Monday, September 19, 2011

To Behold reviewed by Steve Jones

To Behold
Monkey Junk
Stony Plain Records
10 tracks/43 minutes

What would happen if you took the smooth funkiness of John Nemeth and mixed it with the raw, primal energy and sounds of Lightning Malcolm and Cedric Burnside?  Why, you would, of course, get Monkey Junk.
Three guys from Ottawa, the home of the Senators and a traditionally rabid hockey town.  They came together in 2008, produced a first CD in 2009 and now this new one from June 2011.  Monkey Junk is Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, keyboards, guitar), Tony D (lead guitar),  and Matt Sobb (drums).  Monkey Junk is hot. Screaming hot.  White hot.  I love these guys and the sound they have.  I am so glad to have finally discovered them and I want to hear more.

The CD opens to a driving beat that perhaps hearkens even as far back as to prehistoric times.  Driving, throbbing drum beats, big guitar sounds, scorching harp and poignant vocals; "Mother's Crying" grabs your lapels and says "Dammit- listen to me!" and you just have to, over and over again.  It is a call to arms and just great stuff.  They change up the tempo with Hank William's "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)", and, while slower, the swamp gets thicker and grabs you some more until you just can't get out.  And where else have you ever heard the word "peaved" used well in a song if at all?  Seminal stuff.  I love this song and it's tribal thumping, exceptional vocals and lyrics, hot guitar and harp; as Keith Jackson used to say, "Whoa, Nellie!"

Did I mention there is no bass player?  A little baritone guitar is thrown into the mix, giving a deep resonant sound to back things up, but like Hounddog Taylor no bass is needed.
Track 3 is funkier, darker, some what brooding, and just impressive.  "Right Now" is one of nine originals here. "Let Her Down" follows and if the last song was brooding then this one is downright depressing, yet one just gets caught up in  the emotion.  The feelings these guys express in their music are superb and sublime. In "With These Hands" they stay in the swamp but take things up into the world of the living.  A love song, done in a style that really reminded me of John Nemeth.  Classy vocals, packaged nicely and professionally with the band's outstanding backing work.  

"You Don't Know" is big, driving and rocking blues.  It builds and builds into a finale of cajun hot stuff. Then comes "While You Are Mine", a swampy ballad served up like it should come with cornbread on the side. They give us "Running In The Rain" next, another driving, throbbing tune.  It's sort of a mix of country, blues and maybe even a little Gospel sound served up with Spanish Moss dangling down the sides. "All About You" is a gritty, slow cut showing the band's "tender" side.  As if Marriner's vocals were not enough, the guitar and organ sell this one big time.  They finish up with "The Marrinator"; it begins as a stripped down, acoustic piece with raw harp, then it goes over to the electric side for a rousing run to the finish line.

I'm sold- these young guys are great. I want to see and hear them play live.  You do, too.  Trust me on this.  They are a great band who will be taking the blues world by storm!  Kudos to Stony Plain for promoting this great band and their hot blues sound!!! 

Just A Dream reviewed by Rick Davis

Just A Dream
Moreland & Arbuckle
Telarc Records
12 Tracks

If you have never seen or heard guitarist Aaron Moreland and harpist/vocalist Dustin Arbuckle, combined with superb drums of Brad Horner, you are missing one of the best young trios in the blues business today. Their music will have your heart pounding with the powerful hard-driving guitar of Moreland, the raw vocals and electrifying harp of Arbuckle, and the pulsating drum beat of Horner.

The Kansas blues group met at an open-mic jam in Wichita, Kansas, in 2001. Moreland, who had been influenced at an early age by groups like Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Black Sabbath, Charley Patton, Motley Crue, finally decided on staying with traditional blues. Arbuckle, deeply in tune with the Mississippi Delta blues, was intrigued with harpists Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williams and guitarist Son House. Moreland joined Arbuckle’s blues rock band just a few months before the group dissolved, then the two started a quartet called the Kingsnakes, which Arbuckle describes as “electrified Mississippi blues mixed with a sludgy, jam-oriented rock thing.” This eclectic group could be best construed primarily as a soul, country, funk, jam rock, and blues group. Horner joined in 2003, left for a period of time, returning in 2006. By then Morland and Arbuckle had decided to continue to lay down tracks on their own. Moreland's signature guitar sound is created using conventional Telecaster, steel, and Les Paul guitars, but that early 1900 Delta bluesman sound comes from a hand-crafted four string cigar box guitar with one string feeding into a bass amp and the other three feeding into a guitar amp.
Their lastest CD Just A Dream, is a follow up to their last Telarc CD Flood which included the hard drivin' tune "Legend Of John Henry" along with 12 other blues treasures! Just A Dream, a CD Morland and Arbuckle spent a lot of time producing, opens with the two most powerful tunes "The Brown Bomber" and the highly charged "Purgatory." Moreland and Arbuckle have created a great distorted sound with a little slide guitar on both tunes. There is a high quality sinister video available on the internet of the tune "Purgatory." The title track "Just A Dream" give us just a hint of county blues with almost a southern rock style guitar with incredible harp and vocals from Arbuckle. "Travel Every Mile" offers a slow haunting sound with subdued background vocals once again showcasing both artists. They continue with a Tom Waits tune "Heartattack & Vine" a song they frequently do live. "Troll" moves into an almost psychedelic rock mode with a 60's sounding keyboard throughout. "Gypsy Violin" is a tune of silent thoughts blended with a 60's background. "Shadow Never Changes," with it's thought provoking lyrics, has a mystical underlying tone, combined again with subtle keyboards in the background, much like a Pink Floyd tune. "Good Love" brings back that early Delta sound by both Moreland and Arbuckle. Arbuckle starts "Who Will Be Next" rockin' on harp, a song sounding much more like a typical traditional blues number. "So Low" give you classic rock guitar sound typical of the 60's.  Moreland and Arbuckle conclude this collection with a contribution by Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the M.G.'s on "White Lightnin'," with Cropper providing guitar riffs throughout the song.
What a follow up to the last brilliant CD Flood ! Moreland sums it up by saying, “This is the best record of our careers…” I’m not sure listeners would survive anything better, but I’d bet they’d give it a go.

Reviewed by Rick Davis

In The Light reviewed by Bob Haendler

In The Light
Susan Wylde
Sun, Moon & Stars Entertainment
12 tracks/48 minutes

Susan Wylde has attracted much attention  in Canada where she is  a classically-trained conservatory graduate. This work is a pleasant mix of original songs and covers.  When  thinking of ways to describe this CD words  like “smooth”, “mellow”,”laid back” came to mind. Yes, there is a definite jazz atmosphere produced but still some very good blues. Susan’s song writing and piano are top-notch.  Her supporting cast  of remarkable musicians make each song a joy to listen to: Dave Morrow,Denis Keldie, Martin Aucoin- keyboards, Jack deKeyzer, Pete Schmidt- guitar, Alec Fraser- bass, Rick Donaldson- drums, percussion, Colleen Allen, Turner King- tenor sax, Dave Dunlop- trumpet, coronet, Jerome Godboo, Paul Reddick- harmonica, and Jasmine Bailey- backing vocals.  These all are mentioned because the  “band”  was flawless and are  a large contribution to the CD.

Tracks that stand out :
One Real Man  original shuffle
Love Me All Night Long original
Three Hours Past Midnight  Johnny”Guitar” Watson cover
In The Light original
Georgia On My Mind Hoagy Carmichael cover
The last two songs are covers of The Thrill Is Gone and At Last.  These songs done in Susan’s laid-back style left me thinking that the thrill was indeed gone.  There was nothing bad in the songs, but if you are going to cover a classic song give it your own twist or angle. She did not convince me with these selections. The CD would have been improved by dropping them.

At the end of the day this is an easy listening blues CD that I really did enjoy. Drop it in your  player, pour a glass of wine and relax.

Reviewed by Bob Haendler

Crazy Sun reviewed by Rick Davis

Crazy Sun
JT Coldfire
Entertainment One Music
13 Tracks

Another Texas guitar slinger has hit the blues scene. JT Coldfire, not really new to the blues world, has been playing professionally for over 15 years across the United States and Europe. Born in Corpus Christi in 1980, Coldfire became a blues fan at an early age. He has gained the reputation in the blues world of being one of the most dedicated musicians in Austin. JT has been known to play three shows a night, never repeating the same song in a nine hour stretch. His experience as a singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer has gained him recognition as one of the standouts of the new blues generation. He has been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King but has really developed a style all his own.

His previous CD title was Coldblooded released in 2010. JT has since released his most recent CD titled Crazy Sun, a superb collection of his riveting vocals combined with lightning and acoustic guitar styles. The CD also reflects a wide range of different blues tunes from acoustic style "Pistol Lead," "Lower The Ladder," "Mr. Jones," and "Sweet Little Isa" to the jazz piano style tune "She's Crazy." His versatile guitar style and songwriting changes with "White Collar Street Life" blending well with Banzai LARocca on harp. The title track "Crazy Sun," and the tune "I Won't Never Go" shows Coldfire's ability to tear up the fretboard much like the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. He includes the hard drivin' Texas style shuffle "No Time For Sleepin" midway through the CD. "Johnny's Gone," "Hangin' Tree", and "Lee Malone" best express JT's incredible versatility as an both an accomplished singer and guitar player. He even includes the honky-tonk blues number "Bad Day" to add a little more variety to a captivating collection of blues.

Crazy Sun is one of those blues albums you simply can't stop playing. No two songs sound the same. You owe it to yourself to put JT Coldfire in your blues collection!

Reviewed by Rick Davis

An Old Rock on a Roll reviewed by Mark Thompson

An Old Rock on a Roll
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Stony Plain Records
13 tracks/53:59

The title of this disc alludes to the age of the “Blues Boss”, but you'll have a hard time believing that Kenny Wayne is 67 years old after you hear this outstanding recording. Playing with the energy and enthusiasm of a younger man, Wayne romps through a bakers-dozen of original tunes that showcase his strength as a songwriter and his boogie style of piano playing. He has an engaging style of singing that conjures up memories of Charles Brown and Amos Milburn.
His backing band is lead by ace guitarist Duke Robillard, who also produced the project. The rest of the musicians are drawn primarily from the alumni list of Roomful of Blues – Mark Teixeira on drums, Doug James on baritone sax, Sax Gordon Beadle on tenor sax, Doug Woolverton on trumpet, Carl Querfurth on trombone and Brad Halle on bass. In addition to piano, Wayne adds some organ on several cuts.

The jaunty rhythm on “Searching For My Baby” makes it an easy choice for the opening track with Robillard's guitar offering strong support for Wayne's spirited piano solo. With the horns and organ filling in the space behind him, Wayne describes his attempts to deal with life's travails on “Fantasy Meets Reality”. Robillard's guitar dominates the arrangement on “Devil Woman”, his penetrating licks contrasting nicely with Wayne's laid-back vocal. “Wild Turkey 101 Proof” is a good-natured drinking tune with Wayne and Robillard sharing the solo space.
Other highlights include the title cut, with Wayne offering a summary of his view of life and career - and “Don't Pretend”, a slow blues that gives Wayne ample space to show off his tremendous skills on piano. The relentless drive of “Heaven, Send Me An Angel” underscores the songwriter's plea for relief from an alcohol-fueled rage over the miseries of this world. “Bring Back the Love”is a ballad with the horns cushioning the leader's tender vocal. The band harks back to the days of house rent parties on “Rocking Boogie Party”, with Wayne laying down plenty of dazzling piano runs.

The band slips into a gospel vein on the instrumental closing number, “Give Thanks”. Wayne pounds away on the piano and adds swirling chords on the organ while Robillard picks out more tasty licks.

It is a fitting close, showing the depth of Wayne's musical experiences. There are some who have lamented the future of blues piano due to the recent passing of Pinetop Perkins. Not to worry – the tradition is safe in the capable hands of the Blues Boss. This one is a contender for best Blues recording of the year and should not be missed.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Lit Up reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Lit Up
Victor Wainwright & the Wildroots
WildRoot Records
14 tracks/ 53:17

Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots new CD, “Lit Up”, is a great follow up to their debut release “Beale Street to the Bayou”. This recording was produced and arranged by Stephen Dee. Dees along with Wainwright wrote the tunes on “Lit Up”. Greg Gumpel and Weston Bradigan each co-wrote a song also. Both Dees and Wainwright are diverse song writers. This project is a swell mix of blues, blues rock, Cajun boogie and some swing feel.

Victor Wainwright plays powerhouse blues on his boogie piano throughout “Lit Up”. His vocal range is big, powerful and raspy with a true blues sound and feeling. He can also bring it down for the slow blues. Stephen Dees takes on the roll of a fine bassist as well as being an acoustic guitar player. Joining Victor and Stephen forming the WildRoots are an awesome list of musicians. There is really a lot to listen to in “Lit Up’. Greg Gumpel brings on the electric as well as the resonator guitar to the mix. Billy Dean drives the drum line; Patricia Dees is on saxophone along with Ray Guiser who also adds his feel with the clarinet.

This fine band also adds a swell list of guest musicians to “Lit Up”. The list here includes Charlie DeChant on sax and clarinet, Chris Stephenson on the Hammond B3 organ, Bob Dionne adds the trombone and also Ken Titmus is brings his trumpet to the mix. Another powerful addition to this recording is Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson. Mark’s harp playing seems to not just play the same thing that most harp players do. This is a special treat for us harmonica fans. As you see from this line up of musicians there is going to be a lot going on in this CD.

“Coin Operated Women” is a catchy, fun song that showcases Wainwright’s barrelhouse piano style. This is what a boogie piano should sound like. This is some hard charging piano. Added to the mix are really good sax background and solos with some really good blues lyrics. “I’ve got a coin operated women – I drop in my coin – She won’t be satisfied till she takes everything I got”. This is the blues, a fact of life.

Victor brings the mood down a bunch with “Pile of Blues”. “Maybe I could change what I do and give up the booze” kind of tells us the tale of this track. Victor’s raspy vocals stand out here. Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson’s very tasteful harmonica is outstanding in this song. Add Greg Gumpel’s resonator guitar and this song truly is a “Pile of Blues”.
Lit Up” from Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots is one of those recordings that I could go on and on about with nothing bad to say. There are 14 tracks of blues that will leave you wanting to hear it again. Check this group out and enjoy. This is a keeper!

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

The Late Show reviewed by Bob Haendler

The Late Show
Barry Levenson
Rip Cat Records
15 tracks/1 hr 17 min

If you love blues guitar (and I do ), this CD is a must have. What a terrific platform for showcasing Barry Levenson’s  immense talent. With 10 of the 15 tracks being instrumentals one would think that your ears would grow tired from being assaulted by wailing guitar. Definitely not the case here. Levenson  plays with the clarity and simplicity of knowing what notes “not to play”. Add in guest vocals  like Finis Tasby, Mary Williams and Johnny Dyer and they have created a joy  to hear. We get good old West Side Chicago blues as well as  tunes that will bring Stevie Ray’s Riviera Paradise to mind. Barry’s love affair with his Fender guitars has seduced me into falling in love with his playing.

This CD is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Bob Haendler

Strictly Whatever reviewed by Steve Jones

Strictly Whatever
Harry Manx & Kevin Breit
Stony Plain Records
12 tracks/43 minutes

Manx and Breit are two Canadian masters of things stringed and they offer an assortment of instruments and sounds here that will captivate those looking for a modern variety in style and sound.  While not a true blues album there are elements here and there that will give blues fans something to chew on and the rest will satisfy anyone with the love of interesting music.

Baritone and electric, baritone, electric and National Steel, lap slide and electric, baritone and electric sitar, electric and National Steel, lap slide and ukulele, banjo and electric, baritone and mandolin, and mohan veena, lap slide, acoustic and electric guitars are the various combinations of instruments offered by these two talented guys.  They fuse blues, jazz, rock, folk, world music, and Indian music into a body of delightful sounds while sharing the vocals back and forth (and occasional together) on the CD,

The boys penned ten of the songs themselves.  The CD begins with a cover of the classic "Sunny" with Manx singing and the baritone guitar deeply bleating behind a stinging electric guitar lead and a little National Steel filler.  I was intrigued when I heard this, and did not really know what to expect given the mix of instruments listed.  They then get a little driving and rocking on "Nothing I Can Do", folky and funky on "Looking For A Brand New World", psychedelic on "Hippy Trippy", and kind of country bluesy on "Mr Lucky".  So five songs into the album and they were all over the genres of music.

The next two tracks are new age and new age meets the blues and heavy metal.  "Note to Self" could be something right out of the Windham Hill songbook and "Do Not Stand and Weep On My Grave" is a very cool tune written by Mary Elizabeth Frye with a heavy guitar line overlaid on new age sounds.  Ukulele predominates "Little Ukulele", a folky and fun track. "There Was a Girl" is a country rocker with Breit laying some bottle neck out nicely on the guitar solo.  On "Looking for a Plan" they sing of life’s troubles and pleasures, with lyrics commenting on our lives while they rock with a fuzzy sound.  "Dance With Delilah" is a bouncy track with bone crunching mohan veena along with electric and acoustic guitars and lap slide.  BIg, bad, cool sounds there. They close with "Carry My Tears Away", a sorrowful ballad with mandolin rounding out the soulful sound.
 Ok, so it ain't exactly blues, but it is very interesting and I think the variety of stringed things played at high level with interest most blues, rock and country music fans.  The songs have great stories and the variety of stylistic play coupled with all sorts of guitar work make this an very strange and fun ride.  Stony Plain has put out a variety of interesting stylized albums over the years and they continue to offer different music than will make you sit up, listen, and think a bit as you enjoy them.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Blue and Instrumental reviewed by Steve Jones

Blue and Instrumental
Ivan Appelrouth
Eller Soul Records
15 tracks/62 minutes

Ivan Appelrouth has played for thirty years in both the New England stomping grounds of the likes of Duke Robillard and Roomful of Blues as well as in his home state of Virginia.  He has put in his time and earned accolades among those who have heard his guitar work.  He put together a CD with a dozen "original" songs and three covers, all instrumentals.  The sound is authentic blues and the musicianship here is excellent by both Applerouth and his band.
Joining Ivan on the CD are John Cocuzzi on piano and vibes, Dave Cwiklinski on trumpet, Tommy Hannigan and Steve Potter share duty on bass, "Big" Joe Maher on drums, Steve Ott on B3, and Chris Watling on sax.  This is a well-synched band with a great sound.  They all play off well on each other and add bits and pieces of interest to the mix. 
The CD is a lot of fun to listen to and you can tell these guys like to play together.  The biggest complaint I have is that Appelrouth's "original" songs are just tribute pieces where he's rearranged many of the blues greats stuff into nice little packages he's produced.  It's not a rip off or anything- he lists his stuff as tributes to T-Bone Walker, Magic Sam, Albert King, Junior Wells and others.  It's good stuff, but from my perspective it really is an album of covers/medleys.  That being said, it is still a lot of fun and it had my foot tapping.

Applerouth doesn't remain in the box here.  He tries to put his spin on things; he even messes with the tempo to jazz things up as in the very up tempo first of his Magic Sam take offs, "Tribute to Magic Sam".  The tempo is very upbeat and swinging, not what one would expect them hearing Sam's magical riffs.  The next time through he goes the other way and the tempo is way slower than Sam's.  The band adds solo after solo to show they are not slouches either, tightly jamming and playing through each tribute.   
The out and out covers are Albert Collins' "Frosty", a nice “Strollin' with the Bone" and the weakest link on the CD which a kind of lounge lizardy sounding "Strangers On the Shore" with some heavy organ that really did not sell me.  He is at his best laying down the Carl Hogan/T Bone Walker/Chuck Berry riffs in his Walker tributes.  He really wails.  The opening and closing "Olsen Ranch Shuffles" also are tight pieces with great guitar work and great sax solos.

Overall, it's a nicely done album.  If you want to hear regional bluesmen put their spin on classic blues sounds with the focus on the instruments and no vocals, this might be your cup of tea. The guys are talented and Applerouth can really play the guitar.  There is nothing new here, but there are some talented guys playing their hearts out.   Applerouth is an excellent guitar player and does not go to the excesses like many do- he plays with restraint and has a great feeling for the music.  I enjoyed listening to this CD. 

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Medicine reviewed by Steve Jones

Solomon King
JLM, Inc.
10 tracks/28 minutes

Of the two new albums entitled "Medicine" on the market recently, this pales to insignificance behind the new issue by Tab Benoit.  The music and sound is raw, the songs are not impressive and the minimalistic mix of a guitar playing vocalist and drums just doesn't cut it.  Couple all that and less than a half hour of music makes this one an easy one to pass up.

Kings is pictured in SRV-like regalia on the CD cover.  Any similarities to the long deceased Mr. Vaughn end there.  King plays and sings in a very rough and edgy style, adding effects to make it even more distorted and edgy.  It does not work.  It just sounds forced and fake.
The opening song is the title cut and is perhaps the high point of this CD.  Slow and downbeat, the song is like a barbiturate laden ride on the periphery of the blues.  King's voice cracks and he tries to be earthy and bluesy; it almost works but I really did not enjoy this. It goes downhill song by song, with a muddy sound and bad effects.  The lowest point is the closing cover "Be My Baby":  It's a depressing ride and the only saving grace it that the song ends quickly and the CD is over after this.
I try to find something good to focus on for my reviews, but there is nothing here to grab hold of.  Maybe I missed the bus on this one, but it's edginess just sounds bad and the musicianship is not of the highest quality.  A lot of work needs to be done to get this act up to snuff.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

The Mighty Mojo Prophets reviewed by Harmonica Joe

The Mighty Mojo Prophets
Rip Cat Records
Mighty Mojo Prophets
13 tracks/45:22

The Mighty Mojo Prophets is an excellent Southern California blues band. This CD “The Mighty Mojo Prophets” is their debut recording released by Rip Cat Records.  As soon as this CD is placed in a player you realize that you are in for a real blues experience. This band was formed in 2007 and played local clubs,  blues festivals and have even opened for Elvin Bishop. Tom “Big Son” Eliff, lead vocalist, and Mitch Dow, guitarist, are the base for the band. These two also the main song writing force for the recording. The rest of the band consist of bass player Scott Lambert, Johnny Minguez beating on the drums, while Alex “Lil” Woodson joins in with his harp. This mix of blues player’s presents their style of West Coast blues to us while maintaining a quality of “high-powered” old school blues. This whole group plays well together.

“Evil Sometimes” starts out with “Lil A” walking into the song with some ear grabbing harmonica. We are quickly aware of “Big Son” and his well tune blues vocals. This opening song is upbeat and lets us be aware that we are in for a musical treat. We should pay attention to Goodson’s harp solo on this tune. This is a good song to introduce us to The Mighty Mojo Prophets. That is a mouthful, maybe I will  say The MMP Band .

“Night Train”, treats us to some slow blues featuring Mitch Dow’s distinctive guitar playing. His guitar work on this tune is really some fine stuff. Also in the mix is the subtle distorted harp playing from “Lil A”. His harmonica solo here really is an earful of blues. This track, for me will be one of my top of the list tunes. “Friday Night Phone Call’, an upbeat West Coast, swing, jump type, tune featuring two guitar solos from guest player Junior Watson. These really highlight this song. Eliff and Dow’s lyrics tell us a tale of a phone call about a love gone band and over. This is what the blues is about.

“Mighty Mojo Prophets” has a big list of guest players adding a whole bunch of goodness to this recording. There are two fine harmonica players, Johnny Mastro and San Padro Slim and guitarist Junior Watson and Scott Abeyta. Also joining the band are Whiteboy James with vocals, Eddie Esudillo playing sax and Edo Guidotti playing the organ. This mix of musicians is one powerful addition to the CD! This is not a minus but The Mighty Mojo Prophets seems to be very capable of standing on its own. It is really hard to review this and point out the fine merits of the band with all of the other powerful artist involved.

“The Mighty Mojo Prophets” is one awesome recording! This band will move forward and become a force behind the blues scene in the future. This is a CD that I will highly recommend listening to.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Triple Threat reviewed by Mark Thompson

Triple Threat
Joe Krown, Russell Batiste Jr., & Walter “Wolfman” Washington
12 tracks/70:12

Some years ago the Bullseye Record label released a compilation with the title Ain't No Funk Like New Orleans Funk, a phrase that soon showed up on t-shirts in shops throughout the city. There has always been a strong element of funk throughout the various strains of the New Orleans musical tradition and now three renown musicians return with their second release that highlights the deep grooves that are unique to the city.

Joe Krown played keyboards as a member of the great Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown's band. He is one of the hardest working musicians in NO, whether playing solo piano in the House of Blues gift shop on a Saturday afternoon, playing solo piano or leading his Organ Combo in one of the clubs. He sticks with his 1958 Hammond B-3 organ on this project, using it to supply the bass line in the absence of a regular bass player while filling plenty of musical space with dazzling runs and slinky rhythms.

Russell Batiste Jr. comes from one of the legendary New Orleans musical families, learning to play the drums at an early age and developing a style that brings the the traditional second-line beat into the modern era. His standing as a first call drummer is apparent from the list of top NO bands that he has played with – Papa Grows Funk, Harry Connick Jr. and the Funky Meters. Batiste is also a skilled songwriter, contributing three instrumentals on this project.
Walter Washington has been one of the most celebrated musicians in New Orleans, with a career that stretches over five decades. As a teenager, he toured with singer Lee Dorsey (“Working in a Coalmine”) before adding his guitar to the band backing Irma Thomas. He also worked another acclaimed singer, Johnny Adams, who mentored Washington on becoming an accomplish vocalist. Since striking out on his own, the Wolfman has has served up a rich mixture of soul, blues and jazz elements that give his music its distinctive sound.

Seven tracks are instrumentals and all are worth repeated listens. Batiste Jr.'s “Rollin' With Big Pat” is a joyous musical celebration with Washington's clean, bright guitar tone offering a nice contrast to Krown's darker organ tones. The title track features an insistent beat from Batiste and some fleet picking in a jazz vein from the Wolfman. Krown delivers a smoldering performance on “Dame Dreaming”, with Washington adding another spirited guitar solo. “Down By the River”, a Krown original, will put some bounce in your step and finds the organist utilizing the melody from Stephen Foster's “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”.

Washington handles the vocals on five tracks, stretching his phrasing of the lyrics on “Last Two Dollars” and putting his wide vocal range to good use on “Only You”. Some of the lessons Washington learned from Adams are illustrated on the moving interpretation of the ballad, “For Your Love”. The title track of one of his first solo projects, “Out of the Dark”, gets an intensely emotional reading that makes it another standout track.

If you haven't explored the wealth of infectious grooves that NO musicians have been producing for decades, grab a copy of this recording - plug it & turn it up - and prepare yourself for a master class in what makes New Orleans music special.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson