Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Lil' Ed Williams this week.
We have six CD reviews for you! Gary Weeks reviews a new CD by Deborah Magone. We welcome a new Blues Blast reviewer this week, Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician. Rex reviews a new CD by Lazy Lester. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Carolyn Wonderland and also a new one from Louisiana Red & Little Victor’s Juke Joint. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Jeff Dale And The South Woodlawners. Steve Jones reviews a new CD and DVD from Johnny Childs. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Lil'Ed Williams
Looking back on it from today’s vantage point, it seems like a real no-brainer.
But back in the day, it was anything but that, and Ed Williams was faced with a real dilemma.
Should he stick with his job at the Red Carpet Car Wash, or should he hit the road and play the blues?
Because as Lil’ Ed explains it, one was a sure thing, while the other was not.
And the one he considered as the sure thing might surprise most people.
“I was doing fairly well at the car wash. I started out pumping gas and had made it up to buffing and waxing and things really got good, because I had my own customers then. My customers were tipping me $50 and $60 and some days, I’d come home with $300 in tips. That’s on top of my salary, so I’d come home with $500 or $600 in my pocket,” Lil’ Ed said. “So I was not going to leave the car wash. But I went and talked to my boss at the car wash, Mr. George Levy, and he said, ‘you’ve got an opportunity to travel all over the world. Stay with it (playing music full-time) for at least a month. And then, if you don’t like it, come on back to me and you’ll still have your job.’”
With knowledge that he had a fallback plan in place if needed, Lil’ Ed put down his cans of Turtle Wax and his bag of rags and tore down the blues highway like a buffing machine gone mad.
And some 27 years and nine albums later, it turns out that Lil’ Ed indeed made the right choice by exiting the car wash and playing the guitar full-time, even if he didn’t exactly plan on world dominance in the those early days.
“Well, I dreamed about making a record, a 45, back before I met Bruce. For a $100, you could go into a studio and sing over a tape you brought in and they would put it on a 45,” he said. “And that’s what I was going to do. But then I met Bruce. And the next thing you know, we’re in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, playing the blues. I had no idea back then I was going to be on the road traveling and playing the blues like I am now.”
That ‘Bruce,’ of course, is Bruce Iglauer, founder, owner, producer, visionary and driving force behind Alligator Records, the label that Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials have recorded for since 1985, making them one of label’s longest-tenured acts.
“Bruce is just like my long-lost dad, you know. I’ve been with Bruce for a long time and he’s always treated me right. I don’t have any complaints,” Lil’ Ed said.
“I think he’s one of the greatest record producers out there. He is smart and he can feel music. I always rely on his judgment, because he knows what people like and what they want to hear. He hears stuff that nobody else hears (in the recording sessions). It’s amazing what he does.”
Iglauer is once again at the helm for Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials’ latest offering, a follow-up to 2008’s Full Tilt, scheduled for a spring release.
“Yeah, it’s in the making … it’s almost there. It turned out real good,” said Lil’ Ed. “We did a little more rehearsal before we went into the studio this time than we normally might do. I tried to do some different stuff on this one – I got some jazzy stuff going, a little rock … but most of all, I’ve got straight blues on there. It’s all blues really, but some of it is in a little different flavor.”
More than just occupying his normal role as producer, Iglauer also broke out his writing pen for the yet-to-be-titled album.
“Actually, Bruce got into the groove and wrote some songs for the album, too. They’re really, really good songs,” said Lil’ Ed. “I put the music to them and he wrote the words and they’re just phenomenal. My wife is writing, too. And she don’t write songs, she writes paragraphs. One of her lyrics is a paragraph. When she gives me her songs, I really have to go to work cutting stuff out. I say, ‘you think I’m going to sing this one song for 40 minutes? But really, she comes up with some good stuff. She’s a good writer.”
The music might have a different twist to it, the writing team might have a different look to it, but as far as the band itself goes, it is business as usual for the Blues Imperials.
With James “Pookie” Young (Lil’ Ed’s half-brother) on bass, Kelly Littleton on drums and Mike Garrett on guitar, the Blues Imperials have been together for over two decades now, outlasting presidencies, musical fads and even managing to avoid the normal pitfalls that can lead to band destruction from within the ranks of the unit.
“Well, we’re no longer band members anymore, we’re all family,” Lil’ Ed said. “We’ve been together so long that we’re all family. And they understand what the bandleader expects and they try and give me that. But I try not to be a hard leader, because band members get tired of hard leaders. When I was younger - in my 20s - I did some of that screamin’ and hollarin’ kind of band leading, but I found out that don’t work. You don’t want to embarrass nobody.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that the Blues Imperials are immune from getting a dose of the ‘evil eye’ from their band leader from time to time.
“They know. They’ve been with me long enough to know that if I turn around onstage and look at them, something’s up,” said Lil’ Ed. “They know the look. If I give it to them, they may not know what they did, they just know they did something. And then I’ll explain it to them. But I knew when I got Mike and Kelly that I had the right guys, because it (the music) got good. And man, we shot out like a light.”
Backed by a tight-as-hell rhythm section and fronted by the stinging slide guitar and infectious smile of their leader, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials are truly one of the “must-see” blues bands on the road today. Put it this way – if you’re not on your feet dancing by the time they’re mid-way through their first number, you must be six-feet under.
The group was twice (2007, 2009) honored as Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards.
Lil’ Ed came to that command of an audience the honest way.
You could even say that he was born into it, with that power pumping through his veins from an early age, for his uncle was the renowned late, great slide guitarist and song-writer J.B. Hutto.
And according to Lil’ Ed, being around his uncle had a life-changing pull on the youngster.
“I used to just sit and watch him play. J.B. felt everything he played and that’s where I get that from,” he said. “When he felt it, I felt it. I learned right away from him how to feel the music. Not just play it, but to feel it. There was sometimes he would sing so sad that me and my other uncle would be shedding tears. It was amazing. And before he died, as I was getting older and involved with lady friends - I was having some courting problems – to hear J.B. play them songs about women running off and leaving their men … I could feel the power of those songs and understood what he was singing about. And later when I started playing, and I’d play some of uncle J.B.’s songs onstage, I could feel them and would think back to those feelings and would almost start crying, too. To put that kind of power in a song, you have to feel it.”
While they didn’t know it at the time, the stories and experiences that young Lil’ Ed and Pookie heard Hutto reminisce about would later come to pass as stories and experiences that they would partake in first-hand as working blues musicians.
“J.B. was my mentor and my uncle at the same time. And when you’re younger, you see things differently,” Lil’ Ed said. “I didn’t see this man (J.B.) running up and down the road, working himself silly. I didn’t see that in him. But J.B. had some hard times out on the road. Him and my other uncle would be talking about driving 23 hours to get to a gig and me and my brother thought that was the funniest thing in the world. We didn’t know no better. We didn’t know that one day we’d be out there driving eight hours one day and nine the next and leaving that night and driving another 13 hours. We had no idea that was in the making. But to hear J.B. talking and laughing about all that stuff, oh, man! We thought that was the funniest thing ever.”
Well-versed in the trials and tribulations of trying to scratch out a living by playing the blues, Hutto passed on as much advice as he could to his talented and eager nephew.
“He told me, “Ed, one day when you have a band, there’s a couple of things you have to look out for. One thing, you ain’t gonna’ get rich, so don’t even think about it. But you are going to have a lot of fun and travel and go a lot of places - and sometimes it’s going to be hard to get there. And as far as your band members – you’ll know when you’ve got the right group of guys. But, you have to treat them right, Take care of them and they’ll take care of you,’” said Lil’ Ed. “And he told me, ‘as far as your fans, love all your fans, good and bad. Because some people don’t even know they’re bad. They’re just having a hard life and you’re singing about their life.’ That’s the stuff he told me and I’ll always remember those words. I really took them to heart and everything he told me came true.”
And nearly 30 years after they first entered a Chicago studio with Iglauer and cut an astounding 30 songs in three hours, turning a session for a compilation album into a full-blown career, one that is destined for a spot in the Hall of Fame, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials are still out on the road, playing that hard-to-resist, houserockin’ music.
“My definition of houserockin’ music is music that gets in your gut and makes you want to dance. That’s my definition. It’s all in the traditional blues style and that’s why I stay in that style,” Lil’ Ed said. “It’s easy to move over to that rock-blues stuff and I see a lot of musicians do that. And I don’t down them, but I think if you’re going to play the blues, you should play the blues. Don’t try and change the blues, because it don’t need changing.”
“It’s all about life and living. That’s what the blues are about. Whether it’s Chicago blues, or New Orleans, or Texas … the blues are about life these days, about the economy, about the way the world is shaping. That’s blues, man. You look at the TV every day and that right there will give you the blues, with all the stuff we got going on. We’re all just sitting in our houses wondering how we’re going to afford things, how we’re going to make ends meet. What’s going to happen tomorrow? And on top of all that, what if you’re also in a bad relationship? Damn! It’s like, just let me lay down and die, right here, right now. That’s the blues right there, my man.”
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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
Deborah Magone – Alternate Realities
If you have a soft spot for pretty women wielding a Les Paul guitar cranking out high-voltage riffs that give you an instant rush, than you can add Deborah Magone’s Alternate Realities to your playlist.
Magone wastes no time in announcing her entrance to the blues rock world. Opening track “Clean Up Woman” reminds you of Chicago’s own Joanna Connor with its greasy slide attack that can cut through a laser beam. The thunder continues to roar in “It’s All About Money” only to get a softer edge in the following song “One Love.” Soft edges or not, a wall of sound effect is something Magone prefers in this material to grab a listener interest. One reviewer describes her as “Janis Joplin with a guitar” which may or may not be true if you think Magone’s vocal abilities compare to the late singer. No doubt she can shout out the lyrics with the effect of a person going under for the last time.
Alternate Realties can’t be considered as just a blues CD only. Magone is primarily a rocker and like the generations of rockers that came before her she acknowledges the blues but uses it as a backdrop for the style of hard rock that she creates. When she launches into acoustic material “One Love” and “Forever,” it’s a short detour from the Marshall amp over-driven comfort zone she lives in. It’s something to be thankful for. But you would not necessarily like to see Deborah drop the electrical baggage to pursue being a solo acoustic act.
Magone’s songwriting is solid. Though the songs won’t win any awards for lyrical complexities, it’s the way Deborah sings the words that hits a bulls-eye in the soul. Listening to “It’s Alright” gives a feeling you’ve heard this number before as it seems to come from the past somewhere.
The vocal delivery really hits the mark with Magone’s own “Queen Bee.” In this case her guitar playing is riding shotgun. She gets help from guitarist Joey Tuchrello in the rockin two-step “No More.” The ship steers into gospel-styled waters with “All I Need” which would be the perfect song to play at a funeral to wish the deceased into a better life.
The dark clouds disappear and soon Magone is unleashing her pulverizing assault once again. Tuchrello’s guitar solos and riffs abound in the straight forward rocker “It’s A Sin” with Magone more or less shouting/talking through the lyrics. Her “One World” with its no nonsense shuffle gallop can easily draw the praises from Bonnie Raitt who would give anything to play and shout like the she-devil Deborah is.
What helps matters especially is that Magone keeps the energy levels high. Sure there is acoustic numbers thrown in the mix. Since they move at a fair speed, the temperatures don’t instantly drop. “Rain Rain” is the perfect precursor to the ending track “Aint No Mistake.” If you’re looking for that bluest electrical moment, this could very well be it with Magone pouring her heart into both guitar playing and singing. It is that good.
By no means is Malone a traditionalist. Folks who wish to tread on quieter waters will probably run for the hills given the lady’s lust for grabbing the music by the throat and strangling it like it needs to be woken up. But you have to give credit to Magone. Compared to other darlings of the industry, Magone is her own woman and if she’s willing to kick things up a few notches to get the blues some recognition, than the lady has done her job.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Lazy Lester – You Better Listen
13 tracks / 43:20
Lazy Lester is anything but lazy; at 78 years old he is still touring and recording today. Born in 1933 as Leslie Johnson, he is the living link to the Louisiana blues scene of the 1950s and 1960s, when he had a string of hits on Excello records. He did quite a bit of solo work, but is most notable for his work with Lightnin’ Slim.
Lester broke into the business on the strength of his harmonica playing, but has a unique voice and guitar chops to boot. The years have been kind to the man, and his voice has gotten more character and is pleasing to hear. He still blows a mean harp too. He describes his music as “swamp blues”, a combination of blues, early country music, and swamp pop. He says his main influences are the country singer Jimmie Rogers and legendary southern harp men Jimmy Reed and Little Walter, but I hear a bit of Detroit and Chicago blues influence in there too.
Lazy Lester’s latest album, You Better Listen, is an old-time blues album with non-traditional origins. Lester recorded this material at Juke Joint Studio in Norway, which is not exactly next door to his northern California home. The album was produced by guitarist Morten Omlid, who is part of Spoonful of Blues, which is the backing band on this project. This is the same group that Lester hooks up with for his annual tours of Norway.
The 13 tracks on You Better Listen are a compilation of original material, old blues hits, and a couple of classic country tunes, all in Lazy Lester’s swamp blues style. Through the usual studio magic, Lester is able to play guitar, sing and blow the harp simultaneously on many of the songs.
Staying true to his roots, Lester kicks off the album with the Lightnin’ Slim’s “Rooster Blues”, and this track proves that his voice is still amazing and his harmonica is as sweet as ever. The other thing this recording shows is that his Norwegian brothers from Spoonful of Blues have a great feel for the blues and are very good musicians in their own right.
It is more than cool that Lazy Lester covered Slim Harpo’s “Scratch my Back”, especially when you consider that Lester was a percussionist on Slim’s original hit recording. The raw drum sounds and guitar reverb come off perfectly for this old-time blues standard, and there is a great play between the harp and guitar. This turned out to be one of my favorite tracks on You Better Listen.
There is a classic country vibe in much of Lazy Lester’s work, and on this album he broke down and gave us a real-live country tune, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”. This Roy Acuff number has been thoroughly converted to a honkytonk song with a healthy dose of saloon piano, which is pretty cool in my book.
It would be easy to just cover old Excello hits, but Lester wrote four new tracks for this album. “Courtroom Blues” has a simple background with a slow tempo, but throws in plenty of harp as well as an old favorite, the Hammond organ. Prison lyrics always are a sure-fire hit subject for blues music, too.
Another Lazy Lester original is the “OJ Shuffle”, a quick-paced instrumental with just the bare bones of instruments: harmonica, guitar and the simplest of percussion. There is nothing like a good shuffle, and this one delivers the goods.
You Better Listen wraps up with the “Paradise Stomp”, an instrumental that honors his new hometown. It provides a change of pace and a healthy countrified dose of Lester’s harmonica to put an appropriate end to this project, sort of like the music over the credits at the end of a good movie.
Overall this is a great album with solid tunes and Lazy Lester’s inimitable voice. It sounds like it was recorded 50 years ago. The producer and mixer seem to be going for a retro vibe, because the background instruments are muddy and the lead vocals, harmonica and guitars are a bit gritty. It works for me, but if you are looking for rocket-ship modern production you won't find it here.
I will leave you with one last bit of trivia before I go: Excello producer Jay Miller came up with the nickname Lazy Lester not because of a poor work ethic, but in honor of Lester’s slow style of talking and his easygoing manner.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Carolyn Wonderland – Peace Meal
12 tracks; 50.28 minutes
Carolyn Wonderland follows up her well received 2008 “Miss Understood” album with this new offering which places her strong vocals in a series of tough songs, many of which tackle some difficult themes lyrically. Carolyn handles all vocals and guitar duties with her regular band members Cole El-Saleh on keyboards and Rob Hooper on drums. Bass duties are split between Lincoln Schleifer, Glenn Fukunaga and, Mark Epstein with Cole El-Saleh doubling up on key-bass on two tracks. Producer of her previous CD Ray Benson (Asleep At The Wheel) returns to produce seven of the tracks in collaboration with Sam Seifert. Larry Campbell (who helped relaunch Levon Helm’s career) produced four tracks and Michael Nesmith (Monkees) produced one. The recordings were made at Benson’s studio in Austin TX and at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock NY. Six of the tunes are Wonderland originals alongside covers including Dylan, Joplin and Waters.
Carolyn has something of the ‘Joplin growl’ to her singing, so it is not surprising to find that the opening cut is one of Janis’ songs, albeit a relatively obscure one, “What Good Can Drinking Do?”. Interestingly this is in fact the first time she has covered Janis, despite the obvious comparisons. Apparently Carolyn always felt too in awe of Janis’ reputation until she was invited to perform in a Janis tribute event in 2009. She does a great job on the song which tackles head on one of the problems that drinkers have – drinking does not actually solve the problem: “I drink down the bottle, but the next day I still feel blue”. The song starts off in acoustic mode with plenty of piano, mandolin (Producer Larry Campbell), lap steel (the splendidly named Cindy Cashdollar) and acoustic guitar before some nice electric guitar comes in on the solo.
The other three tracks produced by Campbell include two originals. “St Marks” is a catchy tune with strong guitar riffs and an impassioned vocal: “If love and peace were so easily reached the world would go the way that we do” may be the source of the album title. “Shine On” is a gentler affair, far more country in approach, again with excellent piano and organ playing supporting the vocals: “Shine on little starlight, shine on without care, ‘cos if you’re not there I’d be left alone.” As the last track on the CD it leaves the listener with a warm feeling of optimism. However, the centrepiece of the Campbell produced quartet is “Golden Stairs”, an obscure song written by one-time Grateful Dead keyboard player Vince Welnick and Dead lyricist Robert Hunter which clocks in at over seven minutes. The track opens with stately piano and pedal steel (Campbell) and a genuine feel of the Dead in their more reflective moods (“You don’t need no light to climb those golden stairs”) before Carolyn’s passionate gospel-infused vocal raises the stakes towards the end of the track. Her guitar playing is also excellent, matching the mood created by the band perfectly. Definitely a high point on the album!
The one song produced by Michael Nesmith is, rather surprisingly given his usual style, a cover of Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom”. It’s a short version but a really good one. Carolyn’s slide playing and singing are spot-on and there is some great piano too.
The Benson/Seifert tracks include four originals. First up is “Victory Of Flying”, a hard rocking track which features some striking guitar playing against the driving drums. “Only God Knows When” follows immediately with both Carolyn and Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel and a lyric that again tackles issues of peace and understanding. Carolyn’s solo and the honky tonk back beat reminded me of Little Feat. “Usurper” has sparse instrumentation, the keyboards giving a moody, rather downbeat feel to the song. “No Exception” is a co-write with keyboard player Cole El-Saleh and starts with a much more upbeat feel, ringing guitar chords riding over the keyboards.
The covers include Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning”, one of the less well known songs from “Blood On The Tracks” and “Two Trains”, again, one of Muddy Waters’ songs that is not often revisited. “Two Trains” starts off with the riff from “You Don’t Love Me” (as on the Allmans’ “Fillmore East”) and builds up a real head of steam as Carolyn switches between low voiced and sultry to full throttle roar. “Meet Me In The Morning” takes a more restrained approach but contains possibly the best guitar solo on the whole album. The final cover is “I Can Tell” credited to Samuel Smith, but usually considered a Bo Diddley tune (or at least a collaboration). Carolyn takes the song at a more leisurely pace than one often hears and I found the version very effective. The sleevenotes state that she learned both the Muddy and Bo songs from Little Screamin’ Kenny (Kenny Blanchet) when she was a kid and give credit to Kenny’s influence on the arrangements for the album.
Overall I liked this CD. Carolyn is a good guitarist and has a strong voice though one that might not appeal to everyone. I know that she and her band have been very active on the live scene and I would expect this album to be the one that breaks into a larger audience for her music.
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
Louisiana Red & Little Victor’s Juke Joint – Memphis Mojo
12 tracks; 44.28 minutes
Iverson Minter has been recording under his stage name of Louisiana Red for many years and has resided in Germany for the last 30 years. Over his career he has produced more than 50 albums but perhaps had his greatest success with the 2009 CD “Back To The Black Bayou” which was nominated for the traditional blues album category at the 2010 BMAs. The day after the awards Red went into a Memphis studio and recorded this follow-up which, if anything, is even more stripped back than its predecessor. Most of the team who played on “Back To The Black Bayou” are reunited: Little Victor plays guitar, produced the album and co-wrote two of the songs; Alex Petterson plays drums throughout; bass duties are shared between Mookie Brill and Bill Troiani; Bob Corritore plays harmonica on five tracks, David Maxwell piano on four tracks and ‘The Hawk’ plays maraccas or guitar on five.
Red lived for a while in Arizona and was at that time a regular at Bob Corritore’s club in Phoenix and Bob provides the sleevenotes which explain how the recording came about.
All but one of the tracks are originals, with a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. The music is traditional blues, with Red’s gruff vocals conveying all the classic themes of the blues; troubles, death, problems with alcohol and/or women, etc are all present and correct: those whose tastes veer towards the rock end of the spectrum will find no guitar heroics here! Red has played with almost every major bluesman over the course of the last 50 years or so and follows his own muse, strongly influenced by the likes of Muddy Waters (check out Red’s slide on “Your Lovin’ Man” for instance). Final track “Grandmother’s Death” is a slow blues on a possibly autobiographical theme, with Corritore’s baleful harp accentuating the sad theme.
In fact there is quite a lot of sad blues here, as can be seen from titles like “I’m Getting’ Tired” and “I Had Troubles All My Life”! “Boogie Woogie Boogie” and “Just Take Your Time” are more upbeat tunes with nice interplay between the two guitars of Little Victor and ‘The Hawk’ and some sprightly piano form David Maxwell. However, most of the album is taken at a slower pace which arguably suits Red’s voice better as he sounds a little strained on the faster numbers. Certainly his voice is clearer on a gentle blues like “So Long, So Long” where Red’s slide meets Corritore’s harp on a song that namechecks the late Jack Johnson as Red reminisces about trips to Clarksdale.
I think that this CD will be a successful follow-up to “Back To The Black Bayou”. Whether it gathers more BMA nominations we will only be able to judge next May but if solid, traditional blues is your blues of choice this is bound to be a winner.
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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Windy City Blues Society - Chicago, IL
The 2012 WCBS Annual General Membership meeting and Election of Officers will be held on THU MAY 17th at 7:00p (location TBD). Candidates for President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary will be elected to two year terms. Winners officially take office JUN 17, 2012. The nominating process will run thru FEB 17, 2012. Members in good standing can nominate other members for these positions.
After FEB 17th, we will communicate the list of candidates to all WCBS members. All members in good standing are eligible to vote either in person (at the annual general membership meeting on May 17th) or by mail (mailed ballot must be received prior to MAY 1st).
How do I nominate someone? Nominations must be received in writing via either email or US Postage) and should include the name(s) of the nominee and the office (president, vice president, etc.). Nominations must be accepted by FEB 18th to be valid. Mail your nominations to: WCBS PO Box 7389, Chicago, IL 60680-7389 Visit our website for updates. www.WindyCityBlues.org
The Phoenix Blues Society - Phoenix, AZ
The Phoenix Blues Society is proud to be bringing Blues Blast 2012 to the Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix on March 10, 2012 Featuring Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, The Sugar Thieves, Big Daddy D & the Dynamites, George Bowman and the Baddboyz Blues Band featuring Lucius Parr, and Common Ground Blues Band.Music starts at 11:00AM. There are a limited number of $15 early bird tickets available...go to www.BluesBlast.info for tickets and more information.
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 8:00pm $3 cover. Feb 6 - Matt O'Ree, Feb 13 - Hurrican Ruth, Feb 20 - The Distillery, Feb 27 - The Blues Deacons. icbluesclub.org
The Diamond State Blues Society - Wilmington, Delaware
On Saturday, March 3rd it's the Diamond State Blues Society presents the 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
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. and Thornhill Auto Groups prestent the 5th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest May 18, 19 and 20, 2012 at Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV including headline performances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers and Ruthie Foster. For more information visit http://wvbluessociety.org/
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Saturday, February 11, Painkillers, CD Release Party, 6-9 pm, Iron Post, Urbana; Thursday, February 16, Matt 0’Ree w/ Timmy D & Blind Justice, 7-11 pm, The Stop, Urbana; Friday March 2, 1st Friday Blues, Danny & the Devils, 8pm studio visit to WEFT 90.1FM during the Blues Live show, 10pm, performance at Memphis on Main, Champaign. $5 non-members, $3 members. Friday April 6, 1st Friday Blues, Johnny Rawls. For more info: www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org
The West Michigan Blues Society - Grand Rapids, MI
The West Michigan Blues Society and radio station WYCE 88.1 FM present the 2012 Cabin Fever Blues Series at Billy's Lounge 1437, Wealthy St. SE Grand Rapids, MI. Up coming shows include Feb. 11 Motor City Josh & the Big Three, Feb. 18 Hadden Sayers, Feb. 25 Nora Jean Wallace, March 3 The Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings. Tickets are $10.00 per show at the door only. Doors at 7:00 PM Music at 9:30 PM. Info at: www.wmbs.org
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
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - March 28th at 7PM • Albert Castiglia, April 11th at 7PM • Sean Chambers. 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
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Jeff Dale And The South Woodlawners - Blues Room
Pro Sho Bidness
Is this Chicagoan equal parts Mitch Woods, Johnny Cash and jive hipster rapper backed by Canned Heat on overdrive or is it just me? Jeff Dale talks and/or talk-sings his way over a joyous blues noise. Guitars of the slide, blues or the psychedelic acid drenched variety dogfight it out to glorious results. Greg Davidson’s guitar work harkens back to the glory days of Henry Vestine and purveyors of the San Francisco sound. The lack of a conventional singer begins to make sense as part of the desired sound and vibe after repeated listenings. This record is about blues attitude rather than an attempt at authentic blues. Instruments dive in and out of the mostly fierce attack that is the norm here. That is not to say that a whimsical and fun element isn’t included at times.
“This Time”, the lead-off track enters with a ringing guitar riff to be shortly visited by Jeff’s ominous and slashing slide guitar. His gravelly talk-singing fits right into the groove. “Stumblin’” is a slow shuffle about trying to reach his woman that features tough and clean guitar from Davidson and solid harmonica work from Jeff Stone. The title track bemoans the closing of a favorite blues haunt in Chicago. A slow intro gives way to a chugging slide bolstered workout, before pulling slowly back into the station. The guys trot out powerful boogie crunch to power along “Hanging By a Thread”, a song of desperation. The hokum jump blues ala Mitch Woods is showcased in “She’s Mad” featuring stinging guitar and the sax styling’s of Jim Jedeikin. Guest Charlie Love contributes a fine Chicago-style blues guitar solo to “Stuck In Traffic”. A sprightly, toe-tapper of a riff leads into “My Own Worst Enemy” were the narrator fesses up to his shortcomings.
Jeff and the boys offer up a record of the “It grows on you” kind. Most times these are the best like day old chili when the flavors just get to mingling. Hard time and frivolous blues are done up here in fine fashion. These kinds of blues go down well with a few brewskis. The guitar arsenal of the band and a few guests will be satisfying to any self-respecting blues guitar connoisseur. If world-weary and happy-go-lucky blues appeal to you, this is the “Blues Room” to visit.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Johnny Childs - Groove (CD)
Big Whale Artists
Junkman’s Son - Self Produced DVD - 1:56:26
Johnny Childs’ is a driven man. He is driven by his aspirations but also by his demons. While I am certainly not a psychologist, I have managed people at a variety of levels for close to 40 years and have lived in over a dozen places. His energy and focus on becoming a successful bluesman is phenomenal; some would call it obsessive. This new CD and biographical DVD sheds much on his moxie, mojo, and motivation.
Let me start by giving you a little biography based on what I have learned. Johnny was born Yonah Krohn into a strict orthodox Jewish family where the expectation was all the males would commit themselves to their religion. Born in Brooklyn, NY, the orthodox community there at that time was mostly ghetto based. His father was strict but also later found out to have enormous problems, including being bi-polar and having alcohol problems. The family moved to Toronto where Johnny spent most of his youth. The Dad and family at various points spent time in Jerusalem, too. Johnny rebelled at 12 and moved out to the streets, embracing drugs and sex. He came in and out of his family’s life, settled into Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles to embark on a career as a blue guitar player and singer, something he picked up quite adeptly on in his life of rebellion. He set a goal to have a recording contract by the time he was 30, and the video culminates with his 30th birthday and (spoiler alert) he didn’t make it.
There is a lot of interesting stuff in the DVD. Filmed by a number of friends, family and strangers, it shows the mental and economic hardships Johnny endured to find himself, support a drug addict brother, and deal with his family and religion. I grew up in NYC in a Roman Catholic, Italian-American family and I fully understand the concept of guilt. There is one group of people who are better than the Italians at this game of guilt, and it is the Jewish community. The orthodox members of the community place their religion above all others and accept no alternative. Many of my friends including my very best one in High School were Jewish, and I encountered much of this first hand. He and I laughed over the comparators for his family and mine. In Johnny’ case, the family was supportive of him, but all felt his redemption would come when he return to orthodoxy. Johnny embraced his Jewish-ness but rebelled. He would return to family over and over and continues to for weddings and other events. One can see he feels comfortable in his family setting but one can feel the strains as he also wants to be part of the gentile community and achieve his own dreams.
What results here is an interesting and raw musicianship that is fully a part of the blues. Like Klezmer music is to jazz, Johnny’s blues is to the “mainstream” of blues (if there can be said to be such a thing. Childs’ guitar play is raw and minimalistic, in a JB Hutto/Little Ed/Dave Weld sort of way. There is a hesitation at times, with spacing to the notes and a raw and angry tone that emerges from the guitar. I love it. It is cool, almost subliminally pre-historic. At times he wants to blow it all up and yet he pulls it back in with some restraint. It is quite an interesting and fun listen!
Johnny was criticized for his vocals early on in his quest, with some producers and labels wanting him to sign on a lead singer. He refused; he was not looking to be some slick proto-80’s rocker. His vocals are fine for the blues; I think his big mistake was trying to do this out West. Not to criticize the West Coast blues scene at all, but it is a different scene. It embraces the slick and fast lane. Johnny’s vocals in Chicago, Memphis, or New Orleans would have been right up their alleys. But on the West Coast? No way. They want Robert Cray, not Robert Johnson. I like his vocals. The same angst is evident with his voice as in his guitar, with occasional hints of a Yiddish accent. He even has some songs like “Junkman’s Son” where he embraces traditional Jewish traditional dance music and adapts it to the blues. It is quite clever and what got me thinking about this being a blues parallel to Klezmer music.
Child’s last ditched effort to get a contract by his 30th birthday included a performance where he invited several labels to come out. One of the attendees was HighTone’s Bruce Bromberg. Bruce moved to LA from Chicago in 1958 and is one of the stalwarts of the West Coast blues scene. While he was impressed with Child’s, it was not until about 5 years later that he signed Childs on. Shortly thereafter he sold HighTone, but his support of Childs appears to continue as he was the producer for this 2011 CD release. Johnny’s latest obsession is winning a W.C. Handy/Blues Music Award. Given his drive and intestinal fortitude along with his talents I do not hold that outside the realm of possibility.
The DVD is cinema verite; this is not a slick Hollywood production. Street-smart, guttural, it is life at its’ best and, more often, worst. While troubling at times, one can also regale with Johnny’s drive and progress. The CD is a great accompaniment as it shows the level of playing Childs’ is at. He’s a darn good guitar player, songwriter and singer. While the world may not “need” another one of those, Childs certainly has been another very good musician in all facets of music.
On the CD with Childs are Cliff Schmitt on bass, Michael Bram on drums and Dave Keys on what else?- keyboards. It ranges in style from down home and dirty Chicago blues to rockabilly and slicker stuff. He is a throwback to the blues as it was in the 50’s and 60’s, a very good thing in my mind because he sells his sound and talents quite well. I’m sold- this is one helluva bluesman and I recommend the CD highly and the DVD is an interesting account of how life’s pages can turn!
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.
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