Monday, September 7, 2009

Pleasure & Pain reviewed by Mark Thompson

Pleasure & Pain
Dennis Jones
Blue Rock Records
11 tracks/42:31

Dennis Jones is being promoted as the heir to the throne of guitar master once occupied by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. On his latest release, he presents a convincing argument that such claims are not mere hype and hyperbole. The all-original program features Jones on guitar & lead vocals backed by Michael Turner on drums and Tony Ruiz on bass guitar.

Jones has an engaging vocal style, which is evident on the opening cut, “Brand New Day”. This hard-hitting shuffle features a horn section of Jimmy Z and Lee Thornburg and a fleet-fingered solo from Jones. “Don’t Worry About Me” veers into a rock mode with a heavy funk beat. Jones turns in a dynamic solo that establishes that he has plenty of skill on the guitar.

One highlight is “Kill the Pain”, featuring a crunching guitar riff that drives this tale of a woman caught in the downward spiral of substance abuse. Jones plays with such intensity that it seems like he is trying to use his guitar to exorcise the demons plaguing the song’s protagonist. The longest track, “Sunday Morning Rain”, is a ballad with an aching vocal from the leader. Jones lays down an a compelling guitar line over a driving rhythm on “Home Tonight” and burns through the straight-ahead rocker, “Try Not to Lie”. He ventures into the realm of social commentary on “I Want it Yesterday”, complete with another monster guitar riff and a concise, but intense, solo passage. The closing track, a tribute to “Hot Sauce”, gives Jones another opportunity to wring plenty of hot licks out of his guitar.

While Dennis Jones doesn’t offer anything you haven’t heard before, he injects every performance with energy and passion that grabs your attention. There is no question that he is a very talented guitar player. His vocals aren’t forced – he just sings the song and stays away from the vocal gymnastics that victimizes so many performers. This is one of those recordings that you’ll have a hard time taking off your CD or MP3 player.

Live at Ground Zero - Vol. 1 & 2 3rd Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live at Ground Zero - Vol. 1 & 2
3rd Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue
Various artists
Vol. 1 11 tracks/67:07
Vol. 2 10 tracks/64:23

For the last few years, the Delta Groove label has thrown a big party the weekend after the Blues Music Awards ceremony. Held at the internationally famous Ground Zero club in Clarksdale, MI last year, the event features the stellar roster of musicians that record for the label, many of whom were nominated for various awards. With over twelve hours of music performed in one day, these discs feature two hours worth of highlights that showcase the amazing talent that label head Randy Chortkoff has put together.

The first disc opens with a Tex-Mex version of “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” with Kid Ramos on guitar and featuring Jesus Cuevas on accordion and lead vocal. Next up is the label’s hot discovery, The Insomniacs, with the humorous “At Least I’m Not With You”. The group’s swinging approach is a refreshing change and their second contribution, “Description Blues”, serves notice that they are equally adept on slow blues numbers, with Alex Shakeri displaying his impressive keyboard talents. The Mannish Boys get three tracks, each with a different leader. Johnny Dyer settles in to a deep groove on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, his hard-driving harp matching the intensity of his singing. Finis Tasby picks up the pace and nails the vocal on “Lonesome Bedroom Blues”. Kirk “Eli” Fletcher burns through a rousing instrumental version of “Lucille”.

Several highlights include a storming “Street Walking Woman” from guitarist Phillip Walker, who plays with passion and skill rarely found in seventy year-old musicians. Junior Watson tears it up on guitar on “Wolfpack” and Mike Zito almost matches Watson’s performance on “Dirty Blonde”. The Jackie Payne/Steve Edmonson Band sports a two piece horn section and inject plenty of soul into their interpretation of “She’s Nineteen Years Old”. The energy level gets ratcheted up several levels on the closing track as Jason Ricci and New Blood play “Shake Your Hips” as if their lives hung in the balance. Shawn Starski is magnificent, his guitar solo setting the stage for Jason to unleash one of his patented mind-melting harmonica solos.
Vol. 2 continues the magic with the Insomniacs opening with the up-tempo “Stick Around” with lead singer Vyasa Dodson staking his claim for consideration as a guitar slinger. The band gets some audience participation on “Broke and Lonely”, with more fine guitar work from Dodson. Not to be outdone, Kid Ramos leads the Mannish Boys on the instrumental showcase “Johnny Cochino”, his guitar steadily building the intensity level until the band suddenly shifts tempo and Ramos continues to squeeze razor-sharp licks from his instrument. Veteran singer Bobby Jones gets his opportunity to shine on “Mary Jane”, with Chortkoff on harmonica. Phillip Walker turns in another impressive performance on “Lay You Down” and you wonder why this marvelous musician isn’t better known. Ricci and New Blood slow things down on the soulful “I’m a New Man”, a track that serves a subtle tribute to Lou Reed. Starski delivers a flowing guitar solo that sets the stage for Ricci to deliver another demonstration of his prodigious skill and technique on the harmonica. The party ends with Los Fabulocos rockin’ the house on “Burnin’ the Chicken”, with Ramos doing some chicken-picking licks on his baritone guitar.

Both discs are a lot of fun and serve as a testimonial to the amazing amount of musical talent on the Delta Groove label. More importantly, it makes me want to spare no expense to make sure that I am at their party next year.

Dearest Darlin’ reviewed by Mark Thompson

Dearest Darlin’
Jenni Muldaur
Dandelion Music
12 tracks/36:03

It should be no surprise that the daughter of Geoff and Maria Muldaur is an accomplished singer in her own right, having worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithful and Todd Rundgren. It’s been seventeen years since the release of her first solo recording and Jenni Muldaur returns with a vengeance. She has selected a batch of songs that span the decades with many tracks having a strong R&B influence. Her sassy voice has a higher pitch to it that at times make Muldaur sound like a young girl. But in the next breath, she can shake the rafters with her powerful singing.

Muldaur gets excellent support throughout the project from a star-studded cast of musicians. The late Sean Costello is on guitar, Brian Jackson on keyboards (Gil Scott Heron), Brad Jones on bass, James Wormworth on drums (Tonight Show Band) and Lenny Pickett on sax (Tower of Power). A variety of guest musicians and backing vocalists make sure that the arrangements are fleshed out and present Muldaur in the best possible manner.

Opening with a couple of mournful shouts, Muldaur digs into “I’ve Got a Feeling”, a tune done by Big Maybelle. Her energetic vocal rides the slinky rhythm, punctuated by horn accents. “I’d Rather Live Like a Hermit” is a jump blues obscurity featuring some of Costello’s fine guitar work. The title track is a Bo Diddley number done as a duet with Muldaur’s perky singing contrasting nicely with Joseph Arthur’s deeper tone. On “You Got Me Uptight”, Muldaur forceful singing pushes her voice to the point of breaking as Jackson’ keyboard work dances around the arrangement. Her performance on “There’s Another Place That I Can’t Go” perfectly captures the resignation of a lost love.

Many singers have tried to cover James Brown material and failed miserably. Muldaur’s version of “Lost Someone” comes up a bit short as she can’t quite summon enough power to match the razor-sharp accompaniment from the band. She closes the disc with her original tune, “Comatose Town”, a ballad that gets a lilting, upper register vocal that provides a dreamy conclusion to the project.

Whether strutting her stuff on “Just Ain’t No Love” or leading the acappella chanting on “Hopali”, Jenni Muldaur sings with a maturity that comes from being surrounded by music all of her life. She can make you feel the pain in a song’s lyrics or get you in the mood to get out on the dance floor when she and the band cut loose. There is plenty to enjoy on this solid release. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another seventeen years for another release from Jenni Muldaur.

Comin’ Back Hard reviewed by Mark Thompson

Comin’ Back Hard
Bobby Jones featuring the Mannish Boys
Delta Groove Music, Inc.
11 tracks/41:42

Delta Groove has resurrected the careers of a number of blues singers like Johnny Dyer and Finis Tasby as front men for the Mannish Boys aggregation. A fortunate encounter at a 2007 recording session led to label head Randy Chortkoff inviting veteran Bobby Jones to join the band on the spot. Born in Louisiana, Jones spent time in Chicago during the early ‘60s, enjoying steady work in the clubs but never getting the chance to record until he was part of the Chicago Blues Union project, which featured Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg. Jones eventually drifted away from the scene and it was several decades before he reappeared, self-releasing some material that emphasized the soulful side of his singing.

Jones gets superb support from the excellent roster of musicians associated with the Mannish Boys. When you have the likes of Kirk “Eli” Fletcher, Franck Goldwasser, Kid Ramos and Junior Watson on guitar and a rhythm section of Fred Kaplan on piano & Hammond organ, Tom Leavey or Ronnie James Weber on bass and Richard “Big Foot” Innes on drums, you know the musical accompaniment will be in the pocket and will expertly frame the vocals of any singer they are backing.

Jones makes the most of his opportunity in the spotlight. Check out his version of “Tired of Your Jive”, a song that B.B. King popularized. Over Kaplan’s organ, Jones turns in a powerful vocal that leaves no doubt that his voice has not fallen victim to the ravages of time. “Come in Out of the Rain”, written by Leavey, is done in the classic Jimmy Reed style. Jones rides the loping rhythm, his mellow voice capturing the essence of the laidback groove. Chortkoff supplies the requisite upper register harmonica licks. The pace slows down on “I Don’t Know” and “I Must be Crazy”, with Jones utilizing his impressive range on performances that recall the style of the late Jimmy Witherspoon.

The warhorse “Mystery Train” gets an energetic run-through with Tasby and Jones sharing the lead vocal over strong contributions from Ramos and Chortkoff. The set features two tracks from the pen of Ike Turner. “Get It Over Baby” is a brief slice of jump blues with David Woodford laying down a nice sax solo before a taut Watson guitar solo. The disc closes with perhaps the most impressive piece of work from Jones. He begs, pleads and shouts his way through “How Long Will It Last”, his voice strong and clear without a hint of strain.

Over the years, many veteran blues performers have been “rediscovered” but all too often, their new work reveals that time has robbed them of much of their ability. That is not the case with Bobby Jones. After listening to this recording, you may be wondering how such a talented vocalist could fly under the radar for so long. Jones must have been a commanding performer back in the day and we are fortunate that his marvelous voice has finally captured in all of it’s glory.

Blind For Love reviewed by Rick Davis

Blind For Love
Ana Popovic
Eclecto Groove Records
12 tracks

One of the most electrifying performers today is Europe's Ana Popović. I was first introduced to Ana after talking to the leader of Norway's blues group The Tubesnakes. Lars Vad convinced me to listen to Ana so I picked up her cd Hush. After listening to her 2002 release and seeing her live at Bamfest in Belleville Wisconsin, I was a believer. Her performance was absolutely explosive. I have never seen a performer with that much energy at any concert.

Ana was introduced to the blues through her father's extensive record collection and early sessions at home. Within a year after starting a band, she was opening outside Yugoslavia for blues greats like Junior Wells. In 1999 she relocated to the Netherlands becoming well known on the Dutch blues scene.

Her lastest release Blind For Love features Ana on guitar and vocals, Ronald Jonker on bass, Andrew Thomas and Tony Braunagel on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, Mike Finnigan on keyboards, Darrell Leonard on trumpet, Joe Sublett on sax, and Julie Delgado, Kenna Ramsey, and Billy Valentine on background vocals.

Ana opens Blind For Love with her passionate blues voice on "Nothing Personal" also performing on guitar like a true experienced professional. She kicks it up a notch as she rips into "Wrong Woman" absolutely setting the guitar on fire. "Steal Me Away" is a traditional blues number with her background vocals creating almost a gospel sound. The title track "Blind For Love" shows the versatility of Ana Popović as an artist. This track and "More Real" displays her soft enchanting voice and her ability to play superb acoustic guitar. "Putting Out The APB" give us another side of musical ability with her remarkable slide guitar work. She once again thunders into the selection "Get Back Home To You" with her strong guitar riffs. Her jazzy seductive voice reappears in "The Only Reason" and "Part of Me (Lullaby For Luuk)". "Lives That Don't Exist" gets down and funky giving us yet another look of Ana music capabilities. Blind For Love rocks with "Need Your Love" and concludes with a low down blues number "Blues For M", completing a fabulous collection of blues, rock, jazz, funk, and gospel.

If you have never seen or heard Ana, you owe it to yourself to pick up her new cd Blind For Love and catch a live performance.

Hard Believer reviewed by Rick Davis

Hard Believer
Tommy Castro
Alligator Records
12 tracks

In his late 20s, Tommy Castro was playing in various San Francisco-area blues and soul bands. He joined and toured the U.S. with the Dynatones in the late 1980's. They were a very popular rocking soul band performing an average of 300 shows a year for more than two decades.

After performing and touring two years opening for major artists like Carla Thomas and Albert King, he formed The Tommy Castro Band in 1991 and won the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band in both 1993 and 1994. With his local fan base quickly expanding, he released his debut album, Exception To The Rule, in 1996 on Blind Pig Records. Gaining popularity as his band toured the nation, his album won the 1997 Bay Area Music Award for Outstanding Blues Album, and Castro also took the award for Outstanding Blues Musician that same year.

Castro, winner of the 2008 Blues Music Award for Entertainer Of The Year, is famous for his dynamic guitar solos, powerful R&B voice, superb songwriting, and incredible crowd interaction. I don't think I have ever seen a performer enjoy his fans like Tommy Castro. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “Castro navigates seriously funky Southern soul, gritty big city blues and scorching rock…his silvery guitar licks simultaneously sound familiar and fresh.”

Castro, booked by the famed Rosebud Agency, will be hitting the road hard to kick off his Hard Believer tour on August 9 in Duluth at the Bayfront Blues Festival touring in festivals and clubs all across the U.S. and Canada.

Hard Believer was produced by John Porter who has worked with B.B. King, Elvis Costello, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, The Smiths, Otis Rush, Billy Bragg, Roxy Music and recorded in Castro’s hometown of San Rafael, CA. The album delivers a collection of high powered R&B songs with six new originals and the others from a select group of outstanding writers.

Castro's veteran core of musicians are supported by a select group of additional musicians giving this album a totally added dimension. With Tommy on lead guitar and vocals, long-time Keith Crossan on tenor and baritone sax, Tom Poole on trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone, Scot Sutherland playing bass, Ronnie Smith on drums, Tony Stead on Keyboards, Lennie Castro on percussion, Tal Morris on Rhythm guitar, John Porter on Rhythm and slide guitar, and Amber Morris on background vocals, this could be Tommy Castro's best album yet!

"Definition of Insanity" fueled by Tommy's soulful voice is good advice for all those relationships headed for disaster. His famed guitar work and background horn section rips into "It Is What It Is" telling his fans of the personality changes happening over a lifetime. He slows things down with the title track "Hard Believer" simmering throughout with the deep soul feeling Tommy is known for in his music. "Monkey's Paradise" really brings out the great keyboards of Tony Stead and the horn section sounding like a ten piece horn section. Castro's arrangement of Eddie Floyd's "Nine-nine And One Half" is worth the price of the cd. His powerful voice and searing guitar really explodes in "Backup Plan". Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" has a sound unique to Tommy's band telling us no one is exempt - "you will have to serve somebody". "Trimin' Fat" is a sign of the economic times and features great slide guitar. "Make It Back To Memphis" absolutely rocks like only Tommy can make it rock! Castro brings back that element of soul in Allen Toussaint's "Victims of The Darkness". The album is completed with the hit "My Babe" by The Righteous Brothers and a great R&B number "The Trouble With Soul" by Jeff Turmes. This cd is Tommy Castro's best yet and a must for every collection.

Soul Monster reviewed by Rick Davis

Soul Monster
Rod Piazza
Delta Groove Music
13 tracks

When you talk about Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet the word "showman" comes to mind. Rod and Honey Piazza can provide a live performance like nobody else in the blues world today. In addition to being a great blues song writer, harmonica player and performer, Rod's list of accomplishments include Harmonica Instrumentalist of the Year in 1998. His band, The Mighty Flyers, have won the Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year four times. In 2008, Honey Piazza got her first Blues Music Award for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of The Year.
Piazza's 44 years of experience takes him back to groups like The Dirty Blues Band, Bacon Fat with George Smith, and The Chicago Flying Saucer Band. Soul Monster, Piazza's 24th album (cd) includes Rod on Harp and Vocals, Honey Piazza on piano and bass, Henry Carvajal on guitar and vocals, Dave Kida on drums and percussion, and Jonny Viau and Allen Otiz on tenor sax.
Rod opens with his chromatic in the title track "Soul Monster" also featuring the superb guitar work of Henry Carvajal. Rod pays tribute to Jimmy Reed with Reed's song "Can't Stand To See You Go". Rod's perfect vocals would make Jimmy proud. "Cheap Wine" is a new tune by Rod and Honey. Big Bill Broonzy's masterpiece "Key To The Highway" is one of the best tracks on the cd showcasing both Rod on harp and Honey on piano. They also pay homage to Goerge Smith, Rod's long time partner with the group Bacon Fat by playing "Sunbird". This is some of the best boogie woogie I have heard in a long time. The great jump blues tune by Jimmy Liggins "That's What's Knockin' Me Out" is the next tribute. Rod tells us a tale in his low down dirty blues tune "Tell Me About It Sam". Rod's experience is evident is the next tune Slim Harpo's Queen Bee. Piazza cruises into one his own jump blues tunes "Expression Session" on track nine. The 1955 classic "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)" features a fantastic guitar solo by Henry Carvajal. Track 11 has to be a first for Rod Piazza's band. I don't think I have heard song like Joe Seneca's R&B classic "Talk To Me" covered on a blues album. Sung by lead guitar Henry Carvajal, it is some of the best doo-wop tunes you will ever here on any album. The song was done originally by Little Willie John. Piazza completes a stellar album by playing Little Walter's "You Better Watch Yourself " and Jimmy Forrest's jazz recording of "Hey Mrs. Jones".

Headin’ South On a Delta Breeze reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Headin’ South On a Delta Breeze
Rich Berry
11 tracks/38:01

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Rich Berry at the Quincy Area Blues Fest in Quincy,IL. It had been 3 or 4 years since they have had an acoustic blues artist at the fest. This was a special treat.

Well, they made a good choice by picking Rich Berry from Kansas City, MO. Rich has been a musician for over 40 years. For the past 7 or 8 years he has been an acoustic Delta blues performer. Rich's style stays true to the Delta blues tradition.

Rich Berry is a real one man blues band. Besides doing a fine job on the vocals, and writing the tunes, Rich plays acoustic slide guitar, harmonica, and a porch foot box of his own design. He truly has the sound of a four piece delta blues band. This is some really good stuff.

"Headin' South on a Delta Breeze" is Rich's fourth CD release. All of the songs on "Headin' South on a Delta Breeze were written by Rich Berry. He does a fine job of maintaining his own identity on all of them also. Most of Rich's tunes are about a women leaving you, what a women does to you, how they effect your sleep and just about everything else in one's life. Oh, we can also throw in some whiskey to the mix! Rich adds his fine finger pickin' style guitar, slick slide guitar work, well placed harmonica solos to his lyrics; it makes for one heart felt Delta blues CD, at least to me!

The title track, "Headin' South on a Delta Breeze", is an up tempo tune that showcases just about everything that Rich Berry is all about. He is all about playing the Delta blues how they should be played. There is not a hint of cheap commercialism in any of his work.

His lyrics are just about true, real life situations facing man on a daily basis. "Headin' down south on a delta breeze, got to go where a man can do what he please. Going to get there any way I can", tells us about true life blues. Rich also does fine harmonica solo on this tune.

For all of you Delta slide guitar, harmonica blues lovers, I would suggest that you check out Rich Berry's CD, "Headin' South on a delta breeze". For samples of Rich's songs go to Rich Berry's delta inspired blues can only be phurchased by contacting Rich by e-mail as of right now. E-mail him at for details. CD's are $13 each shipping included. Rich also has a DVD with eight tunes on it.

It was a pleasure meeting both Rich Berry and his wife at the Quincy Area Blues Fest!

Tear This World Up reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Tear This World Up
Eddie C. Campbell
Delmark Records
14 tracks

Eddie C. Campbell's new CD, "Tear This Word Up", is another fine example of Delmark records’ effort to keep the blues alive. This CD features 14 tunes, 8 written by Eddie C. Campbell, and over 60 minutes of Eddie's powerful guitar licks and unique vocals. Eddie throws some funk, jump, boogie, swamp music and just about everything else at us on this CD.

Muddy Waters was Eddie's early influence for the blues. This and his close relationship with Magic Sam Maghett helped make Eddie the fine blues artist that he is. "Easy Baby" and "Love Me With A Feeling" are two Magic Sam tunes that Eddie has chosen to include on this CD; of course he has put his own touch on both of these great tunes.

The list of well known blues artist that Eddie C. Campbell has performed with include Jimmie Reed, Koko Taylor, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon to name a few. Also "Tear This World Up" is the right title for this CD as Eddie has played for most of the World. He has played in England, Holland, Germany and Brazil.

On "Tear This World Up", Eddie has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians around. Eddie does all the vocals, acoustic and electric guitar. Driving the band is Marty Binder doing a powerful job on the drums and Dario Golliday bringing up the bass line. This is good stuff. Mojo Mark Cihlar harmonica playing is very impressive. Sam Burckhardt and Juli Wood add the saxophones with Chuck Parrish on trumpet rounding out the horn section. Add Karl "Lil' Daddy on piano and organ and Marty Sammon on piano and we have one powerful blues band.

The opening track on "Tear This World Up" is "Makin' Popcorn'“. This sets the stage for over an hour of some great blues listening. Mojo Mark Cihlar's harp playing and Marty Binder's drum line grab at you right from the start. This is a kind of boogie, funky, shuffle slower tempo but powerful tune. Eddie's guitar playing is showcased on this one. The lyrics are innuendo laced and provocative. The vocals make you pay attention here.

"Tie Your Time Up" features more of Eddie's unique voice including his falsetto hooks that kind of just grab your ear. This is a tune about wasted time but it is not wasted time listening to it. Marty Binder's drumming is a constant addition to this track also. Eddie's powerful guitar style gets shown off on this track. This is really good stuff.

Throwing in a Gershwin tune, "Summertime", is just a big plus for me. Eddie's vocals on "Summertime" standout so they can be noticed. Add his awesome guitar solos to the track and we have a tune you will want to listen to many more times.

Eddie C. Campbell's, "Tear This World Up", does just that. Delmark has made a right choice on this release. Eddie states in the tune, "Bluesman", which he wrote, "I'm a bluesman, I've played with everyone." Listening to "Tear This World Up", one realizes that Eddie C. Campbell truly is a "Bluesman".

It Ain’t Over- Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues reviewed by Harmonica Joe

It Ain’t Over- Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues
Assorted Artists
Delmark Records
DVD 14 tracks/80 minutes
CD 11 tracks/67 minutes

Delmark Records recently released a new DVD and CD, "IT AIN'T OVER". This project celebrates 55 years of blues recordings by Delmark Records. This release was recorded at Buddy Guys Legends in Chicago. The DVD and CD include a great lineup of Chicago blues artists: Zora Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Aaron Moore, Little Arthur Duncan, Lurrie Bell, Shirley Johnson, Eddie Shaw and last but not least Tail Dragger. This is a heck of a lineup for a blues show.

The CD features 11outstanding tracks and the DVD has 5 bonus tracks on it The DVD also includes a proclamation from the mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, proclaming March 7, 2008. Delmark Records Day for Chicago. This was a very emotional presentation for Bob Koester, founder of Delmark Records. Good going to Bob; keeping the blues alive.

The CD by itself is really one fine blues recording, but watching the DVD will really make you appreciate what a fine job Bob Koester, Delmark Records and the fine blues artists do to keep the blues strong in Chicago (and elsewhere)! The DVD really shows off the feelings of the singers and musicians. This is great stuff, live on stage.

It would take pages to go on about each artist and tune included on "IT AIN'T OVER" DELMARK CELEBRATES 55 YEARS OF BLUES" Each track can stand on it's own. The musicians backing these fine singers and musicians are also outstanding. When you have Roosevelt Purifoy on keys, Kenny Smith on drums and Lurrie Bell on guitar for most of the tunes, how can it get any better?
I shouldn’t single out all of the fine artists on this recording but I can’t leave them out, either. The list includes, Marty Binder, Big D and Billy Branch , Bob Stroger, Dave Specter, Harlan Terson. Nick Moss, Kevin Shanahan, Scott Cable and Brother John Kattke. This is a very special lineup of blues artist. In " IT AIN'T OVER", Delmark Celebrates 55 Years Of Blues of real blues history to me.

For me to pick out songs or artists that are outstanding or that I like the best would be unfair, unwise and just impossible for me to do. There is not a thing that I do not like about the DVD or the CD. When either one ends I just feel like I want to start it all over again.

A special thought goes out to Little Arthur Duncan. He was a real blues gem! This is a great DVD and CD and I recommend them both!

Rhythm and Blues Experience reviewed by David Stine

Rhythm and Blues Experience
Andre Bisson
Self-produced CD
10 tracks

One of the cool things about being in a blues society is getting non mass-market CDs to review. Many of these CDs are where the hopes and dreams of new and un-heard artists are pinned. However, the gamut of these CDs runs from great to pitiful. The Andre Bisson CD I have in front of me, I would put somewhere near the high middle. I’ll explain my “issues” in a minute. First off, Bisson, a Canadian with boy-next-door-looks has thrown his hat into a pretty big ring: R&B singer. Thanks to the popularity of a certain reality show for wannabe singers, the ring is REALLY big. Where once the guitar gods ruled, now everyone wants to be a singer. When a singer, unadorned with a guitar (or other instrument) steps up to the mic, he or she is saying this is my instrument. The competition, if I can use that term, is might stiff these days.

I think Andre‘s instrument is OK. I don‘t think it’s great nor do I think it‘s terrible. I just think it will get better in time. Compared to his obvious influences, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, and the blonde kid in The Commitments, I think he‘s currently lacking the breadth, depth, and nuances of the aforementioned. Bisson‘s range is limited., and there’s more gravel than sand in his delivery. Most of the CD is horn-band driven numbers in the Blues brothers/Commitments vein, but on the slow ballad, “Second Chance” there’s no sweetness in his voice: it’s the same gravel as the rest of the tunes. Because Bisson’s delivery is so similar, the songs seem to blend together. None really stick out. On the CD itself, there is quite a bit of gap between songs. I didn’t check the length, but at 10 songs I’m guessing a bit over 40 minutes of music. On the plus side, Bisson arranged all and wrote all but one song on the CD; and they show a lot of promise from a young (20-something?) artist. His session band adds everything a singer could want: tight, funky and on the money. From the “Hey Bartender”-like “One More Gig,“ to the swinging “Four Shots” to the cover of homeboy Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” (nice version by the way).

This CD, with a more seasoned singer, would jump right out at you. I must confess that I do watch American Idol very passively, AND I have heard A LOT of R&B singers in my day. With more range, control and nuance I think we will be hearing more from Andre Bisson. I know this sounds like a luke-warm review and maybe it is. Bisson has talent, but like I said, there’s a lot of competition out there. I wanted to be knocked out, and maybe next time I will be.

Like I Do reviewed by David Stine

Like I Do
AZ Kenny Tsak and 56 Deluxe
56 Deluxe Productions, LLC
11 tracks

South Florida’s 56 Deluxe is a throwback band. AZ Kenny “Tsak” Tsakanikas himself seems to be somewhat of a throwback to 80s blues. His dress, his playing style and sound (and “the babes”) indicate that maybe Tsak has created a cool little South Florida niche market that is a world unto itself. The name “AZ” is a bit mysterious and remains unexplained (at least to us non-South Floridians who at think we know it’s not Arizona) as are the 56 Deluxe girls. Besides sideling up to Kenny on the cover of his album, they also seem to be selling the “56 Deluxe” lifestyle. Hmm, what an interesting concept. Oh yeah, the music …

Tsak puts in a fiery performance on his guitar, but I think maybe his voice has seen better days. He can still float a tone, but the highs are gone and when he reaches up, the notes choke off. Imagine a very nasal Jim Morrison with a bad head cold and you get a feel for Tsak’s voice. My guess is Kenny has been screaming for awhile and it affects his vocals.

Musically, his guitar playing is fast and accurate. The band, made up of Avery T. Horton (bass), James Holt (keys), Andy “G” (drums), and the occasional sax of Frank Perez, is solid and supportive. Besides the originals by Tsak, there are two songs penned by bassist Horton, and covers of “Stoop Down Mama” (a duet with South Florida’s Joey Gilmore) and “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” I doubt that Tsak will win any best new blues song crowns; there’s just too many of the old clichéd themes and “noon, June, soon” rhyming devices here. The song I found most enjoyable was written by Avery, “12 Step Boogie,” a clever take on having fun with sobriety. There’s a nice doubled sax in “Down South Florida” where the band generally cooks as they do on most of the tracks.

I’m sure 56 Deluxe puts on a great show, but I found the CD somewhat commonplace and Tsak’s voice a bit irritating. I am further baffled by the little “cartoon” included in the liners notes of what I assume is Kenny holding a Firebird (one of his chosen axes) stating “Guitarus Maximus - Playing To Save The World From Fakers.” Furthermore, there is an auspicious quote: “A crime fighting super music man who despises fake computer-generated lip-synced “muzak” using blazing guitar licks to restore dignity to the way music should be played.” Well, I’m not completely sure what they mean but they certainly are not super heroes but they appear to be a fun live band from South Florida who have created a somewhat below average studio set released in this CD.

I Got The Blues For You reviewed by David Stine

I Got The Blues For You
Homemade Jamz Blues Band
Northern Blues Music
12 tracks/55 minutes

I tend to shy away from artists that receive a lot of hoopla out of the gate. The blues community, it seems to me, is always looking for the next big thing. And the next big thing always seems to be young blues prodigies. So pardon me, but I bypassed the Homemade Jamz Blues Band initially simply because I’d heard too much about their youth, homemade instruments, and race. They were the darlings of last years’ blues fest circuit, so I avoided getting interested. I’ve learned my lesson.

Their second CD, is titled “I Got The Blues For You”. This is my first exposure to the group, and I must say it‘s really enjoyable. The HJBB, as you know, are siblings Ryan Perry (guitar and vocals), Kyle Perry (bass), and little sister Taya Perry (drums). They are 17, 15, and 10 years old respectively. On this CD their father Renaud adds some tasty harmonica on a handful of cuts. Renaud is also the builder to the guitars used by Ryan and Kyle that began life at twin exhaust-type car mufflers (while I’m on the subject, listen to this CD with headphones to really hear the unique quality of Ryan’s double neck muffler guitar--quite nice!). The CD, besides being engaging, is generous in length at 55+ minutes and 12 songs. All songs were written by daddy Renaud except song 11, Titus Turners “Grits Ain’t Groceries” (a very funky version, I might add). Obviously, this is a VERY musical family.

The CD kicks off with a “Thrill Is Gone” groove entitled “Hard Headed Woman.” Ryan Perry tends to run his words together, so I popped on the headphones and “har hey woman” became “hard headed woman.” Renaud Perry doesn’t write any earth shattering new blues lyrics, but the band’s performance makes them fresh and funky. Song two, “Rumors,” allows dad to add harp to some nice guitar work by son Ryan. This is a nice juxtaposition of new and old: old school harmonica licks augmented by wah wah guitar. Welcome to the brave new world. Luckily, the CD doesn’t try to be too new, rap or hip hop infused, or clever. The songs work from progressions we’ve heard and themes used before: from king snakes, to hobos, to hard drinking women, to “going down to Clarksdale.” In the hands of less talented kids, I’d roll my eyes and pass on. However, the youthful enthusiasm of these youngsters jumps from the disc and you almost feel the joy they felt while it was recorded. Ryan Perry is a very accomplished guitar player--check out his extended solo on the tour-de-force “Heaven Lost An Angel.” As I said, the homemade nature of the guitars gives them a unique sound quality, Kyle Perry’s bass fairly rumbles and roars throughout the disc. Young Taya is not afraid to smack her snare or cymbals.

I am disappointed that I initially ignored these kids and their music. This musical family of youngsters and their dad are quite the group and they make beautiful music together!

It Ain’t Easy reviewed by Steve Jones

It Ain’t Easy
Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo
11 tracks/43:56

What’s the Hoodoo all about? It’s all about three young guys from Madison, Wisconsin who play some roadhouse style blues-rock-funk that will make your toes tap and hips shake! Aaron Williams leads the band on vocals and guitar, Eric Schackelford also sings and plays the drums and “Z” plays bass and provides some vocals, too. They are a tight little trio backed up occasionally by some of their friends and they deliver some hot and steamy blues.

I first listened to this CD while traveling home from the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival late Saturday night/Sunday morning after three days of blues music. I left Davenport and I was barely across the bridge to Moline from Bettendorf when I put the CD in to play. I was tired but happy after the festival but needed something to get the blood pumping at midnight. The opening chords of “Hypnotize” told me this was not going to be a CD for the faint of heart. They continued to pump out some intense music in the second track, “Seven Days” and by the next song (the title track) I felt like I’d had a couple of cups of Joe in me!

The driving guitar and beat are the hallmark of these rocking blues lads. Williams’ guitar licks are sweltering and the groove backing it makes your heart pump quickly. These guys are also quite unique vocally, with a punky, often nasal tone to their songs. They sometimes reminded me of how Jim Morrison delivered some of his Doors vocals. The title track brings in some nice background vocals to add depth to the song and they use them well on other tracks, too.

“Living on Love” introduces us to the softer side of Williams and band. Acoustic guitar and some laid back vocals are complimented nicely with the addition of Cadillac Joe Anderson on Hammond B3 organ. The song flows into a strong river of blended vocals, organ and guitar picking. This is the only down-tempo track on the CD, and it nicely shows that the guys have some variety in what they can deliver.

The guys lay out some funk on “Porterhouse 650”, with some rapping lines that talk about both their steaks and their women. “Drinking Blues” gives us some rockabilly licks with Aaron screaming out the chorus line “I’ve drinking blues!” with the band echoing his “problem.” It’s non-stop action; the remaining tracks are equally hot and are just as much fun as the others!

The guitar work by Williams is sweet as it motors thorough each tune in a hot charging, rev-ed up style. By the time the album finished I was almost halfway home and wide awake, so I queued it up for another play. I have listened to the CD a few times now and I appreciate it more and more with each subsequent play. It is an excellent set of original tunes in a cool carney-circus graphics laden package featuring tattoo art of a buxom tattooed lady on the back cover that makes the packaging as roadhouse as the sound within it. If you want your blues hot, sweaty, and rocking then this is a CD for you!

Give ‘em as Little As You Can…As Often As You Have To…or..A Tribute to Rock ‘n’ Roll reviewed by Steve Jones

Give ‘em as Little As You Can…As Often As You Have To…or..A Tribute to Rock ‘n’ Roll
Swamp Dogg
12 tracks/

Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg, may be nuts. He’s gotta be one brick shy of the proverbial load. In more modern parlance, his Happy Meal is perhaps one or two fries short. A distinguished songwriter and music man, he’s been around forever and now releases CDs as the mood hits him and I don’t know what kind of mood he was in here. We find him doing a dozen rock standards of various sorts in his own, err, style? Hard to tell. This is an eclectic collection of rock standards done in some weird styles.

The CD begins with a funked up and heavy rockin’ “Ain’t That a Shame”, with heavy solo guitar lines and William’s screaming vocals. It’s weird but it’s palpable. Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” (sans the “Baby” in the title listing here) is slowed done a bunch but shouted out quite loud by Swamp Dogg in a frenzy of chords and vocals. “Johnny B. Goode” is next and it ain’t Chuck Berry-like in delivery. Over-laid vocal tracks and synthesized funky sounds almost harass the listener while some mean guitar is being laid down amongst it all, another overdone piece of work that gets one wondering “why?” But I persevered.

Jerry Lee Lewis was murdered next. “Great Balls of Fire” had some more great fuzzed up guitar licks but the song overall was just shouting and hollering in a seemed attempt to be different. “Heartbreak Hotel” is served up next in a swamp funk so thick that I think I felt some Spanish Moss hit me in the head. Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” gets the business next. Jerry tries to turn it into a thoughtful soul song but to me it just falls flat.

“I Shot the Sheriff”, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “My Girl”, “I Never Loved a Woman (The Way I Loved You), “Satisfaction” and a visit to his old song (slightly updated) “Total Destruction of Your Mind 2009” all fall short for me, too. The songs are a bit overdone and the Dogg’s vocals are failing. Then I thought, “Maybe this is all tongue in cheek,” but I don’t think so. I don’t know what’s really going on here. As a tribute to rock, Swamp Dogg certainly puts his own spin on these tracks, so there is no denying that he’s doing something new with them and really going out on a limb with these covers. But his cracking, straining vocals and overdone production really are not my cup of tea. I was intrigued by the first few tracks but then it stopped growing on me. If you want something different with blues and R&B, this is certainly it!

Finger In Your Eye reviewed by Steve Jones

Finger In Your Eye
Big Pete Pearson featuring The Rhythm Room All Stars
Vizztone Label Group
10 tracks/

The world has not heard much about Big Pete Pearson yet. This is pretty strange since the guy was born in 1936 and he is a phenomenal vocalist. After hearing a few bars of his big blues shouting style you will understand how good he is, too.

Pete lives in Phoenix and has become somewhat of a local phenomenon. Bob Corritore is promoting this album of all new tracks and is part of the band backing Pete. The Rhythm Room All Stars feature Bob and his huge harp sound, Chris James on guitar, Patrick Ryan on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. A plethora of special guests also drop by to add their magic, including Pinetop Perkins, Henry Gray, Duke Robillard, Billy Flynn, Eddie Taylor Jr. and Doug James.

Pete is a big, round, gentle old man, so the album title and title track don’t do justice to the type of guy that Pearson is. But he has fun with it as he opens the CD and blasts his way through another nine great tracks. His voice is strong and sure, not overdone. He’s a blues shouter of the highest caliber. Complimenting the big vocals are Corritore’s equally big and equally controlled harp work and the great interplay of the band and guest musicians. It’s a joy to listen to these guys work together. I was quite impressed when I saw Pete live last year and his new CD really showcases this guy’s talent. I recommend that you discover him today!

Superhero reviewed by Steve Jones

Candye Kane
Delta Groove Music
15 tracks/

Chanteuse. I love that word. So French. Some French words like this have both feminine and masculine versions. In this case, it is a woman singer, a songstress; especially a women who is a concert or nightclub singer. It especially comes to mind every time I hear Candye Kane sing. But now another word I think of when I think of her is ‘survivor’. After defeating pancreatic cancer in 2008, she is getting stronger and touring again and she is truly a ‘survivor’.

Her recent album, “Superhero”, is her tenth and showcases her ample talent, and I am not speaking about her physique. Her voice is as strong and vivacious as ever as she blasts her way through this 15 track CD of mostly new songs. If you love your blues delivered by a sultry chanteuse who can survive almost anything thrown her way, then “Superhero” is for you!

Candye penned a lot of songs while battling her cancer. Some were written when hope was dim and she figured she had only 6 months to live but she never gave up hope. These songs are not the songs of a quitter. They are upbeat and uplifting and show the resolve of this great singer.

26 year old Lara Chavez plays guitar on most tracks and she is also phenomenal. She also tours with Candye’s live shows. I was quite impressed with her fret work. Kid Ramos fill in on a couple of tracks, too. Paul Loranger plays electric and upright bass while Evan Caleb does most of the skins work; Stephen Hodges fills in on a couple of tracks for Evan. Mitch Kashmar provides some harp and a duet vocal, Dave Gonzalez some bass guitar, Greg Rutledge fills in some keys and B3 and Jonny Viau lends some good sax. A well crafted CD with a great regular band some super additions!

This album is full of Candye’s trademark jump blues along with a few ballads and slower numbers. Her vocals always have amazed me, even in the studio. She sounds like she is singing to and feeding from an audience all the time. I am fascinated how some singers and musicians can pull this off; it just tells me that they are really in synch with what they do and that it doesn’t matter where they perform their craft.

You readers can’t see me hemming and hawing here as I write to come up with some favorite tracks to comment on. There is a lot of good music here and to single out a few would be a disservice to the other songs. “I’m a Bad, Bad Girl” is a gritty blues shout out that hearkens to the old days of the blues but with Candye’s fresh approach. “Ik Hou Van Je (I Love You)” opens with and features some really nice Duke Robillard-styled guitar work along with a piano solo as Candye tells us how to say ‘I Love You’ in many different tongues. Kashmar’s innuendo-filled vocal duet with Kane on “I Like ‘Em Stacked Like That” with Kid Ramos backing them is another winner as is the Kashmar harp filled “Till You Go Too Far”. The title track opens the album with vibrancy and a short solo a capella number called “I’m Gonna Be Just Fine” show Kane’s resolve to beating her cancer and open and close a really good set of tunes.

If you like Candye Kane, this is a must-add to your collection. If you want to hear a woman revel in her determination and success in beating cancer, this is a must-add to your collection. If you like your blues swinging and jumping, this is a must-add to your collection. Hell, if you just like good music, this is a must-add to your collection!