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Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Hammer Blues News

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Davina & The Vagabonds
'Black Cloud'

Debbie Bond
'Hearts Are Wild'

David Maxwell & Otis Spann
'Conversations in Blue'

Levee Town
'Pages of Paperwork'
Important Links

Black Cloud on the Radio 
You may experience moments where your luck feels a might dark
. Allow us to shine a bright light on ya. March 25th on Hammered By The Blues (every Sunday on KOWZ 1170AM at 10pm) we believe a little joy will turn anyone's luck around. We start out by tossin' nothin' but 7's and 11's as Davina & The Vagabonds roll out the magic off their latest, 'Black Cloud'. Callin' on a real lucky ginger, Debbie Bond tosses you a bouquet of four leaf clovers off 'Hearts Are Wild'. Drawing to an inside straight, David Maxwell & Otis Spann transport you to a different time with a handful off 'Conversations In Blue'. Findin' that winnin' lottery ticket stuck the bottom of your shoe, we skip on off to collect our winnings from Levee Town as they have you fill in the boxes off 'Pages of Paperwork'. As Charlie Sheen aptly summed it up: WINNIN"!!       

You makes yer own luck, you know it's true;
No matter if you be born a pink or sassy blue; 
  We finds our own path and travel it the best we can; 
Learnin' them lessons jumpin' from fire to fryin' pan!
Fresh Stuff Ya Wanna Know
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NOW On Line
Mar. 17: St. Paddy's Music Fest 1pm-?
Andy Pifer, Curtis Blake & Greazy Gravy, Bluprint, and The Good, The Bad & The Funky   
Minnesota Music Cafe, St. Paul, MN

Mar. 17: Willie Murphy 
Covered Bridge, Zumbrota, MN
(see poster below) 

Mar. 18: Benefit for Lynwood Slim 
Cabooze, Mpls, MN 

Mar. 22: Coco Montoya 
Minnesota Music Cafe, St. Paul, MN

Mar. 23: Jimmy Vaughan w/ LouAnn Barton
Trent Romens opening 
Whiskey Bones Roadhouse, Rochester, MN
(see poster below) 
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Show #307 Nick Moss, Kilborn Alley, Christy Rossiter & 112 North Duck, and Andy Poxon

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Illinois Blues Blast

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012

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 In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with John Primer.
We have seven CD reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from 2011 IBC runner up Mary Bridget Davies. Gary Weeks reviews a new CD from Son Roberts. Sheila Skilling reviews a new CD from Joel DaSilva & The Midnight Howl. John Mitchell reviews 2 new CDs from Polish Blues artist Magda Piskorczyk.  Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Catfish Keith. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Hip Shakin' Mama & the Leg Men. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!! 

 Blues Wanderings
We made it out to the Illinois Central Blues Club's (ICBC) 26th Anniversary Celebration last weekend. The party featured local 2012 IBC qualifier Tombstone Bullet followed by Lil' Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials. Hats off to the ICBC as they are among the oldest operating Blues Societies on the planet. Their 26 years straight of weekly Blue Monday concerts is unique and unmatched by anyone! Good job guys, keep it up! 
Above — Lil Ed with guitarist Mike Garrett, bassist James “Pookie” Young, drummer Kelly Littleton

The 2012 Blues Blast Music Award Nominations
We are accepting submissions from labels and artists until April 15th, 2012. Artist do not necessarily have to submit their releases to be considered but any that do will have their recordings actually screened by the nominators.  (Our Nominators can't nominate something they haven't heard!)
We have 30 nominators so you need to send 30 individual copies to be considered before April 15th, 2012. Any received after that date may not get sent to the nominators.
There is no charge for this. We will cover the cost and effort to get your eligible CD or DVD release into the hands of the nominators if you send them in.  We reserve the right to change this policy in future years. CD's received after April 15th, 2012 may not reach the nominators so hurry and get your submissions in today! For complete details, CLICK HERE
Nominators begin submitting their nominations May 1st and final nominations will be announced after May 31st, 2012. Voting Begins in July.

 Featured Blues Interview - John Primer
By most all accounts, Theresa Needham was, at the very least, a super-feisty woman.
One that you did not want to tangle with.
Because though she may have been on the other side of 70 years old, everyone knew that the owner of Theresa’s Lounge could pack one heck of a punch.
So when John Primer saw her approaching the bandstand at a rapid clip after he had just finished a song, he couldn’t help but fear the worst.
“I was up on stage and saw her coming at me with her hand in her apron and I said to myself ‘Oh, Lord, she’s fixing to shoot me,” Primer said. “She stopped and looked me up and down and I thought, he it comes. But she reached in her apron and pulled out a $10 bill for me.”
An Alexander Hamilton instead of some hot lead from the business end of a Colt .45?
Pretty sweet deal.
“I’d been playing there (at the club) a couple of weeks but hadn’t sung anything. But one night I sang a Bobby Bland tune, “Today I Started loving You Again,” said Primer. “And she pulled that money out of her apron and said, ‘Here, mother&#* I didn’t know you could sing.’ Whew! What a relief. But then every night after that I sung that song. That was her favorite song.”
Patrons of Theresa’s Lounge probably never knew exactly what to expect when they descended those concrete steps into the subterranean depths of that funky old bar.
But one thing they knew for sure – there was plenty of Chicago blues to be found there, regardless of the day of the week.
“Oh yeah, it was pretty wild with all the people that was coming in there. You’re talking about Junior Wells and James Cotton and all those great guys,” Primer said. “Those were some great times with some great blues.”
Primer played there seven nights a week, hitting the stage at 9 p.m. and jamming right up until 2 a.m. the next morning.
His tenure as the featured house band at Theresa’s began in 1974 after he was invited there to play by John Watkins (Willie Dixon’s one time guitarist), who he would eventually replace at the club.
And right off the bat, Primer was initiated into just what kind of goings-on he could expect to occur at 4801 South Indiana Ave. on a nightly basis.
“I get there on a Sunday night and tell her (Theresa) that John Watkins invited be down to play,” he said. “So I’m back there talking to John and all of a sudden a beer can comes flying past. She threw a beer can at John Watkins and called him a bad name. So I said, oh wow.”
And although Theresa would from time to time fire Primer (or for that matter, any band), he would quickly be rehired when tempers cooled down and he ended up holding down the fort at the legendary club until the early 1980s.
While there are still plenty of places to see the blues in the Windy City, there is just not the sheer number of clubs catering to the blues-loving public today like there was back in the 1960s and 70s.
“That’s true. The economy is part of it. People just don’t have jobs like they used to,” said Primer. “Back in those days, there were plenty of jobs and people went out and had a little money to spend and they spent it and they enjoyed themselves spending it. But when people don’t have money to go to clubs, those clubs have to close. And these days, it’s hard to just walk down the street and hear blues playing anywhere. You just don’t hear the blues playing from houses or in the alleys like you used to. It’s just a different scene these days.”
And even when you do wander into a club that features blues music on a regular basis, you may hear some sounds coming from the bandstand that are ‘non-bluesy.’ And the way Primer sees it, that’s cool.
“You can mix other things in with the blues. You can play a little bit of rock or dance music in there, too,” Primer said. “Soul music goes good when it’s mixed with the blues, too. You can combine all those things. Just play the songs that people love. People may come to see and hear the blues, but when you throw something else in there that’s a little different, they love it. And sometimes it really gets ‘em going. You get ‘em dancing.”
Although there may have been no written rules against playing soul, or even disco, at Theresa’s Lounge, the performers there knew full well that the club’s namesake was not a huge fan of such musical choices.
“Well, I used to sneak in some soul – stuff like Tyrone Davis – at Theresa’s. She didn’t like people playing that stuff, but when I did, people got up and danced, danced, danced … every time I played those songs, so she really didn’t say too much,” Primer said. “But really, she didn’t mind it if you played it right. You got to keep the people wondering what you’re going to play next.”
Primer has been playing the blues since he was a mere lad of 8 years old and was instantly hooked on the sounds of Muddy Waters and Elmore James that he heard coming out of his grandma’s old radio.
Born in Camden, Mississippi, Primer moved to Chicago when he turned 18, quickly establishing himself as a premier guitarist.
And as evidenced by his nomination for Traditional Male Blues Artist of the Year at the 2012 Blues Music Award, Primer has not slowed down one bit over the course of the past 50 years and is rightfully getting the recognition he deserves.
“You’re lucky when you get nominated for that. There’s always so many people that deserve that award, so it’s a real challenge (to get nominated),” he said. “So it’s a great feeling to be part of that group. With all the artists that are out there these days, it really means a lot to be up for something like that.”
Primer is also up for a BMA in the Album of the Year category for his contributions to Chicago Blues A Living History: The (R)evolution Continues.
The highly-acclaimed second installment of the Chicago Blues A Living History series, part number two also features artists like Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch and Lurrie Bell.
“That was a great thing that I got involved with – the CD and all the shows. We just got together and were trying to do all that we could to help make sure that the guys that came before us are known and are not forgotten,” Primer said. “It’s Chicago blues history and it’s a living thing. And we’re all living these moments. I’m proud of the way that this project is trying to help keep the Chicago blues alive.”
Primer isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel. He fully understands that the formula for successful and authentic blues was written many decades ago.
And that formula does not require a whole lot of tweaking.
“I really don’t try to change the blues, I just try to keep it original. You do want to expand it, but you can’t expand it too much,” he said. “You just try and come up with different lyrics. You might change up the rhythm a little bit, but the biggest part is the lyrics. That’s what makes a song. Muddy Waters’ music was all the same – they just had different lyrics to them.”
Those songs that Muddy sang told stories of love gone astray, long distance telephone calls and hard times for hard working people.
According to Primer, all those themes are still as relevant today as they were back in the 1950s.
“There’s a lot of things that can inspire you to write a song. Maybe it was something that you saw today, or something that you heard somebody say,” he said. “There’s just so much stuff to write about - stuff that happens to people every day.”
Back in the late 1970s, Primer managed to catch the eyes and ears of Muddy Waters and received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was asked to serve as Waters’ opening act.
But Primer quickly went from opening act to becoming a full-fledged member of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, where he played until the band leader’s death in 1983.
“That was a great thing for me, a great learning experience to be in his band,” said Primer. “I had a wonderful time playing with Muddy. I couldn’t have been in any two better bands, Muddy’s and then Magic Slim’s.”
After his stint with Muddy Waters ended, Primer hooked up with Magic Slim and was the big man’s guitarist and right-hand man for several years.
“I’d been with Slim about 14 years or so and he told me it was time to get my own band,” said Primer. “But all I had at that time was my name, I didn’t have any CDs or anything, but he encouraged me to start working on my own stuff.”
It didn’t take Primer very long to get up to speed with his own material and he has cut albums for Wolf, Earwig and Warner Brothers since leaving Slim’s side in the 90s.
Primer is scheduled to enter into the recording studio in early March to begin work on his follow-up to 2008’s All Original (Blues House).
The highly under-rated Sammy Lawhorn, who played guitar with everyone from Muddy to Eddie Boyd to John Lee Hooker and Junior Wells, also served as a kind of mentor and guiding force for Primer back in the day.
“Sammy, he made me not to be afraid of anything. He taught me a lot. He was a great guitar player,” said Primer. “I was just playing rhythm at the time and he taught me how to be a bold guitar player, not to be afraid of nothing.”
A good deal of the instruction that Primer received from Lawhorn was on-the-job training, although there were probably plenty of times that Lawhorn didn’t exactly know just how his pupil was progressing.
“Well, we’d be playing and he’d be getting drunk. He’d play the first set and be drinking and halfway through the second set he’d be drunk,” said Primer. “And I’d be up there shaking, thinking what am I going to do now? But he did that so much, that I finally got used to it and could carry the load when I had to. But there would always be backup musicians in the crowd, because they knew he was going to get drunk and they might get a chance to play. And that happened a lot.”
Even though a bluesman might have had a steady gig back in the 1970s, playing at a place like Theresa’s every single night of the week, that didn’t mean that musician left with his pockets stuffed with cash on a regular basis.
“It’s hard anytime (make a living) playing the blues. But it’s better these days,” Primer said. “You can make a little more money now than you could back then. Playing at those clubs back then, you couldn’t make nothing.”
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012
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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 7
Mary Bridget Davies - Wanna Feel Somethin’
Self release
10 songs; 42:14 minutes
Styles: Traditional Blues, Blues Rock, Soul and Funk influenced Blues, Standout Female Vocals
People listen to blues music for a variety of equally powerful reasons. Some reconnect with their childhood and teenage roots through this genre, while others, as artist E.G. Kight states, “let the blues move [them] to a better attitude!” Still more, including this reviewer, peruse the blues because they “Wanna Feel Somethin’” -- in this case, overwhelmed with joy at the quality of this self-produced album! Ohio’s award winning Mary Bridget Davies and her band, crowned second-place winners at the 2011 International Blues Challenge, deliver a masterful presentation of ten songs--six originals and four covers. Three stand out in both instrumentation and Mary’s sizzling vocal prowess backed by singing from all band members:
Track 2: “Won’t Pay You Mind”--This original track should hit radios as soon as possible, because it’ll instantly catch fans’ attention! It’s a down-and-dirty swinging, upbeat selection featuring Chris Hazelton on organ, Joe Voye on drums and guest stars Pete Carroll on trumpet, and Nick Rowland on saxophone. One will be hard-pressed NOT to sing along as they chant “I’ve been thinking” toward the end. As intended, “Won’t Pay You Mind” is a blues number that chases sadness away as fast as one can dance!
Track 4: “Real Thing”--The band’s cover of Kim Massey’s rhythm-and-soul hit is nothing short of amazing. What strikes one from the start are Gary Roberts’ ominous bass riff and understated intro vocals by Davies: “If you think you can just fool around with me and then go, you know you’ve got another think coming…And I brought my band to help straighten you out.” The funky guitar and horn sounds of the 70’s are back in vogue in the two-thousand-teens, and “Real Thing” proves it with a vengeance!
Track 8: “Trick the Devil”-- Dave Hayes’ slide guitar opening and solo on this New Orleans-inspired swamp-stomp is absolutely wicked. That’s a marvelous thing, because it propels original number “Trick the Devil” to the top of this album’s play list. Mary describes a mysterious man with a “walkin’ cane made of alabaster bone” and Miss Betty, who’ll “tell you you’re money’s cursed -- give it to her to get clean….” It’s a warning against trifling with the dark arts, because “...[if] you mess with hoodoo, it gonna mess with you….”
Mary Bridget Davies’ website states that she was “always fond of singing,” so she “went to Robert Lockwood Jr.’s jam night at the original Fat Fish Blue in Cleveland.” Returning after her first week, she found that “after sitting in on just one song, she was hired into her first band on the spot.” Also, out of around 150 hopefuls, she was chosen to portray Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical “Love, Janis.”
These are tremendous feats for a tremendous vocalist whose songs, covers or not, make one “Wanna - [and definitely will] - Feel Somethin’.” My preference, give us one more original instead of a cover or the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit,” but either way, it’s such a great album!
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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 7
Son Roberts - Tell That Story
Time: 38:53
It seems Son Roberts is another rising star in the blues world. Well at least you are left with that impression when listening to his release Tell That Story.
Co-writing tunes with guitarist John Crosbie and other studio musicians, Son offers solid writing skills and as a vocalist/harmonica player, the man is in a class by himself. His harp playing isn’t over-the-top wild and it works well within the framework of the song.
Kicking off with opening track “90 Years Old,” is a good choice as any. Roberts’ harmonica may be at the forefront but the rest of the band follows him closely as this song with its locomotive rhythm chugs along at a reasonable pace not crossing over into a full-bore rock assault.
Listening to Roberts’ singing you are reminded of vocalist/slide guitar wizard Roy Rogers. It is the perfect marriage to material like “Days With You” that bumps and grinds with good boogie feeling.
And speaking of boogie, how about getting down to “Kowkash Boogie?” It’s a swinging number that smacks of the essence of good house-rocking music.
Son produced this recording in Toronto, Canada. A strange dichotomy. Recording this music in the great white north where its roots lie in the South. But the feelings getting conveyed in a musical sense are strong enough that it doesn’t matter where this was recorded.
This man could use the benefit of blues festival bookings across the country. In a live setting this material would stand on its own merits of captivating audience attention. These studio musicians most likely can hold their own.
Son has the ability to put down a haunting track and does just that in “Come For A Ride.” It’s a Delta track with bubbling percussion, faraway background vocals and Roberts’ wise harp interjections to paint a picture of loneliness at the crossroads.
Son doesn’t stray too much into ballad country. But that’s a small price to pay as the man prefers to keep things moving along at a reasonable pace. Thereby the energy doesn’t lag in “Stephen Lea’s Father” with Roberts turning up the heat and still maintaining the temperature in “Wind Blows In” which would have been the perfect candidate for the musical soundtrack in the Blues Brother movie. The song is that perfect for that Cadillac cruise.
If Son is an unknown commodity to the blues community at large, then it’s time to bring him into the public light. Although this music infuses a rock sensibility, it steers clear from the blues-rock clichés that we have been accustomed to for so long.
Roberts can have the whole show to himself as his harp playing is tasteful and more than an adequate marketing ploy. But he works with a team ethic and makes sure all the players are turned up in the mix so they can all have their share of the spotlight.
Looking at the liner notes inside the CD jacket, Son writes of Tell That Story and what he wanted to accomplish with the material at hand. Using a variety of themes, he wanted to explore all the angles that would fulfill his vision of how the music should be. Tell That Story lives up to its title. What would be more pleasurable is Roberts taking his act on the road so a live audience can get a feel of a music that is soul-stirring. While maybe not on high a level as compared to some others staking their claim on blues turf, Tell That Story is still a solid effort that wins points for carving its own niche.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 7
Joel DaSilva & The Midnight Howl – The Midnight Howl
Self Release
10 tracks; 40:43 minutes
Joel DaSilva’s got guts. In his new CD, The Midnight Howl (named for his band), this South Florida-based guitarist/singer/songwriter tackles a new band and a new genre, but that’s not all. He offers up a slate of (nearly all) original songs, in a variety of blues styles. Only one track, “Who Knows,” is not original, but a funky, well-handled Jimi Hendrix cover. The other nine are all written or co-written by DaSilva.
This former front man of the Hep Cat Boo Daddies, a successful rock-n-blues/rockabilly band, would not see his foray into the blues as tackling a new genre. Being born and raised in Chicago, he sees it as a return to his roots; and his blues expertise is evident in his songwriting and performance. Stylistically, this CD runs the gamut from standard 12-bar to slide, boogie, you name it; and, in my opinion, those cuts on The Midnight Howl that depart the furthest from the basic blues formula are my favorites.
The third track “Hard Time,” which DaSilva co-wrote with Albert Castiglia, is a slide song so swampy, you can almost feel the humidity. It’s reminiscent of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?; though the vocals carry hints of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue On Black.” It’s a great song and would indicate that more collaboration with Castiglia might be a smart move.
“Boogie Real Low” features a powerful lead guitar and a strong baseline that feel almost dangerous. This feeling is reinforced by the echo on the vocals, which serves to transport you to a dark, nighttime place where only grown-ups are allowed to venture.
DaSilva came from a family of performers: his mother a singer, his father a guitarist who died when Joel was only 3. Track 6, “Heart of My Father,” is a moving homage to DaSilva’s late father. It is also an opportunity for father and son to perform together. Through the magic of modern sound mixing, DaSilva’s father’s guitar work is heard in the intro and outro of this song.
“For Don” is one of two instrumentals on this CD and another tribute song – this time for Don Cohen, DaSilva’s manager who died of a brain tumor. It features a slow, greasy slide and an unmistakable moodiness. DaSilva promised Don that he’d win a Grammy someday and dedicate it to him. If he keeps producing songs like this one, he just might.
If the purpose of the first cut on a CD is to peak your interest and draw you in, “Let’s Not Fight, Let’s Make Some Love” did not seem like the best choice. To me, it felt like your average bar-band song, and not nearly as remarkable as some of the cuts that follow it. My choice for lead-in song would be “Boogie Real Low,” which would get things moving and hook listeners right off the bat.
I also occasionally had trouble meshing DaSilva’s voice with the blues, where I’m accustomed to a bit more rasp and gravel. His sound is almost too “nice.” However, he does seem to have the right feel for the music, and I’m sure he’ll grow into it, given time. Plus, his clean tenor voice seemed especially well suited to the 4th cut, a ballad called “Try.”
Yes, Joel DaSilva does have guts. He’s made some brave choices on this CD, but I think it will pay off. Overall, The Midnight Howl is an excellent debut album, and I think we’ll be hearing more from Mr. DaSilva in the future. I also get the impression that DaSilva’s band gives a killer live performance, so here’s hoping he occasionally ventures out of South Florida to give us all a chance to howl.
Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 4  & 5 of 7
Magda Piskorczyk – Afro Groove
Self Release 2011
Magda Piskorczyk – Mahalia
Afro Groove - 9 tracks; 43.09 minutes + bonus CD 3 track 18.44 minutes
Mahalia – 15 tracks – 64.58 minutes
Here is a real job lot of music from Poland! Afro Groove was recorded live in concert at Tarnobrzeg during a festival called Satyrblues in September 2010. Mahalia is a Warsaw studio recording with a larger ensemble aimed at a celebration of Mahalia Jackson’s gospel music. Apart from Magda herself the only common musician is guitarist Aleksandra Siemieniuk. On Afro Groove Magda handles bass duties with Marcin Jahr on drums and Adam Rozenman on bass. Memphis harp player Billy Gibson is the special guest on the CD and plays harp and sings on several tracks. On the gospel set Roman Ziobro plays acoustic bass, Maksymilian Ziobro drums, Stanislaw Witta piano and organ and Jacek Namyslowski plays trombone on one track. A gospel choir features on four tracks.
Afro Groove. Magda has participated twice in the IBCs and that may well be where the connection with Billy Gibson was established. Fans of Billy’s energetic personality might want to look out this CD for his contribution as he plays on most of the album, exceeding the normal role of a ‘special guest’. Magda sings in English, Polish, Tamashek and Bambara and draws influences from Africa as well as the blues of the USA. The CD opens with a version of Tracy Chapman’s “Save Us All” which certainly displays the amalgam of her influences, with the opening section being solo guitar with some North African feel before African percussion and harp join in. Magda has a deep voice which works well with the material; there is some trace of accent, but that does not detract from the listener’s enjoyment. Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “The Kokomo Medley” follows in similar vein and clocks in at over 10 minutes. A similarly extended version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A (Wo)Man” (via Koko Taylor) follows a more familiar bluesy approach with electric guitar and tough harp, the main African feel being in some of the percussion rattles.
Billy Gibson takes over the vocals for a trio of songs, starting with Willie Foster’s “Love Everybody” followed by his own and David Bowen’s “Mississippi”, an amusing song based on a nursery rhyme for children to encourage them to remember how to spell the name of their state. David Bowen’s “One More Time” is more uptempo before Magda returns to the microphone on Eric Bibb’s “Too Much Stuff”. The track starts off with percussion that is almost Latin in feel and a catchy guitar motif. Billy’s harp subtly underlines Magda’s vocal lines. Of course, as a non-Polish speaker the stage announcements and band introductions are lost on me, but it IS a live album!
The main CD closes with two tracks that are definitely more African in feel. “Mansane Cisse" is credited as traditional and sounds a little like The Doors “The End” with sweeping cymbal flourishes and tolling guitar chords. Magda’s voice is really strong on this one and Billy’s harp manages to fit in very well. “Cler Achel” comes from the open of Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and opens with that rippling guitar that is so often heard in African tunes, as well as some scary vocal flourishes that are very African in feel. The audience can be heard clapping along with the rhythm and are clearly enjoying the show!
I do not understand why the set has been split into a CD + Bonus when the total time of both is well below the maximum size of a CD these days. The bonus CD starts with a second Tracy Chapman tune, “Crossroads” that again has that African guitar and percussion vibe. “Down Home” is another David Bowen/Billy Gibson composition, a tribute to Beale Street, Memphis and it seems odd to hear it played so far away in Poland. Billy’s harp is the main featured instrument and he really goes for it on this track, as well as delivering the vocal about his home town. The final track was not recorded on the same date but is a studio recording, a Polish poem set to music by Magda.
This is a well presented CD with nice artwork, including excellent caricatures of Magda and Billy which adorn the CDs and the sleeve. It is good to hear the blues being reinterpreted by artists from other countries and the fact that Billy Gibson has become involved in this project suggests that it is worth a listen.
Mahalia. Mahalia Jackson would have been 100 on October 26 2011 and this CD is a celebration of her great gospel songs which Magda heard as a child. The versions are respectful covers of many of the gospel songs that we all know: “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”, “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, etc. “Go Tell It On the Mountain” starts with the crackle of an old 78 and is the first track to add the choir which adds to the overall sound on four tracks. Most of the material consists of traditional gospel tunes, apart from Gershwin’s “Summertime” which is given a slow and moody interpretation, with the trombone adding to that feel in the middle solo.
Gospel music is not my strongest knowledge area. This CD has clearly been well recorded and is offered as a tribute to one of the great voices of the twentieth century and I accept it in those terms.
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 is currently planning a visit to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.
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The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents The Chris Duarte Group, led by blues master and guitar virtuoso Chris Duarte, in concert at Rascal’s, 1414 15th St., Moline, IL on Thursday, March 29 at 7:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 to the general public, $10 for blues society members.
Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA
The SBBS, the oldest existing blues society in the U.S., celebrates its gala 35th. birthday by presenting lauded bluesman James Harman and his band on Friday, March 30, 2012 in Warren Hall at the Earl Warren Show grounds. Originally from Alabama, Harman has been a star exemplar of the West Coast blues sound for over 3 decades, and a multiple nominee of Blues Music Awards from the Blues Foundation. His appearances for the SBBS, including his most recent in 2006 with stellar guitarist Jimmy Thackery, have been consistent sell-out crowd-pleasers.
The show will feature a large dance floor, BBQ snacks, and birthday cake! as well as great music. Doors open at 7 PM, with opening act by S.B.’s own Stiff Pickle Orchestra. For information, log onto  or call (805) 722-8155.
The Great Northern Blues Society is putting on our annual Fundraising Show “Blues Café’ 2012” on 3/31/12 at the Rothschild Pavilion near Wausau, WI. Chris Duarte’, Albert Castiglia, Howard & the Whiteboys, Jumpship Blues Band, and Donnie Pick & the Road band will be performing from 1:00PM – 11:00PM.  for further information. $15 in advance - $20 at the door.
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - March 23rd at 7:30PM • Hurricane Ruth, March 28th at 7PM • Albert Castiglia, April 11th at 7PM • Sean Chambers. Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: or call 309-648-8510
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. Mar 12 – Todd Wolfe Band, Mar 19 – The 44s, Mar 26 – RJ Mischo, Apr 2 – Brad Vickers & His Vestopolatans, Apr 9 – JP Soars & the Red Hots, Apr 16 – Too Slim & the Tail Draggers, Apr 23 – Andrew Jr Boy Jones.
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Tues, March 13, Harper & Midwest Kind, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Thur, March 29, Albert Castiglia, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, April 10, Sean Chambers, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
Tues, April 17, Too Slim & Taildraggers, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Thur, April 26, Al Stone, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. and Thornhill Auto Groups present the 5th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest May 18, 19 and 20, 2012 at Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, WV including headline performances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers and Ruthie Foster. For more information visit
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society shows: Friday April 6, 1st Friday Blues, Johnny Rawls. For more info:
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society - Rosedale, MS
Rosedale Crossroads Blues Society presents The Crossroads Blues and Heritage Festival, Saturday, May 12, 2012 at the River Resort at Highway 1 South in historic Rosedale, MS featuring Bill Abel, Cadillac John, Big Joe Shelton, DSU Ol’ Skool Revue and other area artists.
Gates open at 12:00 noon, music starts at 1:00 Admission $5 – adults, $1 – children under 12 Bring your own ice chest – $10 No beer sold – No glass – No pets, please Parking $5

 Featured Blues Review 6 of 7
Catfish Keith - Put on a Buzz
Fish Tail Records
14 tracks/55:25
You have to admire an acoustic blues man who learned about the music while growing up in Davenport, IA and turned his passionate embrace of the music into a career that has has spanned three decades. Catfish Keith has toured across the US and the rest of the world in addition to running his own record label based out of Iowa City, IA. In recent years, many musicians have gone the route of self-releasing their product. Catfish Keith was way ahead of that curve, this title being his 14th in the last twenty-two years.
The bright, attractive tri-fold packaging contains a wealth of information, listing all of the prior Catfish Keith releases, the guitars used on the disc and the song list along with comments on each track. In his notes, Keith acknowledges his love for country blues and his desire to revisit the kind of songs that sparked his initial passion.
The dark mood of Leadbelly's "Grasshoppers in My Pillow" is enhanced by the bright sound of the twelve string National El Trovador guitar Keith uses on the track while his vocal captures the despair laid out in the lyrics. "Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues" is a Bukka White song with Keith's slashing slide guitar and foot-stomping creating a hard driving rhythm. The pace slows on "Nobody's Business", giving Keith an opportunity to showcase his finger-picking skills. On the gentle "Lost Lover Blues", Keith strengthens the vocal line by doing his own back-up singing. His guitar playing on the track is exquisite. He has some fun with Jazz Gillum's "Reefer Head", his fingers dancing around the fretboard as he describes a woman in love with the evil weed. "Willie the Chimney Sweeper" ventures further into the realm of the surreal, Keith's perfectly controlled vocal contrasting the vivid lyrical description of swirling, drug-induced events. He tears into 'Hawaiian Cowboy" on slide, singing part of the lyrics in a native language.
A dream served as the inspiration for "Sigh of the Whippoorwill", with Keith also acknowledging a debt to the Carter family for this poignant tune. His "Paying For it Now" is done in a traditional country blues style with an aggressive beat and a harder edge on the vocal. Keith pays homage to Charley Patton on "Xima Jo Road", a tune written about a road in a wild & wooly part of Mexico. His rapid-fire singing on "Can't Be Undone" is another highlight.There is plenty to enjoy on this first-class release. Catfish Keith is a masterful guitarist and a robust singer. The carefully selected material demonstrates with scope of his artistry. Fans of acoustic blues will certainly find plenty to like on this one. But then, chances are many of them are already dedicated Catfish Keith fans. Put On a Buzz is definitely one to check out !!!
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.
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 Featured Blues Review 7 of 7
Hip Shakin' Mama & the Leg Men - Reclaim Your Land
Self Released
11 tracks
Hip Shakin' Mama (aka Shelly-Lynne Ferguson-Harding) is a woman with a big voice and a fantastic band. She's fronted several bands in various genres in Canada but seems to be at home the most with the blues. She penned each of the tracks here and has laid down a solid set of tracks here on her inaugural CD. From the opening harp blows to the final beats of the last track, this is one fine CD.
Joining Shelly-Lynne are her "Leg Men", Gerry Perkin on guitar, Doug Sullivan on drums, Dave "D'oaks" Oakey on harp, Phil Neville on keys for two tracks, Rob Lamonica on keys and Hammond, and Adrian Kuryliw on bass for one cut. I was completely impressed with these musicians. At times Perkin goes off like Carlos Santana (especially check out track 5- "She Doesn't Want You") with some mean Carlos Santana-like licks; he is obviously an accomplished guitar player. Lamonica bounces from keys to organ and back and adds some great texture to the band and Neville is also ready, willing and able on his pair of tracks. The woman fronting the group is more than up to the task. Her voice is powerful and confident and she blazes through the cuts with controlled abandon- Hip Shakin" Mama really can get down!
The title cut is a catchy track where she sings for her man to reclaim his "land". Great double entendre filled lyrics and a soulful performance! The album opens with "Rooster Stew", a nod to Willie Dixon, one of her favorites. Oakey's harp bleats out to start the bouncy and jumping song, and then Shelly-Lynne takes over with the rest of the band tightly in tow. She smokes through this one and the next, "Devious (Scheming Little Thief)" where her vocals are way out there along with Perkin's guitar. A big cut with a big sound and blazing guitar.
Slower tracks like "She Doesn't Want You" are equally intriguing. She can blast out the uptempo stuff and get sultry and seductive when Mama needs to. Add to that the cool organ and guitar licks and you'll be sitting there wanting more and more. "Funkalicious Sugar Blue" is another one in the down tempo tracks where Shelly-Lynne just gets down and dirty, and the harp play and organ here serves as a great counterpoint to her vocals. 11 original tracks in all, ranging from pretty darn good to really outstanding stuff.
On the liner notes Shelly-Lynne gives credit to her father and husband who have obviously been a huge influences on her. Interestingly, she also credit her hair dresser (among others) for inspiration. I think that's a first for me to read in liner notes, but Hip Shakin' Mama is obviously a gal who places a lot of importance on looking good!
She is a talented and humble gal who is an outstanding performer. My only "criticism" is that she and her band live too damn far away for me to catch them on a weekend. I hope to see them live over the festival seasons coming up. This CD is well worth a spin- in fact, you'll listen to it a lot once you hear it!
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary 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, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.
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