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From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
This week we announced the 2011 Blues Blast Music Award nominees. And what a fine crop of Blues performers it is. A complete list of all the nominees is at the end of this issue! (SCROLL DOWN).
Your chance to vote for your favorites will begin July 1.
The Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago on Thursday, October 27th, 2011.
Several of the nominees have already indicated they will attend and perform at this event, and we expect many more to follow. We will announce those attending at the end of August.
Tickets for the Blues Blast Music Awards will go on sale next week.
We will also have details soon about a block of discount rooms for those who want to make it to this great Blues celebration. Stay Tuned.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Dave Riley. We have Part 1 of the photos from the Chicago Blues fest from Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer.
Our video of the week is Sherman Robertson at The Blue Jazz & Blues Festival in Aalborg, Denmark - August 2010.
We have nine CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Hadden Sayers. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Atomic Roots Orchestra and reviews a CD by Big Shot Reub & The Reloaders. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Mix & Dorp. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Jeff Chapman and a new CD from Susan Wylde. Mark Thompson reviews another new release from Trampled Under Foot. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Sammy Blue. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD from Tommy Lee Cook. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Dave Riley
Where there’s a will, there has to be a way.
And rules be danged, but young Dave Riley was going to do whatever it took to catch Howlin’ Wolf doing his thing.
On the West Side of Chicago in the early 1960s, state law said that young ‘uns, like Riley was at the time, were not allowed to venture into the local clubs and juke joints, hotspots where men like The Wolf and Muddy Waters were playing on a nightly basis.
So instead of actually setting foot inside those clubs, the resourceful Riley came up with another solution.
“Eddie Shaw had a club not far from where we lived,” Riley said. “We wanted to see The Wolf and them, but we weren’t supposed to go in. So instead, we’d go in the alley and stand or sit on some milk crates to watch ‘em, through the window or door. Oh, man, I used to just love that.”
That determination to accomplish a task, no matter what the odds, has served Riley well, whether in his day job as a prison guard, or in his night job playing the blues all over the globe.
And globetrotting all over the world is something that the guitar-playing Riley and his partner-in-crime, harpist extraordinaire Bob Corritore, have been well-versed in the past several years.
“Yeah, we just got back from overseas. The tour was great, man. We started out in Holland at a festival and then we went to Belgium and then did a little tour over there,” Riley said. “We played at one little club there that had been trying to get me to play for six or seven years. But we met some interesting people and everyone had a good time.”
Riley seemed genuinely touched by the reception that was bestowed upon them during their recent European jaunt.
“The European audiences really appreciate blues music – especially when it’s done right,” he said. “There’s a right way to do the blues and there’s a wrong way to do the blues. We try to do it the right way, because I was raised to do things the right way.”
Riley, who calls Illinois home most of the time, and Corritore, a major fixture on the blues scene from Phoenix, Arizona, met somewhere in the middle – the Natural State.
“I met Bob through Tom Coulson at the King Biscuit Festival and he said he lived in Arizona. I told him I had a sister that lived in Phoenix,” Riley said. “So he said, ‘it’s about time you visited your sister, isn’t it?’ And I had retired from my job at that point, and was thinking about a warmer climate anyway, so I went out there to check it out. The blues society booked me to speak at their meeting and to play with Bob at his club (The Rhythm Room). But when we (Riley and Corritore) first got together, we bumped heads and everything. I called him a few names and stuff, but pretty soon, we found our place together. And I told Bob’s girlfriend, ‘you know what? I’m going to hang with this guy.’”
And from that, a partnership was forged.
“We need each other. I’m not going to let anyone use him and he’s not going to let anyone use me,” said Riley. “We make good music together.”
That union of Riley and Corritore has resulted in a pair of terrific albums to date – Lucky to be Living from 2009 and 2007’s Travelin’ the Dirt Road.
And as the burgeoning duo found out while prepping for their debut disc, it wasn’t necessary to burn up a lot of time and energy in the pre-production stages of the disc.
“I got my skills from Frank Frost. He never sat down and wrote a song,” said Riley. “He came up with the stuff right in the studio. And that stuff that me and Bob did came right off the top of my head and it got nominated for the Blues Music Awards (for Acoustic Album of the Year).”
Riley was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1949 and spent the first 12 years of his life there and in nearby Prentiss, Mississippi.
It was there that Riley first came under the spell of what would later become a guiding force in his life: the Blues.
“Back in the '50s, there was just one radio station we got down there – WLAC Nashville,” he said. “They played blues, gospel and country music. That’s all there was back then. Rock-n-roll and Motown and all that other stuff came later. So that’s what we listened to. And that’s why when I started to play the blues, I didn’t have to take lessons – it was in me all the time.”
Like a host of other Mississippians after the Second World War, the Rileys eventually left the south for the Windy City of Chicago and its numerous opportunities in the mid-'50s.
It was his family’s move from the city’s North Side to a housing project on the West Side that would turn out to have a dramatic impact on Dave Riley’s life.
“We lived right down the street from Maxwell (Street Market). And when they were in town on Sunday mornings, all the blues greats played there. All of them,” he said. “They’d have a big tip jar there, but when you sat in and played, you didn’t get no tips - didn’t get no money. But I wasn’t interested in the money. I was interested in the music, because it sounded good to me.”
But in the beginning, not everyone in Dave Riley’s family shared in his love of the blues.
“Well, my dad was a preacher and was real strict on me just doing gospel music,” he said. “And I’d get down there (Maxwell Street) early on Sunday mornings while they were setting up. They’d ask me to come back around 7 a.m. and play, and I’d tell them I could only play for an hour because I had to go to church.”
Riley’s passion for the blues has remained a constant presence since then, even though playing the blues on a full-time basis has not always been.
He took a 25-year sabbatical from performing the blues, instead focusing on raising his son and working at his day job as a prison guard at Joliet State Penitentiary.
His return back to music in the mid-'90s found its momentum in a spot that is revered as holy ground in the world of the blues – Helena, Arkansas.
“My wife’s cousin is from Helena, and he used to see me messing around on the guitar in the basement. And one day he said, ‘I want you to meet Frank Frost.’ I said, ‘who’s Frank Frost?’ And he said, ‘he’s the king of the jukes.’ So I went to Helena and met Frank and Sam (Carr) and their producer, Fred James,” Riley said. “Man, I was there with Frank and Sam and Fred and Arthur Williams and we played at Eddie Mae’s Café … man, what a time. It was packed in there. And then Frank and I became real close. We used to go fishing all the time.”
One thing’s for sure - you weren’t going to be playing with Frank Frost and Sam Carr unless you could deliver the real-deal blues.
Luckily, that was never a problem for Riley.
“I played the music that I grew up playing in the churches and the stuff that the old guys taught me to play,” he said. “An old guy that was kind of a Hound Dog Taylor/Elmore James type of guitar player showed me how to play without a pick. And they (Frank and Sam) liked that type of playing. So I played with them all the time. The only time I played at the Chicago Blues Festival was in 1997, when Frank and Sam called me. They said they couldn’t pay me, but I told ‘em money didn’t matter. I just wanted to play with those guys. They treated me like gold.”
Riley was set to record with The Jelly Roll Kings, but Frost’s passing in 1999 kept that from happening.
Instead, Riley soon found himself in the middle of a new ensemble – The Delta Jukes.
Featuring Carr, Riley, James and Brinkley, Arkansas’, own John Weston, The Delta Jukes recorded Working for the Blues in late 2001.
“After Frank passed away, Fred (James) came up with the idea for the Delta Jukes,” said Riley. “And I was against it for a minute. But then I thought about it and decided that my main job is to keep the memory of guys like Frank Frost, Sam Carr and John Weston alive. So whatever allows me to do that, that’s what I’m going to be doing.”
And he's doing it with all the soul and passion that he can muster.
“Blues is a feeling. When it’s done right, you can feel it. And if you can’t feel it, you can’t play it. You can’t fake it. A lot of musicians want to try and put too much into it (the blues), or not enough into it, but you have to have just the right ingredients,” Riley said.
“It’s real serious music. I just try to do the best I can, when I can. All I want to do is share my feelings with people. That’s what this music is about –making people feel good. That’s why you play and sing the blues – to make people feel good.”
Sometimes that act of making people feel good is as moving for Riley as it is for the people in the audience.
“Sometimes if you don’t see me playing (on stage) and you look real close, I might have my eyes closed, crying,” he said. “The tears just come out some times. This is very emotional music – serious stuff. I’ve had people come up to me after a show and say, ‘thanks for sharing your feelings with us, Dave.’ That’s powerful stuff. And I thank God that he gave me the talent and the ability to do it like I do.”
With a new disc from Riley and Corritore on the horizon for this fall, it looks like it is full speed ahead for Dave Riley and the blues, regardless of the current musical trend.
“The blues is always going to be here,” he said. “I mean, you got guys like Eric Clapton and B.B. King who are making a lot of money, but people like myself and below do it because we love it, man. Sometimes you make money and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes it don’t really matter. But the blues ain’t going to go nowhere. It will always be here. I’m not looking to get rich. I’ve been all over the world doing this. There’s no other thing I could have ever done that would have let me travel to some of the places that I’ve traveled to by playing the blues. Not too bad for an ol' country boy. There’s a saying on one of the songs on the new album – ‘you can take me out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of me.’ And I’m a Mississippian by blood.”.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 Staple 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, Mississippi, eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 9
Hadden Sayers - Hard Dollar
Blue Corn Music
As I do with almost every CD from an artist I am listening to for the first time, I dropped this CD in and listened without looking at the liner notes or promo materials. I find that I can be a lot more objective by limiting any preconceived notions on my part (other than the visual of an album cover which is hard not to look at, and it's a pretty cool one in this case). So what I heard was some Texas country-fried blues, served up hot and delicious! I was very impressed and immediately listened a second time through, enjoying it even more as I got more familiar with the tunes. So then I went through the materials and I found out Sayers is from Houston (pretty obviously a Texan by the song lyrics), everything here was original, Sayers plays some guitar for Ruthie Foster, he moved to Ohio to support his wife's career and things went very far south in his life for more than 5 years - but things are starting to work out, and he's released a killer CD. So now that I perhaps have piqued your interest, let's get into this great album.
Sayers is a superb guitar players and has some earthy vocal skills that are just spot on; he sounds like a top-notch bluesman. His Texas country-influenced blues are very hot and savory and he writes meaningful and interesting songs. What is not to like here? Ruthie even appears on "Back To The Blues", a "slow-jam" blues ballad, and she gives an extremely nice duet with Sayers. The groove is almost elegant as they sing of "going back to the blues" with an almost religiously convincing lyrical delivery. The opening guitar riffs of the first song are almost ZZ Top-like; "Take Me Back To Texas" is a fast honky tonk boogie about Sayers' desire to return to his beloved home state. This CD grabs you from the start, and Sayers sells it with stunning guitar solo work.
"Flat Black Automobile" is quite an intriguing cut; he seemingly uses his spray-painted, old car as an analogy for his aging body. It is an excellent metaphor and an even better song. He wrote the first lines of the song more than a decade ago and expanded in it here into a fantastic cut full of pathos and allegory. "Sweet Texas Girls" is a fun song about his wife and all the Texas women he obviously adores. There is a cool music video on his site for this, too. He follows that with a rocking number entitled "I Got A Crush on You" where he explains his feelings about his woman. "Ain't Comin' Round No More" has a Willie Dixon-like groove that makes you want to get up and swing to it. He gives us some nice licks guitar during the solo, too. He closes the set with "Money Shot", done in a surfing rockabilly Texas approach. "Burnin' Up" is another big rocker and does exactly what the title states- he just burns it up.
Sayers is joined on the CD by Tony McClung on drums, Mark Frye on bass and Dave DeWitt on Hammond organ. I was very impressed by Sayers, his band and his music. This is really an excellent CD that I unequivocally endorse. Hot-rocking Texas blues, laced with some country corn bread and barbecue just to spice things up. I hope we see a lot more of Sayers, and this album could help to get him noticed. This one is a no-brainer to add to your CD collection if you like great guitar, superb original songs and well-delivered well- written lyrics.
Featured Blues Video
Featured Blues Review 2 of 9
Atomic Roots Orchestra – Vol. 1 Border Radio Gamble
Conjur Root Records / Federated
(no website –Band bio and purchase at CD Baby)
14 songs; 44:48 minutes
Styles: Juke Joint Blues; Roots Rock; Blues and Rhythm; Rock and Roll; Rockabilly
There's a phenomenon in nature and social relationships called the “propinquity effect.” According to Wikipedia, it is “the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often. In other words, relationships tend to be formed between those who have a high propinquity.” In even plainer words, people tend to “grow on you.” Such is also the case with the Atomic Roots Orchestra – Vol. 1 and their debut album, “Border Radio Gamble”!
Consisting of Job Striles – lead guitar and vocals, John Lee Williamson – Rhythm guitar and vocals, Bill Flores - sax , Rick Reed - bass, and Max Bangwell – drums and vocals, the Atomic Roots Orchestra “is on a mission to bring back Border Radio Music like was layed [sic] down by the 1949 to 1959 DJ around America.” This CD's liner notes merrily continue: “In ordre [sic] to get er done, a top flite [sic] group of artists has assembled to lay it out in one day with no rehearsals and no playing around—Show and Blow a whole Album right now! The Players have to be supurb [sic] and on a mission to create an authentic recording session and sound!” If one seeks to find out more about this band, one should NOT continue reading—doing that will only induce a migraine. Instead, pop this CD in and bask in the glow of these retro, radio-active tunes!
Border Radio Gamble pays homage to the postwar Los Angeles Blues and Rhythm and Jump Swing explosion by inducting 14 (apparently) original songs into a 21st Century kick butt album.
The Atomic Roots Orchestra's music may be an acquired taste for some: there's lots of horns, for starters. Secondly, many of their numbers are crazy mishmashes of blues, swing, and rock. The more one hits the “play” button, however, the more endearing this album becomes. These are five fellows who love music the way it was played around the middle of the 20th century. Leading off with “Home on Alcatraz,” the Orchestra shows off its spicy style and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. For a more serious tale, check out “Love in Vein”—the best slow blues song on the album. Winding up in court is never fun, and this ballad proves it. “S & T Scrunch” and “Zip Gun Yakuza” are downright perplexing earworms, while “Waterbed Cadillac” will bring sly grins and knowing chuckles! For a final treat, check out “That's What the Good Book Said,” rehashing well-known Bible stories. Overall, the more you experience the “propinquity effect,” the more you'll enjoy the Atomic Roots Orchestra!
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 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Live Blues Review
2011 Chicago Blues Festival - Part 1
Photos by Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer
This year marked the 28th annual Chicago Blues Festival. This world-class festival remains one of the best FREE Blues music festivals on the planet. The fest included three stages during the daytime and an evening of headliners on the main stage each night. Plus, for the second year in a row, the Windy City Blues Society had a "Street" stage of it's own at the fest.
The Crossroads Stage started off with Guy King and his Little Big Band.
Next up was a scorching set by Eric "Guitar" Davis and the Troublemakers. Eric has just finished his new CD, produced by none other than Ronnie Baker Brooks. You are definitely going to be hearing more about this young artist.
Later in the day, the Crossroads stage finished up with The Rockin’ Johnny Band, featuring Smiley Tillman and Mary Lane
This year the first day on the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage featured music from D'Mar & Gill as the first performers.
Next up was Little Bobby, backing up Nora Jean Bruso.
Nora Jean is a treat to watch. She is a real powerhouse vocalist and a captivating performer. If you have not heard her, make it a point to catch her show somewhere. We promise she will blow you away!
The final act we caught on this stage was James “Super Chikan” Johnson.
"Super Chikan" is a Blues Music Award-winning artist and guitar maker based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He is the nephew of the late Big Jack Johnson. His Mississippi roots come through in his music and his performance.
Windy City Blues Society Street Stage kicked off with the Steepwater Band.
Next up on their stage was Will Jacobs & Dirty Deal. Will is a 17-year-old guitar player and songwriter with surprising skill and maturity.
Will and his band represented WCBS as its "Youth Act" in the 2010 International Blues Challenge.
While many Blues fans know who Nick Moss is, many are not aware that he is not the only skilled guitar player in the family. The Joe Moss Band is led by Nick's brother on lead guitar.
They played quite an interesting set of Blues.
Next up was JB Ritchie, who treated the crowd to some fantastic slide guitar fireworks!
They were followed by a set that included harmonica ace Bob Corritore and the great Sam Lay on guitar.
Rounding out the first day on the WCBS stage was the Kilborn Alley Blues Band.
For the second year in a row, this group drew the largest crowd of the day on the WCBS stage.
They treated the crowd to a few new tunes from their forthcoming new CD. Word is they have just finished up the recording, so we should be able to hear the results of their latest efforts soon.
This year the Front Porch Stage started off with Erwin Helfer Band featuring Katherine Davis
She was followed by a new name to us, Rocky Lawrence. He played a great solo set that got the crowd going strong!
Of course, the big show is always the early afternoon start of the music on the Petrillo Music Shell. The Friday night headliners opened the Petrillo Music Shell with the Eddie Cotton Band, featuring Jarekas Singleton on guitar, Myron Bennett on bass, and D’Mar (Derrick Martin) on drums. Jarekas and D’Mar, both hailing from other bands, proved to be a high-energy combo with Eddie.
Next up was the Tribute to Robert Johnson. Sadly, Honeyboy Edwards was not well enough to attend, nor did Hubert Sumlin, but the Rick Sherry Band, Rocky Lawrence joined by Steve Johnson (Robert Johnson's grandson), and the Duwayne Burnside Band did a great job paying homage to Robert Johnson.
So day one of the Chicago Blues Fest provided some GREAT Blues performances. But there was much more to come with 2 more days of this great Blues Fest. Stay tuned for more photos of all the fun at the great fest in Part 2 next week!
(All of Marilyn Stringer's festival photos can eventually be found at http://MJStringerPhoto.com).
The Moon Is Rising:
Songs of Robert Nighthawk
From the uproariously funny to the beautifully dramatic, Chicago blues singer and slide guitarist, Donna Herula, performs the neglected songs of slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk in a country/Delta Blues acoustic style. Solo slide guitar; duets with harmonica, guitar and violin.
Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society presents Doug McLeod, Friday, June 24th at the Just Goods Listening Room on 201 Seventh Street in Rockford at 7:30 PM. This great solo acoustic musician sold out his show there last year- tickets are only $10 in advance at $15 at the door. Call 779-537-4006 for tickets and information. www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society presents the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 2011 July 4th at Reynolds Lodge, 3315 SE Tinman Circle on the east side of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, KS. Music is from noon to 9 p.m. followed by fireworks. Admission is FREE!
The lineup includes 2011 Grammy and BMA award winner (with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) Buddy Flett, 2011 IBC Runner-Up and "Love, Janis" star Mary Bridget Davies Group, 2011 IBC finalists Grand Marquis, The Bart Walker Band with Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on Hammond B3 and Paul Ossola (G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band) on bass, Mike Farris (Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies) with the McCrary Sisters and 2010 BMA Song of the Year winner Mike Zito.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. For more information go to www.topekabluessociety.org or find us on Facebook. Discounted hotel rooms are available at the Topeka Ramada Convention Center. Call (785) 234-5400 and ask for the Blues Society Group 6617.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival July 1-3, 2011 in Davenport, IA.
Artists scheduled to perform include Linsey Alexander, Jimmy Burns, Eric Gales, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, RJ Mischo with Earl Cate with Them, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King,“Way of Blues” Revue from Mississippi on Friday July 1st, Chocolate Thunder, Kevin Burt, Lionel Young Band, Johnny Nicholas, Ryan McGarvey, Peaches Staten, Mississippi Heat, Joe Louis Walker and a Koko Taylor Tribute featuring Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Chick Rogers, Jackie Scott and Delores Scott on Saturday July 2nd, and The Candymakers, Winter Blues Kids, Studebaker John and the Hawks, Harper, Chris Beard, The Paul Smoker Notet, Rich DelGrosso and John Richardson, Sherman Robertson, Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s and Otis Clay on Sunday July 3rd.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.mvbs.org or call (563) 322-5837
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at The GE Employees Club 1750 General Electric Rd, 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 please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: Deborah464@aol.com or visit www.bluesblowtorch.org and http://www.aintnothinbuttheblues.com/
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - 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 "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. June 27 - Jim Shuler & Monkey, July 4 - Deb Callahan, July 11 - Rockin' Jake, July 18 - Chris Bell & 100% Blues, July 25 - Bill Evans Birthday Party, August 1 - Lionel Young Band, August 8 - Ben Prestage, August 15 - Bryan Lee, August 22 - Grady Champion, August 29 - RJ Mischo. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 3 of 9
Mix & Dorp - Blues + Beat
Black & Tan
Mix & Dorp, a mystery remix man, calls this a collection of remixes, reinventions and rejuvenations. Efforts of this sort always seem to have mixed results(no pun intended). The reference point probably most familiar to listeners are the R.L. Burnside remixes. The most pleasing tracks here are the ones where he takes a breather from the overdone formula of a relentless beat coupled with an overplayed riff. These projects tend to use rhythm as the main thrust. The liner notes make no mention of contributing musicians, just the names of the original artists. We don’t know if Mix & Drop contributes any instrumentation or acts solely as the manipulator of the given tracks. As I’m only familiar with one track and two of the artists I can’t determine what is from the original and what is added. The audience can be thankful that technique and instrumentation are varied enough here to not grate on ones ears, which is sometimes the case on efforts such as this. Blues purists most likely would find fault with the contents here, but the adventurous music fan will find it as a pleasant diversion. It work most effectively as background music that reveals many nuances and interesting grooves as they pop-up and fly by the curious ear.
Boo Boo Davis and Big George Jackson are featured on three quarters of the tracks together along with three other contributors. All benefit from strong blues voices; with Billy Jones calling up the spirit of Howlin’ Wolf in as close an approximation of his other-worldly voice and sentiment as is humanly possible on “Ain’t Good Looking”, recalling Wolf’s “Don’t Laugh At Me”. Billy’s other contribution “Revolution Bluez” is the sole song to feature sax in its funky protest vibe. Elsewhere one can witness snatches of the influence of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. The additional musical additions, even if of the funky variety, leave the blues feeling intact and often enhance it. Maybe some Delta style slide to augment the atmospherics would work here. The treatment given Harrison Kennedy’s “40 Acres And A Mule” is a refreshing change of pace as it acoustic guitar and inventive percussion. Roscoe Chenier’s “Bad Luck” begins as a slow groove that introduces jumpy percussion as fine counterpoint to tickle the listener’s ear.
Perfection isn’t achieved here. At times you get the feeling of being beaten over the head with a riff. Thankfully that doesn’t occur often. The case is more often a smooth groove you can ride on. If you’re looking for a respite from an overload of guitar histrionics and over blown blues-rock, this may be just the elixir you’ve been looking for. .
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 4 of 9
Jeff Chapman – Big Jeff’s Blues Vol. 2
Self Release - 2010
11 tracks; 48.52 minutes
Jeff Chapman has been making music in his native Greenville, Illinois since the late 1970’s. He started in country music, added some southern rock and then some blues. He has been performing with his brother Jerry as the Chapman Brothers since 1981 but his blues band is a more recent outlet for his music. This is a second volume of Jeff’s original music, following an earlier Vol. 1 released in 2009. The band on this CD consists of Jeff on vocals and some rhythm guitar, brother Jerry or Sean Harris on lead guitar, Harry Lounsberry on keys, Ian Baird (who also engineered, mixed and mastered the CD) on drums, Bill Baumann on bass and backing vocals.
The songs are well constructed with themes ranging from the fun to the serious. Jeff is not a great singer but has a serviceable voice and the playing on these songs is very good indeed. The hallmarks are catchy tunes, swirling organ and clean guitar lines, immediately embodied on opener “My Baby’s Coming Back To Me” which comes straight at you with a really catchy chorus that you might well find yourself humming on the way to work! “Homecoming Queen” is also a catchy toe tapper with a touch of country in the tune which celebrates the girls at home who are always ready to celebrate the return of their loved ones when they return from ‘the road’.
A more serious note is injected by “Can’t Get Right”, a grim tale of young addicts unable to fight the power of their chosen drugs. The music is still catchy, with both Jerry Chapman and Sean Harris on guitars, but the subject matter is dark indeed: “Started smoking weed, then she went to coke. Spent her whole paycheck working for the dope. No she can’t get right.” “Got To Move” is a slower paced number, introduced by organ before a dramatic drum pattern signals the entry of some nice guitar work and Jeff’s vocal which discusses the subject of needing to get out of a difficult situation where work is tough, pay is low and making ends meet a real challenge. Both these songs manage keep the music enjoyable, thereby attracting casual listeners to the songs and then getting them to appreciate the serious issues raised.
A lighter tone is injected in “Psycho Magnet”, a tall tale of a boy who seems to attract the wrong sort of women: “About two years ago he was lying in bed, sweet baby by his side when the police came and knocked on the door to take her for a ride.” “Sometimes You Gotta Help Yourself” comes on like a Lynyrd Skynyrd outtake with a great guitar riff and a rousing chorus aided by Anastasia Baird on backing vocals. The song encourages us all to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get out there – and a tune like this might just do the trick!
The centerpiece of the album is “Song For Justin”, a song dedicated to Jeff’s 13 year old cousin who was killed in 1997 and who was the same age as Jeff’s own son. This emotive song was clearly difficult for Jeff to complete but during this recording he managed to do so and it is an excellent song, the sad story being sympathetically treated by striking lead guitar and lap steel, as well as an expanded choir (The Circle Of Friends). An example of the lyrics shows the difficult nature of the song: “It ain’t right, it ain’t fair, how could anyone be so cold. There’s too many helpless victims, can’t you see the fear in their eyes? Doesn’t anybody hear their cries?” This is a wonderful song that deserves a wide audience.
After that we need to again lighten the tone and “Thinkin’ About Drinkin’” fits the bill perfectly. Lyrically something of a relative of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” this is an amusing take on the attractions of the demon drink. “How I Live” is a slower tune, with its sad tale: “Sun shining on the outside, everything looking fine. See it’s raining on the inside, that’s how I live my life.” Harry Lounsberry’s organ takes a solo here, followed by some more quality soloing from Sean Harris.
“Last Night” takes us back up tempo, both musically and lyrically, a gentle song about having a good night out with friends. The CD closes with “Never Too Late”, a slow blues which tells the tale of wasted time and finding redemption: “Don’t give up, son, just go on and try. It’s never too late to start over, you find yourself wondering why oh why? It’s never too late to start over, sometimes in life you just got to try.” It’s a fine end to this excellent CD.
I knew absolutely nothing about Jeff Chapman when I put this CD on my player, but now I will keep a lookout for Vol. 1. Both CDs are available from CD Baby. Sadly I suspect that my chances of seeing Jeff live in the UK are not great but I would suggest that those of you who are not aware of Jeff and his music check him out as soon as possible.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 9
Susan Wylde – In The Light
Sun, Moon And Stars Entertainment 2011
12 tracks; 48.03 minutes
Susan Wylde is a Canadian singer and pianist and this is her first album that is being promoted as blues, the previous one being more pop, with one song selected for a compilation CD entitled “Absolute Voices II”, alongside well known artists such as Sade, Norah Jones and Alison Krauss. This CD includes five songs written by Susan and a selection of covers. Something of the feel of the album can be gleaned from the fact that the covers include Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” and Harry Warren’s “At Last”, both more jazz than blues. On the other hand there are covers of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s “Three Hours Past Midnight” and Jimmie Cox’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, so there is a blues element here too.
Susan sings in a classically trained alto voice and all lyrics can be made out clearly. The musicians on the CD are all Canadian, with the best known names being Paul Reddick on harp and Jack de Keyser who plays guitar and co-produced the CD with Susan. Particular mention must be made of the horns on the CD which are excellent: saxes, Colleen Allen and Turner King; trumpet and cornet, Dave Dunlop.
Taking the covers first “Three Hours Past Midnight” has a late night, slow blues feel, with some nice piano and sympathetic horns in the background. De Keyser’s guitar solo is also a strong feature, making this one of the most bluesy tracks on the album. I liked this one a lot. “Nobody Knows You” is the next track on the CD, with harp strongly featured over a rolling piano intro. The song is sung in a jazzy manner by Susan. The last four tracks on the CD are all covers and all take a relaxed approach. JD Loudermilk’s “Turn Me On” is played quietly with gentle, jazzy chords on guitar and Susan’s wistful vocal. “Georgia” is played straight, a classic song which we all know very well. The organ backing here gives a feel of the church to this interpretation and the sax is played beautifully. However, does the world need another version of this song? The same can certainly be said of “The Thrill Is Gone” which is attributed to Lew Brown and Ray Henderson here, whereas I have always understood the song to have been written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins. The sax is again excellent but I did not feel that the song suited Susan’s voice as well as some of the material on the CD. “At Last” closes the CD, a song inevitably associated with early period Etta James. Susan’s classically trained voice is far more precise than Etta’s and, for me, does not convey as much of the passion we remember from Etta.
The originals are an interesting set that demonstrate a literate writer at work. “Lovely Push-Up Bra” is a comic tale of a girl working in a seedy bar. “Some lace and some wire strategically placed, it feels good if you like that look on his face” is the opening line of the song. The track is dedicated to the late Jeff Healey who was not only a fine blues guitarist but also a trumpet player, so it is appropriate that cornet and piano provide a 20s feel to the music so you might well feel like you are in that bar yourself! In contrast “I Can’t Tell New Orleans Goodbye” is dedicated to the people of NO, a ballad that recounts the tragedy of Katrina and the unbroken spirit of the city in the face of adversity. This is another highlight of the album.
Album opener “One Real Man” opens with some strong harp and guitar work in a rocker that extols the virtues of a good man - “one real man to keep me warm”. It’s a strong opener to the album and lyrically makes a good pair with “Love Me All Night Long”, a song with an attractive stop-start Latin rhythm and fine horn backing. The middle eight is graced with fine piano and guitar solos. Title track “In The Light” is an oddity in that the tune bears a striking resemblance to Springsteen’s “Spirits In The Night”, the horns sounding as if they had borrowed the charts for the latter song. Lyrically we are in very different territory – no stoned trips to the lake here! This is a song about achieving peace after difficult times, love having conquered fear. A pleasing plucked guitar and an ecstatic sax provide the solo features.
The numerate readers will have spotted that we have one more track to discuss! That track is “That’s What You Do To Me” which is credited as ‘Unknown’. This is a song which appeared on Colin James’ “Little Big Band” CD, the version here is up-tempo with well-crafted guitar and organ solos.
Overall this is a varied CD with a mix of blues and other styles of music. I found quite a lot to enjoy here.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 9
Trampled Under Foot - Wrong Side of the Blues
Tuf Records/The VizzTone Group
Hot on the heels of their live CD from the 2009 Notodden Blues Festival, the band of siblings from Kansas City take a huge step forward in their development on a studio recording that showcases the many talents of Nick, Danielle and Kris Schnebelen – Trampled Under Foot.
The esteemed producer Tony Braunagel tightens up the band's sound and keeps the focus on the expressive vocals from Nick and Danielle. Special guests include Mike Finnigan on the Hammond B-3, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar & backing vocal and the maestro of the harmonica, Kim Wilson, on one cut. Keeping things in the family, the band gets help on backing vocals from their mother, Lisa Swedlund, and perform two written by their father, Bob Schnebelen.
Listen to how the band locks into the slinky groove on the title track. Danielle struts and shouts, fighting off the temptations of a good loving man while Nick picks out a steady stream of memorable guitar licks. Kris pounds out the familiar Bo Diddeley beat on “Bad Woman Blues” as Nick shows that he is his sister's equal in the vocal department. His use of a slide on an amplified resonator guitar provides a lighter sound that serves as a contrast to the powerful drumming from Kris. The grinding rhythm of “She's Long, Tall and Gone” is the only encouragement Wilson needs – and he responds with his usual stellar harp playing with Nick's guitar lurking behind every note Wilson pulls out of his harp.
“Evil Train” is one of Dad's tunes and Schell adds to the graveyard feel with the eerie sound of his cigar box guitar.
After you hear Danielle's stunning performance on “It Would Be Nice”, you will be telling everyone you know about this dynamic singer. She will tear your heart open as she conveys the devastating anguish over a love turned cold. Another highlight is “Goodbye” with Finnigan's organ filling in the space around Danielle's pleading vocal that highlights her admiration for Etta James. Not to be outdone, Nick lays down a brooding vocal on “The Fool” as the music grows in intensity, with Finnigan again providing the spark on the organ. Finnegan pounds the piano as the two singers trade leads over the furious pace of the gospel-influenced “Have a Real Good Time”. Danielle shows her talent as a bass player on the funky “Just Tell Yourself”, singing with a sassy attitude that makes this song another highlight. The closing track, “The Better Life”, is a pretty love song with a lighter feel than the rest of the disc.
This recording has it all – two great singers, a strong batch of original tunes and fine instrumental work. Braunagel limits the solo space, keeping the focus on the songs as well as Nick and Danielle's vocals - and makes sure that the guests don't dominate the proceedings. He allows Trampled Under Foot the space they need to show all of the lessons they have learned in the three years since they won the 2008 International Blues Challenge. Their exciting live shows have created a loyal fan base. This release will continue to spread the word about this exceptional band – and is heartily recommended !!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
Featured Blues Review 7 of 9
Sammy Blue - Live at the Blue Note West
17 tracks 59 minutes
Samuel R Favers is Sammy Blue. Here – although he does often work with a band – he is doing his solo acoustic thang, and performing live in the Blue Note West Club in Douglasville, GA just outside Atlanta GA, the city which Sammy Blue gives as his home.
There is no doubt that Mr Blue is an accomplished solo performer with a solid yet sensitive approach to delivering acoustic guitar-based blues. All of the songs here were penned by Mr Blue, but be warned, some of the 17 tracks are little but spoken introductions to the music that follows. One of them, labelled Plastic Surgery, Slide Guitar Players And A Big Lie takes up more than 4 mins of the playing time. Another ‘introduction’, This Happened One Night At The Club, takes up more than 6 mins. Now clearly, including intros in the CD presentation does make sense if you want to document a full performance, the problem is that in this recording, the audience was singularly uninspiring (and uninspired?) remaining remarkably quiet with little interaction, laughter or banter. In short, although the music is excellent, the ambience of the club sounds pretty dire.
The music ranges from an instrumental called Salem’s Song, which remind me a lot of Mississippi John Hurt’s, Stackolee, through to the title track of Sammy’s last CD Everythang & Mo’ which includes some fun trombone playing courtesy of Little Joe Burton, who is the MC for the club, and who demonstrates some remarkable triple tongue work, a technique that must make him the envy of … well some people.
The Big Lie referred to in the introduction mentioned above is that delivered by many professional musicians to their ladies, “Honey I’ll get a day job for you”. The song Day Job (which also comes with some trombone) is a delightful, off-beat accented piece delivered with accomplished slide work.
Walking Woman Blues is a super song with a Chicago shuffle vibe and great lyrics. “I can tell by the way you walk daddy must have been a millionaire”. Here Mr Blue sounds more reminiscent of Robert Lockwood (all the pictures on the CD show a Dobro and a regular acoustic guitar, but here and elsewhere his instrument sounds more like the 12 string used by Lockwood in his latter years).
One mystery is that the CD cover describes Sammy Blue as “Crown Prince of Piedmont Blues”, well that’s true if you mean that he lives in and hails from the southern end of the Piedmont plateau. But don’t expect him to SOUND like Blind Blake or Blind Boy Fuller or even Brownie McGhee. No alternating thumb here just steady and hypnotic four to the bar, single note bass. Wonderful!
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, 10am Pacific).
Featured Blues Review 8 of 9
Tommy Lee Cook - Outside Looking In
Two Mules Music
11 tracks Total time: 53:22
Tommy Lee Cook, vocals and lead guitars, dobro, comes together with his partner, Danny Shepard, electric rhythm guitars, to create on Outside Looking In a driving, forceful, elemental riffing music that’s positively hypnotic, and hypnotically positive. This is music that’s part Delta blues electrified, part Z.Z. Topp, and part modern Mississippi or early Chicago electric blues. Both men’s guitars are enhanced for a fuller sound through electronic programming that adds drums, piano, organ and horn sounds. Recorded at Downtown Buckingham Studios in Ft. Myers, Florida, the CD sleeve notes pay tribute to the patrons of their leading venue, Ft. Myers’ World Famous Buckingham Blues Bar, “Where the blues come alive”. So it’s a studio album that draws from experienced live playing as well.
As a vocalist, Tommy Lee Cook uses his versatile, Southern-drawl expressiveness to become a consummate actor, giving each song a masterful, empathetic portrayal of the character singing the song, and the emotions he feels. He does this across the gamut of 11 original songs here, all penned jointly by Cook and Danny Shepard. These songs combine the storytelling aspects of country with the emotional tone-poem painting of blues and the soul-baring emotiveness of soul. Three of the songs are slow ballads, two of them about crumbling relationships, one because it’s not working out, the other, because the bottle got in the way. These are track 5, “This Old Flame” and track 8, “Ain’t No Blame”, respectively. The third, track 10, “The Truth About Lies,” captures this storytelling essence paradigmatically, in a philosophical song of going through it all, from up to down, as might be sung by Willie Nelson doing a Kris Kristofferson song that’s been put to a blues-soul melody.
The remaining eight are medium-fast to fast blues with a touch of blues-rock, and they too run a good gamut of themes. Three are directly woman songs. Track 5, “Grits And Groceries” and track 7, “She’s Got The Look”, are songs of self-satisfaction for having a good woman that are built respectively around food and movie motifs. “Arkansas Dirtweed”, track 9, is a tale of romantic frustration built around the women of his life pictured as treacherous drivers who leave him stranded. The singer’s made into a hitchhiker who’s been dropped off in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by nothing but—what else?—Arkansas dirtweed. “God’s Little Acre”, track 2, is an up-tempo blues spiritual of coming to the Lord through being baptized in the muddy water and having one’s soul cleansed. Track 6, “Devil On My Shoulder”, is the desperate lament of a sharecropper about to be foreclosed on, contemplating whether to set fire to his barn as a fierce rainstorm looms and finally comes. Track 3, “Take A Breath”, is an ironic city blues of exasperation and irritation from being stuck in on the only available barstool—right next to a nonstop marathon talker. Cook delivers this one especially well, thoroughly capturing through gently humorous lyrics and delivery precisely that trapped feeling that all of us can relate to. But all of these songs partake of Cook’s outstanding acting ability to project emotion thorough song. Method acting par excellence.
The CD opens with an original that’s put together, jigsaw puzzle-like, from all those old clichés that abound in our language, “What You Gone Do,” and ends with a fast-rockin’ celebration, “It’s A Party,” whose title says it all. On this number, Pat “Cleanhead” Hayes punctuates with medium- and high-register amplified harp snorts. Outside Looking In has an insistent yet comfortable ambience that takes us from outside to plunk us enjoyably on the sofa in the living room, listening to the stereo blasting away with—what else?—the music of Tommy Lee Cook and Danny Shepard!
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.
Featured Blues Review 9 of 9
Big Shot Reub & The Reloaders - Roundhouse Blues
Hat and Case Music
10 songs; 47:26 minutes
Styles: West Coast Rockin’ Blues
Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Precision counts, even in music! Case in point: Big Shot Reub and the Reloaders with their debut release “Roundhouse Blues.” San Diego based Reuben Vigil and his posse (Jodie Hill on bass and Ric Lee on drums) play “almost right”--almost perfectly. However, that “almost” is HUGE. What crucial elements are present, and which are missing in the diversely influenced 10 song set of originals? The answer lies in the acronym LUV: Licks, Undertones, and Vocals. He nails two out of three.
LICKS: Big Shot Reub is a near-master on lead guitar! He displays his prowess with “So Much Inside Me,” which he characterizes on the Reverbnation website as “a jump-swing tribute to the greats, including Wynone Harris and Louis Jordan.” His musical arrangements are as varied and melodic as those in blues can get. Big Shot reminds me of a YouTube fan's comment about Mark Knopfler: “[he was] the man who could make the guitar tell stories.” Reub does the same. For more highlights, savor the picante flavor of “Viva Bracero” and the cutting intro on “Celestial”!
UNDERTONES: Songwriter Reub remembers that a well-crafted song is more than the sum of its parts: the melody, lyrics, and beat. The instrumental track “C” is chilling proof of this. Stevie Ray Vaughan most famously covered this territory in “Riviera Paradise,” although his version was more relaxing. Big Shot's will give one shivers. There's something ominous about the way one note follows another, reminiscent of a spider's slithering appendages climbing the nearest wall. There's also the wry desperation on “I Don't Drink” that one finds at the bottom of a bottle—or bass guitar. “I don't drink 'cause I'm alone. I drink 'cause you're not home!” Reub laments.
VOCALS: Not everyone can be Gregg Allman or Muddy Waters. Big Shot Reub’s technique and feeling are not at that level on this CD. The only addicting hook he presents is the one on “Time Was,” which will cause spontaneous sing-alongs.
Big Shot Reub & The Reloaders played and performed in various San Diego bands before coming together to record “Roundhouse Blues,” which in Vigil’s words, “is a labor of friendship and getting my friends back to work. In this effort all processes have been near seamless. I am a lucky man.”
Big Shot Reub has a shot at the big time if he heeds Mark Twain's words in relation to his blues!
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.
Not familiar with some of the 2011 nominees?
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Complete List of Nominees
Contemporary Blues CD
Traditional Blues CD
Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire
Eddie Turner - Miracles & Demons
John Németh - Name The Day
Damon Fowler - Devil Got His Way
JP Soars - More Bees With Honey
Buddy Guy - Living Proof
Bob Corritore & Friends - Harmonica Blues
Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings - That's the Way You Do
Charlie Musselwhite - The Well
Magic Slim - Raising The Bar
Song Of The Year
New Artist Debut Release
| Shake Your Boogie (Big Joe Williams) |
from Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys - Shake Your Boogie Still the Rain (Dennis Walker/Alan Mirikitani)
from Still The Rain- Karen Lovely
Living Proof (Tom Hambridge/Buddy Guy)
from Buddy Guy - Living Proof Don't Walk Away Run (Chuck Glass)
from Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire
The Well (Charlie Musselwhite)
from Charlie Musselwhite - The Well Almost A Memory by Wayne Russell
from Reba Russell Band - 8
| The Sugar Prophets - The Sugar Prophets Chris O'Leary Band - Mr. Used to Be |
Rob Blaine - Big Otis Blues Vincent Hayes Project - Reclamation
Matt Hill - On The Floor Peter Parcek - Mathematics of Love
Female Blues Artist
Male Blues Artist
|Teeny Tucker||John Németh|
Best Blues Band
Sean Costello Rising Star Award
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