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In This Issue
Chefjimi Patricola has our feature interview with Watermelon Slim this week.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Dicky James And The Blue Flames. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD from Toby Walker. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Ivan Appelrouth. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Maria Muldaur. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD from Brick Fields and James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Whiteboy James & The Blues Express. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Our friends at Chicago Blues Guide have posted a great review of last months Blues Blast Music Awards. The show was held at Buddy Guy's Legends and Liz Mandeville was there to capture all the fun to go with some great photos by Michael Kurgansky, Connie Kenny and Jennifer Wheeler. Check out their great review now, CLICK HERE!
Good Blues To You!
Featured Blues Interview - Watermelon Slim
Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans has always stood on his own, as a truck driver, a soldier, an artist and musician and most of all as a man. An interesting man beyond what many of us know, we hope this chat exposes you to some of the depth of character and style of the man.
Blues Blast: I take it you have settled into the life of a Mississippi Gentleman very nicely. How are you doing?
Watermelon Slim: I'm doing well, the first six months were very good and I'm enjoying kicking back and doing some other things. Three days of fishing at Lake Pontchartrain (one good, one fair and one really bad one) but I got the freezer full of Red Fish and boy are they good. Love to bake and stuff them up when, hoping the fall sets up good so I can get some bass and leave that head on to improve the flavor, not all fish mind you – but it also makes a great presentation.
BB: How's the garden coming ?
WS: Iffy season, the peppers and tomatoes wont fill the larder, cilantro didn't make it. Got a few Watermelons on the hill. Since I was traveling so much it didn't get the care I needed to give it. Come winter, after I turn it over and get it ready, it should be in great shape.
I do love it down here, been here since October 2009, and have been steadily been doing improvements, got the dog penned but he is an extremely intelligent escape artist, I need to either get him on a reality show, or take him to the army for the special forces !
BB: Okiesippi Blues is your current release with James 'Super Chikan' Johnson, that must have been fun to do.
WS: We made the record in December 2007, at Royal Studios in Memphis, the late Pops Mitchell was part of that production team along with his son and Charley Burch as co-producers (I was the producer) . Definitely a humorous, back in the country blues with a certain consciousness to it. It's off the beaten path from what you usually hear but it is absolutely Mississippi Blues. I put a couple of surprises on it myself. On one track I returned to the Kalimba, the African thumb piano, I synthesized various styles of music into one track by calling upon a Beatles tune and a Zimbabwe folk melody. It is really quite nice.
BB: You have always ventured outside the 'boundaries' of what are the accepted forms of music. One just needs to look at 'Ringers' and 'Escape From The Chicken Coop' as prime examples of this spirit.
WS: I am glad that you mentioned that. I am moderately disappointed that those two releases that I did in Nashville have been summarily rejected by the powers that be in country music – they won't review them so hence nobody buys them. I just want to say that these two releases are some of the best country music as you will ever hear, this is not just country music but country music from Watermelon Slim. I grew up with country music and lived and heard that since the 1950's along with the Blues - it's part of my roots too.
BB: They were recorded with some of the best musicians in Nashville correct ?
WS: Yes, these were the best of the very best of the Nashville musicians. Produced by Miles Wilkinson who really knows how to let an artist's artistry come through in the music. I have not made better records than these two. 'Escape From the Chicken Coop' is such a part of me, I was a trucker for so many years as most people know.
BB: Any idea why this reaction?
WS: I don't know, I haven't gone that deep into it. Maybe they think that this old boy is just too far out there for them and the audience. I know that some of the feedback from reviewers was along the lines of 'we'll pass on this - it's too Blues to be Country and too Country to be Blues' . . .come on it's still good music, has no one ever crossed genres before?
BB: Maybe you are just too far out there for the average listener?
WS: Well I have been a political activist for over forty years. Not only am I a truck-driving, blues-singing, grunt worker and musician by vocation but a staunch anti-war veteran/activist. This dates back to 1971 when I joined Vietnam Veterans against the War. I was honorably discharged, but deemed unsuitable for military service. I was a good soldier – I followed orders and was fine while doing what I needed to do, but it was when I was not busy with these tasks that I got into trouble. I naively considered my off time my own, (we laugh) so it certainly got me into lots of deep stuff. I am a much better soldier now, I am one that you would want in your foxhole now as many can attest to.
BB: I especially like your “Honor the Warrior, not the War' slogan and way of viewing things. It finally seems to have come to a state of recognition in today's constant war theatre that we see.
WS: That's the nut of it all, I am glad that so many more people have come to that realization. My family has a long and illustrious history of serving the country. It was just a matter of when and where. But then again I was 19 going on 16 back then, I really had no job skills so it was into the military I went.
BB: So how did you get from there to here – to this place where you have been for the past forty years?
WS: My job in the military was really pretty boring, I was a heavy equipment operator. Basically setting up communications on trucks and such. Occasionally I'd go off base to remote signal sites but was basically combat support. It was really boring when I wasn't working, so my buddies and I would smoke all the dope we could and occasionally dropping LSD, but I did learn to play guitar there.
BB: Do tell....
WS: It started when I got sick I was in Cam Rhan Bay and started to learn how to play slide guitar there. It was an old beat up thing that was a god send to me at that point. I had other agendas in my life while a soldier and that's not a good thing, one needs to be solely focused on being a soldier and nothing else. I was exposed to Agent Orange while in service and that stuff messes with your system in so many ways. I am fortunate to have had one beautiful child and she is fine so I feel I dodged that bullet, and my health is generally good.
BB: So can I ask if The Workers are still part of the picture?
WS: Not at the moment. We are now living in three different places, Cliff and Ronnie are still in Norman, Oklahoma. Stovall is in Boston, and I'm in Mississippi - it's really too unwieldy to do the schedule that we did for the two years before. Even in '09 with us all living in Oklahoma and Stovall-Brown in Boston it got to be too much. We might record another record and come back in '012, but the travel is just too rough at this point. Logistically it's a nightmare and with the airline fees.
From what I know the boys are taking care of themselves, especially Stovall he is a master at taking care of himself, way beyond what I can imagine myself ever being.
My 2012 schedule at this point is from March 17th to April 7th I will be in England, around the bottom two-thirds of England. I expect to be doing a n extended tour in Italy for the summer (as he rattles off some Italian phrases – stating that he has been studying Italian in preparation for the tour). You can always check my site for updates http://www.watermelonslim.com/tourcalendar.asp.
BB: If I can back-track to Chikan and you for a moment, any plans on getting together again with him either in studio or on the road?
WS: Yes, there are things we are working on. I have to say that Super Chikan is one of the most distinctive Blues-men around these days. We plan on playing together more and thrilled at how our 'Okiesippi Blues' release is being received.
If I may I just want to say how grateful I am to all the fans that I have had that made me go from being musically nothing to be able to talk about and make music in the last seven or so years. I quit my truck driving job and within three months I had a W.C. Handy Award nomination. It has worked seamlessly because of the fans and my entire team. I cannot thank them enough, it means the world to me.
Interviewer Chefjimi Patricola is a classically trained chef, blues loving writer and photographer, and creative master of Blues411.com. He can also can be found on FaceBook and at festivals and clubs in your neighborhood and town.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Dicky James And The Blue Flames - Hard Rain
Just what you would expect from the Midwest, good and sturdy blues. Based in Indiana, but musically traveling through Chicago and Mississippi along with a stopover in “Funk Town”, Dicky and associates dish out a heaping helping of working man’s blues. Dicky leads the guys with his guitar, vocal and songwriting skills, ably bolstered by an ace rhythm section along with organ and harmonica shadings. Mr. James possesses the requisite whiskey-soaked voice to make everything copasetic. The occasional use of a horn section provides an extra kick.
We get two paeans to the blues in “A Real Good Blues” and “We Git To Play”, both taken at a sprightly gait. Right from the git-go the fearless leader’s guitar cuts right through the air and doesn’t let up till this party is over. The former leads in with a snare drum shuffle followed by a heavy bass sound, amped-up harp and organ washes. The latter tune enthuses about the lift they get from playing the blues. The first of two covers, B.B. King’s “Rock Me”, benefits from a driving rhythm push and a refreshing Hammond organ solo courtesy of Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson. Dobro-slide is trotted out on “Bulldog Talkin’”, a laid-back country-blues underpinned by a thumping bass drum and Bob “Icehouse” Freeze’s snaky harp playing.
What goes around comes around is the lesson taught within “It’s All True”. Stinging guitar licks fly out like sparks over a tough groove supported by sturdy harp, leading into a cool-jazz organ workout. The title track rides along on a funky guitar-horn riff as the singer berates the listener that “The muddy water gonna wash all over you”. Dicky’s strong vocal here supports the vibe along with his usual out-front guitar skills. In the hands of these cool-customers, the old blues chestnut “Born Under A Bad Sign” sounds born-anew.
The lone instrumental “Icehouse Shuffle” is a chance for its namesake to show the extent of his harmonica prowess, not to mention more strong vocals and axe tricks from our hero. What starts out sounding like the intro to “Somebody Loan Me A Dime”, turns out to be the slow blues vamp of “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues”. More funk is brought to the front in the horn-driven goodness of “Game On”.
“Special To Me’’ stands out like a whore in a nunnery. This must have been a favor owed to a friend. In the midst of all this blues goodness Wes “Dub C” Cox’s dub workout just doesn’t work out. Taken as a separate tune elsewhere, its lilting reggae backdrop has a certain appeal and Dicky manages to interject some blues licks.
The unlisted “Roll the Credits” is just that, as DJ Doc Long recites the credits in his radio-worthy pipes over some more tasty blues riffing. One miscue doesn’t mar the praise worthy musical effort put forth here. Musicianship like this needs to be rewarded. Pick this puppy up and groove to it until the next helping comes along..
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Toby Walker – Shake Shake Mama
Another artist carrying on the traditions of acoustic blues and following in the footsteps of John Hammond, Rory Block and Paul Geremia is Toby Walker. For listeners who derive their pleasures in the sounds of the Delta, Walker’s Shake Shake Mama will be a valuable cd to add to their playlist.
It’s a minimalistic album with wife Carol adding stand-up bass to several of the tracks. On the inner sleeve of the cd jacket, Walker lists the guitars used on all the songs. The make of some of the guitars stretches to the early twentieth century. A perfect choice for capturing sounds that have their seeds in the Delta soil unearthed.
Justice is paid to the old masters ranging from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters. Walker’s slide unleashes a nervous tension and sprays steely fire on strings that sound like they’re pulled taut over a metal garbage can. His attack on Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” can make him the candidate for journeying to the crossroads and striking his own deal with the devil.
It’s the kind of playing that draws rave reviews from folks like Bob Margolin, John Hammond and Jorma Kaukonen. Making appearances at guitar clinics and Blues In The Schools is indicative of a musician who wants to pass the torch to the upcoming generations.
While his vocals are not technically perfect doesn’t matter. Very few players can capture Huddie Ledbetter’s “Midnight Special” with a lightning in a bottle effect. The tune is familiar to fans of Creedance Clearwater Revival. Although the rock band’s rendition is favorable, it’s got nothing on Walker who bathes the song in whiskey with 12-string guitar back-porch jubilee.
Indeed it is a record that more than lives up to the title. There’s the homage to Big Bill Broonzy in the cheerful “Shuffle Rag.” But it’s in Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” that Walker is in his element. Just in this song alone can Toby make folks spill out onto the dance floor. His slide is giddy with drink and it’s the next best thing to a top-down drive on Highway 61.
The CD is almost an hour in length. You’re more than listening to it. It’s receiving an education of where this music came from. Although no original material is found here, you simply won’t care. You’re just more than happy that Walker wraps Hickory Smoke around these tracks.
The idea that Walker used what was probably his entire guitar collection on the songs was a good choice. Collectors of old instruments can study Walker’s technique and find the best sounds which capture the moment.
If you check out Walker’s website, he has a DVD on the HomeSpun Video Series entitled Blues Fingerpicking Freedom. This would be right up the alley of aspiring guitarists who want to forsake playing with a band to concentrate and hone their chops on old school blues which for some is the real American treasure. Walker may make his home in New Jersey. But his traveling down South was the best teaching he could get. Now imparting his knowledge in classrooms across the country, perhaps there’s a youngster so enraptured with the meat and mysticism of the blues, that when they’re all grown up, they’ll take a long or short drive to the Delta. Or convince their parents to take them. And if Mom and Dad are blues fanatics, than their arms won’t be too hard to twist. In this regard, Toby Walker has already done his job.
A few listens to Shake Shake Mama might just make you gas up the car and head into that part of the South where the old ghosts roam..
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
BENEFIT FOR JIM O'NEAL AT BUDDY GUY'S LEGENDS NOVEMBER 30th
Louisiana blues star Kenny Neal is bringing together a cast of Chicago blues veterans in a benefit show at Buddy Guy's Legends on Nov. 30 to assist Living Blues co-founder Jim O'Neal, who was recently diagnosed with lymph cancer. The Legends gathering, which will feature the Wayne Baker Brooks band backing Neal and a number of other performers who received their first magazine coverage in the early years of Living Blues. The magazine published an interview with Buddy Guy by O'Neal and Tim Zorn in its second issue in 1970 and has featured him several times since.
Jim O'Neal, a former Chicago and Mississippi resident who has been in Kansas City since 1998, had no health insurance in June when he learned that his back pains were due to lymphoma and spinal tumors. Following back surgery, he is now undergoing chemotherapy and continuing to work at home when possible writing texts for the Mississippi Blues Trail historical marker project. O'Neal, who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2002, co-founded Living Blues, America's first blues magazine, in Chicago in 1970.
When Kenny Neal's Hooked On Your Love CD won an award in the 2011 Living Blues Critics' Poll, Neal recalled: "I can't believe it's been 31 years since I picked up my first Living Blues magazine and opened it up and read an article on myself entitled "Kenny Neal and the Neal Brothers." I can't describe the feeling that I got when I first saw the article; it wasn't because I was in the article but because someone cared about the blues. I was so excited I caught a flight to Chicago from Toronto and found the Headquarters of Living Blues magazine. Knocked on the door and there were Jim and Amy O'Neal inviting me into their house. They took me on a grand tour down into the basement and showed me where Living Blues was being printed. And this is at a time when we needed someone to help keep the blues alive and they did just that. Now today here in 2011, the blues is alive and well as ever before."
A fund has been set up at Commerce Bank in Kansas City to receive donations, which may be sent to: Jim O'Neal Blues Fund, P.O. Box 10334, Kansas City, MO 64171, or by PayPal to email@example.com.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Ivan Appelrouth – Blue And Instrumental
15 tracks; 61.57 minutes
Ivan Appelrouth is a protégé of Duke Robillard and has been performing for some thirty years. He currently plays guitar with both Big Joe and the Dynaflows and Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes. Like me, you may not have recognized his name, probably because this is his first recording as band leader. Originally the idea was to record some 50s style blues/Rn’B for potential use in film or TV soundtracks, but the recordings went so well that they held a second session and ended up with these 15, all instrumental tracks, recorded over a total time of just 10 hours in the studio.
The band here is an enlarged version of The Dynaflows with Big Joe Maher on drums and John Cocuzzi on piano throughout and Steve Potter sharing bass duties with Tommy Hannigan. Saxes and trumpet are added by Chris Watling and Dave Cwiklinski respectively and Hammond B3 by Steve Utt. Ivan plays all guitars. It is interesting to note that the band had never played these songs before the recording sessions and there is a spontaneous feel to the tracks and a real sense that the players were having a good time playing these charts.
The music is terrific throughout, most of the material being original yet naggingly familiar. That is because Ivan has composed material to honour his influences and we get tunes with titles like “Blues A La King”, “Tribute To Magic Sam”, “T-Boned Again”, etc. There are four actual covers: a superb version of Albert Collins’ “Frosty” has all the elements of Albert’s original, the horns playing ‘that’ riff and the guitar sounding very close to Albert’s style. Yet the very next track is “Strolling With Bone” and Ivan’s guitar hits the T-Bone style perfectly, the piano and horns backing him up brilliantly. “Junior Jumps” is a tune written by harp player James Montgomery incorporating some of his favorite Junior Wells harp licks. Here there is no harp, but a frenetic pace is maintained throughout, Ivan’s guitar playing the lead role in plucked style, hot piano and baying horns in support.
The only real oddity is the inclusion of Acker Bilk’s “Stranger On The Shore” which can certainly not be classed as blues. Originally a feature for clarinet, here pianist John Cocuzzi steps over to the vibes and is featured alongside the organ of Steve Utt on what is really a cocktail lounge piece. Perhaps this was one of the film/TV try outs, but for me, it sits uncomfortably with the rest of the album (despite Acker being a fellow Brit!).
Generally the album is upbeat and varied. Ivan deploys his slide style on the two takes of “Olsen Ranch Shuffle” that bookend the CD and also on “Booky’s Boogie”, a fast-paced boogie with driving drums and piano. The horn players perform excellently throughout, though there was clearly some overdubbing involved as on a tune like “Strollin’ Blues” both tenor and bari saxes can be clearly heard and I don’t think that Chris Watling played those two simultaneously!
Hard to pick favorites on this album, but if pressed I would select “The Twisted Top”, a short but sweet rocker, “T-Boned Again”, the aforementioned “Frosty” and the second version of “Olsen Ranch Shuffle” that closes the album. Overall I found this a very enjoyable CD for those who enjoy 50s style blues. If Duke Robillard floats your boat, try Ivan Appelrouth and I think you’ll enjoy the experience.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Maria Muldaur - Steady Love
Let me say that any teenage boy who was about my age growing up that did not have a crush on Maria Muldaur after just listening to “Midnight At The Oasis” was either deaf or on their deathbed. That bias aside, Maria is a superbly talented singer who can make any song sound good. With “Steady Love” she has returned to the Crescent City and surrounded herself with a huge cast of over a dozen outstanding supporting artists and has produced a really great CD!
The title track has a great horn arrangement provided by the inimitable Jimmy Carpenter. Muldaur sings of what a “more seasoned” woman appreciates in her relationships. She growls and purrs nicely through this one; Shane Theriot adds a cool little guitar solo, too. The CD opens to the driving , stomping strains of Theriots guitar. Elvin Bishop’s “I’ll Be Glad” is a good vehicle for Muldaur to set the stage with- it jumps out at the listener and grabs them by the collar.
The Bobby Charles standard “Why Are People Like That?” shows Muldaur at her bluesiest. Rick Vito penned “I Am Not Alone” and plays slide on it; the cut is a slow and grooving spiritual that Maria nails. “Walk By Faith” and “I Done Made Up My Mind” let Maria take the spiritual in musically different directions and succeeds each time. Muldaur takes us to church in “As An Eagle Stirreth In Her Nest” and makes you want to throw your hands up and dance. Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love” gets a sultry and sensual cover by Muldaur.
She gives us a great ride top to bottom on this CD. I really enjoyed it and you can see she had a good time putting it together in her performances. I liked this CD a lot. Her fans will love it and those new to Muldaur can see her bluesy side by buying this well done CD!
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.
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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Tuesday November 29th, Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Release Party for their fourth CD with Blue Bella Records, Four, at 8 pm at the Iron Post, Urbana; Friday December 2nd, Matt Hill, winner of the 2011 Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut from the Blues Foundation, 10pm, Memphis on Main, Champaign. $5 non-members, $3 members. For more info: prairiecrossroadsblues.org.
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Wednesday November 30th, Victor Wainwright & The Wildroots - Saturday December 17th, Jan 11th at 7PM • Brandon Santini. 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
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. 11/28 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
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Brick Fields - Gospel Blue
10 tracks 47:31
Fields Of Sound
We don’t get too much Gospel music in the pages of Blues Blast, yet in my mind the genre is inextricably linked with blues. In the past, many blues men (and women) moved seamlessly from one type of music to another. To be sure, some of them became conscience stricken and either gave up playing altogether or stuck, like Thomas A, Dorsey with gospel, after years of living with the sobriquet Georgia Tom and playing and singing blues, sometimes of a very ‘adult’ nature. Rev. Gary Davis played wahy is sometime called “Holy Blues” and often asked people not to tell his wife when he played secular pieces.
Brick Fields are first and foremost, a gospel group. Fronted by Larry Brick and Rachel Fields, they hail from Eureka Springs, Arkansas and have, for some years, been performing in a variety of venues throughout NW Arkansas. They were the winners of the recent Ozark Blues Society Challenge and were headliners on the Gospel Blues Stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, October 8th 2011.
Let’s say right a way, that Rachel Fields has a fabulous voice, sometimes full on gospel, like many of the southern Baptist raised singers, sometimes laid back and jazzy with tinges of Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan. She is also a fine flute player with a terrific haunting, ‘singing’ tone. Larry Brick, Rachel’s partner – to use the current vernacular – is a fine guitarist and singer, matching Rachel’s, passion with six string skills and a honey and wine voice.
Gospel Blue contains nine originals many of which are delivered with deeply felt love verging on passion (sometimes of a very non-religious kind - check out On The Vine – which seems to be a declaration of personal one-to-one commitment). The CD ends with a thoughtful jazz inflected cover of “Amazing Grace.”
My favorite track, without a doubt is In “The Light Of Love” which starts with a delightful close harmony acapella introduction before morphing into a jazzy, up-tempo piece of gospel in the old tradition.
A 32 bar blues “Addicted To You” features Fields’ super alto voice in a statement of earthly passion, a tradition harking back to Georgia Tom.
The rest of the music is filled with passion, fervour and fine instrumentation and the production is – to my ears – flawless. It is the kind of music heard in many an Episcopal church throughout the USA on a Sunday, here delivered with skill, passion and commitment.
If you are one of those people who avoid gospel music like the plague, take a chance on this one. You will be very pleasantly surprised. .
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has two web-cast regular blues radio shows. One on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central), the second on KCOR – Kansas City Online Radio (on Fridays at 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central) www.kconlineradio.com.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Whiteboy James & The Blues Express - Extreme Makeover
12 songs; 40:20 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, Retro Electric Blues, Jazzy Blues, “Blues-a-billy,” “Drunk-a-billy,” “Jump and Jive”
Whiteboy James should be in jail! Especially, when one considers how anything really raucous and fun in our society is eventually declared by the government to be beyond immoral to completely illegal, then incarceration here is overdue.
Here is a list of Whiteboy James’s jail-able infractions:
1. He drinks cheap, $2.00/bottle “Night Train Wine” and carries the bottle around in his pants.
2. He scribbles! (Hell, he can “barely write [his] name”).
3. He likes “Big Butted Women.”
4. He will “Stay Out Late at Night” and then sleep all day.
5. His middle name is “Trouble.”
6. He “gold-bricks’ and even hangs out at the “Gold Brick Bar.”
7. He makes love to various women until “past 4 o’clock” in the morning.
8. He “‘likes’ drinkin’ whisky, vodka, scotch and gin.”
9. He fantasizes about murder of the deserving.
10. He provides alcohol to “Jungle natives.”
11. He “takes” women from other guys.
All the information contained in this indictment can be audibly deduced from the 10 original songs (plus two covers) which gloriously and wonderfully celebrate mischievous decadence and passion. This CD is my guilty pleasure for 2011.
As a record reviewer, I should strive for erudition, rewarding writers for cerebral lyrics that challenge thoughtful contemplation. Further, rewarding a touch of Blues purism would discourage any feelings but the deepest from the soul. Well, screw all that! Let’s pop in this CD, get drunk and have some irreverent fun. That is what this album is about. This is Whiteboy’s second release and is an updated version of the band’s self-titled debut from 1992.
To be clear, there is plenty of intelligence on display here. For all the rough-neck, feisty fun in the songs, the lyrics are anything but thoughtless or uninspired. As a struggling song writer myself, I am most amazed at James’s tune, “Excuse Me for Scribblin’ (I can barely write my name).” How did he come up with that one? There has to be a great story behind that song.
“Whiteboy” James Page is a West Coast Blues legend. The talented singer, songwriter, and wailing harmonica player is a survivor of the Southern California Blues explosion of the 1980s and 90s. Since reforming in 2006 after a five year absence, the band has re-established itself as the legendary band that they once were. The current Blues Express collaborators are: Scott Abeyta (guitar), Blake Watson (bass), and Max Bangwell (with the best name in the business for a drummer).
Musically, the entire CD is a relentless throw-down Blues party. James blows dance-a-billy harp and his big voice and shouts propel unadulterated raw feeling and ballsy wit. Abeyta on guitar displays imaginative skills and technical power, but his tasty single note runs never collapse into pedestrian power-chording. A huge part of the sound is the killer backing beats from Watson and Bangwell playing with confidence and verve.
Whiteboy James is my newest hero! I have fallen in love with this CD for all the wrong or right reasons – not sure which. All I know is, its upbeat songs kick ass mercilessly, it is fun, it is funny, and it is ultimately entertaining. Get this CD and a bottle of Night Train wine, and your night is set.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE.
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Festivals... Blues Blast Magazine & TheBluesBlast.com's website are great ways to promote ANY Blues event or product. In fact we believe we just might have THE best Blues advertising vehicle anywhere to promote YOUR Blues event!
Blues CD's... For less than the cost of one small ad in a newspaper, you can advertise your shows, new CD or any Blues product. A great way to get the Blues word out!
Blues fans WANT to know about your Blues event of product. Call Bob at (309) 267-4425 or send an email to for a confidential quote today!
Blues Blast Magazine covers Blues all over!
We also offer effective advertising for Festivals and Club Owners, Recording Companies and Performers. Put your Blues advertisement on our homepage at: http://www.TheBluesBlast.com either as a sponsored event or as a featured event, product, recording or merchandise. We get 33,000 visitors and 2,000,000 hits A MONTH on our website!
More than 21,000 Blues Fans, Musicians, Recording Companies, Club Owners, Blues Societies and Festival Promoters in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries read the Blues Blast magazine each week. You can feature your event or product in the largest FREE internet Blues magazine delivered right to your inbox each week.
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