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. AJ Wachtel has our feature interview with Louisiana piano master Henry Gray. Marilyn Stringer has a photo essay from the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival.
We have six music reviews for you! Jim Kanavy reviews a new compilation from Kay Kay And The Rays. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Gaye Adegbalola. Steve Jones reviews the new CD from Moreland and Arbuckle. Rex Barthalomew reviews a new release from Pristine. Sheila Skilling reviews a new CD from Tweed Funk. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Anders Osborne. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Henry Gray
Being a middle-aged Blues fan, it's hard for me to imagine spending nine decades dedicating myself to the genre like Henry Gray has done. From the beginning days of the depression to his current status as elder spokesman, his continuous quest to promote and pass on his music to younger generations of fans throughout the world is just as inspirational as his history is legendary. He is a true icon whose influences date back to the beginning of the art form, and his style is instantly recognizable.
Born in Louisiana in the mid-1920's, Gray started playing at eight and was influenced early by the music he heard in Church, radio and on records. When his family got a piano, like many of the families of his era, Blues music was not allowed to be played at his home. So he would go to a neighbor's house to play the music he was beginning to love and he was forced to sneak around to play the Blues where he could.
Who were his main influences growing up? "ME". At sixteen, after he was asked to perform at a club near his house, he approached his father for permission, and much to his surprise the elder Gray agreed under the condition that he would accompany him. "When my father saw I could make money playing the Blues, he liked that all right." And this event started his ongoing seven decade career. "People really enjoyed me. A lot of times my Daddy would be with me so I never had any trouble. And when he wasn't there I had people protecting me". Then World War II broke out and he spent several years in the South Pacific entertaining troops with his piano and singing. "The thing I remember most is a lot of times I was held back from the front lines because i was entertaining also. It was like a break from the stress of being a war-time soldier too".
Given a medical discharge, Henry went back to his family in Louisiana before going to Chicago where he had relatives. The post-war Jazz and Blues scene in Chicago was exploding and it gave him opportunities that were not available a few years earlier. "After the war, all the big Blues stars were there in Chicago. And like I said, there were only three Blues piano players there at the time, Otis Spann, Little Johnny Jones, and me. I'm the only one still alive; the other two are dead. I was there with all the big stars." Soon after arriving in 1946 he began checking out the bands and the piano players and occasionally sat in.
While doing this, he was noticed by Big Maceo Merriwether, one of the best Blues and Barrel house piano players of all time. Maceo was born in Detroit and had moved to Chicago for money and to further his career. Merriwether mentored Henry and showed him the ropes in the Chicago Blues scene. Gray's "two-fisted piano playing" style became an important and interesting part of the scene. "Maceo had a stroke and I would have to play his left hand. He was really big in launching my career too. (laughs) He called it "two-fisted playing". People started to notice and for the next few decades he recorded with many famous players and creators of the Blues. Little Walter loved his playing during this time and nicknamed him "Bird Breast". (laughs) "I really don't know why. I guess he thought I was thin and looked like a bird. And I guess he thought I should be flying away....(laughs)
In 1956, Howlin' Wolf asked Henry to join his band and for the next 12 years he played piano in his group. By all accounts, Wolf was an eccentric individual but it was a tremendous learning experience for him. "He was alright with me. He was a very strict man. No smoking. You had to dress up, there were no blue jeans. He was strictly business, but like I said; he was alright with me." During the fifties and the sixties Chess Records employed him as a sideman on their recordings and he played with such icons as Robert Lockwood Jr, Billy Boy Arnold, Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Otis Rush, Morris Pejoe, Johnny Shines, Abe Locke, Guitar Slim, James Cotton, B.B King, Elmore James, Buddy Guy and many others. "
In fact, Gray was in the band when Elmore James died of a heart attack. "I was at the club before we were supposed to go on. I was waiting on him and I called his house which wasn't far away. I called his house and his wife told me he had died. He was in the bathroom taking a bath and he died in the tub. I expected him to come and play and I was waiting on him. Everybody liked "Dust My Broom" then and now. That's his legacy. With Buddy we never recorded we just played together. I liked him then and I still like Buddy. His music and his guitar playing; I really like them both"
Henry left Wolf's band in 1968 to return home to Louisiana due to the death of his Dad and to help his Mother with the family fish market business. His big-rollicking sound immediately became an important part of the area's "Swamp Blues" style. More Windy City then Bayou Boogie-woogie? "Both. I love the Blues and I love Boogie Woogie and I play both of them". He also worked with East Baton Rouge Schools as a roofer for fifteen years before retiring and helping raise a family with his wife Rivers Gray. "I have a grandson who plays at three churches now. He plays piano in person at the churches. Anyone out there wants him, he'll come."
For the past thirty years he has remained active as a musician in a number of ways. He has performed at virtually all New Orleans Jazz Festivals, a few Chicago Blues Festivals (1987,1989), The Montreaux Jazz Festival (1988), The San Francisco Blues Festival, Memphis's W.C.Handy Blues Festival, The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, The King Bisquit Festival in Arkansas and a ton of other festivals across the U.S. He has also traveled to Europe to play festivals and concerts during this time.
More recently, he has received a Grammy nomination for his work on Telarc Records' 1998 release "A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf". Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones paid homage to Henry by having him play at Jagger's fifty-fifth birthday party in Paris. "He played for ME. He and I played for his mother's birthday too. He's a pretty nice guy." He continues to keep the Blues alive and in 2003 he was featured along with Ray Charles, Dr.John, Pinetop Perkins and Dave Brubeck in Clint Eastwood's "Blues Piano" which was part of Martin Scorsese's seven part series "The Blues'. In 2006, he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship Award by NEA, the nation's top honor for a "Folk Artist". He was also featured along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Pinetop Perkins, Marcia Ball and Little Red in a concert at Morgan Freeman's Clarksdale, MS club , Ground Zero which has become the DVD "Falsifyin'". "Jerry's a boogie-woogie player and he doesn't play like me.I play the Blues. Yes, he's nice......in his own ways, and yes we're good friends.". This same year he starred as Saul Solomon, an aging musician suffering from Alzheimer's in the independent film, The Glass Chord. To this day, Gray continues to tour as a soloist and with his band Henry Gray And The Cats. Longtime producer, harp and bassist and good friend Andy Cornett died in February . "I'm gonna try to do something. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet. It's too soon."
Henry Gray is the heir apparent to the Chicago Blues Piano throne by virtue of his spending twenty-five years backing Howlin' Wolf, J.B.Lenoir, Little Walter and Jimmy Reed on the South Side.and his playing recalls the Golden Age of Chicago Blues. Now in his ninth decade, he clearly remembers how to get an audience jumping and why the Blues is the best. "It's all the same to me. Even all over the world. The crowd's are the same and I play the same."
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
Interviewer A. J. Wachtel is a long-time entertainment journalist in New England and the East Coast who currently writes for The Boston Blues Society and The Noise Magazine. He is well known in the Boston and N.Y.C areas for his work in the Blues for the last two decades.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Kay Kay And The Rays - The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays
15 tracks; 64:15
Kay Kay and the Rays formed around the Abner Burnett Blues Band in 1997 when Abner was looking for a lead singer. El Paso, Texas native Kay Kay Greenwade joined the band which eventually changed its name to Kay Kay and the Rays. Standing over six feet tall, Kay Kay cut an imposing figure and her voice was bigger than Texas. Together, the band made three albums for Catfood Records before Kay Kay suffered a stroke and was possibly permanently sidelined. The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays from Catfood Records brings together tracks from Kay Kay And The Rays Featuring Abner Burnett, Texas Justice, and Big Bad Girl.
Label mate Johnny Rawls produced Texas Justice and he plays on four tracks included in this compilation including the lead off tune “Lone Star Justice.” Kay Kay’s incisive lyrics about the penal system in Texas and its detrimental disposition toward minorities and the poor immediately signal her interest in social injustice. She does raise an interesting point about all the money poured into jails instead of schools, and punctuating her incensed statements are equally fiery guitar licks. Elsewhere Kay Kay takes lyrical jabs at the insidious nature of corporate America in the brass-driven “Enron Field.” The song’s upbeat, funky rhythm is antithetical to the message which seems symbolic of the way some companies rob you blind while making you feel good about it.
Kay Kay takes on the broken promises and soul-sucking nature of Los Angeles in “Lord Save Me From L.A.” and the stupidity of expecting a man not to cheat on you if he was cheating with you in “Cheater.” Kay Kay does not write run-of-the-mill lyrics, but occasionally the music seems a bit to polished, almost like its being presented for mass consumption. The band lacks a distinct signature sound apart from Greenwade’s voice. That’s not to say the band is bad or always bland. They are tight and seem to light up most on the Texas-style tracks like “No Mama’s Boys,” a strutting Texas shuffle with stinging guitar licks and a “Cold Shot-style” rhythm. “Big Bad Girl” has a stop start structure with biting guitar interjected throughout also pointing to an SRV/Albert King influence and they even burn through a raving version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Crossfire” complete with stunning streams of Strat Magick that would make SRV proud.
Fellow Texan Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones turns up on “Hey Big Boy” providing some of his fine guitar work and Johnny Rawls shares the vocal spotlight on his originals “Hold On To What You Got” and “Love Me Baby” and Rawls has co-writing credit on “Texas Justice – Billy’s Story” with bassist Bob Trenchard who is one of only three musicians featured on every track. Some of Rawls’ songs are like syrupy easy listening blues and are perhaps the blandest of the tracks found on this collection. Bob Trenchard is the primary songwriter with Kay Kay and was a mainstay of the original Abner Burnett Blues Band. Abner himself left in 2000.
I’ve often thought “Best Of” albums often present the least interesting music an artist has made since it is intended to have widespread appeal. Some of us are always on the look-out for music found on the path less traveled and most of the music on this collection has been heard before in one form or another. The saving grace is Kay Kay’s voice and her astute lyrics which overcome rote arrangements and non-descript guitar tones. However, The Trenchard/Greenwade duo has crafted some top notch songs and there is enough interesting material on The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays to warrant checking out their other albums.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Gaye Adegbalola - Blues in All Flavors
Hot Toddy Music
14 songs; 42:24 minutes
Styles: Various Blues Songs for Children and Grandchildren in Multiple Styles
Adult aficionados of the blues sometimes wonder: “How can we best transmit our love of blues music to the next generation--especially the youngest children and grandchildren? They’re not quite ready for “I’m Ready” or cut out for “Cross-Cut Saw.” Enter Gaye Adegbalola (ah-deg-bah-lola), born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This co-founder of the now retired “Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women” realizes that there exist “Blues in All Flavors,” and she’s out to prove it to the primer school-age set! On this highly-entertaining and inspiring CD, Adegbalola’s songs run a full gamut of blues flavors, including Piedmont-style, Chicago-style, New Orleans blues, and a bit of funk! Not only that, but each number teaches a pertinent life lesson. To top it all off, this album includes a 16-page insert booklet featuring lyrics, guitar chords, and interactive learning activities for teachers. Here are three tracks out of fourteen that are guaranteed to grab blues fans’ attention, no matter if they’re six years old, sixteen, or sixty-four:
Track 07: “Grandma and Grandpa’s House”--This Piedmont Blues production is a prime pick. Not only is it catchy, but it’s bound to elicit fond memories of many kids’ two favorite people (besides Mom and Dad)! Featuring a clicking shuffle beat, zesty harmonica, and loving lyrics, the seventh selection on this album is a sure source of smiles.
Track 09: “It Hurts (The Picked Last Song)”--On this Chicago Blues song with Stop Time, Adegbalola provides one of the most poignant reasons why people sing the blues: “If you’re feeling bad about something, a blues song like this can help take away those bad feelings. So start out by grabbing your guitar--yeah, it’s an air guitar, but act like you’re playing that guitar. Now, make a funky blues face like you’re putting all your bad feelings right into the guitar…” This is a fabulous slow tune about being last on everyone’s list. As everyone (kid or not) probably knows, “it hurts,” and it’s perfectly okay to say so.
Track 11: “Don’t-Be-Moody-Do-Yo’-Duty Song”--This isn’t about voting, signing up for the Selective Service at the age of eighteen, or another duty commonly mentioned in the blues. Rather, the title refers to something all of us understand: “If you open it, then you should close it. If you turn it on, then you should turn it off. It’s the Don’t-Be-Moody-Do-Yo’-Duty Song!” With a medium-tempo Bo Diddley beat, this bouncy number isn’t to be missed, and neither is its moral.
It’s no wonder that Gaye Adegbalola was a former Virginia State Teacher of the Year. With songs like these, combining valuable advice for living with memorable melodies, children of all ages will love savoring Blues in All Flavors!
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 Review 3 of 6
Moreland and Arbuckle - Just a Dream
Gritty, grunge-based blues rock is the staple of these two Wichita based gents whose second Telarc release is a great follow-on to the critically acclaimed album Flood. These two guys are perhaps not the cup of tea everyone expects in the blues world, but if you like a heavy distorted lyrics and sound with big, nasty guitar licks, throbbing drum beat and overblown harp, well then step right up and enjoy this CD.
Opening with “The Brown Bomer”, the boys get right down to it with a filling busting driving beat and huge sound. Track two tones the pace down a bit with the cover track, understandable lyrics and more of a faster ballad rock approach. “Purgatory” is not as overdone as the opener, and it gives us a cleaner version of the grunge sound to appreciate. Good lyrics and a nice harp leads and solos sold me on this one. The mean harp opens track 4 (“Travel Every Mile”) and comes back in “Heart Attack and Vine”. The big driving rocking beat and sound is there, too, as it is in almost every track.
“Troll” has more musical heavy handedness and then comes the short “Gypsy Violin” with some coolly odd voiceovers. “Shadow Never Changes” is as close to a ballad as these guys get in a dark retro sort of way. But then “Good Love” blasts off and it’s back to hot, straight and normal. “Who Will Be Next” and “So Low” are somewhat similar to the rest, but then they switch it up a little and close with a more country sound on “White Lighnin’.
If you like large, overblown sound and good lyrics (when you can understand them) in a heavy handed rocking blues sort of way, this is something to check out. I like the sound, but sometimes the three or so variations on the theme get a little repetitive. It’s good stuff, but the songs have some similarity in their approach. It’s raw and hardy stuff, and one can picture if the Delta blues was created today in this world of electrical technology we might have gotten something that sounds like this.
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.
Live Blues Review - Simi Valley Blues Festival
2012 Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival - Memorial Day Weekend
I attend many venues & festivals throughout the year but the ones that seem to impress me the most are the ones that serve the community in some way. There always seems to an underlying purpose that is not for “self” but for “service” and from that the nature and atmosphere of the event is a reflection of that purpose. Such was my experience of the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival over Memorial Day weekend in Simi Valley, CA. The Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise has put on a Cajun Festival for the last 23 years. Three years ago they asked Randy Chortkoff, to take over the blues stage with his Delta Groove All Star Revue. I spent the entire weekend, along with the attendees and performers, raving how great the festival was!! To quote the website, which was absolutely accurate: “ 2012 promises to continue our tradition of bringing fans a full weekend of nonstop award-winning entertainment, more food choices than you can sample in two days, and activities to keep kids of all ages entertained too. The Cajun & Zydeco stage will feature 9 hours of continuous music each day. Featured will be international and award winning Cajun, Creole and Zydeco music acts. The Blues Stage will feature the 7th Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue in addition to world class Blues & Roots acts both Saturday and Sunday. Both stages feature lots of viewing space plus large dance floors. In addition, this family friendly event has a giant kids area featuring bouncers, rock walls, specialty acts, crafts and talent shows.” You could shop and eat all day and take dance lessons at the Cajun stage on the biggest dance floor I have ever seen. It was a fantastic festival! And all the proceeds go to help seniors and children in the community!! (http://www.simicajun.org).
I attempted to see all the Cajun bands but only ended up seeing three (it was too hard to leave the blues stage for long). But the Cajun/Zydeco area of this festival was as highly attended (if not more so) than the blues stage. The three great Zydeco bands included: Rosie Ledet, Little Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas, and Billy Lee & The Swamp Critters.
The Blues Stage was on the opposite end of the park so there was no music volume cross-overs. The journey between the two was filled with great food, beer, shopping, and activities for the entire family. The scenery from the park was great along with the weather.
I don’t know if it was coincidence since Randy Chortkoff is a harmonica player himself and the alligator logo is playing one too, but the weekend was harmonica heaven. The first performer was Paul Oscher, who is a long time singer, songwriter, and story teller, with a deep NY sense of humor.
Next up was RJ Mischo, a great blues harmonica player and blues vocalist. His band included extreme blues guitarist Rick Holmstrom, Rob Douglas on bass, and Steve Mugalian on Drums.
Winner of the 2012 Best Instrumentalist – Saxophone, Terry Hanck is always a great treat with his vocals and saxophone wailing the blues. His band included Bay Area favorites Johnny Cat Soubrand (guitar), Butch Cousins (drums), and Tim Wagar on bass.
The next set was a cornucopia of Delta Groove Artists and was beyond stellar. Under the title of “The Mannish Boys”, performer after performer came on stage and the music (otherwise known as a well-rehearsed “jam”) just kept rolling. Much to my chagrin, and in my last attempt to cover the Cajun stage too, I sadly missed the opening act of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnoit King. As I ran back to the blues stage, a new performer (whom I had heard the night before at rehearsal and loved!) was on stage – Marco Pandolfi, from Italy. In the interest of time and space, I will just list all the performers with their photos.
Starting with our fearless leader and organizer extraordinaire – Randy Chortkoff, with The Mannish Boys basic band Kid Ramos (guitar), Fred Kaplan (B3 & keys), Kirk Fletcher (guitar), Jimi Bott (drums), Willie J Campbell (bass), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), and Ron Dziubla (Sax).
Guest performers included Rob Rio (keyboards), Shawn Pittman (guitar), Jackie Payne (vocals), a quick surprise appearance by Janiva Magness, and harmonica players Big Pete, Rod Piazza, and Marco Pandolfi.
Original Mannish Boy Finis Tasby sang the blues and I know Smokin’ Joe & Bnoit were there although I only caught them backstage. A blues spectacular set!
Just when we didn’t think it could get any better, we had the Muddy Water Tribute take the stage. A few of the players stayed on board – Jimi Bott, Kirk Fletcher, & Rob Rio. The set started out with everyone’s favorite Bobs – Bob Corritore & Bob Margolin, backed by Bill Stuve on standup bass and Rod Piazza on harmonica.
Next Mud Morganfield came out and told some Muddy Water’s stories to go along with his side of the blues, Randy joined them with his harmonica, and it was unanimous to add Honey Piazza to the set – all in preparation for the great James Cotton and Darrel Nulisch. And in the end, everyone came on stage and the tribute was over the top. I think Mr. Cotton had a pretty good time too!
The final act on Saturday was Nathan James & James Harmon, with a little backup on the B3 by Fred Kaplan. Great combo and great set, although shortened due to the park restrictions (and no stage lights). (I think Fred gets the award for the most performances on one stage in two days)
(In the interest of keeping my job and not wearing down my editor, any photos of performers who played on Saturday won’t be repeated on Sunday but will be mentioned with an * next to their names).
Sunday started out on a high-energy note with the BMA nominated Mighty Mojo Prophets (who also were at the after party Sunday night). The band includes: Alex Woodson (harmonica), Dave Deforest (bass), Johnny Minguez (drums), Mitch Dow (guitar), and Tommy Eliff (vocals).
Mitch Kashmar, another Delta Groove harmonica virtuoso, joined John Marx (guitar/vocals). They were also graced with the deep rich vocals from Adrianna Marie during the set. The band du jour included Bill Stuve *(bass), David Kida (Drums-See him with Rod Piazza), Ron Dziubla* (sax), Fred Kaplan* (keys), and Randy Chortkoff*(harp).
Although we got “taste of Texas” on Saturday, we got the whole plate full on Sunday with Shawn Pittman and his band. Intense!!! In a good way!! His bass player Erkan Özdemir and drummer Boyd Small were joined by Fred Kaplan* on the keyboards.
We all got a preview of Big Pete on Saturday and got the full set on Sunday. Big Pete is a commanding performer both on the harmonica and in his vocals! In addition he brought out Al Blake on harmonica and was joined by Alex Schultz and Paul Size on guitar. He was also backed up by Fred Kaplan*, Jimi Bott*, and Willie J Campbell*.
The next gigantic reunion/jam was Rod Piazza & The West Coast Sheiks. Current and previous members of Rod’s iterations came together for a stage packed with performers. Bill Stuve* and Alex Schwartz* remained on stage from the previous set and Rod’s band took the stage: David Kida (drums), Rod Piazza (harmonica/vocals) and Honey Piazza(keyboards). And then there were the “Blues Brothers” Allen Ortiz & Johnny Viau on horns, “Tres Amigos” Johnny Watson, Henry Carvajal, and Norm Gonzalez on Guitars & Bass, and to top off the gathering, Willie Schwartz – the original drummer for The Mighty Flyers - snuck up behind Rod with a surprise appearance, joining David Kida on double drums.
So if that wasn’t enough fun, Kim Wilson and The Fabulous Thunderbirds hit the stage and kept the blues department on their feet! The band includes: Kim Wilson (vocals/harmonica0, Johnny Moeller (guitar), Jay Moeller (drums), Mike Keller (guitar), Randy Bermudes (bass), and Kevin Anker (keyboards).
As the sun set slowly in the west (i.e. the stage was getting dark again), the final performer took the stage. Candye Kane vowed she would perform at the festival after her pancreatic surgery, even if she had to sit to do so. But Candye stood proud, sang her heart out and closed the festival in style. Her band includes the formidable Laura Chavez (guitar), Kennan Shaw (bass), and Baldhead Fred (drums). Everyone was overjoyed to see Candye back on stage!
So with that, one of the best festivals I have ever attended came to an end. I highly recommend you put this on your calendar for next Memorial Day weekend. I don’t even have room in this article to cover the jams at night… Thanks to the Simi Sunrise Rotary Club for all they do before, during, and after the festival. And a big thanks to Randy Chortkoff for putting together the most welcoming, non-stressed out, relaxed, fantastic blues festival events one could ask for!! It is how a festival should be – festive!!! And check out all the Delta Groove artists while you are at it!
Photos & Comments By Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Pristine – Detoxing
9 tracks / 54:02
Until recently I had never realized that there was such an active Norwegian music scene, but in the past three months I came across three blues CDs that were recorded in Norway and I have been impressed with all of them. But one of them really blew my mind: Detoxing, the debut album from Pristine.
Pristine is from Tromso in the northern artic region of Norway, and what they offer is a hard-core psychedelic blues rock sound (think Led Zeppelin I). This is a serious album, with eight original tunes written by singer Heidi Solheim, and only one cover: the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”. Detoxing would not be the same without Solheim’s solid writing and passionate vocals, but this album is a group effort and each of the other musicians had essential roles in its successful construction.
Detoxing does not kick off with a bang, but rather with “Damned if I Do” which is a slowly grinding blues offering with a touch of jazz influence. This track lays a solid foundation of blues for the album, and provides a starting point for the evolution of other blues genres and sounds that will be introduced later on. Besides Solheim’s throaty vocals, Espen Elverum Jakobsen’s smoking guitar contributes to the mix like another vocalist, while Ander Oskal provides a 1970s vibe with a Hammond B3. Hammond organs give me the shivers -- in a good way. Another thing that this song does is throw away any notions that there is any pop music on Detoxing. This is a nine-plus minute AOR track that made me reach for my headphones and an adult beverage.
This is followed up by “You Don’t Know”, which picks the tempo up and brings a bit of Detroit funk into the mix. Jakobsen shows off his chops but keeps things classy as he goes off on an extended solo. The steamroller beat is held down by Asmund Wiltern Eriksson Ericsson on bass and Kim Karlsen on the drum kit.
“Breaking Bad” comes next, and is one of the more notable tracks on this CD. This Texas-style blues song is not overly complicated, which is a good thing, and the band clicks right off while Solheim’s voice works in perfectly with the mix. Of all of the tracks on the album I think this is the one that is the most radio-friendly, with the Stevie Ray sound and a running time a little under four minutes.
The choice of “Whipping Post” as the only cover seems odd at first, but this version is quite a bit different than the Allman Brothers’ standard. This one is slowed down and stripped down to one distorted guitar and Heidi’s killer voice. She has a lot of soul and energy, which really shines when she is singing with just the guitar or keys, which you will also find on the short funk track “Damage is Done”.
“The Last Day” starts as a slow ballad, and Solheim’s smooth vocal prowess helps the listener hear what have to be the best lyrics on the album. This song builds in tempo and intensity over its eight minutes until she is bellowing over a respectable Jimmy Page imitation; I am not sure if this is Jakobsen or Norse musical legend Knut Reiersrud, who also appears on this track. This ends up being a powerful song and is an example of really solid songwriting.
But, my favorite song on this album is the title track, which is saved for next to last. “Detoxing” is probably how this band got classified into the psychedelic blues rock genre. It starts out with a Karlsen tapping out a Zeppelin cymbal ride over Ericsson wearing out his left hand with an ostinato on the bass, and builds from there. This track is an eleven-minute journey which turns into a driving rock anthem with Hendrix guitars all over it. This is an ambitious song and the band pulled it off.
Detoxing is a well-produced album with good musicianship and solid songwriting. The band keeps changing the mood so the content does not have the chance to get tedious, but the listener never forgets that this is a blues album at its core. I enjoyed it a lot, and look forward to seeing their live show, which is rumored to be a real barnburner.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Dayton Blues Society– Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society will be holding our “Road to Memphis” Blues Challenge on July 22nd at Gilly’s Nite Club in downtown Dayton. We are now accepting applications for our Band and Solo/Duo categories. Please go to www.daytonbluessociety.com for complete details.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Hot June showscoming up in Rockford!!! 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 email@example.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 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.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
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- Pekin, IL
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 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
Tweed Funk – Love Is
Tweed Tone Records
10 tracks; 43:08 minutes
Tweed Funk, a prolific new band from Milwaukee, follows up their 2011 debut album, Bringin It, with a CD that defies categorization – Love Is. Is it funk, or blues, or something else entirely? Whatever it is, this set of seven original songs and three covers has plenty of soul and attitude to spare; and its irresistible front-and-center beat will have you dancing in your chair…or wherever you happen to be.
Tweed Funk is made up of JD Optekar on guitar, Donnie Mac on bass, Marcus “MG” Gibbons on drums, a brand-new horn section, and Joseph “Smokey” Holman lending the soulful vocals. (Note: These are the band members as listed on the CD jacket. The Tweed Funk website now shows Eric Madunic on bass.) For this CD, they’ve also brought in several guest performers, including: the WhiskeyBelles on backup vocals, Jimmy Voegeli on the B3, and Fender Master Guitar Clinician, Greg Koch, as co-producer…the “ears” that helped pull it all together.
The CD opens with “Fine Wine,” a song you could easily swing dance to (if you know how to swing dance, that is), with Stray Cats-style guitar solos and back-up vocals that take you back in time. But my favorite cut on the CD, and perhaps the most bluesy, is the 3rd track, called “Gettin’ Home.” It starts out with JD Optekar’s moody guitar and a nice bass line; then, after the first couple of verses, you start to hear this really sweet Hammond B3. This is slow blues at its best.
The 6th cut, a ballad called “Fragile,” tells you “Love is…so fragile.” Then, they back up that thought with subtle 3-note bell-tones and delicate guitar work that gradually picks up in intensity. In sharp contrast is the 7th cut, “Smooth Taste,” which has a distinctly Caribbean flavor, heavy on the percussion and the drama. Zumba teachers – your class is going to love this one!
Some of the funkier offerings on the CD include: “A Real Mother For Ya,” which covers a Johnny “Guitar” Watson tune; “Dancemaker,” which has a bit of James Brown’s style and really takes you back to the ‘70s; and “Sex Machine” which is a James Brown cover, with a little Tweed Funk added-value thrown in. “What Have I Done Wrong” is a Magic Sam tune, previously covered by Luther Allison. It has a funky bass line, some skillfully unobtrusive keyboard, and a healthy dose of B3.
Besides Voegeli’s classy B3 work and Optekar’s exquisite guitar solos, one of the best features of Love Is would be Smokey’s expressive tenor vocals. My only minor complaint is that the Johnny Watson song seems a bit too low for his range – though this could be a deliberate stylistic choice. It would definitely be a treat to see Smokey perform.
So, what is Love Is? A funk CD infused with a bit of blues, or a blues CD with a little funk thrown in? If you listen carefully, I think you’ll hear elements of both blues and funk, as well as some soul and R&B, in most of these 10 tracks. And if you like it, and it makes you move, I don’t think it really matters how you classify it. Just call it Tweed Funk and enjoy it. And if you’re ever in Milwaukee, get your bad self out there and find you some Tweed Funk.Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Anders Osborne - Black Eye Galaxy
After trekking through much of the world from his native town of Uddevalla, Sweden, Anders Osborne is now a New Orleans based musician. The only New Orleans influences found on this release are the lyrics to one song. The blues are also nowhere to be found. The music here owes more to grunge and the intense period of Neil Young, as well as some more subdued, introspective songs. He takes writing credit on all songs, with three being co-authored. His song writing can be raw as he delves into his personal tribulations. The harsh undertone of some of the songs makes these songs come alive. His easy-on-the-ears vocals along with his intense guitar style lend urgency to this recording. This is a guitar-fueled affair, allowing for as much of a variety of sound as possible. If you are one of those people that need a label, maybe you can call this roots-grunge music.
The reappearing Neil Young-style of dirge-like guitar shows itself right out of the gate on the noisy-grungy goodness of “Send Me A Friend”, reinforcing the urgency of the lyrics. Slow plaintive Neil Young-like guitar also begins “Mind Of A Junkie”, a meditation on a junkie’s dilemma. All this over a lazy reggae beat. Anders shows his mellow side on “Lean On Me/Believe In You”, that reveals a “You’ve Got A Friend” sentiment. It also contains some soaring slide guitar similar to that of David Lindley. “When Will I See You Again?” has a guitar intro once again sounding “Young-ish”, but it quickly turns into a Jackson Browne-like lament, only with soul in the vocals and minus the whining. The familiar guitar sound appears again, nicely leading up to the final verse.
The subject of drugs is once again broached in “Black Tar”, a pounding swirl of grunge. The title tune is an anthem that sounds like it was lifted from the heady days of the early seventies. It bubbles over into some guitar-noodling that would make Uncle Jerry Garcia proud. “Tracking My Roots” is a pleasant stroll through country-rock territory that features Anders’ harmonica skills. The acoustic “Louisiana Gold” visits the theme of drifting to the accompaniment of bongos and bass drum. On these last two songs the atmospherics of the music breathe life into the lyrics. “Dancing In The Wind” shows a Jackson Browne folk-rock groove with a nice female voice underscoring the vocal. The turmoil and yearning throughout is resolved in the closer, “Higher Ground”. Ander’s voice rings like a bell over a string section and gospel-like backing voices in this tune about self-assurance.
What is attained here is a moving piece about the struggles one can encounter in life’s journey and the striving to overcome them. The lyrics, voice and juxtaposition of various musical approaches and textures give freshness to everything here. The basic two guitar-bass-and drums unit is supplemented by piano, harmonica and backing vocals. Most of the interplay is achieved by the guitars butting up against each other. The crunchier side of his music makes a big impression, overshadowing the fact the most of this recording is of a mellower bent. The journey presented here is sure to provide any hours of listening enjoyment.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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