Cover Photo © 2011 Marilyn Stringer
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In This Issue
New England journalist A. J. Wachtel has our feature interview with Chicago Blues guitarist Mike Wheeler.
We have five CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Mike Zito. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Bob Jones & The Drive. John Mitchell has two reviews, a new CD from Victor Wainright And The Wildroots and also a new one from MonkeyJunk. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD from The Sean Chambers Band. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
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Each week we bring you our best efforts in current Blues music information and news. We do it because we love it! And it is always FREE, we have never asked for anything but the chance to spread the good word about this American art form called the Blues.
Now for the first time in five years we are asking for YOUR help. We are working hard to bring you a great event with the Blues Blast Music Awards this month and we need your help to make that happen. There are three ways you can help.
First, you could make a one time donation using our paypal link. Donations of any amount will help! So won't you consider a $10, $20 or more donation to help us keep the Blues alive? Please donate now, CLICK HERE
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These sponsorships include great guaranteed seating, free Blues Blast Music Awards T-Shirts, a limited edition poster, a color edition of the awards show program and a "Blues goodie bag" with free CDs and other great Blues stuff. To check out these sponsorships now, CLICK HERE.
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As always, we will continue to bring you the best in Blues each week. Thanks for your help!
Good Blues To You!
We made it out to the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Arizona recently. This world famous Blues club, owned by harmonica wizard Bob Corritore, was celebrating their 20th Anniversary. It was a great weekend filled with many Arizona and national performers. Shown below are a few of them including Bob Corritore himself, Tommy Castro, Dave Riley, Bob Margolin, Diunna Greenleaf, Barrelhouse Chuck and Mud Morganfield.
We will post more photos of all the fun at this great celebration in an upcoming issue.
Featured Blues Interview - Mike Wheeler
Mike Wheeler is the real deal. He is also one of the finest young guitarists on the Chicago music scene today. You may have heard his performances with KoKo Taylor, Shemekia Copeland or Son Seals. Or you might have seen him gigging with Big James & The Chicago Playboys, Cadillac Dave & his Chicago Redhots or with his own band showcasing his heart-felt music packed with raw enthusiasm and aggressive guitar playing. One thing is certain: Wheeler is well on his way toward becoming the latest Chicago export to capture the ears of the Blues world with his soulful voice and ripping guitar work.
Blues Blast: Talk about your self-titled CD, "The Mike Wheeler Band". Who's on it and tell me about the songs.
Mike Wheeler: My cd was released in 2003. The players are: Cleo Cole on drums. Sam Green on bass. Brian James on keyboards and Lawrence Fields on sax. Special guests include Big James on trombone, Carlos Showers on guitar and Phil Moore on trumpet. I wrote eight of the nine songs. They are about things that I have experienced in life and relationships. The one cover song is "That's What Love Will Make You Do" by Little Milton. I'm currently writing my next cd with my bassist Larry Williams.
BB: Your soulful voice and growling guitar work is making people say you are on your way to fame and fortune playing the Blues. How do you feel about this?
MW: I'm pleased that someone would say that. Fame and fortune would be nice but I just enjoy playing music.
BB: What's the story behind all the work you do with Big James & The Chicago Playboys?
MW: I've been with Big James & The Chicago Playboys since 1998. Big James is an avid Blues lover. I have recorded four cd's with him including our latest "Right Here Right Now" on Blind Pig Records. The Playboys are the tightest band I've ever played with. When we hit the stage.....it's on !!!!!
BB: You can be heard on Big James & The Chicago Playboys "If It Wasn't 4 Da' Blues", Cadillac Dave & his Chicago Redhots "Checkin' Out My Baby", Sam Cockrell & The Groove's "I'm In The Business" and The Joanne Connor Band's CD. How has releasing your own debut CD helping your career ambitions?
MW: Releasing my own cd gives me the chance to show that I'm not just a sideman and that I also can contribute to the Blues world. Hopefully people will like it and follow my career from there.
BB: Tell me about your playing with Peaches Staten and any other artists in Chicago.
MW: I enjoy working with Peaches Staten. She has so much energy. I recorded a cd with her entitled "Live at Legends". I also recorded with Big Ray & Chicago's Most Wanted. The cd is called "Travellin' Lite". Big Ray is one of the leaders in the Chicago scene today. He makes things happen. I've been working with Nellie "Tiger" Travis since the early '90's. She's a great singer and entertainer. I've done shows with Demetria Taylor. She's one of the hottest young vocalists in Chicago and has a new CD out on Delmark Records.
BB: Your voice has been compared to Bobby Blue Bland. Is this a fair statement?
MW: I'm a big fan of Bobby Bland. Other influences are Little Milton, Otis Rush and Robert Cray. I don't know if it's a fair statement because it's not always obvious.
BB: Your guitar playing has been identified with Buddy Guy. Is this true and what other guitarists influence your playing?
MW: I love Buddy Guy's style and anyone coming from Chicago can't help but to be influenced by him. I'm also influenced by Albert, B.B. and Freddie King, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.
BB: You've been on television in Europe. How did this happen?
MW: I was in Latvia at Bite's Blues Place and the owner, Zigis , asked me if I wanted to be on t.v and I said yes and we went to the t.v. studio and did it. They had an interpreter to help out so it was cool !
BB: How are audiences all over the world in comparison to your fans in Chicago? What is the impression people have of the Chicago Blues scene all over the world?
MW: The audiences in Europe really love the Blues and they want to hear every note. Here in Chicago they are more vocal and they want to dance. The impression people have of the Chicago Blues scene all over the world is that it's a traditional based scene and even though we have incorporated other styles into it they still want to hear Chicago Blues too.
BB: Every second and fourth Monday your band plays at B.L.U.E.S in Chicago. What's the most difficult thing about playing in front of a critical audience week after week? What's the best thing?
MW: The most difficult thing is trying to please everyone in the room. It's not easy to do always but we try. The best thing is meeting people from all over the world that come to Chicago to hear the Blues.
BB: You are one of the great guitarists in Chicago. Care to share any funny stories about the artists and the scene that still crack you up?
MW: I remember when I first met Junior Wells. I was with Vern "Sticks' Taylor who later became his drummer and his father, Mr. Taylor. We were going to watch Junior perform at The Checkerboard 2. While we're riding in the car, Mr. Taylor is telling Vern and I how well he knows Junior.We're looking at him like we don't believe him. As soon as we get to the club Junior sees Mr. Taylor and says "Hey man, how have you been?" and pulls out a large stack of money and tells the bartender "give them anything they want". We had a good time that night !!!
BB: You've performed with KoKo Taylor, Shemekia Copeland, Jimmy Johnson, John Primer, Son Seals, Matthew Skuller, Willie Kent & The Gents, Cadillac Dave & His Chicago Redhots. What's in the future for you and what artists would you like to share the stage with at some point?
MW: I would one day like to share the stage with one of my heroes, B. B. King. I've met him but never performed with him. As for my future, I just want to make good music with good musicians for good people !!!
BB: How can people keep up to date with your life and career?
MW: People can keep up with me on my website which I'm about to update. www.mikewheelerband.com and also on Facebook: Mike Wheeler.
Interviewer A. J. Wachtel is a long-time entertainment journalist in New England and the East Coast who currently writes for The Boston Blues Society and The Noise Magazine. He is well known in the Boston and N.Y.C areas for his work in the Blues for the last two decades.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Mike Zito - Greyhound
For some people the third try is the charm. For Mike Zito, every trip to the plate has been a home run. This completes a trifecta: a career that has started with three great CDs. Zito plays, sings and writes with great expressiveness. Original songs that tell sad but interesting stories, a guitar that is fiery hot, and vocals that are gritty and authentic make for another great album by this young and burgeoning super star. Is this blues? Well, not really. It is more so rock done in a dark and country roots music sort of way, but it damn good stuff. I loved his previous CDs and I love this one, too!
Zito opens with “Roll On”, where he sings of looking for new love, where he’s got to “keep on moving and baby roll on”. He picks out a steady and poignant guitar solo that complements the lyrics and beat. He follows that up with the title track. He away and adds more great lyrics, more deep and dark feelings and we’ve still got ten tracks to go. It’s really a country rocker but man, it ain’t the pop country we are bombarded with- this is truly good stuff. The next two tracks Zito co-wrote, and both have Biblical references. “Judgment Day” (written with Gary Nicholson) and “Show Me the Way” (written with Osborne), which are also deep and dark songs that Zito delivers with his characteristic style.
Zito starts acoustically on “Stay” and is all acoustic on “Motel Blues”. He delivers the same intensity in his work without the big electric sound- he is equally adept on his Strat and on his acoustic guitar. To note, the last three songs on the album seem to be in a slightly different order than as listed on the cover, but despite the errant ordering they and the other tracks are all superb- exceptional lyrics of despair and hope, hardcore performances and a guitar that sings as well as he does.
Zito to is joined by Carl Dufrene on bass and vocals, Brady Blade on drums and vocals and Anders Osborne on back-up vocals and guitar. Osborne has done some superb stuff of late on his own and in producing and playing with others. He is hitting his own homeruns and deserves credit for driving in some runs here- solid production and backing work!
This is another exceptional album from a young man who burns with passion and displays it in his songs and performance. This is well worth adding to your music collection.
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 5
Bob Jones & The Drive - Michael and Me
15 songs; 63 minutes
Styles: Mellow Blues, Folk, Electric Guitar Blues
Sometimes, a tribute album is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it introduces (or reintroduces) listeners to noteworthy artists and their music, especially blues. On the other hand, they might make some wonder what the original songs sound like, and if the original musicians had performed them with more panache. In the case of “Michael and Me,” released by Bob Jones and the Drive, both of these suppositions are likely true.
It's a collection of memorable melodies and less-artful offerings thatindividually, one can take or leave. Certain arrangements, such as Roy Brown's “Lollipop Mama” and Mike Bloomfield/Lillian Green's “Knocking Myself Out,” will make one stand and sing or dance along! Others, like Otis Redding's “Cigarettes and Coffee,” are subtly muted here, lacking verve and unwittingly lulling fans. The album's crudest entrees, “Blue Movies,” “Do Me,” and “Women Loving Each Other,” sear the ear like overly-cooked Cajun dishes. These are highlights and low-lights, of course, but the overall impression this CD leaves is one of mellow satisfaction, remembering an old friend and a job well done.
A true veteran, Jones can be quite witty when he describes his various tunes. For instance, on his website, he deems “Knocking Myself Out” as “Mike's ode to his love of consciousness alteration.” “Raising Cane” at his uncle's plantation, he says wryly, “was supposed to cure my 'discipline problem'”! Every rendition on “Michael and Me” has a back-story, so check them all out. “I played and sang with Mike Bloomfield during the '70s as part of Mike Bloomfield and Friends,” Bob Jones states in the liner notes. “This album is a tribute to him and the music we played together.”
By no means is this band the first with whom Jones has performed. According to the bio on his website, his ensembles have included Fred McDowell, Otis Rush, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, Bunny Sigler, and Voodoo Suns. My 60 year old Dad remembers a hit song from 1965, “You Were on My Mind” by the band “We Five” that featured a young Bob Jones on guitars and backup vocals. Jones's career is now spanning four decades (the 1970's through 2011), and it continues through releases like this one. Born in Hawaii, he now lives in Maui and DJ's on the Mana'o Radio Show, every Wednesday night from 2-5:00 PM on 91.5 FM.
Even though some of his selections may be too low-key for die-hard blues fans, Jones is never one to let the songs within him, and other artists that he knew, fade away.
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.
Blues Blast Music Awards - Listen Online Live
Great News! Our friends at GLT Blues Radio 24/7 are going to stream the audio from the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards at Buddy Guy's Legends LIVE on October 27th!
Tune in FREE to hear Nick Moss Band, Reverend Raven And The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, Karen Lovely Band, Eddie Turner, Bob Corritore w/Dave Riley, Rich Del Grosso & Jonn Richardson, Peter Parcek, The Sugar Prophets, Teeny Tucker Band , Reba Russell Band, Gina Sicilia with Dave Gross, Matt Hill, Chris O'Leary Band, Vincent Hayes Project, Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues, Tony Rogers, and more as they perform LIVE from the greatest Blues club in the world, Chicago's own Buddy Guy's Legends. The broadcast will begin at 6:00pm CST sharp!
If you have never listened to GLT Blues Radio 24/7 be sure to check it out now by CLICKING HERE. Then be sure to bookmark their station and tune in.
We think they have THE best commercial free, all Blues, all the time internet radio station on the planet! So check them out and see what we mean.
Fans in the Bloomington/Normal and Central Illinois area will also be able to hear the show live on their regular FM radio dial at 89.9 FM or 103.5 FM in the Central, IL area.
Thursday October 27th, 2011 Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, IL
plus a few surprise guests!Advance tickets are $30 plus $3 handling. To get YOUR tickets now CLICK HERE
PLEASE NOTE: *Tickets are General Admission. Doors open at 5:00pm. Show starts at 6:00pm.
Seating is "first come first served". Show sold to SRO (Standing room Only) Get there EARLY for a seat! NO REFUNDS!
Want guaranteed seating right in front of the stage?
Buddy Guy's Legends has limited seating. With our Mini Sponsorship packages you can be sitting right in front of the stage to hear performances by the 2011 Nominees!
Our Mini Sponsor packages begin as low as $250 for two people and include guaranteed seating, Blues memorabilia "Goodie Bag", limited edition event poster, limited edition Blues Blast Awards T-shirts and sponsor's name listed in the souvenir awards program. Limited number of sponsorships available, first come first served! For more information CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Victor Wainright And The Wildroots – Lit Up!
14 tracks; 53.09 minutes
Pianist and singer Victor Wainright hails from Memphis and made quite a splash with his first CD “Beale Street To The Bayou” a couple of years back since when he has been touring constantly. “Lit Up!” was recorded in Edgewater, Florida, reunites most of the team that made the first CD and consists of entirely original material. Victor plays piano, sings all lead vocals and wrote half the material; Stephen Dees plays bass, produced the CD and wrote the other half of the material; Greg Gumpel plays guitar, Patricia Ann Dees tenor sax and backing vocals, Ray Guiser tenor sax and clarinet, Billy Dean drums. The horns are supplemented by Charlie DeChant on tenor, baritone and saxcello, Bob Dionne on trombone and Ken Titmus on trumpet, harmonica is added by Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson and Hammond by Chris Stephenson.
Victor has a strong voice, with just the right amount of gruffness to convince on songs like the opener “Big Dog’s Runnin’ This Town”, a fast paced shuffle which rocks along with the horns pushing hard and the piano pounding. “Busted flat in New York, down on your luck, now ain’t it a pity. Got a one way ticket on a ship of fools. Look out little dog, it’s time you learned the rules” is an extract from the lyrics from this great opener to the CD. “Ting Bang Bong” features harp on a pounding blues which conjures up the ghost of Howling Wolf. I particularly liked “Subliminal Criminal”, a slice of New Orleans with great piano and a strong chorus line: “Subliminal criminal don’t give a damn, got the whole world in the palm of his hands”.
“Walk Away My Blues” is a mid-paced blues and the longest cut on the disc. The horns support the rhythm and the piano takes the main solo. A real change of pace occurs with “Dixie Highway” which features acoustic guitar, bass and growling harp, a song that reminisces about the South, and “Weeds”, another acoustic tune with clarinet to the fore. Here the song talks of the hard work involved in working the land: “Dig down deep, plant them seeds, without hard work nothing grows but weeds.”
“Little Ole’ Shack” is a song about a remote juke joint which sounds like a great place to spend an evening: “A little ‘ole shack up on the hill about a half a mile from the whiskey still. The preacher won’t like it, but your daddy sure will” is an example of the lyrics on this nicely rocking piece. Title track “Lit Up!” is a song about being not just in love but aflame with desire. The harp features as a support to the vocal and the piano takes the main solo with the horns in close support. “Our Last Goodbye” is a far more somber piece, the Hammond providing gentle support and Victor’s vocal really expressing the pain of the ruptured relationship: “I believe it’s a sin, you know it’s a crime to waste each other’s life living a lie. Living in denial is no way to live, just lay it on the line now, something’s got to give. Look me in the eye, it’s time for our last goodbye.” “Don’t Doubt It ‘ce est bon’” makes a good contrast in tone with its positive chorus about enjoying what you have. “Coin Operated Woman” is an amusing song, a cautionary tale of the lady friend who is costing Victor all his money. A frantic pace on the piano sets the tone and the horns bounce off the riff of this fun piece. “Pile Of Blues” is another acoustic piece with harp, brushes on the drums and acoustic bass. “I can’t begin to tell you about the state I’m in. I had way too much to drink last night; can’t quite remember what I did but I’m sure it wasn’t right” sets the tone for Victor who has “stepped in a big pile of blues”!
“Honky Tonk Heaven” is a terrific foot stomper, a real boogie woogie workout on the piano for Victor, the horns baying along, a song about another of those legendary clubs: “Tell Saint Peter it’s all right, the pearly gates are coming down tonight; we’re going to raise a little hell in Honky Tonk Heaven tonight.” A superb tenor sax solo precedes more rocking boogie piano on what is probably the standout track on the CD for me. Final track “Let It Be The Same” is a ballad that is all Victor, just piano and voice. It is a strong, emotional song which deserves to be heard but I did not think that Victor’s voice is quite strong enough to carry the song alone.
I liked the variety of this well recorded CD which is full of excellent songs and performances. Victor has a big personality on stage that comes across on this record. I would expect this CD to further cement his reputation as one of the rising stars of the blues world.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning his trip to the Blues Blast Awards in October.
Blues Society News
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Blues Society of Western PA - Pittsburgh, PA
On October 22 at the Clarion Hotel, 401 Holiday Drive, Pittsburgh, PA The Blues Society of Western PA presents Blues Goes Pink- Divas Return Show from 1 pm – 9 pm. $12 to public, $10 to all blues members from any society. All proceeds to benefit Adagio Health to provide breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for underinsured women in Western PA. For more information visit Blues Society of Western PA at www.bswpa.org or call 724-378-8926
The Windy City Blues Society - Chicago, IL
The Windy City Blues Society is proud to announce the 2011 Chicago Blues Challenge (CBC). The CBC is a series of musical competitions that will determine which blues band will represent Chicago and The Windy City Blues Society at the Blues Foundation’s 2012 International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Chicago Blues Challenge will be held on Sundays in October culminating in the Finals in November. Venues will be announced shortly on the Windy City Blues Society Website.
The Chicago Blues Challenge Finals will be held Sunday, November 13. For more information about the Windy City Blues Society and the Chicago Blues Challenge please visit www.windycityblues.org or visit our Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter Sites.
The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign, IL
The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society will be holding its Blues Band Challenge on Saturday, October 22, 2011. This event will take place at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St., in downtown Champaign. Our winner will be heading down to Memphis, Tennessee to compete in The International Blues Challenge in January. For more information about this exciting event, please visit our website at www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org.
Colorado Blues Society - Boulder, CO
The Colorado Blues Society we will hold our Youth Showcase auditions at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont, CO on Oct 23 . Last year our S/D winners, Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen made the Finals in Memphis while our Band entry, the Lionel Young Band, WON the Band Finals in Memphis. The CBS' entry was the Solo Duo Memphis winner in 2008, and winning BSPCD in 2010, so you can be sure there will be plenty of talent at all of these great events! www.coblues.com
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. Oct. 10 – Too Slim & The Taildraggers, Oct. 17 – Southside Jonny & Kicked to the Curb, Oct 24 – Bruce Katz, Oct. 31 – Studebaker John and the Hawks. icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - October 11, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Friday, October 28, The Reba Russell Band, 8 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club,November 10, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, Venue TBA, December 1, Dave Herrero, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, WV
The West Virginia Blues Society will be holding it's 5th. Annual Appalachian Blues Competition Oct. 22, 2011. The Blues Society will be sending two acts to Memphis, Tn. for the International Blues Challenge, Band Div. and Solo/Duo Div. If, you think your Act is ready to take the next step, then, this IS the competition to enter ! For Application and Rules contact Competition Director Jack Rice at, firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-389-1439.
Competition will be held at: The Sound Factory 812 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25301-2807 · 1 (304) 342-8001 Stay tuned for more info at, www.wvbluessociety.org
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
MonkeyJunk – To Behold
10 tracks; 43.50 minutes
I had heard lots about Canadian band Monkeyjunk, but had not heard their music until I listened to this CD. It would have been difficult not to have heard of the band as they came third in the IBC in 2009 and their debut CD “Tiger In Your Tank” won a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut in 2010 – an impressive start for a band that only formed in 2008. Moreover if you have any connections to the LRBC you will certainly have heard of them because whenever there is a poll for who should come on the cruise lots of loyal Canadians immediately put MonkeyJunk forward!
The name apparently comes from Son House who was quoted as saying “I’m talkin’ about the blues. I ain’t talkin’ about monkeyjunk.” Originally formed in Ottawa, the band consists of Steve Marriner on lead vocals, harp and keyboards, Tony D on guitar and Matt Sobb on drums. Both Tony and Matt contribute backing vocals and there are additional background vocalists on a couple of tracks, but there is no bass (remember Hound Dog Taylor?). The CD was recorded in Ontario and produced by Steve Marriner and Ken Friesen and is out on Stony Plain, whereas the debut CD was an independent release. Four of the ten tracks come from the whole band with producer Friesen contributing to a further three. Tony and Steve offer one solo composition each and there is one cover of a Hank Williams Sr. tune.
With no bass and just three players you might be forgiven for expecting something quiet and acoustic, but you would be wrong, as the first track on the CD “Mother’s Crying” rips out of the speakers, driven by a frantic drum beat and snarling slide, with a dramatic harp solo as the main instrumental feature. This is a dark song, as demonstrated by the opening line: “Mother, she’s crying, she can’t be the only one who got blood on her hands for what the children done.” Steve Marriner has a good voice which gets the message of the song across well. Second song is the Hank Williams cover, "You're Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)” which leads off with harp and slide, the drums setting the pace on a jaunty version of a country classic.
“Right Now” offers a further change of pace with wah-wah guitar and something of a reggae beat but this one is more of a rock tune, especially on the chorus where additional backing vocals assist Steve. “Let Her Down” opens with piano and organ before Steve’s vocal comes in on a slow, moody piece: “I’m so far away, looking out on some lonely town. I can’t forget the day I let that good woman down”. The middle section provides an opportunity for Tony to demonstrate his precise guitar playing on a well measured solo.
So, after four tracks we have had upbeat blues, country, rock and slow blues. But MonkeyJunk has not finished demonstrating their repertoire as Steve Marriner’s solo composition “With These Hands” gives us a piece of soul with a really catchy chorus. I had already been impressed by Steve’s singing but on this track he excels, aided by a chorus of backing vocalists. Tony plays as if he was a Memphis session player and the whole piece is a standout cut on the CD.
After that “You Don’t Know” brings a sharper edge to proceedings: “In your little world there’s no need for truth, so go on thinking you’re a star.” Menacing harp adds to the atmosphere of the song which coasts along on the guitar riff. “While You Are Mine” is a lengthy slow piece with nicely accented guitar, organ and harp embellishing the tune: “If you think you’ve got me tamed, you better think again” is an example of the lyrics on this song about a relationship coming to an end. “Running In The Rain” is a bright upbeat rocker with strong guitar and harp performances which recalls songs like Delbert McClinton’s “Leap Of Faith”.
Tony D’s solo composition “All About You” follows and is another soulful piece and contains some interesting lyrics about the strength of love: “You speak of the Almighty and if it’s God you answer to, I will get next to God if it means I can get closer to you”. Some gentle slide guitar over keyboards gives this tune a warm feel. Final cut “The Marrinator” is an instrumental for Steve to demonstrate his considerable harp skills.
MonkeyJunk has produced a CD with plenty of variety and I was impressed throughout by the fullness of the sound they manage to produce as a trio. I can easily recommend the CD and look forward to having an opportunity to see MonkeyJunk live at some point in the future.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning his trip to the Blues Blast Awards in October.
For those of you who are planning to come to Chicago for the Blues Blast Music Awards at Buddy Guy's Legends in October, our official hotel for the awards is the Essex Inn located just around the corner from Legends.
It is a nice hotel within walking distance. Get your reservations before they are gone.
To book your rooms now CLICK HERE or call 800 621-6909 and ask for the Blues Blast Magazine discount rate.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
The Sean Chambers Band – Live From The Long Island Blues Warehouse
Blue Heat Records
10 songs: 45:09 minutes
Touring with Hubert Sumlin from 1998-2003 was guitarist/vocalist Sean Chamber’s education on playing the blues. Since striking out on his own, Chambers has forged his own style of blues playing that has gathered steam as he plays at clubs scattered about Florida with sojourns to the Northeast.
His last studio release Ten To Midnight was clearly his best effort as he merged the styles of Walter Trout, Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix together to produce a worthwhile package of songs. Now with the release of Live From The Long Island Blues Warehouse, Chambers is intent on capturing the essence of these songs in a live setting recorded in front of a studio audience. It’s a concept that can work or fall flat on its face. But Sean has no problems in pulling it off. Aided by drummer Paul Broderick , bassist Tim Blair and harp player Gary Keith, Sean lays the grooves down thick and heavy. It’s blues rock played at its best with festival and club audiences being satisfied by the songs catchy riffs.
Ten songs are featured with a few covers thrown in to make things interesting. Though Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” has been played often enough, Chambers still makes it a welcome choice with Keith’s harmonica playing driving the song to new heights of boogie.
Obviously the acknowledgements to the power trios of yesteryear are in evidence. However if you are fan of the Hendrix Experience, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Cream, then there is no problem in falling in love with music like this.
Chambers works the pedal hard in opening cut “Dixie 45” which owes as much to the Voodoo Chile but clearly comes stamped with Sean’s indelible logo. Sean’s pedal gets a work-out in other tracks, particularly “Danger Zone,” a high energy blues rocker. The tempo gets shifted into overdrive with the band charging at full gallop through rocker “Too Much Blues.” And if a Chambers song can live up to its name, then the honor should go to “Hip Shake Boogie,” a boogie blaster with Sean introducing band members after short solos. It’s a sweat-drenched mutha with Sean pulling out his best Stevie and Jimi licks wrapped in gooey chords and wah-wah nirvana.
Rather than putting several slow blues tracks on the cd, Chambers waits till the last song to for a listener to catch a breath. Being that “In The Winter Time” clocks in at a little more than ten minutes doesn’t mean it overstays its welcome. Far from it. It’s a great opportunity for Sean to display the prowess he has with his instrument. Slowing the momentum down gives Chambers a chance to slow-burn on the fretboard and despite the song being long things never get boring with Chambers turning up the heat in a slow sizzling blues track.
Altogether this music clocks in at 45 minutes. Nothing wrong with that as there is no filler to stretch the CD format to a time that it doesn’t need to be. Sometimes it’s best to leave a listener wanting more then to go for maximum overkill with extra tracks that don’t need to be there on the first place. If that’s Sean’s philosophy than it’s a pretty cool business move. No doubt as he makes his tour stops, selling this at the merchandise table should be no problem. Listeners catching his first set won’t mind shelling out some bucks for a piece of blues-rock played honestly and raw. And Sean can work those conditions carte blanche.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
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