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In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Mud Morganfield. Marilyn Stringer has a photo essay on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD from Big George Brock. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD from Niecie. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Rich Fabec Band. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Tom Hambridge. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD all about Barbecue. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from The Cash Box Kings. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
The fall season is here and as the number of Blues fests winds down in the central US, many artists are finishing up and releasing new music. We are receiving plenty of CDs to review for you so stayed tuned to hear about all the great new music.
We are going to start featuring FREE downloads from some of the new CDs being released. Be sure to watch for our featured Free music downloads starting in the next few weeks.
Good Blues To You!
Featured Blues Interview - Mud Morganfield
There’s nothing more powerful or lasting than the bond between a mother and her child.
And for Larry Morganfield, that bond is what keeps him going, through the good times and the bad.
“The sun for me doesn’t shine until she wakes up each morning,” he said. “My mom is 80 and I’m sitting here now in her apartment and every wall in here has something about me on it. She just stands there and looks at all the clippings and stuff and just smiles. You talk about a proud mother. Her house is like a shrine.”
It’s certainly normal for a mother to be proud of her son – regardless of his vocation – but when your son has a direct lineage to the foundation that modern electric blues was built on, well, that has to make a proud momma even more proud.
For you see, Larry Morganfield is the son of Mildred McGhee and McKinley Morganfield.
For the un-initiated, Larry Morganfield is the eldest son of Muddy Waters.
You could call him the son of the seventh son.
“I am ever so humbled and ever so proud to be the son of Muddy Waters,” he said. “It’s an amazing thing, man.”
“James Cotton and Marie Dixon (Willie Dixon’s wife) know this, but very few other people do. But pop nicknamed me “Poppa.” That’s what he used to call me. Don’t ask me why, but he called me “Poppa.”
These days, Larry, or “Poppa,” is better known as Mud Morganfield, deliverer of authentic, real-deal blues.
And with a new album on the horizon, it appears that Mud Morganfield is ready for his moment in the spotlight.
That album - Son of the Seventh Son (Severn Records), is scheduled for an early 2012 release and features a virtual galaxy of blues stars, along with the rousing vocals of Morganfield.
He’s certainly no mere carbon copy of his father, but Mud Morganfield’s vocals are stoked with the same confidence and self-assuredness that was at the core of so many classic Muddy Waters tunes. Son of the Seventh Son is proof of that.
“It’s got some of the best blues artists living that play on it,” he said. “Kenny Smith on drums. Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitar. Barrelhouse Chuck on keys. E.G. McDaniel on bass. Harmonica Hines and Bob Corritore on harp. I just couldn’t have done this without those cats, man. They brought something to the studio that will forever live in my heart. It brought out the best in me. It’s a great CD, some of the best work I’ve done so far. It’s got one great song after another on it.”
Corritore, the noted harmonica wizard, club owner and radio DJ, also produced the disc, which was recorded in the Windy City.
There’s no holding back the respect Morganfield has for Corritore, and it’s obvious that respect goes much deeper than just your typical artist/producer relationship.
“Bob Corritore is such a Muddy Waters’ guy. He’s just … what is Bob? I’m trying to think of a word better than great,” said Morganfield. “He’s just such a great cat. He’s so into music and he’s so well-deserved of all the awards he’s been getting. This cat really works at it … and he’s just so nice.”
While it would have been easy to just rush into the studio and hack out a whole album’s worth of his father’s songs, Morganfield resisted that temptation and instead choose to sprinkle the project with a healthy dose of his own personality.
“There’s two songs of pop’s on there and with anything I do, I’m gonna add pop,” he said. “But the rest of the disc is made up of several songs that I wrote, along with a song that Bob Corritore wrote and one my good friend Studebaker John wrote. But it’s all got that Muddy style to it, because that’s who I am. Without me even trying, I come off like the son of Muddy Waters and I’m proud that it’s like that.”
With just-completed trips to Denmark and Finland under his belt, Morganfield is embarking on a very similar path to the one that his father blazed back in the 1960s, when he toured Europe as part of the American Folk and Blues Festival, and also as a special guest of The Rolling Stones.
“I met a bunch of great people there that loved my father and in return, they care for me,” Morganfield said. “They love the blues over there and it makes you feel so warm and so welcome. Great stuff, man, just great stuff.”
Just as dentists probably hope deep down inside that their children will grow up and carry on with the family business, it’s probably safe to say that Muddy Waters would swell with pride if he could see Mud take command of a stage in front of hungry European blues fans.
“It’s a fantastic thing (to be carrying on a family legacy), because every parent wants their children to be greater than they are,” Morganfield said. “And that includes myself. So for me to be a part of something that my dad spent his entire life doing, it makes me humble and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
With the recent passing of both Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, the world not only lost two genuine legends, but Mud Morganfield lost a pair of gentleman that enjoyed long musical associations with his father and were also dear friends to him, as well.
And like scores of blues lovers across the world, he’s left wondering just why two more true innovators are gone.
“I would totally go crazy trying to figure out what’s going on in God’s will. I can’t. It’s just too much,” he said. “Honeyboy Edwards – Pinetop Perkins – Willie Smith – it’s just too much. I don’t have any answers why they’re gone. They’re legends and will be missed, but the only thing I can say is Robert Johnson and my dad is up there in blues heaven just waitin’ on them, you know? This death thing is just unexplainable, but they were a great loss to the whole music world.”
Morganfield found out first-hand just why his dad picked Pinetop and Big Eyes to be long-standing members of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, as Mud also enjoyed the opportunity to play with both.
“Me and Pinetop just did the Blues Festival in 2009 and I just talked to Willie’s wife this morning – lovely lady – but when I see cats like that, what I see is Muddy,” he said. “I see history. I see legends. I see what it took for them to make the blues mainstream when I look at those cats. All those guys played an important part with my dad. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.”
Those expecting to be treated to a Muddy Waters cover band when they turn up at a Mud Morganfield show might be a bit disappointed. While he naturally soaked up as much of his father’s music as he could, Morganfield didn’t just lock himself in the garage with a stack of Muddy Waters’ 45s and little else.
“My pop is my pop and I’m Mud Morganfield. The life my pop lived on the plantation was not the life I lived,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in Chicago. Pop was raised in an era when they were singing hymns in the cotton fields of Mississippi. I came up in the era when the Motown sound had just come out. I was brought up in another time. My dad is my dad and I’m just his son, so that alone puts us in different categories.”
Those different categories naturally include different inspirations, as well.
“Pop listened to Robert Johnson and Son House and all those great legends,” said Morganfield. “And I came up listening to him (Muddy Waters) in the basement and also guys like Johnny Taylor and Tyrone Davis … the Temptations, the Four Tops … I came up in that era, so I related more to that.”
Still … like father, like son.
“Lovers come and go and we get a bill that we can’t pay … people go, ‘what is the blues?’ That’s the blues,” he said. “Take a bottle away from a baby and it cries its eyes out … that baby’s got the blues. Anything that alters your way of thinking is the blues. Plain and simple.”
Even if those blues may sound a bit different now than they did back in the day.
“I try to do the stuff that I feel. My stuff is different. I love the slow blues, just like pop did,” Morganfield said. “But my blues are kind of a funky blues. I don’t want people to sit at the bar and get drunk and cry over in their beer. I want people to be happy in my music and have fun. I want them to snap their fingers and get on their feet and dance. That’s what Mud Morganfield wants. I want you to come out and enjoy yourself and maybe I’ll hit you with a slow blues and you’ll go home and make great love to your lover. That’s what I’m about.”
Whereas T-shirts, shorts and jeans seem to be seen with increasing regularity on the bandstand in 2011, that’s definitely not the case at a Mud Morganfield show.
“I always dress up (for shows) because pop told me once that it shows class,” Morganfield said. “I’ve done shows and festivals where I’ve just about burnt up (wearing a suit under the hot lights). But it is my responsibility to look as good as I can for my fans. I come from a classy family and it’s instilled in my bloodlines. I mean, if you want to see me in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, we can meet in the laundry mat. If you pay $20 to come see me, you’re going to see my dressed up and give the best show that I can give to you.”
Some may wonder why it took so long for Mud Morganfield to make his public trek into the arena of blues players. But as for the man himself, it’s always just been a matter of when, not if.
“I have to be a part of this (playing the blues), not only because of who my dad was, but because so many great blues artists are passing,” he said. “And this is in my soul. I don’t care how I run, or where I been for 10 years or whatever, it’s in my soul and I can’t get rid of that.”
But rest assured that no matter how many miles he travels, or where those travels take him, Ms. Mildred McGhee is never far away from Mud Morganfield.
“I never tour for over 10 days at a time … I have to come home and check up on my mom,” he said. “She’s been through so much – she lost her mom and I lost two siblings a year apart, one Dec. 3 and the next one Dec. 4 of the next year. But she’s so strong.”
And as far as the most important thing Muddy Waters ever told his son?
Was it, be sure and get your gig money up front?
Or maybe, be sure and hold onto your song-publishing rights?
Hardly, says Mud Morganfield.
“Pop told me so many things, but I think the most important thing he ever told me was that he loved me,” he said.
Photos by Bob Kieser.
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
Big George Brock - I Got To Keep My Bedroom Locked
13 Tracks. 61.05
England's Blues & Rhythm magazine called Big George's set at Clarksdale's 2004 Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival "the real deal" and | have no reason to disagree. Mr Brock, now in his mid-seventies, has paid his dues, doing back-breaking manual labor in the fields around Clarksdale, MS, and in the boxing ring as a professional heavy-weight. All the while, he was learning about playing and singing the blues, mentored by McKinley Morganfield, who he first met in those same fields. Muddy Waters tried to get Brock, by then living in St Louis, a contract with Chess Records, but Brock and the company could not agree a royalties deal. Later he signed with Rodger Stolle’s Cat Head Records in Clarksdale where he has stayed ever since.
George is a harp man in the tradition of those who played with Muddy; hard with a down home edge, inventive and above all POWEFUL. Sweeping amplified harp played with lung-bursting panache and with all the grunts and throat noises that indicate a man lost in his musicianship.
This CD is a follow-up to Live At Seventy-Five - a recording of a live show made on his 75th Birthday - and his previous European success, Round Two. George comes at this one with all the flash and flair of what preceded it; known for his flamboyant stage clothes (pink, green, red), his harp work here is equally colorful.
The opener, a loping shuffle, is Watch Yourself (You better watch yourself, I got my eyes on you.) A great, start to this master-class CD. That is rapidly followed by So Many Times, the first appearance by Clarine Wagner on vocals fronting the band who are following a sensual rhythmic hook. Clarine is a fine singer and the guitar part on this track is exemplary. Clarine is also to the fore on Good Times Roll, (not the tune you are thinking of) which has an equally great guitar part, where Clarine shows her affinity with the roots of gospel and the preaching blues. George appears to have a backing singer role here.
George to the fore again on a the funky title track, a riff based work-out about having to lock the door to keep out a sex crazed woman – chance’d be a fine thing!
Hold That Cadillac is like a kind of tribute to Muddy and might have been one he would have recorded. Gypsy Woman is Muddy’s, Hoochie Koochie Man renamed (why change the name?).. Unfortunately, to my ears, George’s singing is a bit pitchy here and there. The harp playing is wonderful though.
Little Girl You Make Me Feel so God is a real stomper, worth the price of the CD alone, and the, somewhat hackneyed I Got My Mojo Working is another stomping Muddy tribute. There is a Wolf tribute too, with a nice version of Howling For My Darling. Finally, (Since I Laid My) Burden Down is a wonderful controlled rendition of the old gospel song with George joined by Clarine Wager. Magnificent .
Despite the occasional pitch problems in George’s singing, this one is strongly recommended. It is still The Real Deal.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie is a Brit, living in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South a monthly publication giving info on news, gigs and reviews of events and CDs for the south of England. Ian has two blues radio shows one broadcast on Phonic FM in the UK (12 noon Central, 6pm UK) on www.phonic.fm on Wednesdays and the second airing on KCOR (Kansas City On Line Radio) on Fridays (12 noon Central, 6pm UK) www.kconlineradio.com.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Niecie – Beyond The Surface
Ride The Tiger Records
10 tracks Time: 38.00
Artist Niece isn’t a household word. Very few people know of this woman. In general she is off the grid to the music community at large. Yet she deserves some recognition for the work she releases.
To label singer Niece as solely a blues artist is stretching things too thin. It may take a few listens to appreciate the release Beyond The Surface. Very little blues is found here. But in some essence, it does inform the music. It won’t garner a Blues Handy Award. It doesn’t mean it can’t slowly grow on you.
There aren’t too many original songs here. Her own song “Draw The Line” is a terrific opener and a great riff rocker that delves nicely into the electric church soul of “The Other Side.”
The studio/session musicians she employs all do their jobs well. Most of the names in the inner sleeve jacket might be unfamiliar to listeners. If there is a name that stands out its keyboardist Johnny Neel. When the Allman Brothers Band embarked on their reunion tour back in 1989, Neel was drafted to supplement the sound. It was a short stint and he soon found himself in demand to play on other recordings.
Background singer/percussionist Crystal Taliefero-Pratt meshes well with the songs and gives them a gospel coating particularly in a slow rock grooving “Rockin A Baby.”
Taking on the Isley Brother’s “Harvest For The World” is a bold endeavor as it smites of an American Idol approach. But it doesn’t mean the rest of the tracks will go in that fluffy direction. Niece once again turns up the flame in the original “Not No, Hell No” which may be one of the very few songs that follows a blueprint of blues with its shuffle approach. Which really makes you yearn that Niece would contribute more original songs to the cd. Her writing skills are solid and she can pull it off with no problem.
If the cut “Live For The Music” sounds familiar to some listeners it shouldn’t be shocking. For those who grew up listening to Bad Company , it’s a song written by their guitarist Mick Ralphs and can be found on the Running With The Pack album. Niece stays true to the essence of the song and does not revamp it in any way that’s offensive. Sure she turns it into gospel rock. But even Mick Ralphs himself could appreciate somebody taking this forgotten gem and dusting it off the shelf.
One of the most grabbing moments is Niece wrapping her whiskey-soaked vocals around the slow jazz rock ballad “Hard Times.” It’s a number in which keyboardists Jody Nardone and Johnny Neel are mixed front and center to give the proceedings a touch of Nina Simone.
Altogether Beyond The Surface isn’t a bad piece of work. In some ways it’s a perfect top-down cruise on the highway soundtrack that can get one pumped for their working day. Certainly over-driven blues rock is wearisome to people who have had more than their fill of it. So consider this cd a little something different. It may end up being in rotation on your cd player much more than you think. Maybe on her upcoming releases Niece will find more confidence as a songwriter and try her hand on original material. The few originals contributed show she can go places and with a little luck maybe she can find a little solid ground to plant and nurture a seed that can fully blossom in very quick time. There’s no doubt the lady has it.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Rich Fabec Band – RFB3
Mercy Seat Records
12 tracks; 42.25 minutes
Rich Fabec hails from Pittsburgh and studied at Berklee School of Music in Boston. After graduation he moved to Nashville and then to Southern Illinois where he formed his current band. This is their third CD and consists of entirely original material. Rich wrote and produced the material and plays everything on the disc apart from the drums which are played by Corey Kidd. Regular band members are name checked on the sleeve but do not play on the album.
Unfortunately the CD sleeve gives no information at all about the titles of the songs. All are quite short and sweet, the longest just shy of five minutes, but most are around the three minute mark. What is evident from the start is that Rich is a far better guitarist than singer, his vocals are quite gruff and at times he strains to deliver the lyrics. His guitar playing, however, is strong, demonstrating a good range of styles. Whilst much of the CD is in blues-rock territory, track 2 has a SRV feel and the third track has something of a Latin feel, with excellent guitar playing and inevitable touches of Carlos Santana. Track 6 slows the pace a bit with some reflective guitar introducing a sad, slow blues.
There are two instrumental tracks. Track 7 has lots of fast-paced riffs and is an effective showcase for Rich’s skills. The other instrumental is the final cut, a nod towards Hendrix with a lot of wah-wah which I did not care for. Track 10 is a laid-back piece with a hint of jazz in the intro before an electric guitar is overdubbed and the track turns into a shuffle.
Overall I found it hard to sustain interest across the CD. Rich is clearly a good guitarist but the songs had little noteworthy about them. In general I am a strong supporter of original material but on this occasion it might have served Rich better to add a couple of more familiar blues pieces to the mix
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
Blues Society News
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Philadelphia Folk Song Society - Philadelphia, PA
Sunday November 13th, the Philadelphia Folk Song Society www.pfs.org will be hosting a special show with The Alexis P. Suter Band at Havana New Hope PA www.havananewhope.com for directions and reservartions; Doors 5pm show time 7pm.....$15.00 cover and FREE to PFS Members.....Anyone who attends that night is eligible to WIN one of 3 pairs of 2012 Pennsylvania Blues Festival tickets for Sunday July 29th!!!! We hope to see you there.
Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society - Minneapolis, MN
The Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society presents the 5th Annual Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 at O'Gara's Bar and Grill Garage, 164 Snelling Ave., N, St.Paul, Mn 651-644-3333. Doors: 1:30, Music: 2:30, Induction Ceremony: 3:30 Also ther will be a Silent Auction and an all Star Jam to follow the ceremony. Suggested Donation: $10.
2011 inductees include: Bruce McCabe, Curtis Blake, Wilebski's Blues Saloon, Cold Wind Records, Doug Maynard, Sonny Rodgers and the Cat Scratchers, and more. Come join us in honoring Minnesota's "Creative Best"! More info at: www.gtcbms.org
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - 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. 11/14 Harper, 11/21 Big Jeff Chapman, 11/28 Deak Harp Blues Band, 12/5 Kilborn Alley Blues Band, 12/12 Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, 12/19 Jason Elmore Blues Band, 12/26 Brooke Thomas and the Blue Suns. icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - December 1, Dave Herrero, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
Live Blues Review - Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise - Pacific - October 2011
Commentary and photos by Marilyn Stringer
For the last time, the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise sailed from San Diego, heading to Cabo San Lucas and two ports in the Sea of Cortez – La Paz & Loreto. Finally, after many attempts in the last three years and thwarted by hurricanes, the seas were calm, the air was clear, and all ports were accomplished. The lineup was stellar; the jams were off the chart – especially the all night gatherings spurred on by Tab Benoit in the Ocean Bar, ending around 6 or 7 am. It was considered the best October cruise since they began in 2006.
Before sailing away, everyone gathered in San Diego for the pre-party, hosted by the San Diego Blues Society. Two bands started the week of music. Tasha Taylor, daughter of R&B artist Johnnie Taylor, was the opening band, followed by Patrick Rynn & Chris James Band, with Rob Stone on vocals and Sue Palmer on keyboards.
This year, special tribute was paid to Bobby Blue-Bland, who was the darling on the boat. He brought his full band and soothed our souls with his quiet style of blues, big smile, and warm personality.
Ruthie Foster took us out of San Diego and was the perfect beginning to a week of great blues and zydeco
There was so much going on throughout the week with jams, guest performers, benefits, auctions, costumes and theme nights. In alphabetical order the headliners included:
From Chicago, Billy Branch with Nora Jean Bruso, Bobby Blue Bland, and Big Head Todd & The Monsters, and Bobby Womack.
The Cedric Burnside Project with Trenton Ayers on Guitar. Chubby Carrier and his Zydeco Party were a big hit.
Charlie Musselwhite was happy to share the stage with Elvin Bishop (who seemed to be everywhere all week).
Deanna Bogart did double duty with her own band and joined the Tommy Castro’s Revue. Tom Poole and Keith Crossan from the Revue joined Deanna on this set.
Elvin Bishop was at the top of game and brought Mickey Thomas (previously from Jefferson Starship) with him to perform most of the vocals. That alone was nostalgic but when Roy Gaines (Special Guest on the cruise who could be seen jumping into many different performances) joined in, it was pretty special.
Gayle Adegbalola brought her own style of blues and storytelling to the smaller stage, accompanied by Roddy Barnes on the piano. They channeled the 30’s during this set but both could be seen jamming throughout the ship all week. Laurie Morvan, winner of the Sonic Bid contest, is always fun to see with her intense blues guitar magic and great band.
Girls With Guitars was made up of Cassie Taylor (Otis’ daughter who did double duty playing bass with her dad also), Samantha Fish, and Dani Wilde (who had her brother Will join them on harmonica on occasion). They are a high energy blues band and a crowd pleaser.
Jimmy Thackery’s band included JP Soars and the Hydraulic Horns this trip. JP has his own band –The Red Hots- in Florida and was an IBC winner a few years back. He is a favorite on the east coast and this was a great intro to the west coast cruise. Jimmy, Mark (bass), and George Sheppard (drums) always put on a great show. Adding JP & the horns was inspired.
The Lionel Young Band was the winner of the 2011 IBC Group and part of that prize is a spot on the cruise. Lionel has cruised before as the winner of the IBC Solo but this was the first time he cruised with a full band. Each one of the members is an accomplished musician in their own right and when they are together it is magical. There is no blues guitar in the band – Lionel plays the fiddle like a guitar (or fiddle) depending on the song. Their style is unique and their popularity grew as the week wore on.
Michael Burks brought the whole man-band and they rocked. Joined by Vasti Jackson and Sherman Robertson, they were the guitar slingers of the boat. Fantastic energy and blues and showmen.
Otis Taylor transcends the blues with Anne Harris on the violin and Cassie Taylor on bass. They brought a unique type of blues to the cruise and put on some great shows and workshops.
Ruthie Foster, with guest guitarist Hadden Sayers, Tab Benoit, and the Tommy Castro Revue completed the lineup for the week. Once again, daring to repeat myself, they were all fantastic!
Every night, one of the fun places to hang out and see who showed up was the Piano Bar. The hosts for the week were Eden Brent, Leon Blue, Steve Willis (Elvin’s band) and Scottie “Bones” Miller (Ruthie’s band). There were so many times that the stage was packed with other performers wandering by who wanted to join in and jam.
It was a nostalgic trip for all of us who have sailed on all of the six west coast cruises. Next year they will be sailing from Puerto Rico to the Caribbean. It was the best of cruises and a perfect way to end an era. (A full set of photos will be eventually available at http://MJStringerPhoto.com).
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Tom Hambridge - Boom!
11 tracks, 37:58
Tom Hambridge isn’t really a blues man. He’s not really a country singer either. He straddles the line where two traditional forms of rural American music meet. He stands at the intersection where many believe rock and roll was created and defiantly dares us to define his music. Why bother? It’s good music and doesn’t need to be categorized. You might recognize the name Tom Hambridge from Buddy Guy’s recent Living Proof disc or from George Thorogood’s 2120 South Michigan Avenue., or from the songwriting credits on numerous albums. He’s a drummer, producer, songwriter, and purveyor of American music. The list of artists with whom he’s worked, written, and played is vast, eclectic and impressive. It’s no wonder his latest disc, Boom!, is such a successful musical excursion.
Boom! kicks off with “I Keep Things,” a song that taps into the collective psyche of Americans; we’re keepers. We like to have all kinds of things around us to remind us where we’ve been, who we’ve met and even who we are. We all keep things, either physically, mentally or metaphorically. The song subtly examines the habit over a rocking beat, scorching guitars, and memorable hooks. Chuck Berry should be proud.
Hambridge has some writing partners on the album including Delbert McClinton, Johnny & Donnie Van Zant, and Jimmy Thackery. Thackery contributed to the amusing “Upside Of Lonely.” Jimmy is no stranger to irony and their humorously slanted approaches to lyrics mesh perfectly; it would be nice to hear more from this pair. In this case they explore the freedom to be your own worst enemy - lethargic, dirty, unhealthy, uncouth and happy. Women just want you to do stuff anyway, who needs them?
A lot Tom Hambridge’s lyrics display wry humor. If all games involve a form a death and all jokes are based on pain, Hambridge exists in the nexus exploring both sides in song. His eye is keenly focused on the human condition and the aspects that make life tragic, magic, and memorable. Details that may seem mundane are really the focus of the moments of our lives and Hambridge realizes how the little things make us whole. He’s able to convey it all succinctly, while drawing the listener into the story. In “Nine Pound Hammer” he sings “give a boy a hammer; everything starts to look like a nail.” Twelve words accurately sum up the nature of men but there’s much more to think about there.
It also helps that Hambridge wraps his words in simple, catchy hooks played with aplomb by a top notch band. “Nine Pound Hammer” is a swinging southern rocker with slide guitars and groove for miles. It’s got Lynyrd Skynyrd-style piano flourishes and a vocal delivery that would make the Olympic Ass-Kicking Team proud. “Bangin' Around” is boogie woogie bliss - Kevin McKendree channels Jerry Lee Lewis while guitarist Rob McNelley conjures a slinky, Stevie Ray Vaughan style boogie that lights a fire under the piano and burns it to the ground. The album closes with an upbeat track appropriately titled “I Had A Real Good Time.” It’s fast, fun and full of forward momentum which will hopefully carry over to his next disc.
For me, the only misstep is “I Got Your Country Right Here,” a Hambridge tune Gretchen Wilson did a few years back. It’s a name check song, a style that for many never seems to lose its allure, as though naming bands you like will create a personal identity that is otherwise lacking. This kind of kitschy throwaway song might resonate with the lowest common denominator of listeners but ultimately rings hollow; it’s an over-done concept. Everything else on this album points to Hambridge being above this kind of pandering. It's disappointing. It's a shame because the music is spirited, with a cool riff and scorching lead guitars. Guitarist Rob McNelley's work is consistently stellar all over Boom!.
All in all, Boom! lives up to its title - exploding on to the scene and dragging us whooping and hollering across rural landscapes on interstate highways. Tom Hambridge’s production skills are superb and this record not only has good songs, they sound good too. The arrangements are uncluttered without being simplistic, dynamic without bombast, and every accent knows its place and fills it perfectly. Hopefully there will be more high quality work from Hambridge for years to come..
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
Various Artists - Barbecue Any Old Time – Blues from the Pit
Old Hat Records
24 songs; 68 minutes
Styles: Pre-War Blues (1927-1942): Country Blues, Jazz, Washboard Bands, String Bands, Jug Bands, and Vaudeville Blues
There's a trifecta of blues music and its perfect accompaniments: “blues, brews and barbecues,” as the old saying goes! What is it about barbecue that makes blues extra-delicious to the ear? Various enthusiasts of blues and 'cues are featured on “Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues from the Pit,” an appetite-inducing album of “Music for Carnivores!” As typical with blues, there are plenty of double entendres and sly nods to other appetites. One's mouth will chuckle and/or water as one savors these 24 songs, each one a tasty treasure from before World War II and the 1950's.
Each song on “Barbecue” is short and sizzling, performed by ravenous mavens such as Barbecue Bob, Bessie Jackson, Brownie McGhee, Bo Carter, Georgia White and Blind Boy Fuller. Instrumentation variously and gloriously includes the banjo, violin, 6 and 12 string guitars, steel guitar, piano, celesta, jug, harmonica, cornet, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, string bass, brass bass, tambourine, washboard and drums.
The CD comes with a 20 page, full color booklet that chronicles the spread of Blues and barbecue across America. It is complete with rare photographs, artist and song descriptions, and a full discography.
Here are three of the album's most select “cuts”:
Track 19: “Fat Meat is Good Meat” (1942)--As any non-health-nut will enthuse, fat stores not only calories but flavor. New York’s Savannah Churchill knows this, and purrs sexily and brashly that “if you're a 'hep cat,' you like your meat fat!” During this full band with horns selection, ribs and chops are mentioned, and listeners will be licking theirs once they hear this number.
Track 10: “Gimme a Pig's Foot and a Bottle of Beer”--This 1940 mid-tempo jazz quintet jewel will take one back in time to Bessie Smith’s “Gimme A Pigfoot.” In the midst of the Great Depression, Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon’s version takes perplexing pleasure in telling one to “shake your switchblades and your gun. Get yourself ready for a barrel of fun!”
Track 17: “I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop” (1928)--In a parody of the Scottish “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” hymn, “Bogus Ben” Covington, solo on banjo and harp, lets one and all know that he's more concerned about his stomach than his soul. Letting his appetite take over his higher-reasoning capabilities, Covington complains: “A chicken tried to peck me because I stepped on its wing. That chicken caused me to go to jail. I don't let no chicken do that!” Ignore the muted tone quality—this song is hilarious.
In the early 20th century, millions of Southerners moved from hard-luck farms to the cities of the North and West. Jazz, blues and barbecue would eventually sweep the nation. In the Midwest, blues from the Mississippi Delta traveled Highway 61 to Memphis, then on to the Windy City, while the Piedmont blues of Georgia and the Carolinas rode the rails to New York City. Producer Marshall Wyatt has creatively chosen representative songs from this 15 year Pre-war era.
Expertly remastered for digital clarity and coming with a 20-page full-color chronicle booklet, this CD package collection will make one crave “Barbecue Any Old Time!”
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 6 of 6
The Cash Box Kings - Holler and Stomp
It is getting harder and harder to find a hardcore blues recording amidst the steady stream of releases that promise blues but deliver rock music with faint blues influences. Thankfully, the Cash Box Kings celebrate their new association with the Blind Pig label by delivering a recording that is full of authentic, Chicago-style electric blues that is sure to excite blues fans around the world. The rotating line-up of the band is anchored by Joe Nossek, Oscar Wilson and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, who keep the music suitably grounded in the blues. The rest of the participating musicians are all highly regarded veterans who bring a wealth of experience to the group.
Check out the driving rhythm on Nossek's original “Fraulein On Paulina”, a musical tribute to sweet-loving woman from the northside of Chicago. Smith sets the pace on drums with help from Jimmy Sutton on bass. Joel Patterson lays down a swinging guitar solo followed by some fine harp from Nossek. The band brings the sound of the Louisiana swamp to the southside as singer Oscar Wilson goes off in search of his woman and some hot links on another original, “That's My Gal”. The easy-rolling groove on “Barnyard Pimp” recalls the Jimmy Reed style and features a call-and-response between Wilson's robust vocal and Nossek's echoing harp lines.
On “Feel Like Going Home”, the band captures the deep blues sound that defined the Muddy Waters legacy, primarily due to Wilson's eerie recreation of Muddy's vocal style while Patterson lays down plenty of nasty slide guitar licks. The buoyant rhythm of the title track frames a strong vocal from Nossek and more of Patterson's stellar slide guitar work. The proceedings shift to country blues on the instrumental “Hayseed Strut”, with Billy Flynn on mandolin and Barrelhouse Chuck on piano getting solo space. Both men regularly perform as members of the Cash Box Kings. Nossek pays tips his hat to a regular visitor to southside Chicago clubs on the closing track, “Tribute to the Black Lone Ranger”. Smith lays down one of his patented shuffle beats while Nossek threatens to blow the reeds out of his harp.
The breadth of the band's musical interests comes to light in their choices of tunes to cover. Wilson's exhilarating singing and Barrelhouse Chuck's Farfisa organ spark a rendition of an early Rolling Stones cut, “Off the Hook”. Sutton's high-pitched voice takes the lead on a rocking version of Ray Sharpe's “Oh My Baby's Gone”. A remake of Hank Williams “Blues Come Around” retains the country influences while some dazzling piano from Barrelhouse Chuck and a spirited solo from Patterson inject an equal amount of blues feel to the performance. Wilson's earnest singing on Lightnin' Hopkins “Katie Mae” is another memorable highlight.
This is one of those discs that will find a permanent place in your CD player. Even though the musicians change from track to track, the Cash Box Kings maintain a consistently high standard of performance throughout the disc. Equally impressive is their varied approach, expertly mixing various aspects of the blues genre into an outstanding collection. This one deserves your undivided attention – and comes highly recommended !!!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
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