Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Coco Montoya. Shelia Skilling has a photo essay from the Bayfront Blues Festival.We have six music reviews for you! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from The Strata-Tones. Gary Weeks reviews a new release from Lisa Biales. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Jimmy Bowskill Band. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new DVD release called We Juke Up in Here. Mark Thompson reviews a new book from Buddy Guy. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Liz Mandeville. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
The Summer festival season is racing by. Next weekend is Labor Day weekend and there will be lots of festivals all over the country. Labor Day weekend marks the end of the Summer festival season for many folks.
But this weekend our good friends Steve Jones and Mark Thompson from the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford, IL are throwing one hell of a Blues Party!
The Byron Crossroads Blues Festival is Saturday August 25th in Byron, IL and features six great acts including Candye Kane, Nick Moss & The Fliptops and The Cash Box Kings.
Don't miss this a great way to cap off a super Summer festival season.
For more information visit their website at Byroncrossroadsbluesfestival.blogspot.com or click on their ad below.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Blues Blast Music Award Voting Ends August 31st
There is one week left for all Blues Blast fans to vote in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards.
Don't miss your chance to support your favorite Blues performers. To vote now CLICK HERE. The voting results will be announced in early September.
Featured Blues Interview - Coco Montoya
You don’t have to have a PHD in Rock-N-Roll History to know that those three guitarists – all of them inducted into the Hall of Fame – were key components of some of the most influential bands of all time and are responsible for creating a host of timeless music.
Likewise, you don’t have to have a PHD in Blues History to know that one man – John Mayall – was largely responsible for unleashing those guitarists onto the world as members of his Bluesbreakers band back in the 1960s.
So in 1984, when Mayall decided it was time to take the Bluesbreakers name out of mothballs and reform the band with a new guitarist, it would be easy to imagine that cast of potential candidates stretched from here to the moon, all lined up and ready to jump through flaming hoops of fire to join up with the Godfather of British Blues, right?
Well, in Coco Montoya’s case, things were not that cut and dried and what most axemen would consider the phone call of a lifetime was met with a bit of hesitation on his part.
“It took a couple of days for me to give John an answer. I said, ‘Can you give me a little time?’ And he said, “You have three days – then I have to move on,’” Montoya said. “So I didn’t except his offer right away. I needed time to think about it, because at that point, I wasn’t in the music business anymore.”
After spending five years as a drummer for The Iceman -Albert Collins - Montoya had all but turned his back on life as a professional musician and was working at a bar in Los Angeles, where Mayall just happened to hear the left-hander playing guitar at a jam session.
Then came the phone call.
“I was going from being completely out of the music business … and I was a drummer to begin with … to being asked to join one of the most famous guitar bands ever. Ever,” he said. “Those guys (Clapton, Green and Taylor) were like heroes to me. It was kind of weird, but yet the euphoria of going back out as a guitar player was great.”
Montoya did finally accept Mayall’s offer and spent the next decade as part of the newly re-minted Bluesbreakers, along with future solo star Walter Trout on the opposite side of the stage.
Leaving Mayall’s fold in the mid-90s, Montoya quickly went about building his own reputation as a bandleader and has authored a slew of successful albums since, the latest one being 2010’s I Want it all Back (Ruf Records).
Growing up in Southern California, Montoya was exposed to all kinds of music and that has undoubtedly played an essential role in the way his music today turns out.
“As a child, I heard big band in the house, along with some Mexican recordings. The first concert I went to was a Mexican singer, a guy that was on RCA Records named Miguel Aceves Mejia. He was a great singer,” he said. “I remember all this stuff from when I was a little boy– he had an album called The Man from Mexico and my mother took me to downtown L.A. one afternoon where he was performing at this big theatre. I just remember being enthralled with how powerful his voice was. He had one microphone and it was way back from him, but his voice just filled the place up.”
While not really heralded much outside of the area, the East L.A. music scene – then and today – was just as fertile as any other around.
“Oh, yeah. I love to tell people about the incredible East L.A. unknown world of music. It played a big part for me,” said Montoya. “And it also birthed Los Lobos and the Delgado Brothers and people like that. In the 50s and 60s you had bands like Little Ray and The Ambertones, The Midnighters … they were all my influences and I just soaked it all up, as much as I could get.”
As a teenager, Montoya, just like most kids around the world that were his age at the time, fell under the spell of The Beatles.
Doo-wop also played a big part during Montoya’s formulative musical years, as did the highly-underrated Johnny Otis (another member of the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame).
“He was on Channel 5 in Los Angeles and we used to see him all the time. It was amazing. Johnny was all about music,” said Montoya. “He’d have a country pickin’ duo on his show, then he’d have Little Esther or Mighty Mouth Evans or The Three Tons of Joy, stuff like that. He mixed it up and it was a real melting pot. I just love the whole idea of that. I think that as blues and roots artists, we need to get back to that. Get back to mixing things up and stirring the pot. That’s how we all got here.”
Unfortunately these days, ‘stirring the pot’ seems to go against the grain of what the music industry wants.
“I’m sorry, but record labels are notorious for the fact that they see you and have this vision of what you are and they don’t want to deviate from that,” Montoya said. “And I find that really frustrating. They see you this one way and when you go, ‘Hey, I like this stuff, too,’ they go, ‘No - stay over here.’”
One can only imagine what The Iceman would have said had a record label executive tried to tell him what to play.
“Well, I don’t know if we can say that out loud (what Collins would have told them),” laughed Montoya. “Albert, as sweet a guy as he was – and he put up with a lot of stuff to a certain degree – but the one thing that Albert was very aware of was, I am who I am and I do what I do.”
Just by watching the effortless way that Montoya works his way up and down the fretboard of his guitar, it’s hard to believe that he’s not been a professional guitar player for his whole life.
But Montoya’s first taste of the bright lights came from behind the drum kit, when Collins asked him to join his band in the mid-1970s.
“I’m just a guitar player that used to play drums. I haven’t really touched them (a set of drums) in a long time,” he said. “Once I stopped drumming, I stopped. I lost my passion for it. But I’m still fascinated with a good drummer. If you want to make me smile, just put me in front of a good drummer. I have friends like Ritchie Hayward (the late drummer and co-founder of Little Feat who played on Montoya’s Dirty Deal (Alligator Records) album) who was my dear friend and I used to just marvel at watching him work. The latest guy to blow me away is Steve Ferrone. He worked on my latest album and he’s probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. But, what a drummer. I could sit and grin just watching him play all night. And Tony Braunagel … he’s a dear friend of mine and I just love to watch him play.”
Collins’ relationship with his drummer was more than just that of band-leader/band-member and the two spent a lot of evenings in the post-gig hotel room playing guitar and talking until the wee hours of the morning.
Between his time spent beside Albert Collins and John Mayall, it was re-enforced into Montoya that one of the most important, and elemental, rules in blues – or any form of music for that matter – is simple.
Just be yourself.
“I tried like Hell to give the John the best cheap imitation of Eric Clapton and the best cheap imitation of Peter Green that I could give him – thinking I was giving him what he wants,” Montoya said. “And John was great in taking me aside and saying, ‘Hey, I want that guy that I heard (at the jam) the night before I hired you. Don’t forget the number one rule of blues – interpretation.’ And that was something Albert taught me as well. He said, ‘I’ll do “Stormy Monday,” but I’ll do it the way I want to. I love T-Bone, but I do it Albert Collins’ way.’”
Taking those bits of advice to heart, Montoya really started to find his own sweet spot inside the music.
“John really did set me free in that regard. He’d say, ‘What are you going to do with it tonight? That song doesn’t belong to Eric Clapton, it belongs to you.’”
After exiting Mayall’s band, Montoya’s sights were set on becoming a huge solo star and taking the blues world by storm, right?
“Well, when I left John, I had no idea what foot was going to step in the creek next. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was coming to a very big crossroad for myself, personally, as well as career-wise,” he said. “I was just too much of an alcoholic (at that time) to even consider opening my own store. I knew I wouldn’t be good at it … I’d be late, I’d be drunk … so, no, I wasn’t ready to go out on my own at that time.”
After some humbling soul-searching, Montoya did get himself together and began taking the necessary steps towards getting his own name on the marquee, hitting the ground full-speed ahead.
His Gotta Mind to Travel (Blind Pig) album garnered him a Handy Award in 1996 for Best New Blues Artist and introduced a whole new set of fans to the guitar styling of Coco Montoya.
Although Montoya will occasionally pull out a bottleneck and slip it onto his right hand, maneuvering it up and down the neck, he really doesn’t consider himself a slide player.
“I don’t play tunings and I don’t play much slide. I learned some slide, just a couple of quick things that Mick Taylor showed me once, just to help me get through some of the stuff with John. And I treasure that, because he’s usually so quiet and doesn’t say anything,” Montoya said. “And the other guy I have to give credit to is Lee Roy Parnell, another great guy that people just think of as a country artist. But to this day, he’s still one of my favorite players. He’s just got so much soul. But I sat with in the studio and picked up some little (slide) things from him. Between him and Mick Taylor, I think I learned enough to play a reasonable facsimile of slide, not that I’m going to go out there and Derek Trucks you or anything … then there’s him.”
Stuffed with plenty of stinging, slicing and jabbing guitar, Montoya’s albums would no doubt make Collins and Mayall nod their head in approval about their former pupil’s take on the blues.
But Montoya’s albums have always been much more than just a showcase for his guitar chops; they have always featured a boatload of soul and R&B, leaving adequate room for his under-rated vocals to shine through.
“I’ll disappoint anybody that thinks that I just listen to Solomon Burke or Sam Cooke – which I do idolize those guys – but my influences go from Jane Froman, who’s “With a Song in My Heart” I used to love as a kid, to Little Ray and The Ambertones and those East L.A. soul bands like Willie G. from the Midnighters,” he said. “I never studied or took any lessons until recently when Keb Mo (he produced I Want it all Back) sat with me and gave me some exercises and things. But I love the Bee Gees, the Everley Brothers, Jerry Butler, people like that. I listen to all that. But it’s been a developing thing. I mean I had to learn how to screech out something.”
Another aspect of Montoya’s solo work that somehow flies under the radar is the songs themselves. One of his trademarks has become the smoking slow blues ballads found on his albums - even though it’s hard to get him to take much credit for creating those gems.
“I don’t see myself as a real strong writer. For the first album, I had a spurt and wrote most of “Too Much Water” and “You Don’t Love Me,” “Love Jail” and “Same Dog.” I had them about 60-percent done, but I just couldn’t get the second line to answer the first,” Montoya said. “So I called my buddy Doug MacLeod and he suggested we get together. So he came over and we put on a full pot of coffee and sat there and started writing. So right then and there, I knew I needed a co-writer.”
Montoya’s last four or five albums have been the fruit writing of sessions spent with David Steen.
“You’ll see his name all over my albums. As a matter of fact, the last album’s title cut was written by him,” said Montoya. “He’s an incredibly-talented writer and I’m very grateful that if I’ll come out, he’ll spend three or four days beating the heck out of me, trying to pull some songs out of me. But I really need someone to bounce ideas off of. It gives you that something that stirs you and gets you going.”
Whether he’s playing on some of the biggest festival stages in the world, or spending an afternoon working on new material, for Montoya, it all goes back to a few words spoken by The Iceman.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I got from Albert Collins was to never be ashamed of who you are or what you do. Just be you. He said, “Man, I don’t need to be the best. I just want people to know it’s me - whether they like me or not.’ And I think that’s really important.”
Visit Coco's website at http://www.cocomontoya.com/
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
The Strata-Tones - Dressed Up To Fess Up
This California based band delivers an intoxicating blend of rhythm and blues with blues instrumentation. The R&B based songs are slathered in Memphis-soul and blues goodness. The guitar playing of Bruce Krupnik and the harmonica playing of Kevin McCracken can easily hold their own with the best blues players in the business. The crowning jewel is the voice of Valerie Johnson that is heaped in Memphis grit. The similarity to Janis Joplin’s pipes is obvious from the ”git-go”. So much so that at one time she held Janis’ former slot in Big Brother And The Holding Company. Her style is less bombastic and over-the-top than Joplin’s, but the resemblance can’t be denied. The rhythm section and keyboard player are certainly no slouches either. Not to beat a tired cliché into the ground, but this is music that grows on you over repeated listening.
The recording consists of ten band originals and two cover tunes. The first cover curiously enough is “Keep On Cookin’ “, by none other than mister “Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” himself, B.J. Thomas. What I first thought to be sexual innuendo appears to be about “Food is the way to a man’s heart”. It’s delivered in a fine and funky fashion allowing guitar, harmonica and organ time to solo, a practice that is followed throughout. An ode to “struttin’ your stuff” is portrayed in the talked-sung “Be Bop Baby”. Drummer Rick Pittman sounds all Gene Krupa on the tom-tom heavy “Did You Ever”, a swing-styled song. Guitarist Bruce Krupnik’s solo here recalls Anson Funderburgh as he covers many styles over the solo’s course. Tom-tom heavy drums are also used on “Raggedy Annie”. A slow Memphis-style R&B groove graces the romantic slow groove of “Together For Some Time”. All the soloists get their chance to stretch out on the instrumental “T.W.F.S”. The Janis Joplin comparison becomes more evident on a live version of Big Mama Thorton’s “Ball And Chain”, a Joplin signature song, recorded at The Pour House. Valerie just displays a small amount of the histrionics and energy of Janis, but a very fine version.
This band possesses the right tools for the job. A very refreshing, professional and invigorating time is guaranteed for all. The resemblance to a famous icon is no problem here, as there is only the slightest hint of mimicry on the live tune, which can’t be helped and doesn’t seem out of place. This band shows signs of being around for the long haul, all the better for us, the audience.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Live Blues Review - Bayfront Blues Festival
The city of Duluth, MN, having experienced a devastating flood just two months earlier, played host to more than 10,000 blues fans for their 24th annual Bayfront Blues Festival. This festival is becoming one of the premier blues festivals in the nation, and this year’s three-day event boasted 31 performers, alternating between the main stage and a large acoustic tent.
The concert grounds become a sea of lawn chairs with no set rows or sections; so, especially after dusk, it gets difficult to find your way back to your seat. Some people hoist flags, windsocks or just about any item imaginable on long poles, to act as landmarks. One clever attendee brought a highway intersection sign, paying homage to Robert Johnson’s Clarksdale, MS crossroads.
The 2012 festival was dedicated in memory of Big Walter Smith (of Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants), an artist who had appeared in each of the past 23 festivals, but just a few weeks before this one opened, he passed away. A local radio station put up a banner that hundreds of fans signed to honor Big Walter.
Included in this year’s festival lineup were four Blues Blast Music Award (BBMA) nominees, and on Friday, we arrived just in time to see the first, Ana Popovic, take the main stage.
Popovic, a guitar, slide and vocal artist, gave her usual terrific performance, playing tunes from her latest CD, Unconditional. The crowd seemed to especially enjoy hearing the title song.
Following Popovic was Friday night’s headliner, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, with his lead vocalist of nearly 15 years, Noah Hunt. The band also included Tony “Fretless” Franklin on base and Chris “Whipper” Layton on drums (of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble fame). Shepherd closed his set with searing renditions of “Blue On Black,” “Déjà Voodoo,” and “Voodoo Chile.”
The first act we caught on Saturday was another BBMA nominee, Janiva Magness. The band played the first few numbers without Magness, putting the spotlight on guitarist, Zach Zunis. Then Magness appeared and performed songs from her latest CD, Stronger For It, including “I Won’t Cry,” nominated for BBMA best song.
Following Magness, we were treated to music from another BBMA-nominated group – The Cash Box Kings, with Joe Nosek on harp and vocals, Joel Paterson on guitar, Mark Haines on drums, and the irrepressible Oscar “Big O” Wilson out in front. (I didn’t catch the bass player’s name.) Their performance of “Holler and Stomp” was a real crowd pleaser.
Next up, in the acoustic tent, was another BBMA-nominee: Sena Ehrhardt, with her band - including her father, Ed Ehrhardt on guitar, as well as Steve Hansen on bass and Tim Hasler on drums. That tent was rockin’ and packed with adoring fans. Here’s hoping they promote Ehrhardt to the main stage next year. She’s certainly earned it.
Following Ehrhardt, back on the main stage, was The Royal Southern Brotherhood, including Devon Allman, Cyril Neville, and Mike Zito, with Charlie Wooten on base and Yonrico Scott on drums. They did several songs from their new, self-named CD, and dipped briefly into Allman Brothers territory, with an impressive version of “One Way Out.”
Saturday night’s headliner was Elvin Bishop, with Bob Welsh on guitar, S.E. Willis on the keys and accordion, Ed Early on trombone, and Ruth Davies on bass. The crowd really seemed to like Bishop’s version of “Blues With a Feeling.” His set was far from 100% Blues, but thoroughly enjoyable. And he did play the Blues quite proficiently. Until you’ve heard it, you might not realize how nicely a trombone with mute fits into a blues song, and Ed Early handled it well.
We arrived Sunday in time to hear guitarist, Tinsley Ellis, along with his bass player, known as “The Evil One.” Ellis did some great cuts from this new CD, Speak No Evil, but I was most impressed by his rendition of a song from his 1994 Storm Warning album - an old Cannonball Adderly instrumental called, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (written by Joe Zawinul, but later recorded with lyrics by The Buckinghams).
Continuing with the guitar greats, Walter Trout took the stage, with Rick Knapp on bass, Michael Leasure on drums, and Sammy Avila on organ. Trout played several songs from his latest CD, Blues for Modern Daze, and wowed the crowd with a tune called “Blues For My Baby,” in which he made his strat sound like it was crying. (By the way, I spoke briefly with Walter the next day, and he mentioned that he enjoys reading Blues Blast Magazine on his doohickey – a.k.a. 7-inch smart screen tablet.)
Wrapping up the festival was the Brooks Family Dynasty, including Lonnie Brooks and his sons, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks. The band featured Carlton Armstrong on bass, C. J. Tucker on drums, and Jelly Bean Johnson helping out on guitar. Lonnie, Ronnie and Wayne are all stars in their own right, but Lonnie really stole the show and charmed the crowd – showing a few dance moves, and getting the audience to sing along with the band on “Sweet Home Chicago.”
At the end of the Brooks’ set, Big Walter Smith’s widow, Shirley, and other members of his family were invited onstage and presented with the signature banner, honoring Big Walter. Shirley thanked the fans and spoke about how much the festival has meant to her family over the years. It was a touching, yet upbeat, ending to the festival.
I saw where someone was lamenting that too few young people attended the Bayfront Blues Festival. I feel that this festival is living proof that the Blues is an ever-expanding genre that welcomes new performers and styles. It seems inevitable that more young people will enjoy the music…if they are exposed to it. That said, I am optimistic and looking forward to a magnificent 25th Bayfront Blues Festival in August 2013.
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 2 of 6
Lisa Biales – Just Like Honey
Big Song Music
E.G. Kight is known in the blues community as a singer, writer delivering quality music. Now you can add the role of producer for this release co-producing along with Paul Hornsby Lisa Biales’ new album Just Like Honey.
Being it is my first exposure to her; I can’t think of anyone I can compare Lisa too vocally. I will say titling the CD Just Like Honey suits the music to a tee. It is warm, inviting and seductive. It draws the listener in and for the most part it is a laidback journey.
Not too many artists open their CD with Memphis Minnie’s “Call The Fire Wagon.” And you have to applaud Biales for making that decision. With clarinet playing by Monty Cole and fiddle playing by David Blackmon, the tune captures Minnie’s spirit as it recalls the era of swing. Relying on the foundation of guitarist Tommy Talton, drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Marshall Coats, Lisa creates a work of easy listening blues. There’s nothing aggressive. Musically it’s a relaxed affair.
If you are going to work with E.G. Kight, it doesn’t hurt to cover her songs and having her guest on vocals. Dubbing background vocals on Kight’s “Sugar” works out nicely and Pat Bergeson’s harp playing does sprinkle a little sugar on Kight’s happy-go-lucky composition.
Whereas the electric guitar is sometimes a dominant instrument on blues releases, it’s not the case here. Talton’s job is staying in the background as an acoustic guitarist only emerging now and then to cut loose with a little slide. That could also be said for Ken Wynn’s electric guitar playing. After-all they are there to support Biales and not over-step with anything wild.
For those familiar with singer Candye Kane, listeners will have cause to rejoice when they hear “Gifted In The Ways Of Love.” This is one of the few times Wynn can exercise his chops on guitar and Paul Hornsby can add electric piano playing that is like the guitar playing. Both coming out of the less-is-more school. Besides it enhances the song’s Chicago shuffle blues style.
Of course you have to have Paul Hornsby play on more than one track. On another Kight composition “When You Were Mine,” Hornsby’s piano and Hammond tones are just mint in presenting this tune in the after-hours jazz club glow.
Not only does Lisa have a strong grip on material by Minnie, she doesn’t cower from taking on numbers covered by Ma Rainey and Odetta. Taking on the J. Mayo Williams number “Yonder Come The Blues” proves Biales can handle old fashion blues with ease but moving it forward to this century. Bergeson’s harmonica playing once again adds that back-porch vibe along with Talton’s slide guitar.
Biales doesn’t team up with E.G. to write many songs for this release. It’s too bad because “Gypsy Woman Blues” packs enough of a punch with Talton’s bottleneck spraying fire over strings that sound like their being pulled taut over a metal garbage can.
Though Lisa doesn’t have many of her original songs on this CD, she can write a sweet soulful number like “Come To Me” with subtle band backing turning things into airy jazz.
Taking inspiration from Guy Davis, Biales writes a piece of old blues entitled “Peaches” with a strong nod to the past as she borrows lines from Trixie Smith and William Harris. And covering the vintage Bonnie Raitt number “Give It Up” has the Capricorn ensemble just having fun and rocking. Singing with Kight in “Blues Stay Away From Me” finds Biales happy in a comfort zone knowing strong support from the sidelines contributes to her musical experience she knows is worthwhile. She’s more than happy to sing a track Tommy Talton brought to the sessions entitled “Watch Out Baby Don’t Cry.” This just might be the rockingest song on the record with Hornsby’s hot Hammond playing and Talton’s slide work recalling Duane Allman’s session work.
Free from the over-driven blues-rock, this is an enjoyable listening experience.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Jimmy Bowskill Band - Back Number
11 tracks; 47:28
Jimmy Bowskill is the wunderkid from Canada. At 21 years of age, he just released this fifth album.
Bowskill got his start at 11 years old in Jeff Healey’s Toronto night club. He has been dazzling audiences around the world ever since.
A few years ago, while touring Europe, Jimmy caught the ear of Thomas Ruf. Ruf Records released Jimmy Bowskill Band Live in 2010. The record captured the raw power and feral intensity of the band and set the stage for this powerhouse release.
While not directly blues, this music’s relationship to blues is akin to music by Cream, Mountain, Free, or even Gov’t Mule, drawing direction from the blues, and inspiration in minor key riffs. This is pouring out the pain in the finest tradition.
On this album the amps are turned up! It’s a gritty, crunchy sound with smoldering guitar serving as a launching pad for Bowskill’s rich tenor vocals. The lead track, “Take A Ride” starts with a grungy detuned riff with arpeggiated chords and a pulsating piano. The hook isn’t quite developed here but the song sets the stage for what’s to come.
“Linger On The Sweet Time” boosts the energy level on a darker sounding opener with Stones-y jangling chords, wailing slide guitars and propelling drum work from Dan Reiff. It’s upbeat, fun, and downright catchy.
Bowskill melds elements from blues and rock, forging a power trio sound for the modern era. “Little Bird” is another upbeat tune that benefits from the trio’s larger than life sound.
Jimmy Bowskill’s talent may be a happenstance of nature, but the maturity of his playing comes from 10 years of listening and learning, and playing with musicians more advanced than he. He resists the urge to over play. He doesn’t slash and burn and fizzle out. He chooses his notes carefully. He uses chorded phrases and open strings to fill out the overall sound. To this end, he often plays slow-bent notes and his vibrato is as wide as Lake Ontario. That’s not so say he doesn’t unleash the beast on occasion and let notes fly, he just chooses the moments for greatest effect. Dan Reiff on drums and Ian McKeown on bass play intuitively with Bowskill, and together they fill the gaps and present a robust sonic experience. Reiff is an almost hyperactive drummer and bassist McKeown has filled more holes than the Department of Public Works.
“Down the Road” is a fast moving rocker with organ flourishes to match the frenetic drumming and the driving rhythm guitars and “Seasons Change” is simply incandescent. The only real complaint I can find with the record is the lack of stylistic variety. The album revels in its titanic riffs and mammoth crunch but a little excursion into a slow blues would offer a few minutes respite from the bombast. Conversely, the band is developing a style of its own and consistency has given some acts long, prosperous careers. The Jimmy Bowskill Band does close out Back Number with an acoustic tune called “Least of My Worries.” The acoustic guitars, barroom piano, and dulcet vocal harmonies bring the album to a close in a sweetly surprising fashion.
This album should appeal to fans of guitar driven blues and blues rock. The band borrows from blues influenced classic rockers and takes a few tricks directly from blues sources like Freddie King. With powerful backing from an international label and an arsenal of great songs Bowskill looks poised to get major attention in the blues/rock community.
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.
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Orange County Blues Society - Orange, CA
(Santa Ana, Calif.) - The recently-formed Orange County Blues Society presents the Real Blues Festival of Orange County 3, this Sunday, August 26, 12 noon-10 p.m., at Malone’s, 604 E. Dyer Rd., Santa Ana. Info: (714) 328-9375 or (714) 979-6000. Advance tickets available at www.orangecountybluessociety.com. Proceeds to benefit San Diego-based Better Vision For Children Foundation, a non-profit charity working to prevent and cure partial or total blindness in pre-school children resulting from Amblyopia (Lazy Eye), Autism, Diabetes or Eye Cancer.
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society will hold its Sixth Annual Blues Competition on October 13, 2012 at The Sound Factory, 812 Kanawha Blvd. Charleston, WV 25301. Blues bands, solo/duo and a Youth Division blues acts will compete for cash prizes and WVBS sponsorship to the Blues Foundation‟s International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, Tennessee. Jan. 29 - Feb 2 - Jan 2013.
CONTACT PERSON FOR COMPETITION PARTICIPANTS: Complete information, application & rules are available online at www.wvbluessociety.org . Deadline for application submission is September 21, 2012. For more information contact Competition Director, Mike Price at 304-389-5535 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Jack Rice at email@example.com.
Washington Blues Society - Seattle, WA
Washington Blues Society Summer Event: Taking the blues back inside to where it began in Ballard! Come out and celebrate with fellow WBS Members, Friends and Family. We will be taking the blues back inside to where it began in Ballard and celebrate Seattle’s Longest Running Live Blues Venue … The Salmon Bay Eagles, Sunday, August 26, 2012 2:00 – 7:00 pm at The Salmon Bay Ballard Eagles (5216 20th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107)
It’s a Potluck, so please bring something to share at the Potluck Table. Suggested Donation: $5 for non-Washington Blues Society Members. We've got some great bands for your listening and dancing pleasure. So, bring a dish and your dancing shoes! DOWNSTAIRS: 2:00 PM The WIRED! Band, 4:00 PM Dean Reichert Band UPSTAIRS: 3:00 PM Junkyard Jane, 5:00 PM The Randy Oxford Band Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/502671463092152/ www.wablues.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. • 8/27/2012 - 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, Sept 6, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, Kankakee River North Restaurant
Tues, Sept 18, Smilin’ Bobby, 7 pm, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, Kankakee River North Restaurant
Tentative Tues, Oct 9, Too Slim & Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thurs, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Nov 1, Steve “The Harp” Blues Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thur, Nov 8, Eddie Turner, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
We Juke Up in Here – Mississippi’s Juke Joint Culture at the Crossroads DVD & CD
Broke & Hungry Records
Three Forks Music, LLC
DVD: 63 minutes plus an hour of bonus footage and extras
CD: 14 tracks; 48:12 minutes
Package, including color booklet, is Library Quality
Styles: Contemporary Delta Blues, Modern and Traditional Electric and Acoustic Blues from Mississippi
Clarksdale, Mississippi and surrounding communities: the mythical “birthplace of the Blues,” the home of one of the last real-deal juke joints, the Delta of legend that attracts tourists and international wanderers like Australian Bluesman Andy “Sugarcane” Collins, the area that produced Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and so many more. When Muddy Waters and others left Mississippi headed north, the Blues did not leave with them. This latest film from Roger Stolle, Jeff Konkel, Damien Blaylock, and Lou Bopp focuses on some of today’s Mississippi Delta juke joints, Bluesmen, and, in particular, one notable juke joint still in operation, Red’s Lounge, and its dedicated owner Red Paden. The film is told mainly from the perspective of Paden, a true Delta character and jack-of-all-trades who has been running Blues and beer joints for more than 30 years.
My suggestion is to start by viewing their award winning 2008 film “M for Mississippi” which will set the scene for “We Juke Up in Here.”
As Stolle reports, “...this [newest] film aims to gain the perspective of the juke joints themselves via their colorful proprietors and the musicians they hire – or, increasingly, don’t. Well into the 21st century, why do these long-time incubators and proving grounds of the Blues art form still exist, and for how long will they survive?”
The film is done in a loose documentary style that takes the viewer into Stolle’s 1999 Dodge van to ride along to the filming locations and listen to insightful, respectful, and thoughtful narration from Stolle, owner of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, Inc. in Clarksdale, and Konkel, owner of Broke & Hungry Records. The film is a joint production of those two entities. Four juke joints are featured: Red’s in Clarksdale, Poor Monkey Lounge in Merigold, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’s Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, and the Do Drop Inn in Shelby. Poor Monkey’s has a large sign on the front that I found hilarious. It warns patrons of a dress code, “Not like this and Not like that” with accompanying artwork showing the prohibited ball-cap hat on sideways and not allowed, so-low-worn britches below a bare butt. Eight performing musicians are shown including a relative youngster, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, singing the title track. Also performing are Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Big George Brock, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Robert Lee “Lil Poochie” Watson, Elmo Williams, Hezekiah Early, and Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood.
The film, like all good works of art, provides opportunity for viewers to delve as intellectually deep as they want, or don’t want. On the surface, there is the vital and joyful music being played to audiences drinking, dancing and having a good time. Viewers should feel that the music contained in both the film and on the accompanying CD Soundtrack is, itself, worth the very reasonable price tag. For those wanting to exercise their brains, delve into the discussions and thoughts of the past, present, and future of Mississippi’s once thriving juke joint culture. Examine causes of decline in numbers such as the arrival of casinos where folks now get their entertainment by “putting a few nickels and quarters into slot machines and receiving their watered down whiskey drinks for free.” Listen for mentions of competition from tourist-friendly upstarts like Ground Zero. Ask yourself what kind of music is being played in the remaining jukes and compare it to the Soul-Blues increasingly popular with younger African American audiences in the South. Contemplate the phenomenon seen all across the US, not just in Mississippi, of club owners switching from live bands to DJs, karaoke, and juke boxes as they feel they can not pay today’s artists what they’re worth.
Beyond exploration of the past glories of Mississippi’s juke joint culture, the film is a celebration of men like Red Paden who carry the tradition forward into an uncertain future. Jump into the van; let’s go jukin’ and learn about the life of a juke joint, its customers, and the music that continues to bring them together.Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Buddy Guy – with David Ritz - When I Left Home – My Story
Buddy Guy has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity that makes him, along with B.B. King, the current elder statesman for blues music. The guitarist has achieved world-wide fame through his high energy live performances, outstanding recordings that successfully explored the full scope of Guy’s artistry plus his club, Legends, that is the preeminent blues bar in a city filled with live music venues. But all of this success did not come easily - it was decades in the making. We are fortunate that we now get a closer look at the Buddy Guy story, as told by the man himself.
When I Left Home is divided into three sections. The first six chapters detail the early years of Guy’s life down the backroads of Louisiana. The son of Sam & Isabell Guy, his childhood wasn’t out of the ordinary. He stood next to his father and started picking cotton at the age of nine. He enjoyed baseball, especially when he could listen to a Brooklyn Dodgers game on the radio and take pride in Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments. Guy also had a knack for taming wild horses. His father made sure that the young man knew the meaning of respect.
Each Christmas, a family friend named Henry Smith – nickname “Coot” – joined the Guy’s for dinner, after which Coot told stories and played his two-string guitar. Buddy loved the sound Coot was able to pull out of those two strings. He began to experiment with building his own guitar, stealing wire from his Mama’s new window screens and using rubber bands. Later, the family acquires an old phonograph just as John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” was released and became the favorite record in the Guy household. A chance meeting with guitarist Lightnin’ Slim deepened Guy’s interest in the guitar. Finally his yearning is satisfied when his father buys Coot’s instrument.
As a teenager, Buddy lived with his sister, Annie Marie, in Baton Rouge. He continued playing guitar, discovered girls and worked a variety of jobs. He returned to help his father after his mother suffered a stroke but life wasn’t the same. Eventually, Guy’s father decides to leave the rural life and move everyone to Baton Rouge, where another life-altering experience was waiting. Guitar Slim had a huge hit with “The Things I Used to Do” and when he made a local appearance, Buddy was there to experience the frenzy of Slim’s live show with his flamboyant clothes and wild entrances courtesy of a 300 foot guitar cord. Everything Buddy would ever need to know about capturing the attention of an audience stems from what he learned from Guitar Slim.
The next section, titled When I Left Home, is a single chapter that finds Guy making the decision to leave home and head for a new life in Chicago. He had gotten encouragement from a friend, Lawrence “Shorty” Chalk, who was already living up north and promised that Buddy could stay with him. It seemed like Shorty was living the good life but upon his arrival in September, 1957, Guy discovers that the reality of big city life is far different than the bright picture Shorty had painted.
The bulk of the narrative is contained in the final section, After I Left Home. Guy describes his initial visit to Chess Records in an attempt to capture the attention of Leonard Chess. Soon he meets Muddy Waters and Otis Rush. It quickly becomes clear to Guy that he can’t compete with the guitar prowess of masters like Rush, Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. So he dazzles audiences and club owners with his showmanship while steadily proving his understanding of deep blues to other musicians and band leaders.
Guy relates plenty of stories about many of the legendary musicians from that generation. And chapter titles like “Wild Little Nigger From Louisiana” make it readily apparent that Guy isn’t about to pull any punches. He has plenty to say about Willie Dixon on the issue of song copyrights and covers his long-running partnership with Junior Wells in several chapters. Points are made regarding excessive alcohol use and womanizing without dwelling on the topics. And Guy openly admits his own shortcomings.
In 1972, deciding he wanted to curtail being on the road so much for the sake of his family, Guy decides to buy the Checkerboard club on Chicago’s south side. The experience set the stage for him to open Legends in a better neighborhood seventeen years later.
The only short-coming with the book is that the last forty years of Guy’s career are briefly covered in an equal amount of pages that conclude the book. Given that during that time Guy has played countless high-profile gigs and shared the stage with too many legendary musicians to count as he achieved international fame, one would think that there are still many stories untold.
David Ritz provides a big assist in helping Guy keep the narrative sharp and focused without stripping away the vital elements of Guy’s character. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to hear Buddy’s story in his own words. This is one of those books that draws you in and quickly puts you in the can’t-put-this-down mode. It is a worthwhile read that provides an insider look at the glory days of Chicago blues and one of its indisputable legends.
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
Liz Mandeville – Clarksdale
Blue Kitty Music 2012
11 tracks; 35.31 minutes
Liz Mandeville has been around on the Chicago scene for a number of years and has previously issued several CDs on Earwig records. This CD marks Liz’s return to recording. This released on Liz’s own label, an idea spawned from a conversation with Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith who offered to help Liz if she ‘did her own thing’ and set up her own label. In fact these are Willie’s final recordings before his untimely death last year. Willie plays harp on two tracks and drums on five. Darryl Wright plays bass on the same tracks as Willie, with piano added on two of those by Leandro Lopez-Varady. Eddie Shaw brings his roadhouse sax style to one track, Donna Herula (with whom Liz competed at this year’s IBC in the duo category) plays slide on three tracks. On one track Nick Moss plays guitar alongside Jim Godsey on bass and drums.
The opening track “Roadside Produce Stand” moves along nicely as Liz tells us about her ‘produce’ and invites anyone passing by to take a taste. It’s a good start to the album and the second track carries on well with the Jimmy Reed feel of “Mama And Daddy Blues”. Third track “No Fear/Everything” is done acappella which is a brave move but one that does not really work for me. Willie’s harp is featured on “Walking & Talking With You” which was one of the strongest tracks for me. Liz has the ability to change her voice for different songs and here she adopts a deeper voice which fits well with the music here. I was less convinced by “A Soldier’s Wife” which is just Liz and Donna Herula on guitars, a tale of the girl left behind when the soldier goes away to fight the war. I have no doubt that this is a well-intentioned song, possibly written with the US soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq in mind but the maudlin tone of the guitars does not work for me. I preferred “Bye Bye Blues”, another duo performance with Donna Herula with a lyric which was less ‘preachy’. The third duo tune is “Sand Baggin’”, one of those blues that discusses the problems of flooding in the Delta and works OK.
Clarksdale/Riverside Hotel Blues” reflects Liz’s visit to Clarksdale and her stay at that famous hotel during her recuperation from illness. It’s a blues with excellent rolling piano and Liz adopts a real blues singer sound to her vocals, a rough edge to her voice that fits the song well. “Sweet Potato Pie” is the most uptempo song in this collection, a risqué double entendre lyric which sits well alongside Eddie Shaw’s tough tenor work. “4:20 Blues” is a solo piece for Liz in which she explores some problematic contemporary, including corruption, medicare and government finances, none of which she sees as a good use of her taxes! The final track on the CD is “My Mama Wears Combat Boots”, something of a tribute to the women in the US Army. Nick Moss adds his distinctive guitar to this one and it is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album.
I have fond memories of seeing Liz Mandeville playing the blues in The Hurricane bar at Marathon in the Florida Keys for a small but enthusiastic audience . I have continued to enjoy the CDs I bought that night. I was looking forward to hearing this new CD. The CD clearly reflects several different recording sessions and styles. More of Liz singing her smart and sassy lyrics in a full band situation on the next recording please!
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.
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