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From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Voting in the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards started last Friday. Nearly 2000 votes have been cast in the first week!
We drew the first weekly prize winner from those who have voted today and it was for a free Blues Blast T-shirt won by Kat Ely.
If you haven't voted yet then you are missing out on a chance to win FREE Blues CDs, Blues Blast T-shirts or even a couple tickets to the Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies at Buddy Guy's Legends in October. We are randomly drawing for prizes each week from those who vote in this years Blues Blast Music Awards. So CLICK HERE to vote NOW!
Speaking of tickets, Blues Blast Music Awards tickets are now on sale. The Blues Blast Music Awards are Thursday, October 27th at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. Get your tickets for this great event now, CLICK HERE.
The Briggs Farm Blues Festival
We are headed to Nescopeck, Pennsylvania this weekend for the 14th Annual Briggs Farm Blues Fest. This fest is held on a farm in a great country setting and features Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang, Andrew "Jr Boy" Jones, Teeny Tucker and many more great Blues performers. Check out their ad below or visit www.briggsfarm.com for tickets and information.
Look for the folks in the Blues Blast T-shirts and say hello! See you there.
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Kenny Neal. Bob Kieser has a photo essay of the Blues On The Fox Festival
We have four CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Chris Dair. Michael Ford reviews a new CD from Common Ground Blues. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Davis Coen. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Kenny Neal
Kenny is back.
Sounds like a pretty innocent little statement, doesn’t it?
Perhaps it means that Kenny has returned from vacation, or maybe made his way back from the grocery store.
Put it this way - if a person saw the 11 letters that make up that phrase scrawled on a piece of stationary taped to a refrigerator, that person would probably have little cause to stop and really think about the meaning behind those three small words.
But when those three small words are spelled out with used hypodermic needles – that’s another matter entirely.
One guaranteed to grab immediate and complete attention.
Kenny is back.
After the harrowing ordeal that Kenny Neal went through a couple of short years ago, those three small words should be shouted with joy from the top of the highest building that Baton Rouge, Louisiana has to offer.
Because Neal had to claw his way back from the very depths of hell, pulling himself through a vortex of pain and suffering that the very devil himself would probably not wish upon a person.
After becoming extremely sick about six years ago, Neal was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a disease that left him so drained and unable to function on a daily basis. It to ground his recording and touring career to a screeching halt.
Not only did this illness have a critical effect on his vocation of playing the blues, Hepatitis C also forced Neal to undergo a weekly series of painful injections – just to stem the tide of the nasty disease that attacks the liver.
“I took 58 weeks of treatment,” Neal said. “That was every Monday. No getting away from that.”
But somehow Neal found the strength and conviction to pull through all the required treatments.
And when the treatments were mercifully over?
“I kept all my needles and when I finished up with my last treatment, we pulled the needles out of this big container and my wife and I laid them on the floor and we had just enough needles to write ‘Kenny is back’ on the floor. Isn’t that a trip?” he asked. “My wife asked what told me to do that and I couldn’t answer. We couldn’t believe that we had just enough needles to do that. I went through hell and back, but now we’re starting to see the light.”
However, Neal’s trip through the depths of misery was not strictly confined to ones of the medical nature.
For during the same time-frame his body was being battered by Hepatitis C, his heart was wracked with another level of pain all its own.
Because during a heart-breaking 11-month span, Kenny Neal saw his beloved father Raful, along with a brother, Ronnie and a sister, Jackie, pass way.
Despite playing against what looked like a deck loaded not in his favor, Neal found a way to bounce back, landing on his feet with the magnificently-uplifting Let Life Flow (Blind Pig) CD, released to much critical accord in 2008.
The inspirational title track from his comeback even garnered Neal a Blues Music Award (BMA) for Song of the Year.
That folks, is true perseverance.
Because as weak as he was at the time of its creation, it’s a wonder that song ever managed to find the light of day.
“After about seven months into my treatments, I was really sick. I was weak and my immune system was almost shot,” Neal said. “Just about 80-percent of my white blood cells were dead and I was just drained all the time. I was trying to get out of bed to go to the bathroom one morning and I just couldn’t get up. And so I was pushing and struggling and when I did finally sit up on the side of the bed, I said to myself, ‘One thing I know – you just got to let life flow.’ I was talking to myself. But something told me, write that down. I jotted it down by my bed and the next thing you know, the song just took off on its own. I didn’t even really have to work to write it. It told me what it wanted to say.”
Was it perhaps a case of divine intervention?
“I’ll tell you the truth. Even though I’m going to continue to write and play music, it’s going to be hard to top that one,” said Neal. “It just came from so much hurt and grief … everything. That’s heart and soul right there. I really think there was some other power at play there. For me to survive what I went through, it was for a reason. I came back stronger and with a CD that I never dreamed of having.”
While most fans of the blues are quick to name Chicago and the Mississippi Delta as regions central to the development of the genre - and rightfully so - the state of Louisiana’s contributions to the art form are sometimes under appreciated.
But without Louisiana, especially around the Baton Rouge area, we would have no Kenny Neal.
Or Buddy Guy, or Sonny Landreth, or Slim Harpo or Lazy Lester … to name just a few.
“We have our own identity, coming from the south,” Neal said. “Our blues songs have that French influence and also the ragtime – as it was called before jazz, which was created down here – is in our music, too. So we have a mixture of the blues, and then a little west of here, you have the Cajun thing and then you go south of here and have the whole New Orleans thing. Then, there’s the sounds coming down from Mississippi. So the Baton Rouge guys got caught in between all those sounds. And that’s where we come up Slim Harpo and the Polk Salad Annie thing – it all evolved into our own style around here. And that’s something I want to preserve, even though I’ve got my own Kenny Neal thing going on. I’m always going to touch back home. We have something very special around here.”
A young Kenny Neal didn’t have to look very much past his own doorstep to gain entry into the world of the blues – it was provided by his father Raful, who at one time, counted Buddy Guy as a band mate – foreshadowing Kenny’s later tenure in the Legend from Lettsworth’s band.
“We come out of a little place called Urbenville, La., and my dad raised 10 kids off of his harmonica, his juice harp, you know?” Neal said. “And it was because of him that I’m where I’m at. He’s why I do what I do, why I play the blues.”
Kenny, the eldest of the 10 Neal siblings, has fond memories of growing up in a musical family, although those childhood memories stop short of him recalling just exactly how, or when, his ability to pluck a guitar first surfaced.
“Number one, none of us (Neal children) remember ever learning how to play,” he said. “Seven boys and three girls and the weird thing is, none of us can tell you when we learned to play. There’s no such thing for us. It’s just always been there. You just grew up around music and it’s in the blood. And now, my little nieces and nephews and doing the same thing. The next generation is experiencing the same thing we did. It just comes natural to them, too. It’s just in our blood, in our food, man.”
The legendary Slim Harpo, an under-valued bluesman if there ever was one, spent many an evening hanging around the Neal household during Kenny’s youthful days, playing music and also playing a few gags on his buddy Raful’s kids.
“My dad was 21 years older than me and I had a chance to hang with him. And that’s why I was around Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Phil Guy and Buddy Guy,” Neal said. “I mean, they were just like normal folks to me. I remember one time when I was a little kid, I got upset with Slim Harpo and told him I didn’t like him. He played a trick on me one time and closed the cellar doors with me in there and things got pitch-black in a hurry. He didn’t know I was going to freak out, but I’ve got a phobia and started screaming and hollering. He tried to make it up to me by giving me his harmonica, but I still didn’t like it. But he and my dad were real big friends and I’m pretty sure they got a kick out of that, even though I sure didn’t. But it was great growing up in that environment.”
Since making his mark as a bandleader in the late 1980s, the one thing that Kenny Neal has managed to do is stay true to those days and his Baton Rouge roots. And the way it sounds, he has no plans at changing up that formula at this stage of the game.
“I don’t ever want to get away from that (the way he was brought up),” he said. “There are probably some guys my age, whose fathers played and they want to move away from their upbringing. They don’t want to be called blues players. They want their music categorized as something else. Not me. I have to keep it real. And I’m proud to call my stuff swamp blues.”
Neal, who has seen his name on the list of Grammy nominations in the recent past, was up for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, along with the Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year at this year’s BMAs, is certainly grateful for all the attention has career has generated over the years.
But once again, the subject of family takes center stage when Neal reflects on those accolades.
“I appreciate people giving me my props and not waiting until I’m dead and gone,” he said. “So I do appreciate the awards. But the most rewarding thing to me was being able to give back to my father. I was able to come back home and take him out on the road with me to Japan, Germany and France … places he never dreamed of going. That’s priceless to me. I’m not a rich man, but I’m a happy man. I was happy to share that with him before he left this world. For me to be able do that, I feel like I’ve already reached all my goals, you know?”
That intimate sense of family is also prevalent at Neal’s Place, a cable television show that found its roots during his struggles with Hepatitis C, back when California’s bay area was where Kenny Neal hung his hat.
“I was so bored by having to take off from playing music, that one day I saw a commercial on TV advertising for people to have their own TV show. So I phoned them up and met with them and then I had a brainstorm to do a talk show,” he said. “I’d have the band sit on stools around me and play and then I’d have a guest on to interview, like Jimmy McCracklin talking about the days when he had the number one hit, “The Walk,” and stuff like that. And then all of a sudden, all these great old-timers started calling me wanting to get on my TV show. And then the show won a W.A.V.E. Award for Talk Entertainment. And there I was, half-dead, couldn’t play and this show takes off. I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Forty-eight episodes are in the can and are still being shown on the west coast, going out to around 30,000 households four nights per week. Those not living in that part of the country can view Webcasts of Neal’s Place via a link at www.kennyneal.net.
To see Kenny Neal on stage in 2011 is to see a man full of life with a renewed sense of self confidence and seemingly-boundless energy.
It’s almost certain that if you didn’t know that he had been sidelined with a life-threatening condition a few years ago, you sure couldn’t tell it by the way he spreads the gospel of the soulful swamp blues with a big smile across his face.
That goes for whatever continent that Neal and his band-mates happen to be burning up, in support of his latest release, last year’s Hooked on Your Love.
“For me, I know what I come to do. I don’t care if I’m in Africa or Japan or America – I get the same response,” he said. “And I’m glad that I do, because that lets me know that it’s working. I know a lot of performers go to Europe and think that the crowds go crazy for them there – and they do – but I just played for between 15-20,000 people this weekend over here (United States) and I had them in the palm of my hand. So it doesn’t matter for me. I read the people and then make a connection. And once I make that connection, I keep it there. I don’t let them get away.”
And in the end, that’s all the proof we need to know, that indeed, Kenny is back.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 4
Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers - Going To The Westside
Jackie Scott is a hard working woman whose music career also revolves around her day job. She does not tour as much due to this and her fame is perhaps being held back by this. She is an outstanding vocalist and songwriter who emotes both with her exemplary performances and her well-used pen. If you have not listened to this woman and her band yet, you are missing out on some great stuff.
I first heard Jackie at last year's Blues Blast awards and after listening to her first album I was entranced with her music. A great first album is also a tough act to follow, but Ms. Scott's sophomore release is more than up to the task. Joined on three tracks by the great Eddie Shaw, what really amazed me is that I preferred to listen to Jackie on her own. Sure, Eddie's sax and vocals add greatly to the mix but I found myself even more enamored with the songs he wasn't on. She was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition for "Mississippi Hook", where Shaw does backing vocals, and has a track written by Shaw ("Chicken House Shorty"), but the standout tracks here for me are the opening track "Broke as Dick's Hatband" and the soulfully stirring "I'm Tired". She performed the former at last years' Blues Blast Awards show and I was and remain impressed. (Editors Note: Jackie Scott won the Blues Blast Award last year for Best New Artist Debut Recording: with her CD, How Much Woman Can You Stand?.)
Jackie sings and talks to us about the plight of poverty in a truly bluesy way. "I'm Tired". shows us some really expressive talents and speaks volumes about her emotions and relationships; it was certainly and easily my favorite and the best track on the disc (despite the renowned Mr. Shaw not being on it).
Shaw also appears on the title track and "Smooth Taste revisited" and his presence is of course huge. Scott dedicates the CD to him. But Jackie really doesn't need help; she wrote eight of the songs, which range from amusing ("Pink Cadillac", a sappy yet fun song about her dream car) to the gut wrenching (as noted above). She can get down and dirty, be uplifting, soulful, playful or whatever she needs to be. There are many female vocalists out there who can carry a tune or sing the blues with great pride. What Jackie does is even more impressive- her performances are at a level above most others. Couple that with the ability to write super songs that are in all of her wheelhouses and we have a talent the the blues world needs to learn more of.
Her band is solid behind her. Tommie Fisher's key board work is well done, Mark Hopkins is admirable on guitar, Avelino Pitts on sax is powerful and the back line of Dave Holland and Darren Simons on bass and drums are excellent. Eddie Shaw is notable in his performances as are the folks who join him. But the talent I wanted to listen to here was Jackie- she is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of the blues. Run out and buy this and her earlier CD "How Much Woman Can You Stand" if you want to hear what the future of female blues vocalists should and will sound like!!
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 4
Chris Dair - Crossroads to Freedom
13 songs; 54:08 minutes
Styles: Guitar driven Modern Electric Blues
This album is some serious, and often amazing, guitar in a variety of styles, but listeners won't find out much about Chris Dair from the cover art and absent liner notes of his most recent CD, Crossroads to Freedom. From the one liner note, one will receive only one clue to this puzzle: “A collection of original Blues from Mississippi Delta to Chicago street written and performed by Chris Dair.” Fortunately for this reviewer, there was a sticker on the front of the CD announcing that he had a website. Aha! Here one will discover that Chris has earned the top spot on the Reverbnation blues charts in France and is also number one on the Blues Connections CD charts. Beyond that, the information is so sketchy, I am not sure if he is French or British. He’s French, I think, but he has sure spent a lot of time in England.
His website states, “Chris Dair was inspired to play the guitar at an early age by Manitas de Plata, who triggered a passion for guitar and a love of flamenco guitar. At age 14 he developed a passion for blues and gigged in London at venues like Ronnie Scotts with John Mayall, John McVie and George Melly. As a young lead guitarist, Chris jammed/played with many of the R&B and rock legends of our time, including Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Paige (sic), Ginger Baker, Captain Beefheart, Dave Davies (The Kinks), Mickey Finn (T-Rex), Mark Knopfler, Led Zeppelin, Peter Green, Jeff Beck. Most unforgettably, he played with the great blues legend Bukka White, and more recently Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and John Coughlan (Status Quo).”
Does that make him famous? Not on the U.S. blues scene, but that may come in time. He's definitely got the “raw material” of talent, technique, and state-of-the-art equipment to turn his guitar into a fiery narrator of almost every song on “Crossroads to Freedom.”
The CD is Chris Dair's fourth album and his first album completely dedicated to the blues. It consists of 13 tracks which are all originals. Familiar in styles such as B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, the CD’s only musician and vocalist Chris Dair. All of the bass, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, violin, and juice harp instruments are played by Dair, recorded and produced in is small studio at home. He also matches his vocals to each song’s particular style.
However, considerable passion and genuine feeling seems to be missing. Some people love to “hear themselves talk,” and a guitar (as wonderful as it is) can be much the same way. Only proven guitar gods like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix (one of Dair's big influences) can play eight-minute-plus jams like this CD's title track without anybody getting tired.
Overall, “Crossroads to Freedom” is worth a listen, but notice the singular article here. Everybody deserves a chance, and this reviewer is glad that so many famous blues musicians have been willing to give Dair one.
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 Blues On The Fox Festival
Photos by Bob Kieser
Blues Blast Magazine headed to Aurora, Illinois recently for the 15th Anniversary of the famous Blues On The Fox Festival. This fest, which was free for many years, charged a token admission price of only $5 this year and it was a real entertainment bargain!
Their stellar lineup started off on Friday night with Eric Lindell.
Eric is an awesome guitarist and singer and he put on a great show to kick things off.
Next up was the headliner, Robert Cray Band. We enjoyed the show but we really did not get many photos because Robert only allows photographers to shoot for one song without flash. So we took a seat and enjoyed the show!
On Saturday the main lineup started off with one of the three great harmonica players at this event, Billy Branch and his Sons Of Blues.
Billy and the band put up another great set of Blues which the crowd and this photographer really enjoyed.
Next up Was Kenny Neal. Kenny is known as one of the best guitar players and songwriters out there. He also plays a mean harmonica too and it was in the a treat to see his band tear the place up! Kenny is nominated for a Blues Blast Music awards for Best Male Blues Artist.
Next up was a real harmonica legend, Charlie Musselwhite. Charlie has won more awards for his work than almost any other Blues musician on the planet. He had guitar ace Matthew Stubbs playing with him and it was an great combination to warm up the crowd for the headliner. Charlie is nominated for
Buddy Guy himself was the headliner for the festival on Saturday and he drew a huge crowd of over 10,000 Blues lovers.
Buddy was on fire this night as he played songs from his last CD, Sweet Tea, and from his latest CD, Living Proof.
It has been a good year for Buddy. He won a Grammy and 5 Blues Music Awards so far this year and he is nominated for 3 Blues Blast Music Awards. At 74 years old, he is one true Blues legend in the prime of his career.
The 2011 Blues on the Fox festival was a real success. We can't wait for next year!
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Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH
Cincy Blues Society presents the Cincy Blues Fest August 5 & 6, 2011. Cincinnati's Sawyer Point Park will be rocking with local and national blues performers. This year, the Budweiser Main Stage features Eden Brent, Big James Montgomery and the Chicago Playboys, Rick Holmstrom, Moreland & Arbuckle, Ben Prestage, and Tad Robinson, as well as Cincy Blues Challenge winners Miss Lissa & Company and Brian Keith Wallen.
Festival admission is $15 per person Friday and $15 per person Saturday (2-day passes will be sold for $25 at the gate on Friday), children 13-18 are only $5 each day, and children 12 and under (with parent/guardian) are free. A full list of performers and scheduled times is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website: http://cincybluesfest.org
Blues Society of the Ozarks - Springfield, MO
The Blues Society of the Ozarks based out of Springfield, Mo is happy to announce the line up for the 15th Annual Greater Ozark Blues Festival to be held at Chesterfield Village in Springfield, Mo September 9 & 10, 2011
We are proud to present on Friday September 9, 2011 Mary Bridget Davies Band, Larry Garner & Lil Ed & the Imperials on Saturday September 10, 2011 the line up includes: Terry Quiett Band, Grand Marques, JP Soars and the Red Hots, Shaun Murphy, and Joe Lewis Walker. For more information and tickets visit our web site at www.greaterozarksbluesfest.com or 417-860-5078
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. The festival includes performances by Bernard Allison, Big Time Sarah, Lionel Young Band, Steve "The Harp", Janiva Magness, Bryan Lee, Cee Cee James, Matthew Curry & The CurrFew and The New & Slightly Used. during the Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival. 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. 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 4
Common Ground Blues – Too Much Talkin’
Self release CD
8 tracks – 37 minutes
Phoenix is the USA’s biggest state capital but geography and demography deny it as big a blues presence as say Austin in Texas or Baton Rouge in Louisiana. You’re more likely to find concerts under ‘Rock’ or, in particular, ‘Country’ in the AZ Weekly listings. But Blues is a hardy perennial and thrives in a cluster of downtown bars and clubs such as CK’s, The Rhythm Room, Skipper’s Lounge and Pat Murphy’s. It’s here that Common Ground Blues ply their bluesy trade. And their self-released CD – Too Much Talkin- takes you straight to that scene without the inconvenience of flying into Sky Harbour International Airport.
CG Blues are a five-piece outfit based around the vocals of Glen Farkash and the guitar of Brian Marsherella. They also provide the only self-penned song on the CD -its title-track. Making up the quintet are Earl Abbot (keys), Timothy Kinsey (bass) and Guy Mazzarella (drums).
The band, individually and collectively, have been around long enough to have seen waves of blues come and go and to absorb material and licks from each. They centre, though, on the classic blues of the 50s and 60s when giants like Bobby Bland and Buddy Guy were in their pomp. The stand-out track, for me, is "I Smell Trouble" (Track 5) which was, coincidentally, recorded by both those fine artists as well as Ike and Tina Turner and, memorably, by Johnnie Taylor. Glen sings the mid-paced mournful classic with an anguished growl with Brian excelling on an extended guitar solo and tasteful Otis Spann-like piano from Earl sitting nicely in the mix.
Earl’s jazz influences at to the fore when he switches to organ for Art Blakely’s instrumental "Moaning" (Track 6) which first saw light-of-day on the very first Blue Horizon LP in 1957. This has a real ‘Wade in the Water’ feel to it and clearly shows the instrumental prowess that CG Blues possesses. Earl’s B3 sound complements Brian’s clean Strat-tones beautifully with Timothy and Guy providing irresistible bedrock for their melodies. This track emphasizes that the combo value musicality over bluster –the guitar sound eschews distortion and the drums are miked to emphasize snare rather than bass. Full credit should go to engineer Mike Bolenbach.
With the exception of B. B. King surely Taj Mahal is our greatest living bluesman and is without equal amongst those emerging in the second half of the twentieth century. The band pays tribute to him with his 1993 classic "Strut" (Track 3). For my money this is Glen’s best vocal performance on this release. His delivery is looser and understated and brilliantly punctuated by Earl’s keys.
There are hints within the CD of a ‘good-time-was-had-by-all’ band in their live setting; not always easy to replicate in the studio. What does it take, then, for an extremely proficient, experienced outfit like this to break through to the next level? Oodles of good luck helps, obviously, but beyond that choice of material makes all the difference. If you’ve ever played "Blues Festival Bingo" (setting off to fringe venues seeking to be the quickest to tick-off performances of "Everyday, I Have the Blues", "Going to Chicago", "Stormy Monday" and "Mustang Sally") you’ll be alarmed to find that three of those numbers appear in whole or in part here. The title-track, their own, "You Talk Too Much" (Track 8) is a good performance which stands up well amongst the ‘standards’ included and ought to encourage them towards including more Phoenix-penned material on their next visit to Full Well Studios.?
Reviewer Michael Ford is a retired school principal living in the North of England. He is a heavily involved volunteer in the organization of Bronte Blues Club (www.bronteblues.com) and writes for and performs in the house-band there. He has played in bands over the years opening for such artistes as Clarence Carter, Howard Tate, Dorothy Moore, Sherman Robertson, Doug MacLeod, Mojo Buford and Larry Garner.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 4
Davis Coen – Jukebox Classic
Soundview - 2010
11 tracks; 35.12 minutes
Davis Coen is based in Charleston, South Carolina, and has recorded a number of CDs since the turn of the millennium. This one appears to be the remaining tracks from recording sessions in 2008, the first batch of which appeared on his 2009 release Magnolia Land. Like its predecessor, Jukebox Classic was produced by Jimbo Mathus and features the same band: Justin Showah on bass, Kent Kimbrough on drums and Eric Carlton on keys. Coen handles guitar and vocals and Mathus fills in on bass and guitar where required.
The title of the CD is a big clue as all these tracks come in at around three minutes and thereby qualify as ‘jukebox length’. There are seven originals written by Davis Coen but the CD kicks off in great style with a cover of Earl King’s “Better World”. I don’t know whether it’s Davis’ voice or the loping rhythm that reminds me of mid-period Clapton (think “Tulsa Time”). There then follows a run of originals, starting with “Don’t Ever Be Sorry” which has a definite country feel, ringing guitars and a lyric that stresses the need to look forward and have no regrets.
With Jimbo Mathus in the producer’s role I had expected more of a North Mississippi Hill Country music approach and that style is more apparent on the third track, “Cool With Me Tonight”, though in general that style of blues is not very much heard on this CD. Track 4 “Long Lost Friend” is another tune that is more country than blues. Twin guitars and piano lend themselves well to the tune. “Stranger In My Home” is much more of a blues with some nice restrained slide work on this mid-paced tune. “Bad Loser” with its rolling piano at the heart of the tune is pure pop, a catchy chorus and Davis’ rather sad voice on what, in another era, could certainly have been a popular choice on the jukebox.
“Waitin’ On A Fire” opens with dramatic organ and slide guitar and is again a catchy refrain, the guitars nagging away behind the main riff to keep the tune in your mind long after it has finished. The last original is “Tight Times”, the shortest track on the CD at just over 2 minutes. It is an acoustic blues piece in which Davis adopts a higher pitch in his vocal, making the song sound like something that one of the older bluesmen might have recorded.
The CD concludes with three covers which are all played fairly straight. “By And By” and “Big Leg Woman” are tagged as ‘Traditional’. The former is a slide driven gospel piece with strong drumming from Kent Kimbrough. The latter is not the Freddie King song, but occupies a similar place lyrically, Davis extolling the virtues of the fairer (and larger!) sex. Arthur Crudup’s “After Hours” brings the CD to a conclusion on a downbeat, the song’s bleak lyrics well presented in a mournful version.
Overall this is a solid CD with some good songs. I liked the idea of presenting a series of short songs that might have been the length required for a jukebox. Indeed, several would qualify in terms of their catchy nature. A positive aspect of the CD being leftovers from the earlier session is that no particular style dominates.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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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
| Gina Sicilia |
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