Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2011 MJStringerPhoto.com
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news. Mark Thompson has a story and pictures of a recording session by Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling he recently observed. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with John Mayall.
We have six CD reviews for you! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Matt Andersen. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD by Andres Roots Roundabout. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Tim Bastmeyer. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Beverly McClellan. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from The Franck Ash Band. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Roy Roberts. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
2012 Blues Blast Music Awards
Hey Blues Fans,
It is that time of year again! The 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards nomination process starts now.
On March 1, we will begin accepting CD submissions from artists and labels for consideration in this years awards series. The submission process will be open from March 1 to April 15, 2012. The 2012 eligibility period for albums will be any album or song released between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012. To be considered CLICK HERE.
DIRECT CONSIDERATION FOR FREE! - We try really hard to select knowledgeable nominators who are aware of the current Blues scene and most major releases. However, no matter how plugged in a nominator is, the possibility exists that they may not have had the opportunity to hear YOUR specific release. Never fear, we are again offering you the chance to get your release directly into the hands of all 30 nominators for consideration. And it will again be FREE to do so.
So you can send us 30 copies of your release and we will make sure it gets directly into the nominators hands for consideration. So there are no "gate keepers" here. Regardless if you are a major label, a small independent label, or an independent artist with an eligible release, your music can be considered for nomination. We are looking for THE BEST in Blues, no matter who recorded it!
For complete details and copies of the submission form, CLICK HERE.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Blues Interview - John Mayall
One of life’s biggest mysteries has nothing to do with why we’re here on this earth, nor who is responsible for erecting the statues on Easter Island, or what’s really the main ingredient in McDonald’s secret sauce.
While those are all enigmas worthy of much pondering and endless debate, they all take a back seat to one of the most unanswerable questions ever.
Why is John Mayall not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
It’s a complete travesty that one of the most important figures in the history of recorded music has not been inducted into the Rock Hall, even though he’s more than worthy of having his own wing in the Cleveland museum.
Just take a quick glance at some of the incredible musicians that have been a part of Mayall’s bands over the past five decades.
Names like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Andy Fraser, Mick Fleetwood and Aynsley Dunbar jump off the page at you. And that list barely scratches the surface of the who’s-who of the top-flight guitarists, bassists and drummers that have all been through the ranks of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers since 1965.
Names that would go on to give birth to outfits like Cream, Free, Fleetwood Mac and Journey, groups that have sold tens of millions of records and give new meaning to the phrase multi-platinum.
More recently, the branches of Mayall’s family tree is also responsible for helping to launch the solo careers of guitarists Coco Montoya and Walter Trout – two very successful bandleaders and bluesmen in their own right.
Just the mere fact that all those cats spent formulative time under the guidance of the Godfather of British Blues more than makes Mayall a deserving candidate for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Or, at the very least, he should probably be dubbed as the genre’s greatest talent scout of all time. But not only did Mayall have a gift for knowing the real deal when he saw it, he was also smart enough to let his band members do their own thing when they signed on, instead of stifling their creative abilities to highlight his own.
So just what does it take for a guitar player to catch the ears and the attention of John Mayall?
“When it comes to my choices as to who I pick to work with, it is not just guitarists,” he said. “Probably bass and drums are equally important, as it is their rhythm that propels us front-liners. In essence, it is a matter of whose original style attracts me and how it will affect the overall ensemble.”
Heck, Mayall has not even been afforded the honour of being selected as the recipient of a Grammy Award (although his excellent Wake Up Call (Silvertone) from 1993 was at least nominated).
But instead of being hung up on his exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of his lack of recognition from the suits at the Grammys, Mayall, who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005, just continues to do what he’s done ever since the mid-60s – play his music to appreciative patrons from London to Los Angeles to Indonesia and beyond.
And even though the name ‘Bluesbreakers’ is currently on the shelf while he’s busy cultivating his solo career, Mayall still has the knack for surrounding himself with some of the brightest talent to be found anywhere – guitarist Rocky Athas, bass player Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport – a group of guys that Mayall says are, “Quite definitely the greatest line-up I’ve ever had.”
Considering those that have filtered through the ranks of Mayall’s bands in the past, that’s high praise, indeed.
This line-up can be heard Tough (Eagle Records), his most recent studio outing, marking an astounding 60 official releases for Mayall, who just turned 78 on Nov. 29.
With such an impressive resume already carved out through decades of hard toil, it would be easy – and understandable – if he were to simply just let the record company repackage his greatest hits and retire his writing pen for good.
But thankfully, Mayall seems intent on continuing to create new, original music to be devoured by his legion of diehard fans.
The reason for this is an easy one to grasp.
“That’s the only thing I know how to do,” he said. “I think it’s important for an artist to be always making new challenges for him or herself. That’s how the blues continues to evolve and remain up to date.”
Mayall, who like most creatively-rich individuals, is one that most definitely marches to his own drumbeat.
After all, just how many people have ever lived in a tree house with their wife – some 30 feet off the ground – like Mayall did as a young man?
That does not mean, however, that he is oblivious to the state of world affairs.
As evidenced by the gritty, slow blues rumble of “Tough Times Ahead” off the afore-mentioned Tough CD, Mayall is all too aware of the bleak state of the world economy these days. The song’s opening line – ‘The banks are closing daily and recession’s coming back again’ – pretty much says it all.
Conditions like those can lead to some hard choices on how people spend their entertainment dollars and when it comes to blues music, and those choices can have a dramatic effect on attendance at shows and festivals.
“I realize it (bad economy) presents difficult choices for people when money is so tight, but it’s a matter of priorities and what is important to you as a supporter of the music,” Mayall said. “There has been many a time in my life where I’ve managed to make it a priority to go see someone really unique and special to me.”
More than simply just being inspired to play the blues by its forefathers when he was a young lad living just outside of Manchester, when he was a bit older, Mayall also had the unique opportunity to back up legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker the first time that they made their way from the shores of the United States to England.
Those three luminaries, along with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, helped turn on an entire generation of Brits to the American blues in the 1960s and also may have marked the high-water point for popularity of the genre.
So does Mayall think that the blues can reach that point again and go from a smouldering fire to a raging inferno on the popularity charts in the near future?
“Probably not, as blues and jazz are art forms as well as being entertaining,” he said. “It would be nice though if the blues were more popular across the board.”
One way the blues and other roots-related mediums have managed to, at the very least, hold onto their current position in the pecking order of popular culture, is through exposure on the internet.
And although when the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album was issued on Decca Records in 1966, digital music was probably not even a thought in even the most forward-thinking person’s mind, Mayall is not shying away from technology when related to keeping his music and the blues alive and well.
“As a musician, one has to welcome any medium that will help spread the word,” he said. “Keeping up with the times is very important.”
Mayall has certainly managed to “keep up with the times” by preserving, nurturing and even updating the rich heritage of the blues, a mission he has steadfastly maintained over the past 50 years.
In a career that’s had so many indelible moments, one that captured the attention of blues lovers everywhere occurred in 2003, when Mayall’s 70th birthday was celebrated with an evening of music and friends, capped by the reunion of Mayall and Clapton on stage together for the first time in almost 40 years.
And when he announced in 2008 that he was putting aside the Bluesbreakers – ending a 20-plus year association with guitarist Buddy Whittington in the process – it looked like Father Time might have caught up with him and that Mayall was ready for the rocking chair.
But almost four years later, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
So how much longer can blues fans expect to be favoured with John Mayall’s company and contributions to the music?
“That will depend on good health. As long as I can give 100% of myself, I’ll be there,” he said. “And if the work is there and people to listen, the music will always be inspiring for me.”
And hopefully one day soon – before he decides to kick off his travelin’ shoes - the caretakers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be inspired to open their doors and welcome John Mayall inside, a place he so richly deserves to be.
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2011 MJStringerPhoto.com
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.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Matt Andersen - Coal Mining Blues
Busted Flat Records
I don’t know how many of you have ever been in a coal mine. Not the scorched earth looking strip mines that blighted our landscape in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. I’m talking about deep mining, hard coal mining. Mines run by hard working men who penetrated the earth to extract the finer and cleaner burning anthracite coal, the so-called hard coal that is so much in demand for industry and, in the older days, homes.
I took a cable car ride backwards down into a closed mine, several hundred feet beneath the surface of the earth. It was cold and damp, dark and closed. Odd, since I’d spent 20 years of my life serving in a steel tube under the sea. But this was different. Instead of being surrounded by a high tech machine operated by a highly capable crew, I was standing is a hole in the ground (that filled with water in some seasons if you went deep enough); one where the heat and dust from extracting coal from the earth killed many of the men who worked in them. Some who died went quickly, crushed by the occasional accident or collapse of tons of earth and rock. Most died slowly, their lungs filled with the black dust that turned their lungs a dark grey color and robbed them of their breath and their lives.
My family worked in the coal mining industry, both here in the US in North Eastern Pennsylvania and almost two centuries ago and earlier in Wales. If you think picking cotton in 110 degree heat can give you the blues, well, just think about how blue working in a mine would make you. Writing blues songs about mining is quite appropriate, and IBC winner Matt Andersen is a good one to do so. He is a giant of a man, a Nova Scotian who now lives in the mining community of Cape Breton and he is a blue collar sort of guy himself. His acoustic guitar playing and immense voice match the physical persona and he relates to the plight of the common man. In 1873, there were eight coal companies operating in Cape Breton. The miners were paid from 80 cents to $1.50 per day and boys were paid 65 cents and they are the men and boys Andersen commemorates in this CD.
The title track is a slow folk blues with nice accompaniment on piano, organ and horns and Matt’s guitar picks its’ way through quite nicely. The lyrics of song tell the lament filled story of the coal miners. It is a touching song. The CD opener is bouncy “Don’t Wanna Give In” where he sings and Amy Helm backs him up. His guitar and Collin Linden’s electric guitar blend well and John Sheard’s keyboards adds some nice solo and backup. Andersen sings of not giving in to a mundane life and political correctness. In “Fired Up” he takes a more country blues approach and Linden’s resonator with Andersen on electric guitar give this one a nice groove. “Lay It On The Line” gives us Andersen’s take on taking your shot when you get your chance. These first four songs open the CD and already I was sold on the strong songwriting and great musicianship.
“Baby I’ll Be” offers up a church like tome where Matt sings that he will be anything his baby will need. There is a thoughtful electric guitar solo that is restrained yet very impressive. He picks up the pace on “Make You Stay”, an acoustic number where it’s just he with the drummer keeping his beat. It’s a forceful cut where he sings of his passion and love for his baby; he really lets loose on vocals! “Home Sweet Home” slows it down again, where he takes us to church in a way. He sings that houses are only bricks and stones and a body only flesh and bones; the accordion backing him and Jonell Mosser (who back Matt vocally on this one) gives the track a sorrowful and traditional sound. Then on “Heartbreaker” Andersen lets his boogie out a bit as he sings about the women who broke his heart.
He reverts back to a slow tempo approach on “She Comes Down” where he sings of a relationship in separation and then reunion. Helm backs him here again and they are quite spiritual together and John Whynot’s organ blends in well with them. “Willie’s Diamond Joe” is stripped down, with Andersen on acoustic guitar and Linden on mandolin and harmonies. Another mournful song, Andersen really can write and perform with great emotion. They get back into a groove on “I Work Hard For the Luxury” where he sings that he works hard for his love and to touch his money’s heart. All of that is far more important than worldly goods and treasures. He closes with “Feel Like Going Home” where he sings in a gravelly tone about going home. Again a minimal approach is taken; it is just Sheard on piano and Matt singing on this one.
Others on the CD along with Matt that I have not yet mentioned include Geoff Arsenault on drums, Dennis Pendrith on bass, Quentin Ware and Jim Horn as the horn section, the McCreary Sisters and Some Handsome Fellers on backing vocals. A great group of musicians who make a great noise together!
I was really impressed with this CD. I’d known Andersen was highly regarded from winning the International Blues Challenge in 2010; I appreciate this opportunity to hear his work, understand where he comes from and appreciate his craft. The dozen tracks here (including 10 originals) are truly outstanding stuff. Folk and country blues done up in a moving manner, in both a bare bones and fully backed up mode. I highly recommend this CD to everyone who wants to hear a great man who is at the top of his game- the accolades he won in Memphis are quite well deserved!!!
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.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Andres Roots Roundabout – Leigh’s Spider Jam
If you are looking for a respite from over-driven blues rock and wish to delve into something more earthier, with a little piece of the Delta in your mouth, than you’ve hit the winning lottery ticket with Andres Roots Roundabout – Leigh’s Spider Jam.
As the CD’s liner notes mention, it’s not so much a regular band as just a group of friends who found each other during of one of those jam nights and wanted to capture their music on tape. What’s even more interesting is these guys are not American and honed their musical chops playing on stage in Tallinn, Estonia.
Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter. Its electrified jug-band blues shaking hands with The Rolling Stones in the Brown Sugar influenced “Mean Old Town No. 2.” And since their music was born in a folk club trading licks, than the opening track is deserving of the title “Folk Club Blues” recorded live. Boasting of only guitars and harmonica, the recording could have been taken from some juke-joint in the Deepest South. These guys may be from over-seas but have no problems jumping into a treasure-chest of Americana. And the music comes up a winner.
All the tunes are written by Andres Roots. There can be no complaints that the music overstays its welcome being this music clocks in at little more than half an hour. If anything, you want more of it because it’s the ultimate breakfast CD to get your morning going.
A trio of Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and drums is just the right instrumentation to add a slip and slide effect to the instrumental “Spider Jam” that skitters along with Andres’ slide bearing the imprints of Luther Dickinson taking a top-down cruise on Highway 61. But that just goes to show you a musician not coming from these shores has better understanding of an art form few Americans know how to tackle. They only wish they could cut the track “Spider Jam” but wouldn’t know how to get inside the music.
Other musicians working with Andres supply ample-bodied chops to bring the songs to fruition. Mention also has to be made of Martin Eessaulu whose slide contributions are important especially in “Roundabout” with harp player Indrek Tiisel bringing up the rear and bringing a spirit of honky-tonk to musical proceedings tapping into a keg of whiskey mixed with Delta soil.
For myself, I would get to a certain track on the CD and then I would start it all over again. Like anyone else, you would think these gentleman come from our own native land. Than you remind yourself these boys are from overseas and you wonder how they could have their finger on the pulse of something alien to their culture. Which illustrates the point clearly that blues indeed is the international language that everybody speaks.
The music balances between instrumentals and singing. Leighton Phoenix’ dusty vocals are adequate enough and mixed in the mud to lend credence to “Lightnin On The Horizon” which sounds like an out-take from a North Mississippi All-Stars session. And a little of Martin’s banjo pushes Andres’ dobro into hill-country swamp as “Horse Feathers” is good ole fashioned levee camp boogie best served up with White Lightning.
These guys can hold court at any blues jam in America. While other players are content to trudge out the same Stevie Ray licks, Leigh’s Spider Jam is all about the roots and channeling the unplugged power from where the blues emerged and where its ghosts never rest. For a group of guys who never saw the state of Mississippi, they still are able to maintain a strong psychic connection with its musical forebears.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Tim Bastmeyer - Self-Titled
Grassfire Entertainment (TTK 2011)
11 songs; 39:50 minutes
Styles: Acoustic Blues, Jazzy Blues, Blues Rock, Blues Ballads
Where do the blues come from? Is their magic primarily instrumental, delivered through fiery guitar riffs and powerhouse piano? Are fans mainly drawn to the blues via vocalists, such as the newly-and-dearly-departed Etta James? Perhaps blues songs’ lyrics are the key to this genre’s success. All of these elements must be in place if a song is worthy of being called “true blues.” Tim Bastmeyer, a Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-music teacher, knows this and tries his best to fuse them on his self-titled third album. He gets an “A” for effort, but listeners must decide if the whole of “Tim Bastmeyer” is better than the sum of its eclectic parts! I found his nasal vocals an acquired taste. There are ten originals and one cover (“I’m Going Down” by Don Nix). Three call for attention:
Track 7: “Get Up!”--This is one of Bastmeyer’s radio highlights, and for good reason. It’s the sole instrumental on the album, and its best song. Combining a highly-danceable beat from drummer Corey Richardson and bassist James Thompson with Julian Fauth’s smooth 70’s-funk piano, this track will drive blues fans out of their seats and on to the dance floor in no time flat! Throughout the album, and especially here, the guitar and instruments are clean, clear and precise without any guitar-hero histrionics.
Track 9: “Corporate Crazy”--If one didn’t notice the title of this song, one might think it’s a marketing manager’s dream! Bastmeyer, in almost rap like fashion, mentions so many corporate entities in the first verse that he’d be rich if those entities paid him for doing so: “Home Depot gonna build me a brand-new home. Blockbuster, Blockbuster, Blockbuster, Rent-to-Own. No, feel like a burger from Mickey D’s.” He even contemplates a trip to the moon to flee consumerism saturation!
Track 3: “What Ever Happened To?”-- Sometimes we reminisce about “the good old days” and the things we’ve lost as progress marches on. However, are all of them worth mourning equally? “Whatever happened to virtual reality? Whatever happened to record stores? Whatever happened to truth?” No one knows, but Bastmeyer knows his fate: “Whatever happened to me is what happened to you…”
Tim began his musical career in 1986, and over the years has played and recorded with a number of artists. He has performed throughout North America, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Scotland and England. He has shared the stage with some of Canada’s Juno-winning blues players and Grammy-winning blues musicians from the United States.
Featuring Juno award-winning blues artist Julian Fauth on piano, James Thomson on bass and Corey Richardson on drums, this album, with its clever, witty, and sometimes biting observations, is a mix of many blues styles, some with a rock edge, and blues ballads. Playing an electric and acoustic guitar, Tim incorporates different styles by using finger picking, flat picking, and multiple tunings with slide guitar. Where do these blues come from? Tim Bastmeyer’s head! Look for him “north of the border”!
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.
Featured Blues Story - Blues Recording Session
In January, I was invited to join guitarist Doug Deming in the recording studio as he started working on songs for a new release featuring his band, the Jewel Tones – Andrew Gohman on upright & Fender bass, Devin Neel on drums – plus special guest Dennis Gruenling on harp. During his career, Doug has backed many notable musicians including Lazy Lester, Greg “Fingers” Taylor, Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones and Kim Wilson.
Deming relocated to Florida from his Detroit home several years ago when he and his wife grew tired of the cold weather and the threat of a Burger King franchise literally in their back yard. Since then, Deming has been steadily building a new fan base across the Sunshine State and pursuing his passion for fishing as time permits.
Deming recently put together a two-year plan to help bring focus to his musical career. One key element of the plan was a new CD. Deming's last release, the well-received Falling Through the Cracks project, is now three years old. The band is ready to cut several of Doug's original tunes plus several songs that garner great audience response from the band's live shows.
The sessions were scheduled to coincide with a series of live shows that made it financially possible for Gruenling to make the trip from his New Jersey home. Deming and Gruenling, an acknowledged master of the blues harmonica, have taken turns backing each other up over the last five years and have been discussing the prospect of entering into a more formal partnership.
Deming decided to use the Blue Rock Bakery studio in Sarasota. Owner and engineer Ed Kinder converted his garage into a small digital studio, offering reasonable rates and services that help musicians stay within their tight budgets, with more than fifty releases to his credit. His control room is filled with monitor speakers, computers, cables, older electronics, a variety of instruments and even some cassette tapes. Kinder uses the 16-track Sonar Version 8.5 digital program for recording purposes.
The first three hours of the first day are spent getting the instruments set-up with the proper mic placement. Neel's drum kit is placed in one corner of the recording chamber while Gohman finds a home in the opposite corner.
Kinder hangs several thick moving blankets on chest-high stands to create separation between the two musicians. In the meantime, Gruenling stays busy matching his mics to two borrowed amplifiers, a Harp King and a Danelectro that he once owned but sold to a friend.
Both amps have seen plenty of use and Gruenling comments that older amps tend to be finicky, so he keeps making adjustments to capture that sweet sound that he envisions in his mind's eye.
Deming's guitar amp is placed behind him in a separate isolation chamber while Gruenling's two harp amps are set-up in the control room. Isolating these instruments allows the band to record rhythm tracks without any bleed through from the guitar and harp. That will allow Deming to return to the studio at a later date to cut the vocals and fine-tune his guitar parts to finish off the songs. When the band starts recording, they will listen to each other through headphones.
Next, the band does a couple of songs to warm-up and allow Kinder to set the proper volume levels on each mic. With everyone satisfied, they start working on “One Good Reason”, a Deming original. Doug sings but without any volume, again to avoid contaminating the rhythm track with any error that Kinder would not be able to fix later. After three takes, Doug feels that they have what he is looking for.
Next up is “Pretty Girl”, a Buddy Johnson tune that finds Neel switching from drumsticks to brushes and Gruenling punctuating the arrangement with some deep, foghorn-like tones on a Joe Filisko custom low A flat harp.
The song starts in a lighter swing groove but the band digs deeper during the solo sections. Throughout the five takes the group is continually working on the details – chord changes, the correct tempo, when to come in, etc. The one rule is that when anyone feels that a take has veered off course, they should immediately bring it to a halt and the group will start over.
After cutting a few takes, the band will break to listen to the playbacks. Kinder's comment about rewinding the tape draws appreciative chuckles. At this point, each musician becomes their own harshest critic. Each of them knows what they should be playing and are quick to point out any place that they feel they hit a wrong note. They dissect the performances, make more adjustments and try it again.
The session is finished off with a Willie Mabon tune, “Poison Ivy”. Gruenling uses the Harp King amp to get a fuller bottom end out of his chromatic harp. The amp seems to be distorting on the first few takes. Dennis says that it is the nature of the amp but he turns the gain down and Neel offers one of his vocal mics, which has a warmer tone. Kinder quickly switches the mics and everyone immediately hears a big improvement.
They do one more take, which Deming terms a keeper. Gohman is excited about his playing on his 1942 Kay M-1 upright bass, stating that he nailed that take. Moments later, when Deming thanks me for being there, I comment that it was worth spending the entire afternoon there just to hear Gohman nail one, drawing laughter from the group. It is the first time Andrew has recorded using his acoustic upright bass.
The afternoon proves that the recording process can be a real grind. It is tough for musicians to maintain a high energy level through multiple takes of the same song. At times, they settle into a solid groove only to be brought up short by an inadvertent error or equipment problems. Deming is constantly handing praise and encouragement to help the band stay focused.
Day two starts with a different set-up for the harp amps, featuring a new mic set up higher on a stand instead of being placed directly in front of the amp. There is enough of a difference in the harp sound that Deming decides to re-cut “Poison Ivy”. Four tries later, he is satisfied.
Another discussion starts over “Think Hard”, an original that has Deming wondering whether to do it in the key of D, which is a better fit for his vocal range, or record it in E and have Kinder digitally alter the pitch later. Doug and Dennis review each option and the decision is made to do it in D. Meanwhile, Gohman and Neel start up their on-going humorous dialogue that compares the song to the movie “Walk Hard”.
Deming switches to his Stratocaster while Gohman plugs in his Fender bass, Gruenling switches between a diatonic and chromatic harp on this number. After three takes, the group moves on to “What's It Gonna Take”, an original that they have played many times live and they are satisfied after just two run-throughs.
To finish, the band tackles Louis Jordan's “I Want You to Be My Baby”. This tune always gets a great response at live shows with it's swinging, up-tempo pace and Deming's rapid-fire vocal. But it is hard to conjure up the same kind of excitement in the sterile studio environment. Deming struggles a bit to achieve the energy needed for the song without the audience feedback he is used to. One take features a mesmerizing solo from Gruenling while another showcases Deming's intricate picking on his 1953 Gibson ES-5. Both musicians deliver hot solos on the third take. Throughout the seven takes, Neel drives the beat with some stellar work on the cymbals.
Deming expresses his satisfaction with what has been accomplished over the two sessions. But there are still more songs to cut, vocal and guitar parts to be recorded and overdubs as needed to correct minor glitches. Once all that is completed, the real work begins with the mixing of the various instrumental tracks into a final version that meets Deming's vision of how the group should sound. Hopefully Blues Blast readers will be able to hear the new disc later this year. Thanks to Doug, Dennis, Andrew, Devin and Ed for the opportunity to be there for the sessions.
Photos by Mark Thompson © 2012
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.
We begin accepting submissions from labels and artists on March 1st. Artist do not necessarily have to submit their releases to be considered but any that do will have their recordings actually screened by the nominators. (Our Nominators can't nominate something they haven't heard!)
We have 30 nominators so you need to send 30 individual copies to be considered before April 15th, 2012. Any received after that date may not get sent to the nominators.
There is no charge for this. We will cover the cost and effort to get your eligible CD or DVD release into the hands of the nominators if you send them in. We reserve the right to change this policy in future years. CD's received after April 15th, 2012 may not reach the nominators so hurry and get your submissions in today! For complete details, CLICK HERE
Nominators begin submitting their nominations May 1st and final nominations will be announced after May 31st, 2012. Voting Begins in July.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Beverly McClellan – Fear Nothing
Junk Drawer Records
11 tracks; 44.02 minutes
Beverly McClellan has been performing for twenty years in the South Florida area but became known to a wider audience when she participated in NBC’s “The Voice”, making the last four in the show and making a single with Christina Aguilera. This is in fact her fifth CD but will undoubtedly make a bigger splash after her TV appearance. The album was produced and recorded in California by David Z with a crack session team: Tony Braunagal, drums; James “Hutch” Hutchinson, bass; Jimmy Pugh, keys; Josh Sklair, guitar. Also on board was Beverly’s regular guitarist, Billy Vasquez. One track was co-written and produced by Keb Mo in Nashville. All songs on the CD are McClellan originals, with Bruce McCabe and Keb Mo as co-writers on a track each, with one cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.
The CD exhibits an excellent range of material to demonstrate Beverly’s vocal prowess. As you would expect from musicians of this caliber, the playing is outstanding, with several fine solos from guitar and keyboards. Three songs are copyrighted as 2003 so I assume have been re-recorded from earlier albums. Highlights are many, but I would pick out the following in particular:
Track 3 “Ain’t Me” is a mid-paced tune with great interplay between the two guitarists and supporting electric piano. Lyrically we are in the area of failed relationships, but in this case Beverly is definitely not looking back as she tells her former lover that “it ain’t me who was the fall of you, it ain’t me who didn’t see the truth”.
Track 4 “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The familiar song is taken at a slow pace and affords plenty of opportunity to study Beverly’s voice, strong but also tender when needed. The guitar solo in the middle matches the feel of the track perfectly.
Track 7. The Keb Mo produced track “Love Will Find A Way Out” has an infectious chorus, with a trio of backing vocalists adding a gloss of soul to the track.
Track 10 “Tender Of The Most” is not blues, but is a beautifully produced song, almost country in feel. Gentle acoustic guitars underpin Beverly’s vocal and the piano takes the solo honors. The title is explained by the chorus refrain: “I never see it coming, I try not to let it all go. When these tender moments pass me by, I will be the tender of the most”
Track 11 “Precious Times” is a song of wistful regret, making clear that it is those intense moments that stay with us in the memory. More great piano in the forefront of the mix while one of the guitarists does his best The Edge (U2) impression and the organ envelops everything in a warm bath of sound – a superb closer to the album.
I have identified these as highlights, but there are no poor tracks here. If you want a rocker, try opening cut “I See Love” or “Can’t Hide Me”. A sad ballad of reminiscence? Try “I Never Will Forget” which takes us on a trip through Beverly’s childhood, aided by beautiful acoustic guitar playing.
This is far from a straight blues album and has as many influences from rock and country as it does blues. It is, however, well worth a listen for the high quality playing and the showcasing of a real vocal talent. Recommended.
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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The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society is putting on our annual Fundraising Show “Blues Café’ 2012” on 3/31/12 at the Rothschild Pavilion near Wausau, WI. Chris Duarte’, Albert Castiglia, Howard & the Whiteboys, Jumpship Blues Band, and Donnie Pick & the Road band will be performing from 1:00PM – 11:00PM. www.gnbs.org for further information. $15 in advance - $20 at the door.
The Phoenix Blues Society - Phoenix, AZ
The Phoenix Blues Society is proud to announce that its 21st annual Blues Blast Festival will be held on Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at the Margaret T. Hance Park located at 200 East Moreland in Phoenix. Appearing at Blues Blast will be, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, The Sugar Thieves, Big Daddy D & the Dynamites, George Bowman the Baddboyz Blues Band featuring Lucius Parr, Common Ground Blues Band and Dave Riley and Bob Corritore. The gates will open at 10:00 A.M. for Blues Blast and the Festival will run from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. The website for Blues Blast is www.bluesblast.info and all ticketing for the event is being facilitated by Eventbrite at www.bluesblast.eventbrite.com.
For further information, please feel free to contact Phoenix Blues Society President, Kyle Deibler, at email@example.com or on his cell at 602.770.5936.
Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society & Team Vanderpool will be holding our 3rd Annual Benefit for the American Cancer Society on March 3rd at Gilly’s (corner of 5th & Jefferson in Dayton, Ohio). This year’s event is called “Ladies of the Blues” and features: Cheryl Renee from Cincinnati (Placed 3rd at the IBC in 2010 w/ Them Bones), Inner City Blues Band from Columbus, Ellie Lee & Blues Fury (Dayton Challenge winner – 2010 / Pomeroy Challenge winner – 2011), Miss Lissa & Company (Cincy Blues Society Challenge winner 2011), Music begins at 6pm – For more details go to www.daytonbluessociety.com
Crossroads Blues Society - Freeport, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is holding a benefit blues event for Bryan Lee at the American Legion Hall in Byron, Illinois at 116 Walnut Street just a half block north of the light at IL Route 2/Blackhawk Drive and Walnut Street. The fundraiser will be on February 24th and begins at 7 PM. Reverend Rik Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys will be performing along with Steve Ditzell, and Barstool Bob Levis and his band. Admission is a suggested $10 donation.
Bryan Lee is a guitar wizard, singer, song writer, blues performer who underwent back surgery on January 12th to relieve intense pain and to allow him to walk and perform his craft normally. He was cleared for surgery and was a high risk due to lung issues. The surgery has now gone fine and he is rehabilitating, but he has no insurance and his recovery will lay him up for 8 to 12 weeks.
There will be great silent auction items and a 50-50 raffle to help raise money to support Bryan. Bryan also worked with Crossroads in June 2011 at a show in Rockford and performed three sessions for their Blues in the Schools (BITS) program in 2010 along with holding an evening show.
If you would like more information, call 779-537-4006. Donations can be made at the event or via mail or Paypal. Send checks to: Brian Kumbalek, PO Box 9453, Metairie, LA 70055 or use Paypal on line to firstname.lastname@example.org. www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Friday February 24at 7:30pm • Bill Porter, March 28th at 7PM • Albert Castiglia, April 11th at 7PM • Sean Chambers. Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
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's 26th Anniversary Celebration will be Saturday, March 10, 2012, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 S. Meadowbrook, Springfield, IL from 7:30 pm to 12:00 am. Kicking off the celebration at 7:30pm will be local favorites Tombstone Bullet, the ICBC 2011 Blues Challenge winners with Lil’Ed and the Blues Imperials taking the stage at 9:30pm.
This event serves as a fund raiser for the ICBC’s “Blues in the Schools” programs which bring live blues music and oral history of the blues to children and adults in the community. The admission fee is $8.00 for members and $10 for non-members.
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 27 - The Blues Deacons, Mar 3 – Eddie Snow Tribute w/Bill Evans, Mar 12 – Todd Wolfe Band, Mar 19 – The 44s, Mar 26 – RJ Mischo, Apr 2 – Brad Vickers & His Vestopolatans, Apr 9 – JP Soars & the Red Hots, Apr 16 – Too Slim & the Tail Draggers, Apr 23 – Andrew Jr Boy Jones. 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
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Tues, March 6, The Sugar Prophets, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, March 13, Harper & Midwest Kind, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, March 29, Albert Castiglia, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, April 10, Sean Chambers, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Tues, April 17, Too Slim & Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, April 26, Al Stone, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. and Thornhill Auto Groups present 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: 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. 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
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
The Franck Ash Band - Caught in the Act – Live in London
French by birth, Franck Ash is guitarist and singer who is now based out of London. He has played in a variety of settings, most notably in backing Screamin' Jay Hawkins during the latter stages of that legendary performer's life. Ash was the featured guitar player on two Hawkins recordings that included a live, two disc set done in Paris. Following his tenure with Hawkins, Ash has pursued a solo career that has earned him several European blues awards. The third release under his name finds him in front of an appreciative crowd at the Blues Kitchen as the grand finale of the club's Rhythm & Blues Fest.
In the liner notes, Ash states that the band didn't know they were being recorded. No matter as their opening salvo is a rocking version of “Well Alright ”, a tune that was a hit for Joe Williams backed by the Count Basie band. Ash lays down an energetic vocal before Moz Gamble takes over the spotlight, generating some heat on the organ. There's another verse before Ash unleashes a solo full of lightning quick runs up and down the fretboard with Gamble matching him note for note. Next, the group jumps right into a funky revision of “Hoochie Cootchie Man”. The rhythm section of Lamine Guerfi on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums show they know how to establish a solid groove while Ash injects a soulful touch in his vocal and guitar solo as Gamble once again comps furiously in the background.
Later they tackle the Elmore James classic “It Hurts Me Too”. Ash forgoes the slide guitar, content to tear through another solo at a rapid pace before Jenkins gets a brief solo spot. One high point is a sensitive rendition of the Don Nix – Dan Penn ballad “Like a Road”, with a heart-rending vocal from Ash. The song hits a brief interlude and suddenly the band tears into “CC Rider” at a breakneck pace with Gamble delivering another memorable solo. Things begin to fall apart when the group adds “Got My Mojo Working” to the medley. Maybe listeners in England haven't grown tired of this well-worn standard. To these ears, even Ash's blazing guitar work fails to rescue the final segment.
The final cover finds Willie Dixon's “You Shook Me” sporting a thumping bass line and a driving beat that approaches the feel of Magic Slim and the Tear Drops. With the exception of the three songs in the medley, Ash takes partial songwriting credit. While he certainly has made substantial changes to the arrangements, one has to wonder about the fairness of laying claim to some recognized classics. Guess that's something of the lawyers to figure out.
There are three originals penned by Ash, with “Poison” featuring a propulsive drive and an expressive vocal from the leader, who bends his guitar strings with abandon. “Get Out” finds Ash in full Stevie Ray Vaughan mode but he pulls it off with an assist from the band, with Gamble once again providing a spark. The final track takes the band back into funk territory with Ash belting out the lyrics before each band member gets another brief opportunity to strut their stuff. Ash then thanks the audience before bringing the set to a close with one final outburst on his guitar.
There are plenty of live recordings that leave listeners saying, “I guess you had to be there”, as the excitement on stage fails to come through on the recording. Franck Ash and his well-rehearsed band don't have that problem. Their energy and enthusiasm is apparent on every track. And they bring a fresh approach to several blues standards. Hearing this recording has me hoping that I will get a chance to see the Franck Ash Band live somewhere down the road. That should be enough of recommendation for some of you to check this one out and see if you agree.
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Roy Roberts - Strange Love
Ocean Beach Records
Starting out as a musician at the age of eighteen with forays as a guitarist in bands fronted by Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Floyd and others, as well as a stint in country music during the disco era, Roy Roberts has the soul and R&B credentials to enhance his brand of easy-going soul music. Although this effort includes only one straight blues song, blues riffs and solos are used at times. The music is the standard set-up of horn-driven tunes infused with Roy’s light, bluesy riffing on guitar. His voice falls into the rough but mellow category, rather than the high-energy approach. The horn and rhythm sections provide the necessary punch to the collection of all original songs.
Classic funky soul is represented in “My Love Bone” with its jingle-jangle clavinet rhythms and horns swooping in and out of groove. It’s reminiscent of the light-hearted songs associated with Rufus Thomas. The smoother side of soul is given its due in “I Truly Love You”. “Hey Baby” travels into soul-blues territory as a catchy shuffle. Roy’s guitar shares solo space with honking sax and grooving organ. “Strange Love” seems to have jumped off of a Robert Cray record, with its slow-driving beat and tempered vocals. “I’m Never Gonna Stop” is a straight-ahead heartfelt pledge of love. The only straight-ahead blues song can be found in “The Next Time”, which starts off with classic Chicago blues guitar and the sturdy horn section. B.B. King’s influence can be heard in the deliberate guitar soloing and the arrangement. “I Can’t Wait” is an R&B infused blues workout with “Chuck Berry-meets the blues” guitar.
Nothing earth-shaking here, but nothing that doesn’t show a certain solid work ethic. The horn arrangements sound so right like they invented themselves. All instruments seem to be in the right place at the right time. There’s a song in there somewhere…Oh heck it’s already been written. Roy comes off as a musical handyman. He doesn’t excel at one thing, but does a lot with craftsman like skills. He has solid abilities as a vocalist, guitar player, songwriter and producer. Lovers of southern soul music will find much to like in this mild-mannered dose of the genre.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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