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 Lady Bianca. Michael Kurgansky has a photo essay from the Gloucester Blues Festival.
We have six music reviews for you! Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Steve Strongman. Ian McKenzie reviews a new release from Hans Theessink and Terry Evans. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from The Bare Bones Boogie Band. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Julian Sas. Steve Jones reviews a new album from Soulstack. John Mitchell reviews a new CD from Jeff Pitchell. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Featured Blues Interview - Lady Bianca
One would be hard-pressed to come up with a pair of more eccentric musicians than Frank Zappa and Sly Stone.
Famous for creating, and then occupying, their very own sections of the sonic universe, Zappa and Stone were a couple of cats cut from way different fabric than most others.
Although it may be hard to decipher at times, their music was really built on blues and R&B.
Both Zappa and Stone were highly-influenced by blues artists – artists like Guitar Slim in Zappa’s case and Bobby Womack and Johnnie Taylor in Stone’s.
Another bit of unified binding between Frank Zappa and Sly Stone – besides their often misunderstood public images?
In the 1970s, both Zappa’s and Stone’s touring bands included the magnificent Lady Bianca (Thornton) as pianist and backup singer.
While Lady Bianca’s background in gospel music may seem to be a strange fit into the stage shows of such a flamboyant pair, the truth is, it actually fits quite nicely.
“Sly’s from the gospel church – the sanctified church – and his music always had that overtone to it. When he was young, him and his brother and sisters used to play gospel music in the Church of God in Christ,” Bianca said. “He might have been making funky, soulful rock music, but there was always a lot of church in it, too. He was just really creative. I may not have got to sing with him at the height of his success, but I did get at least get to.”
Even though Bianca’s stint with Zappa in 1976 was a brief one (just a month), she took with her several year’s worth of knowledge and experience from her time with FZ (Editor’s note: A live recording titled Philly ’76 highlight’s Bianca’s presence in the band and features some impressive lead vocals from her on “Advance Romance” and “Over-Nite Sensation”).
“Frank showed me how to get my business straight. He showed me how to go about getting your own sound,” she said. “He also showed me the importance of writing your own material. Zappa was always writing, all the time. He was a very intense person. Frank was really into doo-wop and all the old black music. I’m so thankful for my experience with him, because it gave me some much-needed confidence; confidence to go out and to just be able to sing and not hold anything back.”
That confidence is bursting at the seams – from the title to the songs -on Servin’ Notice, Lady Bianca’s latest album.
On it, she doesn’t hold anything back and judging by the way that blues fans have been responding to the disc since it hit the streets back in January - notice has indeed been served.
“The reaction has been good – it’s really the best production we’ve ever done,” she said. “And as a result of that, sales of our other CDs have picked up, too. It’s helped put a renewed interest on all of our work.”
Bianca’s gospel roots are never too far away from headline status in her tunes, but there’s also liberal amounts of funk and southern soul, along with jazz and a hint of country and of course, the good ole’ blues. Good luck to being able to just sit quietly and listen to Lady Bianca. Her music requires one’s body to move along to it.
Instead of trying to fit her style into any particular box or mold it into any kind of certain form, Bianca just opens up and what comes out is … well … just what comes out.
“I think it’s natural, because it’s really in my fabric. From classical to country music to gospel … to learning the blues and southern soul … it’s all just part of who I am and what I do. It just all mixes together naturally,” she said. “It’s just me.”
For those not familiar with the Bay Area Blues Society’s Hall of Famer’s past works, Servin’ Notice should serve as an excellent vehicle to get them up to speed.
That being the case, the CD is titled just right.
“My husband named it that. He said, ‘You’re here to stay and you’re servin’ notice that you’re doin’ your own thing,” she said. “It’s like - here I am.”
In addition to coming up with the name to her newest CD - and being married to her - Lady Bianca’s husband, Stanley Lippitt, is also a noted producer and prolific songwriter.
So when it comes time to get down to business and craft a new batch of tunes, Bianca basically has to go no farther than her own living room in order to get started.
“That’s real cool. He was my (writing) partner at first and I grew into the spouse thing a few years after that,” she said. “We have really grown and gotten stronger as a (writing) team since we first started working together. I’m from more of the West Coast blues thing, but my husband is definitely a Stax man and into the Malaco sound. I’m a Midwest girl from Kansas City and he’s from Georgia, so we call it a caviar and cotton kind of blend. Although now, I’m more collard greens and he’s more caviar, but that combination works real well for us. It’s just like the difference of having a band that’s played together one year as opposed to one that’s played together for 20 years. The longer you’re together, the stronger and better you get.”
The first tune the pair created was one that was fittingly called “Passion” – a song that actually moved them to tears during its creation. And five albums and hundreds of songs later, just like a fine wine, the husband and wife song-writing team of Lady Bianca and Stanley Lippitt manages to keep getting better with age.
“We’ve both been through some things – just the trials of life –like raising your children and then having grand-children and seeing other people leave this world,” said Bianca. “Those things make you stronger as a person and if you can channel those things the right way, they can make you a stronger song-writer, also. I usually write most of my music in the morning, but he writes all the time. He writes all the lyrics. He’s just a fantastic writer.”
Over the years since she hit the stage as a 17-year-old backup singer for San Francisco bluesman Quinn Harris (he gave her the “Lady Bianca” name), Bianca has found out just what it takes to bring a song to life, turning it from mere words on a piece of paper to something that sticks in people’s heads days after their initial time of hearing it.
“It’s all about being truthful and being able to make things make sense. These songs have to be truthful – they have to have a reason – and they have to make sense, both to the writer and to the people listening to them,” she said. “It has to be something that people can identify with. Even if you’re just doing a dance song, it has to be something that people can identify with.”
“I want you to feel the music. I don’t want you to just go and watch the show and hear the songs; I want you to feel them. You can hear the saddest song in the world, but yet still feel good about it. That’s the power of music. I want that power to uplift and to have a positive impact on the people that I play for.”
More than just an inspirational vocalist and talented song-writer, Bianca, who was born in Kansas City and moved to San Francisco when she was 4, is also a gifted pianist.
“Well, basically, I’ve been playing at the piano since I was about 4-years-old. And when I was about 8 or 9, I used to love to hear Aretha Franklin play. She influenced me and Ray Charles influenced me on the piano,” she said. “And I don’t know about myself, but other people tell me that I have that kind of vibe on the piano. But I never really took piano lessons; I always just played by ear.”
Like Franklin and Charles, Bianca discovered that she had the ability to sing independently while playing the piano at the same time, something that sounds easy, but can be very difficult to pull off.
“It seems like there’s a line from my mouth to my hands – it’s like just one piece. Sometimes bass players have a hard time following me, because I’ve developed my own left hand and I can hear in my mind where I want the bass to go,” Bianca said. “The only one (bass player) that can really match and keep up with me is my son. He’s on most of my albums.”
As a teen, Bianca earned a scholarship to the world-famous San Francisco Conservatory of Music and attended for a couple of years, before deciding that her best opportunity to create her own kind of music did not fit in with the school’s curriculum.
Try as she might, Bianca just could not help but hear gospel music coming out of works by classical composers like Bach.
Later on, that ability to hear music outside of its normal box might have helped Bianca catch the ear of other like-minded artists, such as Frank Zappa and Sly Stone.
But Zappa and Stone were not the only legendary musicians that Bianca worked with before starting her own solo career.
She also recorded backup vocals for James Ingram and Taj Mahal and toured with Van Morrison for several years.
“Van Morison. That’s my boy. He is so funny, but he doesn’t think he is. He just never smiles, though,” she said. “But on stage, we had a really good, silent report – just through eye contact,” she said. “And one of the biggest compliments he ever gave was when he would say to me, ‘Hey, go out there and sing something by yourself.’ That really meant a lot. And one of the last things I did with him in 2009 was (Pink Floyd’s) “Comfortably Numb” at Madison Square Garden and it was really powerful. It was so powerful that I was asked not to sing it again.”
While she may not have been given total free reign to command the concert spotlight while backing up luminaries like Zappa, Stone and Morrison, when it came time to head out on her own, Bianca still had the confidence to grab command of the proceedings, engaging her audience and taking them along for the ride.
And as anyone who has been in one of Bianca’s audiences can bear witness to, what happens up on stage is one powerfully, moving experience.
It’s no wonder what Bianca cites as her inspiration for her fiery performances.
“I think it’s from church. It’s from being in choir. You have to be able to get up on stage and say, ‘Let me hear an Amen!’ A lot of the gospel artists back in the day, the only way they could really get you into their show was if they made you part of the story,” she said. “They would say, ‘You know I went down to the river the other day to get baptized … Amen, Amen. How did it make you feel? Did you feel good? … Amen, Amen. I don’t know about you, but when I was down there, something got a hold of me … Amen, Amen.’ And when I would watch them, I would get chill-bumps. They would enlist you into their show; they would put their audiences at the forefront of what they were doing. And that’s what I try to do. And hopefully, (at the end of the show) we all go away joyful and happy.”
Despite the fact that a number of her albums have been self-released, Bianca has still managed to grab the attention of the record industry, something that at time can be akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
That attention has resulted in three Grammy nominations for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Even though she has yet to take home one of those golden statues, Bianca isn’t about to dwell on that.
Matter of fact, she really doesn’t even waste much time thinking about it.
“I don’t really worry about that. I would love to have a Grammy, but I may not ever get one. And that’s OK,” she said. “My thing is about loving music and loving what I’m doing and trying to keep it going and growing. That’s what it’s all about. I want this music to never die.”
Visit Lady Bianca's website at www.ladybianca.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
Steve Strongman - A Natural Fact
On this, Canadian Steve Strongman’s first acoustic release, there are elements of the blues throughout, mostly in his use of instrumentation. There are no what you could really call blues songs here. He’s a singer-songwriter much like Keb Mo’, who does the occasional blues song perhaps to give him street “cred”. That is not to say everything here isn’t well done and highly listenable. He is a very nimble-fingered acoustic guitarist and in possession of a strong, clear and pleasant voice. He gets occasional assistance from piano, upright bass and drums, but this is basically an acoustic project. All the songs are original with help from producer Rob Szabo or drummer Dave King at times.
Steve gets things off to a toe-tapping start with the upbeat and infectious guitar groove he applies to “Haven’t Seen It Yet”. “The Mood” includes the first appearance of piano man extraordinaire Jesse O’Brien. Things you said that you wish you could take back is the subject of “Can’t Go Back”, which showcases Steve’s fluid slide guitar technique. “Secret” would be well suited to Lindsey Buckingham. The duet with Suzie Vinnick on “Leaving” reveals her to have a fine tough-girl voice similar to Bonnie Bramlett. The tune also treats the listener to more boogie-woogie piano. Much of the material skirts the styles of Lyle Lovett, Jonathan Edwards, Chris Smither, David Bromberg and others of that ilk. Lovett comes to mine in the jaunty goodtime “I Forgot” which has some nice melodic slide as well as harmonica. “Pop-blues” ala James Taylor shows up in “Rockin’ Chair Blues”. A finger-picking-slide feast is provided on “You Do It To Yourself”. “The skip-along quality of “Full Of You” shows the Jonathan Edwards influence, complete with “Gonna Lay Around The Shanty And Put A Good Buzz On” harmonica. Harmonica and handclaps are the sole accompaniment of the gospel-infused closing song “Just One Thing”.
This all adds up to one great listen. The combination of great vocals and guitar technique along with fine arrangements and production values make this a prime contender for the blues-inflected singer-songwriter arena. With the right promotion his songs would make a fine addition to any like-minded radio station’s playlist. Steve’s guitar playing, whether finger-picking or slide propels the songs along giving a bluesy-feel throughout. The piano skills of Jesse O’Brien are an extra bonus, although he only makes an appearance on less than half of the tracks. The rhythm section always provides a good foundation. Give this record a try and you’ll find much to like here.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Live Blues Review - 2012 Gloucester Blues Festival
The first annual (hopefully) Gloucester, Massachusetts Blues Festival was held on August 11, 2012 at Stage Fort Park, a beautiful location by the waterfront.
Paul Benjamin and Bob Hastings, who also produce the the North Atlantic Blues festival in Rockland, Maine, gathered a variety of musicians from Massachusetts, Chicago, New Orleans and Houston to entertain at the one day inaugural event.
Starting off the show was local favorite and former New Orleans resident, Henry Smith. Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Smith's New Orleans flavored repertoire included blues, jazz, cajun-zydeco, funk, Caribbean and swing. Henry and his band lit a spark in the audience and had people dancing despite the hot and steamy day.
Dikki Du (Troy Carrier) and the Zydeco Krewe kept the New Orleans groove going with a set of funky and hard driving Zydeco music, which kept the audience dancing.
Next up was Chicago blues master, Eddie Shaw and his Wolf Gang. Backed up by his son, Eddie Vaan Shaw, Jr. on his three neck guitar, long time bass player Lafyette "Shorty" Gilbert and Tim Taylor on drums, Eddie presented a driving set of traditional Chicago blues and original songs. Eddie, Jr. proved that he is one of today's best Chicago blues guitarists. And, of course Eddie with his blazing sax, harmonica and vocals showed New England why he's one of Chicago's blues legends.
Lucky Peterson, a child blues prodigy, has grown into a blues veteran and master on guitar and keyboard. His enthusiasm was particularly evident as he walked through the audience for a long stretch, playing guitar and interacting with his fans. Then he introduced his beautiful and talented wife (and saviour) Tamara, and ceded the vocals to her, as she belted out some soulful, funky R & B, and blues. It's a match made in heaven.
The multi-talented Kenny Neal brought the audience back to Louisiana, with his Crescent City tinged flavor of blues. Kenny, with his infectious, constant smile, and talents on guitar, vocals, harmonica, lap guitar and song writing has to be one of the most gifted artists on the blues scene. His enthusiasm for the music brought Eddie Shaw on sax and Dikki Du on accordion back to the stage towards the end of his set and they all had the audience on their feet.
Shemekia Copeland closed the day at the Festival. This young lady knows how to belt out the blues with much soul and feeling, but also has spread her wings in other musical directions with the same intensity and passion.
This was a small, "good vibe", relaxed festival in a beautiful location with excellent local food vendors. Musicians browsed the vendors and mingled with the audience. Eddie Shaw sat in the audience throughout the show enjoying Lucky, Kenny and Shemekia, as well as a delicious looking ice cream sundae his son brought him.
Hopefully the town of Gloucester will invite Paul Benjamin and Bob Hastings back to host the second annual Gloucester Blues Festival in 2013.
Reviewer Michael Kurgansky is a Blues fan and professional photographer. Visit his website at: www.kurgansky.com.
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Hans Theessink and Terry Evans – Delta Time
Blue Groove - Also on Vinyl: BG2210
Ten Tracks 56:29
The making of Delta Time:
This is the second album to feature the combined talents of Theessink and Evans (the first was Visions:2008). Hans Theessink who hails from Holland, tours relentlessly throughout Europe, there, bringing into his audiences his consummate acoustic guitar playing and his stunning voice. Terry Evans comes from Vicksburg, Mississippi. He comes from a gospel heritage but his singing and guitar player in are infused with blues. Unlike Mr. Thessinck, who has a deep bass baritone voice, Mr Evans, despite his wide range, tends to stick in the tenor register and the result is a beautiful fusion of two complimentary human voices producing the sounds of musical magic.
As if that’s not enough, on this CD the music is enhanced by contributions from Ry Cooder who offers some phenomenal trademark guitar sounds while Terry’s singing colleagues, Willie Greene Jr. and Arnold McCuller add some gospel-blues drenched vocals. The latter inclusion is on an excellent version Mississippi, and the title track Delta Time (as well as a couple of other tracks) with some fabulous close harmony sounds. On the CD too, is a new version of The Birds And The Bees, a jolly little song, on the original recording of which, made 50 years ago, Terry was a principal vocalist.
In a fascinating aside, Theessink describes the gear brought to the studio by Ry Cooder and looking as though it had just come from a garage sale – nothing under 40 years old!
Delta time was recorded in Los Angeles and simply beautifully recorded with exemplary musicianship. It is an audiophile recording, and has a beauty that is impossible to convey in words. Unless you are ‘nothing but blues-rock, person, this is one you should give a listen to. If you are an acoustic guitar and close harmony person, it is a MUST!
Reviewer Ian McKenzie is English and is the editor of Blues In The South, [http://www.bluesinthesouth.com] a monthly blues information publication. He is the producer/ host of two blues radio shows Blues Before Midnight on KCOR (Kansas City Online Radio: www.kconlineradio.com) Fridays; and Wednesday's Even Worse on Phonic FM (www.phonic.fm) alternate Wednesdays.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Bare Bones Boogie Band – “Blue CD”
10 tracks / 48:46
I have the good fortune to listen to blues CDs from all over the world, and this week I had the pleasure of hearing the latest release from London’s Bare Bones Boogie Band. And true to their name, this foursome plays a stripped-down no-nonsense power blues that is held together by their prodigious talent. Vocalist Helen Turner has worked with guitarist (and fellow Scot) Iain Black since 1990, and Trev Turley from Birmingham joined them on bass in 2003. The Bare Bones Boogie Band came together as a whole in 2008 when Andy Jones, a drummer from Manchester, came into the fold. In 2010 they gave us their well-reviewed eponymous debut CD and supported it with endless touring.
This is a review of their second CD, which is also self-titled, but it is being called the Blue CD because the logo is blue, differentiating it from their first release that had a red logo. In their catalog they refer to it as “BBBBCD2.” The Blue CD sounds a bit better, doesn’t it? This album includes ten tracks: eight of which were written by Black, one from Andy Jones, and a touching cover of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain.” You will find that all of the touring they did has been put to good use, as all four members of the band are in top form for this project.
“Fallin’ for Foolin’” is the first track on this release, and the listener will find that although these four folks came from different parts of the UK, there is no Scottish or English accent or tone to the music, it is just the blues. This is a long and slow song for an opener (almost seven minutes), but it is cleverly-written and well-produced with up front guitar, drums and bass and of course Helen Turner’s vocals. Everybody has a chance to show what they can do on this track, and Helen really stands out: her vocal style is brilliant and shows that she has learned a lot about her craft over the past few decades.
The next two tracks “Midnight O2” and “Sittin’ Here Sewin’” evoke a 1970s blues/rock mood with round and lively bass lines and fat guitar over the tight drumming of Jones. But there is plenty of variety to be found on this album as it segues into a lovely ballad, “Mean Old Man,” which is not a conventional love story. This song shows tremendous restraint on the part of all that were involved, and there is just enough of a contribution from everybody to assemble a really good song, which is a sign of how this band has matured.
One of my favorite tracks on this release is “Wings” which is a fabulous showcase of Helen Turner’s vocal range and the soul she puts into the music. These same qualities carry over to “Love in Vain” which was written by Robert Johnson, but made famous for us mainstream folks by the Rolling Stones. Her sweet voice helps the Bare Bones Boogie Band make this version their own. It appears that there is no shortage of soulful blues ballads on this album, which is a good thing in my book.
After a couple of more blues rock tunes (“A Little Bit More” and “Travellin’ Light”), the band chose to close out the album with the end of the album with “My Man Loves my Van.” This is a fun beer joint 8-bar blues song that shows that the band does not feel like they have to take themselves too seriously. This is a fabulous quality in any band, if you ask me.
The Bare Bones Boogie Band have avoided the sophomore jinx with this CD, and I have to say that I think this work outshines their debut album in every way (by the way, I really like the Red CD). The whole production sounds more full and rich, and each of the artists have grown and improved on their performances since we last heard from them. This is helped along by the fact that the songwriting is much more consistent throughout this release. This is a great CD, and I highly recommend that you check it out when you get a chance.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.
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DC Blues Society - Washington, D.C.
The 24th Annual DC Blues Festival, is Saturday, September 1, Noon - 7:30 pm Carter Barron Amphitheatre, 16th St. & Colorado Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20011. ADMISSION IS FREE!
Lineup: Sista Monica Parker, Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, Lionel Young Band, Clarence "The Blues Man" Turner, DC Blues Society Band with Ayaba Bey. Family-friendly fun with music workshops, instrument petting zoo & ample free parking.
Also the After-Party features Lionel Young Band, 8:30 PM - Midnight American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910. (Entrance on Fenton St. near parking lot). Advance Tickets: Members $12, Non-Members $15 Door: Members $15, Non-Members $17. Purchase on-line: www.dcblues.org or call 301-322-4808
Need More Blues? Come to the FREE First Sunday of the month Blues Jam Sunday, September 2, 4:00 - 8:00 pm. American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910 Blues fans, dancers & musicians of all skill levels are welcomed for a guaranteed great time! DC Blues Society: Celebrating the Blues for 25 years in DC-MD-VA! Info: www.dcblues.org
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society will be presenting blues guitarist/singer/songwriter Debbie Davies at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA, on Friday, September 7 at 9:00 p.m. Admission is $12 for members of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society or $15 for non-members. Coupons for $5 off the cost of admission will be available at the East West Riverfest Opening Ceremony held from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at the RiverCenter, 136 East 3rd Street, Davenport, IA.
Also as part of the East West Riverfest, the Mississippi Valley presents Studebaker John and the Hawks on Sunday, September 16, at 5:30 at Martinis on the Rock ((34th Street and Blackhawk Road, Rock Island).Admission is $5 for members of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society or $8 for non-members (membership applications will be available at the door), or FREE for all participants in the September 16 Bikes and Blues Fun Run.
September 16 is the last chance to participate in the 2012 Bikes and Blues Fun Run presented by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. The Fun Run will start at Ducky's Lagoon (Andalusia, IL) and wrap up at Martini's on the Rock (Rock Island, IL) with stops at Buelahs (New Boston, IL), The Pub (Oquawka, IL), and Beer Belly's (Aledo, IL) in between. Cost is $5 per rider entry and will include admission to see Studebaker John and the Hawks at Martinis. Entry to Fun Run starts with check-in between 10:30 am - noon (last bike out at noon) at Ducky's Lagoon in Andalusia, IL. Last bike must be in at 5:00 p.m. at Martini's on the Rock in Rock Island, IL to be eligible for card drawings and door prizes. All vehicles welcome! For more information on events presented by the The Mississippi Valley Blues Society visit: www.mvbs.org ; or email email@example.com .
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.
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
Julian Sas - Bound to Roll
13 songs; 53:15 minutes
Styles: Southern Rock and Blues Rock
Southern and blues rocker Julian Sas sends greetings from his native Netherlands, along with his eighth studio album, “Bound to Roll”! Although relatively unknown in the U.S., he, bassist Tenny Tahamata, and drummer Rob Heijne have gained a fanatical following. One of Julian’s finest feats was headlining the Fehmarn Festival in Germany, a Woodstock equivalent dedicated to Jimi Hendrix. He also earned top billing at the annual Rory Gallagher Tribute Festival in Ireland. For American rock and blues fans, “Bound to Roll” offers nine Sas(sy) originals and three rip-roaring covers. The most discriminating genre connoisseurs may say this album brings Lynyrd Skynyrd far more to mind than Willie Dixon or Robert Johnson. However, here are three selections that are guaranteed to attract the notice of even the most zealous blues zealots:
Tracks 01 and 13: “Life on the Line” and its “Radio Edit”-- Essentially, these two songs are one, so they shall be mentioned as such. “Life on the Line” is the purest blues track on “Bound to Roll,” not just in tone and rhythm, but lyrically as well. “Someday the world gonna see everything I did for you,” Julian warns. “I laid my life on the line--was it good enough for you? NO!” His fiery electric solo in the middle, backed by Tahamata’s down-and-dirty bass, will make listeners lay their attention on the line for sure!
Track 06: “Swamplands”-- The title of this gritty stomp refers to the present abode of a fugitive: “Way back down in the swamplands, I keep on running from the law. I’m crying out for mercy--you don’t know what I saw! Take my ride across that river, and please, mama, let me hide. I’m crying out for mercy--nobody knows what I feel inside….” “Swamplands” is the perfect counterpoint to movies and songs which glamorize fleeing justice, because as this ballad’s narrator knows all too well, “it’s a long way home” for him!
Track 11: “Ain’t Backing Down”-- Small-town life can be cozy, but in this magnificent acoustic ballad, Julian Sas proves that it’s not for everyone. “Don’t try to lie about me,” he admonishes his fellow residents, “because in your heart, you know I ain’t one to blame. You live behind these walls so safely, and for me it just ain’t the same.” The melancholy expressed here is not due to loneliness per se, but wanderlust--loneliness for the open road.
In the liner notes to this album, Julian states: “For me this is a very personal album, and almost every song is about something that happened in my life.” Whether this album is pure blues or not, it’s “Bound to Roll” into the CD collections of Southern rock and blues lovers!Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Soulstack - Big Red
13 tracks (12 songs)
This is the first release of Soulstack, a Toronto -based band with a bayou-based sound. Front man Jon Knight sings, plays guitar and co-wrote all but one song with keyboard player and vocalist Mark Wessenger. Knight is a great vocalist and holds his own on the guitar, but what also really impressed me is Wessner on the Wurlitzer and Hammond organs. Back line mates Tom Bona (vocals and drums) and Josh Knight (vocals and bass) are also solid throughout. This is a pretty cool band with a really good sound.
"In My Time of Dyin'" is the only cover, a traditional where Knight moans and the organ sparkles. Soulful and expressive, with a nice touch of guitar. They take you to church here, with a really good and bluesy/gospel sound. The other 11 songs are all brand new and I have no complaints with any of them- really well done stuff here.
"Stone Cold Man" opens the set and gets the juices flowing nicely with a driving beat and big sound. More of a rocking funky tune, this is a great intro to their album and shows us what they can do. "Desperate Times" takes us down to New Orleans with the big organ, piano and overall swamp pop sound. "Since You Came Around" is upbeat and more of the same; "I used to live my life in a minor key" is a cool analogy for what his love has done for him. "Just A Natural Thing" gives us some good uptempo music and impressive instrumentals. The closing cut "Miss Me" is somewhat up beat as it changes gears and uses a gospel influence sound to drive the song to the end.
"Desperate Times" is a big and more down beat track as is "Skinny Girl"; "In Your Mind" gets even more down and dirty, with more down home slow blues like in the cover cut. Wessenger does the vocals here and on another track- he's up to the task, too! He gets way down and dirty. It''s time for church again with "River of Love ," where organ, slide and guitar along with Knight's vocals just make you want to get on your knees and be taken down to the river of love. In "Holy Roller" we find hear how they will be "your holy roller" and make you "lay your Bible down;" I don't think he's talking about church services, ladies. A thoughtful and building instrumental accompanies this on piano, guitar and organ to take us out to the end of the cut. "Your Only Man" is another funky one, good licks and the soulful organ again fills this love song out so well. Acoustic guitar backed by the organ give "Let Me Be Your Fool" a minimalistic sound; the rest of the band is there, but their restraint is a nice touch.
These guys are the real deal. This debut recording is a well above average effort; the guys are soulful, funky and have a great and together sound. I enjoyed listening to this CD and anyone who likes a funky blues sound with a really good mix of organ and keyboards on top of guitar and effective vocals will really get hooked on this CD!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Jeff Pitchell – American Girl
14 tracks; 49.44 minutes
Jeff Pitchell’s new CD is a mixture of recordings. Some songs were written for an upcoming movie by James Woods entitled “American Girl” and find Jeff writing with Jeff Silbar (Wind Beneath My Wings) and Gary Nicholson (Delbert McClinton); these songs were recorded in Nashville with David Z producing. Four cuts come from more recent sessions in Massachussets with Jay Geils producing. The musicians on board for the recordings is an impressive list: Reese Wynans and Bruce Bears play keyboards, David Smith and Jesse Williams share bass duties, Marty Richards and Lynn Williams share the drum stool. A horn section includes Rich Lataille on alto and tenor, Jim Hogan on baritone, Scott Aruda and Scott Heff on trumpet and backing vocals come from Bekka Bramlett, Etta Britt, Nakita Walker and Linda Casey Ransom. Additional rhythm guitar is by Mike Durham and Jay Geils plays on the four tracks he produced as well as bringing regular collaborator Gerry Beaudoin along to add a third lead guitar to an excellent version of “T Bone Shuffle”.
Jeff has a light, clear voice which works well with the material. Opener “Every Day” sets the standard with catchy refrain, fine guitar and superb, subtle support from the horns and backing vocalists. “T Bone Shuffle” always works for me and the Jay Geils produced version here is a winner. Jeff takes the first solo, Gerry Beaudoin the second in jazzier vein and Jay takes the third, the horns and the entire band swinging like mad throughout. “Saturday Night” has a riff that recalls “I Got Loaded” and the band again swings hard against Jeff’s tough solo. “Out In The Cold” is a bit rockier with some distorted guitar that worked less well for me. “I Found Me” is a nice contrast, Jeff’s voice right up front in a touching love ballad in which Jeff tells us that when he found his girl he found himself.
The other three Jay Geils tracks then follow, starting with a fine version of “Homework”. Swirling organ and deep baritone sax underpin the familiar vocal which Jeff handles excellently and I liked his guitar solo here which is followed by Jay Geils’. “Hard Drivin’ Man” is a Jay Geils/Peter Wolf tune and here represents one of the hardest rocking tunes on the CD. Jeff’s own “Prisoner Of Love” holds its own with these songs, another rocker with Jay Geils’ slide and powerful backing vocals propelling the song.
The rest of the album features songs that are presumably intended for the movie soundtrack. “Step Up” is a great track with impressive horns and a strong guitar solo. Title track “American Girl” has a strong chorus over a wah-wah rhythm. “My Jesus” is a slow, moody track while “Seriously” is quite fun and ‘folky’ with banjo and what sounds like a kazoo in the mix! Strangely this is the second CD I have reviewed recently with a song called “Beautifully Broken” – and neither is the Warren Haynes song! This one is beautiful indeed, a collaboration between the Jeffs Pitchell and Silbar. Jeff’s voice is set against some lovely piano, melodic bass and subtle drums. Finally there is a bonus track entitled “It Comes To Me Naturally” which is terrific, a real ear worm of a rocker with a catchy chorus, barrelhouse piano solo and a great band performance. The song is written by Keith Ainsley and tells us amusingly about being a ‘ladies’ man’!
Overall an impressive CD with plenty to enjoy. Recommended.
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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