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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Writer Terry Mullins send us a big dose of Blues this week! Terry made it to the Juke Joint Festival last weekend to catch a few of the 100 artists performing to celebrate the 100th birthday of Blues legend Robert Johnson.
Terry also caught up with Blues guitar wizard Eddie Turner to talk about Eddie's musical journey through life.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Eddie Turner and a review of the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Sweet Angel. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by Big Joe And The Dynaflows. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by The Christopher Dean Band. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by the Delta Jets. Gary "Wingman" Weeks reviews a new CD by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Mike Hammar & the Nails. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Eddie Turner
Eyes half-closed, mouth open wide, head tilted backward with guitar held high, he gyrates to the apron of the stage in full-on beast mode, firing off Technicolor shards of piercing notes like clusters of heat-seeking missiles intent on absolute destruction.
That is the power and the fury of Eddie Turner unleashed.
To witness him chew up and spit out a crowd clamoring for a dose of the Delta blues funneled through The Twilight Zone, one would think that Eddie Turner must spend his free time toying with a Ouija board - or conjuring up ancient spirits - befitting someone who has earned the nickname “Devilboy.”
In reality, that’s hardly the case.
When he’s not destroying stages from here to Copenhagen and back, one can probably find Eddie Turner at home, hands and knees in the dirt, surrounded by various forms of beautiful flora that he has lovingly coaxed into blooming.
The Devilboy, gardening? Really?
“I love to garden. I like flowers. Yesterday I was out trying to fix the pump in my pond, getting all the garbage out of there,” he said recently. “And I walked around and looked at the plants, seeing what’s blooming – the tulips are getting ready to go real soon – and the trees are coming into play. It’s a part of the world that’s just as real as anything else. It’s a huge relaxation. Because once you get in the truck and get on the road, it’s all business.”
And business, as of late, has been good for Turner.
Especially in Europe, where the dynamic guitar player and his backing band, The Troubled Twins, recently played to packed houses everywhere they went, in support of Turner’s stellar latest disc, Miracles & Demons (Northern Blues).
“It was excellent,” Turner said of his European jaunt. “Sold-out shows in every venue … it was pretty wild and crazy, as they say. Really great support everywhere we played – Germany, Poland - the response there was unbelievable – really, we’re ready to go back.”
Going back to the 1960s when the American Folk Blues Festivals made stars out of Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy across the big pond, Europe has always had a great affinity for American-based roots music and that love affair continues today, with Turner being treated like a king thousands of miles from home.
“They (European audiences) seem to be more excited, I guess. They check out all your music before they go to the show – they’ve already purchased your CD – and at least for me, it’s always been that way,” he said. “And for me, part of my success was that I was lucky enough to have been on The Crossroads (Rockpalast) television show in Germany back in 2006. It’s like Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Led Zeppelin’s been on it, Johnny Winter’s been on it … you name it and they’ve been on it. That really got me off to a good start in Europe.”
If you looked up the definition of “traditional bluesman” in Webster’s, Turner’s picture would probably be nowhere near it.
However, if there were an entry for “the spirit of a rock-n-roller, filtered through the blood of a traditional bluesman and spiked with a psychedelic chaser,” odds are pretty good Turner’s might be the only picture around.
Born in Cuba and raised in Chicago, Eddie Turner moved to Colorado to attend college and somewhere along the way, found himself playing guitar in Zephyr, the Boulder-based band that once featured the singular talent of Tommy Bolin (James Gang, Deep Purple).
That was after Turner pulled a brief stint playing in Nashville with Tracey Nelson and Mother Earth (“I was fired after about a month,” laughed Turner).
“To play In Tommy Bolin’s and Jock Hartley’s ex-band was a big coup for me,” said Turner. “Jock (who replaced Bolin in Zephyr, before being replaced by Turner in the band) was also my guitar teacher and was a great guy.”
After the sudden death of Zephyr’s lead singer Candy Givens, Turner moth-balled his guitar and quit the music business, instead focusing on selling real estate for a number of years. This pursuit even lasted after he re-emerged, along with producer/songwriter/bass player Kenny Passarelli as a founding member of the Otis Taylor Band. (Passarelli was also part of Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm back in the 1970s).
“We started playing little coffee houses in Boulder and then the next thing you know, we’re traveling the world,” Turner said of his time in Otis Taylor’s group. “But I never left the real estate business. There would be times I would fly in from France on a Tuesday and I’d have a real estate appointment at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Or I’d be negotiating a deal on the sale of a house from the South of France. I really didn’t stop real estate until about two years ago when things got so busy that I had to make a decision.”
With his real estate career pushed to the side, Turner once again focused his laser-like sights squarely on what is his lifeblood – guitar-driven, electric blues.
The results thus far have been a trio of discs on the Northern Blues label – Rise, from 2005, The Turner Diaries in 2006 and last year’s stunning Miracles & Demons.
Not merely cobbled-together fragments or bits of an idea, Miracles & Demons harkens back to the glorious days of vinyl. Days when an album was a whole body of work instead of a random collection of MP3s that were spliced onto a disc, almost as an afterthought.
A quick look at the back cover of the disc reveals Turner’s thought process for Miracles & Demons, with half the tracks labeled as “Side One” and the other half “Side Two,” just like in the good ole days.
“That’s how I’ve always listened to records – I still call them records – I know they’re MP3s and CDs, but when it comes down to it, if it’s something I really like, it’s a record,” Turner said. “So that’s what I’ve always known – you have a Side A and a Side B. And if you play all three of my CDs together, they really make sense as three separate pieces that work together. And my producer, Kenny (Passarelli) is the same way. We sit there and go, ‘Hum, what’s the best song to lead off the disc?’ And we move them around until they kind of tell a story. I know a lot of people don’t get that, but that’s the way we do it.”
Miracles & Demons kicks off with “Booty Bumpin’” a track that starts off as a straight blues shuffle before Turner’s tightly-compressed guitar licks from Mars lifts it in the stratosphere.
“I got tired of people saying, ‘Well, you don’t do a lot of blues.’ I laugh and say, “Do I have to actually do it (the blues) for you to understand – running through all the music that I do?’” he said. “I mean, who really wants to do a straight-up shuffle? They’ve pretty much all been done by every major blues artist out there. And when I did two Freddie King songs, they turned out like nothing Freddie King would ever think of doing. That’s out of my respect for Freddie King. Why would you run around and try to be Freddie King? He’s a great, great performer and his stuff needs to be enshrined, not copied.”
Although those that are exposed to Turner’s music for the first time might be quick to toss around the Jimi Hendrix name, especially when it comes to comparing vocals, the tie-dyed legend from Seattle is not at the very top of Turner’s list of vocal influences.
“Vocal-wise, everyone keeps telling me I sound like Hendrix, which I don’t think so, but I’m not going to fight it,” he said. “But if I could, I’d sound like Bobby Blue Bland, who is my favorite singer of the blues. He’s one of the greatest blues singers ever, along with Magic Sam, who I also love.”
The gone-before-his-time Magic Sam was also an influential figure in Turner’s eyes and ears when it comes to sliding up and down the neck of a six-string with reckless abandon.
“Oh ,yeah, definitely. Him and Peter Green and Jeff Beck … I’ve always been a fan of their guitar-playing,” he said. “And like everyone else, Muddy Waters …there’s just been a bunch of players I’ve heard over the years, rock, blues and jazz players ... old George Benson from the Bad Benson era. You’ve got that whole slippery-slidey thing from British blues and then that really precise thing from Chicago jazz … I’ve heard everybody. I’m an old guy.”
He may not do paint-by-number recitals of those larger-than-life guitarists on Miracles & Demons, but Turner is certainly not afraid to let his influences creep through, either.
“You’ve spent your life listening to every great player and you try and sneak in those influences. Like this is the Fleetwood Mac part circa Bare Trees, or this is Creedence Clearwater Revival doing their swamp-blues thing,” he said. “And a lot of people don’t get that, but if you really look at it, you’ll find every artist you like, sneaking a look out of that CD.”
But when you manage to carve out an instantly-recognizable style that is uniquely you, that’s when you can say you’ve arrived.
“I’ve had other guitar players say, ‘We can tell your guitar playing right when you strike a note, because you play everything really strange,’” said Turner. “That’s what I want. I want people to say, ‘Yeah, that’s Eddie Turner.’ You know, there are really only 12 notes. It’s how you use take those notes and put them with emotional content that’s important.”
Turner’s “strange playing” really found its stride during his days touring and recording with Otis Taylor.
And in exchange for producing a whole slew of “weird noises” on Taylor’s first five CDs, Turner was also rewarded with the “Devilboy” moniker, straight from Taylor himself.
“Sometimes your mouth gets you in trouble faster than you can get out,” said Turner. “So whenever that would happen, he would just call me “Devilboy.”
With a handle like “Devilboy”, it wouldn’t do for your backing band to have a run-of-the-mill, bland name.
Thus, The Troubled Twins (drummer Robert Walker; bass player Andy Irvine) were born.
“In Europe, everybody calls me “Devilboy” so once you get that going, the next thing is, what’s a good name for a band?” Turner said. “Well, how about “Troubled Twins”?” They’re two guys that look absolutely nothing alike. People go, ‘Is it “Trouble” or “Troubled”?’ And I go, “Pick whichever one you like. It’s fun and it’s funny.”
While Turner’s records are one thing, catching “Devilboy and The Troubled Twins” live at a festival or in a club is another story entirely.
“My live show is different from the record, which is how it should be,” Turner said. “If it’s not different, why go to the show? Just buy the record and go home. But my live show is completely different. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s furious and it’s loud. We get in your face and have a wonderful time. And once people see it, they enjoy it and want more. We don’t have a certain set that we play. It’s all based on how I feel and how the crowd feels. We don’t do the same show in every club. ”
Currently burning up the road all across the globe, Turner clearly has no plans at easing off the throttle anytime soon.
But if we had use of a crystal ball, where might we find “Devilboy” five years from now?
“Let me see … five years from now, hopefully I’ll be spending two to three months out of the year in Europe, two to three months touring the United States and then I’ll be spending two or three months gardening in my yard,” he said.
Because, after all, “Devilboy” sure does enjoy his flowers.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
Sweet Angel - A Girl Like Me (Lessons in Life)
13 songs; 58:57 minutes
Styles: Southern Soul; Soul-Blues; Soul; R&B
Sweet Angel doesn’t play pure blues, but when it comes to pure vocals, she’s pure magic! Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1964, this “dangerous diva” (Clifetta Dobbins) got her start as a mortgage banker and real-estate agent before meeting her now-husband and personal manager Mac “Mike” Dobbins. It’s corporate America’s loss--and listeners’ gain--that Sweet Angel changed careers. Her latest and fifth CD, “A Girl Like Me,” with its all original tracks, proves that point relentlessly!
The title track--and this may come as a scintillating shock to his fans--describes Sweet Angel’s crush on blues artist Bobby Rush. She desired to be one of his hootchie dancing girls, only to be turned down because of factors not easily altered: first “you’re too young,” and then “you’re too little.” Unfortunately for Bobby, by the time Sweet Angel meets his criteria, it’s too late! Her singing career has taken off, and Mr. Rush has missed out. “I ain’t got much hair on my head,” Angel mentions alluding to her short cropped, platinum hair style, “but I’m as fine as I can be! Don’t you [Bobby Rush] wish you had a girl like me?”
Across her first four CDs, Sweet Angel has been lauded for her vocals. “...fierce articulation and her knife-edged vocal timbre make almost everything she sings sound emotionally focused...” said “Living Blues” magazine. For someone raised on Blues-Rock and Traditional Blues, I found distinct differences, apart from the vocals, in this music’s style.
Most notable is the lack of guitar as the lead instrument and focus of the music. Here, tight rhythm is everything, and guitar is used strictly for rhythm, with a few exceptions like “Don’t Be Lonely, Be Loved.” Well beyond the three-chord confines of conventional blues forms, Sweet Angel’s sound is an urban fusing of elements of black popular music. It uses the hard-driving energy of R&B plus the deep feel found in Southern Gospel. Instrumentally, organ and keyboards rule backed by bass, drums, and often an R&B-styled horn section (although machine sequenced). Ultimately, this is music for dancing.
Angel takes one higher and higher to Soul-music paradise in her second song, “I’d Rather Be By Myself than to be Unhappy.” It presents a hard realization that some may experience at the end (or, more sadly, the beginning) of a relationship. Some people say they’d rather die than be alone. That may be true, but for her, death is living with the hurt. “You make me want to run to the street, be on my own. How can I find heaven when there’s so much hell in my home?” The answer, at least for her, lies in parting ways.
Even though her stage name is Sweet Angel, she’s got a dash of the devil in her repertoire! “What I Want, What I Need” reveals this. “I’m seeing two, and I know that’s wrong. I’m so ashamed of what I’ve done. I know I’ve gotta--I’ve gotta set one free, but both of them are so damn good to me!” One has the finances, the other the finesse--in bed, that is. One wonders if these two men know about each other, and if she could lose them if they do find out.
The best slow song on the album is “The Comfort of my Man,” a saucy, swaying ballad celebrating the joy of a (dance) partner.
Throughout this release, Sweet Angel sings with power and pep, grace and glory. Long live Sweet Angel’s unique style that has been inaccurately reduced by some to the simple, limiting label, “Southern Soul!”
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 31 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of the 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Live Blues Review - Juke Joint Festival
Juke Joint Festival
Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl?
The answer to that was an emphatic, “Yes.”
The name of a late 1990s docudrama on legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, “can’t you hear the wind howl?” very well could have been the theme of the day April 16 at the eighth annual Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Just a day after deadly storms had ripped through the Magnolia State, an unrelenting steady dose of whipping wind continued to blast and harass the downtown Clarksdale area for most of the next day.
At times, one had to wonder if Mother Nature herself was not mourning the loss of Big Jack Johnson, a fixture on the Clarksdale music scene for many, many years, who had recently passed, leaving this year’s Juke Joint Festival void of one of the all-time great Delta bluesmen.
But for most of those in attendance, the four days of the Juke Joint Festival is all about the “blues fest” part of the equation.
While the wind – at times downright cold – did make things a touch uncomfortable at times, it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the record-size crowd that jammed the streets from Sunflower Avenue to Issaquena and beyond, at the event that is billed as “half small-town fair, half blues fest.”
With racing pigs, turkey-calling contests and canoe-carving workshops, along with all the native cuisine one can imagine, the “small-town fair” part was right on the money.
While free music filled every nook and cranny of the carnival-like atmosphere of downtown streets during the day, a $10 wristband opened up another avenue for blues lovers after the sun went down, with the likes of Jimbo Mathus, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band and T-Model Ford packing patrons inside hallowed venues like Red’s Lounge, Messenger’s and Club 2000.
Started as a means of acknowledging the importance of the small jukes and clubs of Clarksdale that have kept the blues flowing for decades, while also celebrating “planter’s day” or the start of spring, the Juke Joint Festival continues to grow in scope and width every year.
With this year being hailed as the 100th birthday of the afore-mentioned Robert Johnson, organizers of the Juke Joint Festival rolled out the red carpet for the bluesman that spent plenty of time in and around Clarksdale, dubbing this year’s fest as the “Robert Johnson Centennial Edition – 100 acts for 100 years.”
With such an impressive lineup of real-deal musicians, most of whom have some kind of intimate bond with the city of Clarksdale, it was quite a challenge to make it around to see all the talent on display.
From the solo acoustic blues of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, to the electrified boogie of Elam McKnight and Bob Bogdal to the hypnotic groove of Sharde & Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, to the always-entertaining Super Chikan, there was plenty of variety to spare at the Juke Joint Festival.
But the unquestioned headliner of the eighth annual Juke Joint Festival boasted something that none of the other 100-plus acts could match.
Not only did he rub elbows and compete for coins with the festival’s honoree, he was also a running partner of the birthday boy, Robert Johnson. He is David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
Ninety-five years young, Honeyboy is still going strong and gave those gathered at the stage next to the Delta Blues Museum a living lesson in the Delta blues. Although time has taken away some of Honeyboy’s once larger-than-life voice, it had done nothing to diminish the fire that still burns inside.
And even though he has closed down the outside music part of the Juke Joint Festival for several years now, it would have been unimaginable for Honeyboy not to have been there this year, holding court not too far from the mythical crossroads where his friend Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil.
Whether one believes in such wheeling-and-dealing with Beelzebub is one thing, but there is no doubt that Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival has cemented itself onto the “can’t miss” portion of the yearly festival calendar.Reviewer 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.
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 email@example.com 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. 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
The Alabama Blues Project - Northport, AL
The Alabama Blues Project is proud to present the annual "Blues Extravaganza" Friday May20th 6pm at the Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Avenue, Tuscaloosa AL.
The show features Grammy winner Sugar Blue and the Alabama Blues Project student blues musicians. Sugar Blue is the Grammy-winning harmonica player who has played and recorded with Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon. Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones, amongst many others.
This annual celebration is the culmination of the Alabama Blues Project's after-school Blues Camp program and features our young students, alongside internationally renowned blues artist. The event will feature blues all night long showcasing our Blues Camp musicians' bands and our Blues Instructors Bruce Andrews, Shar Baby, Stuart Bond, BJ Reed, Debbie Bond and BJ Miller.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Big Joe And The Dynaflows - You Can’t Keep A Big Man Down
Big Joe and crew have been covering a wide spectrum of blues styles since beginning their career in the late 1980’s. Chicago, Texas, Kansas City Jump blues and New Orleans R&B are authentically represented. This version of The Dynaflows seems to have been put together expressly for this recording and features past and present members of Delbert McClinton’s band. The five piece band achieves a full sound with the late Dennis Taylor often multi-tracking his saxes to produce a horn section. Rob McNelley’s guitar colors all the tunes either with tasty background riffing or full-out soloing. Co-producer Kevin Mckendree also adds organ and piano. The rhythm section of Big Joe on drums and Bill Campbell on bass swing things along so effortlessly that you almost don’t realize how locked-in their easy-loping groove is. Big Joe’s vocals fall somewhere in between Chicago blues and Kansas City jump and R&B. And the way he does it up it’s a good place to fall. Listening to this stuff is no chore at all, as nothing is out of place or included as filler.
The title track refers to Joe’s near career-ending accident in 2001 and he proves his point right from the git-go with its swinging blues groove. The R&B injected version of B.B. King’s “Bad Case Of Love” is enhanced by the sax section. One of the highlights of the record for me is the best song Fats Domino never wrote-“Evangeline”, written for Joe’s cousins’ two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Substitute the ‘Fat Man’s’ voice for Joe’s and it sounds like a hit from the 50’s, complete with patented Domino piano tinkling. The age-old predicament of troublesome neighbors is broached in “Property Line”, a true story taken from Joe’s life. It’s hard to believe it isn’t The Meter’s backing the vocals on this one with one of their snappy guitar riffs and what could easily be Booker T. Jones on organ. “Watcha Gonna Do?” would fit right into Roomful Of Blues’ horn-driven repertoire. These guys can pull off a slow blues burner just as readily as they replicate the jump-swing tunes, as seen in “Someday” and the tale about our current hard economic times “Nothin’ But Trouble”. Similar treatment is shown on the slow Kansas City swing of Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ The Blues” featuring a nifty guitar turn from Rob McNelley. One of the six originals “Face The Facts” addresses the work-a-day life of the everyman. Under-appreciated guitar wizard Earl Hooker is given his due in the tribute “Supercharger”, as the guitar skitters merrily along. Kevin Mckendree puts his boogie-woogie piano skills on display on the closer “What the Hell Were You Thinkin’?” which was written by himself, McClinton and Tom Hambridge.
I know the band’s reputation, but this being the first full record of theirs I’ve been exposed to, there is definitely a well-honed group of craftsman here in tune to American music. Outfits like this surely deserve a wider audience. You owe it to yourself and the guys to pick this one up.
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
Christopher Dean Band - What I Need
Lost World Music
This CD is like a Motown blues and soul oldies party done up in a fresh and interesting way. Dean fronts the band singing and on guitar and has been schooled well by older brother Chris Foti who does the bass work here along with some backing vocals. Chip Dixon on drums also does backing and lead vocals on some tracks.
Dean opens with a Mel Waiters song (“Hole in the Wall”) and by the time he finished I was a believer. These white guys (good Italian boys from Central Jersey no less!) really are funky and soulful! Dean offers up 3 originals with 10 covers, and they are all fun. “What I Need” is a traditional sounding original soul tune that Dean delivers with conviction; his vocals are quite good. The horn section backing him of Jim Davis and Chris Lehman is also quite convincing.
The bluesy side of the album also rocks. “Mother In Law” and “All Your Love” are deeply blue and well done. “Mother In Law” starts out with greasy harp (Mike Metallia) and Dean bounces around this track nicely. Keys by Carl Snyder here and on several other tracks are pretty good, too. The Magic Sam cover is also quite well done by Dean, both vocally and on guitar. His vocals throughout are clean and very much spot on.
Johnny Rawls “Lucky Man” is another well done cover here. Again Dean’s guitar and vocals work the song well and make for a good listen. Even the grotesquely over played hit “The Love I Lost” gets a decent enough cover with an assortment of keys, horns and vocals making it sound good and fresh.
The CD is dedicated to Dean’s father Theodore Foti who passed in early 2009. He apparently was a huge musical influence to Dean and his brothers and sisters. He must have done a good job with his kids- I liked this CD a lot. It's a grooving and funk filed soul and blues CD. Dean’s been at it hot and heavy since he was 14 and has played professionally for 18+ years since graduating high school. He’s got a great soul sound vocally and plays some really good guitar. I enjoyed this New Jersey regional band and think soulful blues fans will, too!
Willing To Crawl
Available now at
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Delta Jets - Live
Self Release - 2010
12 tracks; 48.02 minutes
The Delta Jets come from Wisconsin and this live CD was recorded summer 2010 in the Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee. The band members are Dale Anderson on guitar, Jody Vanesky on harp and David Will on drums and washboard, with all three singing. Most of the music was composed by Dale (whose recording career goes back to the early 1990s), with Jody contributing one song and three covers. The instrumentation would suggest acoustic, but the sound is very upbeat. Dale plays electric and resonator guitars and the drums or washboard keep the rhythm buzzing. For example Jody’s tune “Spinnin’ My Blues” has a definite Bo Diddley meets Little Feat feel, with plenty of exciting harp work and a ‘sudden stop’ ending and “Pretty Little Woman” which follows is an attractive number celebrating a chance encounter with the woman of Dale’s dreams, a very catchy piece.
The covers are well chosen, the CD starting with a fine interpretation of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” which does not take Cream’s version as a starting point, preferring to adapt a rather eerie opening to the song, shimmering slide guitar and harp taking us along to the start of the song proper which is taken at a fast pace, the drummer setting the pace well. I thought that this was a really good start to the CD, immediately demonstrating all three musicians’ talents in equal measure. Muddy Waters’ early career song “Can’t Be Satisfied” is often covered, but I liked the introduction in which the band locates Muddy’s song in a gambling/juke joint where Muddy is playing and hears about a lucky gambler who has a ‘mojo hand’. There is a kazoo here too and washboard/slide, plus a country feel harp solo, a nice take on the song. The third cover is Leadbelly’s “Good Morning Blues”, the shortest cut on the album, taken at a jaunty pace with the vocal sung through the harp mike, not a technique that I particularly enjoy but the harp playing is again very good.
The remaining songs are all Dale’s and offer a good range of styles, from the relaxed country blues of “Baby Loves You” with very high pitched harp accompaniment to the tragic tale of loss of young lives contained in “Convertible Buick”. The vocals on “Mister, Mister” recall Dylan and “Sylvester’s Rag” is a feature for Dale’s guitar picking on the resonator, backed by the drums and subtle harp doubling the melody line - I enjoyed both these cuts a lot.
The final trio of tunes starts with “I’ve Had Enough”, a humorous ditty about a broken relationship: “She said she gonna leave, I said it can’t be soon enough – I’ll get along without her, baby it ain’t that rough”. “T’Bone” is another upbeat blues instrumental with plenty of harp action. The CD concludes with “Midnight Sun Blues” where the vocal is again distorted, but not through the harp mike as that is in use at the same time. This was probably my least favourite track and as the track rather peters out with some on-stage banter I found it a slightly disappointing end to the disc.
Overall I found this an interesting CD with some very good tracks and a couple that impressed me less. I imagine that the Delta Jets would be a good band to see live, especially in a small venue.
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.”
Available for download at ITunes, CDBaby and Amazon.
CD/Vinyl versions sold at
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Big Head Todd & The Monsters - Big Head Blues Club -100 years of Robert Johnson
Alternative rockers Big Head Todd And The Monsters decide to go under an alias of the Big Head Blues Blues Club releasing a cd entitled 100 years of Robert Johnson.
As with most artists that release these so called "tribute albums," the heart is there but the soul isn't. Overall there is nothing groundbreaking about this cd and it doesn't re-invent the wheel in any way.
The main problem is Mohr's vocal like whine and his attempt to sound like an old bluesman weakens the strength of the songs rather then enhanching them.
It can help having an all-star cast appear throughout the tracks. Charlie Musselwhite's harp breathes some life into "Come On In My Kitchen." And Ruthie Foster's vocals sound at home in "When You Got A Good Friend."
At best the songs shuffle and meander along with the necessary blues hooks. But the slick production kills the vibe of having hellhounds on the trail.
Even when B.B. King puts his vocals and sweet guitar tones on "Crossroad Blues," it doesn't sound like the musicians want to even make a pact with the devil but to play nice with him.
Some shiny moments do occur. Cedric Burnside's drumming with it's hill country overtones kicks the fire in "Preachin Blues" and sends "If I Had Possession" right towards the crossroads.
Still credit has to be given to The Monsters for trying. Experimenting is nice. But if you want to play Robert Johnson songs, don't pour the sugar so much as soak them in rockgut.
Review by Gary "Wingman" Weeks
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Mike Hammar & the Nails - Recipe for the Blues
Based out of northern California, this band has tearing up the West Coast for the last decade, highlighted by their being named the winner of the 2009 Monterey Bay Blues Festival Battle of the Bands. Mike Hammar is the front man, handling the lead vocals and guitar. He also wrote all twelve tunes on this project as well as producing the recording.
Possessing a powerful voice, Hammar is able to hold the listener’s interest by varying his vocal approach from track to track. And his fervent guitar work is a consistent highlight throughout the disc. His bandmates include Allen “B3 Blues” Carroll on organ & keyboards, “Harmonica” Jim Pedersen on harp, Sparky Gehres on bass and Greg Merino on drums. Photos of the group included with the package suggest that they are hardy veterans of music as well as life.
The disc opens with the title track, which is built around the John Lee Hooker’s boogie riff. Hammar describes learning about the blues from his father’s records as he barks out a laundry list of blues legends. “Arrested at the Catfish Fry” takes a humorous look at a night out on the town gone all wrong. Hammar, Carroll and Pedersen all turn in lively solos. The band shifts to a funkier groove on “Miss Katrina”, which could serve as a travel guide for some of New Orleans highlights.
The proceedings shift to a gospel-tinged vein on “Yes I Will”, with Hammar’s eloquent vocal and soulful guitar picking making this track one of the highlights. “Carry On” works the darker side of the human experience as the leader belts out a message of hope in the face of life’s travails. Carroll fleshes out the arrangement with fat chords from his organ. “Suited for the Blues,” sounds like it was borrowed from the Robert Cray playbook. The grinding rhythm of “Down at the Junction” provides a launching pad for a fiery solo from Hammar.
Pedersen and Carroll trade licks on “Workin’ Overtime” before the leader turns in another solo that burns up the fretboard on his guitar. Pedersen’s harp is featured on “Who’s Richer Than Who”, which has a country music feel and is the weakest song on the disc. Everybody gets a chance to stretch out on the lone instrumental “Hambrosia” with Hammar and Carroll once again distinguishing themselves.
Hammar pours out his grief on the passing of his mother on, “This Ain’t Goodbye”. Pedersen’s mournful harp tones lead into Carroll’s organ, which takes you to church before Hammar’s heartfelt singing and gentle guitar picking closes out the disc.
There is plenty to enjoy on this release. This band of veterans really works well together plus they have the very capable Mike Hammar leading the way. If they could put together a full program of material on a par with songs like “Yes I Will” and “Carry On”, there would be no holding them back. This one is definitely worth a listen.
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