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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We always like this time of year. WHY? Festival season is here!
This weekend there is a great festival in the heart of Blues country. The Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Blues legend Robert Johnson's birth with 100 Blues acts this Saturday. If you can make it admission is FREE for all of the daytime performers. And the night time action in all the Clarksdale clubs and juke joints is a great bargain too as a wristband to get in to all of them is only $10. To check out all the details on their website, CLICK HERE.
Blues Blast contributor Terry Mullins will be there to catch some of the action for you and we will have a review and pictures in an upcoming issue. STAY TUNED!
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Andy Duncanson. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by Beverly Lewis. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by The Delta Flyers. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Terry Garland & Li’l Ronnie. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Dudley Taft. Jeff White reviews the new Foghat CD. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Andy Duncanson Interview
Pick out any slice of suburbia - on any given weekend night - and there’s a better than average chance you’ll be able to find three or four teenagers holed up in a garage with guitars slung around their necks and their amps cranked up to “11.”
Ten or 12 years ago, a person probably wouldn’t have thought twice upon hearing the strains of Limp Bizkit, Korn or Green Day blasting out of a neighborhood garage.
But to hear a group of senior-high students plowing through staples by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and other titans of the Chicago blues scene?
That might have caused a person to stop dead in their tracks.
Those are the humble origins of the Kilborn Alley Blues Band, a band nominated in the Band of the Year category at this year’s Blues Music Awards (BMA) in Memphis.
Back in the day, however, the thought of being recognized as one of the best blues bands around had to be about the last thing on the minds of high school friends Andy Duncanson, Josh Stimmel and Chris Breen.
Just getting together to jam and have fun was the only thing that mattered then.
“Me and Chris and Josh, the remainder of the three that started this band, were pals and hung around together and just started playing in the garage and everybody thought it was cool that we were playing blues,” said Duncanson, Kilborn Alley’s lead vocalist and guitarist. “And that’s how things started. There were no big plans to start a group and change the world. I mean, we’ve always been ambitious – the type of people that, if we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it right, even from a young age – but there was no master plan for anything.”
Duncanson and Breen, classmates since grade school, met Stimmel in high school and the trio soon found a common love of music as a bond.
“Josh was like, ‘Hey man, you play guitar?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. Do you? Cool.’ And then it was like, ‘Hey Breen, play this bass.’ And that’s how things started,” Duncanson said.
But a high school band that plays the blues?
“It is kind of a different thing when you get all young people in high school that form a band and play the blues,” laughed Duncanson. “But it was really just the music that I wanted to play. I had been listening to the blues since I was younger and that’s why I wanted to pick up the guitar in the first place. I didn’t want to pick up the guitar to play Nirvana or anything like that. That kind of sound was not what I liked. I liked the sound of B.B. King’s guitar, you know. It was really a natural evolution.”
That “natural evolution” has paid off in the form of three albums on the Blue Bella label for Kilborn Alley (Ducanson (vocal, guitar), Stimmel (guitar), Breen (bass), Ed O’Hara (drums, vocals) and Joe Asselin (harp)- 2006’s Put It in the Alley, 2007’s Tear Chicago Down, and Better Off Now, from last year.
Put It in the Alley earned Kilborn Alley a BMA nomination for Best New Artist Debut, while Tear Chicago Down was nominated for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year. They are nominated as Band Of the Year in this years Blues Music Awards.
That makes three major nominations for a band that’s just been on the scene for a decade.
“For the band, we feel like it’s (Band of the Year nomination) a direct reflection of putting out a good album,” Duncanson said. “We’re nominated for best band of the year, but if we’re not out there staying in front of people, we’re not going to get nominations like that. So it’s really cool that on a year we put out an album, we get nominated.”
Kilborn Alley also won Blues Blast’s Song of the Year award last year for the title track to Better off Now, and in 2009, Blues Blast honored the group with the Sean Costello Rising Star Award.
Shiny trophies and fancy plaques are certainly nice to look at, but at the end of the day, Duncanson says you better have something more than that to hang your hat on.
“We do what we have to do to keep ourselves in the eye of the public, and things like this are one way of doing that,” Duncanson said. “But when we’re putting down music in the studio, that (awards) better be the last thing on your mind. You better be thinking about creating good music.”
Instead of filling their albums with copies of other people’s songs, Kilborn Alley has been hammering out its own material since the band’s early days, a process that might end up in a totally different spot from the one it started in.
“I might start writing a song to a completely different chord structure and beat and then decide that it needs a different feel. So you might have lyrics that came from something else and you put them with a different beat from something else you’ve been working on and you take that into the studio,” he said. “And then when you get in the studio, Nick (Moss), our producer, might say, “Change that,’ or ‘Put this here,’ so then you get that studio magic going on, too.”
Kilborn Alley has been preparing to cut a follow-up to Better off Now and the group has around a dozen tracks that it hopes will be ready to go by next fall. And, as has worked so well for the band in the past, those new songs will get road-tested before being committed to tape.
“We try to play our (new) songs live and then we go up to the studio and bang them out in about three days,” said Duncanson. “That’s how we’ve done the others (albums) and that’s how we’ll do this one. Right now, the process is all in the writing – getting the band to feel how the groove goes, everyone getting their own parts together and working on the songs.”
Then after leaving the laboratory environment of the studio, those songs are taken back out on the road, where they can turn into another beast entirely.
“For some reason, these songs that we write, maybe in a year or so, they really start to develop some character,” Duncanson said. “You might add little different bits playing them live – that’s what makes the blues so fun, the spontaneity of it – and then they really take on a life of their own, after seeing how the crowd reacts to them.”
Fans that have followed Kilborn Alley for awhile now will notice one major shift in the band these days – the absence of a harp player.
Joe Asselin, now with The Sugar Prophets, held down harp duties until leaving the band in 2009. Asselin was replaced by Deak Harp, who toured with the band until last fall.
So with no harmonica dynamic in Kilborn Alley, who picks up the slack left by the departures of Asselin and Harp?
“It does change the dynamic of the band. As you know, the harp kind of rounds out the sound of the Chicago blues – it adds something special to it,” Duncanson said. “So, we’ve kind of gone to a simpler sound, just kind of do the things that we do and not try to make up for the harp not being there. Just put the soul that we have into it instead of trying to force something. You’ve got to go to your strengths and that’s what we’ve done.”
Kilborn Alley has taken its brand of old-school Chicago blues all over the United States, and in November of 2009, the group made its debut across the pond, playing a tireless 13 shows in 14 days in London, barely even taking any time off to sleep.
Despite the lack of much social time in jolly-old England, Kilborn Alley did lay down some serious blues in some of the city’s coolest pubs, making a host of new friends along the way.
Things went so well, in fact, that Duncanson says the band is heading back overseas this spring.
“We’re going to Europe in May for a couple of weeks, going to a nice festival in The Netherlands called the Moulin Blues Festival and then we’ve got a couple of dates in the UK, and maybe some more,” he said. “We’ve got our plane tickets and are ready to go. It ought to be a lot of fun.”
Playing blues in a garage as a teen in Illinois is one thing, and playing at one of Europe’s best blues festivals is another. But how does a band get from Point A to Point B on the map?
How about with a buzz that started at Kilborn Alley’s very-first gig at the Neil Street Pub in Champaign?
“The guy that put on all the Champaign County Blues Festivals was in there that night and just loved us. He came up and said he wanted us to play the blues festival, so that gave us a lot of confidence,” Duncanson said. “This guy books all the great blues acts that comes through town and he wants us to play at the blues fest. And we’re still just 18 years old. So that really gave us the confidence that we needed. That helped start us to taking the steps we needed in order to get a reputation going. We had made some demos when we were 17 and they sounded pretty good, so we knew we had something. So we took them around to all the bars and stuff and we decided that we needed to get some gigs, make some money and meet some people. But we really didn’t have any idea where things were going.”
With over 1,400 shows under its belt, Kilborn Alley, with a lot of hard work and sweat, has morphed from a group of green teens into a seasoned unit, one that knows there are still some miles to go until the next level of success is reached.
“It’s hard to even look at what a good model for the next level might be,” Duncanson said. “Like, there’s a guy my age selling a lot of records or whatever. There’s just not much of a good model for that. We’re out on the road and we meet people doing it and everybody’s in the same boat. Everybody’s just trying to make it. To survive, you just have to keep doing what you do, stay innovative and move forward. We live in a community where 10 years ago there were concerts all the time. And there’s just not much of that anymore. And it’s all over the place – not just the blues.”
Even in the very best of times, life in a band can be challenging at times – that’s no big surprise – even for one made up of lifelong friends.
And according to Duncanson, understanding that a band is made up of unique, individual pieces, is part of the process for harmony and longevity.
“There’s lots of give and take. The way we do it, it really is a family-type of function,” he said. “And just like with any family, you’ve got to let people be themselves. And you’ve got to be able to understand and have patience with your band-mates. You’ve got to share the experience with everybody – that’s a big part of it. And when you do fight, you’ve got to have a good attitude when it’s over.”
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.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Beverly Lewis - All Shades of Blues
10 songs; 38:16 minutes; Meritable
Styles: Jazzy Blues and Bluesy Jazz
Jazz...or...Blues? How about Jazz and Blues! The origins of these two genres are similar, owing to African Americans of the 1800s and 1900s under European descendents’ musical influences. There are differences, but one would be hard pressed to clearly and succinctly state them in just a sentence or two. Blurring lines between and employing elements of both comes Florida’s veteran Jazz songstress Beverly Lewis.
“All Shades of Blues” is a collection of nine cover songs featuring a sample of all different kinds of Blues from various writers such as Denise LaSalle, Joe Zawinul, and Miles Davis to Peter Chatman. Swing dancers and Blues dancers, should have fun dancing to this release.
The musicianship is one of the highlights of the CD. A very fine band is led by Lewis’s producer, engineer, music arranger, guitarist and husband John Fifield with Randy Singer on harmonica, Goran Rista and Lee Levin on drums, Sammy Figueroa on percussion, Gabe Vales on electric bass, Gabriel Vivas on electric and acoustic bass, Paul Banman and Doug Emery on keyboards, Teddy Mulet on brass, and David Fernandez on reeds.
Lewis kicks off the album with one of the Bluesiest numbers, Denise LaSalle's upbeat “Someone Else Is Steppin' In” opened and propelled by Fifield's sweet, studied slide guitar. Randy Singer adds a tasty harp solo at mid song.
The fourth track is a medley pairing “Every Day I have The Blues” and “Fine and Mellow.” Here is one of the best examples of the full band in a smooth, jazzy groove arrangement with Lewis mixing in some scatting with the vocals. Shining brightly, each player’s sounds are cohesive elements of the well oiled overall mix.
Opening with Singer’s wonderful chromatic harp, “Since I Fell for You," provides an opportunity for Lewis to wrap her arms, legs, and voice around her man in this mid tempo, most popular love song.
The very next song is an abrupt turn, a real burner: "It's Love Baby" (24 Hours a Day).” Beverly belts out the lyrics while the rhythm kicks under a smoking guitar and wild harp. This shade of Blues is the rocking shade!
The disc ends with nineteen seconds of fun. It’s a unique track with a dog being given co-composer credits. The only original on the CD, it was written by Beverly, John Fifield, and their dog Scarlet who does the “singing.” As John picks a few short acoustic guitar notes,
Beverly coaxes Scarlet to “sing the blues baby” and the dog performs “Howlin' Dog Blues.”Honestly, my cat didn’t really like it.
Across the set, Lewis’s voice is confident, pleasant and entertaining displaying both power and range. Somehow, the translation from Jazz to Blues doesn’t fully come across with the gut-feeling expressed by a Shemekia Copeland or Reba Russell. But, those two are world class singers as only few are. I would be happy to someday catch Beverly Lewis performing in a Florida night spot, especially if she’s backed by the guitar and harp work heard on this CD.!
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. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE.
Blues Society News
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Grafton Blues Association - Grafton, WI
The Grafton Blues Association will host the Grafton Blues Challenge Saturday, April 16 at Circle B Recreation Center in Cedarburg. 11 acts competing for a band slot and solo/duo slot at the 2012 IBC. Line up includes: Hounds Tooth, Jonny T-bird & the MPs, The Delta Jets, Mojo Perry, Robert Allen Jr. with Cadillac Pete, Highway 414, October Soul, Tweed Funk, David Miller/Steve Goetsch duo, John Stano – solo, Meantooth Grin. Admission is $10 at the door, all ages welcome www.graftonblues.org
The Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara Blues Society, the oldest existing blues society in the U.S., celebrated its 34th. Birthday on March 19 with a red-hot show featuring legendary singer Finis Tasby and his band. The Blues for Youth program of the SBBS is flourishing, with multiple recent appearances in elementary, middle, and high schools by duo Valerie Johnson and Al “B” Blue. In addition, the SBBS is helping to co-promote the Simi Valley Blues Festival, on April 30, and the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival on May 28 and 29.
The SBBS is raffling an ocean view cabin for 2 on the October 2011 Pacific Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. A limited number of tickets will be sold, for $20 each or 6 for $100. Checks may be made out to “S.B. Blues Society” and mailed to P.O. Box 30853, Santa Barbara, CA 93130-0853. The next SBBS show will be on June 11 with dynamic band Café R&B! Check www.SBBlues.org for more info.
Greater Twin Cities Blues Society, St. Paul, MN
The Greater Twin Cities Blues Society presents Road to Memphis Challenge May 1, 2011 at Wilebski's Blues Saloon with 5 bands, 3 solo/duo acts competing for slot at IBC. The show starts at 1:00 $10.00 suggested donation www.gtcbms.org
The Blues Kid Foundation – Chicago, IL
Columbia College Chicago, Artistic Director Fernando Jones, and the Blues Kid Foundation proudly present the 2nd Annual Blues Camp July 12 to 16 at Columbia College Chicago Music Center • 1014 S. Michigan Avenue • Chicago. This fun-filled experience will give national and international student musicians ages 12 - 18 an opportunity to learn and play America’s root music in the Blues Capital of the World, Chicago. Students will receive professional instruction in the hands-on, user-friendly environment of Columbia College Chicago’s South Loop campus. Placement in ensembles is competitive, and student musicians (intermediate-to-advanced skill levels) must audition for positions. Openings for beginner-level students may also be available.
Chicago-area student musicians are expected to audition in person Auditions will take place Saturday April 23 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM at Columbia College Chicago Music Center 1014 S. Michigan Avenue • Chicago. Out-of-town and international student musicians may audition by submitting online video links to BluesNewz@aol.com by Friday, May 6, 2011.
For Updated Information Visit www.Blueskids.Com & Watch The Blues Kids TV Special or contact Fernando Jones, Blues Ensemble Director Email: Bluesnewz@Aol.Com • Hotline 312-369-3229
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at Tri-Lakes in Bloomington, IL during the Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival. The winner will be sent to Memphis in early 2012 to compete as our representative in the International Blues Challenge. To be considered bands must apply by June 18, 2011. The solo/duo acts competition is to be determined based on interest.
For further information and submission guidelines, please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: Deborah464@aol.com www.bluesblowtorch.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society presents the 4th. Annual Charlie West Blues Fest May 20 & 21, 2011 at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV . Showtime is 4 pm to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday 1 pm to 11 pm, with after jam to follow both nights at The Boulevard Tavern. Admission is FREE ! That’s right, FREE to everyone !Over the two day period we will be having over 18 acts performing on both stages. There will be plenty of food vendors to suite your fancy along with beer and wine sales this year.
The lineup includes Sit Down Baby, Izzy & Chris, Kinds of Crazy, Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers, Davina & the Vagabonds and Joe Louis Walker on Friday and Lionel Young Band, Slim Fatz, Mojo Theory, Sean Carney, Kristine Jackson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Ana Popovich on Saturday. For more info contact: 304-389-1439 or email@example.com or visit www.charliewestbluesfest.com or www.wvbluessociety.org
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IL
MVBS presents Hawkeye Herman Returns for Blues in the Schools. During the week of April 11-15, blues musician Michael “Hawkeye” Herman will go into science, math, English, social studies, ESL, and alternative high school classrooms of four area schools. This is a new approach for Blues in the Schools in the Quad-Cities, but not for Hawkeye, who has been conducting cross-curricular blues workshops all over the world. Because teaching at the classroom level is more intense in both preparation and execution than the usual performing for school assemblies, Hawkeye will be presenting only one open-to-the-public event on Wednesday April 13 at Mojo’s in the River Music Experience (2nd and Main Streets in Davenport) beginning at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society - Rosedale, MS
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society presents The Crossroads Blues and Heritage Festival Saturday, May 7, 2011 at the River Resort. Highway 1 S. in historic Rosedale, MS. Gates open at 12:00 noon - music starts at 1:00. Admission $5 - adults, $1 - children under 12. Bring your own ice chest - $10 No beer sold - No glass - No pets, please! Parking $5 Lineup ( in order of appearance - subject to change): Vinnie C., Eddie Cusic, Mickey Rogers, T-Model Ford, Daddy Mack, Big T, Guitar Mikey and the Real Thing, and Eden Brent.
Fest Feast on Friday evening, May 6 at the River Resort with a 5-course Creole dinner, $50 per person - Cash bar. Limited seating. Call 662-759-6443 or 662-897-0555 for reservations and information. If you have questions about the above information, call 662-402-6251. Thank you. Mary Anna Davis Crossroads Blues Society www.rosedaleblues.com
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - April 26 - The Rockin’ Johnny Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, May 03 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, May 19 - The Sugar Prophets (2011 IBC Finalists), 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 23 - Sean Chambers, 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill,
July 13 - Reverend Raven & C.S.A.B., 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents “Ladies Sing The Blues For Illinois WINGS” Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 7:00pm at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Theater III, 420 South Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois.
This special concert is to raise awareness and funds for Illinois WINGS, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring quality breast cancer treatment to women and men in central and southern Illinois regardless of their ability to pay. Female vocalists scheduled to appear will include Mary Jo Curry, Ruth LaMaster, Brooke Thomas, Josie Lowder, Lorrie Eden and Lori Ann Mitts and will be backed up by Tombstone Bullet who will serve as the house band for the event.
Admission to the concert is $10.00 at the Hoogland Center Box Office or online at http://www.hcfta.org/tickets.html . Net proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Illinois WINGS.
Also 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. April 18 - Big Jeff Chapman, April 25 - TBA, May 2 - Too Slim & the Tail Draggers, May 9 - The Blues Deacons, May 16 - James Armstrong, May 23 - Eric "Guitar" Davis and the Troublemakers. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
The Delta Flyers - Sixteen Bars
Houston’s Stevie Dupree’s gruff vocals and harmonica combined with partner Travis Stephenson’s acoustic and electric guitar skills take us on a country blues journey that at times skirts Heehaw territory, but not closely enough to bring out the corn-ball factor. Huffing and puffing harmonicas, sliding guitars, mandolin and porchboard stomping all create an air of down-home blues good times. A heapin’ helping of all band originals are lent blues authenticity by the deft musical skills of the players. Rich Delgrosso supplies his able mandolin, and drums and occasional background vocals spruce up this mostly acoustic blues-hoedown.
The obligatory “mean old highway’ tune sounds refreshed as it is pushed along with electric slide and mandolin in “61 Highway Blues”. The bars referred to in “Sixteen Bars” are the type found in the doors of a jail cell. This tale of doom and gloom is recounted over an upbeat county-blues musical romp. Elmore James-style resophonic acoustic slide and tambourine propel another road saga courtesy of the good-time “Mentone, Alabama”. Dupree hauls out his ample harmonica chops for the foot-stomper “Baby’s So Fine”. The atmospheric harp-resophonic duet of “Sunflower River Rag” has the listener lolled into a blues daydream you don’t want to be brought out of. A modern-day theme of drugs and booze is carried in the folk blues of “Poison Took My Baby” that wouldn’t be out of place on Hootenanny in days gone by. “Dockery Farm” pays tribute to the famous plantation as a twangy hill-country blues. Travis’ Duane Allman-toned electric slide battles it out with harp on the jaunty “Fishin’ Little Mama”. Rick Richards’ locomotive drumming chugs along with Sonny Terry harp on the sprightly romp of “Baby Jane”. The group vocals of The Fabulous Inebriators invoke a drunken gathering of church faithful in the boozey-woozey “I Got To Testify”.
It’s comforting to know that the blues still has a feel-good place to go to, while still supplying first-rate musicianship. Even the few serious subjects touched on here are given an upbeat treatment. Music like this will never reach the masses, but for those that seek the rewards, there is a toe-tapping country-blues jam in store for the takin’. I’ll be moseying along……..Now where is my ol’ hound dog?.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Terry Garland & Li’l Ronnie - Live at the Canal Club
Total time: 48:36
When the folk music craze hit young white youth in the late 1950s-early 1960s, the blues interest naturally was in the acoustic country blues. Interest in, and later dominant appeal of, the electric blues didn’t come until the mid-late 1960s, when new approaches to rock had opened up blues fans’ ears. But back during the folk music-craze era, one could hear a lot of great acoustic blues songs and performers in coffeehouses, small clubs, and on college campuses. Terry Garland and Li’l Ronnie’s Live at the Canal Club is a harkening back to that time; but it’s also an update, for the later interest in electric blues brought forth what’s also here, electric blues songs adapted for acoustic playing. There are six such direct entries on this CD: Lloyd Price’s 1959 rock/R&B version of the traditional “Stagger Lee” (track 2); two Jimmy Reed numbers, “Upside Your Head” (track 3) and “It’s A Sin” (track 7); Willie Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed Up World” (track 10); the Terry Garland original, “Dude Boy Boogie” (track 11); and Muddy Waters’s early “Can’t Be Satisfied,” which he played as a country blues on the electric guitar (track 5). All of these are appropriately arranged as acoustic blues, which entails a lot more than simply playing electric licks on an acoustic guitar, and are sung and played masterfully by guitarist Garland, with excellent accompanying second-position acoustic harp by Li’l Ronnie. In this category could also be included “Bettin’ On My Baby” (track 6), and the ruminative, philosophical “Life’s Changes” (track 9), numbers that could be an acoustic adaptations of what were originally original electric blues by Li’l Ronnie (aka Ronnie Owens), with vocal honors on both, as well as the vocal on “Crazy Mixed Up World.” Three vocals in all, which are just as strong and powerful as Garland’s seven—and that’s saying a lot.
Terry Garland’s acoustic slide and regular guitar are masterful, deeply embedded in the traditional country and Delta playing tradition. But L’il Ronnie’s second-position harmonica playing is especially spectacular, drawing on influences from country masters such as Sonny Terry and Hammie Nixon, as well as the more citified acoustic playing of both Sonny Boy Williamsons. His harp playing is always in the groove, whether accompanying or playing solos, and he certainly shows that there are variegated ways of dynamically rendering the train chugging sound and the waving-hand wah-wah effect. Most properly a Hohner endorsee, L’il Ronnie is definitely a master of the acoustic blues harp with his own style of playing, something he demonstrates on each of the nine tracks where he does solos. This positive expertise is also shown on his original country blues instrumental, “Think Big” (track 8), and also in the way he uses the Hohner Super 64 Chromatic acoustically on “Crazy Mixed Up World.” L’il Ronnie also alternates Jimmy Reed-style high notes with lower note playing modeled after the two Sonny Boys on “Life’s Changes.”
Not only does Li’l Ronnie appropriately back Garland’s vocals, Terry Garland does the same on Li’l Ronnie’s. Both these players are thoroughgoing professionals, knowing when to accompany, and when to solo, and also knowing you don’t do both at the same time! Which makes the duo of Terry Garland and Li’l Ronnie properly an ensemble, not a mismatch of two competing egos—an important part of the self-evident chemistry that graces this release’
Terry Garland’s also composed and plays here two traditionally-influenced blues songs of stormy weather, the opening track’s “Hard Weather” and track 4, ‘Trouble On The Way.” As blues fans know, the traditional country blues was quite diverse thematically, and dealt with a considerable amount more than just sex and sexual relations. Garland has also added verses to “Stagger Lee” and ‘”Can’t Be Satisfied,” especially one raucously lascivious verse to “Can’t Be Satisfied” which he sings appropriately matter-of-fact.
All of which sums up this CD as an excellent contemporary acoustic blues CD that harkens back to both the white acoustic blues re-creators of the 1960s and the original black country blues players who recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. The only drawback I found while listening is that Li’l Ronnie’s harp accompaniment is under-miked on tracks 1 and 2. Of special interest for the acoustic harp aficionado will be the brief reference on the bottom of the sleeve notes on what harmonicas Li’l Ronnie used and how he miked his harps for this recording.
Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.
Willing To Crawl
Available now at
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Dudley Taft - Left For Dead
Big Woody Music (BMI)
12 tracks: 52mins 43 secs
Dudley Taft, born in the Mid west later moved to Seattle and took with him a love of the blues and some monster axe skills. Seduced somewhat by the delights of punk rock and grunge, Taft spent some time as a front man with Sweet Water, but now he has decided to return to what he sees as his roots: the blues.
One thing is clear, Taft is an excellent guitar player. He cites as his influences BB King, Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top, the last two of those band names clearly implying Jimmy Page and Billy Gibbons; there is much in his playing which reminds one constantly of those artists.
Nevertheless, please do not consider that to be a complaint. The music on this CD is of the highest quality and it is clear that as a consequence of his ventures into punk and grunge, the blues world has been deprived of a significant talent.
So to the music. The opener ‘Ain’t No Game’ written by Taft (as are seven of the other tracks on this CD) is a loping slow blues with some incendiary axe work. Taft is more than adequately supported by Evan Sheeley on bass, and Scott Vogel on drums. The first of the five covers on the CD is Back Door Man, written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Howling Wolf. Actually, even on the other tracks on this CD Taft has a voice which reminds me of Wolf (in his early recording days) is say nothing of a guitar style (particularly on this track) which demonstrates his debt to Billy Gibbons. But the other covers include. Have You Ever Loved A Woman, a song probably best known from the at least six recordings of it by Clapton, although of course the original was released by Freddie King in 1960, and somewhat surprisingly a version of Charley Patton’s song When Your Way Gets Dark (which comes with some nice slide work from Billy Stapleton) although it is doubtful that Mr. Patton would recognise his own song.
Taft’s own songs are strong and with interesting lyrics and I for one certainly look forward to hearing more from him. In the meantime, welcome back to the blues Dudley, but please, please spend a little time trying to find your own voice and your own guitar style..
Review Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).
All Shades Of Blues
”Forceful, robust and soulful offering from South Florida blues vocalist Beverly Lewis.”
Available for download at ITunes, CDBaby and Amazon.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Foghat - Last Train Home
12 songs; 60:25 minutes
Styles: Boogie Blues; Blues-Rock Boogie
I was a huge Foghat fan as a teenager in the late 70s. I enjoyed their brand of boogie rock and roll with a funky bass guitar and a sense of humor. Their latest CD is promoted as a “blues” album, and I was curious to hear just how bluesy the album is. I also knew that they had lost original members in recent years and was curious to hear how much the current band sounded like the band I grew up with. Original guitarist and vocalist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett died of cancer in 2000. Slide guitar player Rod Price passed away from a heart attack in 2005. Drummer Roger Earl is the only remaining original member as original bassist Tony Stevens left in 1975. “Last Train Home” is the culmination of a dream shared by Roger and “Lonesome” Dave to release a blues album including many of their favorite songs.
As the liner notes state, “Foghat recording a blues album is not a huge stretch of the imagination.” Many of their early albums included a blues cover or two. The songs on the new CD include seven covers and three original songs. The first song on the album is an original, “Born for the Road.” It is a catchy, toe-tapping shuffle but more southern rock than blues. The song slows near the end and some nice piano and harmonica can be heard. The original title song, “Last Train Home,” and a couple of the covers, also have more of a southern rock feel.
The first blues song on the CD is a cover of Otis Rush’s “So Many Roads, So Many Trains.” It is a slow blues with soulful guitar playing that reminded me a lot of one of my favorites, Gary Moore. The band also covers a number of blues classics: a pair of songs by slide guitar wizard Elmore James (“Shake Your Moneymaker” and “It Hurts Me Too”) and a couple closely associated with another master slide guitarist, Muddy Waters (“Louisiana Blues” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”). These covers are all straightforward versions with plenty of tasty slide guitar by guitarist Bryan Bassett.
As a special treat that adds additional blues authenticity, the last two songs are by special guest Eddie "Gypsy of the Blues" Kirkland. When the first song, “In My Dreams,” started playing, I had to check my iPod to be sure it hadn’t somehow skipped over to a Magic Slim CD. These are certainly authentic blues songs with a biting clean-toned guitar played with a lifetime of feeling. Mr. Kirkland was still going strong at 86 years old, but he sadly died February 27, 2011 as the result of an automobile accident!
On “Last Train Home” the band gives the Foghat boogie treatment to many of their favorite blues songs. Their versions continue in the blues-rock boogie style that I first heard from them almost 40 years ago. There is plenty of very good guitar playing in the dual slide and lead guitar style heard on their early albums. The boogie-woogie piano and harmonica heard on quite a few songs is a nice addition, especially on the original instrumental, “495 Boogie.” Although the singer, Charlie Huhn, doesn’t sound much like “Lonesome” Dave, he does a solid job; his voice reminding me of some of the southern rock bands I also listened to in the 70s.
I do miss the humor and the funky breaks heard in of some of their classic songs like “Slow Ride.” But, you can certainly sense the respect they have for the music and the fun they have playing it. “Lonesome” Dave would have been proud to be a part of this CD.
Review Jeff White is a “Friend of the Blues” living in the Kankakee IL area.
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