Hello, its a cool drizzly day here in Skunkland! Here is something intended to lighten it up with some Blues news. I just wanted to send a brief Bcc to the friends and members of the South Skunk Blues Society, Here is a list of what is coming up yet in April:
Tonight, Thursday, April 19 The first round of competitors in Des Moines will be Marshall County Hangmen, Brad “bebad” McCloud & His Case of the Blues and The Pain Killers. Bands will start at 8 PM at Zimm's Food & Spirits, 3124 Ingersoll Ave Des Moines, IA 50312 (515) 277-9929 See attached flyer for additional details! South Skunk is one of the co-sponsors of this years Blues Challenge.
Saturday Apr. 21 Bob Pace Band First Avenue Speakeasy, downtown Newton. 9-1 p.m. No cover. Electric rockin’ blues with a touch of classic rock. Crowd-pleasin’ Rock ‘n’ Roller Hall of Famer with a bluesman’s soul!
Friday April 27 Johnny's Piano Bar with John Mattingly on keys and featuring Jane Eilers on the Sax with Jimmy Sticks Robinson on drums. 8-11, no cover.
Saturday April 28 Joe & Vicki Price First Avenue Speakeasy, 8-12, no cover This is a don’t miss show! Joe is both an Iowa Blues Hall of Famer and Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer! Independent music award winners for best blues CD 2010 http://www.joepriceblues.com/joepriceblues/HOME.html
Music sale Saturday in Grinnell: I also wanted to alert everyone to a music sale that Ron Cooper is having Saturday in the cellar of his house in Grinnell. Ron is one of the initial members of the South Skunk when it formed in 1992. He is a solid mainstay volunteer, member, and supporter of the South Skunk. He is also one of our announcers at the Bowlful of Blues. Ron is an avid lp record collector and he told me he yesterday that he would have for sale thousands of lp records, cd’s and tapes. If you don’t see an artist you are interested in just ask him and he may very well have the music you are looking for. He will have Blues, Reggae, and of course Rock and Roll recordings for sale. Saturday is national music store day so this sale is timely. He often has had sales at his house that Grinnell College students come to to purchase records and cd’s through out the college year and he wanted to have one last sale this season for the benefit of all the students that will be graduating and leaving Grinnell after the term ends. So if expanding your music selection interests you I recommend you check this sale out. It will take place at 1214 Summer Street in Grinnell from 10 AM to 3 PM Saturday April 21st.
We will be developing a press release in the very near future to announce the lineup and details of this years Bowlful of Blues. Mark your calendars for Labor Day weekend, September 1st and 2nd: This is “The Year of the Skunk”.
And lastly please support our corporate sponsors!!! If not for them we could not keep the blues alive:
Fulton Mechanical Jeff and Laura Fulton
I 80 Farms - Colfax
Foot & Ankle Center - located in Newton
Blue Moon BBQ and Cadillac Jacks in Baxter
Side Tracks Tap - Kellogg
Sugar Grove Vineyards and Gathering Place - Newton
The Vernon Company - Newton
Barney's - Newton
Gass / Great American Stock Car Series - Newton
State Farm Insurance / Chad Wempen - Newton
The Arts Connection - Newton
VFW, Mens Auxillary Club Post 1655 - Newton
Revolution Cycle - Baxter
August Bergman Inn – Newton
See you soon. Yours Bluely,
Craig PetersonPresident, South Skunk Blues Society P.O. Box 951
Newton, Iowa 50208
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Monday, April 23, 2012
RIP Levon Helm - May 26, 1940 to April 19, 2011 Drummer/ vocalist/harmonica player/actor Levon Helm is best known in popular culture for his work withThe Band andBob Dylan, but he had a lesser-known affiliation with the blues. He passed away yesterday in New York, after a long struggle with cancer. Levon Helm's musical contributions are many and well documented, and we will refer to the Wikipedia page for his bio:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levon_Helm. Though we will not detail his pop music activity in this obit, let's review some of Levon's very active blues offerings: As a native of Arkansas he was influenced at an early age by the work ofSonny Boy Williamson II,Robert Lockwood, Jr., and James "Peck" Curtis (who Levon credits as his early drum inspiration). In the early 1960s Levon would land a gig with Canadian blues / rock 'n rollerRonnie Hawkins, and in 1964 he would appear on theJohn Hammond album So Many Roads. In the mid 70s, while The Band was at the height of their career, Levon appeared onMuddy Waters' Grammy-winning Woodstock Album. Levon was also crucial in gettingMuddy Waters (withPinetop Perkins,Paul Butterfield andBob Margolin) onThe Band's 1976 finale concert / documentary film,The Last Waltz, and when the organizers of that show considered a last minute cut of Muddy's segment due to time and budget concerns, it was Levon who stood up to organizational pressure and refused to perform unless Muddy's part of the show was honored. In his post-Band years, Levon's work would gravitate to a blues format as he hosted regular star-studded "Barn Concerts" that were literally at the barn of his Woodstock, New York residence. His group would feature a series of harmonica player / vocalists who would serve as the frontmen includingChris O'Leary,Little Sammy Davis, andSteve Guyger. Levon was also involved inLouisiana Red's 2002 CD, A Different Shade Of Red, The Woodstock SessionsonSevern Records. Levon's reputation among the blues world was of the highest order.Bob Margolin refers to Levon as "an amazing musical soul." We thank this great man who, while rising to the heights of pop stardom, always worked to better the blues. To see a great article byBob Margolin about his recollections ofThe Last Waltz, clickhere. To see the New York Times obit clickhere.
From The South Skunk Blues Society
Waltz, clickhere. To see the New York Times obit clickhere.
- Sad as it is to loose such a great, Levon Helm has passed away. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/the-band-songs-levon-helm-cancer_n_1434688.html Here is a You Tube link that has some more recent of his tunes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMXCM5TCrv8
He and his music were my very favorites. I will miss that he will not be recording any more for us. --Craig
One last one foJust after I sent the email on Levon's death I got an email from Wolfegangs Vault. I am going to send it to you all.
http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/blog/index.php/2012/04/levon-helm-dirt-farmer-american-minstrel/?utm_source=wvip&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=remembering-levon-helm If you get a chance to check out this
Wolfegangs Vault web site you will find loads of live recordings from the vault of Bill Graham (Filmore). They have live concerts free to listen to and they have started including some videos as well. Here is a sample of what they have for Levon that you to listen to free:
Cover photo by Joseph A. Rosen 2012 www.josepharosen.com
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In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues master Melvin Taylor.
We have six music reviews for you! Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Joe Lewis Walker. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new release from Luca Giordano. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews the new Volker Strifler album. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Earnest “Guitar” Roy. Gary Weeks reviews the new Tommy Lee Cook CD. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Studebaker John. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Blues Blast roving reporter Tim Richards caught Samantha Fish at Callahan's Music Hall, Auburn Hills, Mi.
Photos above Samantha Fish -Guitar/lead vocals, Paul Greenlease - Bass/vocals and Go Go Ray on drums.
Tim Reports, "Great show, the girl has a ton of talent and the band is extremely tight."
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Guitar Player Seeks Touring Band
Blues and Classic Rock guitar player seeking touring band. I'm from the midwest and have played in my own local band for 6 or so years. Also willing to put a band together. Please contact Nick Hern 785.506.1063 www.nickhern.com
Blues band seeking bass player and drummer
Sassafras needs an upright bassist and a drummer in Chicago. Playing blues, folk and jazz flavored stuff. Taste before flash. Please contact Craig 773.567.2142
Blues Blast Magazine Seeks Summer Festival Reviewers
Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good men (Or Women)! Over the 2012 summer season we are looking for folks who attend Blues Festivals and take good photos for festival reviews. If you attend multiple Blues Festivals or Blues shows and could volunteer to send us 500 to 1000 word reviews and some good photos, please reply to .
Reviewers are needed for the Southwest and Texas area, the Florida and Gulf area, the Eastern coast area and also on the European, Asian and Australian continents. A short sample of your writing, a sample photo and info on your Blues background would be helpful. Please include your phone number with the reply.
Featured Blues Interview - Melvin Taylor
Back during its hey-day, there was arguably no better place to hear the blues in Chicago than on a Sunday afternoon at the Maxwell Street market.
With regulars like Blind Jim Brewer, Jimmie Lee Robinson and Robert Nighthawk holding court on a weekly basis – all fiercely competitive performers who would not surrender their chunk of concrete to just anyone - Maxwell Street was certainly not the place for the meek or the timid to get up and perform.
Especially those that were not even at the legal age to possess a driver’s license.
And although he may have been a bit on the young side when he made his debut playing on famed Maxwell Street at the tender age of 11, Melvin Taylor was neither meek nor timid.
Maybe just a tad bit nervous.
“My first time going out there, man, I was so nervous with all those people out there,” he said. “All these thoughts kept going through my head – what am I supposed to do? What if they don’t like me? … all these what-ifs.”
All those fears were rapidly brushed aside the instant the sweet notes of the blues began to tumble into the air from young Taylor’s guitar, with people’s heads turning and ears buzzing at the sound.
“I started playing and they just loved it. They said, “Look at that kid go. He can really play.’ And they started putting money in the box and I started liking that and I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Taylor. “That’s an experience that will last you all your life. You remember how you made people feel. There was something about your music coming out of you that made people happy. They were just floored - all these songs coming out of this little kid.”
That “little kid” quickly grew into a guitarist to be reckoned with, peppering the Windy City and well beyond with his unique talents on the six-string.
Channeling his love for Elmore James, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Rush – a handful of his early influences - Taylor would go on to ink with Evidence Records and crank out a handful of discs, all brimming with bluesy energy, underpinned with bubbly bits of funk and all cranked up to “11.”
Cuts such as “Depression Blues” off Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band, along with his take on Earl King’s “Trick Bag” off Bang That Bell helped earn Taylor a rabid following among those craving cutting-edge electric blues served up with a rock-n-roll attitude.
Everywhere he went; people soon found out that Melvin Taylor was no flash-in-the-pan. He was in it for the long haul and he quickly picked up eager fans along the way, joining him for the ride.
Those die-hard fans of Taylor might be a bit taken back when they pop in his ninth long-player, the aptly-titled Sweet Taste of Guitar, into their CD player.
Instead of a blast furnace of blues, a refreshing, silky wave of jazzy guitar – ala’ George Benson or Wes Montgomery, rushes to immediately calm the senses and sooth the nerves, while at the same time, making the brain ask – ‘Wow! Is that Melvin Taylor?’
So what’s the initial reaction been to the jazzier side of Melvin Taylor?
“It’s newly released (March 26) and it may take a minute for it to catch on, but it’s a project I put together during a period when I had time to put together eight, nine or 10 songs,” he said. “And I decided that while I was at it, I may as well play all the instruments on it. And I think it came out pretty good.”
Pretty good might be an understatement.
In addition to playing all the instruments on Sweet Taste of Guitar, Taylor also produced the disc, arranged the songs and also recorded them, making it a true showcase for all of the guitarist’s talents.
“I always knew I could do it, but I just never put the plan into action,” Taylor said. “And I had some downtime and that gave me the time to do it and I pulled it off.”
So, hot on the heels of his previous album – 2010’s double-disc Beyond the Burning Guitar, which was also chock full of jazzy riffs and featured his spin on “Beethoven’s Fifth,” should we just assume that Melvin Taylor has completely changed directions and turned his back on the blues for good?
“No, no, no, no. The reason I did that (Sweet Taste and Burning Guitar) was because I wanted to display my talents. I wanted people to know that I’m all across the board,” he said. “I came up listening to all the traditional blues guys – my uncles, my grandmother, my aunt –everybody in my family all played some kind of instrument, and by my being there, I soaked it up like a sponge. And once I learned all the traditional, basic stuff I said, ‘Hey, it’s time to move on.’”
Taylor really became fascinated with the guitar right as a new musical explosion was sweeping the landscape - a time when bands like the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin were taking the blues and giving them a hard-edged feel. While at the same time, groups like Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra were blending jazz with straight-ahead rock.
“I often received criticism from the older musicians who told me I had to make up my mind what I wanted to play. They said, ‘You can’t do this’ or “You can’t do that,’” Taylor said. “But at the same time, I’m listening to all these guys mixing blues with jazz, mixing rock with jazz, mixing county with blues, and I’m going, ‘Wait a minute, why are they telling me I can’t do this?’ But then I realized that the guys that were criticizing me, maybe they just couldn’t see any further than that. Maybe that’s all they learned and was all they could learn and they didn’t want to go any further. They just wanted to stay in that same pattern or routine of traditional blues. But man, I was so much further than that in my head. I mean, how could I not pick up on all this stuff going on around me, there was just so many different styles of music out, it was a real melting pot. I just branched out and went all across the board with my music.”
However, not all of the “older musicians” were critical of what Taylor was doing.
Matter of fact, there just happened to be a pair of legends who were way into just what Taylor was doing - Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.
“Man, those were my buddies. They got me when I was just a pup,” Taylor said.
Fresh off their exit from Muddy Waters’ band as the 1970s turned into the 80s, Pinetop and Big Eyes had plans at striking out and making a name for themselves outside of their former bandleader’s larger-than-life shadow.
“Someone had been talking about how this Melvin Taylor kid could really play guitar and they (Pinetop and Big Eyes) had heard me play at the Checkerboard and Theresa’s – those legendary clubs that were on their way out when I played there,” Taylor said. “And so Pinetop and Willie were about to head out for a tour of the west coast and then over to Europe. They had just quit Muddy and formed the Legendary Blues Band.”
And all the newly-formed Legendary Blues Band needed was a guitar player.
“So they found me just hanging out in my backyard one summer day. This long, blue van pulls up and then this pair of long hands comes over the top of our big fence in the backyard. Somebody says, ‘Hey, you Melvin Taylor?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ And they say, “Hey, we’re part of Muddy Water’s band and we need a guitar player to go on tour with us,” Taylor said. “So I go, ‘Man, get away from my gate and stop playing games. Why would you want to insult me like that?’ And I hear, ‘No, no … I’m serious.’ So they go back to the van and pull out these contracts and Pinetop holds them over the fence. Oh, Man! You should have seen me tear into the house and start grabbing paper sacks. I didn’t have any luggage, so I grabbed some grocery store sacks and started throwing the few clothes I had into those sacks. I was ready to go right then! Man, they laughed at me for a long time over that.”
That turned out to be the 22-year-old Taylor’s ticket out of what was basically a dead-end scene on Chicago’s west side at the time. Although he never got the chance to record with Pinetop and Big Eyes, Taylor did do extensive touring with the duo, both here in the States and over in Europe.
“It was like a dream come true. I really felt like I was in heaven with those two guys,” he said. “They were just the nicest, sweetest guys and they took me under their wing.”
That’s remarkable stuff for a young player to experience – going from turning heads as a pre-teen on fabled Maxwell Street to criss-crossing the globe in their early 20s with a pair of Hall of Famers.
But when you consider that for a long period of time, Taylor didn’t have a ‘real guitar,’ that makes his early accomplishments doubly special.
“I couldn’t afford a guitar. So, I had to build me one and an amplifier,” he said. “But don’t forget – my family had five kids and a stay-at-home mom and my father was the only one who worked, and it was just hard. I wanted a guitar so bad. And my uncle had one. So, every evening after supper I’d go over to his house and sit down and play the guitar and hang out with him. And I wanted one so bad that I started making guitars out of anything – a cigar box, a piece of wood. I’d use fishing string … just anything I could get a tone out of.”
Eventually – homemade instruments or not – word of Taylor’s prowess on the guitar began to circulate until it found someone who could actually help him out.
“I was in Catholic school for one year – Saint Francis Cabrini -and I’ll never forget it. I was about 12 years old and this guy gave me a guitar and an amplifier – Father Duffacy was his name. He said, ‘I hear you play guitar?’ I think he had seen me play at one of our talent shows,” said Taylor. “So that’s how I got my first guitar. Man, I treasured that thing. I slept with it, rubbed it, polished it – I think I rubbed all the paint of it – I just really cherished that thing. And then I went about showing everybody that I was going to play that thing if it was the last thing I ever did.”
Although at the time he was forced by necessity to build his own equipment, these days Taylor modifies all his gear – guitars, amps, pedals – everything, because he enjoys it. He is presently working with a Japanese company testing their high-grade wire in his guitars, amps and guitar cords.
And while Maxwell Street is certainly not like it used to be back in the day, thanks to never-ending ‘modern progress’ and the University of Illinois at Chicago, memories of those afternoons filled with music and adoring crowds are likely to stay with Melvin Taylor forever.
“That’s another place and time that I’m grateful that I got the chance to see a lot of the greats before they passed on. And man, I mean these guys were just fantastic. You’d go out there and see these guys set up with their band on the sidewalk corner – and don’t forget, at this point of time this music (blues) was in a downturn. Disco was big and funk was beginning to take shape and grow,” he said. “But we had all these ever-so-great musicians, down on Maxwell Street. And guys like Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, they would pass through and set up out there and someone would throw an extension cord out a window and they’d plug in and just be wailing. There would be so many people … just as far as the eye could see. It was amazing. I was just so fortunate to be able to witness those kinds of activities, man. There’s just nothing like that experience. You couldn’t get it out of your head if you tried. ”
Photos by Joseph A Rosen 2012 www.josepharosen.com
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Joe Louis Walker - Hellfire
Back in the late 80's, I had the pleasure of seeing several live Joe Louis Walker shows that featured his back-up band, the Boss Talkers. Together they served up a potent mixture of blues, soul and gospel with so much energy that you couldn't resist getting up and dancing. Over the years, Walker has released a steady stream of recordings, most of them good and some being almost as memorable as the Live at Slim's records that captured Walker with the Boss Talkers.
His first Alligator release comes close to capturing the fire and energy of Walker's early years. He is teamed up Tom Hambridge, the award-winning producer famous for his work with Buddy Guy. In a conversation at last year's Blues Blast Music Awards show, Hambridge told me that the most important aspect of the producer's role is to make sure the artist has a strong batch of songs. With so many great instrumentalists out there, Hambridge believes that memorable tunes are the difference that can elevate an artist's work from the crowd.
The truth is that when you sing with as much passion and urgency as Walker does on Hellfire, just about any song will have the ability to make an emotional connection with listeners. The title cut finds Walker sermonizing about his struggles to escape Satan's lure, his frenzied guitar creating an aural version of the Devil's playground. “Soldier for Jesus” takes Walker back to his days as a member of the Spiritual Corinthians, only this time he gets backing from the renown Jordanaires on a spirited gospel tune that also features some biting slide guitar from the leader. They also lend a hand “Don't Cry”, a Walker original that expertly mixes righteous lyrics with a funky, contemporary r&b sound.
The pace slows on “I Won't Do That”, with Walker at his finest with a gripping vocal and fierce guitar work. Walker and Hambridge co-wrote “Ride All Night”, a rocker that sounds like it was plucked from the Rolling Stones songbook, circa the Exile on Main Street era, with Wendy Moten adding a rousing backing vocal. Walker's upper register harp work and fervent singing spark the cheating song “I'm On to You”. Walker turns the brooding Hambridge tune, “What's It Worth” into another highlight, his voice and guitar battling each other to tell the searing tale of a lost love.
Reese Wynans handles all of the keyboards on the disc. Hambridge is on drums and Tommy MacDonald on bass completes the rhythm section while Rob McNelley adds his guitar to the mix. Matt White on trumpet, Roy Agee on trombone and Max Abrams on sax appear on two cuts. “Too Drunk to Drive Drunk” is a ferocious rocker with some great piano playing from Wynans and “I Know Why” is a love ballad with the horns gently riffing behind Walker's moving vocal.
The disc closes with a lively cover of Hank Snow's “Movin' On” with guitar solos from Walker and guest John D'Amato sandwiched around more Wynans' fine piano work. It is a fitting end to one of the strongest releases in Walker's career. His soul-stirring singing, coupled with his electrifying guitar playing, make this a must-be-heard release.
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 2 of 6
Luca Giordano - My Kind of Blues
14 songs; 76:13 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Chicago Blues; Smooth, Jazzy Blues
Why would Blues luminaries like Bob Stroger, Chris Cain, Sax Gordon, Marty Binder, and Harlan Terson help record a CD for an Italian artist they didn’t know? Was it because he paid them a whole bunch of money? Maybe, but, what’s more likely is that they wanted to help when they met Giordano, discovered his love for the music, and heard Luca’s impeccable licks.
Sure there are scads of guitar heroes and string benders out there, but Giordano is truly blessed with fretboard sensibilities, tone, and style. He is not a shredding wizard nor a throttling mechanic; he is a guitar whisperer. And, when his whispers, the guitar talks back in a full range of amazing notes, emotions, and sounds. This guy didn’t just go to the woodshed, he visited an entire lumber yard!
Born in Teramo, Italy, in 1980, Giordano learned guitar when he was 20 years old. Constant improvement and a deep passion for the Blues led to a period in Italy playing with his first band "Jumpin’ Eye Blues Quintet." He moved to Chicago and collaborated with several Blues artists like the Les Getrex Band, Sharon Lewis and her Texas Fire Band, JW Williams, Eric “Guitar” Davis, Jimmy Burns, and many more. He performed at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2008 with James Wheeler and in 2011 with Eric “Guitar” Davis. Festivals have been aplenty in both Europe and the United States where he performed with many of the above mentioned and more, like Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Sax Gordon, and the late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. A look at his current 2012 schedule shows many European appearances backing both Demetria Taylor and Bob Stroger.
Recorded mostly in Europe, “My Kind of Blues,” is Luca’s first solo album. At 76 minutes plus, it gives more than one’s money’s worth. Including two Giordano originals, the CD’s 14 songs are mostly instrumentals, and the ones with vocals are sung alternately by Bob Stroger, Chris Cain, “Linda;” Luca himself sings on three. The band is composed of standout Italian musicians with guest appearances by more Italian compatriots as well as the above mentioned American stars.
Across the set, Giordano nicely mixes slower numbers in between up tempo songs. The styles include Chicago Blues like Jimmy Rushing and Count Basie’s “Goin’ to Chicago,” here sung by bassist Bob Stroger with great Hammond organ by Franco Angelozzi. Stroger’s own “Something Strange” features the same lineup.
The instrumentals find Giordano going smooth and Jazzy on the title track the way Stevie Ray Vaughan could do on songs like “Lenny.” More “cool” is heard on George Benson’s “What’s Goin’ On” and Giordano’s other original, “Hooker’s Theme.” Luca channels his finest Otis Rush licks on Rush’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” with “Sax” Gordon blowing his namesake along with Fabrizio Mandolini also on sax. The same crew nail a killer version of Chris Cain’s “Tippin’ at Taylor’s.”
Speaking of Chris Cain, he adds guitar and sings his unique baritone on his own mid-tempo song, “The Day All Your Good Luck Goes Away.” Pippo Guarnera is simply classy on both piano and organ.
I would like to meet Luca in person and let some of his enthusiasm and love for Blues captivate my interest the way it has on so many fellow artists. Until then, I’ll just have to dig his engaging, entertaining, and creative work in recorded form.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Volker Strifler - Let The Music Rise
German native Volker Strifler left his homeland in his twenties to explore his passion for the blues in the states. Now based in Northern California, the guitarist and singer-songwriter offers the latest cd of his solo career, after years playing with The Ford Blues Band, Robben Ford, Chris Cain and others. At this stage of his career his music is an amalgamation of roots music, rock, blues-rock, jazz, a touch of blues and whatever else he chooses to throw into the mix. His guitar skills and pleasing classic-rock vocals lend themselves quite nicely to his confident sound. As if he doesn’t do enough, he manages to provide a stellar production job. Having top-of-the-line backing musicians is the icing on the cake.
“Going To Brownsville ”, his adaptation of Sleepy John Estes’ 1929 song “The Girl I Love Got Great Long Curly Hair” is the only real blues song here. The unique herky-jerky treatment given to it here breathes new life into a blues classic. Volker’s smoldering electric slide guitar dodges in and out of the mix with horns, mandolin and electric piano. The variety of riffs are a treat for the ear. Spy movie horns combine with country-meets-jazz-meets-The Ventures guitar to move “The Great Escape” along just nicely. A quest for peace is the theme of “Redemption”. It is given an island “Junkanoo” groove via horns and tasty percussion. Volker’s snaky guitar works itself right into the festivities, never sounding out of place. Fleetwood Mac’s “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” is an instrumental were guitar and horns complement each other. (Chip) Roland Condon lends his piano skills to “Wait A Minute” to blend with the slide guitar to create somewhat of a Little Feat vibe. Slide guitar skips all through the title track, leading up to the narrator’s joyful departure from this mortal coil-“Want you to dance around my grave, now, and let the music rise”. “It’s Getting Late” finds our hero on a boozy New Orleans’ journey into depravity.
The Little Feat influence shows up again on “Last Night I Had A Dream”, as Lowell George-style slide guitar morphs into classy blues-jazz riffing ala Volker’s one-time compatriot Robben Ford. The Ford influence shows up again in the cool-blues of “When Daylight Comes”. The instrumental closer, “Hoogie Boogie” owes a debt to those masters of the country instrumental, the Nashville pedal steel-guitar duo of Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant. “Say what?” you may ask. I learned of them second hand as well. They were the premier instrumental team in Nashville when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. They also backed some of country music’s biggest stars of that era. Volker utilizes some similar faster-than-the-speed-of-sound licks on this track. Is it coincidence or is the guy just that good?
As soon as I got over my disappointment of not getting a blues record, I began to appreciate the goodness that was going on here. The guys make it sound so easy that the music flies by and you find your finger involuntarily hitting play at the end. The many musical styles blend together to create something wholly satisfying.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Earnest “Guitar” Roy – Going Down To Clarksdale
8 tracks – 36.36 minutes
Clarksdale native and second generation bluesman Earnest “Guitar” Roy started early, aged 8, in his father’s band which at one time included Big Jack Johnson. He played drums on Johnson’s first album “The Oilman” and also played drums and guitar on Frank Frost’s “Midnight Prowler” album for Earwig. He then played in Albert King’s band until Albert’s death. However, little has been heard from him for some time, this CD being his first since 2005. This CD was recorded summer 2011 in Water Valley Mississippi and it appears that Earnest played everything on the album himself as the CD states that “All songs written, arranged and produced by Earnest Roy”.
Opener “Hard-Headed Woman” is a fast-paced shuffle with strong guitar lines. The title tune name checks some of Earnest’s influences in a song that talks about returning to the home of the juke joints. “Evaline” is one of those songs about how the guy is badly treated by his woman but has a rather plodding rhythm. The acoustic guitar intro to “A Letter To My Sweetheart” provides a touch of country but the gentler pace does rather expose Earnest’s weakness as a vocalist and the song is too long but the electric guitar overdub is a positive.
“How Long” is a jauntier piece with some more nice guitar. “I Wanna Know What My Little Girl’s Been Doin’” provides something of a down-home/back porch approach. Unfortunately it is also the longest cut on the album and, for me, outstays its welcome. “Somebody’s Got To Give” has a lot of wah-wah and a rather dull spoken part; “Too Many Women” closes the CD with Earnest solo, just his acoustic guitar and a stomp board.
Earnest has clearly put such a lot into it. He has a serviceable voice and plays decent guitar throughout the album. The overall sound is rather ‘muddy’ and the songs lack interest or distinction. It is hard to see how this CD will make a mark against many others.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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The Diamond State Blues Society - Middletown , Delaware
The 1st St. Georges Blues Fest sponsored by The Diamond State Blues Society is Saturday, June 16th, 2012, Noon to 8pm rain or shine, on the grounds of The Commodore Center, 1701 N. DuPont Hwy., St. Georges, Delaware. Featured are Garry Cogdell & the Complainers; lower case blues with special guest Johnny Neel; Dave Fields, Brandon Santini & his Band; J.P. Soars & the Red Hots; and headlining is The Bernard Allison Group. Details and links to tickets at www.DiamondStateBlues.com.
Minnesota Blues Society - Minneapolis, MN
The Minnesota Blues Society presents the 2012 Road to Memphis Challenge Sun, April 22, 2012 at 1:00pm (doors @ noon) at the Minnesota Music Cafe, 499 Payne Ave., St. Paul, Mn.
$10.00 suggested donation. Contestants vying for opportunity to represent Mn at the 2013 IBC. Band competing includeKen Valdez, Wisconsin Bryan Johnson, Jimmi and the Band of Souls, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, Mark Cameron Bandand the Trent Romens Band. Solo/Duo competitors include Mike Fugazzi, Kildahl and Vonderharr, Samantha and Gregg and Crankshaft. (order of performance will be randomly determined prior to event) for more information visit http://www.mnbs.org/
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The 2012 Iowa Blues Challenge Semi-final Rounds will be held April 19, at Zimm's, Des Moines, IA, and April 22, at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA. Five bands will play thirty-minute sets at The Muddy Waters starting at 5:00 p.m. Admission is $7 for ANY blues society member or $10 for non-members. Competitors are The Mississippi Misfits, Slack Man & the Smokin' Red Hots, Judge #3, Serious Business, and Phineas J's. One of the bands from the IBC semi-final round in Des Moines and two of the bands competing in the semi-finals at The Muddy Waters will earn the right to move into the 2012 Iowa Blues Challenge Final Round, to be held in Des Moines on May 26, at the Downtown Marriott.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa is June 29th & 30th, and July1st. Scheduled performers include Mathew Curry and The Fury, Earnest ‘’Guitar’’ Roy, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Liz Mandeville and Donna Herula, Kenny Neal and Super Chikan Johnson on June 29th, Terry Quiett, Bryce Janey, Ray Fuller and the Blues Rockers, Doug MacLeod, Preston Shannon, Ernest Dawkins Quartet, Guitar Shorty, Moreland and Arbuckle, Coco Montoya and Kelley Hunt on June 30th. Lady Bianca, Paul Geremia, Johnny Rawls, Trampled Under Foot and the Brooks Family Blues Dynasty featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, plus Bobby Rush with “The Double Rush Revue” on Sunday July 1st. http://www.mvbs.org
River City Blues Society- Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows - Friday April 27th at 7PM Johnny Rawls :Location Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois $5.00 non-members $3.00 members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com 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. Apr 23 – Andrew Jr Boy Jones. icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Thur, April 26, Al Stone, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.reverbnation.com/alstone
Tues, May 8, Kilborn Alley, 7 pm, Bradley Bour. Sportsmen’s Club www.kilbornalley.com
Thur, May 17, Reverend Raven & C.S.A.B., 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, June 19, Sugar Ray Norcia & Bluetones, 7 pm, Kankakee Valley Boat Club
Tues, June 26, Tom Holland & Shuffle Kings, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club
July – Sugarcane Collins - details TBA
July - Dave Riley – details TBA
Tues, July 24, Laurie Morvan Band, 7 pm, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s 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
Thursday, Oct 18, Morry Sochat & The Special 20s, 7 pm, TBA
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 http://wvbluessociety.org/
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 5 of 6
Tommy Lee Cook – Mailbox Money
When Tommy Lee Cook partnered up with Danny Shepard on the previous Outside Looking In, they had such a good time creating music and decided to head back into the studio again to see if they could recreate the musical camaraderie that spawned a strong collaboration. The formula seems to work and what results is a solid piece of work in Mailbox Money.
Heading into the studio Downtown Buckingham, these tunes were conceived right on the spot. All eleven tracks are written by Danny Shepard and Tommy Lee Cook. Essentially these are two middle-aged guys who aren’t looking to get on a pretty boy list or hanker for radio airplay.
Shepard may not be the most technically advanced guitarist to engage in a guitar slinger shootout with. Guitar lovers wishing to find fiery fretwork in these songs will have to look elsewhere. The man’s sole purpose is anchored in being a catalyst for Cook’s vocals that bore a resemblance to the Night Tripper Dr. Johns.
Using the usual suspects in guitars like dobro and pedal steel is a real treat. I am going to take a guess that an “East Indian swarsangam” is some sort of sitar. Playing it seems to work in what seems to be the most commercially accessible song on the track “Life Is A Puzzle” that is the most likely candidate for any radio airplay. Fortunately the rest of the music doesn’t follow this blueprint.
Opening number “Take It Up With Her Mama” may sound like a soundtrack reserved for an old fashioned burlesque show with a sex n sway groove. On a drop of a dime, the music shifts into a type of rocking country in the driving “Little Black Dress” which is the precursor to the commercially viable “Life Is A Puzzle.”
Speaking of Dr. John, if you want to hear Cook do his best imitation than “Certified Fool” is a good place to start as any as it’s a cry in your beer ballad. The dobro playing is a comic relief in the humorous “Me And Russell Crowe” that comes off as a barroom sing along.
If you think these guys don’t have a handle on playing swamp rock, guess again. Just when the sexual bawdiness seems to be missing than “Move A Little Closer” plays the devil’s advocate in your personal soundtrack of a one night stand. It’s a natural setting to the highway rocking “Human Nature” that detours into the piano heavy “Test Of Time.” In these last cropping of tunes does Shepard seem relaxed enough in his role as a guitarist to toss of a lead every now and then. Though he could be limited in his abilities of what he could do as a lead player, his guitar playing is to act in service to the songs and not vice versa. It’s back to the swamps in the greasy “Come To Me” that beckons like an evil lady of the lake.
Having the title track “MailBox Money” be the ending cut on the album is a strange choice. Usually it’s sandwiched in between tunes on the first half of an album. Clearly these guys are doing things their way and reserving this track as the finale is a good choice as any. The dobro playing pushes the number into a deeper rural setting befitting a hot summer’s day as a long road trip along Highway 61 takes you to the crossroads you want to get to.
All in all, a very satisfactory piece of work to listen to. And while it’s not intended to blow anyone’s doors off, it’s something to kick back to and occasionally rock to. Hints of Delbert McClinton, swamp, blues, rock and pop are the components making up an album that can be latched onto through repeated listenings. For Tommy Lee Cook that’s an accomplishment..
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Studebaker John - Old School Rockin'
WOW! I l have been a fan of Studebaker John's for many years. When he was signed by Delmark and released his "Maxwell Street Kings" album I was impressed by the somewhat minimalistic but totally authentic music he produced on that great CD. I reviewed it for our Blues Society and was happy to see Studebaker at the top of his game. When I got this CD and popped it in to the opening strains of "Rockin' That Boogie" and I knew I was in for something far more intense than his first Delmark release. Big, bold sounds, a driving groove, hot guitar licks, and John's always intriguing vocals sold me after a few bars, and I still had 13 tracks to go!
Perhaps one would label Studebaker John Grimaldi a throwback. He turns 60 later this year, having grown up in the tumultuous era of the 1960's in an Italian American neighborhood in Chicago. The walls between musical types were beginning to break down when he was a teenager learning to play guitar. He had already mastered the harp and drums and was cutting his teeth on the six stringed ax while listening to a mix of blues and early rock. One can see the blending of these influences in this CD, where Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed and Hound Dog Taylor meet Peter Green and Mike Bloomfield.
I've enjoyed John's music for many years, but it seems to me he's even turned it up an additional notch with this recording. I saw him live on Saturday, April 14th in the midst of reviewing this CD and I also saw him a couple of times last year, so many of the tunes were familiar to me. His live shows are filled with the same electricity and energy as this album is. He recorded this live in the studio with minimal overdubs, so what you hear on this record is hot stuff.
"Rockin' Hot" is another of the big, driving numbers that bring the dancers out- your feet just want to move to the strains of his guitar and the back beat of Bob Halaj on bass and Albert "Joey" DiMarco on drums. It's just three guys but they produce a huge sound and make for a fiery CD. "She's rockin' hot" groans John as he sings of his woman, and the same can be said for this CD- it is rockin' hot! He stays on that theme with "Fine Little Machine", singing of being the driver for his woman's fine little machine. "Fire Down Below" features blistering harp by Grimaldi and Doug Organ appears on the B3 (the only track where the trio expands). Hot, hot stuff. The innuendos are not deep, but they don't need to be as they remind us of blues lyrics from days past. He's got some hot songs that will make believers of the those not familiar with his work really impress those who are.
He occasionally takes the pace down a bit. The stuff in the lower gears is equally appealing. "Mesmerized" features a Latin-styled beat while "Disease Called Love" dips into the swampy side of the blues. "Dark Night' is really the only other tempo cut; but they all drip with authenticity and goodness. He handles any tempo with ease and delivers powerfully moving music to the listener at all paces.
Other songs of interest are, well ,all of the cuts. I can't single out each and every other but a few bear mention. "Deal With the Devil" is a pounding, and hauntingly cool song where John grabs you like the devil can. "She Got It Right (Dress So Tight) is another track that will get heart pumping and folks on their feet and dancing. A huge guitar solo where John takes a tour way down the neck of the guitar in a whirling and squealing 100 mph drive. And, of course, the title track is so, so true- old school rockin' done just right!
14 original tracks done by a Chicago blues original. This album is a non-brainer- buy it now. It is one of the hottest CDs I've heard in a long time and one of the best CDs I've heard in the past year! Every time I hear it I love it even more; do not pass this one up! Studebaker John has really outdone himself.
ReviewerSteve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
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The good news: World renowned illustrator Steve Campbell has agreed to carry on the tradition of yearly Blue Band logos that he started in 1986 with our One More Won't Kill Ya album cover. That cover was the introduction of the character that Steve calls Big Blue, the blue note character that has been seen, in some form, every year as part of that year's logo. The bad news: After twenty five years, I'm finding it difficult to come up with some new ideas for Steve to illustrate. If you have a suggestion for Big Blue this year, let us know (SOON! The summer tour season starts in a month and we'll need to get the shirts printed before then) Keep in mind that the idea has to work in black and white as well as shades of blue. It needs to work as small as 2" diameter for postcard advertising or as big as 8" diameter for T-shirts. This is our 31st anniversary year. Someone has already suggested "30 One More Won't Kill Ya" It doesn't have to be tied to year specific. Other ideas being tossed around include The NEXT 30 Years Tour and something having to do with this year's Sexagenarianism. If we use your idea, we'll be sure and get you one of those shirts!...
I wanted to let you know that Sam Salomone, the organ player on all of our records since 1996, has been ill. He had surgery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. I spoke to him on Tuesday. He's home, slowly regaining his appetite and strength and the prognosis is good for full recovery. I'm sure if we all send good wishes and positive vibes in his direction, his recovery will come along even faster. Hopefully, by the summertime, he'll be strong enough to play a few dates with the band...
Most of the acts for this year's Happy Blue Year Celebration in Des Moines have been confirmed. It is largely a whole new lineup of bands from around the state, some of which include Blue Band alumni. The lineup so far: http://www.theblueband.com/newyear.htm
Info on this weekend's radio shows: http://iowapublicradio.org/studio-one/backtracks/ http://iowapublicradio.org/studio-one/blue-avenue/ http://iowapublicradio.org/studio-one/beatles-medley/
The combination of the mild early spring weather and the downtime with the band has inspired me to try and make grass grow where it has never grown before around our house. In the process, I have once again become a master dandelion digger. In an effort to instill some kind of work ethic in me, my parents would pay me money to dig those weeds if I ever wanted something special. Like a first baseman's mitt when I was 10 years old. Looking back, a nickel a dandelion in 1962 was A LOT OF MONEY. (altho' it seemed like it took forEVAH to dig enough weeds for that mitt) Who would think that those skills of slicing the weed by the root and picking the weed out of the grass without leaving an enormous divot would come back to me so quickly? At a nickel a dandelion, I'm sure I could have purchased a small lawn tractor by now...
Unless there's some BIG news, there might not be a Blue Note for a couple of weeks. Those of us who live around Sparkle City have committed to some rehearsal time in the coming weeks, hopefully that will result in some new songs and some revivals of old Blue Band songs that we haven't done in a while. Got any favorites that you'd like us to start playing? See yas on The Blue Highway (use yer damn turn signals and GET OFF THE PHONE in heavy traffic) (I think I have become Mr. Wilson. It used to be that I was humming that old Rolling Stones song Hey, you, get offa my cloud. Now I'm screaming HEY YOU KIDS GET OFFA MY LAWN!) (come to think of it, isn't there another old Stones song named Dandelion?) (see, I'm obsessed with that damn yellow weed) (too bad ya can't make CAKE out of dandelions) It puts a whole new meaning on Can You Dig It? Always know that we love you, Bob Dorr & The Blue Band
PS, one of the New Year's Eve bands, Checker & The Bluetones is at The Hub TONIGHT (Fri) for their own version of the Geeezer Gig. See yas there.