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In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Chicago Bluesman Eddie C. Campbell this week.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Errol Linton. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD from Bert Deivert. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Travis Moonchild Haddix. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Bobby Messano. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Billy C. Farlow featuring Mercy. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Sandy Carroll. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
RIP Hubert Sumlin - November 16, 1931 to December 4, 2011
We lost another Blues legend this week with the passing of Hubert Sumlin. Hubert made his mark with his unique guitar playing as the long time guitarist for Howlin' Wolf.
His health has been failing for the last couple years. When we attended the 2010 Chicago Blues Fest Hubert had to cancel his scheduled afternoon appearance on an all-star panel celebrating the music of Howlin' Wolf.
We assumed we would not get to see him that day. But even though Hubert wasn't having the best day, he was not going to miss the chance to play with some of Howlin' Wolf's former band members. To our pleasant surprise Hubert showed up to play with his oxygen tank in tow. It was a set he was not going to miss! He got to play with other Howlin’ Wolf alumni including Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, Jody Williams, Sam Lay, Henry Gray, Abb Locke and Corky Siegel.
Hubert just lit up with the biggest sh*t eating grin as soon as he hit his first note. He had an ear to ear smile on his face the whole time as he seemingly played from his very soul! The joy of playing this music he loves was AMAZING to experience!
We will miss this wonderful man!
Here is the sad news as reported by our good friend Bob Corritore.
"Hubert Sumlin was best known for his extraordinary guitar work on the 1950s and 1960s recordings of Howlin' Wolf. Hubert Sumlin is considered among the greatest guitarists of all time. Hubert passed away of a heart attack on Sunday, Dec 4 after a long bout with respiratory illness. He was 80 years old. Though his health had been problematic for years, he continued to tour and delight concert and festival audiences until close to the end.
Born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1931 and raised in Hughes, Arkansas, Hubert got his first guitar at age 6. Hubert was very interested in music and as a boy snuck into a nightclub to see Howlin' Wolf perform. Hubert's youthful enthusiasm won Wolf's heart, who took the young boy in and developed a father-like mentoring role with Hubert. Wolf would move to Chicago in 1953 and a year later would call for Hubert to move to Chicago to join his band. Initially Hubert played a secondary role in the group with guitarist Jody Williams getting most of the limelight. But when Jody left the band about 2 years later, Hubert became the star guitarist.
Hubert's unorthodox approach, using innovative rhythmic textural lines and wild bursts of lead guitar, became an integral part of the Howlin' Wolf sound., Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters reportedly had a rivalry going as to who had the top blues band in Chicago (both were amazing bands) and for a short period of time Muddy recruited Hubert away from Wolf only to have Hubert return to Wolf's band and never leave again. Hubert's guitar was an essential and consistent part of the success of Wolf's recordings and live shows. The music achieved by the Wolf / Sumlin combination reached the highest of heights in the blues.
When Howlin' Wolf recorded the London Sessions in 1970, Hubert began a life long relationship with UK blues artists like Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. In 1976, when Wolf died, Hubert was devastated. At first Eddie Shaw (Wolf's saxophonist) tried to keep the Howlin' Wolf band together but Hubert would drift: spending time in Austin, Texas under the care of Clifford Antone, or in Chicago where he stayed with Sunnyland Slim.
In addition to recordings with Wolf, Hubert appeared on Chicago sessions with Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang, Andrew McMahon, Sunnyland Slim, Louisiana Red, Carey Bell, Little Eddie, Big Mac, and others. He recorded numerous albums under his own name for L+R, Black Top, Tone-Cool, Rykodisc, APO, JSP, Blind Pig, Blues Planet, Blues Special and other labels.
At a point, under the guidance of manager Toni Ann Mamary, Hubert started to get his due as the guitar legend he was. Hubert found himself hanging around and performing with rock stars, playing major festivals, and having his historic bio, Incurable Blues, published. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008, Through all this notoriety, Hubert remained the kind, gentle soul with the same boyish enthusiasm that first befriended the Howlin' Wolf. His guitar playing was always intriguing, unorthodox, and impossible to copy.
As he was bedridden and nearing the last hours of his life, his final request was to play his guitar one last time. We thank Hubert for the light of joy he shined on the world and the heavenly music that he left for future generations to behold."
Hubert Sumlin Funeral Information
Festa Memorial Funeral Home - 111 Union Blvd. Totowa, NJ 07512 (973) 790-8686
Viewing and Receiving of guests - Sunday, December 11, 2011 2- 4 PM & 7 - 9PM
Funeral Service 10AM Monday, December 12, 2011
Chicago Area Musical Celebration Of Life - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 doors open at 7PM
FitzGerald's 6615 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn, Illinois 60402
Donations accepted at door. Many musicians will honor Hubert this night.
Featured Blues Interview - Eddie C. Campbell
With every passing year, the venerable art form known as the blues somehow finds a way to carve small inroads into the highway that leads to mainstream awareness.
And while the progress has certainly been steady, it still may be a long time before the blues makes its way to the top of the playlists that dominate today’s giant, mega-corporate radio and television stations.
Part of the roadblock the music is facing may be the refusal of most program directors to even air the blues.
But part of that roadblock may also be the way that when the blues are aired, it’s the manner in which they are aired that is the problem.
“When you see a rap artist on television, he’s got gold chains on, Cadillac cars around him with a whole lot of pretty ladies,” said sage Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell. “And when they show blues, they show a person sitting on a corner, playing the guitar, holding his hat out begging for money. That’s a big difference.”
And Eddie C. Campbell knows of what he speaks.
A veteran of the scene who got his first exposure under the bright spotlights at Chicago’s 1125 Club when he sat in with Muddy Waters and played “Still a Fool” at the tender age of 12, Campbell understands all too well the importance of marketing and public perception when it comes to the blues.
“There’s just a big difference in the way that the blues are promoted, compared to all the other music that’s out there and popular,” he said. “All that rap and rock and all that other stuff comes from the blues. But don’t nobody want to talk about that.”
A larger-than-life, bare-chested and intense Campbell is found on the cover of his latest disc, Tear This World Up, holding a glowing earth in his hands and looking every bit the part of someone who might in fact, tear this world up.
While the window-coating on that 2009 release begged up for attention, so too, did the contents found inside.
Tear This World Up (Delmark Records) was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Album of the Year category and is stuffed to the brim with Campbell’s highly-inventive, reverb-drenched guitar gymnastics. EDITOR'S NOTE: Tear This World Up was also nominated for Best Traditional Blues CD in the 2010 Blues Blast Music Awards.
Surprising then, that Tear This World Up came out almost a full decade after his prior album, 2000’s equally-excellent Hopes & Dreams (Rooster Blues Records) was issued.
Most artists favor to strike while the iron is still hot, so why the lengthy delay between albums?
“Well, I really don’t like to make one record right after another – I like to take my time and think about them,” said Campbell. “I hope that in my case, it is quality over quantity.”
The list of amazing guitar players that have called the Windy City home is a list that would require several days of non-stop work to recite.
Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Hubert Sumlin, Hound Dog Taylor …those names just begin to scratch the surface.
However, one name that would not be found on that list is one that probably should be included on said list.
That’s Eddie C. Campbell’s sister and the one who can be credited for encouraging the future “King of the Jungle” to pick up the six-string.
“Yeah, my sister taught me guitar. I just copied her,” Campbell said. “She showed me it all.”
In addition to showing her brother the basics of the instrument, Jones might have also given Campbell a leg up on how to break through the incredible wall-to-wall competition that was found on the Chicago blues scene.
“Well, the only way you was going to make a name for yourself (in Chicago) was if you played different than everybody else,” said Campbell. “If you copied everybody else, you’d sound just like a record. And I was blessed, because nobody had heard my sister play. And she taught me, so I played like her, which was different from all the rest.”
Not only was his playing style different from the rest of the pack, so too was Campbell’s weapon of choice – a Fender Jazzmaster.
“I had a Silvertone that was made by Sears & Roebuck, but I saw a Jazzmaster and the neck was so small on it that I just fell in love with it,” he said. “And I’ve been playing one ever since. It has a great tone to it.”
And the licks that Campbell tosses of that Jazzmaster vividly illustrate the story of some of the legendary bluesmen that he knew and played with over the years.
“Muddy (Waters) had a lot to do with my style, because I played with him when I was 12 years old,” he said. “Jimmy Reed had a lot to do with it too, because I played with him for four-and-a-half years. And I guess I would have to say that Little Walter was a big influence on me, too.”
The 72-year-old Campbell, a native of Duncan, Mississippi, also played with Howlin’ Wolf, Little Johnny Taylor and Willie Dixon over the course of a career that began in earnest in the 1950s.
But the one bluesman that arguably had the biggest influence on Eddie C. Campbell was one that left this earth way before his time was due.
Samuel Maghett, better known as Magic Sam.
“Sam was my next-door neighbor. And it’s funny, but one time, I wasn’t working at the time, and he took my drummer. Huckleberry Hound – Robert Wright – was his name,” said Campbell. “But I used to go over to Sam’s house and play all the time. I learned all his licks. Me and Sam used to go out cuttin’ heads on the weekend. He would sing and I would play the guitar. I’d play all his songs like he did.”
Campbell gives a big nod to his late, great friend with a cool version of Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby” on Tear This World Up.
Not only was Campbell kicking butt with his Fender Jazzmaster, he was also kicking butt with his fists back in the day, as well.
An amateur boxer, he won 16 bouts during his tenure in the ring. As hard as it may be to fathom, according to Campbell, he wasn’t the only Chicagoan who sparred with both the guitar and his fists.
“Not, I wasn’t the only one. A lot of the guys used to play music and box. Ernie Terrell (former WBA Heavyweight champ) used to live next door to me, too. He fought Muhammad Ali right before he became Heavyweight champion of the world,” Campbell said. “And he played music too - played guitar. So there were several guys that had boxed that also played music back then.”
As in a lot of cases, Campbell took up the sweet science of boxing as a means of self-defense.
“Well, boxing was just something that I liked to do. When I was going to school, I had kind of a rough time and had to learn to defend myself,” he said. “They used to jump on me and beat me up and take all my lunch money. I learned how to do Karate and box when I was about 10. And I just loved boxing. I used to watch Joe Louis box and just loved it.”
It can be debated whether or not there’s any direct correlation between the sport of boxing and the art of playing music.
But one thing that is common between the two – to rise to the top in either field, you need determination, heart and hard work.
Some good management, promotion and little bit of luck sure doesn’t hurt, either.
“The only way John Lee Hooker got big was he had a lot of the white guys from rock help him play because they liked his music,” Campbell said. “Stuff like ‘how, how, how, how -I’m gonna shoot you right down (“Boom Boom”)’ He (Hooker) did that record a long time ago, but when they got those rock guys to play with him, it was almost the same sound, but it boosted it way up there and made a hit record.”
That may have helped get John Lee Hooker’s music spread to a wider audience, but it sure didn’t mean that John Lee Hooker himself was heard on a lot more radio stations – especially rock radio stations.
“When you think blues, you think black. When you think rock, you think white,” said Campbell. “Albert King taught Stevie Ray Vaughan all his licks. And Stevie sounds a little like Albert, but I can tell the difference between Stevie’s playing and Albert’s playing. But Stevie went all the way to the top and Albert King was still at the bottom. Is that because he’s playing blues and Stevie was playing rock? They both played the same songs. But when you say rock, you’re in a different bag. When you say blues, you’re in another different bag.”
Even though they do share a common crossover, it seems that’s just the way it’s always been between the world of rock and the world of the blues, especially when you throw the corporate boardroom into the mix.
“But the thing is, if you’re white and we both make the same record, you’ll get yours played and I won’t get mine played,” Campbell said. “I don’t understand that. It’s been like that ever since I was a little kid.”
Just as hard as it is for a true bluesman to get his tunes spun over the radio airwaves these days, it can be equally frustrating for him to find a place to play his music live.
“Back in the day, you might find six clubs in one block that had bands playing in them,” said Campbell. “So it was easier to make a little change playing music when I was younger – you wouldn’t make much – but bread was only 12 cents and if you had $1,500 you could go buy a Cadillac. But today, you might make a little more money, but you don’t play as much because there aren’t as many places to play as there used to be. You just don’t have the opportunity.”
Luckily for Campbell’s fans, the opportunity to hear a disc of new material won’t require a decade’s wait this time.
Scheduled for a spring release, Spider-Eatin’ Preacher, Campbell’s newest offering, should pick right up where Tear This World Up left off.
“The album’s finished, but we just have to get the horns in,” he said. “And my son’s playing violin on it.”
Although it might be taking its own sweet time to blanket the airwaves in this country, the blues do seem to still be spreading out globally, giving all hope that the big breakthrough is still possible.
“I see a lot of people playing the blues – all different races. It’s all over the world,” Campbell said. “Places like Paris, Germany, Brazil, Australia. Everywhere I go, people are playing the blues. I see the blues going on forever. But the blues are changing. There’s no Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, but there are guys coming up that are trying to get the feel for what Muddy and The Wolf were doing. It’s just a different twist to it.”
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 Staples 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, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Errol Linton - Mama Said
Brixton, England native Errol Linton brings his Jamaican heritage to meld with his love of the blues. Also in his arsenal is a resonant voice to go along with his heartfelt lyrics and music. It doesn’t hurt that he has a bouncy harmonica technique as well, no doubt developed during his years of busking in London’s underground tube stations. There are straight ahead blues numbers here and at other times there are blues elements wafting through a heady concoction of breezy Caribbean-flavored tunes.
Adam Blake’s acoustic slide guitar in cahoots with Errol’s lively harmonica takes you right smack-dab into the delta with their take on Muddy Water’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. The original “Through My Veins” is a lazy modern blues paean to friends and London town. Abram Wilson’s soothing trumpet interweaves with tasty harp riffs. A jaunty romp is had in the acoustic “Boogie Disease” were harp, slide and piano battle it out to the delight of the listener. Chugga-chugga harp kick-starts a driving version of Joe Liggins’ classic “Honey Dripper”. The harp-train pulls into the station at about the three minute mark, then picks up steam and kicks into overdrive. The title track is an old-fashioned electric boogie via John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat, with the requisite fuzz-toned guitar. The author recalls the life lessons taught to him by his mother. “Stressed Out” is a funky blues that speaks to the modern work-a-day travails of getting by. Wah-wah guitar here doesn’t sound out-of-place, it just adds to the modern blues vibe.
The subject of his upbringing in Brixton’s Acre lane is the stuff of “Roll On Tomorrow”, set to an acoustic reggae beat. Tribute is paid to his wife via the acoustic love song “Hooked On Your Love”. “Kisses Sweet” has a similar vibe with the addition of electric piano accents. The three instrumentals featured here-”J.Y’s”, “Sunrise” and J.Y’s Dub” have an island-groove featuring harp and/or melodica and percussion. The addition of trumpet on the former lends kind of a Hugh Masekala vibe.
Who knew the blues would meet reggae-Caribbean music at the crossroads and create such a soothing and energizing listening experience. Errol’s voice is a comforting tonic in itself. Add to that a dash of guitar, harp, organ, trumpet, melodica and the rest, and the end result is a pleasing meeting of different cultures and musics.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Bert Deivert - Kid Man Blues
Bert Deivert is a key figure in the contemporary acoustic and semi-acoustic blues world. Born in Boston, Mr Deivert has made his home in Sweden but that dos not prevent him from offering a CD that will enhance his reputation no end. Bert started as a guitar man, inspired by the music of Son House, has enhanced his range by developing his skills on mandolin in the style typical of Yank Rachell and Carl Martin. To that he has added a range of exemplary musicians (A few of them are Jann Zander (g); Nina Perez (v); Suchet Malhotra (tabla, cajon), Chester “Memphis Gold” Chandler (g), Bill Abel (g)) and with Tom Paley providing vocal support on “Keep On Truckin’”, in a tribute to Blind Boy Fuller.
The arrangements are exemplary and the recording quality is superb. Check out the interplay of Hammond organ and electric guitar in the minor key arrangement of “Come Back Baby” and the superb version of Skip James’ Cypress Grove, with the intertwining guitars of Deivert and Thai bluesman Dulyasit Saruba and some tasty harp work from Mats Qwarfordt.
I have written before about the growing international flavor of the Mississippi rooted phenomenon we call the blues. Dievert works here with people from three continents and with tracks recorded in places as unlikely as Bangkok, Thailand and with musicians based locally. He gives us blues-based music from the rambunctious to the miserable: RL Burnside’s “Going Down South” to Son House’s “Death Letter”. The title track, Carl Martin’s “Kid Man Blues” is delightful, and through out the CD there are thought provoking lyrics accompanied by with consummate instrumental skills and delivered with powerful vocals panache. And, by the way, the piano playing by German Willie Salomon on State Street Pimp is as good as you will hear anywhere.
Bert Deivert deserves to be in your record collection. This is his 11th or 12th album (depending on whether you count collaborations) but, if you don’t know his work, this one will serve you well. Recommended.
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 3 of 6
Travis Moonchild Haddix – Old Man In Love
Benevolent Blues 2011
12 tracks; 47.41 minutes
Travis Moonchild Haddix has been around for a long time and I believe that this is his twentieth CD! Born in Mississippi, he was inspired at a young age by BB King and started playing and singing in his early teens, first in Madison WI before moving to Cleveland, where he is still based. He recorded for Ichiban in the 1990s and when that label folded he started his own Wann Sonn label. His most recent CDs have appeared on Californian label Benevolent Blues, as does this new one.
The music here is solid blues/soul with a dash of funk, but some of the songs have some clever lyrical flourishes that help Travis to distinguish himself from the pack. In some ways his style reminds me of Larry Garner, the way he injects humour into his songs. An obvious example is “Cialis Before I See Alice”, a song about the pressures of modern love affairs: “I know a lady named Alice she lives way across town. I know what Alice wants every time I come around. I’m almost as old as sin and I’m running out of pep. Every now and then I need a little help. I need Cialis before I see Alice.” All this wrapped up in a catchy shuffle and clean and clear production makes for an excellent and amusing track.
There are other examples of Travis’ sense of humor on the CD. Opener “She Hit A Grand Slam” sees Travis having a strange dream about his girl becoming an ace baseball player! In “Cix Spells Six” Travis explains that “My guitar and six women is all I need, ‘cos I’m a family man, I got six women in my life: two daughters, three sisters, don’t forget about my wife.” “Stiff Stuff” tackles an issue that those of us who are getting older can appreciate: “Wake up in the morning before I get out of bed, my neck is so stiff I can hardly raise my head. I lay back down, it’s the only thing to do. That’s when I found my shoulders are stiff too”!
Some of the songs take a more serious look at issues. Title track “Old Man In Love” tells the tale of a guy so desperately in love that she “can tell me to go to hell in such a way that I’m looking forward to the trip”. Even when he catches her in bed with the neighbour he accepts her explanation. “Break A Habit With A Habit” is a slow blues which deals with a woman who has many issues to deal with and is advised by Travis that simply replacing one habit with another is not a solution.
So Travis has a clever turn with a song lyric, but what of the music behind the songs? I am pleased to say that the playing is excellent and Travis’ vocals are always clear, framed by the full sound of the band in a well-produced CD. Credit is due to Travis for that too, as he is the producer as well as the writer of all the material here, playing guitar and tackling all the vocals. None of the band member names were familiar to me but they all do an excellent job: Ed Lemmers, bass; Brian Hager and Mike Calhoun, guitars; Gil Zachary, piano; Don Williams, organ; Jeremy Sullivan, drums. The horns add a strong flavour to the music: Jeff Hager, trumpet and arrangements; David Ruffin, tenor sax; TJ Fortunato, baritone sax.
A thoroughly enjoyable CD which I can recommend. Perhaps this will be the one that breaks into the main blues market for Travis Moonchild Haddix.
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
Bobby Messano - That’s Why I Don’t Sing The Blues
Prince Frog Records
I met Bobby via our Crossroads’ Facebook page. After chatting for a while, he sent me a copy of his CD to listen to and review. I must admit that I along with other members of Crossroads get a lot of solicitations to listen to and review CDs; I work so as not to be skeptical and keep an open mind in all cases. So when this album arrived in the mail I popped it in my stereo and was pleased to have been very impressed from start to finish. This is one heck of a rocking blues CD!
Messano had a hand in all but one song, the other being a Jimmy Hendrix cover. The songs are not overstated, they are balanced and well-arranged. Messano’s vocals and guitar are spot on. Steve Geller provides support on bass, Joey B Banks is on drums and none other than our own local boy Jimmy Voegeli is on a variety of keyboards along with the Jimmy’s trio The Amateur Horns (Pete Ross on alto sax, Chad Whittinghill on trumpet and Bryan Husk on tenor and bass sax).
Messano blends blues and rock into a well-presented fusion of sounds. Opening up with a couple of more traditionally blues songs in “More Than Meets the Eye” and the title cut and then slipping into a more rocking mode for few cuts feels comfortable. But then he falls completely back into the blues with the “Gypsy Eyes” Hendrix cover using a beautiful acoustic slide- a touch of genius! He then blisters through a rocking cut entitled San Antone, gives us grooving some slow blues in “My Life in Bags”, and then switches through in a boogying country blues with “Nickels and Dimes”.
He finishes up the CD with a very interesting cut called “Pride of the Cockney Rebels”. When I saw the title I expected a grandiose take on rocking blues like the Who, Moody Blues or even Emerson Lake and Palmer. I was pleasantly surprised with a really nice mid-tempo rocking blues with hot guitar and B3 interplay by Messano and Voegeli.
I was really impressed by this CD- Bobby has laid down nine super original tracks and an inspired cover. He surrounded himself with some great musicians and has produced an exceptional CD- I really recommend this one!
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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The Arkansas River Blues Society - Alexander, AR
The Arkansas River Blues Society will celebrate their annual Christmas Open Blues Jam December 16th at Cornerstone Pub & Grill which is located at 314 Main Street in North Little Rock, AR. This event will start at 8 pm and there is a $5 cover. Unseen Eye will be the house band with Gil Franklin and Lucious Spiller as a special guest. http://www.freewebs.com/arriverblues/
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - 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. 12/12 Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, 12/19 Jason Elmore Blues Band, 12/26 Brooke Thomas and the Blue Suns. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Billy C. Farlow featuring Mercy - Alabama Swamp Stomp
His name sounds vaguely familiar – but you can't quite place it. Well, Billy C. Farlow was a founding member of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, the band that expertly mixed old Country music and rock-n-roll into a heady brew that made the band a top live act and garnered them several hits including a remake of “Hot Rod Lincoln”. Farlow was one of the band's vocalists and also added his blues-based harp to the proceedings. He also wrote many of the group's best-known tunes, like “Seeds & Stems” and the band's theme song, “Lost in the Ozone”. In the last thirty-five since leaving The Airmen, Farlow has released a number of recordings under his name. He also served a lengthy stint in legendary blues drummer Sam Lay's band.
Recorded last year in France, Farlow's latest project is a rompin', stompin good time that is guaranteed to make you put on your dancing shoes! His outstanding band sounds like they are veterans of years of touring bars and dance halls across the southern USA. But Mercy is a French band featuring Jean-Paul Avellaneda on guitar & dobro, Bruno Quinonero on bass and Stephane Avellaneda, Jean-Paul's son, on drums and percussion with all three also contributing backing vocals.
The opening track, “Snake Eyes” comes straight out of the Alabama swamp with the leader's deep, gravelly voice describing a woman who was nothing but trouble. The dark mood continues on “Runnin' From the Fire” with Jean-Paul's searing guitar work emphasizing Farlow's description of a white-hot love affair. The band locks into a tight groove on “Drive Me Like a Mule”, as Farlow makes it clear he will do whatever his woman wants as long as she's not playing him for a fool. “Good Rockin' Mama” has Farlow working the upper register on his harp in the Jimmy Reed-style while Jean-Paul plays slide on his dobro, giving the track a lazy, backporch feel. The forceful beat and more fine harp playing by Farlow ensures that “Tennessee Saturday Night” lives up to the promise in the title. “Magnolia Darlin'” offers more of Jean-Paul's sumptuous guitar work.
The easy-rolling tempo Jean-Paul's reverb-drenched guitar tone make the slow blues, “What Have I Done”, another highlight as Farlow gropes to understand the misfortune all around him. The band rocks hard on “My Name is Trouble” with Jean-Paul's piercing slide guitar a memorable part of the arrangement. “Juke Joint Friday Night” is vicious shuffle that will cure all that ails you. The loose, greasy feel on “Alligator Crawl” is the perfect backdrop for Farlow's husky vocal as he attempts to start a new dance craze. The band shifts gears on two traditional work songs, delving into voodoo on “Yellow Pocahontas” powered by Stephane's percussion while “Black Lazarus” speaks to the power of the Judgement Day. But they quickly return to their rockin' roadhouse style on “Jenny's Comin' Home”, with Farlow lamenting the absence of his cheatin' woman but still vowing to bring her back home.
This is the kind of stuff I live for as a reviewer – a disc that comes out of nowhere and knocks you for a loop. Alabama Swamp Stomp has been a fixture in my cd player since the first listen – and deserves one those “Meant to be played Loud” warning labels. I heartily encourage you to make the effort to check this one out. Farlow and Mercy throw one hell of a party !!!
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.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Sandy Carroll - Just As I Am
10 songs; 39 minutes
Styles: Mellow Blues, Gospel, New Orleans, Soft Rock, Country
In this ultra-competitive world, it takes courage to be oneself and not wholly conform to anyone else's vision of what one should be. In the world of blues music, this can be especially true. Fans are almost never a tabula rasa, or “blank slate,” when they begin to listen to a CD; they already possess expectations and high hopes for what they'd like to hear. When they don't, it can be a letdown. Nevertheless, down-home artist Sandy Carroll dons a quirky gray beret and cowgirl boots, asking to be accepted “Just As I Am” on her third release. Relaxing and engaging, her singing might not roar like that of Etta James, but that's more than okay!
“‘Just As I Am’ is a project Jim [Gaines, her producer-husband] and I have been working on for a few years. It came together when Bob Trenchard and I got involved, and we decided to release it on Catfood Records,” Carroll explains.
The ten, all original songs on the album are an eclectic mix, covering a wide swath of her roots musical influences. They range from ballads, blues rock and gospel to New Orleans styles and country. Each one of the tunes on this CD is noteworthy. There's a total lack of boring lyrics [thoughtfully included in the liner notes], and plenty of good humor:
Track 2: “Help Mother Nature”--Contrary to what one might expect, this New Orleans styled, swinging selection isn't a song about “going green” or cleaning up oil spills. Rather, it's a wry polemic on aging and what one might have to do to defy it (especially if female). “Nip, tuck, fill it in, tighten up that pretty skin. Lipo, suck it up, get rid of all that funky stuff....” Sandy may not sound very happy to “Help Mother Nature,” but at least she's helping others laugh about it! Evan Leake’s guitar blends perfectly with the background vocalists.
Track 5: “Romeo and Juliet”--Move over, Shakespeare! In the modern version of his tragic tale, only one of the two teenage lovebirds feels that way: “He promised Juliet the moon and stars above, but he never meant for poor Juliet to fall in love.” Fondly reminiscent of 1950's songs, this bittersweet ballad with an added accordion, Tex-Mex groove will propel partners onto the dance floor, even though “young love is always hit or miss.”
Track 7: “Slow Kisses”-- the best Beal Street, Memphis blues song on the album, Sandy says this sultry number was “inspired by Bebobalulu, our dog, and her slow licks of love to all the musicians and artists that have graced this project.” She slyly encourages the gentlemen out there to “slow it down” when it comes to puckering up, and “treat your woman right”! Rick Steff displays absolutely awesome piano skills here, trilling his 88 keys in classic blues fashion.
Regardless of one's usual taste in blues music, and in the other genres mentioned here, simply take Sandy Carroll as she wants to be received—“Just As I Am” - and be musically rewarded!
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.
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