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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Illinois Blues News

© 2011 Blues Blast Magazine

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 From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
This weekend there is another great festival we get to attend. Blues Blast is headed to Aurora, Illinois for the 15th Anniversary of the famous Blues On The Fox. They have a fantastic lineup! On Friday they have Eric Lindell and The Robert Cray Band and on Saturday night they have a huge dose of Chicago Blues with Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues, Kenny Neal, Charlie Musselwhite and the man himself, Buddy Guy.
Speaking of Buddy  Guy, Terry Mullins has our exclusive interview with Buddy Guy in this issue, and Buddy has a few things to say from a man who has had a great year. Buddy Guy won the Grammy Award and 5 Blues Music Awards. Not bad for a young man in his mid seventies!
Good Blues To You!
Bob Kieser

 In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Buddy Guy. Photographer Marilyn Stringer has a photo essay on the 2011 Santa Cruz Blues Festival. Our Blues video of the week is Studebaker John performing live at Buddy Guy's Legends.
We have ten CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Grady Champion and also a new CD from Chris Bergson Band. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from The 44's. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Steve Dawson. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Ruff Kutt Blues Band and a new CD from Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers. Mark Thompson review a new release from Johnny & The MoTones. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Gina Sicilia. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD from Meyer Rassabi. Zeke reviews a new CD from Howard Glazer and the EL 34’s. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Story - Buddy Guy
“Buddy Guy”
“Buddy Mutha-fukin’ Guy”
That’s how royalty gives it up for other royalty.
At the end of The Rolling Stones’ spirited charge through “Champagne and Reefer” in Martin Scorsese’s Shine A Light, that’s how an exuberant Mick Jagger acknowledges the fedora-sportin’ firebrand with the polka-dotted Fender Strat slung over his shoulder.
Buddy Guy.
That was after Guy, with a mischievous grin etched on his face, had nearly blown Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood clean out of his shoes when the legendary bluesman leaned into the mike and belted out the song’s second verse.
Then, in an even more surreal moment, as Guy makes his way off stage, Keith Richards hands him his beloved white Guild guitar and says, ‘it’s yours.’
That is the power of Buddy Mutha-fukin’ Guy.
While the list of people that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards admire is probably a short one, rest assured that Buddy Guy’s place on that list is etched in stone.
But Guy’s affection for the Glimmer Twins is every bit as solid and deep as theirs is for him.
“White America (in the 1960s) was calling it a British invasion,” Guy said of the explosion that groups like The Stones, The Animals and The Yardbirds created on popular music in the United States some decades ago. “But they were playing hardcore blues. They said, ‘no, this is something you (America) already had. There was a television show called Shindig and The Rolling Stones were getting bigger than bubblegum and they wanted them to play on it. Finally, Mick Jagger said, ‘we’ll do it, if we can bring Holwin’ Wolf.’ They said, ‘who’s that?’ And Mick got offended. He said, ‘you mean to tell me you don’t know who he is?’ And they (The Stones) had named themselves after a Muddy Waters record and nobody over here knew that.”
While those on this side of the pond may have been a bit slow on the draw to salute the talent we had right in our own backyard in the 1960s, budding musicians in England absolutely worshipped names like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy.
Names, that thanks to the efforts of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, we now treasure as some of the most important ones in the history of popular music.
Names that are enshrined in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, along with those of Jagger, Clapton and Hendrix.
“The British guys opened up the door and we started getting some recognition then,” Guy said. “You know, I don’t think that Muddy Waters was getting any awards back in 1948 and 49. Or B.B. King. So I say, thank God for them (British bands). A British guy (Chas Chandler) came and got Jimi Hendrix and took him to England, and thank God he did. The British guys woke everybody up.”
Once he was squarely on the radar of blues lovers, over here and over there, there was to be no stopping Buddy Guy – not in 1967, when he issued the classic I left My Blues in San Francisco on Chess Records – or in 2011, when Guy’s latest release, Living Proof (Jive Records), has earned the 74-year young guitar slinger a whole bushel-basket of kudos.
At the recent Blues Music Awards (BMAs) in Memphis, Guy took top honors in all five categories he was nominated in.
Living Proof won Album of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, while the title track, co-written with Tom Hambridge, earned Guy Song of the Year honors. He was also selected as Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year and took home the prestigious B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award.
Those five BMAs should fit nicely beside the Grammy that Living Proof earned Guy in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category back in February.
Though he probably is running out of display space to acknowledge all the accomplishments he’s achieved over the course of the past 50-plus years, Guy is still humbled every time he hears his name called to the podium.
“I’ve got six Grammys and had won 21 (Handy Awards) of the awards I won last week, which is the most you can win. Then they changed the name and then I could win these other ones (BMAs) that I picked up,” he said. “And every time I accept an award, I do it in honor of the people that I learned from that never even thought about getting an award. Like Lightinin’ Hopkins, Lightnin’ Slim … I could go on and on … T-Bone (Walker) might have gotten an award before he passed, but he was the first guy that started playing the guitar down the neck without a clamp. And then you’ve got guys like Fred McDowell, Son House and Johnny Shines … and I got the chance to meet those people and play, so I think those guys are looking down and saying, ‘thank you, Buddy. We made that road for you to get it (awards and recognition).”
As hard as it is to fathom now, at one time in the not-so-distant past, it would have been easier to walk on the moon than to walk into a record store and find a new Buddy Guy album.
And it sure wasn’t because Buddy Guy had retired from the recording studio.
“First of all, I was ignored (by record labels) for about 27 years and when I got signed to this label (Jive), I got signed in London,” Guy said. “I was doing those 21 nights at Albert Hall with Eric Clapton and the guy said, ‘I want to sign you and make a record.’ I said, ‘I’m ready to come here like Hendrix and make a record.’ So I made the record (Damn Right I Got The Blues) in London, thinking it was for a British label. And come to find out, it was a label from here (United States).”
And while we have Jive Records to thank for the outpouring of new music from Buddy Guy over the past couple of decades, it’s not like the label is stocked with a who’s-who of blues legends.
Among artists like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Crystal Bowersox, you’ll find Buddy Guy.
“I was in New York promoting Living Proof and one of the executives there at the company said, ‘you know, you’re the only blues person on this label.’ I said, ‘you’re kidding?’ But I’m blessed, because the blues are mighty thin now and you don’t hardly hear it on your radio anymore. So I can understand why a record company won’t hold onto you if you’re not selling any records. You’ve got to be profitable for them to record you. They’re not going into bankruptcy with you, that’s for sure.”
Like the rest of the blues-loving masses, Guy finds it totally disheartening that roots music is shunned by the majority of radio stations these days. Not surprising that back in the early 80s, Guy recorded an album called DJ Play My Blues.
 "So it’s not our lyrics why stations don’t play the blues. It’s something else."
“I’m going to continue to keep speaking out about some of these big radio stations,” he said. “These stations that don’t play no blues should at least play blues once or twice a week. You know 40 or 45 years ago, we had AM stations that would play everybody’s music. Now they don’t play blues. What would it take away from one of these big stations if they played the blues? These hip-hoppers that broke out 20 years or so ago were singing stuff they wouldn’t even let us pass by a studio and say. We beat around the bush with our lyrics. So it’s not our lyrics why stations don’t play the blues. It’s something else. Something I don’t know. You turn on a big FM station these days and all you hear are the same two people’s songs all day long. People who don’t need to recognized to start with. People who make millions just by showing up. Half of them ain’t singing themselves anyway, with all those microphones around their head.”
Not one to just sit around and complain about the sorry state of radio these days, Guy is doing his part to help show the younger generation that’s there’s more to music than the latest boy bands and high-dollar, lip-synced videos, all created in a record company board room.
There’s dudes like Quinn Sullivan, a young man that’s turning heads with the way he attacks a guitar and plays the blues. Guy has taken Sullivan under his wing and that tutelage has resulted in Sullivan’s first album – Cyclone – just released in late March.
“I first heard him at 7 years old and that song on Skin Deep (Guy’s previous album before Living Proof), “Who’s Going to Fill Those Shoes” … he was 8 years old when he played that solo,” said Guy. “He just turned 12 and he’s going to open a lot of outdoor shows for me this summer. I told his parents I didn’t want to take him out of school, but I did want him to come out on the road with me. He did the Jimmy Kimmel Show about a month ago, so I’m trying to get him on the biggest shows I can.”
All in an effort to help keep the flame of roots music burning in an ever-increasing plastic society.
“Like I said, I got it from somebody, too. I take my awards in the honor of the guys I got it from and I feel proud these days when I hear anybody play the blues,” said Guy. “If you turn on your music television, you don’t see nobody doing nothing on there. So I gotta’ see if I can find somebody to help keep the blues alive.”
But a young, white kid from the Northeast playing the blues?
“Please believe me – I don’t see color. Some people have asked me, ‘can Stevie Ray Vaughan play the blues, because he’s white?’ I tell them, blues is played with five fingers,” Guy said. “Unless I’ve got about 15 fingers, I don’t have any advantage over Stevie or Eric or any of them. That’s so stupid for someone to say that. It (ability to play blues) comes from inside and it’s a learning thing. Just like football or anything else. If you spend time on it, you can do it.”
Young up-and-comers, along with veterans of the blues, have another reason to be thankful that Buddy Guy is not afraid to give back.
Because of Guy, they have a regular place to play when in Chicago – Buddy Guy’s Legends club.
Now open at its new location on the corner of Balbo and Wabash, just one block away from its original spot, Legends has been a Windy City staple for two decades now.
And two decades is a virtual eternity in a business that sees new clubs open and close faster than the speed of sound.
“I went up on stage at my club last night and told people I’m the damndest fool ever, because I don’t take no for an answer,” Guy said. “I had a blues club before B.B. King, I had a blues club before The House of Blues, or any of these other clubs started. But first of all, a lot of people will go into business and if they don’t make a lot of money in the first six months, they’ll close the doors. When I first opened Legends, I lost millions of dollars keeping the doors open. And I couldn’t afford that. I used to come off the road and meet payroll (at Legends) with money I had just made on tour. And I still didn’t close the doors.”
That kind of determination has paid off in a large way, as Legends remains the toast of blues clubs all around the globe.
“Last night, you couldn’t get a seat in my club,” the proud owner said. “And someone asked me how I do it. I said, ‘I don’t know. People just come here and they know if I’m here, they’re going to get a free shot at Buddy Guy singing one or two songs.’ And on Monday nights, it’s open mike. If you can play any damn thing, you’ll get called up to play on Monday night at my club. When I came here 54 years ago, they had so many blues clubs that I didn’t get to see them all. But over the years, the drugs, the DUIs and the non-smoking really killed a lot of clubs all over the world.”
Not only victims of changing society, a whole host of venues have been relegated to empty, burnt-out shells because of a plague of another sort.
Greedy - or maybe just plain clueless - promoters.
The kind that wouldn’t think twice about stiffing performers of their pay, even if they were stuck hundreds of miles from home with limited resources.
“I used to go play at clubs and the place would be packed. But the guy (promoter) would say, ‘well, I didn’t make no money tonight.’ And I would ask for cab fare home and the guy would say, ‘you heard what I said. I didn’t make no money tonight,’” said Guy. “So if I didn’t end up walking home, I’d have to beg somebody for cab fare. So I said to myself then, that if one day I was able to do what I’m doing now, I would never strand a musician. I have their money before the doors even open. I’ve been through that and I don’t want any other musicians to go through that.”
Those tough times that Guy endured on the road back in the day have included making a meal for a crew out of what most of us would probably consider to be a light snack.”
“Before the late Junior Wells passed away, we were in California one time and didn’t get paid,” Guy said. “So I saw a hotdog stand and we got one hotdog and got a knife and cut it into four pieces for us and the band. And we survived. And we still played. When you run into stuff like that, you should probably say there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But I didn’t have that much sense. Music is what I had dedicated my life to and I’m still doing it.”
That dedication has saw Guy through plenty of tough times and with the way things are in this day and time, even tougher ones may be on the horizon.
Still, Guy refuses to be swayed off the path of playing the blues.
“I’m not afraid to do something. Even in this economy. I was born on a sharecropper’s farm and we had to walk everywhere we went. I know how to boil a pot of potatoes on a fireplace,” he said. “So I’m used to this. I grew up with this – not knowing what you’re going to eat tomorrow. When I got old enough to catch a fish, my mama said, ‘thank the Lord.’”
Even though he’s midway into his seventh decade on this earth, the teachings that Guy absorbed as a child growing up in Lettsworth, Louisiana still have special significance to the man named as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 guitarists of all time.
“My parents brought me up the right way. I grew up in church and still go to church and respect people,” he said. “I know about riding at the back of the bus and going to different bathrooms with the black and white signs on them. But my parents always told me, ‘whatever you do when you’re grown, don’t try to be the best in town, just be the best until the best comes around.’”
Even though he’s called Chicago home since 1957, the recent bender that the Mississippi River has been on due to the near-record flooding in the south has Guy paying close attention to the devastation afflicting his native home territory.
“They opened the (Morganza) spillway a couple of days ago about six miles from where I was born. I watched them when they built that thing,” he said. “I was about 13 or 14 years old then. I’ve got some family still in Baton Rouge and they avoided that (floodwaters) by opening that spillway. It was fixing to crash Baton Rouge and New Orleans, so that was the purpose of them building that (spillway) some many years ago.”
And while 2011 has been one to remember for all the success that Buddy Guy has racked up, it will also be remembered for all the historic damage that the elements have unleashed all across the globe.
“Every time you wake up this year, you hate to turn the radio on or television on, because if it ain’t a tsunami on the other side of the world, it’s something here. Like storms, tornados, floods …but that’s Mother Nature … what can you do? I left for Chicago 54 years ago this year and some people want to know how I can stay there. But I tell them, in Chicago all you need is a coat and some boots and a shovel. When those rivers go to rising on you in the south and then the ground gets shaky out in California with the mudslides and earthquakes, the snow and cold is not so bad.”
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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

June 17-18, 2011
RHUMBOOGIE AT Music City Texas
6th Annual T-Bone Walker Blues Fest
Robin & The Bluebirds
Bill Lynch & The Midwestern Icons
Buddy Flett
The Ominous Anonymous
Peterson Brothers Band
Pleasant Hill Quilting Group
Allen Fox Band
Ezra Charles Band
Omar Sharriff
Diedra & The Pro Ruff Band
Bobbie Oliver & Jam City Revue
Matthew Davidson Band

Presented by Metro PCS
(903) 756-7774           Ticket pricing: Online

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 10
Grady Champion - Dreamin'
GSM Music Group
10 tracks
Grady Champion is the IBC winner for top band and one can see the energy this band puts out in their performances even here with this studio recording. Champion bliows a mean harp and has a rustic, throwback to the Delta plantation singing style. The album showcases Grady and the band with ten new tracks all written or co-written by Champion. He hails from Canton, Mississippi and his stated mission is to keep the blues alive, a task he really has taken to heart.
This CD gives us a group of new songs that blend Champions blues and funky sound together. I really liked his harp work. Vocally he's got a unique style that is very rough and tumble. Champion starts the set with "My Rooster is King". This song reminds me of the old style songs with repetitive lyrics so the crowd at his live shows can sing along or do a call and response. Champion used this song at the IBC finals to showcase his band. "Weight of the World" is a ballad of slow blues where Champion shows us what he can do with the down tempo stuff. "Same Train" is another cut that hearkens to the songs of the 50's when the blues got electrified. Champions unique vocals growl and grumble with charm throughout. "Thank You for Giving Me the Blues" features a nice guitar solo opening in a song where Champion gives us a traditional 12 bar song where he thanks God for being able to do what he does and all that he has. He transitions from slow blues to a Gospel approach mid way through with the repeated bridge and chorus. The last track features what sounds like one of the male backing vocalists giving us a spoken accompaniment to the groove being laid down by Grady's harp and the band- very 70's-like, a la the West Coast.
Zac Harmon and Christopher Troy produced this album at Our Own Studio's West in Los Angeles and Our Own Studios South in Dallas. There are a few minor technical flaws with the CD sound and mix, but over all it is very clean and bright. A couple of the tracks sound like they were recorded in a small and reverberant room, well beyond the sound of a small club. The other issue is the backing vocals are mixed at the same level as Grady, making it more a choral performance than backing vocals. But these are small issues- they sing wonderfully together despite the mixing issue.
Along with Grady on the CD are Zac Harmon and Gregg Wright on guitar. They are hot- at times I think they even "stole the show", so to speak. Very nice accompaniemment and they offer some wicked, wicked solos. Christopher Troy is on keys and drums, and Harmon also does some drum work. The bass player is Buthel. Backing vocals are done by Sue Ann Carwell, Zac Harmon and Cedric Goodman; while they are in the foreground (especially Carwell's), they are good vocalists.
If you have been a fan of Champions' or loved him live on the road or at the IBC's then you will need to get this CD for your collection. He certainly is a man on a mission.
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Video
Our Blues videos this week is Studebaker John & The Nighthawks
Click picture above to watch this video on our website
Live @ Buddy Guy's Legends
 Studebaker John will be performing at the 27th annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival at 4:00pm on Sunday July 3rd. See their ad above in this issue. To check out the rest of the lineup for this great Blues festival CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 10
The 44’s - Boogie Disease
Rip Cat Records / T’s Music Co
9 songs; 38:43 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Roots Music; Los Angeles Blues; Chicago Blues; Roots-Rock
True Blues fans love all kinds of Blues, but everyone has their favorite types and styles. For my “Friends of the Blues Radio Show” co-host Shuffle Shoes and I, The 44’s have nailed what we like the best with their debut CD, “Boogie Disease.”
In near ecstasy, Shuffle Shoes exclaimed after just one listen, “That CD has grit, gonads and little bit of nasty all rolled together! I guess that’s another way of saying ‘raw.’ It is nice to hear songs that a musically experienced adult can listen to. The 44’s have a sound as big as Kid Ramos’s guns [muscular arms]!”
The 44’s are a Los Angeles-based band which plays Roots music and hard-edged Blues. This harp-guitar-bass-drums quartet has become the hottest gig to catch for those in the know.
The band members include harmonica player Tex Nakamura (formerly of War), singer- guitarist Johnny Main, upright bassist Mike Turturro (formerly Lynwood Slim/Candye Kane), and drummer J.R. Lozano.
Reminiscent of the Red Devils, James Harman, and William Clarke, the band’s first CD has been produced by Kid Ramos who also plays so-clean guitar on four tracks. They first gained major attention on the Los Angeles blues scene in 2007 when they competed and finished fourth in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.
The intro and opening lyrics on the band-original, first track “Pull My Strings” might trick one into thinking it's a cover of “How Long Blues.” Lead vocalist and guitarist Johnny Main rasps, “How long, how long? Tell me how long!” However, this is only the hook. Once listeners bite it, they'll be hopelessly caught. Main's tinny, industrial-sounding lead guitar reverberates with an eerie echo, like it's being played inside of a metal chamber. Tex Nakamura's harmonica follows suit, hunting the melody down and then brazenly upstaging it. Both of these instruments will jolt one's consciousness like electric shocks! Running six minutes, there is plenty of solo room for Kid Ramos and Main on guitars plus Tex’s harp solos over the bedrock rhythm laid down by Turturro and Lozano.
The second track, “So Low Down” by the Red Devils’ Lester Butler is an early favorite for its hair raising, down beat rhythm. The music is a gut punch as Tex blows the hardest harp of the set, but the lyrics deliver the sledge hammer to the head. Mentioning heroin abuse, it’s not a pretty story, “My Baby’s so low down, she’s sleeping in the ground!”
The title track “Boogie Disease” is Boogie-Blues with a way upbeat tempo. It's a rip-roaring dance number with hilarious lyrics: “I had to boogie for the doctor; I had to boogie for the nurse. I had to boogie so long, they had to throw me in the hearse!” This is an earworm beyond belief, even though one will be hard-pressed to sing it out loud without chuckling. Be careful: the chorus of this “disease” is absolutely infectious!
One might expect a title “Automatic” from a band called “the 44's”! Nevertheless, this tangy tribute is paid to a woman with an automatic car, not an automatic weapon. Written by Delta boogie and Blues pianist Willie Love, it's as raunchy as Blues songs can get without containing any profanity, having the same effect on one's ears as a shot of whiskey has on one's throat! Everyone, including Kid Ramos, seems to be playing on overdrive, especially Tex Nakamura on 8-cylinder harp. Cue this track up when you're in a good mood, or even in a bad mood, but especially if you want to get “in the mood.”
For a set closer, how about Tex’s chromatic harmonica played in harmony with Main’s guitar! The Ramos instrumental “Johnny Cochino” features Kid Ramos’s stinging guitar arriving at 70 seconds into the song. His notes have the pierce of Albert Collins’s but the ferocity of hellfire. I don’t know who namesake Johnny Cochino is, but he must be one bad mother stabber.
If “grit, gonads and little bit of nasty all rolled together” is also your favorite style, you will love this album. Plus, having Kid Ramos both produce and play on the album seals the deal. Better order two for when you wear the first one out!
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 Fridays from 10 pm - Midnight and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL. Amy Walker contributed to this review.
To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE 
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Live Blues Review
19th Annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival
Memorial Day Weekend – 2011
By Marilyn Stringer
For Saturday and Sunday of each Memorial Day Weekend, Bill Welch carefully chooses the bands for the annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival. With one stage, and very loyal fans coming from all over northern California, the expectations are very high as the talent each year is very special. This year’s festival was no exception. Bill likes to introduce the crowd to some new talent as well as local and national headliners. This year, in coordination with Doheny Festival, he also brought the Experience Hendrix entourage. The weather (aka fog), which is always a factor, mostly cooperated (until halfway through Experience Hendrix), and the festival was all that everyone had hoped for.
Opening the festival on Saturday was Mia Borders. She was the “new talent” imported from New Orleans and was an instant hit. Her style ranged from the true New Orleans sound to blues to some great Americana roots music.
Next up was Jackie Greene, originally from the bay area, a long time favorite, and a very talented musician, moving from acoustic to dancin’ blues, with the crowd on their feet, trying to keep up with him.
With Jackie already setting the pace, he was followed with even more crowd-pleasing, New Orleans energy by Trombone Shorty-the hottest NOLA band in the country. For the entire set, Troy had the crowd on their feet, the band jumping, and the music/fun was off the charts.
The final three hours of Saturday was Experience Hendrix, a star-studded lineup of musicians, who, in their own style, played Hendrix. The combinations of players were fantastic. And when, for the first time in 19 years, it rained on the festival, the stage hands pulled out tarps and towels, and the music continued as scheduled, with water flying from the drums, and Keb’ Mo’ dancing and singin’ in the rain.
In order below are: Billy Cox (bass player for Jimi Hendrix), Doug Wimbish (bass-Living Colour), Henri Brown (bass), Chris Layton (Drums – SRV & currently Kenny Way Shepherd), Cody Dickinson (Drums – North Mississippi AllStars), Will Calhoun (Drums-Living Colour). Guitar Players: Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Cesar Rosas & David Hidalgo (Los Lobos – with Billy Cox), Ernie Isley (Isley Brothers), Jonny Lang, Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi AllStars), Mato Nanji (Indigenous – with Scott Nelson on bass – KWS Band),Keb’ Mo’ (with CR & DH & CL), Noah Hunt & Kenny Wayne Shepherd (KWS Band), Steve Vai, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Chuck Campbell (Slide Brothers), and the defying gravity and slippery poles is Corey Glover (Vocals from Living Colour). The entire group, despite the pouring rain, came out for the final bow. It really was an Experience.
Sunday, with pure sunshine and perfect weather, the festival continued, for a great day of music and friends. Starting the morning was the bay area’s Chris Cain, with his big grin and flawless guitar. (Greg Rahn-keyboards – and Mick Mestek -drums).
Also from the bay area, but known across the lands, was the Tommy Castro Band. The entire festival got to wish Tony (keyboards) a happy birthday. And, as to be expected, Tommy rocked the festival with his blues and personality and tight band. The crowd loves the TCB and he loves to play the blues!
Band: Tommy Castro, Scot Sutherland (bass), Tom Poole (trumpet), Tony Stead (keyboard), Keith Crossan (Sax) and brand new drummer Byron Cage (whom you might recognize from the old Jason Ricci Band).
Next was Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones. I have to say that everyone, except me, in Santa Cruz has seen (AND LOVES) Dave Alvin. And now I do too! He is smooth, bluesy, country, Americana, cowboy, and did I mention smooth? And the band was awesome.
Band: Dave Alvin (bandana, hat, guitar), Brad Fordham (Bass), Lisa Pankratz (drums), & Jack Ruby (harmonica).
Tower of Power – they still have it going on and then some. Originally from the bay area, they have been putting down the soul groove for over 40 years. Every song brings back a great memory and if you are not singing along, then you have missed out on some of the best music ever written.
Band: Emilio Castillo (Sax & founder), Stephen “Doc” Kupka (baritone sax), David Garibaldi )drums), Sal Cracchiolo (trumpet), Jerry Cortez (Guitar), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), Rocco Prestia (bass), Roger Smith (keyboards), Tom E. Politzer (lead tenor sax), and Larry Bragg (Vocals).
Closing out the festival, and heading deeper down nostalgia lane was Boz Scaggs. His band and backup singer were the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
Thanks for another memorable Santa Cruz Blues Festival – well done! (all festival photos can eventually be found at
Marilyn Stringer is a noted photo journalist and frequent Blues Blast Magazine contributor. For more of her photos visit
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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Madison Blues Society - Madison, WI
Madison Blues Society will host this year’s Blues Picnic on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at Madison’s northside Warner Park. This free public festival will feature a performance by Boys and Girls Club's “Blues Kids” in addition to a fantastic line-up of popular local and regional blues bands. Anticipated attendance is several thousand people. Performers scheduled are: Tani Diakite & the Malian Blues Band, Fedora, Joe's Blues Kids, Cash Box Kings, Alex Wilson Band, Tana DeLonay & Outside the Blues, Westside Andy / Mel Ford Band and Barrelhouse Chuck. Details at:
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society presents Doug McLeod, Friday, June 24th at the Just Goods Listening Room on 201 Seventh Street in Rockford at 7:30 PM. This great solo acoustic musician sold out his show there last year- tickets are only $10 in advance at $15 at the door. Call 779-537-4006 for tickets and information.
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society presents the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 2011 July 4th at Reynolds Lodge, 3315 SE Tinman Circle on the east side of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, KS. Music is from noon to 9 p.m. followed by fireworks. Admission is FREE!
The lineup includes 2011 Grammy and BMA award winner (with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) Buddy Flett, 2011 IBC Runner-Up and "Love, Janis" star Mary Bridget Davies Group, 2011 IBC finalists Grand Marquis, The Bart Walker Band with Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on Hammond B3 and Paul Ossola (G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band) on bass, Mike Farris (Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies) with the McCrary Sisters and 2010 BMA Song of the Year winner Mike Zito.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. For more information go to  or find us on Facebook. Discounted hotel rooms are available at the Topeka Ramada Convention Center. Call (785) 234-5400 and ask for the Blues Society Group 6617.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival July 1 -3, 2011 in Davenport, IA.
Artists scheduled to perform include Linsey Alexander, Jimmy Burns, Eric Gales, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, RJ Mischo with Earl Cate with Them, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King,“Way of Blues” Revue from Mississippi on Friday July 1st, Chocolate Thunder, Kevin Burt, Lionel Young Band, Johnny Nicholas, Ryan McGarvey, Peaches Staten, Mississippi Heat, Joe Louis Walker and a Koko Taylor Tribute featuring Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Chick Rogers, Jackie Scott and Delores Scott on Saturday July 2nd, and The Candymakers, Winter Blues Kids, Studebaker John and the Hawks, Harper, Chris Beard, The Paul Smoker Notet, Rich DelGrosso and John Richardson, Sherman Robertson, Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s and Otis Clay on Sunday July 3rd.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit or call (563) 322-5837
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at The GE Employees Club 1750 General Electric Rd, in Bloomington, IL during the Ain't Nothin But The Blues Festival. The winner will be sent to Memphis in early 2012 to compete as our representative in the International Blues Challenge. To be considered bands must apply by June 18, 2011. The solo/duo acts competition is to be determined based on interest.
For further information please contact Deborah Mehlberg, Entertainment Director at: or visit and
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - June 23 - Sean Chambers, 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill, July 13 - Reverend Raven & C.S.A.B., 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see:
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. June 20 - Roger "Hurricane" Wilson, June 27 - Jim Shuler & Monkey, July 4 - Deb Callahan, July 11 - Rockin' Jake, July 18 - Chris Bell & 100% Blues, July 25 - Bill Evans Birthday Party, August 1 - Lionel Young Band, August 8 - Ben Prestage, August 15 - Bryan Lee, August 22 - Grady Champion, August 29 - RJ Mischo. 

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 10
Steve Dawson - Nightshade
Black Hen Music
Canadian Steve Dawson has so many slide guitars and other stringed instruments floating through this release in such an appealing fashion that on paper one would think this would be a blues record. When in fact it is the effort of gifted singer-songwriter who supplies the guitar skills of a master. The only blues song herewith is the only non-original. In possession of a pleasing voice and the ability to provide adequate lyrics, this recording should have appeal to the discerning listener. This music fits in perfectly alongside many of today's crop of singer-songwriter fare that crops up on “hip” radio. A crack band follows Steve around every bend. Keyboard wizard Chris Gestrin adds coloration throughout on a wide assortment of instruments, fleshing out the sonics. The music isn’t merely backing for the songs, but are complete musical entities unto themselves. Steve’s guitar styling’s can go from intricate finger-picking to jagged electric slide guitar all within the course of a single tune.
The nightshade referred to in the title track isn’t a reference to the fruit category, but rather some sinister force. The atmosphere is reinforced by distorted slide work. A sense of melancholia is conquered up in the acoustic twelve string slide driven “Darker Still”. “Walk On” is given much the same jaunty groove as Jim Byrnes gave it on his latest release. This toe-tapper falls into John Hiatt-J.J. Cale territory. A Rolling Stones slow-drag groove ala “No Expectations” is given to “Have That Chance”, a song that would be well-suited to the mighty Mick’s drawl. The influence of Tom Waits, in mood and quirky juxtaposition of banjo and organs, is seen in “The Side Of The Road”. Dawson draws on many types of music without copying or being obvious. The smooth sheen of pedal steel melds effortlessly with Wurlitzer on the tale of persistence that is “We Still Won The War”. Country-blues slide on the weissenborn briskly powers “Fairweather Friends”.
This record has appeal on many levels. Aficionados of glorious slide guitar will have a field-day here. Devotees of the singer-songwriter genre will find much to like here. And the general music fan can find enjoyment here while discovering subtle classic-rock influences scattered along the way. Rarely does a tunesmith provide such gifted instrumental support to his own compositions. What we see here is a music-sponge who squeezes out something wholly different.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at
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Donna Herula
The Moon Is Rising:
Songs of Robert Nighthawk
New CD available at or CD/download at CDBaby (
From the uproariously funny to the beautifully dramatic, Chicago blues singer and slide guitarist, Donna Herula, performs the neglected songs of slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk in a country/Delta Blues acoustic style. Solo slide guitar; duets with harmonica, guitar and violin.

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 10
Ruff Kutt Blues Band – Mill Block Blues
Self Release 2011
13 tracks; 56.04 minutes
Now listen here all fans of great Texas blues. Unfurl the banners, ready the champagne and get ready to celebrate the return to the recording studio of Anson Funderburgh on this exciting release which is also raising funds for HART, the Blues Foundation’s charity fund for blues musicians in need. This is a worthy cause and it is great to see Anson back on CD, so the only remaining question is whether it is a good CD. Delighted to say that, in my view, it certainly is!
After the sad death of Sam Myers, Anson Funderburgh took his band The Rockets off the road and his sabbatical has lasted some five years, apart from occasional sightings on the local Texas scene and a few appearances on other people’s records. This CD is the brainchild of one “Blue” James Goode, a bass player on the Dallas scene and an old friend of Anson’s. It seems that James had a bunch of songs and when he retired from his day job he recruited Anson to produce a recording of his tunes. Anson then in turn recruited a stellar cast of Texas musicians, as well as playing lead guitar on most of the album himself. James Goode is on bass throughout and “Gentleman” John Street, a veteran of The Rockets, plays all keyboards and arranged all the music. Wes Starr, another “Rocketeer” plays drums on most tracks and Ron Jones plays all horns, at times sounding like a one-man army of players! Guests include Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones who plays guitar on three tracks and sings on two, Dempsey Crenshaw who sings on four tracks and plays harp on one, Steven Richardson who plays drums on two tracks and sings on one of them and Michael Schaefer who sings on three tracks. Appearing on one track each are vocalists Kenny Daniel and Sugar Mama, Christian Dozzler on accordion, Don Cates on guitar and Brian “Hash Brown” Calway who plays harp. That is quite a cast but I’ve named them all as everyone’s contribution is worthwhile. All the material bar one track is by James Goode who collaborated with Michael Schaefer on one cut; the exception is an instrumental composed by Anson and John Street.
All the singers do a good job and the playing is right on the money throughout. The CD opens with a rousing shuffle “Cut Like A Knife”, sung by Dempsey Crenshaw. The horns accentuate the rolling riff, Anson’s guitar embellishes the tune with great fills and a fine solo, the whole being ably supported by John Street’s piano and organ playing. The second track “Living Without You” is a slower tune which features Steven Richardson on vocals and drums and sax player Ron Jones, both on solo sax and (courtesy of multi-tracking) horn arrangements. My only slight criticism is that the song again uses the “cuts like a knife” phrase, so might have been better placed later in the programme. Third up is Michael Schaefer singing “Drown On Dry Land” with Anson laying down some tough guitar and another good sax solo. Track four “Now You See Me” sees Andrew Jones on guitar and vocals and the accordion of Christian Dozzler adding a touch of the Mexican border to the sound although the overall feel of the song is more straight blues than Tex-Mex.
“Stone Cold Woman” and “This Is The Place” both feature Dempsey Crenshaw on vocals. The stone cold woman of the title is that inevitable bad girl/voodoo woman who the guy is still fatally attracted to despite all her nasty characteristics. The place is where the party is and it is going to go on all night long, a catchy rocker with nice piano and guitar. “The Fowler Street Stumble” is the lone instrumental on the album. Placed as the middle track on the CD it provides a classy interlude. Driven by the swinging organ and Anson’s sparkling guitar this is just the sort of instrumental that The Rockets always featured on their CDs, with the addition of a great sax solo from Ron Jones.
“She’s Gone” is the second vocal feature for Andrew Jones. A funkier approach here on a tale of the deserted man who is “having the best time of my life – I’m glad she’s gone”. Andrew’s slightly raspy vocal suits the song and he also provides a short but excellent guitar solo too. Ron Jones turns to the baritone sax for his solo here.
The title track “Mill Block Blues” follows and is perhaps the best song on the album with a tough rolling tune and a lyric about growing up in harsh circumstances against the backdrop of a traditional industry. Michael Schaefer sings his co-write song and Anson nails a great solo. To lighten the mood “Rock When You Need To” is a fun little tune about playing the blues for a living. Vocalist Kenny Daniel has just the right voice for a song like this one, a little frayed at the edges as you might find in a blues bar on a Saturday night.
In complete contrast “Oh Lord” is a straight gospel piece, just piano accompanying Sugar Mama’s vocal at the beginning. After one verse the band joins in and we are right in the church for this prayer. “Daddy Sang The Blues” is the longest cut on the CD at over seven minutes, with Dempsey Crenshaw on vocal, a straight ahead slow blues with harp by Brian Calway, plenty of strong piano and guitar. The CD closes with Michael Schaefer singing “I’m On My Own” which has something of a Jimmy Reed feel to it with Dempsey Crenshaw providing the harp.
I really enjoyed this release and it is wonderful to hear Anson Funderburgh’s playing on record again. This is a well-produced CD with a series of strong vocalists doing justice to the songs. My personal favourite tracks were the title track, instrumental “The Fowler Street Stumble” and “This Is The Place”, but everything here is right on the money. The CD is available from the website noted above and CD Baby. I suspect that it may not be available for very long, so get it while you can.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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 Featured Blues Review 5 of 10
Ray Manzarek/Roy Rogers – Translucent Blues
12 tracks – 58.52 minutes
The two main protagonists need little introduction. Ray Manzarek was the co-founder and keyboard player with The Doors and Roy Rogers (not to be confused with the cowboy) is a master slide guitar player who has recorded for many years in his own name as well as producing CDs by John Lee Hooker. The other players on the CD were: Kevin Hayes, drums, formerly with the Robert Cray band; Steve Evans, bass, from the Elvin Bishop Band, and George Brooks, tenor saxophone, who has performed with John McLaughlin.
The title is a little misleading as it evokes (at least for me) images of tranquility and light so you might expect a quiet, jazzy album. Not at all! This is a mostly upbeat CD with some quite heavy tracks. The music is collaborative, both Ray and Roy bringing material they had been working on separately, as well as some lyrics supplied by a range of writers such as Jim Carroll, poet Michael McClure and the late Warren Zevon who supplied the lyrics to “River Of Madness” just before his death. As with The Doors, lyrics are at times somewhat opaque, conveying a feeling rather than a statement.
The two main players share the vocals and Ray Manzarek leads off on the first track “Hurricane”. Of course, Ray did not sing in The Doors as Jim Morrison was there, but here he handles the vocals well, evoking something of Morrison’s style of deep baritone. The keys are to the fore on this cut at the start but Roy’s slide cuts through after a minute or so, adding a touch of the Delta to the song which is quite menacing, both in tone and in content. Roy Rogers is, to my ears, a less comfortable singer than Ray, but he takes the lead on the next track “River Of Madness”. This is the longest track on the CD at 7.09 but it’s an interesting one, Warren Zevon’s lyrics pay bitter-sweet homage to LA while the music changes pace a number of times, Ray’s keys leading the changes and Roy producing some nice flourishes on slide.
“Game Of Skill” reminded me musically of “Love Her Madly”, especially in the piano stylings, but Roy’s searing slide soon moves us on to a tougher song. “Fives And Ones” is not a look back at a similarly titled Doors song, but concerns the need to keep some cash in your pockets in the harsh cityscape that Roy describes. Ray’s piano again takes us in a jazzier direction, only to be headed off at the pass by Roy’s screaming slide notes. “Kick” is a slower piece with some excellent sax featured. The electric piano (or is it vibes?) add to the jazzy feel. I cared less for the lyrics, which I take to be about kicking a drug habit, than the music. “Tension” features both singers with Roy’s slide everywhere, accentuating the lyrics and the tune. The middle section is quite different to the main refrain, almost a country mood, whereas the main tune is more of a rocker and moves along at a fast pace. Once again Ray’s singing is very reminiscent of Jim Morrison.
There then follow three tunes with the word ‘Blues’ in the title. Roy sings “Blues In My Shoes”, a song that lyrically is more direct than most on the CD. It is also definitely a blues, albeit an uptempo one. “New Dodge City Blues” sounds like it should evoke the Old Wild West and indeed it does! Ray takes the lead on a very piano led piece which definitely sounds like it could have been a cut on the last Doors LP “LA Woman”. The lyrics all seem about bad guys and everything going to hell but it’s an exhilarating ride through this dark panorama. “Greenhouse Blues” starts in delicate manner with some picked acoustic guitar and piano backdrop behind Roy’s vocal and a beautifully structured tenor sax solo which takes us into jazz territory. Even after several listens I still don’t know what the lyrics are about, but the playing is great!
“Those Hits Just Keep On Comin’” is a great title, but does not mean what you might think, as Roy is having trouble with his love life and the ‘hits’ here are the blows that he suffers when his girl betrays him with another guy! Musically this is a fast paced shuffle that really gets the toes tapping.
The last two tracks are both instrumentals and demonstrate two quite different sides to this group. “As You Leave” starts with mournful sax and elegant piano chords, a slow ballad whose tune reminded me of “Autumn Leaves”. It is probably more like what I had expected from the album title, a very pleasant and well played piece. “An Organ, A Guitar And A Chicken Wing” gives plenty of space to the three soloists, organ, sax and guitar, on a piece that I suspect may have been inspired by Jimmy Smith’s “Back At The Chicken Shack” album as the organ drives the music along on a real swinger.
Overall there is plenty to enjoy here for a wide variety of music fans. The playing and production are first rate and I expect that the album will be very successful.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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 Featured Blues Review 6 of 10
Johnny & the MoTones - Nothin’ to Lose
Altenburgh Records
12 tracks
Based out of Wisconsin, Johnny & the MoTones is a band comprised of veteran musicians, including several who teach at colleges or universities. The leader is John Altenburgh who handles piano and keyboards in addition to writing the arrangements for most of the tunes. He also served as the producer of the project and co-engineered the recordings with guitarist Mitch Viegut.
Filling out the band’s roster is Kevin Moore on lead vocals, Chris O’Keefe on lead guitar, John Greiner on tenor sax, Bob Kase on trumpet, Ryan Korb on drums, Keras Rubka-Nimz on guitar & backing vocals, Bruce Lammers on bass plus Paula Hall, Ellen Altenburgh and Dave Baehr on backing vocals. Baehr is also credited for his work on the cowbell.
The title track starts the disc off with a bang, sparked by Greiner’s fine sax playing. “Baby Don’t Jump” rocks even harder with Moore shouting over the band with Kase, Altenburgh, O’Keefe and Greiner all taking brief solos. O’Keefe wrote “That’s Why I Sing the Blues”, a slow, soulful ballad that has one of Moore’s strongest vocals. The pace picks up on “Runaround” and O’Keefe gets a chance to show off his guitar skills.
Kase is an alumnus of the Air Force Jazz Band and he gets a chance to stretch out on a bit on “Rosie”. Altenburgh’s piano solo has hints of the New Orleans R&B style while Greiner continues to delight with his playing.
The second half of the disc is not as strong. “Maybe Baby” has some fine piano from Altenburgh but the electronic keyboard is distracting and Viegut’s vocal can’t carry the tune. Tracks like “Crazy People”, “Wish We Were Young Again” and “Taste of the Strange” would be right at home on the programming for an MOR rock radio station.
The group covers “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover”, a tune popularized during World War II by Vera Lynn. Their up-tempo version in the jump blues style is musically impressive but loses points for the out-dated lyrics.
I’m not sure that the world needs another version of “Hey Joe” but the MoTones end the set with their version, building to swirling crescendo with guitars and keyboards battling for supremacy. Moore sings with enthusiasm but his interpretation doesn’t offer anything new.
This is definitely a band with plenty of musical firepower. That may be why they explore a wide range of musical styles on this disc. Most blues fans will be interested in the first half of this release. How you feel about the rest of the disc will be a matter of your own musical tastes.
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
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 Featured Blues Review 7 of 10
Gina Sicilia - Can’t Control Myself
Viztone/ Swingnation Records
10 tracks: 38mins 34 secs
Gina Sicilia is an Italian American, whose family come originally from southern Italy, now living in Philadelphia, but whose soul comes from Chicago and/or Memphis via New Orleans but with a nod towards Nashville. She released her debut CD, Allow Me To Confess, in 2007, and in 2008 was nominated for Best New Artist Debut, at the Blues Foundation Music Awards in Memphis. Her second album, Hey Sugar, is described on her website as a legitimate contender for top honors in the worlds of Classic Country and Americana, and herein (for me at least) lies the problem.
There is no doubt at all that Ms Sicilia has a wonderful contralto voice with a wide range. She can sing like an angel AND like a devil, all of which comes with a sassy in-your-face style which, I suspect must make for a pretty entertaining live show. This CD hits you from its first track (Gina’s own song Addicted) and is remarkable both for the talents of the singer and for the musical abilities of producer, engineer and session man Dave Gross who plays, electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, upright and electric bass, drums piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, percussion, accordion, toy piano(!) AND takes backing vocals too; in other words ALL the instruments on all the tracks except horns on two, trumpet on one and lap-steel on one!
The music ranges from 7 songs penned by Gina, through three covers: an Ike and Tina Turner hit, Crazy ‘Bout You Baby (here attributed to Willie Dixon, but not sounding a jot like the versions done by him and by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson (II)); a borrowing from Bobby Bland, Members Only; and a top-ten Stevie Wonder song A Place In The Sun from 1966, a soul single with a Motown stamp. Here, although the singing has a bluesy tinge and the arrangements are wonderful, some sensational, the whole effect of the album is that of a follow-after to the classic country and Americana of Hey Sugar. That is, self development and personal growth, but a move away from the more rootsy feel of Allow Me To Confess. To put it another way, more Nashville tinged pop than Chicago tinged blues. No Blues Foundation nominations here I’m afraid.
Review Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( 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 and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
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Chicago's legendary "Ow-Wow" man,
Jesse Anderson, releases all of his
Funk & Blues from the 60's thru the 70's including his No 1 hit, "I've Got A Problem" and "What Will I Say".
Purchase at or
 Visit Jesse at his website:
See more about Jesse Anderson on CD insert.
Good Blues to ya'!

 Featured Blues Review 8 of 10
Meyer Rossabi - Blues Is the Color
Self Release
12 tracks - Total time: 44:24
New York City singer/songwriter/guitarist Meyer Rossabi started playing guitar at 11, and by 15 was playing in blues bands. Later he branched out into jazz, wrote the opening song and additional music for the movie Brooklyn Boys, and co-authored the Joan Jett song, “Don’t Blame Me.” Blues Is the Color is his debut CD, and an impressive one it is—12 tracks of re-created West Side Chicago guitar-driven blues in the style of Luther Allison and Jimmy Dawkins. Rossabi wrote ten of the 11 songs featured, and plays guitars and bass throughout, with excellent lead regular and slide guitar work that puts him, in my opinion, clearly among the best. A “stringular” accomplishment indeed!
The only other attributed musicians are drummers Marco Romano and Marky Ramone, 15-year veteran of the seminal punk band, the Ramones. This Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and Lifetime Achievement Grammy winner mentions in the sleeve notes to this CD he’s provided that he’s been a long-time fan of the blues and in 1974, under the name Marc Bell, backed Johnny Shines on an album for Biograph. He and Romano provide vigorous, frenetic drumming that makes these tracks stand out percussion-wise as well. On the CD Rossabi also plays acoustic city harp both as a solo instrument and for accenting the instrumentation. But other musicianship is unattributed—the female second vocalist who appears on a couple of tracks, the solid blues piano, the organ, and the emphasizing horns, which also appear on various tracks. Rossabi’s vocals are another elegant part of the CD, good-sounding, expressive, and with added spoken encouraging shouts in several places.
This CD is one of the few modern blues albums I’ve come across where a significant number of the songs are not about those traditional staples, men-women relationships. He has several philosophical songs about life here which draw strongly from the brittle, world-wise sophistication of the modern jazz ballad, while his songs “Hurricane,” track 6, and “Deadly Ties,” track 10, concern, respectively, getting out safely from one of those horrible storms, and the tough, frustrating life of one just out of prison and back on the streets again. But Rossabi can write convincingly about men-women relationships as well, and does so with a modern flair on track 3, “Crash,” and track 7, “Modern Woman,” while on track 9, “Gone Too Far,” Rossabi approaches the subject through the traditional AAB blues-song-lyric format. Musically, there’s the mixture of variety intermixed with the modern traditional as well. Track 2, “World Gone Crazy,” has the feel of Jimi Hendrix meets the blues, while track 8, “Trust Yourself,” is an acoustic Santana-like Latin ballad, and “Deadly Ties” drives with a John Lee Hooker “Boogie “Chillun”/Z.Z. Topp “Lagrange” riff. The philosophical contemporary-rock number, tack 11’s “Train,” incorporates the voice of a conductor announcing departure time and watch-your-step caution.
Three tracks are covers of two songs. The opening track is Nick Gravenites’ “Born In Chicago,” which famously opened the first album of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The second, Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying,” is here on two tracks. Both of them notably influenced by the Stevie Ray Vaughan version. First as a studio version on track 5, and then as a trio recorded live at the Mexicali in New Jersey, with Paul Kane on drums, and with Chibo Jones’ bass complementing nicely, and appropriately filling in the space, as essentially a low-register rhythm guitar. Meyer Rossabi dedicates Blues Is the Color especially to masters Jeff Healy and Les Paul, and lists as influences a number of other seminal modern blues guitarists—an appropriate tribute indeed from one who just may end up on that list of seminal players sometime down the road as well..
Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.
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 Featured Blues Review 9 of 10
Howard Glazer and the EL 34’s – Wired For Sound
Blue Skunk Music
Howard Glazer and the EL 34’s latest release is a Detroit Blues Party distributed by Blue Skunk Music. Howard and his brother Steve produce the 14 Tracks. All were composed by Howard except Detroit Blues Party and Goodbye which are credited to John Sinclair.
This CD jumps right off with a Blackfoot sound and slide that would make Duane Allman smile. “Touch My Heart” ends with a cool click/clack fade. “Happy in My Arms” introduces the horn section of; Ralph Koziarski (sax), Dave Kocbus (trumpet) and Mike Dziekan (trombone). The background vocals of Maggie McCabe and Stephanie Johnson augment the Motown groove. They could go All Night Long! “Living on the Edge” has a Credence Clearwater sound. The 1st round of “Detroit Blues Party” is cool with party sounds (glasses clinking) in the background. David “Honeyboy” Edwards plays amplified acoustic and Lady T shows off her fine “pipes”. “Hurt so Bad” reminds of Albert Collins with added effects. “Waiting for the Train” rolls through with jaunty slide resonator and a Johnny Cash beat. Steve Kohn is wicked on the skins.
“Wall Street Bailout” is poignant with a back beat that’s hard to master. Foreclosure, unemployment and homelessness with wah wah licks scorching in. Slide resonator taunts “I’ve got a Good Girl” w/drumsticks on the rims and harmonica. Bassist Bob Goodwin is strong throughout this disc and kills here! “Get Me out Of Here” is swampy with a Tommy gun drum that rat-a-tat-tats. “Reel Me In” has funky bass slappin’, shredding in the middle and horns. Kind of like Shaft meets Chicago (the band). “Half Empty” tackles the age old conundrum; half empty or half full. It is acoustic yet spacey with voice effects. A strong Motown beat drives “No Regrets”. There are plenty of bass frenetics and more of Howard shredding. Howard laments: “You can take my body but, you can’t take my soul.”
Drums kick off the Hound Dog Taylor tribute “Goodbye”. John Sinclair recites and Howard wails on slide throughout. There is unique phrasing of slide and trumpet feedback. (Yep, trumpet feedback) The 2nd visit to the “Detroit Blues Party” (reprise) finds the party still going strong. Emanuel Young adds to the Mississippi Fred McDowell sound. It makes you want to go to Detroit and party all night long!
Reviewer Zeke is a published columnist and reviewer. He is a tireless promoter/supporter of Blues in CT. and beyond.
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 Featured Blues Review 10 of 10
Chris Bergson Band - Imitate the Sun
2 Shirts Records
10 tracks
Chris Bergson's sixth release is quite the interesting and enjoyable recording. Six fine original tracks coupled with four well done covers gives us a beautiful glimpse of the talents of this fine young musician. Born in NYC, raised in Massachusetts and back in NYC for the past 16 years, Backed by his trio and other superb performers, Bergson's CD warrants sifting through it track by track.
Chris opens with a rocking tune that reminds me somewhat of The Band. A slow groove with a distinctive beat, it is like a romp through a meadow. He sings of going home to stay with his one trough love, and it sold me immediately. "Imitate the Sun" features Bergson backed by Jay Collins of sax, whose presence here makes this title track memorable. Bruce Katz adds some fine keys, too, but Bergson's emotional vocals stand up with the great sax solos and round out this cut. Bergson turns to the country with the net track, "Shattered Avenue". The lyrics are touching, describing a man whose life amounted to living in "a life of luxury overlooking a KFC". He picks and sings mournfully; this simplistic approach is really well done.
We gets funky with "Hello Bertha", adding Kenny Rampton on trumpet and Chris Karlic on baritone sax (they also appear on "Mr. Jackson"). The horns are in sync, but Bergson drives this one with a nice guitar line as he sings of his woman of ill repute who provides a needed service. Bergson then gives us his take on the Howlin' Wolf/Willie Dixon song "Down In The Bottom". Katz on piano fills in nicely here again, but it is Bergson's solo guitar work that is clean and strong with his gritty vocals that made this one complete. He goes country again with "Layin' It Down In White", a song where he sings of taking out the Christmas tree as a simile for the end of his relationship. Simple yet solid work once again; he is melancholy and morose, reserved and reticent here. He shows that a guy from New York can deliver a real country song so much better than the myriads of pop country singers who try to sell the same songs over and over again.
An homage to Bessie Smith comes nest. Katz's piano is a prominent player in this song. Bergson's vocals are a throwback to the day of tis song, too, and then Collins comes in with some nice flourishes on sax. As if that were not enough, Bergson then comes in a plays his guitar with a ukulele's-like slide sound guitar. After strolling through this he gets hot and heavy with "Mr Jackson". The horns are out in force and the guitar is stinging here as is the organ. Jackson is a fictitious street character about whom Chris gives us a cool story to listen to. Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" comes next, and he trades in the traditional slide for a biting direct guitar and Katz' brilliant piano work. Bergson closes with Dylan's "Standing In The Doorway"; he strips down the presentation again and goes the simple route. He does build up a bit with Katz on organ as the track goes along, soulfully and emotionally going on for over eight minutes, yet it never seem to drag.
Matt Clohesy is the bass player here and Tony Leone on drums. They are seemingly transparent at times, but keep every track in line with their strong work. This is some fine blues and roots music given to us by a young and expressive guy from the New York/New England side of the woods. His approach and sound are impeccable and authentic. You will fall in love with the sound and emotion here as I did- solid blues with an original and outstanding approach. I recommend this one highly- it gets better and better every listen! 
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
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