Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ruby Blues reviewed by Steve Jones

Ruby Blues
Stacia Petrie
www.sta-ciapetrie- .com
11 tracks/

Few blues artists are household names across America anymore. BB King and Buddy Guy are two of the big names everyone can recognize. Blues fans know many of the names in the industry, but I know that Stacia Petrie is not a household name outside of Detroit area blues fans. After listening to her fourth self-released CD, I think that she should be! This album contains 11 tracks that she has either written alone or with another Detroit artist. They are solid songs that showcase both her vocals and song writing skills. She also does some more than adequate acoustic guitar work on the CD.

Her bio shows that she has been busy since 1993 with both individual performances and her work with the seven-woman band the Detroit Women. She is well known in the Detroit blues scene and has won nearly a dozen awards there in the last 7 years. And the song "Face the Blues" on this CD, which is a collaboration Motor City Josh, won first place in the blues category in the 2007 Unisong International Song Contest and third place in the 2007 Great Lakes Song Contest. I see why it won- it is a great slow blues tune with super vocals by Stacia and some nice lead guitar by Motor City Josh.

Her voice is expressive from the slow, breathy numbers all the way to the driving, rocking songs. She writes of love gone wrong in tracks like “Long, Cold, Lonely Night” and, well, almost of the songs on the CD. Her blues are deep and heart felt. She gives us music and lyrics that are gripping and touching. In “Detroit Women” reminds be a little of Joanna Connor as she blasts out how they’re “gonna shake this ground, and if you can’t take the shakin’ you better sit yourself right down.” The down and dirty lead guitar here is by Roscoe, who also engineered the album.

I was very impressed with this CD. Petrie is a fine songwriter and performer. It is unfortunate that her previous solo CDs and four CDs she cut with The Detroit Women have not gotten much play. If they are as good as this one we’ve been missing a lot of great music. She’s a very, very good vocalist and songwriter whom I recommend that you check out!

Sean’s Blues - A Memorial Retrospective reviewed by Mark Thompson

Sean’s Blues - A Memorial Retrospective
Sean Costello
Landslide Records
20 tracks/75:31

The tragic death of Sean Costello last year, one day shy of his 29th birthday, robbed the music world of an incredible musician. Recording his first release at age sixteen, Costello seemed destined for stardom. As this compilation shows, Costello steadily developed as a vocalist and guitar player while creating some jaw-dropping performances.

The first three tracks are from Costello’s initial recording Call the Cops. The title cut is a brief but spirited effort with some fiery guitar licks. “Sail On” finds Sean on acoustic guitar and long-time band member Paul Linden delivering some quality harmonica work. Costello shows the swing influence in his playing on “Take Me Back”.

Another three songs are pulled from Costello’s release in the year 2000, Cuttin” In. His cover of the first Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Mellow Chick Swing” has a steady groove and a restrained vocal from the leader. Costello turns in a harrowing performance on the Otis Rush classic, “Double Trouble”. The intensity of his vocal is matched by the razor-sharp licks he pulls out of his guitar. The band romps through “Who’s Been Cheatin’ Who”, an up-tempo Costello original.

The 2002 recording, Moanin’ For Molasses., brought further acclaim to Costello with quality cuts including “Don’t be Reckless with My Heart” and “It Takes Time”, another Rush tune. Linden on harp and Matt Wauchope on piano make solid contributions on the first song . Costello, Linden on piano and Wauchope on organ share the spotlight on the second tune.

Long-time Costello fans will be very excited by the remaining twelve tracks, all unreleased material from a variety of sources. One stunning highlight is an awesome rendition of “Walking Blues” with former boss, Susan Tedeschi, on lead vocal. Costello’s guitar has a huge, gritty tone that matches the emotional level of Tedeschi’s singing. It was culled from a 1998 session in Atlanta along with four other tracks. “Tell Me Baby” is a tough rocker while Tedeschi is on rhythm guitar for a run-through of Bob Wills instrumental “Big Beaver”.

Three live tracks serve proof that Costello was a commanding performer on stage. He dips into the Otis Rush songbook one more time for “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)” and delivers the goods on “Mojo Boogie”. Recorded in Marquette, MI in 2000, both songs show that Costello had really developed as a singer by this point in his career. “Motor Head Baby” was recorded the following year in Chicago and while the recording quality isn’t quite as good as the rest of the disc, you can hear the audience shouting out encouragement as Costello delivers a smoking-hot guitar solo.

The final four tracks were done in Atlanta in 2002 and they mark another maturation point in Costello’s career. His voice has grown thicker and now has a deeper tone. On a cover of Robert Ward’s “Your Love is Amazing”, Costello is able to express the soulful longing captured in the song’s lyrics. His stunning version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” finds his vocal and guitar work merging together in an extended expression of emotion. The closing track, “She Changed My Mind”, was written by Costello and Linden. Sean sings his heart out, accompanied by Wauchope on organ and his main rhythm section of Terence Prather on drums and Melvin Zachary on bass.

One can only imagine the directions Costello would taken had his life not been cut short. As you track his growth over the span of this disc, it is clear that his vocal prowess grew by leaps and bounds while his guitar playing gained tighter focus. His final release, We Can Get Together on the Delta Groove label, shows that Costello continued to develop as a vocalist , moving towards soul-infused style with great results. While his journey was cut short, we can rejoice that Landslide Records has given us the opportunity to add this powerful testament to Sean Costello talent to our musical libraries.

- A portion of the royalties from the sale of this release will benefit the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bi-Polar Research.

Many Shades of Blue reviewed by Mark Thompson

Many Shades of Blue
Gary Allegretto
Big Fiore Records
14 tracks/55:13

This is the third release for Gary Allegretto, yet it is a safe bet that even die-hard blues fans remain in the dark about this talented musician. His interest in blues music was sparked at a young age when he attended a live performance by acoustic bluesman John Jackson. After spending years satisfying his wanderlust, Allegretto now focuses on music, including his non-profit organization, Harmonikids, that brings music to special needs children. He is a talented singer with a warm tone and a skilled harp player who is equally comfortable playing in electric and acoustic styles.

On “She Speaks to Me”, Allegretto sings the praises of his instrument to a Jimmy Reed-style arrangement that finds him playing effectively in the upper register. Tracks like “Good to Go” and Chuck Berry’s “Back to Memphis” are straight-ahead rockers with Allegretto blowing hot licks with full, rich tone over the driving beats. Steve F’dor adds some sparkling piano parts on both tracks. On “Bad Man”, Allegretto plays the part of a sweet lovin’ daddy on a scale equal to Jesse James and Billy the Kid. He spins a humorous tale on his original tune about a woman with honesty issues on “Tattoo of Truth”. His harp dances around the melody, spinning out a rich, inventive solo.

Four tracks finds Gary paired with the late John Cephas. “Saddle Pony” utilizes some standard blues lyrics but Cephas picks out an intricate pattern on acoustic guitar while Allegretto blows some fine country licks. Another Allegretto original, “Hurry Down Rounder”, is a folk blues made for dancing with the two men harmonizing on the chorus. The duo takes a similar approach on Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business”, with Rich DelGrosso adding his mandolin to the mix.

Other special guests include Janiva Magness, who adds backing vocals on “Risk of Love”, a track that also has Ivan Neville on Hammond organ and a great slide guitar solo from Tommy Kay. Magness and Neville handle the lead vocals on “Four Days Late”, a heart-breaking song that chronicles the delayed response by all levels of government to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Doug MacLeod enlivens “Somerset” with his usual superb picking on his national resonator guitar and more outstanding piano from F’Dor.

Many Shades of Blue certainly lives up to its title. Allegretto’s heady brew ranges from Piedmont style acoustic blues to hard rockin’ electric numbers. He has put together a stunning package that marks him as a compelling songwriter, a masterful harpist and a strong singer. While his more famous friends make significant contributions to this project, it is Allegretto’s vision that burns the brightest. It’s hard to believe that he has not garnered more attention up to this point. This recording, which has received Grammy consideration, should finally get him the recognition that he deserves. This one is highly recommended !!!

Escape from the Chicken Coop reviewed by Steve Jones

Escape from the Chicken Coop
Watermelon Slim
Northern Blues Music
13 tracks

Well, he did it. Watermelon Slim has been hankering to release a country CD and he finally did. This is not at all a blues album in any respect nor was it intended to be. Bill Homans gives us 13 tracks (10 of which he wrote) of full blown corn pone, chocked full of whining Caterpillar engines, skinny women, fat cigars, highway wrecks, friends on the porch, homage to Hank Williams, American wives, long roads ahead and 18 wheelers. The album is dedicated to Dave Dudley, of whom Mr. Homans respects deeply.

I am not a big country music fan, so let me start out by giving you that warning. I like the classic stuff like Johnny Cash, Hank William’s songs (but maybe not his delivery) and other artists in that genre. Pop country like Garth and Keith and Faith is just that, pop. What we have here is closer to the classics than pop, but it just seems to be a little bit sappy and sentimental like country can be, without the glitz and glamour of pop country. Slim is adept at delivering a convincing country song and he does it 13 times. Often the twang and hick-ieness get a bit overbearing for me, but Slim is convincing in delivering traditional country fried lyrics, and country fans will enjoy his approach as will Slim’s dedicated blues fans.

Highlights of this album include a nice duet with Jenny Littleton on “You See Me Like I See You”, where her vocals are delivered in high-Dolly Parton style with the two of them trading lyrics back and forth. Slim follows that with a dirge-like “Wreck on the Highway” where his deep baritone gets down into your soul. “Should Have Done More” is another darker number and Slim delivers it with great conviction as he does with “300 Miles”. He closes out with two more upbeat tracks, “Truck Drivin’ Songs” and “18, 18 Wheeler”, where my toes tapped to the beat no matter how hard I tried not to.

I’m still not a deep country fan, but I kind of liked this album because it ran the gamut of upbeat and down home to dark and almost sinister stuff. Slim is a pretty cool guy and with this CD he is paying tribute to the fellow truckers and highway warriors who he drove with for many years. If you need to go down to the country, Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans gives you the vehicle to get there with this CD. And be warned now that there will be more vehicles in the fleet, because he laid down a total of 21 tracks in his four days of Nashville studio time. Slim always gave us a little twang with his previous albums with the Workers backup band, and here we have it cranked up and delivered all the way with a fine set of supporting country artists behind him.

Ten Till Midnight reviewed by Rick Davis

Ten Till Midnight
Sean Chambers
Blue Heat Records
10 Tracks

At the age of 10 Sean Chambers knew he was destined to play the blues. After only a few years of experience, he began touring with B.B. King, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy. He has currently been touring with Hubert Sumlin as a musical director and guitarist for Sumlin.

His guitar style is electrifying on his new CD Ten Till Midnight . The band wanted to create a sound as close to a live concert as possible. He opens the cd with the title track "Ten Till Midnight". On drums he is joined by Paul Broderick, with Tim Blair on bass and Ben Crider on the Hammond B3. He is absolutely amazing on guitar and equally experienced on vocals. He continues with "Blues & Rock N Roll" accompanied by Gary Keith on Harmonica. He rips into a guitar solo that would leave most audiences breathless. His version of Luther Allison's "All The Kings Horses" would equal Luther himself. His slide guitar on "You're Gonna Miss Me" written by Eddie ("Guitar Slim") Jones is as high powered as any slide guitar I have ever heard. Featured on this cut is Jack Henriquez playing his honky-tonk style piano. "In The Winter" really establishes Chambers as one of the premier high-energy guitarists today. “Too Much Blues” has a slightly different mix than the rest of the CD. In keeping with a live sound, the band liked the way it sounded so it was recorded as it turned out. “Make It Go” is really representational of the way the band sounds live. ZZ Top’s “Brown Sugar” is a number the band has wanted to do some day. The song was recorded live in the studio with the slide part added later. “When I Get Lonely” is another slide guitar number equaling his other slide guitar work. The last song on the cd “I Don’t Know Why” features Gary Keith again on harmonica with Chambers on a National/Steel Resonator guitar, giving this tune more of a delta sound.

If you like blues with intensity and fire, this cd is must! Chambers can absolutely burn up the fret board. He has also mastered the acoustic guitar as you will hear on the last cut. For his high-powered guitar style, I would compare him to Gary Moore. If this cd is an indication of the band’s live sound, count me in!

Blues Woman reviewed by Rick Davis

Blues Woman
Fiona Boyes
Yellow Dog Records
15 Tracks

Boyes, a native Australian, is being recognized as one of the premier blues songwriters and performers today with the release of this her second album . Over the past three years, she has been nominated for major Blues Music Awards nominations.

Blues Woman is the second album for Fiona Boyes on Yellow Dog Records. It delivers some of the finest contemporary blues with a wide range of styles from acoustic to electric guitar. The album was recorded in Austin Texas with a complete band featuring Antone's house guitarist Derek O'Brien, bassist Ronnie James, and Jimi Bott on drums. Also featured on the cd are guest artists Marcia Ball, Pinetop Perkins, and Watermelon Slim.

She opens with "Woman Ain't a Mule" making a statement for women's rights. She emphatically informs her man that she is taking him "back to school" when comes to treating her with respect. She continues with the Mississippi Hill county tune "Howlin' At Your Door" inspired by Robert 'Wolfman' Belfour, a Mississippi bluesman. She growls out great lyrics combined with an almost hypnotic electric guitar sound on this tune. Boyes transforms an early JB Lenoir tune "I Want To Go" into an energetic acoustic boogie on the next cut. "Train To Hopesville" incorporates great back up vocals, the piano of Marcia Ball, B-3 organ bass of Nick Connolly, and Texas Horns into a tune about traveling that lonely train of hope. "Look Out Love", written by Australian blues musician Chris Wilson, is done as a shuffle featuring Watermelon on dobro guitar.
Chicago blues number "Got My Eye On You" features Kaz Kazanoff on sax with Fiona giving fans a sample of her slide guitar work. Fiona really slow things down with her ballad "Do You Feel Better". "The Barrelhouse Funeral" reaches us from the pulpit with Watermelon Slim opening like a Hell-fire and brimstone Southern Preacher, Fiona joining in, Marcia Ball on piano, Watermelon following up with harmonica, and The Congregation providing the background vocals. "Place of Milk and Honey", influenced by Fred McDowell, is some of the finest acoustic guitar tunes by Fiona on the cd. The song is all about the stressful life of making a living as a musician on the road. Up tempo "Waiting For Some Good News" features the producer Kaz Kazanoff on harmonica throughout the entire song. "Precious Time" tells us time is too precious to waste on some relationship that is going nowhere! Grabbing a fishing pole and heading to the "Fishin' Hole" would be the advice given by Fiona as she once again entertains us with her resonator guitar and authoritative vocals. Her electric guitar expertise is best performed in the tune "City Born County Gal". Her only solo on resonator guitar, "Juke Joint On Moses Lane", is a song about the Bradfordville Blues Club, a favorite blues spot outside Tallahassee. On the final cut of the cd "Old Time Ways", Pinetop Perkins opens with a few words followed by Fiona rollin' and tumblin' on guitar and Pinetop still pounding the keyboard at 96.

I don't think I have heard a CD with such variety of guitar styles both electric and acoustic. This magnificent CD is proof that Fiona Boyes will be preaching the blues for a long time.
The following quote is a statement by Fiona Boyes about the blues. "I am very proud to be a part of the blues tradition". "And I believe that it is vital and exciting and growing, and I'm doing my best to keep it that way".

I.C. SpecialJoe Filisko & Eric Noden reviewed by Karl Dahlin

I.C. SpecialJoe Filisko & Eric Noden
Self Released
15 tracks/61:51

Joe Filisko & Eric Noden are paired up once again on I.C. Special (self released record label). This is their second CD together and they really complement each others acoustic blues style. Eric is a well schooled acoustic guitar player and Joe is a extremely talented harp player. They play all original tunes on this CD. All the songs sound and feel like they stepped right out of the hay day of the acoustic/folk blues in 1920's or 1930's.

The CD starts out with I.C. Special (title track). Its a song that really captures the sound and impression of riding the Illinois Central rail from the Delta to Chicago. Joe's harp closes the song with a grinding slow down of the massive locomotive coming to halt in the rail yards somewhere in Northern Illinois. Eric & Joe work their way to the next tune which is a song about modern time Gridlock Blues. Eric's slide work on his National resonator guitar and Joe's driving harp make this one of my favorites on the CD. On the fourth track Me & Sonny you genuinely get the feel of the easy going ambiance as Eric sings about traveling through out Europe with buddy Sonny Stovepipe a.k. Joe.

Joe and Eric trade off vocals on tracks as they take you through the songs of the CD. Their music covers angry woman, drinking too much, world traveling, breaking up and dieing. Each tune has its own unique sound and the CD flows from one subject to the next keeping the feel of the early times of the Blues going strong. One big difference from old blues recordings and this one is the great sound quality which allows you to hear all the intricate guitar and harp sounds clear as a bell. Its easy to get a sense of sitting on a old country porch and listening to the influences of all those great harp players with Sonny in their name.

The CD has a great feel to it and is a prime example of blues from the past living on today. Being only their second CD together Joe and Eric sound like seasoned touring veterans. They are truly the rail carriers of acoustic/folk blues of yester year and today. reviewed by Mark Thompson
Corey Harris
Telarc International
14 tracks/52:56

Corey Harris started his career as an acoustic performer skilled in the Delta blues style. He quickly moved on to start an exploration and study of the cross-pollination of musical styles from various parts of the globe. In 2007, Harris was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship grant in the amount of $500,000, which gave Harris the financial freedom to continue his studies.

His latest release examines the African-American musical diaspora, utilizing reggae rhythms as a foundation for many of the tracks. Harris mixes in soul, gospel and jazz influences to create a compelling mix of original material. Producer Chris “Peanut” Whitley helped write many of the tracks and also helps out on a variety of keyboards. Harris handles the guitar parts and the lead vocals.

The lilting rhythm of “My Song” serves as a counter-point to the quiet defiance expressed in the lyrics. Twin sisters Davina and Davita Jackson raise the energy level with their superb backing vocal parts. “Babylon Walls” is a straight-ahead reggae piece that warns of the impending Judgment Day. Harris also serves up an indictment of the seamy side of the business world on “Pimps and Thieves”. A lighter mood prevails on “Run Around Girl”, which adopts a Caribbean beat with a soulful vocal from Harris. “Conquering Lion” summarizes the history of Ethiopia and the enduring impact of the Emperor Haile Selassie, the key figure for followers of the Rastafarian movement.

The closing number, “Blues”, is the only number that utilizes the standard blues format. Harris plays electric guitar and Whitely shines on piano and organ. Some listeners may bemoan that the lack of traditional blues material. Savvy listeners will marvel in the power and passion that is present in Harris’s singing throughout the disc. He clearly has found profound inspiration by refusing to limit himself to the narrow constraints of one musical genre. The MacArthur Foundation described Harris as a musician who “forges an adventurous path marked by deliberate eclecticism”. His efforts on this recording certainly live up to that standard.

Songs From The Road reviewed by Steve Jones

Songs From The Road
Jeff Healey
Ruf Records
11 tracks/

I remember becoming a Jeff Healey fan when I watched “Roadhouse” in the movies twenty years ago. I was amazed looking up that is was 20 years ago. Losing Jeff to cancer was such a blow to his family and fans. This project began when Jeff was still alive and looking over some of the stuff from his 2007 tours through Norway’s Notodden Fetival and London. A couple of added tracks from his Toronto club round out a nice live set of tunes. His wife Christie his engineer Alec Fraser have assembled these eleven cuts of covers that help us remember the joy and power of Healey’s music.

From the opening riffs of Mark Knopfler’s “I Think I Love You Too Much” to the closing “Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)” we get to see Healey having fun doing what he does best– playing music with reckless yet controlled abandon.

There are some covers here that most would never attempt. Tracks like “Whipping Post” and “White Room” have Healey wailing away in his finest Duane Allman and Eric Clapton modes. Dave Murphy’s gravelly vocals and organ with Healey’s strong axe work really sell the Allman song. Fraser provides the vocals and bass on the Jack Bruce/Cream classic and one can flashback to 1969 while listening to the powerful cover.

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Come Together” give us his take on George Harrison and the Lennon/McCartney Beatles. The former tune is one of my favorites here. Lovely guitar and vocals by Jeff that really give us such an emotional take on a great song.

He also covers Willie Dixon blues standards like “I’m Ready” and “Hoochie Coochie Man” in a creative manner. Murphy’s piano on “Im Ready” fills in nicely around Healey’s guitar, but it’s Randy Bachman and Healey’s stratospheric dual guitar work on the other song that really make it special.

The lap steel guitar wails on the next to final song, giving us a harmonic rendition of Graham Nash’s CSNY standard “Teach Your Children”. A frenetic “Stop Breaking Down” and Healey’s ever-soulful cover version of “Angel Eyes” round out a spectacular group of covers that give us Healey at his best doing music from all over the rock and blues world.

The album is therapeutic for his fans, giving us a large dose of this great musician at the height of his craft in 2007. In a way it also saddens me that the sounds from this live album will never again be heard live. RIP, Jeff. Thanks for the fine music!

Speak No Evil reviewed by David Stine

Speak No Evil
Tinsley Ellis
Alligator Records
12 tracks/54.41min

Can’t wait for the new Robin Trower record? Get Tinsley Ellis’ Speak No Evil.

I wish I could leave it at that, but I guess I should say more. This is Ellis’ ninth Alligator outing and thirteenth of his career. You can say a lot of things about Alligator, but they sure stick by their artists. I’m also sure that Ellis has a legion of loyal fans. My complaint with this CD is that he seems to have rewritten material he has already written and just added heavier guitar parts. I have either bought or listened to many of Ellis’ output over the years. And let me make it clear, I think, as a guitar player, he is underrated. That being said, I hear a lot of what I think I’ve heard before on this CD. There’s nothing wrong with a winning formula, I just wish Ellis would concentrate on some different arrangements and keys.

I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek about Trower, but it is the closest reference I can give for readers. Check out song 9, “Amanda” and you tell me who you hear. He definitely has added some heavier guitar, and lots of wah wah, and, at times, attempts that mystical level where lyrics simply don’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, I like Trower and I like Ellis. But this isn’t Bridge of Sighs or Twice Removed from Yesterday. Mainly, the song aren’t there. Ellis does muster a pretty good anti-drug song, “Left Your Mind” with its repeated line “why don’t you say what’s left on your mind.” “Rockslide” allows Ellis to play some slide and it’s a nice break from his over-the-top, near heavy metal tone. The title track, too, is maybe the closest Buddy Guy impersonation I’ve ever heard with some clean Strat tones.

Folks new to Tinsley Ellis might want to check out other, “bluesier” releases. Those who prefer their blues in heavy doses might actually love this disc. And I’m not taking away from Ellis immense guitar talent, his OK vocals, or his so so song writing. This disc does have a certain appeal and it’s not a bad album; I just want more for Tinsley Ellis whose career I have followed since Georgia Blue (his first Alligator release).

The Riot Act reviewed by Harmonica Joe

The Riot Act
Perry Weber & The DeVille's
Stumpy Dog Records
12 tracks/44:12

Perry Weber & The DeVilles second CD, "The Riot Act", has just been released. Perry Weber has been on the blues scene for over twenty years. During that period, he has developed his own guitar style, his own vocal talent and became a writer of nice blues lyrics. Playing with the likes of Jim Liban, Hubert Sumlin and The Legendary Blues Band, Perry Weber has paid his dues and became a great blues artist. In 2007, Perry formed his own band, Perry Weber & The DeVilles, and released their first CD, "Savage Beauty". This first CD was well received by the blues community.

The Perry Weber & The DeVilles Band consists of Perry Weber on guitar and vocals, Benny Rickum on harmonic and and guitar, Tony Menza on bass and Victor Span on drums and percussion. The band also has several guest DeVilles on this project. Joining the mix is the legendary piano player Barrelhouse Chuck. His credentials are too long to list but are quite impressive. Besides playing with Bo Diddley, Otis Rush and Kim Wilson, he is also the piano player in the movie "Cadillac Records". Jimmy Voegeli, from Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band and now his own band The Jimmy's, is featured doing some fine keyboard playing on "Riot Act". This is a great addition to the CD. Also, they have Jimmy McCarthy as a guest guitar player.

"The Riot Act" consists of twelve songs of which eight were penned by Perry Weber. He has done a good job of mixing tempos and styles of song so we not having to hear the same old blues structure over and over as on some recordings. His lyrics also make you listen to the story that he is telling.

The title track, "The Riot Act", features trouble with women as a theme. This is true blues. Perry Weber's guitar licks stand out on this track. Add some blues keyboard and some harp playing and Perry has a real deal blues tune going on with this song.

"Bernie's Bounce” is a special treat for all you harmonica lovers out there. This does include me. Benny Rickum is featured in this instrumental tune. Benny's long harp solo with just the drummer really highlights Benny's talent as a harmonica player. This is another really good addition to this CD.

"Ten Long Years", is another woman gone wrong tune with some more good lyrics from Perry Weber. Featured on this tune is the awesome piano playing of Barrelhouse Chuck.

Perry Weber & The DeVille's new release, "The Riot Act", is a good example of a blues recording done right. The great band, special guest players, Perry Weber's searing, tangy guitar licks and blues lyrics all stand on their own to make this a really good recording. This is a CD to listen to and enjoy over and over again. It makes me anxious to see a live show of the band.

25 Years of Chicago Blues Piano – Vol. 5 reviewed by Mark Thompson

25 Years of Chicago Blues Piano – Vol. 5
Barrelhouse Chuck
Viola Records
15 tracks/51:12

Chuck Goering has been playing blues piano for over thirty years. He studied with piano legends like Sunnyland Slim, Detroit Junior and Little Brother Montgomery. Not only did Chuck learn from these giants but he also cared for them, took them to gigs and at times lived with them. His devotion to the piano tradition and his skill at the keyboards has earned him the ranking as one of the top blues piano players in the world.

The latest disc in his series featuring unreleased material shows the extent of Chuck’s talent that shines through in a variety of settings. Five tracks find Chuck backed by Trickbag, a Swedish band. The opening cut is an Earl Hooker instrumental, “Hot & Heavy”, with Chuck wailing away on organ. The band shows they are adept at Chicago-style blues on “She’s Got a Thing Going On”, with a strong vocal and dynamic piano work from Chuck. “Barking Mood” is another instrumental featuring the band’s harp player, Joakim Barcheus. Chuck shines with one dazzling piano run after another. The best track of their collaboration is the Goering original, “New Farewell to S.P.Leary”. Chuck’s mournful vocal on the slow blues shares the spotlight with his compelling keyboard efforts.

The remaining tracks feature a who’s-who of the Chicago blues scene. “Everybody’s Talking” has Big Smokey Smothers laying down a stirring vocal and some taut slide guitar. Guitarist Billy Flynn is on fire on a live take of “Billy’s Guitar Boogie” that has the late Willie Kent on bass. Another highlight is “This Little Voice” with Curtis Salgado contributing a soulful vocal over a loping rhythm punctuated by the guitar of Nick Moss.
Chuck includes a rousing cover of Detroit Junior’s “Call My Job” with Muddy Water’s old rhythm section of Calvin Jones on bass and Willie Smith on drums.

The instrumental “Blues for Hubert” offers a change of pace as Sam Buckhardt’s sax is front and center but Chuck gets a chance to stretch out a bit. Steve Freund adds some fine guitar. Goering rocks the house on “How Much More Longer”, shouting out his vocal over support from Sam Lay on drums and Frank Bandy on bass. “Lazy Dog Blues” switches to the acoustic format with Ben Andrews on guitar and vocal. The humorous tune illustrates Chuck’s skill as an accompanist. The final track is simply listed as “Bonus Track” and has Buddy Guy on guitar and vocal burning his way through “Forty Days & Forty Nights” with Chuck’s piano matching Guy’s efforts.

The set holds together quite well in spite of the rotating cast of musicians and the various recording locations. The sound quality is good throughout the disc. It clearly shows that Barrelhouse Chuck is a special musician who can maintain a high level of performance in any setting. You should check this one out – and then be prepared to spend some money on the other four volumes in this important series documenting the Chicago blues tradition.

Come Out Swingin’ reviewed by David Stine

Come Out Swingin’
The Twisters
Northern Blues Music
12 tracks/45.19

Those crazy Canucks! We’d better watch that border! Not only did these guys come out swinging, they came out with one of the most enjoyable CDs I’ve heard in awhile.

One first listen, I thought, pretty schizophrenic--it’s all OVER the place. Second and third listen revealed a VERY talented band that who CAN go from jump to blues to rockabilly to gospel to reggae (yeah, you heard me) to slow blues, and do it ALL well.

The Twisters are Dave Hoerl: harmonica and vocals; Brandon Isaak, guitar and vocals; Keith Picot, standup bass and backing vocals; and Lonnie Powell, drums. The Twisters are helped out here and there by Kenny “Blues Boss“ Wayne on keyboards; Jerry Cook sax and horn arrangements; Terry Townson, trumpet; Matt Pease, drums; Dave Haddock, electric bass; and Chris Isaak backing vocals (yes, he‘s Brandon‘s big brother). These additional helpers aid the Twisters in fulfilling their vision for this short but swinging CD.

But it’s not just the music, it’s the songs! The lyrics are clever, cool, and avoid the pitfalls of many “entrenched” and better known blues acts. “Doghouse“ is hilarious and poignant for any man in a relationship. “I Refuse To Get Old” is, well, universal, shall we say, and done is a straightforward old time acoustic guitar and harmonica delivery. “Long Overdue,” “Something‘s Got To Give,” and “Guess That I Was Wrong” too, are Twisters takes on more common themes done as swing, blues, and rockabilly. Standout cuts for me were “Doghouse” because of the lyrics and delivery, “Take My Own Advice” which features chromatic harmonica over a reggae-influenced beat, and “Dirty Boy Blues” with its in-your-face Chicago-style guitar.

I can’t say enough about this band. Yes, they get a lot of help here, but they have chops, two unique vocalists, and some good songwriting going for them. You may have to search them out, but I would highly recommend this CD to blues, swing, rockabilly, and all listeners with a craving for some cool and new.

Pearl River reviewed by Steve Jones

Pearl River
Mike Zito
Electogroove Records
13 tracks/

Mike Zito released one helluva fine album last year after touring almost endlessly along with releasing four self-produced albums. It spent 6 weeks on the Billboard charts and received much acclaim for Zito’s voice and guitar playing along with it's superb production standards. It was a hard act to follow, but Zito and Randy Chortkoff’s Electogroove Records followed it up with an album that is even better than the first!

What sets this apart from the first for me is two things. The obvious one to me is the more extensive use of the supporting cast. Not that the backup players were not a factor on the first album, but here they are really there and making the front man sound even better. Reese Wyanan’s piano and organ are used sublimely. The big organ sounds and piano are used as punctuations to the music and round out the already superb sound to make it even better. Harp work by Lynwood Slim (“Last Night”) and Randy Chortoff (“Born Blind”), vocals by Cyril Neville, Susan Cowsill and Anders Osborne (who also plays acoustic guitar), and Johnny Sansone’s accordion supplement Zito and his rhythm section of Popcorn Trevino on bass and Eric Bolivar on drums and percussion. The second reason I think this is a better CD is that I think the nine new songs written (at least in part) by Zito and the four other songs are even better than the thirteen on the first album!

Chorthoff and producer David Z obviously wanted to go a little more New Orleans styled with this CD. The “single” for this CD is the title track which Cyrill Neville and Zito penned together. Neville also accompanies Zito on vocals; it has a down home, Cajun flavor that Zito delivers so convincingly with his soulful voice and guitar work. He closes the song with a blistering guitar solo (as he does on a few other tracks). Add to that Anders Osborne singing and playing acoustic guitar on his song “One Step at a Time” and Susan Cowsill’s vocals on the more winsome “Shoes Blues” and we can fully appreciate Zito’s take on funky New Orleans blues. It’s still Zito’s show, but we get to see him vary his style and he is quite up to the task.

“Dirty Blond” opens the CD in a vibrant and upbeat manner. Double Trouble’s Reese Wynan’s organ here and keyboards throughout make a beautiful statement and really rounds out the sound. The driving guitar beat and Zito’s vocals set the stage so well for an outstanding album. Whether delivering an original song like “The Dead of Night” or covering classics like Sunny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind”, Mike Zito’s vocal prowess and guitar wizardry are mind boggling. Sansone’s accordion on the former adds to the Cajun flavors while uncredited harp work helps blow away the latter. “Natural Born Lover” is more rock-like and features another no holds barred Zito guitar solo.

Whether it be Cajun, soul, funk, blues or rock, Zito is the ultimate pro. He delivers a fine performance track after track; there are no slouches or half hearted effort here. This is a fiery hot album of blues delivered by a guy whose star in the blues world is rapidly rising. This album is a must for serious blues lovers.

Between A Rock And The Blues reviewed by David Stine

Between A Rock And The Blues
Joe Louis Walker
Stony Plain Records
12 tracks/63:15

Duke Robillard has been as busy as the CDC during a swine flu pandemic. He has played on and or produced at least one CD of every batch the blues society got this year. The new Joe Louis Walker is no exception. Robillard produced it, plays on one track and brings in some of his stalwarts to play one it: namely Doug James, Bruce Katz, and Mark Teixeira. Kevin Eubanks from the Jay Leno band adds guitar to two tracks as well, and there’s some tasty harp from Sugar Ray Norcia on the final track.

To Duke’s credit, he doesn’t get in the way of things as heard (or not heard) on his work with Eddie Clearwater and Roscoe Gordon. But this is definitely Walker’s outing, not Robillard’s. Walker has been around awhile and this, by my count, is his twentieth album. He doesn’t stick strictly to common blues, but mixes in some rock, swing, some jazz leanings. Walker wrote five of the twelve songs on the CD but certainly puts his stamp on each cut. Standouts include a an outstanding bluesy cover of Ray Charles’ “Blackjack,” an rocking wah wah infused cover of Roy Gaines “Big Fine Woman,” and the swinging “Eyes Like A Cat” written by Travis Phillips. Walker’s own Prisoner of Misery” sounds like an unreleased Otis Rush track.

Walker will be 60 this year, but from the sound of this CD, he has no intension of “getting old.” The CD kicks off with the full-throttle “I’m Tide” a phonetically-spelled double entendre about life’s grip. From the first song to the last, an acoustic and harmonica cover of “Send You Back,” the CD let’s walker unveil his influences. Sometimes this can be jarring; especially if not well edited and it seems like there is drastic shift in mood or a track was added at the last minute. Here, Robillard allows Walker to show his shills and yet the CD is even and very enjoyable.

Anyone not familiar with Joe Louis Walker might want to grab this CD. There is much to like about it, and it showcases his talent nicely. He has a fine voice (years in a gospel group?), plays a heck of a guitar, and his writing talent is on par with the majority of blues smiths working today. Kudos to Duke Robillard for letting Walker be himself and adding the right amount of “direction.”

Swimming in Turpentine reviewed by Mark Thompson

Swimming in Turpentine
Yellow Dog Records
13 tracks/60:25

One exciting trend in recent years has been a wave of bands that have been pushing the boundaries of blues music as well as developing fresh, challenging mixes of blues with other forms of roots music. Not all of these experiments have worked but the efforts certainly have raised the profile of blues music with younger generations of listeners.

Woodbrain is a band of veteran musicians who use the blues tradition as the starting point for their musical explorations. The quartet creates a dense audio landscape that blends elements of Mississippi hill country blues with rock influences to create a heady mix sounds like a larger band. Joe McMurrian handles all of the lead vocals and the guitar parts. Jason Honl is the bass player and adds some organ on a couple of tracks. Many blues fans will recognize the name of drummer Jimi Bott, who has played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers plus Mark Hummel’s band.
David Lipkind adds harmonica, backing vocals and an occasional cackle.

Tracks like “Dig” show Woodbrain’s unique vision. The arrangement features Lipkind’s harp run through some effect pedals and McMurrian creating a driving rhythm on the banjo. “Port Chicago Highway” is another highlight with McMurrian turning in an appropriately gravelly vocal and laying down a sinister guitar line over a stomping beat from Bott. The group steadily builds the intensity throughout “Home of My Own” aided by another strong vocal turn by McMurrian. The band switches to acoustic instruments for “Storm Clouds”, reducing the volume level without any loss of emotional impact. Lipkind gets a chance to show that he is a strong harp player even without the effects.

Their cover of Bukka White’s “Shake Em on Down” sets a relentless pace and a spaced-out guitar solo from McMurrian. On “Turpentine”, he contributes some nasty slide guitar and another rousing vocal in his dark, thick voice. “Good Man” really shows off the influences of Mississippi blues masters like R.L. Burnside on the band’s sound.

The last few tracks don’t hold up as well. “Hurricane Town” comes across like an alternative rock piece with little blues content. The last two tracks, “Next Stop” and “Pottsville Conglomerate”, are instrumentals that collectively last over 11 minutes but never really have much to say. Better is the acoustic jam on “Black Water Slide” , a Bert Jansch tune that gets n energetic rendition with some excellent harp work from Lipkind.

There is plenty to recommend on Woodbrain’s debut recording. The band has an original sound and each member has plenty to offer instrumentally. They play to their strengths for most of the disc, with McMurrian especially shining in the spotlight as the front man. If you are looking for something beyond the traditional blues format, give this disc a try.

Things About Comin’ My Way - A tribute to the music of The Mississippi Sheiks reviewed by David Stine

Things About Comin’ My Way - A tribute to the music of The Mississippi Sheiks
Various Artists
Black Hen Music
17 tracks/66.21

Something bad happened to me in the 70s, leaving me with negative feelings toward all things folk, bluegrass, goodtime, jug band, and, well, string band. As a result, all I know about The Chatmon brothers as The Mississippi Sheiks is a vague recollection of hearing “Sitting On Top Of The World” once or twice. So it was with some hesitation that I applied my ears to this recent tribute to The Sheiks put together by slide guitarist and producer Steve Dawson. If you pay attention to the subtitle, you get a hint: the music of the Mississippi Sheiks. Dawson’s stated goal was not to recapture the sound of the Sheiks but to bring their tunes to a new audience.

Better known artists taking a crack at The Sheiks include The North Mississippi Allstars, Bob Brozman, John Hammond, new darlings of old timey music, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Van Dyke Parks, Geoff Muldaur, Kelly Joe Phelps, and Bruce Cockburn. Lesser known artists include, Dawson himself, Bill Frisell, Robin Holcomb, Ndidi Onukwulu, The Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, Madeleine Payroux, Danny Barnes, and Del Ray.

As I mentioned, I have little in the way of reference point for this tribute, but a listen or two reveals that each artist seemed to approach a Sheiks song with his or her own arrangement and stamp--Dawson‘s goal. And this, to me, make the CD far more enjoyable than a bunch of artists trying to ape the sound The Sheiks achieved in the 1930s.

While not a huge fan of string band “blues” I found this CD very enjoyable. The varying approaches to the songs by these artist may, indeed, draw new listeners to the originals by the sheer power of the lyrics. Some “tribute” CDs quickly become cutout fodder because the contributing artists lend their names but not their passion. This CD, however, is clever, artistic and unique. It belongs in the collections of those enjoy early blues and string bands. Robin Holcomb’s eerie, jazzy, minor key reading of “I’ve Got Blood In My Eyes For You” is worth the price of the CD. Close is Onukwulu’s sultry voiced and jazzy “Things About Coming My Way.” Not all songs are pushed into modernity, and the combination of each artist’s “tribute” makes this one of the best “various artists” CDs I’ve heard in a LONG time.

Soul Blue 7 reviewed by Steve Jones

Soul Blue 7
Al Basile
Sweetspot Records
13 tracks/

I’ve been writing this review for the better part of three weeks and I can’t figure out where I want to begin, so I will begin with my quandary. Usually when I really love an album the words spew copiously forth and you, the unfortunate reader, gets to bear the brunt of my sometimes senseless but effusive prose. I’m having writers block on this one because I want to make sure my words do it justice. So here we go- this is a freaking great album and you need to add it to your blues collection now!!! Now that I have that out of my system, did I mention you need to go buy this CD?

For those of you who may not be familiar with Al Basile (but should be), he’s the guy who played trumpet/cornet for Roomful of Blues (ROB) and who also has released six solo albums prior to this. Basile’s a prolific songwriter and a spectacular cornet-ist and vocalist. His gravelly voice is truly a thing to marvel over as he slips up and down the tracks he’s written for this CD. The CD was laid down at Duke Robillard’s Mood Room in Rhode Island this past spring. Al brings back many of the original ROB band members for his seventh and finest CD.

The final cut on the album, “Termites in My Basement”, is a fun track showing us some of Basile’s ideas on aging. “They ain’t gonna quit now baby, ‘til all that wood’s been gnawed away”, and “I’ve got big trouble down below”, are examples of his great double entendre-filled lyrics. The lyrics throughout, while mostly much more serious than this, are quite thoughtful and well structured.

The songs are all pretty much swinging, “jump” blues; jazzy, soul-filled numbers. In “Bet You a Dollar to a Dime” we get a great example of his lyrics and strong vocal qualities delivering us a nice set of slow blues. The following song, “You Showed Me Something”, is another superb voyage in Basile’s mind and music. His voice and cornet are very soulful and sweet. The thoughtful, slow blues of cuts like “Where Are You Tonight?” are really special, too.

“This Dream (Still Coming True)” is a funkier cover of a song that Duke previously recorded from Al’s songbook. I like Al’s take and vocals on this one better; it has a bit of a reggae flavor to it versus the jazzier style Duke recorded it in.

In addition to Basile and Robillard, you get Marty Ballou on bass, Mark Teixiera on percussion, Bruce Katz on keys, Rich Lataille and Doug James on sax, and Carl Querfurth on trombone. Sugar Ray Norcia gives his skilled harp work on the last track and Gordon Beadle add his sax on “Where Are You Tonight?”.

Every track here is a real winner. No clinkers– you get your money’s worth, with 13 songs that will never make you feel like skipping ahead a track. I’ve probably played this CD over a dozen times already. If you are a fan of Basile’s, or if early ROB or if Duke Robillard are your thing, then this is a CD you have to get.

Born Lover reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Born Lover
Big Bill Morganfield
Black Shuck Records
12 Tracks/41:30

Big Bill Morganfield, has become a great blues guitarist, song writer, singer and performer. One would think that this would just be natural considering that his father was McKinley Morganfield, Muddy Waters. Big Bill was a school teacher first after he received his degree in English from Tuskegee University and his communications degree from Auburn University.

After his father passed away in 1983, Big Bill decides to learn to blues play guitar to honor his father. He learned to play the old traditional styles of the 1930's - 50's. In 1999 Big Bill Morganfield released his first album, "Rising Son". He also received the W.C. Handy award for the Best New Blues Artist in 2000.

Since 1999 Big Bill has released several cd's including "Blues In The Blood" and "Ramblin' Mind". Besides extensive touring in the United States playing many blues festivals and events Big Bill has toured all over the World in the last eleven years.

Big Bill Morganfield has now released his latest project, "Born Lover". This cd is his first on his own label, Black Shuck Records. Included on the cd are twelve fine blues tunes of which three were penned by William Morganfield himself. His band for the album consists of Big Bill Morganfield doing vocals and guitar and Brian Bibesi and Bob Margolin also on guitar. Both Brian and Bob had honed their guitar skills playing with Muddy Waters. Tom "Mookie" Brill on bass, Chuck Cotton on drums and Clark Stern on keyboard create a fine blues band for Big Bill Morganfield. The addition of Steve Guyger, a great old school harmonica player, fills out this fine blues band.

"Born Lover", the title song for the cd, was written by William McKinley. The lyrics are all about the ups and downs off love for women. This song has a really Muddy Waters feel to it. Love can be good or it can be bad. Featured on "Born Lover" is Steve Guyger's harmonica style. Steve has the true depth and feeling of the Chicago blues style. This is one really good blues tune.

On "Gas Prices Too High", Bill ventures out to play two guitar parts. We are treated to some fine slide work and a catchy groove as we listen to Bill's lyrics about the high cost of gasoline in the U.S.A. Yes, the value of the dollar ain't what it used to be! This is an appropriate song for the times we live in.

"My Love Is Real", a Buddy Guy tune, brings out the mellow side of Big Bill. His vocal qualities stand out on the song. He also brings the feel of the lyrics of Buddy Guy to us. Also on this track the piano of Clark Stern stands out for our enjoyment. I really like the way Big Bill has done this tune.

"Born Lover" is twelve songs hitting all styles of the blues as felt by Big Bill Morganfield. He has become a true blues artist whom would make Muddy Water proud. He has paid tribute to his father as well as placed himself amongst the best of the blues players. What more can I say except that he has done a fine job on this music project.

Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy reviewed by Steve Jones

Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy
Maria Muldaur
Stony Plain Records
12 tracks/

Hard times give rise to good times music. People have always used music as a means to counter the problems of their lives. Maria Muldaur returns to her roots in jug band music to bring us a mix of depression era classics along with some new music to uplift us and help us get through the current times.

Muldaur is reunited with John Sebastian and David Grisman from her Even Dozen Jug Band days, the first group she ever recorded with. She is quite at home singing this set of traditional arrangements long with a couple of great new numbers written by Dan Hicks (who also joins her for two duets on the CD). Also included is the great song “Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul”, the title track from her 2005 Grammy-nominated album, featuring the now late man Fritz Richmond and her pal Taj Mahal. Guitar player Kit Stovepipe and the Crow Quill Night Owls are also on the CD. They are a new, young jug band that Muldaur discovered and these folks have a load of talent! The guitar, mandolin and fiddle work , along with all the other accompaniment, are never overdone yet are outstanding.

The music presented here hearkens to the 20’s and 30’s with topics that are equally appropriate for today: “Bank Failure Blues” and “The Panic is On” are two current economic topics we can all take to heart as our nest eggs look a bit poached. While the topics can be grim, Maria’s vocals and the ebullient accompaniments make the pain go away.

The medley duet, “Life’s Too Short/When Elephants Roost in Bamboo Trees” with hipster Dan Hicks are quite funny and the vocal interaction is well done. These two, along with the two new songs he give us here, “The Diplomat” and “Let It Simmer”, are certainly the highlights of the album, but don’t sell the other tracks short. This is a great CD!

I must also comment on the CD packaging. The art work and layout are throwbacks to Maria’s roots in the 60’s. Kudos to Neil Osborne for creating the art for one of the coolest CD covers in a while!

Muldaur’s love of the jug band sound is evident. We get to hear a very nice, updated take on an old genre and it sounds fresh. Muldaur’s pace and phrasing are precise and her vocals are always sweet and sultry, whether singing in the style of the flapper era or deep in the blues. She has turned in a great effort once again. She and her superb team of artists have truly produced a wonderful album of “Good Time Music for Hard Times!”

Lucky to Be Living reviewed by Mark Thompson

Lucky to Be Living
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore
Blue Witch Records
10 tracks/41:29

The second release from the duo of guitarist Dave Riley and harmonica ace Bob Corritore continues their expert blending of Riley’s modern Mississippi delta blues with the driving Chicago sound that Corritore grew up with. Riley has a deep, expressive voice that is perfectly suited to the down-home style found on his four originals as well as songs by Frank Frost, John Weston and Fred James. Backing musicians on various tracks include the legendary Henry Gray on piano, Chris James on guitar, Dave “Yahni” Riley Jr. & Patrick Rynn on bass and three different drummers.

Opening with a Frost tune, “Jelly Roll King”, Riley pays tribute to the veteran musicians who were his mentors and friends. Sadly, with the recent passing of drummer Sam Carr, every musician mentioned in the song has left this world. Riley maintains a steady rhythm on the guitar and Corritore weaves his harmonica lines around Riley’s vocal with expert precision. The driving performance of “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight” features some great piano work from Gray on another Frost composition.

“On My Way” has the duo backed by drummer Frank Rossi. Despite the stripped down accompaniment, the track still brims with energy behind Riley’s booming vocal. The trio also nails another Riley original, “Back Down the Dirt Road”, with Corritore’s harp once again echoing his partner’s singing. Two tracks feature just the leaders, with Riley switching to acoustic guitar on “Country Rules” and Corritore adopting a more basic style of playing.

Another highlight is the powerful rendition of Weston’s “Sharecropper Blues”, which lays out the plight of a system that allows a man to work all year only to be left deeper in debt. Riley sings with the conviction of a man who understands the system all too well. Corritore once again manages to dazzle with his sensitive backing. The title track includes a raw-edged vocal from Riley and some mournful tones from Corritore’s harp on a Frost original that rejoices in life while acknowledging some of the tribulations that have been endured along the way.

“Let’s Get Together is propelled by Eddie Kobek on drums. Corritore flat-out wails on the harp and Gray contributes another superb piano part. The disc closes with “Automobile”, with Gray, James and Gray trading licks behind another strong Riley vocal. It is a fitting close to a project that expertly captures a style of blues music that is rarely heard anymore. This is the real deal – songs that take an unflinching look at life, played by musicians who have lived the life and are still here to make beautiful music that addresses the human condition as only the best blues music can. Highly recommended !!!

Forty Four: A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Forty Four: A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf
Motor City Josh
13 tracks/48:37

Motor City Josh has just released " Forty Four: A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf". Josh Ford is a 35 year old Blues singer-guitarist who started his music career in Detroit. After 10 years there he moved to Atlanta, then Chicago and now has returned to Detroit. Since 1987, he has performed in the U.S. and Europe. He also has recorded nine self produced cd's, the latest being "Forty Four A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf". During his career, Josh has played with many blues artist including Buddy Guy, Delbert McClinton, Tinsley Ellis, Rockford Illinois’ own Cheap Trick and many others. Besides having his band, Josh is also an acoustic solo performer.

"Forty Four" features 13 of Josh's favorite Howlin' Wolf tunes. Of these choices, 9 were written by Willie Dixon for Howlin' Wolf. Chester Arthur Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) wrote "Forty Four", "Smokestack Lightning" and "Sitting On Top Of The World".St. Louis Jimmy’s Goin' Down Slow rounds out the set.

Josh's band includes himself on guitar, vocals and tambourine, Johnny Rhoades on guitar, Chris Douglas on standup and electric bass, Justin Headly on drums and Shawn McDonald on piano and organ. Joining him with backup vocals are Johnny Rhoades, Stacia Ford,and Eric Savage. Josh has surrounded himself with a fine blues band. A special added bonus on this CD is Jason Ricci on harmonica, courtesy of Delta Groove Productions.

Josh opens the recording with the title track "Forty Four". Although the the crude roughness of of Howlin' Wolf is not present, Josh's rendition is really good. He brings with him a Wolf like vocal of his own. Fourteen years of singing and smoking has brought this quality to his vocals. This is all good for me.

"Back Door Man" featuring Jason Ricci is an outstanding track on "Forty Four". It was real a treat to hear Jason doing his true blues style. Josh does a fine job on this tune and Jason adds the highlight to a great Howlin' Wolf tune.

Josh's goal with "Forty Four A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf" is to pay tribute to Howlin' Wolf and the songs he sang. To me he has done this well. If you are looking for a Howlin' Wolf clone or copycat do not look at "Forty Four" for it. Motor City Josh has do a swell job of interpeting the Wolf's music and showcasing his own talent on this tribute.