did for me”.
“What’s Wrong With You” is an upbeat shuffle about a relationship that is disintegrating, Lars Kutschke’s guitar demonstrating a touch of jazz in his approach. “Need More Money” moves along at a fast pace with the horns underpinning the rhythm, Sharrie expressing the current anxieties that everyone has in a time of economy measures, but concluding that God will always be there to help us. A fine sax solo graces the middle of the tune. The pace is slowed right down with “Although I Sing The Blues”, Sharrie sings of the ups and downs of the singer’s life and emphasises that although the blues is her choice of music, she is not down in attitude. The musicians all chip in with some lovely playing to support Sharrie’s outstanding vocal, always passionate, never out of control.
“Prodigal Son” is a cautionary tale of the dangers facing young people – booze, drugs, crime, etc. To emphasise the dangerous situation, the band cooks up a heavy riff and drums though I did not care for the synthesiser solo which reminded me of Emerson, Lake and Palmer! A nice contrast in pace is provided by “Gone Too Long” a song about being away from home on the road, trying to please audiences while missing one’s family: “I’ve been gone too long, I’ve got to get back. I‘ve been travelling both night and day trying to sing some of your blues away.” “Gatekeepers” is also about being a working musician, but in this instance the song concerns the difficulties that Sharrie appears to face in getting her music heard.
The serious side of Sharrie’s writing really comes to the fore on “What Kind Of Man”, a song that deals sensitively with the difficult issue of abuse within relationships: “What kind of man parties all night long, stays out with his friends then comes home to do you wrong?” “Grandma told me, if he hits you once, I’m telling you, he’ll hit you twice”. “Breakin’ Out” is an upbeat affirmation of freedom, possibly a thematic sequel to the previous depressing tale of domestic violence.
“Choices” emphasises that we all have the choice to do the right thing but that it is not always easy to make that choice: “Don’t let the weight of the world get you down. Whatever you do, my friend, keep your feet on solid ground. Don’t allow the evil things that people do turn you around.” In contrast “My Old Piano” is just great fun, though surprisingly the piano here is played not by one of the two keyboard players but by drummer Anthony Burns. The CD closes with “R.I.P.”, one of those songs that catalogues some of the departed greats of the blues world; Muddy Waters, James Brown, Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown. In the final verse Sharrie sings of her late friend Robin Rogers, concluding that “now she’s in heaven, singing with the best”. The message overall is what one might expect from a woman of faith; we all die, but are then reborn in the afterlife of peace. I have to add that at the recent Blues Blast Awards Sharrie sang two of Robin’s songs, accompanied by Robin’s husband Tony and Bob Corritore and you could have heard a pin drop – a really sincere and moving tribute to Robin.
Overall this is a fine CD which gives us plenty of examples of Sharrie Williams’ wonderful voice, backed by some excellent musicians. I hope that this will be the disc that brings Sharrie more attention back home
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 4 of 6
Sean Costello - At His Best: Live
Sean Costello has, sadly, been gone 3+ years, but his relatively short career has been well-documented by Landslide Records. At His Best: Live adds to Sean’s Landslide library, which includes Sean’s Blues (2009), Cuttin’ In (2001), and Moanin’ for Molasses (2001). Sean also fronted the Jivebombers on Delta Groove’s We Can Get Together (2008) and a self-titled 2004 CD on Artemis.
This 16-song set, from shows from 2000 through 2007, captures an artist that left us on the eve of his 29th birthday. Sean’s recordings capture his talent, and the Blues Blast Music Awards honors his memory with the Sean Costello Rising Star Award. The CD opens with a blistering tribute to Freddy King, “San-Ho-Zay,” and continues with an expert reading of the Magic Sam classic “All Your Love” from a stop at Buddy Guy’s Legends in 2002.
While the disc features mostly straight-ahead rock-tinged blues, slower numbers like “I Got a Feeling” and the soulful and funky “Can I Change My Mind?” shine. The crowd noise during Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” offers a “you are there in the club” vibe, and I’d like to think that fellow Atlanta bluesman Tinsley Ellis would be proud of Sean’s muscular workout on “The Battle is Over But the War Goes On.” On “Peace of Mind,” Matt Wauchope’s organ ushers in a soulful cover of Robert Ward’s song from his 1999 release, New Role Soul on Delmark. The last song is a real treat. Sean matches Little Richard’s (yes, as in “Tutti Frutti”) vocal intensity and co-author Albert Collins’ fretwork on a raucous “Lucille.”
A portion of the royalties from the sale of At His Best: Live will be donated to the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research, and I hope readers will learn more about Sean, and this condition, at www.seancostellofund.org.
Reviewer Eric Steiner is president of the Washington Blues Society Washington Blues Society in Seattle, Washington, and a member of the Board of Directors of The Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.
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The Diamond State Blues Society - Wilmington, Delaware
The Diamond State Blues Society in Wilmington, Delaware has two great events coming up. The first is Saturday, January 14th for our "Goin' to Memphis Fundraiser Party" on behalf of the DSBS IBC entrant for this year, The Blue Cat Blues Band. The show is from 3 to 10pm and will feature 8 great regional blues bands: at 3pm- Scoville Blues; at 3:45pm- April Mae & the June Bugs; at 4:30pm- Johnny Never & the Solar Pimps; at 5:15pm- Alicia Maxwell & the Diamond Dawgz; at 6pm- Mikey Jr. & the Stone Cold Blues; at 6:45pm- The Billy Pierce Blues Band; at 7:30pm- Venom Blues; at 8:15pm- Nuthin' But Trouble; and at 9pm- The Blue Cat Blues Band. It will be a day of HOT Regional Blues and to raise some funds to get our IBC entrant to Memphis!
And on Saturday, March 3rd it's the Diamond State Blues Society's 15th Annual House Rockin' Party. Opening the show at 3pm will be Nuthin' But Trouble, followed by Florida's great Blues Guitarist, Albert Castiglia, and headlining the show is the ironman himself, the phenomenal Michael Burks! Full details can be found at www.DiamondStateBlues.com
Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society presents the 4th Annual “Winter Blues Showcase” on January 21st 2012, The event spotlights this year’s IBC representatives Gregg “GC” Clark & Brian Lee (Solo/Duo) and The Noah Wotherspoon Band (Band) opening for this year’s headliner Big Bill Morganfield, son of blues legend Muddy Waters. Gilly’s 132 S. Jefferson St. 6pm—Meet & Greet w/ Big Bill Morganfield ($5), 8pm— Gregg Clark & Brian Lee, 9pm— Noah Wotherspoon Band, 10pm— Big Bill Morganfield (Muddy Water’s Son), DBS Members—$20 / Non DBS Members— $25, For more info go to www.daytonbluessociety.com .
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Friday January 6th, 1st Friday Blues, Hurricane Ruth, winner of the Prairie Crossroads Blues Society IBC Challenge, 8pm studio visit to WEFT 90.1FM during the Blues Live show, 10pm, performance at Memphis on Main, Champaign. $5 non-members, $3 members. Friday April 6, 1st Friday Blues, Johnny Rawls. For more info: prairiecrossroadsblues.org.
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Jan 11th at 7PM - Brandon Santini. Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.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. Jan 2 - Robert Sampson & Blues Gumbo, Jan 9 - The Brandon Santini Blues Band, Jan 16 - The Groove Daddies, Jan 23 - Mike Zito, Jan 30 - Tombstone Bullet, Feb 6 - Matt O'Ree, Feb 13 - Hurrican Ruth, Feb 20 - The Distillery, Feb 27 - The Blues Deacons. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
B.C. Read - 1,000 Miles
Another non-label release from an unrecognized musician is often not the most thrilling of prospects for anyone who writes reviews on a regular basis. But B.C. Read, who resides in the Saskatchewan province of Canada, immediately grabs your attention right from the start, serving up another reminder that blues is indeed an international form of expression.
This is Read's third recording in his twenty-five year career. The program consists of eleven of his original songs, all of them good enough to make you pay attention. His expressive vocals and fluid guitar lines add to your enjoyment.
Tracks like “Didn't Sleep at All” and “The Blue Boy” bristle with energy thanks to fine support from a horn section comprised of Sheldon Corbett on sax, Kevin Marsh on trombone and Berry Radford on trumpet. The first track also benefits from the presence of Big Dave McLean on harp and a well-constructed guitar solo from Read. The latter number has the horns riding a slinky rhythm with an R&B feel. The title track features Ross Nykiforuk on organ on a steady-rolling tune that acknowledges Read's debt to Chicago's electric blues tradition. The horns drive home the funk quotient on “That's the Deal”, with Read trading the vocal lead with the sultry Wilma Groenen. Read takes a more straight-forward approach on “Number Two”, switching to slide guitar and howlin' out his distress over an unfaithful lover over a standard chord progression.
Read shows his musical versatility by moving away from the electric format on several tracks. “Jellyroll Baker” is a ribald number that finds him doing some nice finger-picking on acoustic guitar, backed by Brent Longstaff on tuba. A more dramatic shift occurs on “Rosalita”, a tune that celebrates the Tex-Mex sound with Jack Semple on acoustic guitar, Nykiforuk on accordion and Suzie Vinnick on vocals. The rhythm section of George Tennent on bass and Glenn Ens on drums provide sensitive accompaniment on the ballad “What Could Have Been”. Nykiforuk's accordion's frames a strong vocal from Read, who also adds some mournful harmonica to the track. “(Why Can't We Just) Walk Away” is Read's personal statement on the effects of war and religion. The lone cover, Neil Young's “Are You Ready for the Country”, was recorded live with Vinnick on backing vocals. The lazy pace contrasts nicely with Read's urgent vocal and taut slide guitar work.
Whether it's the band stretching out on the rousing instrumental “Diamond Bop” or Read preaching to his wife on “Train of Life”, there is plenty to enjoy on this strong release. B.C. Read gives the music room to breathe and his supporting cast refrains from showy displays of instrumental prowess, content to help Read inject enough vitality into each song that you will want to give this disc more than one listen.
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 6 of 6
Chris Thomas King - Antebellum Postcards
21st Century Blues Records
10 songs; 37 minutes
Styles: Blues Rock; Traditional Gospel; American Folk Songs
“Antebellum” technically means “before the U.S. Civil War,” but when most people use it, they are typically referring to events that happened after the Blue and the Grey came to blows. The word evokes images of cotton plantations, Southern belles, and burning cities such as Atlanta. Chris Thomas King, in his latest album, sends us “Antebellum Postcards.” Several of them are in the form of well-known Gospel and American folk ballads, while the others propel us forward into modern blues rock.
The cover art for this CD depicts King with his guitar, standing placidly among the trees, in a sepia-toned photograph. Those expecting an old-fashioned musical atmosphere, however, will be completely surprised! Each one of the ten songs featured was either written or arranged by this talented musician, so even the covers have their own unique spin. Chris Thomas King, mainly solo, employs a dazzling array of instruments here, from the standard electric and acoustic guitars to a mandolin, Dobro, Fender Rhodes piano, harmonica, and even an African drum called a djembe. He does have Jeff Mills on drums and Ryan Clute on bass.
Here are some “letters” that listeners will want to read with their ears:
Track 3: “Rehab”--This thrashing blues-rock anthem pays an anguished tribute to the late Amy Winehouse. It's written and sung from the point of view of someone who treasured her: “She's the one, the only one, to keep me sane under the sun. To ease the pain, I go insane, but I can't have her in my veins....” One might wonder who is more addicted—the beloved or the lover. This song would sound great in a mash-up with the original “Rehab,” performed by Amy herself.
Track 4: “California Letter”--Chris Thomas King's vocals on this album are typically soft and understated. On no other track are they more melodic than this one. Some may consider it to be the first true “Antebellum Postcard:” Over his multi-instruments, he sings, “I'm off to find my blessed angel. I have to leave you in this one-horse town. They say it's greener in the City of Angels. Soon I'll be California-bound....” This is the melancholy missive left behind by the narrator's sweetheart, who has absconded. Despite its sorrowful minor-key tones, it's addicting enough for multiple play-throughs.
Track 6: “Sketches of Treme”--This number is immediately hypnotic. Be careful while driving and listening at the same time! Featuring a swaying beat and King's thrumming percussion, “Treme” will weave its delicate web of relaxation-inducing brilliance. Grab a partner and head to the dance floor before it's too late and one finds oneself blissfully nodding off.
Songs such as these would ordinarily make “Antebellum Postcards” a winner in listeners' minds. However, they are jarringly counterbalanced by bland renditions of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.” These Gospel-tinged tunes are best sung with powerful and projected vocals rather than soft, gentle ones. Still, give this CD a try if you're a fan of Chris Thomas King (or about to become his newest one)!
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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