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 a young up and coming guitar sensation, Matthew Curry. Bob Kieser has a photo essay on the 2012 Ain't Nuthin But The Blues Festival. Marilyn Stringer has Part II of a photo essay from the 2012 Portland Waterfront Blues Fest.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from The Royal Southern Brotherhood. Gary Weeks reviews a new release from The Biscuit Kings. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Johnny Neel. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials. Mark Thompson reviews a new release from The Mannish Boys. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new album from Mighty Mo Rodgers. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We are halfway though the voting in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards and more that 3,000 of you have voted. OK so where are the rest of you readers?
Lets face it the Awards are a fan voted awards series. A popularity contest that gives the most popular artist some bragging rights. Nothing more.
So why should our readers vote? Look at it as an exercise in learning more about some of the great artists out there. There are some great artists nominated that you may not of heard before. You can listen to some of the nominees' songs conveniently located all in one place to see what I mean. Click Here.
Often the winning artist wins by hundreds of votes and sometimes by thousands. But last year one category was decided by a mere 3 votes out of more than 6500 votes cast. Point is, your vote counts!
So don't forget to vote. To vote now CLICK HERE
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Blues Interview - Matthew Curry
The tired old phrase 'playing up a storm' has been tossed around for decades, but this was flat-out ridiculous.
As 17-year-old phenom Matthew Curry, along with his band The Fury, tore through a blues-filtered version of Deep Purple's “Maybe I'm A Leo” at the 28th annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival at the stately band shell in Davenport, Iowa's LeClaire Park, gale-force winds engulfed the assembled masses, sweeping through the park like a mini-hurricane.
But to his credit, Curry didn't flinch one inch.
Instead, Curry and his band-mates dug their heels in and turned up the intensity on the stage, matching Mother Nature's fury with some Fury of their very own.
Then, as if serving up a peace offering to the weather gods, Curry eased off the throttle a bit and soothed the wind-stricken patrons, while at the same time fending off the impending storm, with the down-and-dirty slow blues of Albert Collins’ “Too Many Dirty Dishes.”
Later, as if right on cue, just seconds after Curry and The Fury stepped off stage after delivering a blistering take of “Voodoo Chile” as their encore number, the skies opened up and hit Davenport with more rain in 10 minutes time than the city had seen in quite awhile.
While he may not have had a direct line of communication with the elements that night, Curry's performance as the opening act at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival was one heck of a coming out party for the young man from Normal, Illinois.
All-in-all, pretty impressive stuff for a young man not yet shed free of his high school years.
“It’s just been a great experience for me. I was hoping that this would eventually happen for me, but I didn’t expect it to happen this quick,” he said. “It’s just great … just mind-boggling.”
The stories are quickly becoming legendary about how an 11-year-old Curry was handed a guitar by Ronnie Baker Brooks at a show and how the youngster climbed on stage and began firing off note after note, much to the delight of Brooks and everyone else in attendance.
Then, at the ripe old age of 12, Curry had the opportunity to jam with RBB and Tommy Castro, when the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise Review made its way to Bloomington, Illinois.
Those not fortunate enough to be in attendance that evening can witness the fireworks at http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=5252879782162690859&hl=en.
“They were both really nice guys. Nice enough to invite me to sit in with them on a couple tunes. First, we did an Albert Collins tune called “Honey Hush.” That's the one that was on YouTube. It was kind of nerve-wrecking for me, because playing with not one, but two really-great guitarist is a little intimidating,” laughed Curry. “But everyone played great and it was a great time. When we started the second song, out of nowhere, the power in half of the town in Bloomington went out. People said it was because we used up all the power playing that one song.”
Word of that guitar tour-de-force quickly reached Curry's school, where his classmates relayed back to the young guitarist what they had heard about that night.
“The next day at school I just remember a lot of kids coming up to me and telling me, 'Oh, my mom and dad were at the show last night,' and that's pretty cool,” Curry said.
Since then, Curry has proven to be no parlor trick, no flash in the pan.
Entering into Eclipse Studio in Normal last August, Curry and The Fury (Randy Hoffman, guitar; Greg Neville, drums; Jeff Paxton, bass) emerged with an outstanding debut album for their efforts – If I Don’t Got You.
Blues fans all across the landscape have taken notice of the budding superstar, evidenced by an unprecedented three Blues Blast Music Award nominations (Song of the Year – “Blinded by the Darkness”; New Artist Debut; Sean Costello Rising Star Award).
While his prowess at burning up-and-down the neck of his guitar is what Curry has received the lion’s share of recognition for, his well-weathered vocals also beg for attention – vocal chops that sound as if they’ve been around for decades, belonging to a much more seasoned – and yes, much older - singer.
But looking beyond his obvious vocal and guitar playing talents, one of the most remarkable things about Curry’s initial public offering is, that save for two songs (Charley Patton’s “High Water Everywhere” and “Soulshine” by Warren Haynes), all the material on If I Don’t Got You was crafted by Curry himself.
Even if some of the tunes may contain subject matter that might seem far-reaching for a teenager still living at home.
“I kind of like to think of it as my own style – well maybe not MY style – but based off the blues style,” he said. “You know, stuff about losing a woman and things like that - just experiences I’ve had.”
Curry’s first real taste of music was served up like most children’s – via his parents.
But in this case, instead of the disposable pop crap that litters the airwaves and pollutes young minds nowadays, Curry’s first encounter with music was built on a solid, lasting foundation.
“Well, when I was about four, my dad used to sit around and play his acoustic guitar in the living room – playing the old bluesy-type like Skynyrd and ZZ Top and stuff like that,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Man, I want to play that.’ So he bought me a little guitar and he taught me and I started playing. And eventually when I got older, he showed me Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray … really the blues legends. It’s just what I love. That has always been the music for me.”
Curry took to the guitar like a fish takes to water and very soon, it was readily apparent that Curry had no desire to be separated from his instrument.
The high school years can be tough to navigate for most kids, what with all the changes that their bodies and minds go through as they develop into young adults and search to find out who they really are, but when you factor in the desire to play the guitar 24 hours a day, a whole new set of discipline is required to make it through the public educational system.
“It kind of is (frustrating) because I want to do it (play the blues) so bad. I want to tour and see the whole world,” Curry said. “But, I know I have to go to school. Because I have to have a backup plan if I can’t do music. But I’ve got one year left of high school and hopefully after that, I’ll be out on the road.”
If Curry’s experiences as a young bluesman sound similar to those that a young Kenny Wayne Sheppard went through back in the 90s, it’s because the duo’s formulative years are very much alike.
They even share a common mentor – New Orleans’ bluesman Bryan Lee.
“Vocally, my main number one influence is Bryan Lee. He’s just the nicest man I’ve ever met on earth,” Curry said. “He’s toured all over the world and he knows that he and his band are great, but yet he’s so humble about it. Me and him and his guitar player Brent all stay in touch. As far as the blues, I think Bryan Lee is the best blues singer that I’ve ever heard.”
Aside from his dad, Curry’s list of favorite guitar players runs the gamut of great pickers.
“There’s just so many, but some of my top ones are Sonny Landreth, Joe Bonamassa and all of the old guys like Muddy Waters and B.B. King,” he said. “And even some of the country guys like Roy Clark. They’re some of my biggest influences. And Warren Haynes is one of my big inspirations as far as guitar-playing and song-writing. That’s why I decided to cover “Soulshine” on my album.”
After making such an immediate and impressive splash with If I Don't Got You, what does Curry have in store to stave off the mythical 'sophomore curse' with album number two?
“My goals for the next album are to take it to a bigger level than the last one, with more versatility and with something that when people hear it, they feel it, too,” he said.
Curry seems to have the strong support system of his family in place, helping him to keep a handle on what has to have been a pretty whirlwind time since If I Don’t Got You hit the streets.
And while he’s already climbed to some pretty impressive heights so far, Curry understands that the trip up the mountain requires just one single step at a time.
“All I know is, you never stop learning and I’m going to keep learning,” he said. “I just play and listen … no one’s ever the best, so I’m going to keep doing the best that I can do and hope for the best.”
While a lot of young adults his age have visions of careers as lawyers, doctors and ball players in the front of their mind, for Curry, it’s simply the blues or bust.
“I don’t want to do anything else. This is it. I want to play the blues for the rest of my life,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but this.”
After his appearance at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Curry drove straight through the night to Champaign, Illinois, where he took the stage at the Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival at the invitation of his friend Ronnie Baker Brooks.
But that’s just the beginning of Curry’s busy summer.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the Telluride Festival in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains,” he said. “There’s supposed to be like 15,000 people there. We’re going to do that at the end of August. It’ll be super fun.”
Then after that, Curry will once again temporarily set down his guitar and pick up his math and science books for his senior year of high school.
Even if some of his fellow school-mates might not exactly grasp all the progress, along with all the buzz that Matthew Curry has generated in the past 18 months or so.
“Well, it’s hard to say (what his classmates think about his journey so far), I think some might, but it's hard for kids at my school to know because they all listen to hip hop,” he laughed.
But regardless of that, the blues highway had better get used to seeing plenty of road miles from Matthew Curry and The Fury.
“When I’m 30 I’d like to be out on the road, touring somewhere – Europe, Russia … just out there making music, doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Visit Matthew's website at www.matthewcurry.com
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Royal Southern Brotherhood - Royal Southern Brotherhood
12 tracks; 51.51 minutes
German record label boss Thomas Ruf has already established an excellent roster of contemporary blues rock artists such as Walter Trout, Ana Popovic and Oli Brown. This time he has outdone himself in securing what can only be called a new American supergroup. RSB brings together Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers, Galactic), Devon Allman (son of Gregg, Honeytribe) and Mike Zito to provide a genuine triple threat out front, backed by the rhythm section of Yonrico Scott on drums (Derek Trucks Band) and Charlie Wooton on bass (The Wood Brothers). Vocals are shared between the three front men, guitars between Allman and Zito, Neville also providing varied percussion. The CD was produced by Jim Gaines and recorded at Dockside Studios in Louisiana. This is a band with pedigree, but can it deliver the goods?
The material is mainly original, one cover sitting alongside a selection of songs written by the three front men, either alone or in combination. Of course the combo of Neville and Zito has been heard before, notably on 2010 BMA Song Of The Year “Pearl River” and the CD opens with their “New Horizon”, a statement of intent as the drums herald a heavy beat that underpins competing slide and wah-wah guitars and a lyric (sung by Neville) that suggests “We’re at the crossroads where truth and time collide; time to fall off the fence, you got to pick a side”. Following track “Fired Up!” is Neville again, this time in consort with bassist Wooton and is a contrast in pace, far more Latin in feel, an impression reinforced by Allman’s superb guitar styling so reminiscent of vintage Santana. Neville again takes the vocal lead and the rhythm section deserves special mention as Wooton’s bass bubbles along beneath the tune and the percussion combination of Neville and Scott is genuinely exciting.
Devon Allman sings his own “Left My Heart In Memphis”, a gentle song with all the players hitting top form. Mike Zito shares vocals with Neville on their “Moonlight Over The Mississippi” which is possibly the bluesiest track on the album. Insistent percussion and wah-wah guitar (Allman) underpin the song and Zito takes a strong solo in the middle. The only cover on the CD is a Grateful Dead song “Fire On The Mountain”. With lyrics by regular Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, the music is by percussionist Mickey Hart and so is ideally suited to RSB’s rhythmic approach. Neville’s voice suits the song perfectly and the guitars again do an excellent job on one of many highlights on the album. Another Zito/Neville song, “Ways About You” is sung by Zito whose anguished voice conveys the sorrow of a failed romance before Allman and Neville’s “Gotta Keep Rockin’” does exactly that, Allman leading the charge on guitar and vocals on a mid-paced rocker that reminded me at times of Neil Young at his heaviest – a classic rock song.
“Nowhere To Hide” is also Allman’s song and is a good contrast with acoustic guitar and bass providing the rhythm behind Zito’s electric slide and Allman’s lead vocal. Zito penned “Hurts My Heart”, another catchy rocker with lots of strong guitar; in another era this would have been the first single off the album! In another contrast we then get lots of percussion and slide on Neville’s “Sweet Jelly Donut” which on close inspection has nothing at all to do with breakfast treats! Cyril is a frustrated man as he explains his failure to share his girl’s ‘donut’ though it appears that other name-checked New Orleans musicians are having better luck! “All Around The World” is a typical Mike Zito song, a mid-paced rocker with a rousing chorus and strong guitars, another very strong contender for the best track on the album. The final track is “Brotherhood”, an instrumental attributed to all members of the band, very African in feel, especially the percussion and bass. The role of the two guitarists is akin to classic Allman Brothers guitar dueling, so the combination is an interesting one.
I hope that I have conveyed my enthusiasm for this project which I enjoyed hugely. This CD is not blues, but it is consistently interesting, beautifully played and recorded. Highly recommended, but not for the blues lover purists. RSB will be in Europe in November and I have already bought my ticket!.
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 1 of 2 - Ain't Nuthin But The Blues Festival
The 11th Annual Ain't Nuthin But The Blues Festival was held in Bloomington, IL on July 20th and 21st.
Erc Tapley was the creator of this festival and produced it for the first 8 years before his untimely death a month before the festival in 2010. Eric had a great vision of the Blues and was one of only two, African American Blues festival promoters that I know of. (The other is Ronnie Stewart, Executive Director of The Bay Area Blues Society in California who produces the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival.
The fest was always done with the help of volunteers from the Blues Blowtorch Society. Deb & Steve Mehlberg, treasurer and president respectively, of the Blues Blowtorch Society, jumped in in 2010 to make sure the festival happened and have produced the festival since then. And they have done a super job with this great event.
This year the festival kicked off on Friday night with Sugarcane Collins, a solo guitarist and singer from Australia.
It was a great way to start off the event with a solid set of real Blues!
Next up was a Central Illinois band, Hurricane Ruth.
Ruth has a great set of pipes and did a good job entertaining the early evening crowd with a great set of rocking Blues.
Next up was another great Illinois based band, The Dave Chastain Band. Dave is well known throughout the Midwest in his own right but also spent a few years playing with both Luther and Bernard Allisaon. For this set Dave went all out bringing along Paul Weddle on sax and a couple of guest players from the Rooster Alley Band, Dave Hill on guitar and Dennis "The Boz" Bosley on harp and vocals.
The headliner for the evening was Teeny Tucker.
This was the second time Teeny has played this festival and she and bandleader/guitarist Robert Hughes put on one hell of a show to close out the evening.
On Saturday afternoon the festival kicked off with an area trio called the Alex Jenkins band. This reporter missed their set but everyone including Susan Walker who provided this bands photos said they did a great job kicking off the days talent lineup.
Next up was a well known Central Illinois Blues band by the name of Rooster Alley.
Front man Dennis "The Boz" Bosley played guitar, harmonica and sang lead vocals guiding this great act through a rollicking set of electric Blues.
Next up was Tallan Latz. This 12 year old veteran has been billed as the worlds youngest Blues guitar player since he began gigging at age 9.We last saw him two years ago at the Oz Fest in Springfield, MO. It was apparent that Tallan has progressed well and now has a band of Blues veterans that he led through a Blues rock set enjoyed by the crowd.
Next on the agenda was a nationally known act, Kilborn Alley. Leader Andy Duncanson is one of the best singers and songwriters on the Blues scene today. .
Along with the phenomenal guitar playing of Josh Stimmel, drummer Ed O' Hara and guests Deak Harp on Harmonica and Abraham, Johnson on vocals, Andy and the boys showed why the have received numerous award nominations including 7 Blues Blast Music Awards nominations over the last 5 years. They are nominated again this year in the Blues Band category, You can vote for them or any other of the artists nominated now, CLICK HERE)
Next festival promoters Steve and Deborah Mehlberg took the stage as Steve "The Harp" Blues Band to offer a great set of music for the early evening crowd.
They also had 3 guest harmonica players join them on stage including Teeny Tucker's harmonica player, Deak Harp and Josh Spence from the band The Sugar Prophets.
Next up was The Legendary Sam Lay. Sam has played with a wide range of famous artists including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, the Siegel-Schwall Band and Bob Dylan, (Sam was there that fateful day in at the Newport Folk festival when Bob Dylan was booed by his folk fans for playing electric guitar at the event)
Sam, who plays both guitar and drums, was on guitar for this set that included a guest appearances by Steve "The Harp.
The headliner for the night was Ana Popovic. Ana played, sang and looked great as usual. (In spite of the fact that she just gave birth to her second daughter only six weeks ago!)
It was the fourth time I have heard Ana. She had a new band that sounded great and a renewed confidence that had the crowd excited. Special guests Tallan Latz and Steve "The Harp" joined Ana on stage for a short encore.
The 2012 Ain't Nuthin But The Blues Festival was a true musical success. Be sure to put it on your calendar schedule for next year.
Photos and comments by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine, except where noted.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Biscuit Kings – Hambones & Trombones
Mind Smoke Music
Time: 49:32: 12 tracks
Bass guitarist Jeff Goldstein and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Johnny Pierre make up the band the Biscuit Kings with a dozen or so “Special Guests” dropping in to add the rest of the instrumentation to the tracks making up the CD Hambones & Trombones.
At first things seem to show promise when opening cut “The Day I Met My Waterloo” kicks things off. The tune’s funky New Orleans gumbo beat recalls the delicious musical groove of the city’s favorite sons The Radiators. And if the rest of the tracks followed along this musical course, then this music would be a barbeque party favorite. Pierre’s dusty whiskey nicotine vocals suit the material and Goldstein and the rest of the players lend strong support. Al Speed’s piano playing creates boogie fever in following track “Hot Barbeque” and at this point you feel the party is really getting started.
Sadly it’s not meant to be. Things start to turn south on “Love Turns To Gold.” At this juncture the music hits a flat line and the tempo for the rest of the tunes becomes so slow that there aren’t many occasions it can drag itself out of the hole. Many a time you wish the rest of the song collection would focus on the upbeat glow that permeated the first two tracks. Pierre seems to lock into the concept of singing cry-in-your beer ballads. That’s not bad for a couple of songs. Doing it for the rest of the CD not only creates a somber mood but an air of impatience as in when are things going to pick up?
A glimmer of light shows in “Marie Aguilar” where string arrangements by V. Deferens create the feeling this song was written in the nineteenth century. At best it seems a tavern favorite for that particular period as if a group of pirates raided the joint.
Praise has to be heaped on Johnny Pierre for writing all of these tunes. Rather than stage an all raid on the usual tired textbook standards that have appeared countless times on various blues CDs, you have to commend the man for running into the fire even though the results are not the best ones. The production is crisp and clean. The problem doesn’t lie in the production. The bulk of the material just doesn’t push itself out of the starting gate grabbing you by your coat sleeves. And while you may feel comfortable turning on some of your blues brethren to the music in your collection, you will be hesitant to do so with this. It’s not because the tunes don’t rest under a blues-rock umbrella. The material is just too simply slow-paced and the Biscuit Kings don’t light the fire to give it an edge.
In a live situation it could be a different story. But one thinks if material like this was played at a blues fest, people would get up and head to the food and drink lines.
And while the Biscuit Kings proclaim “Mardi Gras is Over” in one of the closing tracks, there’s a feeling of emptiness because while they pay homage to the Crescent City, they really don’t take advantage of getting a party off the ground. Pierre has the potential to create a spicy gumbo of American Roots Music. A lot less of cry-in-the-beer ballads and more danceable material can go a long way in creating a piece of work that’s enjoyable and an immediate cure for insomnia.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Johnny Neel – Every Kinda Blues
11 tracks / 59:14
Johnny Neel’s latest album title promises Every Kinda’ Blues…but what you’re used to.” That is a pretty tall order, but he gives his all to make good on it. It helps that he has a lot of experience with writing and performing. Originally from Delaware, he moved to Nashville in the mid-1980s, where his prowess on keys and harmonica earned him first-call studio musician status. He has recorded and toured with high-profile acts, such as the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule, and has written material for them as well as Travis Tritt, John Mayall, Dickey Betts, The Oak Ridge Boys and John Schneider. Yes, that John Schneider.
Besides constantly writing, recording and performing for other artists, Johnny still makes time to work on his own material. Every Kinda’ Blues is his latest album, with nine studio tracks and two songs that were recorded live in Italy. He has writing credit for all eleven tracks, and it is nice to see that he gives credit to co-writers on all of them. Mr. Neel co-produced this CD with bassist Dennis Gulley, who also took on the engineering responsibilities, of which there were plenty as there was quite a cast of characters involved. Contributing musicians included seven guitar players, four drummers and six backing vocalists, which is a lot to keep track of.
The title track comes up first, and I could hear right away that these guys know their way around the studio, as “Every Kinda’ Blues” is a really slick song. This blues rock offering has layers of distorted guitars, Hammond B3, imaginative harmonica parts and oodles of backing vocals – and these parts are mixed perfectly so the listener can take it all in. Johnny Neel’s voice is still throaty and powerful after all these years, and his experienced tone lends credence to his assertion that he has paid “every kinda’ dues.”
And he keeps changing things up with every track on the album, never staying in any one place too long. “Right Out The Old Window” adds horn sounds, honky-tonk piano and gospel backing vocals. I cannot decide if it sounds more like country or Chicago blues. Next comes “Won’t Lay Me Down”, which starts as a blues song that morphs into a full-fledged Robin Trower-esque 1970s acid blues rock anthem with organ and some fabulous guitar work. This is the first of the two live tracks, and I wouldn’t have known it was live if not for the applause at the end and the mention in the liner notes -- that is how well it was recorded. His live show must be to die for.
Chicago blues come next with the hard-driving “I’m Gonna Love You.” This song has a clever twist on the tired promise to “love you until the day I die,” and the thumping bass up front in the mix shows that the player was also the producer. From there he moves on to Nashville with “Sunday Morning Rain” which is a slow country rock song with electric piano, organ and slide guitar. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, which is not too surprising as I love the Allman Brothers. I think I even hear a little Memphis in the 1950s piano rock of “Johnny Needs a Shot,” and I can tell you that Jerry Lee Lewis has to be one of his influences.
“How to Play The Blues” seems to start as a smooth blues ballad, but ends up as a full-fledged gospel song with terrific backing vocals and Leslie-warbling organ. I am not usually a big fan of gospel, but this one does not get preachy, and it sounds thunderous through my headphones. The delta blues is not left out of the mix, as “Mighty Mississippi” gives a taste of distorted harmonica combined with some super-thick guitar parts. There really is a little bit of everything here.
Every Kinda’ Blues closes out with “My Kinda’ People” which is a beautiful ballad, featuring only Johnny’s voice and his piano. This is a neat story of love and friendship told in a way that I thought only Randy Newman could. He managed to change his sound on every track, and this song proved to be a tasteful way to end the album. And, while I cannot say that he gave me every kind of blues but the one I expected, Johnny Neel did give me every kind of blues that I wanted.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
Live Blues Review - Portland Waterfront Blues Fest Part II
The Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is held every year during the 4th of July - this year spanning five days. Due to the size of this festival, this is part 2 of our coverage. Just as last week, every performance was stellar, the music choices covering so many styles of blues, a zydeco stage with dance lessons, big headliners, local favorites, workshops, kid’s activities, cruises, a Mardi Gras procession, and great food! This is the biggest and best festival west of the Mississippi and all proceeds go to the Oregon Foodbank. Please see last week’s article for more information about the festival and the first half of the performances(which was basically split in the middle of the alphabet).
Delta Groove’s Mannish Boys performed multiple times this year, with Portland’s own Jimi Bott playing the drums in quite a few other bands. The Mannish Boys showcased their new CD and one of their newest artists on the CD, Sugaray Rayford- a great new addition to the already star-studded band. Sugaray joined the band on the first day, put on his own high-energy entertaining show – backed by the Mannish Boys – on day two, and they all boarded the Delta Music Experience river cruise and played another two hours on the cruise where they were joined by Curtis Salgado. The Mannish Boys and guests pictured include: Randy Chortkoff (harmonica), Franck Goldwasser (guitar), Lee Thornberg (trumpet), Ron Dziubla (Sax), Kid Ramos (guitar), Willie J Campbell (Bass), Jimi Bott (Drums), Finis Tasby (vocals), Kirk Fletcher (guitar) with guest Elvin Bishop, Sugaray Rayford, guest Curtis Salgado with Adrianna Marie on the cruise, Mitch Kashmir (harmonica) and Cynthia Manley (duet vocals) both with Sugaray.
Additional bands that played were Mr. Nick & The Dirty Tricks, Marquis Knox, Patrick Lamb and his big band, The New Iberians, Northwest Women in Blues (with Sonny Hess & Lisa Mann pictured), and The Pimps of Joytime.
The Otis Taylor Band was one the best headliners at the festival. His first set was his regular band including the always fascinating and super-talented fiddle player – Anne Harris, Todd Edmunds on bass, Larry Thompson on drums, and outstanding guitar with Shawn Starski. On the second day, Otis’ show was about Banjos and the band was joined by Portland’s Banjo master, Tony Furtado, and banjo veteran, Don Vappie. They were both fantastic shows!!
The flying fingers continued with the fastest slide guitarist on earth!! Roy Rogers brought it on! My camera lens is very fast but I can’t even begin to capture the speed with which Roy plays. Accompanied by Billy Lee Lewis on drums and veteran Steve Ehrman on bass, this band is truly thrilling to watch (and listen too of course!!) And as a side comment: Billy is one of the finest dressed drummers in the world and I don’t know how he managed to get the drums to match his outfit…..but it was stunning!
On a brassier note, two bands that were solid brass, high funk, and fun were The Stooges Brass Band and headliner Toots & The Maytals.
Winners of the 2012 IBC – The Wired! Band – won their spot on the main stage and proved their blues is deserving of an IBC win! The Seattle based band includes: Kevin Sutton - Guitar, Rick Jacobson - Drums, and Keith Bakke – Bass.
A very Portland popular band is Scott Pemberton who, halfway through the show, brought on Curtis Salgado as a guest, who then told the crowd “Scott is one of the most innovative musicians in the Portland area and not to be missed!!” I would agree and watched as he played incredible music on his guitar in just about every position imaginable.
Also from Portland was Tony Furtado, banjo master, who also played earlier with Otis Taylor’s Banjo set. Tony is as nimble on both the guitar and banjo as Roy Rogers is on slide guitar. His band included: Luke Price (violin), Paul Brainard (lap steel & guitar), Fred Kleiner (drums), Sam Howard (Bass), and Stephanie Schneiderman (vocals).
Too Slim & The Taildraggers are self- described as “Straight Whiskey Blues with a Southern Rock Beer Chaser!” Tim “Too Slim” Langford and Polly O’Keary are a Pacific Northwest Favorite with their happy antics and when Duffy Bishop joins in, the crowd just loves them. This year they included Dave Mill’s brass section for additional big fun!!
The 44’s- a Los Angeles-based band- plays blues-roots-rock music and are gaining fans across the America and a “pick to click” on XM/Bluesville. With Johnny Main on guitar, Tex Nakamura on harmonica, and Mike Turturro on bass, they are raw roots and blues at it’s finest. Although they played the smaller stage this year, they will be main stage headliners soon by demand!
One of the big sponsors at the festival is United By Music. To quote their website “United by Music provides talented people with intellectual disabilities the chance to perform for large audiences. The purpose of the foundation is to integrate people with intellectual disabilities in society and facilitate their quality of life. The stage gives the artists a unique opportunity to be treated as an equal. United by Music inspires, gives hope and changes lives.” Please visit their website – unitedbymusic.org - to learn more about this inspiring group of founders, supporters, and musicians. All of us who stood in the crowd and watched this group perform were moved beyond words and could really understand the universal power of music! So many of the performers at this festival are mentors to this group and the blues is a huge influence on their lives.
Three more local groups that participated in this year’s festival included:
The Usual Suspects
Too Loose Cajun Band (closing out the Zydeco stage)
And Wood Brain (with Jimi Bott on drums - again – he was everywhere!!)(Perhaps there should be an award for the most prolific drummer at any festival….)
The final headliner for the festival was the Steve Miller Band. The majority of the festival was waiting a long time for this performance - young and old. And the performance was great. Steve brought up Curtis Salgado and Roy Rogers and the three of them did quite a few songs together. (But we photographers have little to share of this performance as we were not allowed to shoot from anywhere).
So I wandered away from the set in (shooter’s) disappointment ( I could hear Steve Miller quite well from all areas and see him on the giant jumbotron) I checked my schedule one more time (not ready to have the festival end) and found a special performance going on the smallest stage at the festival. It was packed and it was a perfect ending of five fantastic days. On the FedEx Crossroads stage I found my favorite southern drummer, Cedric Burnside, with his sidekick guitar player, Trenton Ayers, putting on another great set. The manager for that stage all weekend was Clarksdale’s own Stan Street and for this final set, he was up on stage, playing harmonica with Cedric and Trenton. I sat down, pulled out the camera for a few final shots, and just soaked in the Mississippi blues as it should be played.
Once again, congratulations to the Oregon Food Bank, First Tech Credit Union, Safeway, and all the many sponsors, volunteers, and staff who put on the best festival in the west and who are so committed to make sure no one goes hungry while giving us blues fans a great place to spend the 4th of July holiday in beautiful Portland, Oregon!! See you next year!!! (a full set of photos will be eventually available at http://MJStringerPhoto.com)
Comments By Marilyn Stringer © 2012 MJStringerPhoto.com
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Orange County Blues Society - Orange, CA
Fullerton, Calif.) - The recently-formed Orange County Blues Society presents its first-ever concert event - "The Muck Blues Roots Festival" - under the stars at the scenic outdoor Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, Thursday, August 16. 8 p.m. Advance tickets available at www.orangecountybluessociety.com or through the Muckenthaler (www.themuck.org). Info: (714) 328-9375 or (714) 738-6595. Portion of 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), Autisim, Diabetes or Eye Cancer.
Ventura County Blues Society - Ventura, CA
Ventura County Blues Society presents: Sunday Matinee Concert Series II - A Benefit For The Moorpark Center For The Arts featuring Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers plus Alastair Greene Band and Mikey Mo Band, at High Street Arts Center, 45 E. High St., Moorpark, Sunday, August 5, 1 p.m.-6 p.m, Admission $20. VCBS members, $25. General Public. For more info visit www.venturacountybluessociety.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
River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois - Aug 8th at 7:00PM • Chris Beard Admission: $5.00 or $3.00 for members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Long Island Blues Society - Centereach, NY
The Long Island Blues Society will be hosting the following events:
8/12/12 Tas Cru. Frank Celenza opening, at 2PM Bobbique in Patchogue NY. LIBS Members $8, all others $10.
9/16/12 Long Island Blues Talent Competition (LIBTC) to select a representative for IBC. $10 donation to help defray winners expenses in Memphis. Location TBA. Now accepting applications for Band, Solo/Duo categories. Requirements on website www.liblues.org
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. • 8/6/2012 - Matt Hill • 8/13/2012 - Rockin Johnny • 8/27/2012 -Dennis Gruenling • 9/3/2012 - Eric Guitar Davis • 9/24/2012 - The 44s • 10/1/2012 - Levee Town • 10/8/2012 - Rich Fabec 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore. Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thur, August 9, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Wed, August 22, Smokin’ Joe Kubek w/ Bnois King, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, Sept 6, Ivas John Band, 7 pm, venue TBA
Tues, Sept 18, Smilin’ Bobby, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thur, Sept 27, Jerry Lee & Juju Kings, 7 pm, venue TBA
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials - Jump Start
There is no joy in Bluesville; the fun has left the building. Lil’ Ed and crew can usually be counted on for injecting humor occasionally into their releases, but most of that has been sucked out of this one. Is it the lack of ideas or a new approach? Much of the material here is serious or of the downer variety. Ok, this IS blues music, but Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials’ records were the place to go for some comic relief as well. The band is still strong. There is plenty of his slithering slide and many of the songs are upbeat, but something is missing.
Things get off to a rousing start with the quick-tempo of “If You Were Mine”. The closest they get to humor is the analogy of swimming as sex in “Jump Right In”. “No Fast Food” comes off sounding like their try at something like Albert Collins’ “Don’t Reach Across My Plate”, right down to the vocal phrasing. Ed serves up a signature slide workout in “Kick Me To The Curb”, as well as many other places on the record. “You Burnt Me” is a lowdown Chicago blues, one of the few here featuring no slide guitar. “Born Loser” is just what the title suggests, as the narrator lists his litany of bad qualities, all set to an upbeat groove. A change of pace is offered up on the slow burner “Life Is A Journey” as Ed gets mournful on his slide guitar. “My Chains Are Gone” is taken at a similar pace and is laced with melodic strains of slide guitar. “Moratorium On Hate” is their social statement this time around. The sentiment is fine, but the song structure is weak.
The music here is fine and energetic as usual. It seems that many of the songs are mostly a vehicle to display Lil’ Ed’s skilled slide technique. It seems like it’s time for the guys to seek outside songwriters. They could use more interesting and diverse lyrical content. It would also be nice if they brought some of the humor back into their music. If you want to see what this band is capable of on their best days, checkout out their previous CD “Full Tilt”. It has a more balanced and diverse approach. Hopefully they return to full power. To really experience the band at their best, catch one of their excellent and entertaining live shows.Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
The Mannish Boys - Double Dynamite
Disc 1 – 13 tracks/59:58
Disc 2 – 13 tracks/55:23
Sometimes there really is truth in advertising – this release is a double dose of awesome house-rocking blues by an extensive cast of some of the best blues musicians on the West Coast. Thankfully, the liner notes include a track-by-track breakdown for the thirty-plus musicians & singers who participated, so that you can keep the players straight. With so many outstanding performances, you will be glad that you can quickly determine who deserves credit.
The first disc, titled Atomic Blues, gets off to a strong start with the introduction of the newest member of the band, singer Sugaray Rayford. He wraps his rich, gospel-trained voice around the Son House classic “Death Letter”, as Frank Goldwasser's slide guitar rages behind him. On “Bricks in My Pillow”, Rayford shows he can handle a straight-ahead blues number before he unleashes his powerful voice on “Please Forgive Me”. Kirk Fletcher makes his presence known on lead guitar while label owner Randy Chortkoff blows some harp on his original tune. Another highlight occurs when Rayford gets deep into Otis Spann's “The Hard Way, with Rob Rio ably filling the chair at the piano.
Other highlights include veteran Finis Tasby's downcast vocal on “Mean Old World” with Rob Piazza on harp and Elvin Bishop guesting on slide guitar while his languid style is a perfect fit on another Little Walter tune, “Everybody Needs Somebody”, this time with Jason Ricci adding some dazzling harp licks.
Singer Jackie Payne's lays down a spellbinding performance on “She's Nineteen Years Old/Streamline Woman”, a medley of Muddy Waters tunes with Piazza and Goldwasser distinguishing themselves one more time. Muddy's son, Mud Morganfield, offers up two more examples of his ability to channel his father's vocal style on “Elevate Me Mama” and “Mannish Boy” with Bob Corritore taking over the harp chores. The final member of the harp crew, James Harman, makes a lone appearance on his “Bad Detective”, with vigorous work from Fletcher. Goldwasser takes over the microphone on “Bloody Tears” and rips through the tune with some nasty slide playing. Label owner Chortkoff displays his understanding of the Jimmy Reed style on “You Dogged Me”.
Fletcher, Goldwasser and the other regular members of the band – Willie J. Campbell on bass and Jimi Bott on drums – are back on the second disc, entitled Rhythm & Blues Explosion. Additional musicians include Bill Stuve on bass on five tracks and a horn section of David “Woody” Woodford on saxophone plus Lee Thornburg on trumpet.
Rayford continues his impressive streak, jumping the blues on “That Dood It”, engaging in a delicious duet with Cynthia Manley on James Brown's “You've Got the Power” and getting soulfully funky on “Drowning on Dry Land” with horns and Mike Finnigan on the Hammond B-3 organ filling out the arrangement. On “Why Does Everything Happen to Me”, Rayford serves up a devastating chronicle of life's woes with Kid Ramos adding his usual incendiary fretwork. Saving the best for last, his hypnotic voice rides Fred Kaplan's rich organ chords on James Cotton's 'West Helena Blues”.
Elvin Bishop rips off a fiery solo on “Born Under a Bad Sign” to support Tasby, who sounds half his age on “Later On” - Nathan James on guitar - and then takes things uptown on the horn-driven late-night blues “You Don't Love Me”, with Kid Ramos fashioning another memorable solo.. Both tracks feature His finest moment arrives on “I Woke Up Screaming”, expressing his inconsolable emotions that are echoed by taut string-bending from Junior Watson. Stuve's walking bass line propels Ray Charles “Mr. Charles Blues” with Finnigan impressing with a lusty vocal and mellow piano. Jackie Payne reveals his tortured soul as Jason Ricci tries to blow their blues away on “Bed For My Soul”. The instrumental rendition of “Cold Sweat” is a showcase for Kirk Fletcher and his guitar.
Other than refraining from using some of the well-worn blues songs, there isn't much that could be done to improve this collection. It sounds like the sessions were a big party. Everyone sounds inspired and the instrumental work is top-notch. This may be the crowning achievement for the Mannish Boys and is certainly is one of the best blues recordings that you will hear this year. Highly recommended!!
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
Mighty Mo Rodgers - Cadillac Jack
Tin Drum Music
15 songs; 44:41 minutes
Styles: Soul and Blues Rock
“It was a magical time in America, from 1959 to 1963, when we believed that anything was possible, even going to the moon. We were the undisputed number-one country in the world, and Cadillac was the car. I dedicate this project to that time and to Route 66, where Blues became Rock and Roll.” Mighty Mo Rodgers recalls these days on his newest album, “Cadillac Jack”, which he deems “the fifth cycle of the Blues Odyssey” on his website. Rodgers was born in Indiana where his father owned a club that featured blues performers. When he wasn’t studying classical piano, Mighty Mo was checking out the musicians who played there. In 1999 he released his first solo effort, “Blues is my Wailin’ Wall”, on Blue Thumb. He’s won several awards since then, including the 2002 Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for “Red, White and Blues” by Living Blues Magazine. “Cadillac Jack” itself features fifteen original songs, with a lyrics booklet included. Here are its three flashiest offerings, featuring Burleigh Drummond on percussion, Will MacGregor on bass and Kevin Longden on guitar:
Track 01: “Cadillac Jack Says ‘Bring the Fishtail Back’”-- “America’s rise can be traced to the fact when they put the fishtail on the Cadillac.” Mighty Mo enthuses in the title number of this CD. Baby boomers and classic car collectors will fondly remember this style of automobile, and bring the young folks up to speed via this peppy rock-and-roll number!
Track 04: “Cadillac Ranch (American Stonehedge)”--Beautiful harmonies between Mighty Mo and keyboardist Mary Harris abound on this ballad saluting “a ranch in Texas where fishtails grow”. It’s “a symbol of highway blues, wanderlust that you just can’t lose”. Perhaps our narrator is properly referring to the world-famous landmark of “Stonehenge” in this song’s subtitle, but then again, “henge” doesn’t rhyme with “pledge”!
Track 11: “My Blues, My Car and My Woman”--John Davis’ dobro is the finest feature on “Cadillac Jack’s” spiciest song. Mighty Mo is under pressure from his lady love to get his priorities straight: “My blues is #1, my car is #2, and woman, you’re #3. These are the blues rules, you see…” Fortunately for her, he eventually gives her top billing. Listeners will do the same to this song!
On Mighty Mo Rodgers’ website, a quote from August Wilson states: “The blues is the best literature that black Americans have. It is our best poetry. The entire cultural response is felt there in the blues.” On this album, listeners will hear Mighty Mo’s cultural credentials. One thing’s certain: “Cadillac Jack” blends the poetry of the blues with rock-and-roll soul!
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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