Monday, January 19, 2009

Broadcasting the Blues reviewed by Mark Thompson

Broadcasting the Blues
Various Artists
Southwest Musical Arts Foundation Records
20 tracks/60:26

This release celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Those Lowdown Blues program heard every Sunday evening on radio station KJZZ in Phoenix. Bob Corridor, who could be considered a Blues renaissance man, hosts this award-winning program. Bob is renowned blues harmonica player, a record producer, live concert promoter and the owner of the Rhythm Room, the premier Blues club in the Phoenix area.

For this disc, Corritore gathered together some of the best tracks cut live in the radio station’s studio during on-air broadcasts over the last two decades. The line-up features better known performers like Billy Boy Arnold and Louisiana Red along with musicians who deserve more attention like Tomcat Courtney. Most of the tracks feature striped-down arrangements – mostly a guitar or two while others feature the harmonica. The sound quality is consistently strong throughout, with a sense of immediacy in the performances that is the hallmark of a live session.

Lowell Fulson leads things off with “Sinner’s Prayer” - just Lowell’s strong vocal accompanied by his guitar. Courtney displays his mastery of the deep blues feeling on “Tell Where You Stayed Last Night” with Chris James helping out on guitar. The duo continues their magic on “The World is Mad” with another energetic vocal from Courtney. Arnold dedicates “Shake Your Boogie” to John Lee Williamson, the original Sonny Boy, punctuating his vocal with some masterful harp playing.

Louisiana Red appears on three tracks, getting help from Chris James on “The World is Awful”, the two guitars establishing a driving rhythm. Red goes solo on two gospel tunes – laying down some mesmerizing slide guitar on “Home in the Rock” and shoutin’ down the rafters on “Look What a Wonder”. The pairing of Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls delivers a take of “I Want to be at the Meeting” that impresses with its subdued intensity.

Other highlights include Chief Schabuttie Gillame’s strong vocal on a driving take of “No More Doggin’”, Billy Flynn using the instrumental “Billy’s Bounce” to display his prodigious talent on the harp and Johnny Dyer capturing the classic Chicago style on “Johnny’s Crazy Blues” with help from James on guitar and Patrick Rynn on bass. Margo Reed may not be a household name but you will certainly remember her heartfelt acappella rendition of “Eye on the Sparrow” that closes the disc.

Corritore has put together a wonderful collection that serves as a tribute to his radio program as well as the various musicians who have joined him on the air over the years. Every performer digs deep into the well of emotion, each generating that extra spark that is unique to the live setting. After you hear this release, you just might consider moving out west. Congratulations to Bob and KJZZ radio – best wishes for another 25 years of great blues !!!

A Night in Woodstock reviewed by Mark Thompson

A Night in Woodstock
Paul Rishell & Annie Raines and friends
Mojo Rodeo Records
13 tracks/58:27

The duo of Rishell & Raines has been working hard to keep the acoustic blues tradition alive for the past fifteen years. Paul is outstanding guitar player, equally proficient on acoustic or electric models. Raines has mastered the country blues harmonica style popularized by Sonny Terry. Together they are a formidable musical force. When you add the likes of John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful) on harmonica and the keyboard wizardry of Bruce Katz, you can be sure that there will be plenty of musical highlights.

This project was an offshoot of a documentary film on jug band music. The film’s director, Todd Kwait, wanted some footage of Sebastian playing with Paul and Annie. They had a show already scheduled in Woodstock and it quickly grew from a bar gig to a full-scale production that included the members of their regular band – Reed Butler on bass, Billy MacGillivray on drums and Chris Rival on electric guitar.

Blind Boy Fuller’s “Custard Pie” is the opening track, quickly establishing the strengths of the Rishell/Raines pairing. Paul picks a sprightly tempo on his National steel guitar to accompany his strong singing as Annie’s harp echoes his vocal lines. Rishell demonstrates the impressive range of his singing voice on “Canned Heat Blues”, only to top it on the next track, a chilling version of Johnny Winter’s “Dallas”. His deft slide guitar work gives Raines the foundation for an inventive harp solo. Raines takes the lead on their original tune, “Got to Fly”, singing with plenty of energy. The audience is captivated by her ability to draw a variety of tones and inventive phrases from her harp when she cuts loose.

Katz joins the show on another original, “Blues on a Holiday”, his contributions filling out the arrangement and adding an extra touch of melancholy to the tune. Raines switches to the chromatic harp, capturing the forlorn nature in the song’s lyrics. “Can’t Use it No More” features the entire band backing Rishell’s powerful vocal and Sebastian makes his first appearance on harp. The band kicks it up a notch “Moving to the Country”. The twin guitars of Rival and Rishell drive the arrangement as Rishell shouts out a commanding vocal. They also settle into a deep groove on “Blue Shadows”, with Katz getting plenty of solo space before Rishell injects some B.B. King-style guitar licks.

The closing track, “Orange Dude Blues”, features Raines and Sebastian trading harp licks and switching leads as the audience keeps time.

This recording really grows and evolves from start to finish. Rishell and Raines make the transition from duo to full band without missing a beat. Their performances prove that they have mastered the acoustic tradition and can hold their own with a full band. The variety of styles and the musical skill of Rishell & Raines make this impressive project a must-hear recording for all Blues fans !!!!

A Tribute To James "Yank" Rachell: The Legendary Blues Mandolin Man 1910-1997 reviewed by Mark Thompson

A Tribute To James "Yank" Rachell: The Legendary Blues Mandolin Man 1910-1997
Yanksville Records
21 tracks/77:32

The mandolin has experienced a resurgence in recent years as a number of blues musicians like Rich DelGrosso, Gerry Hundt and Billy Flynn have featured the instrument on their recordings. Yank Rachell was the first to popularize the mandolin in the jug band and blues settings. He played several other instruments and was a fine singer as well as a adept songwriter. The disc features fifteen of his tunes including classics like "She Caught the Katy" and "Divin' Duck". But his deft maneuvering on the mandolin's smaller fret board will be his legacy in the history of blues music.

Producer Mike Butler has assembled a strong cast of musicians to honor Yank, including his granddaughter Sheena, who played bass for Rachell for many years. One of the highlights of the disc is her moving vocal performance backed by Butler's electric slide mandolin on "Lake Michigan Blues". She has since been diagnosed with a rare lung disease. The net proceeds from the sale of the cd will help pay for her medical care.

Karen Irwin takes on "She Caught the Katy" backed by a full band that lacks a mandolin but features Craig Peterson on tenor sax. She alternates between a sultry and spunky tone that rides the driving beat with style. Another highlight features two masters, John Sebastian on guitar and Dave Grisman on mandolin, having fun with "Tappin' That Thing" in front of a live audience. There is also a track of Sebastian telling the audience some humorous Rachell stories. Andra Faye, a member of Saffire- the Uppity Blues Women, dazzles with "My Baby's Gone" complete with her soaring vocal and delicate mandolin picking. DelGrosso's deep, booming voice contrasts his rapid runs up and down the mandolin neck with superb backing from Ernis Scarbrough on organ.

A couple of the finest bluegrass musicians make appearance, starting with Tim O'Brien on the opening track, "Texas Tony". O'Brien is a talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, which he proves once again in this spirited romp. He is accompanied by David Grier, one of the top flat picking acoustic guitarists in the world. The traditional tune, "Sitting On Top Of the World", finds Peter Rowan working his magic with his pleading voice capturing the irony in the song's lyrics.

Through the magic of the recording studio, Orville Johnson becomes a one-man band, playing all the instruments including some fine mandolin work. His expressive singing adds to the magic on another Rachell tune that sports one of the great titles of all time, "Let Me Tangle in Your Potato Vines". The energy level goes way up on "Seems Like a Dream" with Bert Dievert on vocals and mandolin backed by a full band.

The only track that failed to impress was "Cigarette Blues" another multi-track effort by Jean-Louis MahJun that sports an aggressive electric guitar that seems out of place with the rest of the tracks. The disc closes with an acapella vocal snippet of "Freedom", Rachell's favorite gospel hymn, performed by his two daughters and his granddaughter.

Butler has brought together a varied cast of musicians of varying degrees of fame to celebrate the legacy of Yank Rachell and he has succeeded admirably. The quality and variety of the performances will provide plenty of listening pleasure even after repeated plays.

SugarBird reviewed by Rich Gordon

Paul Reddick
Northern Blues
12 tracks

Who is Paul Reddick, and why is he making such great music? Paul is devoted to early American music. He learned by listening to the blues masters: Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Howlin’ Wolf. He is a master of the harmonica. He absorbed early country and jazz; he is a musical cornucopia. In 1990, he formed the groundbreaking blues band The Sidemen in Toronto releasing three albums of original material. He spent 10 years on the road sharing his music with live audiences. He has been nominated for W.C. Handy Awards and Juno Awards. The band also won three Maple Blues Awards in 2002, including Songwriter of the Year and Album of the Year. His music has been used in television shows, movies, and his song “I’m a Criminal” was used in a Coca Cola commercial.

Who are the players that make this CD so good? Garth Hudson of the Band provides the accordion. Hutch Hutchinson from LA is one of the bass players. Nashville drummer Bryan Owings is there along with Cary Craig on drums and John Dymond on bass. Chris Carmichael and Darrell Leonard help to arrange and are heard on strings and trumpet. Colin Linden, who is the leader of the Emmylou Harris band, is on guitar and he produced the CD. Colin is an acclaimed producer/blues musician in his own right.

The songs on this CD are blues based but not necessarily blues structured. The music textured and layered. There are so many nuances adding to the beauty of this composition of songs. You have to listen, and you will hear. It’s all here, from blues folk, to gut bucket, big band, cabaret and jazz.

Let’s take look at the songs. The CD opens with “Morning Bell,” an uptempo tune reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt. Next up is I “Will Vanish,” a haunting song with phased vocals, featuring a studio mix of layered instruments. “Devilment” is a down in the basement, gut bucket, edgy song. “Blue Wings” is a sparse composition about the sugar bird, again the layered sound tastefully done. “John Lennon in New Orleans” recalls 1959 hit “Sleepwalk” by Santo and Johnny. “It’s Later Than You Think” is a big band romp from the style of Louis Jordan or Cab Calloway. “Breathless Girls” is another simple effort, with some excellent horn and string arrangements. “Wishing Song” is Paul, Colin and Garth providing another simple composition featuring Garth’s accordion and Colin’s 12-string guitar along with Paul’s vocals. “Every Temptation” rings of the Stones country sound only a bit smoother. “Climbing Up The Hill” is a thoughtful song presented in a simple form, once again featuring Garth Hudson’s sweet accordion. “If By Then” is another haunting gem of studio mix and layered sounds. The CD closes out with “Block of Wood,” a down in the bottom blues stomp.

I highly recommend this CD. It is not blues in the strict sense of structure and sound; it is blues based. It is a musical journey that is a melding of different sounds and styles, tastefully done as only Paul Reddick could do.

my Hometown reviewed by Steve Jones

my Hometown
Billy Jones
Black & Tan Records
10 tracks/45:26

No one who I can think of, except perhaps James “Blood” Ulmer, has taken a truly contemporary look at traditional blues with the musical and lyrical intensity of Billy Jones. While Ulmer’s music is often dark and angry, Jones takes a more restrained and soulful approach while still expressing deep love, despair, and other intense feelings with his music.

Musically, there is a mix of styles on the CD. Jones can hammer out some hard, driving blues or go more traditional in his approach. But what really got to me were the lyrics. There are several songs where Billy gets into the urban problems of his "hometown."

The modern, urban blues lyrics start right from the beginning of the CD. He starts out with some slow jam/blues in a ballad called “Here With You”. He sings of how deep his love is: “your love is much warmer than my prison cell, so if the homies ride tonight I think I’m gonna stay right here”. With the second track, “Pull My 44”, Jones sings of a jealous lovers' rage. He describes his lovers' beauty and talks about how he’s jealous and if “I catch you messin’ wit’ my woman, Man I’m mo’ pull my 44”. The music has a Mississippi Delta component to it, yet it is modern and urban. Later, we hear “ Crystal ”; this is a semi-psychedelic rocking song about his addiction and the dangers of Crystal . It’s not a girlfriend named Crystal , but crystal methamphetamine. In the title track, “My Hometown’, Jones talks frankly about the problems in the ghetto. Schools not teaching you what to do, gangs, violence, meth labs, broken families, and a repressive system all become part of these modern blues.

Jones goes a more traditional R&B route with music and lyrics in cuts like “Right Now” and "Never Let You Go”. The deep bass notes driving the beat and his vocals are a throwback to an older soul era where he sings of loves won and lost. In “The Clown” Billy goes to his guitar and sweetly bends some notes to punctuate the song about his lost love, where he states “and girl for you I’m just a clown.”

Top to bottom, this is a nice little CD. Jones provides vocals and guitar, Ramon Goose is on keys and does the digital work, Joe Goose play bass and Gary Leach is on drums. Jones calls his music “Bluez” and sings about the problems of his life and hometown with heart and feeling; it is “blues” transformed, updated and urbanized. This North Little Rock Arkansas musician is the real deal and his 2007 release “my Hometown” is a great CD!

All Wound Up reviewed by Steve Jones

All Wound Up
Dave Fields
FMI Records
12 tracks/59:29

Dave Fields new album is filled with mostly upbeat, uptempo original songs and hot driving guitar playing. This Big Apple musician was born and raised in NYC and then attended Boston's Berklee School of Music. After school, he reestablished himself in his hometown and opened a studio. He produced, wrote, performed and became involved in a host of musical activities. His father, Sammy "Forever" Fields, played virtuoso piano and wrote, arranged, and produced music ranging in style from jazz to the Capris' "There's a Moon Out Tonight", so there is some great musical DNA flowing in Dave's work.

The opening song "Key to My Heart" begins with some fuzzed up wicked guitar licks and drums that begins the journey though a dozen original tunes. "I'm Still Itching" also features a totally fuzzed out guitar to open the song, this time trading licks with an equally distorted harp. Fields can really get your attention in the first few opening measures of a song!

The title track "All Wound Up" is a George Martin White Album-like production number with a driving beat fueled by horns and showcases Fields on piano and organ solos. He later pulls off a swinging jump tune called "Bill Fat Ludus" and then goes into a rocking instrumental called "Screamin'". I felt like getting out of my chair and dancing in the living room as I listened to these two songs.

Fields completely shifts gears after that the with a bluesy ballad where he just Wanna Be Your Man", and goes on with some more low keyed stuff for the last three tracks of the CD. The subdued Fields is equally musically adept. He gets you with his driving beat and then completely captures you with his soulfulness.

Dave's vocals remind me a lot of the smooth-toned Noah Hunt, who fronts the Kenney Wayne Shepherd's band. Dave's website notes that his vocals have a "boy next store" quality to them, and I would have to agree. He plays guitar, piano, and organ and fills in on bass and drums occasionally, too. Billy Gibson's harp work, the horns by Rob Chaseman and Bill Fergus' trumpet are outstanding additions to the music.

This is Dave's third CD, released last year. It is available on CD baby along with his second CD (which was released in 2007). If you want to hear a rocking bluesman who is an ultimate professional that can also win you over with his shuffling laid back stuff, go get this CD. I did and I am glad I did!

The Rebound reviewed by Rick Davis

The Rebound
Jon Justice
Blind Raccoon
14 tracks

Born in Chicago in 1982, Jon Justice began his music career touring nationally with Gospel and Blues groups. In 1999, he moved to Memphis joining with veteran pianist Steven Bowens (Percy Sledge, Exile), to form the group The Recipe. Together, they toured from 2000 to 2003. As he developed his own sound and gained experience on the road, he teamed up with producer Phillip Wolfe (producer of artists like Alabama, Trick Pony, Dickie Betts, and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns) to produce his first studio release Forget About Time in 2004.

After the release of this first well acclaimed cd, Justice began touring with his own band the Jon Justice Band, opening for a wide range groups such as Indigenous, Ten Years After, Joe Bonamassa, Silvertide, Tinsley Ellis, Watermelon Slim, Popa Chubby, Anthony Gomes, Guitar Shorty, and Walter Trout. Jon has shared bills with music legends such as Buddy Guy, Johnny Johnson, Jimmy Thackery, Pinetop Perkins, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

In January of 2008, Jon Justice once again went into the studio to record his second release The Rebound. This time, Justice wanted to have more input, so he wrote, arranged and co-produced all 14 tracks. The Rebound is a masterful release of the soulful ballads that typifies the road-tested group, showcasing Jon's slide guitar and well developed blues voice similar to that of an early Johnny Lang.

The Rebound begins with "Nobody's Bizness" showcasing Jon's well developed voice and slide guitar and features Phillip Wolfe on harmonica. Justice rips into "Bad Bad Man" featuring an accomplished horn section lead by Wade Baker on trumpet and Ben Walkenhauer on sax. The next high powered cut reminds us we all live in a "Mean Old World". Justice then slows things down with the soulful ballad "All in My Head". The title song "The Rebound" again features Jon and his searing slide guitar with background harmonica provided by Phillip Wolfe. He tells of the reality of life's ups and downs with "Blame". "Leavin' to Stay" showcases Jon's ability to play slide guitar as well as any blues artist in the business today. Together with Ben Walkenhauer's solo on saxophone and Jon's vocals on "You and Me" they bring a jazz element to this ballad. The band's horn section and Jon's "Joe Cocker" vocals provide a great rhythm and blues sound to "Lose It All". "Working Girl" paints a vignette of life on the streets. Justice tells us there is no easy way to leave in "No Good Goodbyes".
Straight ahead blues number "You're Mine" once again displays Jon's accomplishments as a contemporary blues artist highlighting this time his great backup vocals on the cd.
"Get You Good" blends the nostalgic sound of a typical 60's ballad and the solid blues that is typical of Justice and his contemporary blues band.

He ends with "Brighter Day" delivering the best in soulful blues!
His performing and song writing ability displayed in The Rebound should bring us the best in blues entertainment for years to come.

Waiting on the Sun reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Waiting on the Sun
Studebaker John
12 tracks

Studebaker John's new CD release, "Waiting for the Sun", is over eighty minutes of unique music pleasure . That is a pretty strong statement I must say. This project is a collection of twelve tunes written by Studebaker John . This Cd is a great mix of traditional blues, boogie woogie, rock and also Latin based tunes.

Studebaker John has been recording music since the 1970's. He has released eleven recordings over that time that I am aware of. He has not wavered from writing and producing awesome blues while taking the music to a new level. All of his lyrics tell a story with feelings of his true self.

Besides Studebaker on vocals, harmonica, slide and acoustic guitars and the string synthesizer, this project also has a great band. He is joined by bassist, Bob Halaj and drummer Paul Ashford. These two join him in travel on a regular basis. Also joining the mix is Bartek Szopinski, a young Polish keyboard player, who is in John's European touring band.

If you are looking for short catchy tunes on this CD, don't! Only by listening to John's lyrics will you get to the depth of this project. John presents to us twelve tunes that are all different and that stand on their own. These tunes seem to give us an insight into where John has been and is going and who he is. I guess that this may not be my place to go but it may be true. These songs have some great lyrics.

"Natural Born Boogie" is a showcase of Studebaker John's harp playing abillities. Having been playing the harmonica since the age of seven, he has had many years to hone his skills. He has done this well. With lyrics like, "reelin' and rockin the natural born boogie till the break of dawn is all right with me", this is one of the lighter tunes on this CD. Studebaker does one heck of a harmonica workout on this track!

"Follow Your Soul" is just what it says. "Right or wrong, follow your soul" and "live with my mistakes and carry on" are powerfullyrics with meaning. This is more of Studebaker's ability to put his feeling and thought to music. This tune is very Latin based and over eleven minutes of great guitar solos, keyboards and lyrics. This track could be my favorite but it is hard to say that.

"Waiting on the Sun" is not just another Studebaker John CD.It is an unique Studebaker John project. I have listened to this CD about 15 times and every time that I do, I hear something new and enjoy it more. Take a listen for yourself!

If you get a chance to see Studebaker John's show live, do so. Just as with his CD's his performance is not a copycat of his last show. Enjoy!

Always reviewed by David Stine

Terry Hanck
12 tracks

I hate the phrase “it’s a fun album.” Mainly because it’s ungrammatical (like this fragmented sentence). But Terry Hanck’s CD, Always IS a fun album! There is no new ground being broken here, but it is enjoyable from the beginning to the end. Hanck is a band leader, singer, songwriter and saxophonist. For this, his fifth album, Hanck enlisted Elvin Bishop on two cuts. Steve Berlin, Tracy Nelson and other notables contribute here and there, but Hanck’s main band doesn’t really need the help. I was greatly impressed by the traded-off guitar duties of Johnny “Cat” Sourbrand and Chris “Kid” Anderson. They both added tasty old-school, no frills playing that help capture Hanck’s not-so-modern sound. The CD kicks off with “Cupid Must Be Stupid,” the only song not written by Hanck. Elvin Bishop adds some restrained slide guitar. Together they set the tone of the CD which contains a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. Song two, “The First Time Around,” introduces us to Kid Anderson who deftly handles bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar on this track. Song three is another uptempo (and humorous) number entitled “Good Good Rockin’”. Hanck’s old school ballad, “My Last Teardrop,” allows him to show off a bit of his musical influences. This cut if followed by a tunes entitled “Stingy” which gets us back to motivatin’! Again, super fretwork from Kid Anderson. Song six is a tune many of us can relate to; it’s maybe my favorite on the disc; and the ongoing asides are hilarious: “When I Get My Sh*t Together” (asterisk mine). The singer promises ALL sorts of good monetary things to his lady, band mates, etc. when he gets his sh*t together! Song seven, “Quicksand,” owes a lot to the Stones and J. Geils in my mind. It’s riff-driven and hooky and wonderful. The title track, “Always” harkens to the big band era, and as such, shows that Hanck isn’t just a boppin’ blues player. “Good Kind of Lovin’,” for me, was the weakest cut on the CD: not filler, just OK. Song ten “Live to Love” features Cat Sourbrand on guitar in a solo that nearly reaches outer space. I keep failing to mention Hanck’s playing, not because he’s no good. He’s a solid sax player who knows how long to solo, when to let the guitar sneak in and how to support the song, not turn it into a instrumental showcase. He’s a tasty player and no show off. Elvin Bishop reappears for song eleven--”Peace Of Mind” adding a great raunchy solo. The CD ends somewhat jarringly with a trip back to the 60s in a surf-meets-Batman theme tune called “Deep Fried Twinkies.” Part of Hanck’s charm is his quirkiness. Just when you think you can pigeonhole him, he flips on you!

I had hear Terry Hanck occasionally on XM’s Bluesville and always liked what I’d heard. This CD confirmed what I though all along--Terry Hanck is enjoyable, solid, and worth your interest.

Nudge It Up A Notch reviewed by David Stine

Nudge It Up A Notch
Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere .
Concord Music
12 tracks

I was given this CD to review by a CBS board member (it didn’t come in on the usual flight pattern of new blues releases). I jumped at the chance, however, being an old enough codger to have been alive when Booker T. and the MGs and The Rascals were playing and putting out albums. Steve Cropper has laid down some of the most snaky and sinuous guitar licks this side of Memphis, and Felix Cavaliere was the voice and soul of The Rascals. So my expectations were pretty high. At this writing, I just finished my fourth listen to the disc--this time on a good system. What’s the outcome? Well, imagine going to a Jefferson Airplane reunion but hearing Jefferson Starship doing a bunch of gooey Marty Balin love ballads. My first impression (and second) was that this is mostly a Felix Cavaliere album that Steve Cropper guested on while doing another project that he REALLY cared about. And, yeah, it sounds more like “How Can I Be Sure,” than “People Got To Be Free.” Additional help comes from Shake Anderson on bass; Chester Thompson on drums; and Mark Williams and N’andI Bryant on background vocals. But does a stripped down ensemble equate into the Rascals/MGs? Cavaliere uses WAY less B3, and Cropper WAY less Telecaster sting, so the focus automatically is on the vocals (and lyrics).I DO, at times, hear Marty Balin and other times hear Steely Dan. These aren’t bad things, I was just hoping for more soul, funk, and, well, MAGIC. Cropper/Cavaleiere add three instrumentals that never seem to catch fire. Nope: no “Hang ‘Em High” or “Green Onions” here. On the plus side, Cavaliere’s voice has never been better. Too bad most of the songs never really break out of a moderate tempo. “Make The Time Go Faster,” is a quasi rap tune and the only one that sounds “topical.” The rest could have been culled from stuff that’s been lying around for awhile. Cavaliere’s keyboarding, perhaps purposely, stays away from the Hammond B3 sound while Cropper remains so typically understated that he’s almost “phoned in.” Cropper never seems to cut loose, even on the instrumentals. During listen four, I asked myself to give this disc a chance on its own merits--no Rascals or BT&MGs comparisons--and THEN evaluate it. There ARE aspects of the CD that seem to grow on me: some songs linger right on the edge of humable. There were NOT enough of them that I would encourage fans of The Rascals or Booker T and the MGs to run out and buy this disc. I told a friend of mine who owns a record store that I was reviewing the CD and he said, “it’s pretty good, isn’t it?” He said it was good to hear Cavalier’s voice again. That is true. Unfortunately, the songs are a bit uninspired and the lyrics clich├ęd. On a better system, the sound is a bit muddy. This is not a party album, but it does hold some value for the champagne-by-firelight venue. It is not a bad CD; it just never really grabbed me the way many Rascals songs did.

I don’t know why the album title, but I wish they HAD nudged it up a notch. I wanted to like it more than I did.

Bam! reviewed by Steve Jones

Ricky Gene Hall & the Goods
Yard Dawg Records
12 tracks

As with most CDs, I gave this one a quick once through. I must admit that the first time that I played the CD I thought that it had too much of a familiar feel to it that left me somewhat disinterested. So I sat down and seriously listened to it again. And then again and again I listened to it. The familiar became a bit intriguing and all of a sudden I think I was sold on it. I can’t say this is the best blues rock CD I’ve ever heard, but these guys from Ohio are really some no frills musicians who can deliver the goods.

Nine new tracks penned by Hall adorn this album and showcase his songwriting skills along with the three covers. You won’t find anything really new in the sound, vocals or playing, but they play and sing with determination and really get into it.

The band consists of Ricky Gene Hall (vocals, guitars, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, harmonica), Tom Martin (vocals, bass guitar) and Rocky Evans (vocals, drums, percussion). Also appearing are Brent Hall, Tony Hall (vocals); Bernie Nau (organ). These guys can play.

The style is straight up electric blues with a little funk blended in. Ricky writes and plays in a retro way that reminds me of 70’s rock. The blues meet the highways and byways of Ohio and give us a mostly driving and moving set of tunes that grow on the listener.

I’d not heard of Ricky and this band but he now has four CDs under his belt. Hall shows us that the blues are alive and kicking in the Buckeye State. I recommend this CD for anyone looking to hear traditional, electrified, funky blues delivered in a fresh and clean style.