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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
A few years ago I was fortunate to be at the finals of the 2005 International Blues Challenge. One act really caught my attention. It was a young lady named Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy Band. Diunna won the IBC that year and her guitar player John Richardson won the Albert King Award for Best Guitarist in the IBC.
I knew then that the world would be changed by this force in the Blues. The Blues world seems to agree too as Diunna and company have been nominated for four Blues Music Awards and two Blues Blast Music Awards. She won the Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut in 2008.
In 2005, I had my first chance to talk at length with Diunna in conjunction with the Legendary Luther Allison Memorial Blues Festival we were working to create that year. She graciously took lots of her time to give me some wonderful ideas on promotion and fund raising. She had done this kind of work in Texas with the Blue Shoe Project and this lady knows a few things about keeping the Blues alive.
Diunna is a captivating performer. To put it mildly, she will knock your socks off. If you haven't heard Diunna before, see this short video of the week from a few years ago in Blues Blast Magazine. CLICK HERE to see it.
If you have not had the pleasure of hearing her get to her website at http://www.diunna.com/ and get the full scoop on where she will be performing this season. And be sure to go to CD Baby or Amazon.com and get one of her CDs. If you like REAL Blues, this is IT!
This week Terry Mullins catches up with Diunna and asks her about her career in music and her soon to be released album.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Diunna Greenleaf. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD by Too Slim and the Taildraggers. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by The Dave Hoffheimer Band. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Big Apple Blues. John Mitchell reviews a new CD and a DVD by Lance Lopez. Steve Jones reviews the new Sam Henry CD. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Diunna Greenleaf Interview
Trying To Hold On.
Those words can be taken as ones of desperation, or they can be taken as ones of purpose.
With the first few months of 2011 taking from us irreplaceable bluesmen like Big Jack Johnson, Marvin Sease and Pinetop Perkins, Trying To Hold On seems like a natural response when things don’t seem so positive.
Just like many other blues fans stretched across the globe, the loss of those icons hit Diunna Greenleaf pretty hard.
But unlike many of those blues fans, Diunna Greenleaf was able to call those titans friends.
Even before Greenleaf and her band Blue Mercy burst upon the scene in a big way back in 2005 – winning the International Blues Challenge’s best band competition that year – rubbing elbows with and working side-by-side with a who’s-who of the blues had become the norm for the powerfully-moving vocalist from Houston, Texas.
Greenleaf has performed with Kenny Neal, Big Bill Morganfield, Keb Mo, Hubert Sumlin, and for 10 years she has been a featured vocalist with the Muddy Waters Legendry Band, a group that at one time or another boasted Bob Margolin on guitar, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones on bass, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums, Carey Bell and James Cotton on harp and Pinetop Perkins on keyboards.
Greenleaf’s new project is certainly a very personal one, filled with the influences and encounters that have helped shape her life and are responsible for making her a worthy successor to the throne of the late, great Koko Taylor.
Filled not with a sense of finality, but rather with a sense of strength and resolve, Trying To Hold On is stocked with reasons to believe everything will turn out OK, despite how grey things can seem at times.
“We’ve been losing a lot of friends,” Greenleaf said. “And so the life-cycle has been doing its thing. And ironically, the name of my new CD that I’ve been working on is called Trying To Hold On. That speaks for the entire music community - and the blues community especially.”
In a twist of fate, Trying To Hold On was the working title given to Greenleaf’s new project over a year ago, but with the loss of Perkins, an artist that Greenleaf called a dear friend, that title seems to eerily hit the mark early in 2011.
“A little over a year ago, that was not going to be the title of the CD – it was going to be based on another song I wrote for the disc,” she said.
The majority of the tracks on Trying to Hold On are originals written by Greenleaf, material that other artists have been clamoring to record for some time now.
“Friends of mine have wanted to record some of these songs, or for me to sell them some of these songs, for a while now,” she said. “But I always said I don’t want to sell any song that I’ve not already recorded myself. That may change later on, but that’s how I feel right now.”
Credit old chum Anson Funderburgh for coming up with a best-of-both-worlds solution to that dilemma.
“He said, ‘Since so many of us want your songs, why don’t you make them duets, or something like that, with us?’ So the songs on here are songs that I wrote and that my friends play and sing on,” she said.
Fitting then, that the disc is billed as “Diunna Greenleaf and Friends.”
The song that Funderburgh lays down his trademark guitar on was originally slated to feature Greenleaf, Funderburgh and long-time front-man and harp player for Funderburgh’s group The Rockets, the late, great Sam Myers.
“We had talked for some time about the three of us doing that song, but we never found the time,” said Greenleaf. “And then Sam got sick. Anson called me and said that Sam wanted to make sure that when he closed his eyes, I would sing at his funeral. I told Sam, ‘Don’t talk like that, because like the Bible says no man knows the hour and the date.’ I tried to make him laugh. But it ended up that it did happen like that. And at that time, I was really, really busy. But it happened that the funeral was going to be on the only weekend that we had open. Can you believe it? So I drove to Dallas and sang at his funeral. So at the end of the song on my new CD that has Anson on it, and was supposed to have Sam on it, I do a little Sam Myers vocal inflection, just for him. ”
In addition to Funderburgh, a few of the other friends that Greenleaf called in to help includes Margolin, Billy Branch and Bob Corritore.
“I recorded some amazing tracks by Diunna that feature some beautiful guitar from Bob Margolin and were recorded during two separate sessions when we had her in town to do gigs at the Rhythm Room,” Corritore said. “Diunna really gave her all to the sessions and brought some fantastic original songs. These sides really will put a hurt on you! I am very excited to be a part of this new CD by one of the leading lights in the future of the blues.”
And as becomes evident on Trying To Hold On, slated for a late May release, Greenleaf is not only blessed with one of the most soulful voices around, she’s also an impressive songsmith, as well.
Asked for many years by her fellow veterans of the U.S. Army to pen a song for the troops, Greenleaf found the inspiration to do just that at the funeral of her older brother, who also bravely helped defend our country in service, even .at a time when he may have been looked upon as a less-than-equal member of society by some.
“I was sitting in the limousine at the veteran’s cemetery at my brother’s funeral and I took this piece of paper and pen out of my purse while they were gathering the flowers up and I sat there and wrote a song. It was just flowing out of me,” Greenleaf said. “My sisters are 20 and 25 years older than me and my brother was older than them. I asked him one time what would possess a person to go into the army at a time when black men and women were not treated like human beings in the real world. And he told me it was a way to show, that we as a people, were also making contributions that make this country great. And I remembered by brother’s words. My brother was a non-commissioned officer, so he was very proud of the fact that I was an officer (during Diunna’s enlistment) and was in charge of a non-segregated company.”
That song, “Cause I’m A Solider” features some powerful harp from Billy Branch and includes a bit of wisdom that Greenleaf’s brother imparted on her – “The people (the whole world) need to know we’ve always been there. No matter how we’ve been treated, this is our home and we need to protect it.”
That strength and character to stand up in the face of overwhelming adversity no doubt was channeled through Greenleaf’s father. “He always told us, as far as people riding your back or teasing you – as long as you bend over like a horse, they’re going to ride. But if you stand up like a real man or a real woman, they’re going to have to slide the hell off. And eventually, I’ll write a song and put that line in it, too.”
Another of Greenleaf’s old pals that turns up on her new disc with guitar in hand is fellow Texan Smokin’ Joe Kubek.
“The song that Smokin’ Joe plays on is a song I wrote for him and (his wife) Phyllis, way back when they were dating. I used to pull his chain and say, ‘When you gonna pop the question? You don’t want to let this one go. Since you been with Phyllis, you’re looking better than you’ve looked in a hundred years,’” laughed Greenleaf. “So one day he said, ‘I believe she’s ready to take a chance.’ So the song I wrote for them is called, “Taking Chances.” It kind of reflects on the things that we’re willing to take chances on and the things we’re afraid to take chances on. I really stuck my chest out when he told me how much he liked the song.”
The title track to Trying To Hold On speaks to the connection between the elder statesmen and stateswomen of the blues and those that are currently on the scene, along with those that are yet to come to the party.
It didn’t take elder statesmen and stateswomen like Robert Junior Lockwood, Koko Taylor, Aretha Franklin and of course, Pinetop Perkins, long to acknowledge that Greenleaf did indeed belong at the party.
“They saw something in me. They saw that I could speak the old language,” she said. “And, that I have formal education and can hold my own in a boardroom. So, they see that I enjoyed presenting the old-style, in the old-style. And yet, I can also swing to the new style. And they know I’m sincere. People that have been around as long as them and have had as many experiences as them, can tell if someone’s sincere or not.”
That sincerity led Greenleaf to forge a very special relationship with Pinetop Perkins throughout the past several years, whether she was singing with him in the Muddy Waters Legendary Band, or whether Blue Mercy (John “Del Toro” Richardson, Vernon Daniels, Joshua Pressler) were backing Perkins on the Grammy Award-winning Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen.
Because even as he neared the century mark, Pinetop Perkins was as vibrant and full of energy as ever.
“It’s very poignant … but Pinetop was like some kind of anchor (through the years),” Greenleaf said. “We’d be walking arm-in-arm – me in my really high heels – and Pinetop would say, ‘Be careful now, don’t you fall down, twisting like that.’ I was supposed to be helping him and he was worried about me. But Pinetop knew I loved him, we talked on the phone all the time. And we traveled together.”
Just like many of the singers that she admired as a kid, Greenleaf found her voice, and the confidence to go with it, in church.
Greenleaf’s father ( who also shares a Sept. 28 birthday with Koko Taylor) was a famous gospel vocal coach and counted Cecil Shaw, Johnny Taylor (Mr. Cheaper to Keep Her) and Sam Cooke as pupils.
That’s some amazing star power.
“Sam even lived here in Houston for a time with my mom and dad,” she said. “My dad even had a group that traveled, called The Spiritual Gospel Singers of Houston, Texas. That was before my time, but my older sisters used to travel with dad when his group sang. And our house used to be a house that other artists stayed in when they came through town. And Joe Tex was a big hunting buddy of my daddy, so there was always music in our house. And it wasn’t always gospel – mom and dad allowed us to listen to any kind of music.”
At a time when the tide of blues and other roots-related music seems to be ebbing, Greenleaf is doing more than just performing. She’s spreading the gospel of the blues to an up-and-coming generation of music lovers.
“We still do Blues in the School programs, even out of my own pocket,” she said. “And I do three-day artist in residency programs for universities. I do seminars on women in blues and on Texas blues, with a special emphasis on Houston.”
While Dallas and Austin grab most of the accolades when it comes to the rich legacy of Texas blues, Greenleaf’s stomping grounds of Houston by no means takes a back seat to any locale in the Lone Star State.
“There’s been a commercial push to make Austin the spot for blues, and Dallas had a time when it was the hot thing, too, but no … Houston was poppin’, she said. “Houston was where Duke/Peacock Records was located, you know? Who didn’t record here? Little Richard did, Gatemouth Brown did, Esther Phillips, Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Albert Collins … doggone it, even Freddie King recorded here and a lot of this is not known by people. Houston was the place.”
And while the blues may never dominate mainstream radio as the likes of Kid Rock, Britney Spears and other pop acts do, Greenleaf, who to date is still the only female to take top honors in the IBC band competition, still feels that is no excuse not to continue to push roots-related music to the next level.
“We have to be proactive. We have to keep thinking ahead of the curve,” she said. “Did you see the awards show that county music (CMAs) had the other night at that big, fancy place in Las Vegas? That could be us (the blues). We could have our award show on television and have it watched by millions. But I’m glad the Blues Foundation is getting its own building. You know, years ago, the country music foundation was right next to ours, size-wise. Now look what they’ve done. We could be there, too.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 6
Too Slim and the Taildraggers - Shiver
12 songs; 54:00 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Patented Too Slim Music; Contemporary American Rock and Roll; “Alt-Country-Dirty-Rock with a Blues-Vibe”
Earworms: they are the songs and phrases from songs that get repetitively stuck in my head. But, the songs I hear are ones already in existence. Way beyond me is Tim “Too Slim” Langford who has creative vision to hear songs that do not yet exist. Slim begins hearing music in its embryonic stage and eventually knows what a song should sound like before it is ever recorded. For example, Langford told me he could hear Curtis Salgado singing “Everybody’s Got Something” before he ever invited Curtis to sing the lyrics.
Shiver with its 12 original songs is Langford’s most fully realized and most ambitious project yet. And, with 15 prior CDs, he has had lots of practice. Too Slim explained, “As the songwriter, I end up hearing the songs in a complete way [before they are recorded].” On previous CDs, “I ended up making compromises” due to hired producers and geographic distances preventing complete control. “On this one I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted, and I got it!” The album was produced, engineered, recorded, mixed and mastered in Langford’s home of Seattle WA enabling Too Slim to be there everyday. Plus, co-producer Conrad Uno at Egg Studios “had really good ears, and we hit it off like that! We were just always on the same page.”
Demonstrating Langford’s growth, maturity, and musical mastery, “Shiver” contains many firsts for a Too Slim and the Taildraggers CD. Bassist Polly O’Keary sings along with Too Slim on several numbers while the third Taildragger, Tommy Cook, provided all drums and percussion. Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff’s Texas Horns are very tastefully added to a few of the tracks while three background vocalists enhance two more cuts. A guest guitarist plays lead on the title track while Slim plays rhythm; it’s Langford’s adult son, Austin Elwood Langford. Guest vocalist Duffy Bishop also adds to the title track with traded vocal leads and a duet with Too Slim.
Having personally observed Too Slim’s career progress over the last 16 years and 13 albums, I feel qualified to pronounce “Shiver” a Tim Langford masterpiece. A full year’s effort went into the creation of this work, and the masterful song crafting is readily evident. It does invite fans of pure Blues to alternately open their Roots Rock arms, but when the Rock and Roll is this good, you got to love it! You may even wake up with it in your head in the morning.
“Daddies Bones”-- The painstaking, master craftsmanship that went into this number make it one of the best songs. “... Bones” is a harrowing and chilling tale of death, organized crime, and betrayal. The chorus is a family's earnest plea: “If you find daddies bones, could you please send them home? Maybe we can save the farm if we can prove he's gone.” The unique guitar notes are coming from Too Slim's gold, hollow-body Gibson ES 295. “Daddies Bones” shows why it truly deserves to be an album called Shiver.
“Can't Dress It Up” -- Reality TV -- the reality is that many of its “stars” do anything but shine. “Why are you trying so hard to be what you're not? Why don't you just try to live in your own skin? When reality takes over, after your makeover, you're gonna see that you can't dress it up.” The Texas Horns here pump up the message with Too Slim’s patented rocked-up guitar sounds. In terms of wit and satire, “Can't Dress it Up” makes the cut but will probably get “voted off the island” by the “Jersey Shore” sycophants.
“I Heard Voices” and “Everybody’s Got Something” - - “I Heard Voices’s” 48 seconds serve as a smooth opening to “...Something.” Here Curtis Salgado’s award winning voice is joined by background vocalists, and some of Too Slim’s most melodic guitar joins Joe Doria’s B-3 organ in a Gospel-inspired, joyful number of hope and affirmation.
“She Sees Ghosts” -- There's nothing creepy about this delightful ditty, despite the paranormal. Too Slim's German Shepherd, will see something and follow it around. “You probably think it's a joke,” Slim sings half-apologetically. “...Ghosts” excels in an album full of catchy hooks, and check out Cook’s percussion solo, which gives off an auditory air of rattling bones. What does Shiloh really see? “The dog knows, but she won't give it up. I sure wish that dog could talk!”
“Shiver” -- The growling Rock guitar intro sets one's teeth on edge. However, when Too Slim's understated vocals weave their way followed by Duffy Bishop’s high pitched growl, that's when cold shivers crawl down the spine. We've all made unwise choices and tried to hide the proverbial “bones in the closet” that “make me want to run!” However, the consequences often continue to plague our psyches long after we've faced up to them. “Confessing won't help--it's with me forever. It haunts me still; I'm doomed to remember. It makes me shiver!”
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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The Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara Blues Society is the oldest existing blues society in the U.S. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.charliewestbluesfest.com or www.wvbluessociety.org
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 25 - Tombstone Bullet, 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 6
Dave Hoffheimer Band - King Pin
Say what? A few words can be deciphered through the guitar haze. Cool acid-drenched guitar pierces through the fuzzy ether. I wouldn’t even call this blues rock. More an excuse for guitar histrionics, which I must admit are a guilty pleasure in the hands of this rockin’ Wilmette, Illinois band. A studio-added horn section is of no real consequence to this hard-rock haze. Heck I like good hard rock as much as the next guy, but don’t look for any messages here.
The production IS crisp. The bass lines travel around nicely and following those snaky guitar lines can be a fun journey. On one tune it gurgles, another it wah-wahs, God knows what else! Girl vocals appear at times. I won’t attempt to make heads or tails out of any messages that may be here. I get bits and pieces of words at times…..not often. Oh….I hear some piano tinkling buried underneath here somewhere. Some organ washes. More girl vocals.
This guitarist sure churns out some fast, clean and burning licks. Ok here is something approaching blue-rock. Now the vocalist has a nice hard-rock sheen to his voice. I guess this is a good place to cop and polish up on your guitar skills. The producer really knows his stuff on how to get good separation of this speed-freak playing exhibition. Alright a nice blues-rock riff. Hey I’m open-minded; I like different types of music, but don’t expect me to sit through this entire guitar riff-a-rama. I really don’t think words are the point here. I won’t even try to differentiate between songs.
You need a description? Take your AC-DC, Grand Funk Railroad, Motorhead, Foghat, Canned Heat, Blue Cheer and etcetera records and throw those puppy-dogs into your Cuisinart and blend to a frothy fare-thee-well and chuck it on your player and blow your sneakers off.
Some neat Hendrix-twiddling and guitar neck-strangling on the last track. A nice wah-wah workout. If they could get the vocals to where you could make heads or tails out of them, this would have appeal for head-bangers. Ok, now the words are getting clear on the last song about a blackbird. My job is to describe the music; I dare anyone else to do a better job under these conditions. Seriously these guys can rip off some neat licks.
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 6
Big Apple Blues - Brooklyn Blues
Stone Tone Records
12 tracks Total time: 49:31
Big Apple Blues is a project band of some of New York City’s finest blues musicians, who gathered together in Brooklyn’s Excello recording studio with its one big room and ample supply of vintage recording and audio equipment. The result, Brooklyn Blues, is a “live in the studio” recording that succeeds well in doing that which was originally intended, to re-create the classic Chicago sound and feel of those famed mid-Fifties to mid-Sixties blues masterpieces. The ample sleeve notes accompanying this CD describe the technical aspects of the recording in detail, and will be a delight to the audio aficionado. Another plus in addition to the several others that Brooklyn Blues gives the discerning blues-loving listener.
At the core of Big Apple Blues are four highly-accomplished musicians, with credits to show: Zach Zunis, guitarist on all tracks, who presently plays with Janiva Magness; all-tracks drummer Barry “The Baron of the Blues” Harrison, who’s backed Shemekia Copeland, and before that, her father, Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland; harpman/vocalist Anthony Kane, described by James Cotton as “one of the best,” vocals on eight tracks, and harp on nine tracks; and rounding out the lineup, Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic, bassist on all tracks. Four highly-accomplished guests were brought in as well: Hugh Pool as engineer and producer, who also does the vocal on track 2, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor;” pianist Brian Mitchell, who’s played with artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Dolly Parton, B.B. King to Al Green; and noted vocalist Christine Santelli, who’s multiply-tracked on call-and-response vocal chorus on track 4, Joe Turner’s“Honey Hush,” where she joins with backing vocalist and hand-clapping percussionist Matt Mousseau.
The 12 tracks consist of ten covers of classic blues/R&B songs, with two original instrumentals: Zach Zunis’ guitar-driven track 3, “Brooklyn Swamp,” and Anthony Kane’s harp-driven track 8, “Who’s On Third (Duvel)?” Of the ten covers, seven are bona fide Chicago blues masterpieces from composers now all unfortunately dead—Paul Butterfield’s ‘Too Many Drivers,’ track 1; two Howlin’ Wolf classics, “Killing Floor” and “How Many More Years,” track 7; Jr. Wells’ “It’s My Life Baby;” track 9; two numbers by Little Walter, “Hate To See You Go,” track 10, and “Everything Is Gonna Be Alright,” track 11; and rounding out the playlist, Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy,” track 12 (misspelled “Willy” in the sleeve notes). While “Killing Floor” adheres closely to the rhumba-beat original, “How Many More Years” is slowed down considerably in tempo, an alternative arrangement that’s also an effective rendering and a fitting complement in power and grace to Wolf’s 1950 original. The last four tracks can be looked at as a harp showcase honoring two of the most seminal of modern Chicago blues harpmen, Jr. Wells and Little Walter. There’s Jr. Wells’ own song, of course, but the arrangements of Walter’s “Hate to See You Go” and “Everything Is Gonna Be Alright,” with their heavy bass lines and minimalist single-string guitar playing, are reminiscent of the Jack Myers/Buddy Guy approach taken by Wells’ band on Hoodoo Man Blues, that classic 1965 Delmark LP that introduced both Wells and Guy (as well as modern electric blues) more widely to white blues audiences. The Little Walter connection continues with Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy,” a number Walter recorded for Chess Records in 1954.
The three non-Chicago covers here are the above-mentioned “Honey Hush,” rendered as a bouncy, highly danceable Kansas City boogie with hand claps and call-and-response vocal and chorus. Barry Harrison has the vocal honors here. Also featured are two New Orleans numbers from the great Dave Bartholomew, the first in collaboration with Fats Domino, track 5’s “Whole Lotta Lovin,” where Brian Mitchell’s piano adds an apt Crescent City touch, and the solo-penned “I Hear You Knocking” (a different song than the Smiley Lewis/Dave Edmunds recordings). All these are loving re-creations that by no means merely ape the original recordings, but add new elements themselves. The same can be said of the two original instrumentals: while adhering to the classic Chicago approach, they are both creatively imaginative within this framework, not simply derivative.
Zach Zunis’ lead-and-rhythm guitar playing is excellent throughout, versatile across all 12 tracks in its fluent ability to move from a heavier Chicago-based sound to filamentous, jazz-like lyricism, and even to slide playing. Anthony Kane’s amplified harp, while solidly in the Little Walter/ James Cotton groove, incorporates signature Sonny Boy Williamson II licks into it as well. Both Zunis and Kane are extensively featured on solos that display their musical eloquence, a characteristic also shared by Kane’s vocal delivery. The rhythm section of Harrison’s drums and Hadzic’s bass underpins the whole effort with solid yet nimble strength, with opportunities provided for each to demonstrate virtuosity through drum flourishes and bass playing that’s akin more to a low-register rhythm guitar than to a bottom-note driving thump. All this together marks Brooklyn Blues as a contribution to the Chicago blues legacy in its own right, not just another copy of that legacy.
While New York City is better known as a jazz rather than blues haven, it was not only the home of Atlantic Records and its recording studio, the city where Ruth Brown got her start, and the later residence of Joe Turner, it was also home to a number of outstanding studio musicians, such as John Sebastian, Al Kooper, Felix Pappalardi and Mike Bloomfield (naming just a few), who were instrumental in creating the sounds of contemporary acoustic and electric blues and blues-rock, and in spreading blues influences into modern rock. With Big Apple Blues and Brooklyn Blues, this New York City blues legacy carries on and is extended.
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
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Featured Blues Review 4 & 5 of 6
Lance Lopez – CD Salvation From Sundown; DVD The Killer Guitar From Texas
String Commander - 2010
CD 12 tracks; 54.07 minutes - DVD 12 tracks; 75 minutes approx.
Lance Lopez was born in Shreveport Louisiana but has been based in Dallas Texas for some years. He released four CDs on his own label between 2003-07and has been tagged as a Hendrix disciple, including participating in a Hendrix birthday celebration in NYC at BB King’s club. This CD is his first on the German label MIG and was released at the same time as a DVD recorded in Cologne July 2009 for the German TV programme Rockpalast. The studio CD was produced by Jim Gaines and recorded both in Dallas and Memphis. The two recordings feature eight tunes in common, so the casual listener might decide that both were more than required, but the committed fan will want both.
Both recordings are basically a classic power trio of guitar, bass and drums. Lance handles all guitars and vocals, bass is Tony Valdez and drums Cody Norman (on the DVD the drummer is Al Pahanish Jr). On the CD keyboards are added on two tracks by Rick Steph. Neither of those tracks appears on the DVD, possibly because of the absence of the keyboard element in the live show.
The eight tracks that appear on both versions are five Lance Lopez originals and covers of songs by Lucky Peterson (with whom Lance used to play), Albert King and Buddy Ace. On the CD the four unique tracks are three Lopez originals and Ray Charles' “It Shoulda Been Me”. The DVD has one additional Lopez original and covers of RJ’s “Stones In My Pathway”, RL Burnside’s “Friend Of Mine” and ZZ Top’s “La Grange”.
As you would expect from a Jim Gaines production, the CD is well recorded. Buddy Ace’s “Love Of Mine” opens the CD with a strong SRV feel. Lance’s voice is gruff but suits the uptempo songs well. Most of the CD is upbeat, the quieter songs being title track “Salvation From Sundown”, “Neverlove” and “Why”, one of the songs not featured on the DVD. The instrumental “Stubbs” opens the DVD, a simple riff-based tune that I enjoyed a lot. Another goodie is the Ray Charles song “It Should Been Me” which offers a change from most of the blues rock style of the band, helped by the piano.
Most of the album is definitely in the blues rock area. Personally I like a bit more variety than is offered here, but for those who like more rock than blues in the diet this may well be a good CD to consider. I was disappointed in the DVD where the quality was far inferior to the last DVD I reviewed for Blues Blast. Of the four songs on the DVD that do not feature on the CD “La Grange” is a pretty straight cover and does not add much to the ZZ Top original; “Stones In My Pathway” is a long way from Robert Johnson, the slight background whirring noise you can hear is RJ spinning in his grave! I am not a great fan of the late RL Burnside and did not care for “Friend Of Mine”. “El Paso Sugar” is the original tune and is a straight ahead SRV style song. So, overall my conclusion is that the CD will appeal to blues rockers, but the DVD is one for real Lance Lopez fans only.
Review John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He was recently on the January 2011 Legendary Blues Cruise.
All Shades Of Blues
”Forceful, robust and soulful offering from South Florida blues vocalist Beverly Lewis.”
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Sam Henry - Treme’ Soul: New Orleans Gumbo
Hot stuff! Another gem I did not expect to find. I must admit I did not know who Sam Henry was before I heard this CD. Long time keyboard artist, composer and arranger who was displaced form the Ninth Ward by Hurricane Katrina, Henry wound up in Texas as did many others. Befriended by Asleep at the Wheels’ Ray Benson, Henry wound up at Benson’s Bismeaux Studio in Austin with New Orleans stalwarts Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Gary Brown (an original Soul Machine member) and producer Jaybo Hopkins to cut an album of blues and jazz with Benson and others from Bismeaux and Austin. The result is a wonderful and funky set of ten great tracks!
The CD opens to the intro of the Beatle’s “Come Together” which diffuses into Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Someone”. This is a funky track with a driving, syncopated beat. I loved the vocal interplays along with all the backing keyboard sounds. The traditional instrumental sounds of “Doodlin” are a jazzy change from the opening track with some great horn soloing by Gary Brown and B3 work by Henry. “New Orleans Cookin” is a Crescent Cit standard and Cyril Neville steps up nicely fronting this track. Back to instrumental jazz with “Coffee Pot” ; Henry shows his stuff on keys again and Brown fills in some later solos of import. Gary Brown next serves up his own “Love Can Be: Love Party”, a funky and soulful track with a great dance beat.
“Next Time You See Me” is more horn and organ instrumentals in this peppy and spicy James Booker song. Then the band gets really old school with a Jonny Mercer crooner tune- “I’ll Be Around”. Ray Benson does an outstanding cover and really is superb on vocals. “Just Kissed My Baby” changes directions with a funky and greasy guitar-organ-sax number that is quite fine. Henry’s calypso like “Island Breeze” comes complete with steel drums (Leon Thomas “Foster”) and made me crave a big glass full of pina colada while listening. Alto sax fills in with a great solo by Brown around the steel drum and then we get some nice vibes to complete the sound. The CD closes with the classic “Smooth” instrumental full of great horn play.
The gumbo was slinging around hot and spicy in this one! I really loved it and anyone who is a New Orleans funky blues and jazz fan will, too. Most highly recommended- this is one of the better CDs released in late 2010! Hurricanes make for strange but delightful bed fellows!!!
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