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 Guitar Shorty. Marilyn Stringer has a photo essay from the Willamette Valley Blues & Brews Festival.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from RJ Mischo. Gary Weeks reviews a new release from Debby Davies. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Fried Bourbon. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from The Cell. Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Darren Jay & the Delta Souls. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new album from Brad Hatfield. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies CancelledIt is with much disappointment that we have to announce that we have cancelled the Blues Blast Music Award Ceremonies scheduled for October 25th at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago.
After months of work the negotiations with Legend's have broken down. We were not able to get a fair workable agreement with the new management at Legends so we are reluctantly cancelling the festivities.
However voting in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards continues until August 31st so don't forget to vote. To vote now CLICK HERE
The voting results will now be announced in early September.
Featured Blues Interview - Sugar Ray Norcia
When peeled back to their very core, guitars are really nothing more than wood, plastic, paint and wires.
They’re nothing more than inanimate objects, after all.
But that doesn’t mean that a guitar can’t have a mind of its own and protect a damsel in distress when needed.
Especially when that axe is named “Red” and said guitar’s owner is the Houston, Texas-born bluesman, Guitar Shorty.
“I was playing a New Year’s Eve show one time and my girlfriend was standing right beside the stage and I was entertaining her, because it was New Year’s Eve and I had to work. Well, this other girl – not realizing that it was my woman that I was playing to – started pulling her away, trying to get my attention and to get next to me,” said Shorty.
“So I couldn’t say nothing, because I had to keep playing. But after the set, I climbed down off the stage and went over to my girlfriend, to talk to her. And as I was walking through the crowd, that woman that had pushed my girl away was so eager to get close to me that she moved too fast and the butt of my guitar hit her upside the head. It was an accident. I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I kissed her on the side of her face.
Then my old lady got mad at me. So I said, ‘Honey, I had to do something – I didn’t want her to think I did that deliberately.’ And my lady said, ‘Well, Red did. Now, I love Red.’ And after that, that guitar could do no wrong in her eyes. Red was looking out for her. So anywhere I go to play, she makes sure Red is around to protect her.”
Guitar Shorty – who was formerly known as David Kearney back in his younger days around the Kissimmee, Florida area, where he was raised by his grandmother – has always named his trusty six strings. From “Stephanie” to the afore-mentioned “Red,” Shorty’s guitars are indeed members of his family.
And if those guitars could really talk, there’s no shortage of stories that would come spilling out from their well-worn pickups about the one-and-only Guitar Shorty.
Tales about how guitar icons such as Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix were infatuated with the amazing sounds that Guitar Shorty coaxed out of his instruments, along with the way that Shorty’s wild stage acrobatics kept the audience in his hip pocket. (Shorty and Hendrix shared a family bond at one time, when Shorty married Jimi’s half-sister Marcia).
Those guitars could recite volumes about Shorty’s time on the road with legendary vocalists Ray Charles and Sam Cooke.
And they could tell amazing yarns about Shorty’s days playing with the gone-before-his-time Guitar Slim.
That’s the path that Guitar Shorty has traversed, setting up shop in Florida, New Orleans, Seattle, Texas and California over the years.
No stranger to the stage or the recording studio since he first got his feet wet in both in the 1950s, Shorty’s career has experienced a pleasant spike in popularity the past decade or so, ever since he inked with Alligator Records.
“Since I’ve been with Bruce (Iglauer), I can’t say nothing bad. The whole staff (at Alligator) is there for me, even in my down moments,” he said. “They work hard and I have to say, since signing with Bruce, my career has really risen. And also, I do believe it’s because I changed my direction a bit. The music I’m doing now is the blues, but it’s blues/rock and has really taken off with the younger generation. And now, the people can’t wait for me to get another album out.”
On his last pair of albums – 2006’s We The People, along with Bare Knuckles in 2010, Shorty certainly didn’t hold back or pull any punches in the way he sees the government running roughshod over the people of the United States.
“Please Mr. President” leads off Bare Knuckles and on it Shorty begs our top leader to ‘Lay some stimulus on me, cause I’m just a working man trying to feed my family.’
So did the President hear Shorty’s cry of help for the working class?
“Well, I wonder about that sometimes, but I think he did (hear Shorty’s plea). It’s been slow, but I think things are starting to come back,” he said.
Standing up for himself is something that the cowboy hat-wearing Shorty has been doing for decades now and in these trying times, that’s as much about survival as it is about pride.
“We know what’s going on … education should be right there for the kids that are coming up – they shouldn’t be cutting this and cutting that and taking things away from these education programs,” he said. “It shouldn’t be hard for a young person to get into school and get an education. It’s not right. What I believe is, they’re going to keep the small man down as long as he can’t get an education. They don’t know what’s going on around them. But you know, sooner or later people realize what’s going on and you can no longer fool them. When you grow older, you really start to see things. Before (in his career), I wouldn’t be talking about any of this. I would have left it alone. But now, I see so much stuff – so much underhand stuff – that it’s pathetic. The way things are going now, there’s no way you can afford not to pay attention”
It looks like Shorty’s battle cries are not finished, as verified by a new tune, “Manipulator,” that he’s crafting for his up-coming album.
“We’re all being manipulated, you know. Gas prices don’t have to be this high. Oil prices have dropped way down, but gas prices creep down a little and then they go back up high. Then down a little and then back way high. It shouldn’t do that. I’m looking at that and saying, ‘This is really a mess.’”
Shorty’s entry into the world of the blues began at the ripe old age of 11 in Florida, although at first, he was more seen than he was heard.
Though he was well under the legal age limit to frequent the kind of establishments that featured live music, as long as there was no alcohol within reaching distance, Shorty was allowed to be on the bandstand as the member of a band that Walter Johnson and his wife, Julia, had assembled to play such venues on the weekend, when school was not in session.
“Mr. Johnson put up a music stand in front of me, had me stand on a little chair with my guitar and a little ‘ole amp behind me. He turned the amp all the way down and then turned my guitar’s volume all the way down,” Shorty said. “He told me to just stand there and act like I was playing rhythm guitar. He said, ‘Don’t turn it up, whatever you do; one of these nights we’ll turn it up and let you play.’ So that’s what I did. I stood there and played like I was playing the guitar.”
But finally, one of those nights did come and it was during one of those weekends that David Kearney morphed into Guitar Shorty.
“One weekend, the promoter, Dewey Richardson, got up on stage and asked the people if they we ready for a big show the next weekend. Of course, they all screamed and hollered ‘Yeah.’ So Mr. Richardson told the crowd he was bringing in this fellow named Guitar Shorty. So, as soon as he walked off the stage, I got real nervous. I thought I was about to lose my job. So I went up to Mr. Johnson and asked if this guy Guitar Shorty was as good as Mr. Richardson said he was. And Mr. Johnson said, ‘David, if he said he was good, that means that he’s good.’”
After a week spent on pins and needles about being replaced by a better axe slinger, David Kearney found out just how good Guitar Shorty was the very next weekend.
“We did our regular first set and I kept watching the dressing room door to see if I could catch a glimpse of this Guitar Shorty dude. The band kept telling me to quit worrying about, but I couldn’t help it. So after we did our first song, Mr. Richardson got on stage and started talking to the crowd about this Guitar Shorty and how he was young, but he was really talented and just needed a little direction. And then he asked if everybody was finally ready to hear Guitar Shorty. I was on stage with my guitar and standing on my little chair, looking back at the dressing room door. And when I looked back to the front of the stage, Mr. Richardson was pointing at me. And I froze. It took a couple of the horn players to carry me to the front of the stage. But I played “The Hucklebuck,” and I did “Three O’Clock Blues” and I did the “Boogie Woogie.” And when I got through, the people jumped up and started throwing money on the dance floor.”
And at that moment, it was exit David Kearney; enter Guitar Shorty, just as it remains today.
“Mr. Richardson looked at me and said, ‘From now on, you’re Guitar Shorty. Don’t change that name – you keep it,’” said Shorty. “He said, ‘That name will bring you good luck.’ And it sure did. And now I’m so far in, I couldn’t change it if I wanted to.”
In the late 1950s, Shorty was a member of Ray Charles’ band. Even though he was just in the group a year or so, he learned an important lesson that he still uses today.
“I was sick with a cold one night and Ray asked me to sing “Sweet Little Angel.” And I said, ‘Uncle Ray, I’ve got a real bad cold and I can’t sing. My throat’s killing me,’” Shorty said. “Well, he grabbed me and pulled me real close and said, ‘Son, if you can’t sing with a cold, then you can’t sing without one, either. Now, I want to hear you sing this song tonight.’ So needless to say, I did sing that song that night and I pulled it off. And whenever I have a cold these days and have to sing, I always think back about what Uncle Ray told me that night.”
After that stint with Uncle Ray, Shorty relocated to New Orleans and became a member of the flamboyant Guitar Slim’s ensemble.
“Well, when I was with Guitar Slim, I used to see him play about four or five songs and then he’d do this one called “Guitar Slim” and it went, ‘My name is Guitar Slim and I come to play in your town.’ It was a show tune. The valet would back up to the stage and Slim would climb up on his shoulders and then they’d walk out through the crowd,” said Shorty. “His guitar cord was about 250 feet long – we didn’t have wireless rigs then – and then Slim would jump off the valet’s shoulders, still playing his guitar, and run back the way they had came. He’d get about halfway back (to the stage) and fall down on the floor and lay on his back, still playing the guitar with his heels in the air. Then, he’d turn over, put the guitar behind his head and scoot across the floor.”
As mind-blowing as that spectacle must have been for the stunned audience, Slim’s antics had an equally powerful effect on his band-mates, as well.
“It was wild, man. And when I saw that, I said, ‘If he can do that, I can turn flips while playing the guitar,’” Shorty said. “So my show really came from Guitar Slim.”
Just as Slim’s pyrotechnics grabbed immediate attention back in the day, Shorty’s gymnastics have garnered their fair share of oohs and aahs, too. But doing somersaults and back-flips while playing the guitar is bound to catch a person’s attention.
“I played a show with Walter Trout, Buddy Guy and Bernard Allison and I jumped up with my guitar, booked across the stage and came back and went the other way and did the same thing and Walter said, ‘Are you OK?’” laughed Shorty. “I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ He said, ‘Man, I thought you done fell down and got hurt.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m standing up looking at you, ain’t I?’”
In 1976, Shorty notched one of the strangest achievements into his cowboy belt by appearing on – and winning first prize by playing “They call Me Guitar Shorty” while standing on his head – the highly-bizarre, but highly-entertaining, Gong Show.
“Oh, man. The way I got on there was, I had a friend in L.A. named Bob Tate and he knew Chuck Barris (game show creator and Gong Show host). So he set it up for me. At that time I was playing music at night and driving trucks in the area during the day. So we went to this little place in Hollywood and met Chuck. And I went out there and played a little bit and did some of the stuff that I do on stage,” he said. “Chuck grabbed me by the hand and said, ‘Don’t do this to me. You’ve got to be a professional guitar player. You ain’t no truck driver.’ I pulled out my Class A license and told him I was a truck driver and drove a truck. He said, ‘OK Mr. truck driver. You’re on the show. All these guys I’ve been seeing that say they can play guitar, they ain’t got nothing on you.’ And when I did the show the next week, all I got (from the judges) was plus, plus, plus … all across the board. And Chuck later told me, ‘You know Shorty, when you played, man, those phone lines really lit up.’”
Shorty later ended up giving the eccentric Barris guitar lessons.
All-in-all, that’s just life for Guitar Shorty.
And as long as there are problems between a man and his woman – or between the people and their government – Guitar Shorty will be there to sing about them.
“A lot of people have tried to push the blues down – knock them down and stomp them – but they just can’t do it,” he said. “In real life, the blues is the mother and the father of all music. The blues tells the truth about life. Everyday life. Doctors, lawyers, presidents, judges … they all get the blues. You can’t get rid of them. They’ll always be around.”
Visit Shorty's website at http://guitarshorty.org/
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
RJ Mischo – Make It Good
13 tracks; 44.19 minutes
Delta Groove issues a lot of CDs by harp players – maybe that’s because label boss Randy Chortkoff plays harp himself, or maybe it’s because there’s a lot of talented players out there. Either way, this CD brings RJ Mischo into a major label spotlight. It’s not his first release by any means as he has produced plenty of music for smaller labels and issued some discs independently. Inspired by watching Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets at the King Biscuit Festival, RJ recorded this all original CD in Austin, Texas, with an all-star cast of Texans including Johnny Moeller and Nick Curran on guitar, Ronnie James Weber on bass (all current or former Fabulous Thunderbirds), Wes Starr (Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets) on drums and Nick Connolly (Delbert McClinton) on keys. Old friends Richard Medek (drums) and Jeremy Johnson (guitar) provide the accompaniment on a couple of tracks recorded back in RJ’s home state of Minnesota.
The CD opens in fine style with “Trouble Belt” an uptempo rocker with a definite T Birds feel. RJ has a strong voice that suits the material: the piano is prominent, along with rocking guitars and a bouncy rhythm, but RJ is keeping his harp in reserve here, perhaps awaiting the second track “The Frozen Pickle” which is a bouncy instrumental feature for his harp playing. Nick Connolly takes a solo on organ that adds a slightly jazzy feel to the piece. Title track “Make It Good” is the first piece from the Minnesota sessions but with drums present the feel is not very different to the Texas recordings. The other Minnesota piece “Up To The Brim” is just RJ and Jeremy Johnson who plays bass drum and high hat with his feet on this duo instrumental.
“Papa’s S.T. Special” is another instrumental, a real hoedown of a tune which gives RJ the opportunity to demonstrate some whooping and hollering alongside his harp playing! “Minnesota Woman” is a more conventional blues tune with a lyric which picks up a number of blues standard topics: long distance phone calls, getting back home to see his baby, etc. Fine solos on guitar and piano decorate the number as well as the observation that “she comes from Minnesota, but that girl’s blood never runs cold”. “Arambula” is another harp feature, this time with a latin feel and appears in two parts for no reason that I could detect!
RJ’s harp starts “Not Your Good Man” in a really down home style and some relaxed slide playing adds to the back porch feel of this number which portrays RJ as the occasional ‘bad boy’ lover who stays on his girl’s mind when she is with her ‘good man’. “The Biscuit Is Back” pays tribute to the festival that gave RJ the idea for this CD; of course, it never went away but everyone in the blues world welcomed the return of the illustrious name and this song celebrates that. “Elevator Juice” is a rocker with Nick Curran on drums which I liked a lot though I have no idea what the title could mean!
RJ Mischo has good tone and variety and I liked the combination with the Texan players on this CD. Although there is nothing particularly original here I would expect that a major label release will bring RJ’s music to a far wider audience.
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.
Live Blues Review - Willamette Valley Blues & Brews Festival
Oregon heated up last weekend, the highest temps so far this summer. But the WVBF was nestled in a grove of shade trees, the beer was cold, the atmosphere relaxed, and the music was great. This festival is one of those ”well-kept secrets” that deserves recognition. Working in partnership with FOOD for Lane County, food donations were part of the ticket of admission, and the event also benefitted the Springfield/Eugene Habitat for Humanity. Once again, I have found the most enjoyable festivals have a bigger purpose than just music. The sponsors and volunteers are very committed to making a difference in their community. Hats off to all them!! (And the craft beers and food were really great too!)
Kicking off the festival on Friday afternoon, Mia Vermillion is a well-known performer in the Pacific NW, has a #2 hit on Bluesville, represented the Washington Blues Society at the 2010 IBC competition, and was a really enjoyable blues band. Joining her on stage was Jason Edwards (drums) and Rod Cook (guitar).
Next up was The Ty Curtis Band – a Portland favorite. Keeping the blues alive in the next generation of accomplished blues guitarist, Ty is certainly one of the best!! His new band members are well known around the Portland music scene and the combo was fantastic. Veteran bass player Davd Kahl, former member of Insomniacs keyboardist Alex Shakeri, and monster drummer Jerry Jaques heated up the afternoon.
Hailing from Seattle, the more than energetic Randy Oxford Band ripped it up for the entire set. Randy is one of the most animated, talented trombone players in the blues world and every member in his band is equally dynamic. His band includes the beautiful and soulful Jada Amy on vocals, Manual Morais on guitar, Randy Norris on guitar, Richard Sabol on drums, and special guest Pete Sorenson on trumpet.
The evening headliner was long-time “pure blues superstar “ guitar virtuoso Debbie Davies. What an absolute treat to have this east coast blues guitar queen come perform for us west coasters!! Debbie is the real deal and the crowd loved her. One guy was fanning himself from her heat while another guy kept asking her to marry him!! Personally, I am always willing to drive long distances to see Debbie play. He band included Don Castagno on drums and Scott Honick on guitar.
During the set changes, across the grounds was the Papa Soul Stomp Stage. Performers included Madman Sam, Jerry Zybach, and John Bryson and County Hills Blues Mudpuppy with Jason Johnson on guitar and Mike Campbell on drums. Saturday also included The Brewketts.
It was HOT on Saturday, even in the shade, but that didn’t seem to affect the performers. Opening Saturday’s festival was Portland’s Miriams Well. “Miriams Well is one of the most exciting bands to come out of Portland in a long time. Miriam’s unique soulful and bluesy voice is complimented and highlighted by the backing of a truly outstanding band... A force to be reckoned with...” - Robyn Shanti, host of The Dharma Well on KBOO 90.7FM, Portland, OR. Ok, so I copied that from the festival website but I have to agree, as this was the second time to see them and I was looking forward to it!! The band included Dave Locke (bass), Dennis Bradford (drums), Mark Bowden (guitar), Pete Moss (sax), and the very talented keyboard player Steve Kerin.
The Ted Vaughn Blues Band was new to me and they were great all around solid blues with Ted wailing on the harmonica and the rest of the band keeping pace. To once again quote the festival website “In September of 2011, due to the popularity of their original song "Nothin’ But Trouble" ,TTVBB was listed as one of the "Top 10" bands for worldwide airplay on Jango internet radio.” His band included Clay “Bone” King (guitar), John King (drums), Leon Forrest (keyboard), and Ted Larson (bass).
Winner of the 2007 IBC, Nathan James is an amazing and talented guitar player – even if his guitars are made of washboards .Halfway through the set he straps on a kazoo and really great at that too. His unique style matches his band’s name – The Rhythm Scratchers – when he scratches out some great beats on the washboard part of his guitar while he is playing. Nathan and his band, Marty Dodson (drums) and Troy Sandow (bass), are always a great show.
With a red tambourine on his left foot and an acoustic guitar, Brother Yusef, took over the stage and brought the crowd to their feet. What a performance by one individual! His passion and emotions, all reflected in the range of music he played, were fascinating and addictive-blues crossed with reggae, soul, r&b, and a lot of slide, he even made a few Disney songs sound bluesy. According to his website he has been performing regularly at Downtown Disneyland in Anaheim since 2001 along with his touring. He has been nicknamed “Fatback” for his intense playing using “his right hand thumb to beat out the percussive bass-line while the index finger plays rhythm and lead lines”. Impressive!!
Closing out the festival was everyone’s favorite Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. They showcased their new CD which includes their new single “I Met Her On The Blues Cruise” (a must see video on YouTub-seriously!) . And by request as their encore, Rick played his harmonica with no hands – what a master!! (see photo at beginning of this article!) And then there is the rip-roaring Kid Andersen on guitar, multi-talented keyboard & bass player Lorenzo Farrell and always entertaining J Hansen on drums. What a great end to a great festival!!
Thanks to the organizers (especially Kate Close Naiman for adding me at the last minute) for a great festival. The secret is out and the festival is a hit! (Full set of photos eventually on MJStringerPhoto.com)
Reviewer Marilyn Stringer is a contributing writer living on the West Coast. She has great photos of a large number of Blues musicians on her website at MJStringerPhoto.com
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Debbie Davies – After The Fall
Guitarist/vocalist Debbie Davies is a road warrior consistently touring and releasing CDs, and she has got it down to a fine craft of what constitutes quality music.
Having cut her teeth as a side-woman playing second guitar in the legendary Albert Collins’ band decades ago, Davies struck out on her own in the early 90’s to cultivate a solo career that has blossomed. Her many solo releases have culminated in a pleasurable one found in After The Fall.
With original songs by Debbie and longtime drummer Don Castagno, After The Fall seems to sum up in its lyrics the trials and hardships Davies has had to endure the last couple of years. So she decides to bounce back by going sometimes outside the box and not getting to stuck in a comfort zone that could otherwise make the music a little stale.
That doesn’t mean Debbie is playing less guitar. The familiar blues lick are there in abundance and Jeremy Baum’s B3 and piano are turned up in the mix of opening blues rocking track “Don’t Put The Blame” high enough to make you realize Davies has returned with a vengeance.
A vengeance that continues in a Davies/Castagno number “The Fall” which is another spunky stomping blues rocking number. Davies has seem to found the perfect working relationship when Castagno. After years of studio work and touring with Davies, he seems to know what makes the woman tick. He’s comfortable giving her a ballad “True Blue Fool” to sing that is not a bad distraction while Davies is still peeling off some beautiful licks. There’s even a touch of Hendrix in the Davies visual of “Little Broken Wing” without going through a major psychedelic overhaul.
Debbie has always had the best handle on doing the Texas type shuffles and “Done Sold Everything” is no exception. It comes with those T-Bone and Collins guitar inflected solos we have come to expect from Debbie and they just never get old.
A track that can become an instant personal favorite is Davies’ own “Goin To A Gaggle.” The lyrics are from a viewpoint of a traveling musician whose eyes see the legendary blues musicians jamming in the bars and taking the party aboard the blues cruises carrying travelers half-way around the globe. You can’t help think that this number would go down like gangbusters live.
The finest material is saved up towards the end of the CD. Paying a heartfelt tribute to the late Robin Rogers, “Down Home Girl” may not mention any names, but one listen to the lyrics and you know Davies is speaking of a friend who was willing to put up a fight during impossible circumstances. And I am taking a guess Debbie is honoring Rogers’ memory again in “R.R. Boogie” that is a little funky blues instrumental cooking enough grease in the skillet to appease any appetite.
This is a solid piece of work and Debbie has not lost her touch. It’s adventurous in some ways yet it doesn’t go too far out. This might be one of the best blues releases this year. It doesn’t do any harm for Davies to take a short hiatus. If anything it results in music that has its roots firmly in the blues.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Fried Bourbon - Gravy Train
When you listen to these guys you hear a straight up "Delta visits early Chicago" styled blues band but then when you read about them you find out this is really a Dutch blues band. I've heard and reviewed them before and I liked what I heard; the same is true with this, their newest CD- it's another good CD.
For comparison sake, the style is similar to The Cash Box Kings in their early days. Steve Troch delivers greasy and intense harp and fronts the band. Chris Forget on upright and Fender bass gives a deep groove for the band to build on. Tim Ielegems on guitar and backing vocals is also quite good. He never tries to be over the top yet delivers a solid performance. Stefan Decoene on drums also provides excellent support. Gene Taylor gives us some piano on a few tracks and J.J. Louis is on B3 for a couple of tracks, too.
Eleven of the tracks are originals. Sonny Boy Williamson's "Nine Below Zero" gets a decent cover, with Troch doing justice to the harp and Taylor filling in the Otis Spann style. Troch blows some sweet sounds here. They stay true to the style; Ielegems also delivers a very nice guitar solo. Jerry McCain's "Turn Your Damper Down" also gets a good play here; vocally cleaner than the original (which is classic stuff), the instrumentals are very tight and together. I think their tempo is a tad slower than the original but they drive through it with intensity and verve. Nice solos again on harp, piano and guitar. The entire band gets credit for the rest of the tracks except one, "Your King Is Comin'", penned by Troch and Ielegems and the two of them are the only ones who play and sing here. Troch sings in Slim Harpo style and Ielegems picks away frantically in this short but sweet gristly piece. Nicely done.
So now into the meat of the new stuff. This guys jump and swing their way through the music with gusto. I enjoyed hte jumping and swinging blues like the title track and "Kiddo" where the band lays out something you might have heard in the late 50's on the radio. Convincing vocals are a mainstay and a well-done musical approach make this stuff fun to tap a foot or dance to. When they slow it down they are effective, too. "The Storm" is an old-style ballad with the wood block chopping away as the guitar plucks away and the organ fills in so well. "Lovin' Man" gives us an acoustic ditty that is also delivered with intensity. They set the table with "A Feeling Called the Blues" where Troch blows a mean intro and lays into the lyrics convincingly. They shuffle along like consummate pros; this is the other organ track and it fills in well again during the big, long guitar solo and throughout. "Blowin' My Blues Away" sqeaks and squeals, showcasing Troch's harp talents; harmonica fans will love this one, and the piano is a great accompaniment to the harp and vocals.
I could go on and on but suffice it to say that these guys from the Netherlands are the real deal, playing authentic blues in an up front and authentic way. While some of the tracks may be somewhat familiar in tone, they are done right. I enjoyed the CD play after play. The tunes are tight and all recorded live, so this is what these guys sound like, and they sound pretty damn good!
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.
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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society welcomes 2012 International Blues Challenge semi-finalist Donna Herula to the Champaign-Urbana area for a slide guitar workshop and performance on Saturday, August 18.
Herula is a Chicago born blues singer and slide guitarist who performs a variety of music from the early blues women and Delta men to recent artists like Johnny Winter and Lucinda Williams.
If you want to learn to play slide guitar, but don’t know where to start, Donna will be offering a slide workshop from 2:00-3:30 p.m. at Corson Music’s Guitar Store, 202 W. Main St., Urbana. The fee is $10, and includes instruction on different types of slides, guitar set up and techniques used when playing in open tunings like G and D. Slides will be provided. You don’t want to miss this event.
Later that evening Herula will be performing at The Iron Post, 120 South Race St. in Urbana. Opening for Herula is local singer songwriter Gloria Robal. The show starts at 6 p.m. Admission is $7.00 at the door. For more info visit http://prairiecrossroadsblues.org/
Decatur Blues Society - Decatur, IL
Decatur Blues Society will hold their annual "Road to Memphis" blues challenge on Sept 22, 2012. Open to both band and solo/duo. Winning band and winning solo/duo will represent the Decatur Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis in Jan 2013. Entry forms and complete info can be found at www.decaturblues.org.
Minnesota Blues Society - St. Paul, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents 2012 Minnesota Hall of Fame inductees. 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
Long Island Blues Society - Centereach, NY
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
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. • 8/20/2012 - Deak Harp Band • 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:
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 4 of 6
The Cell - Keepin’ On, Rollin’ Hard
Blues-rock from Prague, Czech Republic that is heavily influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Doobie Brothers, Foghat, The Marshall Tucker Band and others of that ilk…who knew? Once you get past the slight accents of the lead vocalists, you find yourself in the land of classic arena rock with a strong southern rock bent. They’re equipped with two guitarists and two female backing vocalists. Michal Cerman has taken over lead vocal duties from American David Gore on this their second release. Gore does a few cameos on this record as well as co-writing eleven out of twelve original songs with guitarist Michal Benes. It’s all here-power- chords, scorching guitar solos, references to whiskey, advice about picking up woman, etc..
“Time Of My Life” gets things moving in style with screeching guitar duels and ensemble vocals. Some really nicely done Clapton style guitar is featured on “Someday”, the requisite song about the power of the music, which also includes a brief bass solo. The kickoff to the “How To Pick Up Girls Song”- “How ‘bout You” sounds very similar to “Lay Down Sally”. What self-respecting blues-rock band would be caught dead without a song called “Let It Ride”?, not this one.
Banjo plunks along with electric guitar on “Nothing Better To Do”, which has one of the girls handling the lead vocal. The song and her voice are pleasant enough on this LeAnn Rimes cover, although at times her accent makes it hard make out of some of the lyrics. The rockin’ boogie of “Pieces Of Wild” wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Foghat record, with first class guitar “fencing”. The Z.Z. Top vibe is infused in the tale of being a “Rock Star”, as the opening sounds like “Sharp Dressed Man”. Organ and slide guitar flesh out the sound. The record closes out with the mellow “Out Of Time” voiced by one of the female singers.
This band has surely absorbed the southern rock sound from their distant land. They employ one of the genre’s signatures’ dual-lead guitars to good effect. You expect them to break into “Free Bird” or The Outlaws’ “High Tides And Green Grass” at any moment. The production values and well arranged guitar solos are spot on. The listening experience is rewarding, but you don’t find any riffs or melodies sticking with you later. Any aficionados of this type of rock music will find themselves saying-“Czech please!” in a positive way. Sorry, I couldn’t resist, I may never get the chance to use that line again. They have done a fine job of respecting the genre without copying it.Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Darren Jay & the Delta Souls - Drink My Wine
This new release marks several significant points in Darren Jay's career. It features his new band of Memphis-based musicians including several high-profile guests. And it appears just as Jay left for a tour of duty in the middle East as a member of the US Naval Reserve. He certainly deserves our thanks for his service to our country – and we can show our appreciation by making a point to check this out.
It won't take long for you get caught up in the strong performances on this one. Jay is an engaging singer and a guitarist with chops to spare. He burns through the opening instrumental, “Rider”, spurred on by the swirling Hammond B-3 organ chords from Tony Thomas while “Zilla” has a big beat supplied by Rodd Bland, son of legendary singer Bobby “Blue” Bland, on drums. Jay's musical partner, Laura Cupit, lays down a thick bass line while Jay supports himself, adding rhythm guitar behind his measured lead work.
Two tracks feature a three piece horn section consisting of Art Edmaiston on sax and Marc Franklin is joined by Wayne Jackson of the legendary Memphis Horn on trumpet. They get a chance to stretch out at the end of “Workday Blues”, a lively number that bears a strong resemblance to “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” with some searing guitar licks from the leader. “Too Late Baby” is rousing Texas-style shuffle with the horn blasting away behind more greasy organ from Thomas and Cupit on backing vocals.
“(Baby) Don't You Lose My Number” is a fun little blast of rock & roll with Thomas impressing with his keyboard prowess while Jay's guitar work elevates “Everybody Get Together”, which suffers from generic lyrics. Drummer Hubert Crawford sets the pace on the title track, his muscular pulse the perfect backing for Jay's blistering guitar. Another one of Jay's impressive originals, “River's Edge”, closes the disc in dark fashion as the singer heads to Memphis to search for his woman. Once again, Jay sparkles on lead and rhythm guitar.
The band's version of “Hoochie Cootchie Man” veers away from a blues feel in favor of a heavy rock performance that scores points for at least opting for a a different approach to this well-worn classic. Jay shows off his skills on the other cover, “Tin Pan Alley”, his soul-wrenching playing offering a fine counterpoint to his understated vocal. Edmaiston to form a one-man horn section on tenor and baritone sax.
Darren Jay & the Delta Souls can take a lot of pride in this release. They offer up a varied program that features earnest original tunes performed with the expertise you would expect from a band of veteran Memphis musicians. And this one will have you looking forward to the date when Jay will have completed his military service and is able to showcase his talents on stage. I certainly want the opportunity to catch his live show. Until then, this solid effort will remind me of what we are missing.
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.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Brad Hatfield - Uphill from Anywhere
11 songs; 41:59 minutes
Styles: Traditional Blues, Gospel-Influenced Blues; Modern Electric Blues
When artists play and sing the blues, they reveal one perennial truth about life: it’s hardly ever an easy journey. Sometimes, as in the case of Cincinnati’s Brad Hatfield, it can be “Uphill From Anywhere.” Paralyzed at the age of 25 in a construction accident, Hatfield discovered that his guitar days were numbered due to limited use of his hands. After a lengthy stint of rehabilitation, he found his new instrument of inspiration: the harmonica. Even though he didn’t start playing it until his early 30’s, he has now achieved a level of skill that some lifelong blues harpists envy! Not only that, but his lyrical prowess is undeniably keen. Out of eleven songs on his debut release, all but two (House and Finnigan‘s “Death Letter” and W. Johnson’s “John the Revelator”) are originals. Here are three of his finest, displaying his talent most clearly:
Track 02: “Fit to be the Fool”--In this grungy shuffle stomp, Brad laments: “I’m an educated man, ‘cause you took me to school. All my diplomas say I’m the Master of Fools!” When it comes to being duped by a duplicitous dame, our protagonist knows he was born to play the part. “I’ve been there before, baby. When will I ever learn?” One thing’s clear here: experience is not always the greatest teacher. If one listens closely, one can also enjoy guest star Dave Gross’ acoustic guitar licks playing along with Jon Justice’s electric guitar!
Track 04: “She Got Time”—The female subject of this song can fit everything into her busy schedule except our jilted narrator! “She got time for the news, got time for the blues, time for her mama, she got time for you. Time to pay the bills, got time for the pills. She even got time to make a mountain from a molehill…Yeah, my girl got time, but she ain’t got time for me.” This is “Uphill from Anywhere’s” best selection. It claims the Triple Crown of witty lyrics, precise instrumentation, and a rollicking beat maintained by Scot Hornick on bass and Michael Bram on drums that will set one’s toes to tapping!
Track 05: “Somebody’s Got to Lose”--We can’t all be number one in life, but the album’s fifth track, a ballad, is a top contender. The most thrilling aspects of it are Brad Hatfield’s harp and Bernie Hatfield’s Wurlitzer, highlighting two of the best traditional blues instruments. “I guess it’s my turn,” the previously girlfriend-stealing Brad states matter-of-factly when he finds out the object of his desire has been taken. This perfect song for sports and dating fans will make a winner out of anyone who listens to it!
When the road of life leads “Uphill from Anywhere,” let Brad Hatfield’s music ease its steep incline. In Cincinnati blues, he’s the real McCoy!
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.
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