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In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Tommy Castro. We have six CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Julius Pittman & the Revival. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Bobby Rush. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Mike Pachelli. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Jackie Johnson. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from JT Coldfire. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Boo Boo Davis . All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We had a great time at the Blues Blast Music Awards last Thursday. Of course there were a few surprises in addition to the 16 artists that were scheduled and played including Nick Moss Band, Reverend Raven And The Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, Karen Lovely Band, Eddie Turner, Bob Corritore & Dave Riley, Rich Del Grosso & John Richardson, Peter Parcek, The Sugar Prophets, Teeny Tucker, Reba Russell Band, Gina Sicilia with Dave Gross, Matt Hill, Chris O'Leary Band, Vincent Hayes Project, Tony Rogers & Sharrie Williams and Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues!
First off there was the surprise appearance by drummer, song writer and producer Tom Hambridge. Tom wrote the award winning song "Living Proof" with Buddy Guy and produced the album by the same name for Buddy. He is Buddy's road drummer too.
Tom showed up after opening up for ZZ Top in Rockford earlier in the evening and performed a couple songs from his new CD Boom!
Then Buddy got up and did a song too and it was quite a show!
Buddy was the big winner of the evening winning three of the eight awards for the evening for Best Male Artist, Song Of The Year and Best Contemporary Blues CD.
Buddy's set and acceptance comments were the highlight of the evening.
Another big winner and surprise performer was Trampled Under Foot who won the awards for Best Blues Band and also the Sean Costello Rising Star Award.
TUF guitarist Nick Schnebelen jammed on a number with Candye Kane's guitar player, Laura Chavez
Other notable winners were Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith who the award for Best Traditional Blues CD for thir album, Joined At The Hip.
Willie's son Javik accepted their award.
Winning the Best Female Blues Artist award was the late, Robin Rogers. Husband Tony Rogers played a couple of Robin's songs with Sharrie Williams and accepted the award from Koko Taylor's daughter Cookie Taylor.
The remaining award for Best New artists Debut CD was the award that was the most contested with the winner Chris O'Leary Band winning by a mere 3 votes out of more than 6,500 cast. Who say your vote doesn't count?
The Lifetime achievement award went to Michael Frank who graciously accepted while the crowd gave him a much deserved standing ovation.
I would like to thank our hard working staff including Master of Ceremonies David Berntson, Awards Hostess Whitney Kieser, Liz Berntson, Blues Blast Music Awards Executive Director Nate Kieser, Stage Manager Randy Hoffman, Assistant Stage Managers Mark Thompson and Dave Katzman, Merchandise Manager Steve Jones, Stage Announcer James Walker and admissions staff Karl Kieser and Brenda Partick. We also want to thank The Windy City Blues Society and Rockford's Crossroads Blues Society. We could not have pulled this one off with our your wonderful help.
We are also grateful to all the sponsors, The Essex Inn, ChicagoBluesBeat.com, Moonshine Design, Badblues Records, Keith Petty & Eva Sasser, Dave & Linda Madden, River Bend Bar & Grill, Chicago Blues Guide, Hampton Photos and WGLT Radio.
Finally I would like to thank our good friend Gary Eckhart for providing these images. There will be complete photos of all the Blues Blast Music Awards fun including more photos from Gary and others in an upcoming issue.
If you missed the awards this year, mark the date for next years awards on your calendar now. It will be Thursday, October 25th, 2012.
Information for artists and labels on submitting releases for consideration to our nominators will be published in Blues Blast Magazine and on our website in February of 2012.
Good Blues To You!
Blue Star Connection Chicago Fundraiser - Sunday, November 6th, Buddy Guy’s Legends
Blue Star Connection (BSC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing music into the lives of children and young adults fighting cancer. A “Blue Star Connection Chicago Celebration & Fundraiser” scheduled this Sunday, November 6th, Buddy Guy’s Legends will be host to Blues stars like Magic Slim, Jimmy Johnson, Nick Moss, Curtis Salgado, Lurrie Bell, Eddie Shaw, Eddie C. Campbell, Eddie Taylor Jr., Barrelhouse Chuck, Billy Branch, Joe Moss and many others, as they put on an unforgettable show to benefit this great cause.
Featured Blues Interview - Tommy Castro
There was probably no bigger musical melting pot anywhere in the world than there was in San Francisco in the 1960s and early 70s.
There were not too many other places in the world where you could see Chicago Transit Authority, Albert King and The Who, all on the same stage, all on the same night.
That melting pot also boiled over into other parts of the Bay Area, as well.
That’s where young Tommy Castro would witness the neighborhood low riders cruising up and down the streets of east San Jose, pumping out greasy tunes by the likes of Wilson Pickett and Junior Walker.
“It seemed like every time a car would drive by, you’d hear “Midnight Hour” or “Shotgun,” or something like that,” Castro said of those sticky San Jose nights.
While he was hearing that in one ear, Castro and his friends were also soaking up the sounds of outfits like Cream and The Butterfield Blues Band in the other ear.
Mix Wilson Pickett with The Butterfield Blues Band, fast forward three decades and you have an idea about what the Tommy Castro Band is all about.
“We were just learning to play guitar and listening to stuff like Ten Years After and meanwhile, we were also hearing all this great soul music and that couldn’t help but rub off on us,” he said. “So that’s kind of how my sound developed. People ask me all the time, ‘how do you end up being a blues musician, growing up in the San Francisco bay area? It doesn’t seem like that would be a good place to get exposed to that kind of music.’ But it was actually a great place, just because of all the music going on in general.”
Before striking out on his own in the early 90s, Castro’s stint in the Dynatones – Charlie Musselwhite’s one-time backing band -ended up having a huge impact on his appreciation for the power of soul music.
“Yeah, I might have known about Otis Redding and Sam and Dave and groups like that, but the Dynatones really took it to a deeper level,” he said. “Back before CDs were readily available, Big Walter (Shuffelsworth, drummer for the Dynatones) would have all these 90-minute cassette tapes loaded with all this really, cool, greasy soul music. Stuff I’d never heard. So that really had an effect on my writing and my music later on. Not only that, but they’d (Dynatones) take me down to Maxwell Street (in Chicago) and make me eat pork chop sandwiches and stuff like that.”
Not only was soul music at its hey-day in the 60s and 70s, revue-style shows commonly made their way up and down the touring circuit.
Whether it was the Stax-Volt Revue, the Johnny Otis Revue or the Ike and Tina Turner Show, variety really was the spice of life where live music was concerned back in the day.
And Castro is bound and determined to see that those glorious days return once again.
Much of the bay area bluesman’s calendar the past few years has been filled with his own traveling revue, one that harkens back to the good-old days and features some of the brightest blues stars currently burning up the galaxy.
For those unfortunate souls who have not been able to see the highly-entertaining exploits of those shows in person, Alligator Records issued Tommy Castro Presents … The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue – Live early this summer.
Like a highlight reel of those tours, the disc captures performances by Castro and his long-time band, along with notables like Michael Burks, Joe Lewis Walker, Sista Monica, Rick Estrin, Trampled Under Foot, Janiva Magness, Theodis Ealy and Debbie Davies.
That folks, is a heck of a lot of star power.
“I felt that was really a worth-while venture to put out some of these live shows that we did. Alligator Records did a fine job of packing it, promoting it and presenting it,” Castro said. “People are into live music, man. Nowadays people are taping shows and posting shows … and all of that. They’re into what happened at last night’s show. And this live album would never have happened if not for the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.”
The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.
Unless they’ve spent a great deal of time under a rock recently, blues fans from all over the world should be instantly familiar with The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.
But what many of those fans may not know, is that Tommy Castro has been made an honorary captain of the twice-annual Caribbean cruises that are stocked to the gill with a who’s-who of blues greats and is always sold out.
So how does a guy go from scuffling around the east bay to becoming an honorary captain on the high seas?
“Sheer luck, I think,” laughed Castro. “The idea for the blues cruise was Roger Naber’s and after running into some difficulty along the way early, he regrouped, changed the name and this last incarnation of the blues cruise has been a pretty tight ship, no pun intended. They’ve got it down solid as a rock. And I was lucky enough to get booked on there as one of the acts like everybody else. But I suppose I was paying attention to what the crowd liked. I’ve always considered that my job – even going back to playing clubs in San Francisco before I was well-known. You have to pay attention to and take care of your audience. That’s where it all starts, man.”
And the one thing that Castro really noticed was how the cruises-goers ate up the jam sessions that have turned into a major calling card on the ships.
“Yeah, we don’t really rehearse, we just get up there and jam and just see what happens,” he said. “And people just love that. All of us (blues bands) are just out there running around with our own groups and we don’t really get to see other acts that are out there that much. Occasionally at a festival you might have the luxury to stick around and check out someone’s show. But that’s rare. But on the blues cruise, that stuff happens all day long.”
All day long and well into the night, that is.
“I noticed that the audience loved that aspect (the all-star jams) more than anything else,” said Castro. “The biggest crowd of the day would be at these jam sessions. At 1 o’clock in the morning, people would be standing out there, just waiting for the thing to get started. And it would go until 4 or 5 in the morning. Then, people would wander to the piano bar where musicians would be sitting in and jamming down there. So that’s what I noticed - that the people loved to see different musicians get together and interact. That’s where this whole idea came from. And blues have been a great format for jamming, because everyone knows the form.”
Castro figured that if those jams could be so much fun on the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean, they were bound to be equally as much fun inland.
Although it might not have been totally smooth sailing from the outset, Castro nevertheless knew he was on to something.
“Well, I’m not B.B. King. If B.B. King was putting together a revue like this, everyone would jump at the chance to go out and play,” he said. “But when it’s Tommy Castro, they’re like, ‘what? You want me to do what? With who?’ But we put that first lineup together and it was pretty magical. It’s been pretty hard to beat that initial lineup. We knew right then that the model was pretty sound and we would be able to take this thing and be able to play some bigger venues than what each of us could play on our own. That was part of the plan.”
Those performers on that embryonic run included Deanna Bogart, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Magic Dick.
Not only does the revue-style show allow Castro to travel around the country with his friends – old and new – it has also paid dividends in another category.
“Well, I’m the only guy that’s booked to play on every single blues cruise that goes out,” he laughed. “And part of the reason why is that we really promote the cruises wherever we’re playing these revue shows.”
Currently, Coco Montoya, Curtis Salgado and Sista Monica are on the bill.
“Some of the nights, the show will last for four to four-and-a-half hours from beginning to end,” he said. “I think we give people a pretty good representation of what the blues cruises’ jams are like.”
Though he’s been a fixture in the blues scene as a bandleader for a couple of decades now, it would hard to imagine Castro ever having a bigger year than the one he experienced in 2010.
Behind his magnificent Hard Believer (Alligator Records) album, Castro dominated the Blues Music Awards, winning the top honor in every category that he was nominated in.
That includes the Blues Foundation’s ultra-prestigious B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, marking the second time Castro has managed to take home that honor.
“Those (awards) mean a lot to me, because I went for a long time with no recognition whatsoever,” he said. “I don’t think it was anything personal, I guess that I just hadn’t made enough of an impact to grab much attention. And so finally – bam! – I had a record nominated (2005’s Soul Shaker). It didn’t win anything, but the next year, I got Album of the Year (Painkiller) and Entertainer of the Year and I was just blown away. This is 15-plus years into my career. So that was pretty cool. I’ve got both those statues in my living room, right out there for everyone to see.”
Winning awards in every category that you’re nominated in has got to be extra-special, but according to Castro, that also might be a bit of a double-edged sword.
“That was more than I expected (winning four BMAs in one year) – I really didn’t know what to think about that,” he said. “Except for, now what do we do now to follow that up? That’s what I was really thinking.”
Shiny, gleaming statues certainly do look good in a trophy case, or on the fireplace mantle, but they can also do more than just look good – they can actually help put food on the dining room table.
“The main order of business around here – yeah, you may have a good band and some good songs and all that, but unless you have a gig to show all that stuff off at, it’s not all that cool,” Castro laughed. “So, the awards did help us get some more gigs and some more festival dates and I couldn’t be more grateful for that bit of acknowledgement. And of course it means a lot to me personally, too, since I’ve spent so much of my life doing this.”
And just like any true artist – whether it be a painter, a sculptor, a photographer or a blues musician – Castro is cognizant about creating a legacy that can stand the test of time.
“When you think about, all you really have in your life on earth is time,” he said. “And if I’m spending all of my time doing this (playing the blues), it really does mean a lot that people are aware of my work. I mean, you don’t just do this for yourself, do you? You do it for the entertainment of other people. You do it for the sake of the art and the overall community. And you do want people to think that you did something good – something for them.”
And when it comes to the healing power of the blues, such gratitude is often immediate.
“When someone comes up to me and says, ‘man, I was having a hard time last time and your music got me through it.’ Then they’ll say like, ‘I listened to “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” over and over, ’” said Castro. “You can’t put a price on that. I could sit around and think about all the things that didn’t happen over the course of my career, but I don’t really spend much time doing that. Most of this came as a big surprise to me. I was playing blues in little bands at home, just because that was what I did for fun. And then I wound up doing it for a living.”
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 6
Julius Pittman & the Revival – Live Tonight
Eller Soul Records
I have been very impressed with the new body of work crossing my desk and CD player from Eller Soul Records, and this album by Julius Pittman & the Revival is no exception. This is a smoking hot disc of southern soul and blues brought to us by a very talented group of musicians with a big, big sound.
Pittman fronts the band on vocals and keyboards and gives us some excellent B-3 and piano along with vocals with a great punch. Randy Moss and Velpo Robertson are on guitar, Audie Stanley plays bass, Chris McIntye is on drums, John Stanley plays tenor sax, Howards Smith is on tenor and baritone sax, and Dave Triplet plays trumpet and flugelhorn. This is a big and powerful sounding 8-piece band and the live performance is full of energy and soul. These guys are professionals who laid down a great set of tracks and the crowd was really into their music!
Pittman offers use three originals and nine covers of southern soul and blues standards. The thee originals held their own and were equally enjoyable to the great covers. “It Ain’t What You Got” is a bouncy track that gives us some nice solos by the backline and guitar, while “Love Changes Like the Weather” drops the tempo down a notch with good guitar, organ and horn section solos. “Miss Lovin” Her” takes the tempo down all the way and Pittman talks to us about love in a slow and bluesy cut. His vocals are spot on in each track and he really sells the songs. From the opening track “She’s Looking Good” to the ever popular “Shotgun” that closes out the CD I found myself grooving to the tunes and enjoying myself. This is a dance party waiting to happen!
This follow on to their critically acclaimed 2010 studio album “The Bucket List” is right up there with it. The live R&B and soulful sound is done right. I thoroughly enjoyed this CD and hope to catch up with them on the live tour circuit soon!
Reviewer Steve Jones is a Board Member 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 works with their Blues In The Schools program.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Bobby Rush - Show You a Good Time
Deep Rush Records
11 songs; 44 minutes
Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Funk, Soul, Acoustic Blues
Southern gentleman Bobby Rush is, without a doubt, one of the most flamboyant entertainers on today's blues scene. He is also an ambassador of good will and racial harmony. Total package: he is a national treasure.
Whether one listens to him live (complete with jovial and gyrating dancing girls!) or via one of his nine (at least) previous albums, the clear impression one receives is that Bobby presents several truths about blues music. To this reviewer's mind, the tireless 70-something-year-old Rush believes that the best blues is sincere, pointed, and, most of all, fun, especially if one enjoys his brand of overtly sexual fun. Lyrically, Rush is from the Son House school on blues: “it’s what happens between a man and a woman.” Rush's tenth release, “Show You a Good Time,” surely accomplishes what its title sets out to do!
Across the eleven original tracks, Bobby sings, swings, and plays harp and guitar with just keyboards, bass, and drums/percussion in support. That formula usually results in heart pumping, metronome-like rhythms that defy gravity.
Some most notable among the great numbers:
Track 2: “Sniffer”--According to this funky and hilarious ditty, a “sniffer” is a man who (amongst all his sniffing) inspects his woman's clothes with his nose after she's been out for the evening and has gone to bed. “Where's she been, and what's she been doing?” Such questions can apparently be answered through the olfactory apparatus! Rush calls out several “sniffers,” including (presumably absent) Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy. “There are two kinds of sniffers in the world, I know,” Rush states: “the one that say he do, and the other one say he don't!”
Track 3: “My Friend”--With pals like the one Bobby describes here, who needs enemies? He slyly and slowly sings of a cad who “eat my chicken and drinking my tea—now he's trying to take my woman from me. Do you call that a friend?” “No, no,” answers a sly chorus. Fair enough. Following a harp solo, when Rush nonchalantly asks if he should shoot/stab/poison “my friend, because my friend's trying to do me in,” their voices softly prompt, “Yeah, yeah.” Is this song funny or creepy? The unsettling answer is that it's both, simultaneously!
Bonus Track [#11]: “Jody Didn't Take Your Woman”--As explained in the earliest part of this song, “Jody” could be anyone: “your cousin, your closest kin, your next-door neighbor or your best friend.” Regardless, cheating men, “Jody” attends to your inamorata while you're “running round town with your pants unzipped.” Don't blame Jody for “taking your woman—you gave her to him!” Clever and catchy, this dance inducer puts the “bonus” in “bonus track.”
Bobby Rush wants to “Show You a Good Time.” Take him up on his offer, whether you're a male or female blues fan, because this studio CD is Rush’s best and most accessible work in recent years!.
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 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 Blues Review 3 of 6
Mike Pachelli – Meeting Point
Full Blast Recordings
12 tracks; 53.54 minutes
Although I had never heard of Mike Pachelli before receiving this CD for review he has been around the music scene for a long time and has produced a whole raft of CDs though this is his first straight blues recording. Originally from Ohio, Mike studied in NYC and hosted a TV show in Florida for ten years, interviewing Paul McCartney, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Satriani amongst others. He has also produced instructional books and DVDs for guitarists and played in classical, jazz, rock and blues idioms.
The core band here is Mike on vocals and guitar, Ronnie Ciago on drums, Baba Elefante on bass and Lance Abair on Hammond B3. Jazz organist Brother Jack McDuff plays B3 on one track and Balint Sapszon adds piano to one track. John Sferra replaces Ciago on drums on four tracks. All material is written by Mike Pachelli and was recorded over some three years in LA, Nashville and Evian in France.
There are many positives to this CD. The songs are well recorded and there is a fair variety of material. The main featured instrument is inevitably the guitar and Mike covers a good variety of styles. His singing voice works well on most of the songs. Opener “I Don’t Worry” is a fast paced blues rock piece with a nice variation on the woman staying out at night theme; here Mike does not worry because he knows she is not to be trusted anyway, so why worry? “How Come I Always Got The Blues” is much bluesier, the shuffle rhythm well supported by the organ. An uncredited harp takes the first solo, Mike’s guitar ringing out on the second solo. Third track “My Guitar Will Say It For Me” has some excellent guitar playing in a rock style, a song which provides the shy man a way of expressing his feelings through his instrument!
I also enjoyed “Even The Birds Are Walking Now” a song which exemplifies the current doubts and concerns about the economic state of affairs – “Things are so bad even the birds are walking now”: more tough guitar playing on a fast shuffle rhythm here. “Too Much Hassle” fades in at the beginning, with the organ playing a significant support role. The song is another strong one in which our protagonist is at the end of his tether with his woman who clearly has not heard that we are in troubled times: “I gave you all my money, you went out and bought twelve pairs of shoes. I told you that’s not funny, you said shut up and go play some blues”! The organist takes a well-deserved solo before Mike’s guitar solo which has both distortion and tender moments.
“Gonna Reap What You Sow” is not the Otis Rush song, though it has some lyrical similarities. A slow blues with some nice chording beneath the vocal lines and a solo section which has a few touches of jazz in its approach. “Won’t Move On” changes the approach completely with an acoustic guitar accompanied by sparse bass and drums. “The Evian Shuffle” is an instrumental, pretty much what the title suggests, with some fast runs on guitar above a frantic paced backdrop. “Adam And Eve and McDuff” is a late night jazz track, recounting the story of Adam and Eve but with the lyrical twist of McDuff appearing and apparently corrupting Eve by giving her a sample of what he is smoking! I presume that Jack was OK with that as he is playing on the track.
“Don’t You Bother Knockin’” takes the age-old theme of the guy who has moved on from a former relationship. Taken at a relaxed pace this song features what is probably Mike’s strongest vocal on the CD and some nice guitar throughout. “Where’s My Shoes” is a jazzy shuffle with clean guitar and a rather strange lyric about… not being able to find his shoes! The CD closes with something completely different, an instrumental entitled “Alone At Night” which is just Mike and pianist Balint Sapszon. Those who are familiar with Jeff Beck’s version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from his “Blow By Blow” album of the mid-seventies will smile in recognition of some of the techniques used both by Jeff and here by Mike. As the Beck piece is one of my personal favourites, I liked this track a lot though it is not really blues at all.
I found this an enjoyable CD with some entertaining songs and good playing. If Mike Pachelli sticks to a blues-based approach I could see him making an impact on the blues scene but his eclecticism may make him move away to other projects in the future – he is certainly a very talented player.
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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River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Big Dog Mercer - Wednesday November 9th, Cash Box Kings - Thursday November 17th, Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Wednesday November 30th, Victor Wainwright & The Wildroots - Saturday December 17th. Location Goodfellas 1414 S. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com
The Golden Gate Blues Society - Redwood City, CA
On Sunday, November 13, The Golden Gate Blues Society of the San Francisco Bay Area presents the International Blues Challenge Final Round. Pinkie Rideau and Blind Resistance, The David Landon Band, Paula Harris and Blu Gruv, and The Delta Wires hit the stage at San Francisco’s award- winning home of the blues, Biscuits & Blues, located at 401 Mason Street near Union Square, from 2 until 6 pm on Sunday, November 13. Admission for members of The Golden Gate Blues Society is $15, and for nonmembers $20. Membership is available at the door.
Judges for the Finals include Sista Monica Parker, "the lioness of the blues;" Lee Hildebrand, journalist for Living Blues; and Frank DeRose, leader and bass player with 2011 TGGBS International Blues Challenge winners Tip of the Top. For more info visit www.tggbs.org
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.
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. Nov 6 - Robert Sampson. icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - 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
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Jackie Johnson - Memphis Jewel
11 Tracks, 42:00
Somehow in the last ten years, or maybe a few more, original style Rhythm & Blues music has become covered by the umbrella of simply Blues. What passes for today’s R&B is often unimaginative, soulless, monotone, and auto-tuned pabulum spoon fed to the masses by record companies and pay-to-play radio monopolies. The modern blues scene is teeming with classic-style Soul and R&B acts like Johnny Rawls, Otis Clay, Curtis Salgado, Bettye Lavette and many more. Jackie Johnson is a seasoned veteran who brings her brand of traditional soul to the big tent of blues. Johnson has returned to recording with Memphis Jewel on Catfood Records, a sublime mixture of Gospel, R&B and Memphis soul.
Memphis soul is more than just a description of Memphis Jewel; it’s practically a mission statement, with every track oozing the city’s hot, buttery essence. Even Smokey Robinson’s emblematic Detroit classic “Tears Of A Clown” is given the Stax treatment with funky guitars, fat bass lines, and pulsating horns. Fellow Catfood Records recording artist Johnny Rawls duets with Jackie on his song “Love You Still.” Their voices mesh like ribs and rub on this smoky R&B workout. The Memphis Jewel rolls down the Big Muddy to New Orleans on “Brightside.” This one shuffles along on the second line beat with a slide guitar wailing away as Johnson sings about juggling men. The infectious beat of “Brightside” is sure to get audiences moving at the live shows.
Memphis Jewel was produced by Jim Gaines, who has worked with Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison and numerous others. The studio band features several members of The Rays – the band that backed up Johnny Rawls on his last few records. The band is tight and feels comfortable with all the permutations of blues and R&B found on Memphis Jewel. Bob Trenchard, owner of Catfood Records and a member of The Rays, wrote “Nothing Lasts Forever,” a funky organ-fueled, brass-tinged smoldering jam. The back-up singers add extra dimension which, together with its tight arrangement and insistent beat, makes this one a highlight of the album.
Jackie Johnson has been singing since childhood, starting off in the church choir. She has sung back-up for Rufus Thomas, the Staple Singers, Barbara Carr, Lenny Kravitz, and Shirley Brown. Jackie recorded some gospel albums, Let Love Abide (1998) and Here I Am (2000), and on Memphis Jewel, she returns to her church choir roots with “Wash Your Hands” and “Keep The Faith.” The latter serves as the album closer and delivers a hopeful message amid choir vocals, rippling piano lines, swirling organ, and guitar arpeggios that propel the music toward the heavens.
Memphis Jewel is not really a blues album. It is however, a bluesy roots record, drawing influences from God’s house much more so than the Devil’s juke joints. Fans of Stax classic records and Motown will find more to their liking here than die hard Howlin’ Wolf fans will but that’s not a bad thing. Like the best blues, every note Jackie Johnson sings is filled with passion and is imbued with real life experiences that connect with the listeners and will draw in even the most cynical listeners.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
JT Coldfire - Crazy Sun
The Texas tradition of hard-charging guitar powered blues is at home, placed in the hands of Austin, Texas’ JT Coldfire. His guitar skills draw from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddie King and Albert Collins among others. The usual Texas blues subjects are visited: guns, criminal activity, longing for love…you know the drill. JT and crew bring a freshness to well-charted waters. An authoritative voice, songwriting and the production skills he adds to the stew bring it all home. His aggressive guitar attack is the centerpiece of this disc. It’s the classic rockin’ blues power trio with the occasional assistance of harmonica and piano. Lee Sheffield on bass and Dimon Dixon on drums provide the backbone for JT’s axe adventures.
“Hangin’ Tree” represents the classic “tension and release” device in a tune that sees our hero looking for a tree to end his suffering. A drumstick driven slow shuffle builds into an energy charged rave-up as harmonica joins in the fray. JT comes off as a more laidback SRV on the Texas-boogie of “Johnny’s Gone”, which I think is about a man wrongly accused of a crime. The title tune and “No Time For Sleepin’” are extended guitar workouts, the ladder a Texas shuffle that just burns it up. The device of a pun in the title is employed on the hard-charging “Lee Malone” (Leave Me Alone) about a woman that keeps bugging him.
Just as impressive are the four acoustic forays, my favorites being the country blues “Pistol Lead” and “She’s Crazy”, a late night guitar-piano-drum groove. Mournful dobro sets the scene on “Mr. Jones” were the listener is given a warning on who to mess with. A revival meeting is conjured up in the dobro-infused “Lower That Ladder”. The acoustic guitar playing throughout reveals the same hard attack and/or deft touch shown on the electric bits.
“Bad Day” is an obvious and well-done homage to Bob Dylan in the use of cadence, phrasing and lyrical wordplay. Banzai LARocca weaves his blues harp throughout the mesmerizing tune. Marty Robbins’ Tex-Mex story-songs are given their due in “Sweet Little Isa”.
Electric blues, acoustic country blues and the fringes of blues-rock are given their due here. It does ones’ heart good to see musicians on a mission to keep a regional form alive, all-the-while breathing fresh air into it.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Boo Boo Davis - Undercover Blues
Black and Tan Records
Born in the heart of the Mississippi delta, singer Boo Boo Davis ended up in the St. Louis area, where he played his style of down-home blues in local clubs for several decades. For the last ten years, he has been touring regularly in Europe and recording four previous releases for the Black & Tan Records. He punctuates his rough vocals with short blasts from his harmonica.
The liner notes state that Davis and his band – John Gerritse on drums and Jan Mittendorp on guitar – spent six hours in a studio in Switzerland, turning their ideas into the twelve tracks featured on his latest project. Recorded live in the studio, the disc serves as an accurate reflection of the band’s live performances. Gerritse consistently supplies a strong beat while Mittendorp sticks to playing rhythm guitar, often with an enhanced, fat tone that fills in the space behind Davis’s vocals, which are often buried in the mix, making tough to decipher what he is singing.
The problem is that at least half of the cuts end up sounding like demo tracks rather than completed songs. On tracks like “Turkey Walk” and “Got the Feeling”, Davis simply chants the title line or short lyric phrases instead of a more developed lyrical progression that relates a story. The faster boogie shuffle on “Shoot the Dice” paired with Davis sounding like Howlin’ Wolf is not enough to overcome another case of feeble lyrics. The title cut is stronger, with an otherworldly guitar sound and upper register harp tones from Davis.
Things get more interesting when the group slows the pace and slips into a more soulful sound. “Don’t Worry Baby” has a convincing vocal as Davis tries to reassure his lover. The loping rhythm of “Xmas Blues” underscores Davis’s plaintive description of his longing to be with his family at Christmas. Davis’s brooding performance on “Number One” is another highlight with Mittendorp also turning in a standout performance. On the final track, Davis delivers a musical sermon in celebration of his faith that once again is short-circuited by the constant repetition of the title phrase, “Thank You, Dave”. Once the music ends, Davis continues to testify like a storefront preacher with the holy-ghost feeling.
The best moments on this disc show what might have been if Boo Boo Davis and his band had taken the time to pt together a stronger batch of tunes. The stripped-down instrumental line-up doesn’t allow much room for error. While Davis will not dazzle anyone with his harp playing, his singing can really capture your attention. But there isn’t enough material that hits that level of performance to make this disc an essential purchase.
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.
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