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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Illinois Blues Blast

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com

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 In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with slide guitar master, Sonny Landreth.
We have six music reviews for you! Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Dave Keller. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new release from Anthony Gomes. Steve Jones reviews the new CD from Lady Bianca and also a new CD from Hurricane Ruth. John Mitchell reviews the new Melvin Taylor CD and also a new album from Colin Linden. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!! 

 Blues Wanderings
We caught a great set by Matthew Curry & The Fury at a show put on by the River City Blues Society in our hometown of Pekin, IL this week. His debut CD, If I Don't Got You, has gotten favorable reviews in several major Blues publications.
Matthew is starting to get some serious attention in the Blues festival world too. He is already booked to play the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest in Iowa, The Prairie Dog Blue Fest in Wisconsin and the Telluride Blues fest in Colorado this summer. Not bad for a kid who just turned 17 last week!


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 Featured Blues Interview - Sonny Landreth
It's pretty much the equivalent of bolting a nuclear-powered turbo thruster onto the business-end of a Lamborghini.
And the results are understandably mind-blowing.
Joe Satriani soloing over the top of a Sonny Landreth track.
Let that sink in for a second.
“Gaia Tribe,” the opening cut on Sonny Landreth's 11th album, the fittingly-titled Elemental Journey (Landfall), chugs right along as the Louisiana slide guitar maestro breathlessly rips off line after line of exquisite phrasing, moving things from zero to 60 in a thrilling flash.
And just as you think the lively instrumental song has reached its apex, Satriani jumps in with all six strings blazing, knocking out a frenzied solo that sends “Gaia Tribe” straight into the stratosphere, helplessly headed for the heart of the sun.
Of course, that's probably just the jaw-dropping performance that most guitar aficionados would expect between a pairing of Landreth and Satch.
However, they might be a bit surprised to find out that at one time,
Landreth had some serious doubts about that tune ever making the final cut for Elemental Journey, his follow-up to 2008’s From the Reach.
“His solo just came out of nowhere. And that really raised the bar and inspired me to go back in and make a transition from his solo back to the verse. So me and my friend Sam Broussard (guitarist for Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys), who had already written the string parts for the song, wrote the transitional section and added it to the other part of the song, as well. And then we ended up using an outro I had improvised on and used strings on, as well. So the next thing I know, what had started out as a fairly simple instrumental song – one that I wasn't sure was good enough for the album – became something much bigger. And I love that. And that never would have happened without his input. That's what I love about working with great artists – the things that they bring to the table.”
Landreth was equally impressed by what Satch left off of the table on the song.
“My engineer (Tony Daigle) called me and said, 'I got the track back from Joe and you're not going to believe this, but he just sent the solo.' I said, 'Wow. Really?' But when I talked to Joe, he said that he thought anything else he added to it would take away from what I'd already done. And I really respected that,” said Landreth.
Satriani, along with fellow virttuoso Eric Johnson, who also guests on Elemental Journey, have long been heralded for their all-instrumental affairs.
But for the king of the slide guitar from Breaux Bridge, La., this marked a first.
“That was a decision I made quite awhile back. It was something that I'd been wanting to do,” he said. “I think what even pointed me more in that direction was a show I had done with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra.”
Landreth played Bach's Cantata 140 at a Christmas show in 2005 with the Lafayette-based orchestra.
“My experience with that made me want to use strings on the next album I made. And I think that, along with the bonus tracks that we put on the expanded edition of Levee Town – tracks that I had for nine years and going back to listen to them and finding out they still held up– was all kind of part of the process in deciding to make this an instrumental album. But you know in the past, I've always had instrumentals (songs) on all my albums. And I wondered what if we did the whole project like that? But I go way back with instrumental albums. As a kid, I listened to groups like The Ventures and the instrumental songs of the day. It was a concept I wanted to embrace and this felt like the right time to do it.”
The fact that he had never cut an entire record without vocals didn't slow down Landreth one bit, even though the creative process was a tad different this time around.
“The difference for me would be the voice and looking at it in terms of using the guitar as the lead voice,” he said. “So, you have to come up with different ideas to keep that interesting. That told me to use more layering and different kinds of sounds. Because if you think about it, it's kind of a soundtrack that conjures up imagery, so I think it's (different sounds and layers) even more important here than on an album with vocals. And I really wanted to make sure I had something that the guests wanted to play on and would be inspired by. I think it's important to write the piece with them in mind.”
The soundtrack forged on Elemental Journey is one awash in the invocative slide guitar that no one but Landreth could pull off, but there's also something totally different than anything he has authored before – with strings on five cuts and even flourishes of classical music making its presence felt.
And with all those diverse pieces coming together to make up a cohesive unit of work, even the title of the album has special significance.
“I looked at this project as a journey and there were a lot of different elements that came together – different styles of music that have influenced me in the past – along with the elements of different musicians from different genres of music, as well,” he said. “And looking at it philosophically, as in all of our experiences being existential in life, that's certainly been the case with me - especially when it comes to music.”
A good chunk of those 'existential musical experiences' no doubt came from Landreth's tour of duty with The Goners, master songwriting force John Hiatt's sometimes backing band.
And naturally, being around Hiatt on a daily basis was bound to rub off on Landreth's own songwriting skills.
“I sure hope so. I always felt like it was such a great opportunity to work with John and he's constantly writing. He'd be in a (hotel) room next to mine and I'd hear him working on songs,” Landreth said. “And then, the next phase would be us working that song up in the studio, or at soundcheck. He was constantly doing that. I mean, I've been writing ever since I was a little kid – it's what I've always wanted to do – but to be up close with him was really special. And yeah, you always hope some of the cosmic dust rubs off on you.”
Another huge influence on the music that ultimately ends up on a Sonny Landreth album is the guitarist's home stomping grounds of Louisiana.
Whether immortalized in tracks like “South of I10,” or even “Wonderide” off the next record, it's hard not to feel the presence, along with the essence of the Pelican State, oozing out of everything Landreth does.
“I think at one point a long time ago, that was by choice, just because of how rich the culture is here and how important the music is here,” he said. “I was very fortunate to grow up in this environment, because this is not everywhere. And after I traveled around a little bit, that made me appreciate it even more. But even though it’s still a source of inspiration, I don't think about it as much now. It's probably more of a case of osmosis, or the gumbo or the humidity these days, I'm not sure. But you really can't help but feel it living here. It permeates everything in a good way.”
And as anyone who knows anything about Louisiana can attest to – even though the state is a huge melting pot of music, zydeco is still king.
And Landreth served an apprenticeship at the side of one of the undisputed kings of feel-good zydeco, the legendary Clifton Chenier.
And if you were going to be on the bandstand with Clifton and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, you'd better be on your toes at all times.
“He would interpret a song in the heat of the moment. I've never known anyone that had the catalog of songs in their head that Clifton did. Every night we would play at least one song that we had never – that I had never – played before,” said Landreth. “And then, he would change the keys up. So really, it pushed me in a great way to really let loose and be ready for anything. It tests your mettle in a way that you just can't pull out by sitting on your couch at home.”
Improvisation may have been an ever-changing part of the buffet at a Clifton Chenier show, but no matter what tune was played on what night, one thing about the menu never changed.
“It was a real lesson in rhythm, too. The way that he would play shuffles, his right hand and his left hand and how he would combine things was really amazing, especially when he would break it down and it would just be him, his brother Cleveland on rubboard and Big Robert on drums. It was a sound I'll never forget. I've never heard anything like it,” Landreth said. “And one of the other important things I learned from Clif was how the solo in a blues tune, the way he did it, really lifted the song. If you played it one time around – 12 bars – every time you come back around, you make it (the solo) bigger. There’s always a transition. And if you make it to the third round, it’s even bigger. Robert had a way of doing that that really helped me rhythmically – thinking in terms of that – in pretty much everything I have done since then.”
To have been tutored by one of the true masters is something that Landreth will never forget.
It’s also a lesson that no amount of money could ever come close to purchasing.
“I always tell people that for me, if I had been raised in Chicago, it would have been like Muddy Waters taking me under his wing. That’s how important Clifton and the Creole world, along with zydeco music, was to me,” said Landreth.
That tradition of Louisiana’s rich, musical heritage continues today and refuses to be swayed or pushed aside by the often soulless sounds coming out of today's top 40 radio stations, regardless of locale.
“I think it’s because it’s true to the source of the roots, coming from culture. It’s also the nature of creativity,” Landreth said. “I think regardless of what’s playing on the radio, or what’s mainstream, there’s always going to be the other side of it, fortunately, where people are being creative and are pursuing their own boundaries. I see it here with these kids coming up in whole families of Cajun and Creole, and these kids are in their late teens and they’re incorporating all kinds of different styles into their music. And I’m really happy about that. It’s really encouraging when you let the influences inside you inspire yourself to take things somewhere else to develop and grow it.”
Born in 1951, Landreth was just the right age, along with a host of other budding musicians, to become influenced by Elvis’ guitar player, the fantastic Scotty Moore.
However, the guitar was not the first music-maker that young Sonny Landreth first became inseparable from. It was a decidedly less bluesy thing that he first learned to make noise on.
“Trumpet ended up being my first instrument and I played it from about 10 years old, all the way through school. It wasn't until I was 13 that I got my first acoustic guitar,” he said. “And the electric was soon to follow. I had one by the time I was 14 and that was the thing for me.”
And much like the way his surroundings would eventually find their way into his songs, Landreth's time playing the trumpet had a huge impact on the way he learned to play the guitar.
“It really did, because I came at it (the guitar) more from the mentality of a wind instrument player, which means when it comes to phrasing, you have to take a breath. And that really changes everything,” he said. “And there's a vocal quality to that, too. And looking back on it, my blues heroes – especially the delta blues – and then my jazz heroes that played trumpet, wanted to emulate the human voice with their instrument. And in the case of the delta blues, they would sing a line and then do the call-and-response with the guitar and that became like the other voice. And I think playing the trumpet really helped me come at the guitar from another angle, so to speak. It also (the trumpet) brought to me a discipline I might not have had otherwise. And I'm grateful for that.”
That angle has developed into one of the most recognizable sounds in modern music. When Landreth starts attacking the guitar with a slide on his left hand -fretting in behind the slide as he works his way up and down the neck – while at the same time picking out notes and hammering the strings with his right hand, the end result is one distinctive and unforgettable sound.
So just how did his legendary style, especially his right-hand technique, take shape?
“Well, what set me on the path was learning the Chet Atkins right-hand approach. I was a kid working in a music store and there was an older kid who worked there and he sat down and played “Yankee Doodle Dixie” and “Windy and Warm” and all these classic Chet pieces and it blew my mind. It never occurred to me that multiple parts – melody, rhythm and bass line – could be going at the same time,” Landreth said. “I'd heard it in classical music, but not like that. And that in a way opened a door for me, because it got me to thinking differently about sounds, too. And as I progressed with it and started playing slide, putting the two together was a huge step in that direction for me. I realized I could create different kinds of sounds by using the slide with it (right-hand technique). I always tell people you learn to trust your instinct and let one thing lead to another. You hit on something and that inspires you and opens up into something else. I just kept discovering new sounds.”
With a new album under his belt, and with the winter weather giving way to summer, Landreth is eager to hit the road once again.
“It's that time of year for us and we're getting back to playing some shows. Really we haven't played much since November, because I've been in the studio finishing up the album. But we're getting back at it and it feels good,” said Landreth. “Feels real good to be able to crank it up again.”
And as always, if Sonny Landreth is on stage, wailing away, bass player Dave Ranson won't be far from the epicenter. The two have been friends on and off the bandstand for over three decades.
“We go way back, to when we were teenagers. He's got a great sense of rhythm that goes really deep. Nobody plays like him. He's the anchor,” Landreth said. “We know each other so well that we know what the other one is going to do from one moment to the next on stage. And we really trust each other. I know I can depend on him in ways that I couldn't otherwise. We've survived this many years together and that says a lot. It's hard to keep a band together with all the changes and challenges and the nature of the business.”
With Elemental Journey yet to hit the street, naturally, Landreth has no firm plans at the ready for what would be album number 12 in his arsenal.
It is probably a safe bet, however, to figure on at least one guest star popping up to lend their talents.
With stalwarts like Mark Knopfler, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Vince Gill, along with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson, showing up on his past long-players, Sonny Landreth has amassed one amazing list of top-flight pickers to jam with.
But there is one superstar that he has yet to hook up with on an album.
“Jeff Beck. I would really like to work with him sometime. I've been a big fan of his for a long time and he's someone I'd like to do something with, for sure,” Landreth said.
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2012  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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Dave Keller - Where I'm Coming From...
Tastee-Tone Records
12 tracks/40:48
Writing a review is always a tough task. If the disc fails to move you, one still needs to find some positive attributes to counter your remarks about perceived shortcomings. If you are really excited about a recording, it can be challenging to find the right phrases that clearly communicate what makes the record great. But what do you say when the album under consideration has already been named the Best-Self Produced CD of the year by the Blues Foundation?
In the case of Dave Keller's award-winning project, you start by acknowledging that producer Bob Perry has put together a fine sounding disc. He surrounds Keller's emphatic vocals with expert backing from the Revelations – Wes Mingus on guitar & lap-steel, Gintas Janusonis on drums & percussion, Josh Werner on bass and Ethan White on keyboards. The horn section of David Steinberg on sax, Geoff Countryman on baritone sax and Joe Ancowitz on trumpet also make strong contributions. Keller plays guitar, taking the majority of solos.
You would expect a disc honored by the Blues Foundation to offer to honor or extend the blues tradition. In this case, you would be wrong. Keller and Perry selected an impressive batch of tunes from the soul genre – songs that pack a punch and, for the most part, are none too familiar.
Keller easily fills the role of the blue-eyed soulster, his voice crying out in anguish on “You Hurt Me For the Last Time” or soaring as he pleads for understanding on Phillip Mitchell's “That's The Way I Want to Live My Life”.
“Are You Going Where I'm Coming From” establishes a tougher groove. Keller gets vocal support from his brother Todd and Harley Hiatt. The lead singer for the Revelations, Tre Williams, joins Keller for a stirring vocal duet on “The Things We Have to Do”.
With the horn section riffing behind him, Keller sounds convincing as a man trapped by the love of a woman on “Too Weak to Fight”. The cheating song “Steppin' Out” finds Keller vowing to answer his lover's treachery with some of his own. His expressive singing on Robert Ward's “Strictly Reserved For You” highlights the positive aspects of love. The only weak moment occurs on “Pouring Water On a Drowning Man”. Keller fails to generate the emotional impact found on other versions of this classic tune.
This recording succeeds on several levels – strong material, sympathetic backing musicians, fine production, great sound and a singer who can get to the heart of a song. It may not be blues but it sure is some damn fine music!
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Anthony Gomes - Up 2 Zero
Up 2 Zero Entertainment
11 songs; 39:29 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Blues Rock
In 1997, I attended a show by Too Slim and the Taildraggers in the Chicago suburbs. An opening act played on stage while Tim “Too Slim” Langford and I chatted out back on the open-air patio. Trying to concentrate on our conversation, I kept getting distracted by the great music coming through the open door. I finally mentioned how good the guitar was, and Too Slim agreed, telling me he was well aware of the talented young Canadian as an up and comer. The opening act: Anthony Gomes.
Since that time 15 years ago, Anthony Gomes has reached stellar heights playing shows world-wide and earning a reputation for great music. He has ventured into Rock and recorded an intimate acoustic offering, but his seventh and latest album represents a full-circle return to the style of Blues Rock music that originally caught my ears. “Up 2 Zero” contains eleven tracks of which Anthony Gomes is credited either as writer or co-writer on all of them. Co-writing credits also go out to Tom Hambridge (1 Track), and Jim Peterik (5 Tracks). Here is Gomes’s love of high energy, guitar-driven Blues Rock combining straight ahead Power Blues compositions with tracks that incorporate soul-injected melodic moments.
Sending that message plainly is the opening tune “Back To the Start.” Gomes comments from his website, “I wanted to begin the CD with a powerhouse shuffle to set the tone of where we are at musically. Lyrically, the song says it all. As simple as it sounds, you have to follow your heart and I had to get back to where I started. For me, it’s the blues. I can always try different things, but I always find myself going back to where the music started.” The meaning of the album’s title, “Up 2 Zero,” is going back to the beginning touchstone for today’s performing.
Born in Toronto, Canada, to a Portuguese father and a French-Canadian mother, Gomes began playing guitar in his early teens and was drawn to Blues sounds from B.B. King to Stevie Ray Vaughan. While he honed his skills in Blues bars at night, Gomes earned a Master’s Degree in history from the University of Toronto focusing on the “Racial Evolution of Blues Music.” He relocated to Chicago in the late ’90s to learn from the Blues masters and to establish himself as a musician and artist. During his brief stint as a sideman for Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Gomes put together his own group and won the first annual Buddy Guy’s Legends “Best Unsigned Blues Band” competition in 1998. Three years later, he moved to Nashville to sharpen his skills as a songwriter.
After the opening track, our next spin on the Friends of the Blues Radio Show will be Track 5, “Room 414.” Gomes explained the meaning: “... what’s the significance is of that room?” Anthony laughs, “It is actually the room number at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio where Robert Johnson recorded all his material.” Strong with Blues influences and growling vocals, this up tempo shuffle will bring both smiles and dancing feet. By overdubbing, Gomes gets to play call and response with himself in some killer guitar work.
Next up, some slower Blues in “Voodoo Moon” featuring deep Blues imagery. In the song, Gomes claims he saw “the ghosts of Clarksdale” with his own eyes. It’s a wonderful track with tasty guitar work and unearthly vocals.
“Up 2 Zero” is expertly paced with a nice mix of hard-rocking Blues and easier numbers. For example, try the slow burner “One Last Time.” “Love Sweet Love” is reminiscent to what you’d expect of something from the 1970s Southern Rock scene. And, “Darkest before the Dawn,” which updates Gomes original version on 2002’s “Unity” album, is a ballad with tender vocals ala his love of Soul and Gospel music.
Yes, Anthony Gomes is “back,” although I’m not sure he ever “left.” Talent that good does not just go away. But, in the ebb and flow of careers, Gomes is definitely back on an upswing!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL..
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Lady Bianca - Servin' Notice
Magic-O Records
12 tracks
Lady Bianca (AKA Bianca Thornton) is a dynamic and talented singer. With this, her seventh album, we get to hear her and her band deep into soul and the blues. Her vocals are expressive and range from soft and sultry to big and powerful. Her backing band is tight and focused, making each cut a nice little package of soulful blues goodness. 10 of the 11 cuts are Bianca's own originals, and she has done a great job with them.
The title of the CD indicates that Lady B is serving notice that she is here, on the scene and is a force to be reckoned with. Her performances starts out strong on "He Told Me The Same Thing Too" where she commiserates with another woman that their lover told her the same lies. This is a full up and well-orchestrated number with a big sound, backing vocals and prominent lead guitar riffs. Slower cuts like "You Got Me Drinkin'" and "What Am I Gonna Do With You" and" Another Woman's Man" are quite intriguing and focused. "What Am I Gonna Do with You" is especially sultry with super guitar and organ work along with the guitar and vocals.
"For Real" is jazzy and funky, with sax and organ complimenting Lady B's vocals. "It Hurts to Be In Love" is a bouncy harmonic vocal duet while "Wake Up Baby" offers some rocking guitar riffs to open it and as solos within it. Bianca wails on Blues In The Bedroom", with all sorts of emotions pouring out. "Cold Side of Love" gives us a little Bianca funk, too. She closes the set with "Down Like Rain", which is another long down tempo piece.
It's all good stuff. If I had to offer some sort of criticism it would be to have Lady Bianca let it all hang out more. I would like to see her go out and blast away; she's got the vocal prowess to do so and it would really be impressive to here her in that mode.
Accompanying Bianca are Steve Gannon on guitar, Carl Green on sax for two cuts, Dave K. Matthews on organ, Michael Skinner on drums/percussion, Oshim O. Oden on bass, and Tovia Bradley on drums for the opening cut. Stanley Lipett join Bianca for the vocal duet on "It Hurts To Be In Love".
I enjoyed this album and also noted it is getting some airplay on Sirius/XM Radio Bluesville. Bianca's talents are getting some notice. She will also be featured at this year's Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport and I am looking forward to the opportunity to see and hear her live! I think it's worth picking up a copy of this CD to hear her on your own, too- I think her funky style of blues is a great change up from some of the new stuff passing our way.
Reviewer Steve Jones is president 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 since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Hurricane Ruth - The Power of the Blues...Feels Like a Hurricane
Self-released
8 tracks
Hurricane Ruth blows in as a force 5 hurricane with her power blues and support by a trio of musicians who are ready to keep the hurricane moving. Hurricane Ruth is Ruth LaMaster and she is joined by David Lumsden on guitar, Gary Davis on bass and Jim Engel on drums. Ruth provides the powerful vocals that match up with the band's big rock and blues sound. Recorded mostly live in the studio in the Windy City, the band is filled with energy and is ably led by the dynamic LaMaster.
The CD begins with "Roll Little Sister", a rocker built on the Stones "Dance Little Sister" theme. After the opener I felt this could be an 80's hair band led by a blues woman. It's a jumping tune we've heard in other places but it's a lot of fun and the delivery is big and bold. No pun intended, but LaMaster is apparently a master of this stuff. A stinging slow rocking blues follows; "I'm Gonna Get Evil" has a great big, stinging guitar solo and Hurricane Ruth testifying as to the bad things she is going to do to her man.
"The Power of the Blues...Feels Like a Hurricane" begins with the big guitar intro and Ruth then gets into it with the guitar, she trading her vocals licks off with Lumsden's axe. More big 80's rocking guitar solos abound here once again. Slow blues is up again next with "Let Me Change Your Mind" and Ruth is more than up to the task. She gets down and dirty, really breathy and lustful- well done. But then we get "Mississippi Queen" and it sounds like just another cover band who can't hold a flame to the original. I was hoping Ruth would give it a new and different spin, but it's not much of a change up. "No Worries" returns the set list to the blues and Hurricane Ruth is again in her element. Dirty guitar licks, a nice beat and her gritty vocals meld well together here.
Next up is Sly Stones' "I Want To Take You Higher". I love the minute-plus long guitar intro and later solos that are excellent and Ruth handles the vocals a lot better than the Mountain song; she comes off as a lot more real here than in the other cover. "Shouting" through late 70's and 80's rock song is in her wheelhouse. Lastly we have "The Lesson" which is an in-your-face sort of slow blues with a poignant guitar lead. I like this track a lot, too. Great power guitar and gutsy vocals.
It's got some 80's rock sound to some of it and the "Mississippi Queen" cover seems a little misplaced, but the real criticism I have is that we only get 8 songs to listen to here. I know that was all albums had in the old days, but it seems to be done just as the band is getting started. But it's powerful and has a lot of energy. Ruth's vocals are really good and so is Lumsden on lead guitar. Hard rocking blues fans will find some great tidbits to enjoy here.
Reviewer Steve Jones is president 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 since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Two hot June shows coming up in Rockford!!! Walter Trout is appearing at the Adriatic at 327 W.Jefferson St in Rockford, IL on Tuesday, June 5th at 8 PM. Advanced tickets are only $15, with admission $20 atthe door. Tickets are available at the club, online at http://crossroadsbluessociety.blogspot.com/. Get tickets early as this may sell out!
Bryan Lee appears at Mary's Place at 602 N Madison St in Rockford, IL on Wednesday June 13th. Admission is $10; advanced tickets get reserved seating. Tickets at Mary's place or through Crossroads Blues Society. Call 779-537-4006 or email sub_insignia@yahoo.com for more info on either show.
The Blues Kids Foundation - Chicago, IL
The Blues Kids Foundation presents Fernando Jones’ Annual Blues Camp. This fun-filled experience awards scholarships to over 120 Blues Kids (ages 12 to 18), affording them a “priceless” fun-filled experience. They will learn and perform America’s root music in a fully funded, weeklong program with like minded others under the tutelage of national and international instructors. Blues Camp is in residence at: Columbia College Chicago, Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, TX) and the Fender Center (Corona, CA). This series is designed for America’s youth and educators.  To be a sponsor call us at 312-369-3229.
CAMP DATES & CITIES
July 15 - 21 / Columbia College, Chicago, IL
June 17 - 23 / Fender Center, Corona, CA
June 13 - 16 / Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, TX
The Ventura County Blues Society - Ventura County, CA
The Ventura County (Calif) Blues Society has their weekly "BluesJam" series at The Tavern in Ventura every Wednesday. The Ventura County Blues Society's Sunday Blues Matinee Concert Series kicks off Sunday, July 8 with Chris Cain, Tommy Marsh and Bad Dog, and Kelly's Lot, at the High Street Arts Center, in Moorpark, Calif. Info: http://www.venturacountybluessociety.org/.
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Friday, June 1, 1st Friday Blues, Tee Dee Young, WEFT and Memphis on Main, Champaign. For more info: http://prairiecrossroadsblues.org.
The Diamond State Blues Society - Middletown , Delaware
The 1st St. Georges Blues Fest sponsored by The Diamond State Blues Society is Saturday, June 16th, 2012, Noon to 8pm rain or shine, on the grounds of The Commodore Center, 1701 N. DuPont Hwy., St. Georges, Delaware. Featured are Garry Cogdell & the Complainers; lower case blues with special guest Johnny Neel; Dave Fields, Brandon Santini & his Band; J.P. Soars & the Red Hots; and headlining is The Bernard Allison Group. Details and links to tickets at www.DiamondStateBlues.com.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa is June 29th & 30th, and July1st. Scheduled performers include Mathew Curry and The Fury, Earnest ‘’Guitar’’ Roy, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Liz Mandeville and Donna Herula, Kenny Neal and Super Chikan Johnson on June 29th, Terry Quiett, Bryce Janey, Ray Fuller and the Blues Rockers, Doug MacLeod, Preston Shannon, Ernest Dawkins Quartet, Guitar Shorty, Moreland and Arbuckle, Coco Montoya and Kelley Hunt on June 30th. Lady Bianca, Paul Geremia, Johnny Rawls, Trampled Under Foot and the Brooks Family Blues Dynasty featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, plus Bobby Rush with “The Double Rush Revue” on Sunday July 1st. http://www.mvbs.org
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows at  Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois - 2011 International Blues Challenge winner Lionel Young Band with opening act The Governor on Friday, June 22 From 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm Admission: $5.00  For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
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. Jun 4 – Big Jeff Chapman Blues Band , Jun 11 – Deb Callahan, Jun 18 – Sugar Ray & The Bluetones Jun 25 – TBA.  Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - May 12 – Eddie Turner Band, , - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Tues, June 19, Sugar Ray Norcia & Bluetones, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, June 26, Tom Holland & Shuffle Kings, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
July – Sugarcane Collins - details TBA
July - Dave Riley – details TBA
Tues, July 24, Laurie Morvan Band, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Wed, August 22, Smokin’ Joe Kubek w/ Bnois King, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Sept 6, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Tues, Sept 18, Smilin’ Bobby, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA


  Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Melvin Taylor – Sweet Taste Of Guitar
Self Release 2012
10 tracks – 40.18 minutes
This album came as a real surprise. I saw Melvin many years ago at the now defunct San Francisco Blues Festival and subsequently bought a couple of his CDs. Those CDs struck me as OK but lacking in original material, but I retained fond memories of his live performance. I know that he has played regularly in Chicago for years and I was expecting some Chicago blues with a touch of rock. However, this CD (his first for some years) is not that at all.
First of all this CD is entirely Melvin who plays all the instruments; second it is all instrumental; and third we are in jazz rock territory with barely any blues in sight. Opening track “Back In Action” sets the tone with a pleasant but repetitive riff played over some routine backing. It sounds a little like Al Di Meola in the mid-70s but with less going on musically. Several tracks follow a similar pattern. “Spanish Flavor” sounds like it should offer something different but is very similar except that the guitar refrain is played on a Spanish acoustic rather than an electric guitar.
Three songs contain the word blues in the title. “Remembering The Blues” has a pleasant guitar refrain but the background wah-wah effect did nothing for me. The immediate next track is “So Long Blues” but this one seemed to differ very little from earlier material. “That’s My Blues” gets the closest to what I would call blues and is a decent track. The final track is entitled “Smooth Situation” which sums up the album nicely. This CD will get some play on smooth jazz stations. Throughout the album Melvin Taylor demonstrates that he is a clean picker of notes and can play in a blues and jazz style. I would like to see Melvin return to real blues; perhaps that will be his next project, having got this one out of his head..
Reviewer John Mitchell is a Blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and recently enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Colin Linden – Still live
CrossCut Records
12 tracks – 56.16 minutes
Colin Linden is Canadian by birth but is now resident in the USA. He has recorded many CDs over the years and has also produced for a variety of acts well known to the blues fraternity, including Janiva Magness and Colin James. As well as writing and producing he continues to record and tour solo, in a small band format and as part of Blackie And The Rodeo Kings. This CD was recorded live in his adopted home town of Nashville with a small ensemble: Colin on guitars and vocals, John Dymond on bass and harmony vocals, Gary Craig on drums and Spooner Oldham on organ. Apart from a lone cover of Howling Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking” Colin wrote all the material either alone or in collaboration: two with his wife, Janice Powers, two with Jim Weider and one each with Tom Hambridge and Jim Lauderdale.
The album is beautifully recorded and engineered. The audience is respectfully silent throughout the music and the applause at the end of each track is the only reminder that this is a live recording. The material is generally quiet and thoughtful though there are a couple of more upbeat tracks where Colin can unleash some strong electric guitar. “Who’s Been Talking” which features Spooner Oldham’s organ and Colin on slide is the most obvious blues track but there is plenty to enjoy throughout the album. “Smoke ‘Em All” is dedicated to Colin’s late friend, pianist Richard Bell who passed away in 2007. Colin is alone on this one, a jaunty tribute to his friend “A mighty boy with a left hand like thunder, right hand like gold – that mighty boy, he’d smoke ‘em all”. “Remedy” is a rocker with an insistent backbeat, chugging guitar and highlight organ and makes a nice pairing lyrically with “Dark Night Of The Soul”. The songs are played in completely different styles but I found myself linking them: the former is a song about love and desire whereas the latter comes from the other end of the spectrum, the singer offering safe passage in troubled times.
“Too Late To Holler” is another bluesy tune with more of Colin’s distinctive slide guitar and closing track “I Give Up” is a semi-comic song which recounts how the singer has failed on so many aspects of life that he is ready to quit altogether! “Sorry about the too much money I have spent, all the times that I was late with my rent, every dollar that I turned to 50 cents.” Another track I liked a lot was “Between The Darkness And The Light Of Day” with its lyric about finding personal salvation through the power of music. “Sugar Mine” covers salvation in more traditional manner, namely the sweetness of love. The shimmering guitar on this track is a real highlight, recalling Ry Cooder in his prime.
Overall this CD features superb musicianship and lyrics that make you think (not always the case in the blues!). The music here is more Americana than blues but it is a CD I can easily recommend. The final word should go to the US Immigration Service who (according to the sleevenotes) classed Colin Linden as “an alien of extraordinary ability” – that says it all, I think.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a Blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and recently enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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