Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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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 Chicago harmonica ace, Matthew Skoller. Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer have Part II of our 2012 Chicago Blues Fest coverage.We have six music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Sonny Landreth. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Quintus McCormick. Sheila Skilling reviews a new CD from Peter Karp and Sue Foley. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Dan Sinasac. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Paul Mark & the Van Dorens. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Garrett “Big G” Jacobson. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans
If you are near the northern East Coast area , our good friends at the Briggs Farm Blues Fest in Nescopic, Pennsylvania are throwing a real Blues party to mark the 15th anniversary of this great Blues event.
This festival has a Woodstock like atmosphere and is held on a large farm with lots of wooded areas for camping. They have a great lineup that features Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater, Bernard Allison, Rory Block, Sam Lay, Moreland & Arbuckle, The Butterfield Blues Band, Alexis P. Suter, Linsey Alexander and nine other great bands.
Visit their website at www.briggsfarm.com or click on their ad below for more information.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Blues Blast Music Awards Voting - Open Until August 31st
As you probably know, voting for the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards began on July 1st and more than 1,500 Blues fans have already voted for your favorite artists. Starting this week we hold random drawings from those who have voted for prizes, so be sure to vote for a chance to win free T-shirts, CDs, and other great prizes. CLICK HERE to see the nominees and vote for your favorites now.
We want everyone to be informed voters so we again offer a listening site to hear 2 or 3 complete songs of each artist nominated. CLICK HERE to listen to these great artists now
The Blues Blast Music Awards Listening Site was originally hosted by our Blues Blast Music Award partners and sponsors at GLT Blues 24/7 but has been moved to our own website due to some unexpected security issues.
Featured Blues Interview - Matthew Skoller
Over the years, blues music has proven to fit hand-in-glove with a lot of different things.
Blues and heartache? For sure.
Blues and barbecue? Without a doubt.
Blues and dancing? Oh, yeah
But blues and grapes? Well …
But if Chicago producer, songwriter, bandleader and harpist extraordinaire Matthew Skoller has anything to say about it, a whole new one-two punch of blues and vino are about to occupy a spot on that list.
“I’ve been doing a lot of events at City Winery in New York –events that I started developing in Chicago a few years ago, which are called Cognac and Blues events,” said Skoller, just a couple of hours after arriving for a function on New York City’s Lower East Side, and just days before departing to Europe for a run of shows. “Basically, what we do, in Chicago it was me and Lurrie Bell and Johnny Iguana, and we would do an acoustic thing where we would sit down in front of a group of people who were interested in tasting Cognac and listening to the blues. We’d pour a flight of maybe two Cognacs and I would talk about them and then we’d break into song and let people experience them. We were basically pairing Cognac with blues music. Depending upon what kind of Cognac it was, that would determine what the song choice was. So we started doing it at City Winery in New York and have had a few events and that’s been very exciting to watch that develop and see how the music and the Cognac work so beautifully together.”
While he’s been busy making his mark on the blues scene for the past three decades or so, Matthew Skoller has also managed to find adequate time to enjoy some of the finer things in life and from the looks of things, that love has now found a way to fill space on his daily planner as a new business endeavor.
“It’s a venture that my brother (producer, promoter, guitar player - Larry), my sister-in-law and myself are involved in. My brother lives in Cognac, France and I’ve been in and out of the wine business – been a big vinophile for years. In fact, I sold wine to support the music for many years,” Skoller said. “So I know quite a bit about wine. And we organized about six families that make artisanal grape-to-bottle Cognac. In other words, it’s all estate-grown, family-made and in some cases, completely organic, Cognac. We put together a portfolio of those Cognacs and brought them to Chicago, and then New York City. Our Cognacs are carried by Tenzing Wine & Spirits in Chicago and Michael Skurnik Wine in New York and the Tri-States area.”
Skoller’s delve into the deep end of the Cognac pool is just the tip of the iceberg in what has been an extremely busy and highly fulfilling year.
“It’s been a great year – very exciting,” he said. “The highlights that come to mind immediately is the momentum and response to Chicago Blues: A Living History – The (R)Evolution Continues. It’s been wonderful. It won Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year in Memphis (at the Blues Music Awards) and is also nominated for Best Traditional Album in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards.”
Skoller also managed to squeeze in some time for his old friend Lurrie Bell, helping the late Carey Bell’s son create one of the most emotional, heartfelt and inspiring works of his career to date.
“Yeah, another highlight this year was the release of Lurrie’s The Devil Ain’t Got No Music, produced by yours truly,” Skoller said. “It’s extremely gratifying. We worked on that project for three years. I understood from the beginning that it was something that Lurrie really had his heart set on doing, but at the same time, it was something that was not what he does every night in the clubs or on the festival stage. There was a lot of new material mixed in with stuff he’d been doing since he was a child, so we wanted to allow him to live with that material long enough to be really comfortable with it – which he is.”
Although the style might not immediately be what Bell’s fans are used to hearing from the guitar-playing firebrand, according to Skoller, that’s not stopped them from digging on it one little bit.
“We were very proud of it from Jump Street, but were very unsure about how it would be received, since it was so different from anything that Lurrie had ever done,” he said. “It was a real departure from the electric Chicago blues, but we wanted it to do good things for him. And I just got off the phone with his manager and they’ve already sold 1,000 CDs, just in France. It’s been getting rave reviews all across the board. We were asked by Downbeat to do an interview about that record, because they were so taken with it. So he’s been getting a lot of accolades and play from it.”
But there’s more stuff that has also begged for Skoller’s attention.
“I was also involved in a project called Heritage Blues Orchestra – And Still I Rise, I played on a song from that, but it was produced by my brother, Larry,” he said. “It’s with some of my closest collaborators - Bill Sims Jr., and his daughter Chaney Sims and Junior Mack and an amazing horn composer and horn blower out of France named Bruno Wilhelm. And of course, Kenny (Beady Eyes) Smith was in that project, along with some amazing horn players from New York City. So that was most definitely a great project to be involved with on the periphery to watch and to blow some harp on. The result is spectacular. It’s one of my favorite blues records in the last 15 years.”
Bill Sims was recently inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.
More than just playing the blues, Skoller – well-read and articulate – also seems to be genuinely interested in the expansive history of the art form. His studious approach to the blues helped lead to a speaking engagement at an event put together by Living Blues Magazine and Dominican University in Chicago this past spring.
“I was asked to speak at a symposium at Dominican University called Blues and the Spirit III: Race, Gender and the Blues. I went in and talked about my experiences in the subject, which I’ve been dealing with for over 32 years now. It was fascinating and some of the response to the symposium has been very interesting and we’re looking forward to next year,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and thinking and writing about my relationship to a music that can be referred to as a heritage music - a music that comes from a very specific culture that is not my culture.”
Being a ‘non-heritage’ artist playing the blues comes with its own set of responsibilities and obligations, including knowing more than just a passing thing about how the music was first created.
And why it was created.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about and have written about very consciously for most of my career. It’s not anything new to me and I have a lot of opinions and a lot of information about the subject,” he said. “The first responsibly that the non-heritage, or in this case, non-African American artist, has to the music and to the original progenitors of the music, is to know the history and make it your business to study how the blues were born and what the blues were born out of.”
Skoller has certainly embraced blues music for much of his adult life and understands that, as an art form, it merits careful understanding of why it exists, even though a lot of the reasons why consist of a host of uncomfortable subject matters.
“If you’re going to be involved in music that was born out of one of the most brutal and violent and tragic institutions in the history of human-kind – slavery in America – to think that this is going to be a feel-good subject all the time is at best naïve and at worst ignorant,” he said. “But that’s a big responsibly that non-heritage and heritage – African American musicians – need to know. They need to know what this music was born out of.”
Respect is by all means a two-way street and while it’s evident Skoller has nothing but respect for the heritage artists that he has been fortunate enough to work since over the years, it’s also obvious that he has earned their respect and trust, too.
“My experience in being the apprentice of African American artists who were extremely generous to me over the years, has been that I can’t remember any bluesman over the years that I’ve been doing this that was not supportive and not welcoming and not helpful in my blues journey,” he said. “I’ve played with a lot of great bluesmen over the years and I think that as non-African American players we have to do our homework and be cognizant of the fact that this is a heritage music. This is African American music and we can speak that language fluently and we can be a part of the community that makes a living with that music, but we have to be careful to not allow the industry to shut out the people that gave us this music. That’s one of the most important points that has to be made.”
The Chicago Blues: A Living History series was designed to help turn the spotlight back on the golden age of Windy City blues, and while it no doubt accomplished that mission, it also provided Matthew Skoller with another chance to work with his brother.
“It was the brainchild of my brother Larry, who played in my band for many, many years. A lot of people know him as a producer and a booker, but he is a fabulous blues guitar player, one of my favorites,” he said. “I played the Cognac Blues Festival two years in a row – around 2000 and 2001 – and he met his future wife there. She worked for the festival. And so I’ll put it this way – I lost a guitar player, but gained a sister-in-law and a beautiful niece. He moved there and has lived there for about 10 years now.”
“He (Larry) had this idea to create a package that celebrated the history of Chicago blues from about 1940 through the 50s and up to the present day. And, who better to do that than the people that we’ve been collaborating with over the last 28 years?” said Skoller. “Billy Branch, Billy Boy Arnold, Carlos Johnson, Lurrie Bell and John Primer - we worked and recorded and lived on the road with those guys. Those are our colleagues and friends. It became a no-brainer, once Larry had this concept, but it was only going to be as strong as the artistry and the production values that you put into it.”
Considering the finished product, the artistry and production values were off the chart.
The end result was a two-CD set that immediately found an essential spot in the collections of blues lovers worldwide. Chicago Blues: A Living History won the Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional album, snagged a Grammy nomination and also a pair of Blues Music Award nominations in the process. It also spawned a second volume – Chicago Blues: A Living History – The (R)Evolution continues.
“Yeah, we put out the first volume and messed around and got a Grammy nomination. It was a little more than that (a pleasant surprise). You would have to have pulled my jaw up off the ground,” laughed Skoller.
That Grammy nomination, while helping to raise awareness of a superb piece of work, has also paid off in more important terms for the artists involved in the project.
“Because we did get a Grammy nomination for the first volume, it has generated really, really important revenue and work for the artists involved,” Skoller said. “It just immediately translated into work for all of us.”
Some of the more recent work for the Chicago Blues: A Living History Band (Kenny Smith, drums; Felton Crews, bass; Billy Flynn, guitar; Johnny Iguana, piano; Matthew Skoller, harp) included an appearance at the Lugano Blues Festival in Switzerland, as well as a festival in Burgundy, France, the Cognac Blues Festival and one of the most famous festivals in the world – the Montreux Jazz festival, where the group was on the same bill as the iconic Bob Dylan.
“You know, we probably wouldn’t have those gigs had we not got that Grammy nomination,” said Skoller.
Despite focusing a lot of his attention and energy on outside projects the past several months, Skoller, whose band was awarded an artist-in-residency position at the Disney Institute in Orlando, Florida in 1996, has still found some time for himself. Time he has used to woodshed and hone his own skills to a razor-sharp edge.
“On top of all the other things I’ve been doing, I’ve really been digging into my harmonica playing and my singing,” he said. “I feel stronger than I ever have in my career, as far as being a performer and harmonica player. Really, a lot of things have opened up musically for me in the last couple of years. And that’s something that’s really been gratifying.”
Skoller, who was already blowing some mean harp by the time he moved to Chicago in early 1987, didn’t let the pressure of arriving at one of the biggest blues hot spots in the world – one filled to the brim with world-class harmonica players – throw him off his game one bit.
“It should have been (intimidating), but I was so obsessed by what I was doing and I was so passionate about it, that I didn’t second-think it at all,” he said. “I felt like I belonged there and a lot of that had to do with the people that hired and supported me. When I came down, I immediately started working with J.W. Williams, who had splintered off from Billy Branch and Sons of the Blues. I became a Chi-Town Hustler. I played all over the South, West and North sides. Then I got hired by Deitra Farr and then Big Time Sarah hired me and then I did a stint with Jimmy Rogers. And just as I was settling in with him, Big Daddy Kinsey came along and asked me if I wanted to go out on the road and make a record. And the Kinsey Report, at that time, was in full-swing.”
Playing virtually every night of the week, Skoller hung out with giants like Junior Wells, Johnny Littlejohn and Dave and Louis Meyers.
“When you’re around all those folks and when they’re digging what you’re doing and are all really supportive and encouraging – and if you’re a performer and love the whole thing - it’s hard to second guess that,” he said. “Maybe I should have been more daunted than I was, but there’s a certain kind of bliss in ignorance.”
Seemingly from the first moment that his feet hit the ground in Chicago, Matthew Skoller has been working at a break-neck pace, involved in not only the production and day-to-day activities of his own band – including a regular gig at Buddy Guy’s Legends for the past 15 years – but also working on projects with Bernard Allison, Larry Garner and Harvey Mandel, to name but a few.
As if that wasn’t enough to fully occupy Skoller’s attention, he was also recently asked by the Chicago chapter of the Recording Academy to be an advisor on their board of governors.
That, folks, adds up to one heck of a full plate.
“It’s all one thing. We firmly believe that all these hats we’re wearing are all related to one another on some level,” he said. “Whether it’s producing records for some other talented artist, performing in clubs or exporting Cognac and doing Cognac tastings with blues music, it’s all one thing for us. It’s all part of the process.”
Visit Matthew's website at www.matthewskoller.com
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Sonny Landreth - Elemental Journey
11 songs; 45:27 minutes
Styles: Instrumental Electric Blues and Rock
Instrumental songs are like pieces of abstract art in several respects. One can name them absolutely anything one wants, leaving it entirely up to the listener (and viewer) to decide if the title fits or not! Secondly, the purpose of both is to provide atmosphere and evoke emotion in those who peruse them. Thirdly, and most importantly, instrumental songs and abstract art take one on an “Elemental Journey” in the imagination. Renowned slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, on his eleventh release, pours everything into these eleven magnificent trips through space and time. He teams up with Joe Satriani, of Deep Purple and “Surfing with the Alien” fame, and Eric Johnson, whose single “Cliffs of Dover” won him a Grammy in 1991. Here are three of the best artifacts on this CD, whose media are melodious riffs and chords instead of oils and clay:
Track 01: “Gaia Tribe”--Even though the title contains a reference to Mother Earth, this is no somnolent interpretation of “Kumbayah.” Instead, it’s a rip-roaring synthesis of Satriani and Landreth’s guitar licks, with Steve Conn’s keyboard coming in a close third in aural visibility. This reviewer dares anyone to sit stock-still during this number--no dancing, no foot or finger tapping, and no air guitar. One will most likely lose, because “Gaia Tribe” is primally powerful!
Track 05: “Passionola”--Not to be confused with “payola” or “shinola,” the fifth track on this album combines a sultry tango beat with the seductive sound of Eric Johnson’s electric mojo. Listeners will feel the urge to sweep their partners into their arms and dance under a dim-lit ceiling, if not the stars. This song tells a story of hot romance without words, and that is “Passionola’s” greatest feat. It’ll win hearts and ears!
Track 10: “Reckless Beauty”--The penultimate track on this CD will make one’s heart race, and imagine a fun-loving female who loves to drive fast, party hard, and laugh while she’s doing it (Landreth’s guitar certainly does, with a four-note “Ha, ha, ha, ha!”). More than any other selection, this song proves why Sonny is Eric Clapton’s favorite slide guitarist. It tips the needle of the scale of rock- and-roll excellence past “good” and “great,” up to “phenomenal”!
“All of the titles for these songs have meaning for me,” Landreth states. “Some of them are impressions from post-Katrina, Rita, the Gulf Spill, friends of mine and their experiences--so that’s part of it too. Still, I want listeners to feel something that resonates with them personally.” Rest assured, this “Elemental Journey” will, with nary a spoken lyric. Sonny concludes: “I’ve always tried to make music that engages you on a deeper level that way.” Prepare to be engaged…and then transported!
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.
Live Blues Review - Chicago Blues Fest Part II
Saturday at the Chicago Blues festival was another great day of real Blues. Some of the artists we saw were Tommy McCracken on the Crossroads stage
Next up on the Crossroads Stage was Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy. How can it not be a great set with Jonn Richardson and Bob Margolin on guitar and Bob Corritore on harmonica. This was one of our favorite acts to see!
We caught Terry "Big T" Williams on the Mississippi Juke Stage
Back on the Crossroads stage there was a great set by Bob Jones and Ronnie Hicks with guitar ace Mike Wheeler raising the roof!
A new artists for us was Mark "Muleman" Massey who had a smokin' set on the Mississippi Juke Stage
Rev KM Williams took the Front Poarch stage with a little help from with Jeff Stone on harmonica and Washboard Jackson on drums
Sam Lay with Bob Riedy and Bob Corritore played at the Windy City Blues Society street stage.
Billy Branch & the Sons of the Blues were a treat to hear as usual on the Crossroads Stage
A group from Mississippi, Homemade Jamz is a fantastic act of three siblings featuring Ryan Perry on vocals, guitars. Kyle Perry on bass and Taya Perry on drums. They played some of their original tunes to an enthusiastic crowd at the Mississippi Juke stage.
A Tribute to Hubert Sumlin on the Front Poarch stage featured Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore, Dave Specter, Kenny :Beedy Eyes" Smith & Bob Stroger.
The evenings main stage acts on the Petrillo Music Shell started off with a tribute to David "Honeyboy" Edwards featuring Paul Kaye.
Next up was a celebration of Muddy Waters Disciples ( Pinetop Perkins, Willie Smith and Mojo Buford) featuring Bob Margolin, Mud Morganfield, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, Barrelhouse Chuck, Lil Frank, Bob Stroger, Bob Corritore and Joe Filisko. The coolest part was to watch Kenny move out front from behind his usual spot on drums to lead the band for 3 songs and play harmonica and sing. He is a born bandleader just like his father, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith was. This was the first time anyone had seen Kenny do this and I must say it was quite moving to see this young star step into the limelight for the first time!
The final act of the night was Floyd Taylor who put on a great set to close out the Saturday evening of the Chicago Blues fest
On Sunday some of the acts we saw included Lurrie Bell doing an acoustic set of gospel songs from his latest CD The Devil Ain't Got No Music on the Front Poarch Stage.
Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang had a great set on the Front Poarch stage. For the record, his son Eddie Van Shaw's 3 neck guitar weighs in at an amazing 42 pounds but would never know it by the way he deftly handles this beast of a guitar.
Eden Brent is one of our favorite piano players and singers. When technical difficulties temporarily took out the keyboard, she just grabbed the mic and started belting out the song without accompaniment. It reminded us of the time the keyboard malfunctioned when Eden was playing in the International Blues Challenge finals a few years ago. Her quick reaction in switching to an acoustic piano that time helper her win the Blues challenge that year.
Lil Ed and The Blues Imperials are always a treat to hear and this day was no exception as they played a fast paced set on the Crossroads Stage.
Sunday's main stage entertainment kicked off on the Petrillo Music Shell with a tribute to Koko Taylor featuring some great vocals by Melvia "Chick" Rodgers, Jackie Scott, Nora Jean Brusco and Dietra Farr. They had excellent backing with the Koko Taylor Blues Machine Band including Shaun Kikuta and Vino Lowden on guitar, Kenny Bruce on Bass and Rickey Nelson on drums.
The big name of the entire fest was the great Mavis Staples.
Her set was a fitting finish to another great Chicago Blues Fest. Don't miss this fest next year. There is no other like it in the entire world!
Photos by Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer as marked © 2012.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Quintus McCormick – Still Called The Blues
13 tracks; 60.10 minutes
Quintus McCormick makes a rapid return to the recording scene with his third CD for Delmark in just over three years. His first album “Hey Jodie!” earned a Blues Blast Nomination in 2010 and I had the pleasure of reviewing his second CD “Put It On Me” just over a year ago. This time round Quintus has opted to mix covers with his own material. The seven originals included demonstrate what a prolific writer he is but it is quality and variety that mark out Quintus’ output as he ranges across classic blues, soul, funk and Rn’B in the set. The musicians on this CD are Quintus on guitar and vocals, Lovely “JR” Fuller on bass, Pete Thomas on drums, Roosevelt Purifoy and John Chorney sharing keyboard duties; a horn section of Kenny Anderson (trumpet), Dudley Owens (tenor) and Jerry DiMuzio (baritone) play on two cuts with DiMuzio adding flute and Owens tenor to two further tracks.
The album opens with “I Gotta Go” which is heavy on the funk with lots of wah-wah guitar. Paired with a cover of Bobby Rush’s “What’s Good For The Goose” I felt that Quintus could have looked at the running order more carefully as, for me, the album really started at track 3 “What Am I Gonna Do?”, a classic soul tune with the horns prominent and a lovely guitar solo that echoes George Benson in style. Quintus’ voice is ideally suited to tunes like this one as he gives a sense of vulnerability to the sad tale of love gone bad. “It Won’t Work” is more of a shuffle and Quintus adopts a deeper voice here on a song that again tackles issues in relationships that are going wrong. A nicely plucked solo from Quintus graces the middle section.
Quintus must be a fan of the Johnny Taylors as he covers both JT and Little JT. The track he takes from Little Johnny is “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing”, a classic slow blues that clocks in at almost nine minutes. That affords ample space for Quintus to show us his vocal and guitar chops. The title track “Still Called The Blues” was written by Earl Forest, George Jackson and Robert Miller for Johnny Taylor in his Malaco days. It’s a strong song and Quintus makes it his own with his vocals and anguished guitar solo. George Jackson also wrote “Old Time Rock And Roll”, famously adapted by Bob Seger who failed to seek any credit for his re-writing and therefore never received any royalties! Quintus’ version follows the Seger version, even replicating the piano intro but his voice struggles a little on this one – I think I’ll stick to Seger’s version!
The other covers here are an interesting pairing of BB King and The Beatles. BB’s “Woke Up This Morning” is definitely part of the classic blues repertoire and Quintus delivers an excellent version. The chopped guitar intro is all there and Quintus’ voice suits the song perfectly. Credit is also due to pianist John Chorney for some strong work here. If I had to pick a track from “Abbey Road” that I really don’t care for it would have to be “Oh! Darling”; the Beatles’ attempt to cover doo-wop never impressed me. However, Quintus makes a far better fist of it than the lads from Liverpool. Perhaps it is simply that his voice is better suited to the song than Paul McCartney’s was – he certainly sounds less strained than Paul did and the sax solo suits the song really well.
That leaves four of Quintus’ originals to mention. “That’s My Baby” features flute which is quite a rarity in the blues. It’s a light song that suits the flute element, a song that pays tribute to Quintus’ girl. “Searching For Your Love” opens with some torrid guitar that is definitely more rock than blues but soon evolves into a ballad with synthesized strings in the arrangement and a vocal that reminded me of the late Barry White! “I’m In Love With You Baby” has a full horn arrangement and works particularly well as Quintus takes on the soul singer role and it fits him like a glove. In contrast “Always” is almost a solo piece for Quintus as he also plays the piano on this gentle ballad.
Although this CD has a number of strong performances I found it less impressive than Quintus’ previous CD. Nevertheless it does demonstrate another side of Quintus’ abilities as he takes on other peoples’ songs alongside his original material. With his vocal and guitar ability allied to strong song writing Quintus is a guy to watch on the Chicago scene.
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 enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Peter Karp and Sue Foley – Beyond the Crossroads
Blind Pig Records
12 tracks; 41:42 minutes
In their new CD, Beyond the Crossroads, Peter Karp and Sue Foley take an honest look at the trials of life and relationships, without weighing you down with sadness and despair. Nearly every one of these 12 original tracks promises a peak of sunshine - or at least a hand to help you up, when life gets you down.
Beyond the Crossroads comes on the heels of Karp and Foley’s acclaimed 2010 release, He Said She Said, and demonstrates their considerable songwriting skills. As a nice touch, all the lyrics are printed inside the CD jacket, helping you to understand the meaning of each song, or to sing along, if you like. Musically, Karp and Foley are both accomplished guitarists and singers with 18 albums between them, and this release is nicely polished, without sounding over-produced.
One of the most bluesy songs on the album is #2, “Analyze’n Blues,” which appears to be about talking a subject to death. However, when the subject can’t be resolved, Foley sings, “Shut up and make love to me,” which seems to be the only sane way to end the debate. This track is just the first of several that feature Karp’s terrific slide guitar; and given the subject matter, it seems strangely appropriate that this cut ends with some feedback.
The title track, #3, has a bit of a gospel feel – especially in the background vocals, some very nice guitar picking; while the fourth cut, “Fine Love” has more of a country influence, with more slide guitar. The message of “Fine Love” seems to be that even when the relationship is less than perfect, it can still be just fine.
Some of the tunes take on a more old-fashioned style. The 5th cut, “At the Same Time,” uses horns to create such a vampy, burlesque sound that you start to wonder if there’s a fan dancer practicing in the wings. Then, the 10th track, “Chance of Rain,” is a silly little song, with minimal drums and a jazzy piano, that makes you want to grab your hat and cane and do a soft shoe.
“More Than I Bargained For,” the 7th track, is their first single release from the album. It features a great slide solo, a Tommy Castro-style contagious rocking beat, and nicely balanced vocal harmonies. But my favorite cut on the CD is the last one, “You’ve Got a Problem.” Here the singer not only admits to being the cause of his lady’s problems, he seems almost proud of it. No worries, it’s all in fun – just a dance-friendly rocker, complete with boogie-woogie piano.
I have to admit that hearing Sue Foley sing for the first time threw me off a bit. She’s a very talented singer, but her voice has a higher and sharper tone than your average blues vocals, which I generally expect to be more smooth and low. However, I found that Karp has the “smooth and low” vocals well covered, and that Karp and Foley harmonize exceptionally well together, in addition to having a great chemistry.
A peek at their website reveals that Karp and Foley are hard-working musicians. As of June 12th, they had toured eight states, playing 47 shows in 52 days. They offer mentoring and music lessons via Skype, in their “American School of Blues and Roots Music.” They also do workshops in schools, called “In Their Own Words: Teens Writing Their Blues Workshops.” These sessions help teenagers learn to express themselves and their problems in a constructive manner. This is not only a wonderful way to pass on a love for the Blues to the next generation, but it also helps ensure that Karp and Foley can continue to make a living doing what they love to do.
The fact that these artists are backed by Blind Pig Records is a pretty good endorsement that Karp and Foley have something significant to say, and that their talent is considerable. After immersing myself in their work, I would have to agree that theirs is a great partnership, and Beyond the Crossroads is certainly worth a listen.
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 4 of 6
Dan Sinasac - Burnt Piano
Dan Lyn Studios
There is a case to be made for the benefits derived from gargling with broken glass and razor blades. Exhibit A-Dan Sinisac. His voice ranges from a tad smoother Tom Waits to a less spastic sounding Joe Cocker. It sure works within his framework of all original R&B that takes chances. And oh those herky-jerky horn arrangements! Dan also plays Hammond B3 organ and/or piano on most tracks and producing as well as writing all the songs. He was raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada absorbing the sounds of Motown, across the river. He paid his dues in the blues project Jack Shadow.
His raspy vocals and dramatic delivery blend in well with the interesting horn arrangement on “Tow The Line”. “Her Spell” recounts being mesmerized by feminine charms. It also includes some nifty rock guitar. “Born With A Heartache” packs a horn-fueled punch reminiscent of Blood, Sweat & Tears.
“Wonderin’” eschews the horns in favor of a melody carried by guitars that sound like they were supplied by Jeff Beck and David Gilmour in an aching melancholy approach. Girl vocals and guitar fill in the spaces left by the missing horns on “When My Heart Breaks” as the Joe Cocker similarity comes in the vocal. The dramatic tension builds up in “For Goodness Sake”, leading up to Robert Walsh’s slide guitar workout. Dan offers up some nice late night piano on “Honeybee” a slow tender ballad again with a Cocker-ish vibe. The title track starts off as a ringer for the piano part of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”. It’s just Dan at his piano pouring his heart out.
This R&B offering has creativity and imagination written all over it. He takes the best parts of his favorite music and rearranges them into something refreshing and familiar at the same time. He isn’t afraid to interject some soaring fusion guitar soloing into an R&B song. Every aspect of the music is in the right place at the right time. The female vocals serve a vital purpose, rather than just being used for window dressing. He wrings every ounce of emotion out of his weather-beaten voice. This is a fully realized project.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Blues Society News
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Windy City Blues Society - Chicago, IL
2012 Chicago Blues Challenge, Round 2 Saturday July 7 Noon-4:00pm. Come out and Join this fun. Our CBC Round 2 event and City Limits Harley Davidson Birthday Party all rolled into one fantastic celebration! *** Bikini Contest, Free Raffles, Beer, Food, Bike Stunts and more… Cheryl & The Dynamics, Kevin Purcell & The Nightburners, Nigel Mack and the Blues Attack, Richie Rich and the Chi-Town Blues Band, The Geneva Convention Blues... Sat JUL 7th. Noon-4:00p. 2015 North Rand Road, Palatine, IL. www.CityLimitsHD.com. For more information, email WindyCityBluesSociety@gmail.com or visit www.WindyCityBlues.org.
The Western New York Blues Society - New York, NY
The Western New York Blues Society presents harp master Dennis Gruenling along with guitar ace Doug Deming in concert at Paradise Island, 4701 Transit Rd., Depew, Friday, July 13. 7 p.m. $12. advance, $15. at the door. Info: (716) 656-7946 or http://wnyblues.org. One of today's most compelling duos in Contemporary Blues, harmonica master Dennis Gruenling and guitarist Doug Deming (and his band, The Jewel Tones), perform swinging jump blues rich with gritty shuffles and driving boogies. Harpist Gruenling and guitarist Deming (the later who fronts longtime group, the Jewel Tones) have once again joined forces for an ambitious twenty-eight city tour in just twenty-six days, each in support of a new CD ("Rockin' All Day" by Dennis Gruenling; "What's It Gonna Take" by Doug Deming).
Minnesota Blues Society - St. Paul, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents our Annual Members Picnic and Food Drive on Sunday, July 15, 1:00-6:00 at Ken and Marilyn Zieska's home, Plymouth, Mn (email@example.com). It is also our 10th anniversary celebration as a blues society! Music starts at 2:00 with Everett Smithson Band and then Crankshaft (2012 RTM winner/2013 IBC MnBS representative), Jam after. Hot Dogs/Brats provided, bring side dishes,chair,instruments, Food donations for PRISM Rain or Shine, free to members, $5.00 suggested donation for non-members More detailed info @ www.mnbs.org
Also MNBS 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame inductees announced. MnBS would like to congratulate this years' honorees: Big Walter Smith, "Blues Performer"; James Samuel "Cornbread" Harris, Sr., "Blues Legend"; Dan Schwalbe, "Blues Sideman"; Electric Fetus, "Supportive of the Blues (non-performer)"; Cyn Collins, "West Bank Boogie", "Blues Art and Literature"; Lamont Cranston, "Tiger in your Tank", "Blues Recording"; Will Donicht, "Blues on the Bank", "Blues Song". 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame event will be held, Sun, Oct 14, Wilebski's Blues Saloon, St. Paul. Mn details to follow @ www.mnbs.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 - July 18th • Peter Karp and Sue Foley: Wednesday , Time:7:00 pm – 11:00 pm Admission: $5.00, July 25th at 7:00PM • Laurie Morvan, Aug 8th at 7:00PM • Chris Beard Admission: $5.00 or $3.00 for members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Long Island Blues Society - Centereach, NY
The Long Island Blues Society will be hosting the following events:
7/17/12 Randy Oxford Band w/Special Guest Tommy Keys at 7PM Bobbique in Patchogue NY.
Free to LIBS Members, all others $10.
7/18/12 IBC Symposium & with LIBS General Membership Meeting. Discussion on going to Memphis as a competitor, fan & supporter. What to expect & what is expected of you. Location TBA.
Free to all.
8/12/12 Tas Cru. Frank Celenza opening, at 2PM Bobbique in Patchogue NY. LIBS Members $8, all others $10.
9/16/12 Long Island Blues Talent Competition (LIBTC) to select a representative for IBC. $10 donation to help defray winners expenses in Memphis. Location TBA. Now accepting applications for Band, Solo/Duo categories. Requirements on website www.liblues.org
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.
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
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. • 7/9/2012 - Stone Cold Blues Band • 7/16/2012 - Bill Evans Birthday Party • 7/23/2012 - Roger "Hurricane" Wilson • 7/30/2012 - Biscuit Miller and the Mix • 8/6/2012 - Matt Hill • 8/13/2012 - Rockin Johnny • 8/27/2012 -Dennis Gruenling • 9/3/2012 - Eric Guitar Davis • 9/24/2012 - The 44s • 10/1/2012 - Levee Town • 10/8/2012 - Rich Fabec 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore. Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thur, July 12, Dave Riley (outdoors opening dinner hour set by Sugarcane Collins), 7pm, The Longbranch Restaurant, L’Erable IL
Tues, July 17, Sugarcane Collins, 7pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, July 24, Laurie Morvan Band, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, August 9, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat 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
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Paul Mark & the Van Dorens - Smartest Man in the Room
Manhattan-based Paul Mark is quite the controversial artist. He gives us a bluesy rock album, his ninth offering, which he co-produced with Jeff Powell (who also produced Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King and others) on Paul’s own indie label.
Taken casually at face value on this CD, we get an apocalyptic man who is at odds with religion and society The nuances here are not religious intolerance (that’s not to say Mark is also not perhaps commenting on religion and our culture) but an intolerance for a record industry managed by god like moguls who feed the public crap and the public is glad about it and trained to beg for more and more. He uses god and the devil to represent an industry that creates Justin Biebers and Lady Gagas for us and jam them down our throats and we just wait joyfully for the next wave of the same or gobble up the next instant star created for us on the myriad of TV shows who promote a lack of hard work and experience being required to “make it.”
“When God Finds the Time” is a nifty tune with some telling lyrics. He alludes that musicians are reduced to a bunch of headshots begging for a chance while the gods of the industry appear at thinks like the Kentucky Derby for show and return to their lofty day to day unapproachable status. The title track gives us the industry mogul point of view, because, after all, they are the smartest men on the room because fear, money and power rule. “One More Coat of Paint” gives us the story of foreclosure and lost love– it will only take one coat of paint to hide the blemishes of a broken home and a broken relationship. “Wrist Rocket” is a grooving’ and fiery instrumental with some rapid fire and well-done guitar and organ with some take off on the mid-60’s “Big Spender” and other tunes. “Time Will Tell” let’s us know the truth eventually gets out and it is just a great little shuffle.
This CD is a great commentary and a really good set of tunes. Recorded in New Orleans and Memphis, it is quite raw and real. While it’s dark and down on the industry, it’s also done with sarcasm and humor. If you like tunes that tell a consistent story with some driving guitar and rough sandpaper grit vocals, then this CD is for you, It’s a great way for Marks’ fans to enjoy his work and for neophytes to get familiar with him, too!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.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Garrett “Big G” Jacobson - In Person
Billed as Oklahoma's favorite working blues musician, the fourth release from Garrett “Big G” Jacobson finds the guitarist fronting his band in a live performance last year at the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Lab. Jacobson is a strong vocalist and a impressive guitar player, often adopting a tone that reminds you of early B.B.King. His fluid style is highlighted in each solo as Jacobson takes his time, refusing to overplay. Whether he is playing sharp, single note runs or rapid-fire staccato licks, Jacobson always plays with a discriminating tastefulness.
His robust band provides plenty of muscular backing. The rhythm section features Harold Jefferson on guitar, Vernon King on bass and Walter Taylor on drums. Jeremy Thomas fills space in the arrangements on the organ while Zachery Lee on trombone and Clint Rohr on trumpet add a brassy edge to the proceedings.
Jacobson works the area where soul and blues convene, like the earnest rendition of Little Milton's “How Could You Do It To Me” or the lone original, “That Funky Thing”, that finds the leader operating in James Brown territory. This track could have hit harder if the horns weren't buried in the mix. The opening cut, “Spring”, has the horn section out front, where they provide excellent support for Jacobson's robust vocal. The band establishes the requisite deep groove on a straight-forward version of “Shakey Ground”.
King delivers a thick walking bass line that drives the lively run-through of “I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water”. Jacobson favors a faster-than-usual pace on “Don't Burn Down the Bridge”, which he uses to spark an impressive solo before the band settles into a funk workout that has the horns playing off the the leader's guitar. Thomas gets a chance to show off his talent on the organ on an otherwise unremarkable “Georgia on My Mind”. The set closes with a robust take of “Every Day I Have The Blues”, that has Lee blowing a hot trombone solo and Jacobson finishing things off with a restrained solo that steadily builds to a spirited conclusion.
There is plenty to enjoy on this release, which makes it clear that you would get plenty of value for your entertainment dollars if you catch this band live. At the same time, the disc loses some of it's impetus due to comparisons to better-known versions of the mostly familiar set-list. That said, Jacobson's captivating singing and sleek guitar work are enough to make this one worth a listen
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.
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