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In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Jimmy Burns this week.
We have six CD reviews for you this week! Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Tip of the Top. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Paxton Norris. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Sugar Ray And The Bluetones . Eric Steiner reviews a new CD by Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD by Big Jim Adam & John Stilwagen. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Jimmy Burns
To no one’s surprise, John Lennon and Paul McCartney are regarded as one of the most successful and influential songwriting tandems of all time.
And while they were nowhere near the level of Lennon/McCartney, Lou Gramm and Mick Jones were still responsible for crafting a boatload of songs that resulted in more than one multi-Platinum album.
Also, to no one’s surprise, although they were responsible for a number of tunes that have managed to stand the test of time, neither The Beatles nor Foreigner will ever be mistaken for being blues bands.
That doesn’t mean, however, that with a little deep digging, the blues can’t be found at the core of some of the tunes off of Let it Be, or Foreigner’s self-titled debut.
For proof, just pick up a copy of the latest installment in the resurrected recording career of Jimmy Burns – Stuck in the Middle (Del Rone).
The Chicago-by-way-of-Mississippi bluesman confidently tackles The Beatles’ “Get Back,” along with Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice,” on his first studio album in almost eight years.
But why take the time, effort and energy to bluesify songs normally associated with the classic rock side of the airwaves?
According to the 68-year-old Burns, the answer is pure and simple.
“I’ve always liked that stuff to begin with,” he said. “Those are some songs I’ve been wanting to do for years and I finally got around to doing them. But “Cold as Ice” – the first time I ever heard that, I liked it. And I’ve been doing that song for years when I play solo acoustic sets.”
Certainly no different than most music lovers, Burns finds the songs of the Fab Four to be as compelling today as they were four decades ago.
“I like a lot of their stuff. They’re one of the best-ever,” he said. “I find myself humming a lot of their stuff. But a lot of times, when I hear rock, I don’t really hear rock – I hear the delta. First time I heard “Get Back,” I said, ‘That sounds delta to me.’ That intro (on Burns’ version) is a lick I got from Magic Sam.”
Burns also gives his own take on John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain,” along with the album’s title cut, “Stuck in the Middle,” – the Gerry Rafferty-authored hit for Stealers Wheel - another staple of classic rock radio. “I’m excited about the album and hope to do well with it,” he said.
Since making his way back to playing the blues full-time in the early 90s, after taking a lengthy sabbatical from playing music to raise his family, Burns has been busy helping to connect the dots between the world of the blues and the world of rock-and-roll – a process he has had his focus on for quite some time.
“They talk about Jimi (Hendrix) as a rock star, but Jimi actually played a lot of blues. Jimi’s thing was really Curtis Mayfield, Albert King, John Lee and Muddy,” said Burns. “If you listen to his music, you can hear that. He just had a really different take on it and music is so much better because of it.”
After sitting out a large chunk of the 70s and 80s to spend time at home with his family, Burns’ desire to make a return to the Chicago blues scene was due in part to a couple of “young guns” gigging around the Windy City in the late 1970s.
“Believe it or not, it was Lurie Bell and Billy Branch,” said Burns. “Not that it was something they said, but it was something I heard from them playing the blues. I was listening to them and said, ‘Damn. I play that.’ And I told my wife at the time that I was going to put together a blues band.”
Rather than just jumping back on stage with the same game plan he had used when playing with the Fantastic Epics or Jimmy Burns and the Gas Company in the 1960s, Burns re-tooled his entire approach to the blues.
“What I said was, ‘I’m going to come back, but with a different concept. I’m going to have a new version of the blues. I’m going to mix the blues with more modern rock,’” he said. “Start out with the 12-bar and then leave that and go off into other changes, such as I did on “Leaving Here Walking” (found on his 1996 disc of the same name, along with 2007’s Live at B.L.U.E.S.). Or like “You Better Know What You’re Doing” – that’s pure John Lee Hooker. I think my words were, ‘I want to re-define the blues.’ I don’t know how much I’ve succeeded at doing that, but I’m not disappointed at the stage I’m at now. I’ve gone way beyond my fondest expectations. I’ve never enjoyed music more than I am enjoying it now.”
Jimmy Burns never strictly was, nor does he ever have plans to be, just a bluesman. When he was barely 13 years old, a year after his family had moved from Dublin, Mississippi to Chicago, Burns was singing on stage with the gospel group the Gay Lites.
“I’m not just a blues artist. My background is really diverse,” he said. “And my philosophy is, there’s only one type of music and that’s good music. If it sounds good and feels good, do it.”
Folk music was also of interest to Burns in the 1960s (he was a regular performer at The Fickle Pickle), as was R&B, soul and doo-wop.
And all that wonderful music leads right back to the good, ole’ blues.
“First of all, you have to remember, you can play that stuff all night long and somewhere along the way, the blues will creep in there,” Burns said. “The blues influenced most of those kinds of music.”
Even though he’s called the big city of Chicago home since the mid-50s, his youthful stomping grounds of the Magnolia State are never too far from his mind, or from his music. That’s probably one reason Burns christened his 2003 release Back to the Delta.
“You have to understand, that with me, I don’t want to leave the delta,” he said. “It’s some of the richest music in the world. It was the first music I ever heard and I like a lot of the licks (from the delta blues). I just like that stuff and will never get tired of it. Matter of fact, I want to get deeper into it. I’m not running from the delta.”
The delta not only inspires Burns musically, but it also the place where he was born the youngest of nine children.
One of his older brothers would also leave the state of Mississippi for brighter lights and a bigger stage, ultimately finding fortune playing blues guitar – Eddie “Big Daddy” Burns. Eddie Burns carved out a nice a career in Detroit as a bandleader and at one time, also played with John Lee Hooker.
“I was the youngest and can never remember all of us (kids) being at home at the same time,” said Burns. “My brother (Eddie) wasn’t raised with us. My grandmother and grandfather raised him. He was there when I was born, but I don’t remember that. I remember seeing him a few times, but I really didn’t get to know him real good until I got grown. But I liked his music.”
The Burns brothers got to know each other and then eventually found their way into the recording studio, emerging with the heavily-praised Snake Eyes (2002, Delmark Records).
After teaching himself the basics of the guitar, it wasn’t long before Jimmy Burns fell under the spell of some of the best six-string players around, at a time when he was refining his budding talents to shape his own sound and style.
“Lightnin’ Hopkins. Muddy Waters. John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. Those were my main influences on guitar,” he said. “Definitely Lightnin’ Hopkins. That “Leaving Here Walking” that’s a Lightnin’ Hopkins lick. Man, the way Lightnin’ played was so good, it will put tears in your eyes. He just had a way with it. I just love his music – I’m crazy about him. He’s the man.”
As evidenced by his choice of material on Stuck in the Middle, Burns does not believe in sitting back and playing it safe by regurgitating the same thing over and over. If there isn’t something new and fresh in it, Burns says it’s best to just leave it alone, then.
“I’m not the kind of guy who believes that if you come into a bar and hear a song and then go across the street and come back six or seven songs later, it should sound like the band is playing the same song,” he said. “I sure don’t subscribe to that. I got a problem with that. And I can’t see no point in B.B. King Jr., or Albert King Jr., because there’s only one of those guys. I love those guys and their music, but that can’t be duplicated.”
One thing that heartens Burns is when he hears some of today’s up-and-comers adding their own spin to the blues.
“I see younger guys coming in and I’m impressed by that,” he said. “They’re still playing the blues, but they’re putting their take on it. That’s what keeps it going. And I think that’s one reason the blues is going to continue to go in a lot of different directions, because you got people coming from all directions with a lot of different influences. Each time someone plays the blues, it’s something different. Some move away from tradition and some want to keep that tradition. I’m a little bit of both.”
Twenty-some years into the “second phase” of his career, Jimmy Burns shows no signs, or has no thoughts, of applying the brakes any time soon.
“I don’t plan on hanging it (my guitar) up,” he said. “If I have anything to do with it, I don’t plan on stopping. I just hope people can appreciate my contributions and my love for the music. Lord knows I love the music. I have great respect for it. It has such a rich history and should continue to evolve. But I’ve seen this all over the world – people seem very receptive to what I’m doing. Very receptive.”
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
Tip of the Top - From Memphis to Greaseland
Delta King Records
The title on this release refers to two key locations that provided highlights for Tip of the Top. Memphis is the site of the annual International Blues Challenge, an event the band competed in last year, reaching the Semi-final round. The Greaseland reference is not some slight directed at the Elvis Presley estate. It is the name of the studio owned by guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen where the sessions for this release were held. The title also serves notice that this band isn't afraid to get lowdown and gritty when it comes to their music.
Tip of the Top is a veteran band comprised of Jon Lawton on guitar, Aki Kumar on harp, Frank DeRose on bass and Carlos Velasco on drums. Lawton and Kumar share the lead vocals while DeRose filled the role of producer for the project. Even though this is their third release in less than three years, there isn't any reason to fear that the quality of the material may start to suffer. The seven original tunes hold help well when compared to the six classic tunes that complete the play-list.
Things get off to a rollicking start with Lawton's “I Ain't Worried” with Kumar blowing some wicked harp licks. They dig deep into Johnny Littlejohn's tale of a cheating woman on “She's Too Much” before switching to a hard shuffle on “My Baby's Gone (And I Feel Good)”, with Kumar once again supplying the musical fireworks. “The Night is Young” is a DeRose composition with a propulsive, train-like rhythm. Lawton contributes a sampling of his taut slide guitar playing, encouraged by guest Johnny “Cat” Soubrand on guitar. Kumar belts out a convincing vocal as another guest, Sid Morris, pounds away on the piano. Kid Andersen sits in on guitar for “She's Fine”, building a solo full of razor-sharp licks.
The band's laidback cover of “Fattening Frogs for Snakes” illustrates their feel for the blues tradition, as does their equally fine treatment of Brownie McGhee's “The Sportin' Life”. They create a smoky, late-at-night ambiance and Lawton's vocal conveys the resignation of a man who has learned too late the cost of a life of sin. “One Way Out” bristles with energy but Kumar's singing doesn't quite measure up to better known versions of this classic.
The two instrumentals are standout tracks. Using Little Walter's “Rocker”, Kumar plays his heart out, unleashing a series of dazzling runs that honor the legacy of the world's greatest blues harp player. Lawton's original, “Slidin' Home”, finds him firing on all cylinders as he does his interpretation of the classic Elmore James slide sound. He even adds a brief quote of the famous guitar riff from “Train Kept a Rollin'”.
After you hear this recording, it might be hard for you to understand how Tip of the Top failed to reach the finals at the Blues Challenge. You will be hard pressed to think of another band that performs in a traditional style while managing to make everything sound modern and exciting. It takes a serious commitment to the music. Give them a listen – I know that their stellar musicianship and spirited approach will win you over.
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 2 of 6
Paxton Norris - Something’s Gotta Give
Just when the wellspring of original blues in the Chicago style seems to be turning into mud, along come guys like this that have a handle on the genre, along with chops to spare. Paxton possesses a strong guitar attack along with a gritty voice that falls somewhere between Delbert McClinton and Kim Wilson. He brings his Michigan roots into play as life struggles and working class existence are addressed over well-played blues by the band. His fluid guitar playing draws from Alberts Collins and King, as well as Freddie King, among others.
The energy of Albert Collins’ guitar delivery surges through Paxton’s hands right from the git-go as he lunges head-first as life’s realities are addressed in the title track. The subject is covered again on the following track “Living Tight” as well as “My Credit Didn’t Go Through”. It’s a running theme with his guitar taking the role of cutting through the bulls**t.
The sturdy vocals stand toe-to-toe with the instrumental attack. Texas style boogie ala Z.Z. Top juices up “Going To Pensacola” which is about taking a break from everyday life. Bobby Blue Bland’s “Love Light” is slowed down for major emotional effect. Organ and girl backup vocals lend a gospel feel. The dual guitar approach, with the inclusion of Tyler Mac, calls up the Allman Brothers’ sound. The funky blues of “What You Talking Bout’ Willis?” includes some speed-freak guitar lines to close out this cornucopia of blues guitar goodness.
At about the time this record ends you begin to second guess yourself about the familiarity of Paxton’s voice. It’s akin to meeting some one that you felt like you’ve known forever. You remember it but can’t quite place it. Blues lessons well learned are given a new life as a fresh and truly enjoyable listen. The songwriting stays true to the blues feeling. The musicians enlisted here never get in the way. They are like a sturdy foundation that you don’t give much attention to because it never fails.
Seeing more and more bands like this getting the blues thing right does a Bluesdog’s heart real good.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Sugar Ray And The Bluetones – Evening
12 tracks; 57.55 minutes
I should probably start with an admission; Sugar Ray Norcia is one of my favourite blues artists, so it is no surprise that I like this CD a LOT! However, I’m not the only one as I see that the CD has just received a nomination for CD of the year at the 2012 Blues Music Awards. The CD reunites Sugar Ray with guitarist ‘Monster’ Mike Welch and the usual suspects in the Bluetones; Neil Gouvin on drums, Anthony Geraci on piano and Michael ‘Mudcat’ Ward on bass. Sugar Ray handles all lead vocals, harmonica and (probably a first!) Native American flute. Mike Welch adds background vocals. From the above you will see that there are no horns this time around which affords lots of space for Ray’s harp, Mike’s guitar and Anthony’s piano.
Sugar Ray Norcia has always written strong songs, going back to his time in Roomful Of Blues, and here there are seven of his compositions, Mike Welch and Michael Ward contributing one song each. The three covers offer an interesting range of sources; the almost inevitable Willie Dixon, the far less well known Johnny Young and the title track which is a classic Mitchell Parish ballad once recorded by T Bone Walker.
The CD opens with a rousing version of Johnny Young’s “I’m Having A Ball” and it certainly sounds as if they are! The track opens with a blast of Ray’s harp, Mike’s guitar weaving intricate patterns behind him. A shout of encouragement from Ray brings in a hot piano solo and a similar entreaty brings Mike forward for a solo before Ray himself solos, all supported by the rhythm section at full tilt. It’s an emphatic start to the album and is followed by Mike Welch’s “Hard To Get Along With” which opens with some strong harp work before Ray sings the lyrics which seem to offer a degree of self-awareness: “If I could be a better man than the one I am today, maybe I could treat you, baby, in a better kind of way. I know I’m hard to get along with, sorry but I’m doing the best I can.” Mike gets some excellent tone in his solo over some more good piano work.
Third track is a great reading of Willie Dixon’s “You Know My Love”, best known from Otis Rush’s version and often alternatively titled “My Love Will Never Die”. It is one of those wonderful slow blues that fans of classic blues sounds love and the Bluetones more than do justice to it. First there is Ray’s vocal, strong, yet tender, with a touch of sadness at the same time. Mike Welch excels himself with a succession of brilliant phrases on guitar and a quite superb solo which pays tribute to Otis Rush yet remains distinctive. This is the longest track on the CD at almost seven minutes, but it ends all too soon for me.
There are then four Norcia originals. “Dear John” is a nice lyrical twist on the old ‘Dear John’ letter idea, Ray being aware of his lover departing because he has already read the letter. The tune is a shuffle with more strong harp work. “I Like What You Got” is a real swinging tune, Ray singing through the harp mike, not a technique that I usually like but it works well here as his vocal is punctuated with short harp blasts. “Too Many Rules And Regulations” is an interesting piece, a lengthy slow blues with rolling piano and quiet support on guitar and harp while Ray gives us a mainly spoken lyric which lists some of the things in modern life that bug him. These include eating and cholesterol advice, flu epidemics and ‘nanny state’ advice, parking problems and ticket-happy cops! As Ray’s gravelly voice intones the many irritations of modern life it is hard to disagree that “Too many rules and regulations, gonna be the death of me”. The fourth original opens with the almost eerie sound of Ray’s Native American flute before a more familiar loping shuffle introduces the story of “Dancing Bear (Little Indian Boy)”, a song that takes us on a journey into Indian history with rituals of boys becoming men and more excellent guitar playing from Mike Welch.
The title track “Evening” is next up, originally written by Mitchell Parish and Harry White. It’s a slow ballad which opens with languid harp and piano before Ray’s vocal performance which is one of the strongest within a set of great performances. Incidentally, Mitchell Parish should ring a bell because he wrote the lyrics to classic songs like “Stars Fell On Alabama”, “Moonlight Serenade” and “Sophisticated Lady”. Another great guitar solo and rippling piano add to the drama of the song. Sugar Ray’s “I Came Down With The Blues” is one of his amusing songs: “I drove a thousand miles to see you, it was the least I could do. I came down to see you, but instead I came down with the blues”. It makes a good pairing with Mudcat Ward’s “(That’s Not Yet) One Of My Blues”, another ballad with beautiful piano and organ accompaniment. The slight shift in momentum between the verses and the chorus is particularly effective and Ray handles the lyrics very well.
“I’m Certain That I’m Hurting” returns to those swinging shuffles that Ray does so well. In fact this track could easily have been a Roomful Of Blues tune if a horn chart had been added. It really moves along and makes typing difficult when it is at full throttle! Solos here are by Ray and Anthony Geraci. The CD closer is “XO” which I assume is a reference to Ray’s favourite drink! It’s an instrumental feature for his harp work, rolling piano and gentle guitar chords underpinning his harp work.
Make no mistake, this CD is a real contender for album of the year and I can recommend it unreservedly
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
Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys - The Price You Pay
The Price You Pay is Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys’ follow-up to their 2008 debut CD Honky Tonk Heart. They serve up traditional rockabilly, Americana, and pedal steel-tinged country at more than 75 live shows in Michigan and the Midwest annually.
I saw the trio earlier this year at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, and marveled at the way they channeled Gene Vincent, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash. They are a solid and entertaining rockabilly outfit. Delilah DeWylde’s out front on vocals and stand-up bass complemented by Lee Harvey on guitar and theremin (sort of a special effects box that inspired Robert Moog to develop early synthesizers) and DJ McCoy on drums.
On The Price You Pay, the trio’s sound is rounded out with Drew Howard’s pedal steel, Joe Wilson’s steel guitar and trombone, and Roger Brown’s acoustic guitar. Harvey wrote six of the 11 songs on the CD, and I like the way that “A Cheatin’ Life,” “A Fool Never Learns”, and “Just for the Hank of It” are bathed in traditional fiddle or pedal steel. Two well-chosen covers pay homage to 1940’s country pioneers: “Texas in My Soul” honors songwriters Ernest Tubb and Zeb Turner (with a jaunty “call and response” refrain), and “I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” shows me that the band has learned a lot from Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys.
The band’s live concerts often include rockabilly standards like Bobby Fuller’s “Wine, Wine, Wine” or Eddie Cochran’s “20 Flight Rock,” and I look forward to seeing them again live. I also look forward to returning to Bell’s Brewery for some tasty Kalamazoo Stout!
Reviewer Eric Steiner is president of the Washington Blues Society Washington Blues Society in Seattle, Washington, and a member of the Board of Directors of The Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.
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Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society - Rosedale, MS
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society presents The Crossroads Blues and Heritage Festival, Saturday, May 12, 2012 at the River Resort at Highway 1 South in historic Rosedale, MS featuring Bill Abel, Cadillac John, Big Joe Shelton, DSU Ol’ Skool Revue and other area artists.
Gates open at 12:00 noon, music starts at 1:00 Admission $5 – adults, $1 – children under 12 Bring your own ice chest – $10 No beer sold – No glass – No pets, please Parking $5
Minnesota Blues Society - Minneapolis, MN
In celebration of the Society's 10 year anniversary, Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society (GTCBMS) has changed their name to: Minnesota Blues Society, to better reflect their constituency. Get Out of Town" (GOOT) Fundraiser, Sun., Jan 22, 3:00pm, Minnesota Music Cafe, 499 Payne Ave., St. Paul, MN, 651-776-4699. Suggested donation: $10, Come support Minnesota's 2012 IBC representatives, Annie Mack and Tom Kochie; and Javier and the Innocent Sons. Music by former IBC representatives: Steve Vonderharr, John Franken, Good Time Willy, Davina and the Vagabonds, Scottie Miller, Papa John Kolstad, Jeff Ray, and Harold Tremblay. Visit our new website at www.mnbs.org for more information.
Capital Region Blues Network - Albany, NY
The Capital Region Blues Network is proud to announce The Mid-Winter Blues Bash on Friday, January 27th at The Roadhouse Grille (27 Fuller Road, Albany) at 8PM. Tom Townsley and Seth Rochfort will be coming in from Syracuse to open the night, followed by The Matt Mirabile Band with special guests Tom Healey and Tas Cru. Tickets are $10.00 at the door and $5.00 for Capital Region Blues Network members. For more info see our website @ www.capitalregionbluesnetwork.org
Grafton Blues Association - Grafton, WI
The Grafton Blues Association (GBA) and State of Wisconsin will be represented at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee for the 4th consecutive year. The GBA will be sending a band (Tweed Funk) and solo/duo act (John Stano) this year. A Send-Off Party/Fundraiser will be held January 20th at the Black Swan Room in Grafton.
The Send-Off Party/Fundraiser starts at 7 pm and will feature music from both John Stano and Tweed Funk. Friday, January 20th, 2012; 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Black Swan Room; 1218 13th Ave, Grafton, WI 53024; Suggested Donation - $10; Drinks, Raffles, and Door Prizes. www.graftonblues.org
The Diamond State Blues Society - Wilmington, Delaware
The Diamond State Blues Society in Wilmington, Delaware has two great events coming up. The first is Saturday, January 14th for our "Goin' to Memphis Fundraiser Party" on behalf of the DSBS IBC entrant for this year, The Blue Cat Blues Band. The show is from 3 to 10pm and will feature 8 great regional blues bands: at 3pm- Scoville Blues; at 3:45pm- April Mae & the June Bugs; at 4:30pm- Johnny Never & the Solar Pimps; at 5:15pm- Alicia Maxwell & the Diamond Dawgz; at 6pm- Mikey Jr. & the Stone Cold Blues; at 6:45pm- The Billy Pierce Blues Band; at 7:30pm- Venom Blues; at 8:15pm- Nuthin' But Trouble; and at 9pm- The Blue Cat Blues Band. It will be a day of HOT Regional Blues and to raise some funds to get our IBC entrant to Memphis!
And on Saturday, March 3rd it's the Diamond State Blues Society's 15th Annual House Rockin' Party. Opening the show at 3pm will be Nuthin' But Trouble, followed by Florida's great Blues Guitarist, Albert Castiglia, and headlining the show is the ironman himself, the phenomenal Michael Burks! Full details can be found at www.DiamondStateBlues.com
Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society presents the 4th Annual “Winter Blues Showcase” on January 21st 2012, The event spotlights this year’s IBC representatives Gregg “GC” Clark & Brian Lee (Solo/Duo) and The Noah Wotherspoon Band (Band) opening for this year’s headliner Big Bill Morganfield, son of blues legend Muddy Waters. Gilly’s 132 S. Jefferson St. 6pm—Meet & Greet w/ Big Bill Morganfield ($5), 8pm— Gregg Clark & Brian Lee, 9pm— Noah Wotherspoon Band, 10pm— Big Bill Morganfield (Muddy Water’s Son), DBS Members—$20 / Non DBS Members— $25, For more info go to www.daytonbluessociety.com .
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Jan 11th at 7PM - Brandon Santini. Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 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. Jan 9 - The Brandon Santini Blues Band, Jan 16 - The Groove Daddies, Jan 23 - Mike Zito, Jan 30 - Tombstone Bullet, Feb 6 - Matt O'Ree, Feb 13 - Hurrican Ruth, Feb 20 - The Distillery, Feb 27 - The Blues Deacons. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Adam & Stilwagen – Tippy’s Barn
Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen offer their own refreshing take on the blues with the release of Tippy’s Barn.
It’s a little bit of everything that the duo steals from the past. There’s some New Orleans hoodoo mixed with Mississippi swamp water. Add a little bootleg whiskey and you have the ingredients necessary for a great juke joint party. Once you enter you’ll never want to leave.
The title cut itself is a great boogie-woogie affair with Silwagen’s keyboard recalling Professor Longhair who happened to have a chance meeting with Honey Piazza. Most of the material is original and taps into a backwoods briar patch of American roots music.
Like other contemporaries Rory Block, John Hammond, Paul Geremia, and Roy Book Binder, Adam and Stilwagen seem intent on pursuing their vision of how the blues is meant to be played. Their music would be right at home on an acoustic stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival.
And though the Foster/Jordan number “I’d Rather Go Blind” has been covered by many other artists, it is Stilwagen’s piano playing that elevates the song into its own blue heaven.
Checking out their website, the Colorado Blues Society sent these guys to the 2011 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Most likely it couldn’t have been a better choice. Their music is a Memphis barbeque best served up with a slab of ribs and an ice cold pitcher of Bud.
Listening to these guys you can’t help but feel the influence of The Band, Little Feat and The Radiators. But these gentlemen can’t be labeled as copycats because the sound is uniquely their own.
There is nothing flashy about the guitar work of Jim Adams. The playing is rhythmic at best and works in service to the song. Stillwagen’s keyboard may be in the foreground but Big Jim’s guitar can’t be ignored especially in “Work Till The Sun Goes Down” that smacks of the essence of the hill country with his whiskey drenched guitar lines.
Checking out their touring itinerary on their website, the stops included take place in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. People who catch them there can consider themselves lucky. They don’t seem to be heading south which is a shame. Family ties can be preventing these men on spreading the gospel and it’s a gospel that needs to be preached. A listen to the airy “John Thayer” with what sounds like mournful dobro playing stands on its own merits of a tune best having its place at a campfire surrounded by soldiers of the Civil War.
There are probably not too many duos on the circuit willing to present a bare-knuckled approach to the music without a full band blasting in the background. This duo may not have a problem in pulling it off. The music is entertaining enough and doesn’t come off as politically incorrect.
Listener’s wishing to embrace old traditions will want to seek this out. If you’re looking for blues rock, than you’ve come to the wrong neighborhood. But if you are seeking a kinship with Professor Longhair or looking for a backwoods juke joint to indulge in bootleg whiskey, Tippy’s Barn is a good place to start as anything else. Those who are in love with real roots music will have no qualms of kicking back on a recliner with a bourbon on ice and in their mind imagine they are on the back-porch of a shotgun shack where hickory smoke floats in the air and somewhere down the road a traveling musician will be making a stop to play for his next meal.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers - Piece of Work
16 songs; 62 minutes
Styles: Blues Rock, Modern Electric Blues, Rock and Roll
Is the blues an art or a craft? Countless bands have tried to solve this riddle as they perform. Is playing the blues an innate talent, born of natural “mojo”? On the other hand, does it consist of a set of skills that can be learned and perfected by nearly anyone? Ohio’s Ray Fuller, in his newest “Piece of Work,” proves the answer is a bit of both. He’s no ordinary singer, songwriter and guitarist--not everyone gets to share the stage with Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and receive high praise from them. He’s also been featured in periodicals from “Living Blues” magazine to Ohio’s “Columbus Dispatch.” Knowing his credentials, one might wonder why he’s not a household name in blues music. In time, he just may be, as evidenced by the following original songs (four out of twelve on the album, with four covers):
Track 1: “Big City Woman” – the opener sets the mood and style of the CD nicely with a mid-tempo number featuring some top-string twang from Fuller and great harmonica work from Mike Gilliland, who sings vocals on two of the album’s cuts.
Track 11: “Quittin’ Time”--Sometimes, the best blues songs are honest yet understated, telling it like it is minus screaming guitar and crashing drums. Such is the case with this candid confession about leaving “a loveless marriage that’s long gone bad: that close connection that we never had.” Fuller’s vocals and lead, lap-steel guitar, rolling like the currents of a placid river, are regretful but not remorseful. His resignation is that of someone worn out, but not spent; defeated, but not broken. It’s simply “Quittin’ Time”.
Track 13: “Baby You’re a Habit”--Speaking of quitting (or not), Ray does a 180-degree turn in tempo and style from the previously mentioned track. “Baby You’re a Habit” is a full-blast rock and roller, featuring Keith Blair pounding 88 ivory keys and Mark Ward having a field day on the drums. Manny Manuel keeps pace on bass as Ray counts the various vices he’s given up. Gambling, smoking and drinking are permanently out of his life, but not his potent paramour: “Loving you is killing me!” Fuller exclaims.
Track 15: “Tupelo Willie”--Hauntingly atmospheric, this biographical ballad commemorates the life of Mississippi born, Ohio musician Willie “Pooch” Johnson (1937-2010). Working his way up from “the killing floor” to sharing the stage with Magic Sam and Luther Allison, Willie found a better life through “digging that Chicago sound” in town clubs after a long and dirty day of work. Listeners can definitely tell that even if they’ve never heard of “Tupelo Willie,” he was a bluesman of note! Blair’s piano is magical.
These four numbers might be considered strokes of genius by blues fans. If more of the selections on Ray Fuller’s latest release would have resembled them, instead of being “workmanlike” entries (a cover of “Boom Boom,” the bland title track, and “Rock and Roll Cowboy”), “Piece of Work” would have been a better piece of art.
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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