Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Levee Town reviewed by Steve Jones

Levee Town
Levee Town
14 tracks

What do you get when you make a band that is one part Crisco-dripping fried chicken Southside Chicago blues, one part channelers of the Stray Cats, one part British invasion rock and roll, with a little Freddie King thrown in for good measure? You get a band from Kansas City called Levee Town , who plays high energy blues and rock with reckless abandon! They were 2007 and 2010 finalists at the IBC; these guys play some great blues on their third CD offering. The band features Brandon Hudspeth on guitar and vocals, Jacque Garoutte on bass and vocals, Jimmie Meade on harmonica and vocals, and Jan Faircloth on drums and vocals. They also occasionally add in Mike Sedovic on keys for a little more spice and flair. These guys are a tight little group and play some darn good music.

This band’s namesake CD is their third and features fourteen original cuts written and laid down here by the band. The songs often hearken back to the sounds of dark little Southside blues clubs and the old rockabilly songs played on AM radio, but with a new edge to them. The guys also really write some interesting lyrics to their songs. They open with a bouncy rocking track called “I’m Not Broke” with the tag line, “I’m not broke but I’m badly bent” providing an amusing choral backdrop to this rocking tune. They transition to an upfront, slightly softer rocker in “Three Sides” where they tell us about how there are three sides to every story- hers, yours, and someone else’s (AKA the truth). The solos pick up quite a bit here, giving it some true grit. By the third track, “You Mean”, the full, greasy spread of Chicago blues is opened up for all to enjoy.

The songs these fellows have written for this CD often remind me of older sounds from the 50’s and early 60’s. “Chicken Truck”, the lone instrumental, “Rock Me Baby”, “Hullabaloo” and “Why Why Why” could all easily be songs readers who are around my age heard on AM radio growing up. That’s certainly not a bad thing, these songs would hold their own in any era.

If you like your blues rockabilly styled, this is an album you need to listen to. Sample some of their wares over on http://www.myspace.com/leveetown or over on CD Baby and you’ll see why this is a great band to listen to! Their gigs appear to be spread out between Missouri and Minnesota , with a couple of stops here and there further to the south in Illinois . They are well worth the time and effort to check out!

Full Moon Lightnin’ reviewed by Mark Thompson

Full Moon Lightnin’
Film by John C. Gardiner
Willow Tree Pictures
93 minutes
Soundtrack CD - 11 tracks/45:23

Now available on DVD, this documentary film takes the viewer deep into the lives of bluesman Floyd Lee and his musical partner, guitarist Joel Poluck. Starting out in New York City, we see the two musicians playing on the street and drawing a large crowd, some of whom can’t help but dance to the insistent rhythm.

As we learn more about Lee, it’s revealed that he left Mississippi sixty years earlier after dealing with a number of hardships, including being abandoned by his mother. Now 73 years old, Lee wants to take a trip back to the delta to see if he can locate any of his remaining siblings or other relatives. He is filled with a longing to have some semblance of a family’s love that has been missing for decades in his life. The difficulty in the search is that Lee has only his memories of people and places from his childhood to guide him.

Poluck and bass player, Brad Vickers, are ready to take the trip with Lee and help him reconnect with family. The band - including drummer Steve Pozzelanti - have been working on new material in the recording studio after a two year break. But Poluck gets blindsided before the trip can get started when the love of his life, Nella, is diagnosed with cancer. From this point the film tracks two divergent paths as Lee seeks a future that includes his past - and Poluck struggles to hold on to his world that is suddenly spinning out of control.

The musicians make the trip and are able to find the spot where Lee grew up, near Lamar, Mississippi. Lee remembers the various buildings and details of the landscape but is a bit shocked to discover his mother’s house no longer exists. On a second trip six months later, the group meets with legendary drummer Sam Carr, hoping this long time resident of the area can assist in locating Lee’s relatives. Carr and Lee share some biting remarks on the economy fueled by cotton. Eventually Lee locates a log-lost cousin and their joyous reunion ends up with the two men singing a gospel tune out on the street. Another moving moment occurs when Lee meets two of his brothers at the cemetery where their mother is buried. Lee’s excitement is tempered a bit when they are unable to locate the exact spot of their mother’s grave. Later he is introduced to his brothers families and finds himself surrounded for the first time with the love he has been yearning for so long. As Lee’s dream comes true, Poluck suffers the loss of his beloved Nella.

The two men are a study in contrasts - Lee the aging black bluesman whose emotions are always bubbling just under the surface, suddenly bursting forth as the sadness or joy overcomes him. His protégé, Poluck, is the soft-spoken, stoic Canadian who tries to help Lee while caring for Nella, the whole time keeping his emotions bottled up. One poignant scene was filmed during the second day of recording in a Brooklyn studio. While working on Lee’s vocal part for Poluck’s original tune “Can’t You See’, Lee is suddenly overcome with emotion, blurting out “That shit hurts ” and walking out of the studio to regain his composure, leaving Poluck to visibly struggle to hold himself together.

The companion audio disc included with this package contains full-length versions of material from the film, including an intense studio version of “Mean Blues”. The film has a live performance of the song from Lee’s appearance at the Sunflower Blues Festival. Another musical highlight is a clip of the band at Po’ Monkeys, one of the last of the original juke joints. Both segments feature Sam Carr on drums.

Don’t think for a minute that this film is another feel-good Hollywood story. While the project started out focusing on Lee’s search for his past, reality forced it’s way into the storyline with Nella’s illness. One can only imagine the effort it took for Poluck to juggle the recording schedule, the planning of Lee’s trip, writing new material, making the journey to Mississippi - all while doing everything he can for Nella. In a movie about musicians, the music takes a back seat to the drama that touches the lives of everyone involved in this moving narrative, a tale that is a stark reminder of the blues is all about.

Just for You reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Just for You
Darrell Nulisch
Severn Records
10 tracks/37:55

Darrell Nulisch has just released "Just for You", his fourth recording for Severn Records. Darrell has been a full time singer since 1978. He was a full time member of Ansonfunderburg and the Rockets. "The Whole Truth" his first cd for Severn Records came out in 1998.

Of the ten songs on "Just for You", Darrell wrote six of them. Besides being a good song writer and harmonica player, his main attribute is his great vocal talent. His voice is his main instrument on this recording, setting the stage for some fine easy listening. His vocal range can be sometimes gritty and raw, bluesy, gentle or big and booming. He has great dynamics in his vocal range. He puts a lot of himself into his lyrics and presents them to us with feeling and meaning.

The band on "Just for You" features the so-called house band of Severn Records. It is a great mix of talented musicians. The keyboard style of Benjie Porecki really is animated and stands out to be a really great addition to the recording. Johnny Moeller, of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, brings his very impressive guitar skills to the project. He also adds a reggae influence to "Let a Women be a Women". With the addition of Steve Gomes on the bass Robb Stupka on drums, a full horn section and some fine background singers Darrel has an awesome band to compliment his vocals and lyrics. This is a really good mix!

Darrell's take on, Slim Harpo's, "Just for You" is a good example of his ability to take a song and make it his own. He uses great phrasing and his vocals keep a heart felt tone to them. Also on "Just for You' we are treated to some of Darrell's harmonica skills. He has a true Slim Harpo - Lazy Lester quality about him without just being a harp clone. Adding the horn section to this tune with his harp playing makes it a very bluesy sounding track.

"Let a Women be a Women", written by Nulisch and Gomes, is one of the most upbeat tunes of the cd. The keyboard playing of Benjie Porecki is featured a lot here. Good stuff it is. Johnny Moeller also has a standout guitar solo that brings a reggae style to the tune. This could be one of my favorite tunes of the cd.

"Just for You", to me, may not be an all out blues CD. It leans more to the soul - rhythm and blue side a bunch but it still ends up to be bluesy in a good way. This is not a bad thing to have happen. Darrell Nulisch is an absolute pure vocalist. He can go from subtle to powerful and back without effort. He brings great phrasing, meaning and feeling to his lyrics. This is all good.

"Just for You" is a fairly short recording, just about 38 minutes; it is filled with quality presentation. Not being a big horn band fan, I must say that I still found this CD to get me attention in a good way. It is very easy to listen to and enjoy!

American Songster reviewed by Steve Jones

American Songster
Don Flemons
Music Maker
15 tracks/

No one plays roots music quite like Don Flemons. He delivers performances that are accurate, authentic, moving and quite fun to listen to. Flemons is quickly becoming an icon in blues and folk music. His band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has received much acclaim after performing hundreds of show worldwide and features Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson along with Flemons. The brand of roots music he and the band perform gives us a very fresh and updated take on the music that has been performed in the back woods and fields of America for hundreds of years.

This solo CD features Flemons doing 12 covers, 2 of his own songs and a cut by band mate Robinson. Featuring three songs by his musical hero Henry Thomas, a couple of Leadbelly cuts and an assortment of other goodies to delight the root music fan, the music transports the listener to a simpler time.

I saw Flemons and the Chocolate Drops most recently at the Old Town School of Music in Chicago. They are superb performers and uniquely talented individuals who can take jugs and kazoos and make sounds that the listener just marvels over. Their banjo and guitar work is exceptional. Flemons also adds bones, quills, fife and the bass drum to the music, giving it an old fashioned and realistic sound.

Whether it is a field holler-styled song, a dancing tune, or a ballad, Flemon’s vocals are impeccable as is his instrument work; this includes the quills (sort of an African pan flute). One has to marvel at the depth and extent of the man’s formidable talents. There are 15 fantastic tracks on this CD that will give listeners an idea of what music was like early in America’s history in old mountain towns and on he porches of homes on quiet back roads. He is a master at his craft, and every new song I hear from Don further impresses me. Roots music fans certainly need to get this CD and anyone with even the slightest interest in roots music and folk blues should buy this. It will not disappoint you and may even turn you into a big fan of roots music!

Voice of the Heart reviewed by Steve Jones

Voice of the Heart
The CSL Jr. Band
Lancaster Records (Self Released)
10 tracks/

I was wandering through MySpace Music and stumbled upon The CSL Jr. Band. I listened to them on My Space and liked them, so we swapped amenities on line and a few days later a CD appeared in my mailbox. These guys play a hard driving brand of blues based rock that remind me a little of ZZ Top, the early Marshall Tucker Band, and others of that genre. Hailing from Sedalia in the Show-Me State, these guys have laid down ten original tracks that really impressed me. They are not a bunch of guys sitting in their garage or basement trying to sound like someone else and playing a bunch of covers. They are creating new music based on their influences and likes and they have done a pretty damn good job of it.

Greg Lefholz fronts the band as vocalist and he also contributed to the track “Coup DeVill”. His gritty and gut-wrenching vocals are super. Chuck Lancaster leads on guitar and had his pen in at least part of every track’s composition. Les Gifford play bass and Carl Michael is on drums, both providing a driving backdrop to the tunes. Jamey Shepherd is also on guitar and has credits involving four of the songs. The songs have the sound of the big, gnarly jam bands but the songs range from 2:41 to just over 5 minutes, so there is nothing overdone or overstated here. They present their songs in your face and when they are done they move on to the next track without getting lost in endless repeats without getting into so many differing takes on the chords and melody. I’m sure these guys could turn some tracks into 15 or minute jam sessions, but they have created some really nice songs and not just a means to jam. I don’t have a problem with jam bands, but some of them get lost in trying to prove something and miss the forest for the trees. These guys have created music within bounds and they deliver the goods within those bounds.

The first cut opens with a driving beat as they give us “Big as TX”. It is a big and bouncing song and they do “play it big as Texas”. “All In” and “Coup DeVill” later on are similar, bigger than life, driving, almost rockabilly songs with the dual guitars banging out a groove and alternating the solos/leads. They can wail when they want to, but they are not afraid to let it hang out acoustically. In “Hangman” they get down and dirty into the blues and give us some acoustic guitar mixed in along with a little slide; it is quite well done with gutsy vocals and beautiful guitar work. The CD is filled with little gems of good stuff; “New Loving” adds a little harp and is a full fledged deep in the blues number that is one of the CD’s real stand outs.

“Bluezin It” is a wicked guitar instrumental that features some stratospheric fret work by Lancaster. They also close out the album with another guitar-led instrumental entitled “Mason”. A simmering and slow southern blues rock with the rhythm guitar paralleling some of the stuff and filling in ever so nicely the rest of the time. As the song fades into the distance, it leaves me wanting to hear more of these guys. I hope I can catch up with them somewhere in the New Year and listen to these guys live; they have a hot CD with some great songs that really deserve that you give them a listen!

Falling Through the Cracks reviewed by Mark Thompson

Falling Through the Cracks
Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones
Mighty Tiger Records
15 tracks/70:46

It has been seven years since guitarist Doug Deming released his first Mighty Tiger recording, Double Down. During that time, he and the Jewel Tones have been playing dates in the Detroit area as well as backing a variety of well-known blues musicians. If you can judge a musician by the friends that appear on his recording, Deming is held in high esteem. Guests include Kim Wilson and Dennis Gruenling on harmonica, the veteran Bill Heid on keyboards for five tracks and Al Hill, leader of Bettye Lavette’s band, on piano on one cut. The Jewel Tones - Bob Connor on bass and Julian VanSlyke on drums - provide in-the-pocket accompaniment throughout the recording.

The proceedings get off to a rockin’ start with “Tonight is the Night”. Deming’s vocal is strong and assured - his voice has grown richer and more powerful. Dennis Gruenling ignites the track with a mesmerizing harp solo. Not to be outdone, Deming fires off his own incendiary solo, alternating thick chords with rapid single note runs on his guitar. Things slow way down on the title track as Deming pleads with his lover not to give up on their relationship. His taut, biting fretwork brings to mind the late Magic Sam. Wilson contributes his usual stellar harp work on the up-tempo “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” with Deming adding one of Magic Sam’s signature licks in his solo. Heid makes his first appearance on “You’ve Changed”, burning up the keyboard on his Hammond organ over a cool shuffle rhythm from VanSlyke.

The band slips into a tough Chicago sound for “Only Time Will Tell”. Doug gets a gritty tone from his guitar, Hill’s piano fills the arrangement and Wilson takes honors for another inventive harp workout. “East Side Hop” is a jump blues instrumental that has Gruenling, Deming and VanSlyke trading solos after a hot, swinging solo from Doug that amply demonstrates how talented a guitar player he is. Gruenling wails away on his harp over a shuffle groove on “Whisper”. The following track, “I Can’t Believe My Eyes”, is a Texas-style rocker that sounds like a lost Fabulous Thunderbirds tune, with Kim Wilson on board for added authenticity. The closing number, the instrumental “Heiding Out”, is a funky jazz piece with Heid again commandeering the Hammond organ, at one point holding a note for several measures before erupting into a dazzling run across the keyboard.

Three tracks feature a horn section comprised of Keith Kaminski on saxophones, Dwight Adams on trumpet and John Rutherford on trombone. On “It Was the Wine” , Deming’s guitar tone and attack bring to mind Johnny Watson. The horns serve as a nice contrast to Deming’s sensitive vocal on the ballad “Every Night About This Time”. Deming gets a cool, swinging feel on “No Sense”, a tale of a hipster living beyond his means that features a hot solo from Kaminski on tenor sax.

One song - “Don’t Worry Me” - has two parts with radically different approaches on each version. The initial run-through is taken at a fast tempo with Dave Morris, formerly of Microwave Dave & the Ultrasonic, on harmonica trading licks with Deming’s guitar. The second version recasts the tune in a slow, blues vein with Wilson’s harp the only backing for Deming. They go deep into the blues, Wilson’s mournful harp tones and Deming’s dark vocal making this track a special performance.

This package makes it clear that Doug Deming is a multi-faceted musician with talents that extends beyond his instrumental prowess. He served as the producer for this project, wrote all of the material and did the horn arrangements, expertly mixing styles , tempos and guitar tones into a coherent package that delights from start to finish. This one is highly recommended !!!

Bottle Tree reviewed by Mark Thompson

Bottle Tree
Virgil Brawley
Circle J Records
11 tracks/38:39

Virgil “Big Juv” Brawley hails from Mississippi and is a member of the Juvenators, whose recordings have received praise from Crossroads reviewers. This release is his first solo project, featuring a batch of original tunes and three covers. Brawley has one of those soulful voices that oozes that backroads, country feel that can only come from living the life. And he is a talented guitarist, utilizing a variety of instruments on this project.

It wouldn’t be a blues record without at least one tune lamenting a lost love - and the disc starts off with some humor as Brawley promises to show the world his feelings about being left alone by painting his “White House Blue”. Jimmy Jarrat provides a boost with some fine work on the piano. Jarrat makes one other appearance on piano and Hammond organ on “Solid Ground”, with Brawley’s heartfelt vocal making this one of the highlights of the disc. “Little Susie” is pure acoustic, country blues with Brawley on slide guitar and Steve Chester picking out a strong rhythm on acoustic guitar. Brawley switches to the country gospel style on ”Fish Tale”, a song that relates the biblical tales that examines the disciple Peter’s relationship with Jesus.

Brawley continues in the gospel vein on “Walking Through Eden”. seeking redemption from life’s troubles before the inevitable judgment day. Chris Gill helps create a walking-past -the-graveyard feel with his slide work a National Triolian Resophonic guitar. The final track on the disc is a solo rendering of Lightnin’ Hopkins classic “Needed Time”, with Brawley using a dobro to support his world-weary vocal. “Eudora’s Jitney” is pure country as Brawley uses the evolution of the local country store as a metaphor for our rapidly changing world.

The spirit world is addressed in the title track as Brawley tells about discovering a bottle tree, used to captured evil spirits. Brawley decides to start his own tree but first he has to empty some bottles, creating a battle with spirits of a different nature as he hopes the “dead soldiers” won’t prove to be his undoing. Brawley handles two guitar parts, one on a resonator and the other on slide, to create the appropriate atmosphere. The rhythm section of Tyler Bridge on bass and Ted Gainey on drums lay down a strong foundation.

“Delta Woman Blues” is a Tampa Red composition that Brawley handles on his own, picking the rhythm on an acoustic guitar and overdubbing the slide guitar lead past. He lays the guitar down in favor of a bass drum for Muddy Water’s “Louisiana Blues”. The spotlight shifts to Gill, playing slide on his National Resophonic with support from Louie Munn on acoustic guitar.

This release shows that “Big Juv” has a deep understanding of the blues idiom. He eschews the raging guitar solos and pounding beats, opting for a simpler approach that focuses on the storytelling, not the musicians. The fact that this recording was selected as one of the twelve finalists for this year’s Best Self-Produced CD award from the Blues Foundation is ample proof that he succeeded on a number of levels. Be sure to check this one out the next time you want some honest, down-home blues.

Doctors, Devils & Drugs reviewed by Mark Thompson

Doctors, Devils & Drugs
Floyd Lee Band
Amogla Records
9 tracks/36:27

The recording sessions for this disc were an integral part of the documentary film, Full Moon Lightnin’ (see page 11). Five of the tracks are included on the audio soundtrack disc that is packaged with the DVD version of the film. Guitarist Joel Poluck wrote all of the songs, sharing co-writer credit on one, as well as serving as the producer. Leader Floyd Lee handles all of the vocals, Brad Vickers plays bass and acoustic guitar with Steve Pozzelanti on drums and washboard.

Many of Poluck’s tunes deal with his emotional turmoil during his partner Nella’s losing battle with cancer. His music is rooted in the blues tradition of the Mississippi hill country, Lee’s birthplace. But there is also an edge to the band’s sound, particularly when Poluck is playing slide on his lap steel guitar. Lee has a powerful and expressive voice that can be heard over the surging band as well as handling more delicate phrasing when called for, as on the acoustic rendition of “Bird With a Broken Wing”. Other highlights include “Blues is a Beautiful Woman”, with Lee singing and moaning with authority - and the opening cut, “Empty Well”, as Poluck seems to try to exorcise all of his demons through his lap steel guitar. “Nella” is a brief, touching tribute to Poluck’s lost love.

This recording stands on it’s own merits but certainly takes on several additional layers of meaning if listeners have viewed the film, which provides a stark look at Lee and Poluck’s struggles to deal with the vicissitudes of life. Both men cling to healing power that music offers them and both manage to find their way through the heartache and pain by sharing it with the rest of us on this recording.

The French Connection by Rick Davis

The French Connection
Zora Young
Delmark Records
14 Tracks

In my estimation Delmark has found the new "Queen Of The Blues"! Zora Young a very talented Chicago blues and gospel singer recently released an electric/acoustic/live CD titled The French Connection.

Young, who is a distant relative of Howlin' Wolf, moved from West Point, Mississippi to Chicago at the age of seven and got her start as gospel singer at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church. As an adult, she ventured into the R&B music scene, playing with blues greats Junior Wells, Jimmy Dawkins, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Professor Eddie Lusk, and B. B. King. She has a list of collaboration on albums with artists like Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim, Mississippi Heat, Paul DeLay, and Maurice John Vaughan.

Young has also performed on both the live stage and television. As veteran of more than 30 tours of Europe, Zora has been a featured performer three times at the Chicago Blues Festival. She has performed concerts throughout North America, and on stages in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Greece, Austria, Tai Pei, and Turkey.

The French Connection is her third cd with Delmark Records. The successful completion of the CD is due in part to producer Chris Dussuchaud and musical director Bobby Dirninger who assembled three different bands for three different sounds. She opens with the funky electric tune penned by producer Dick Shurman "I'm In Love With You". Following the opening track, she sings Sunnyland Slim's "Goin' Back To Memphis". The first live cut is a superb tribute to the late great Koko Taylor, with Willie Dixon's tune "Wang Dang Doodle". Her power blues voice is evident in Dirninger's original "I'm In Love With You". She is backed by some of best guitar and Hammond B-3 instrumentals that I have heard on recent CD. The next live cut features an incredible slide guitar solo in the Muddy Water's Mississippi delta style tune "Honey Bee". Zora's voice is absolutely perfect in this rendition that Muddy would be certainly be proud to hear. Young follows with Bob Dylan's country blues number "Tonight I'll be Staying With You" which she does as duet with Bobby Dirninger. Her gospel roots are evident in the traditional "A Closer Walk With Thee". Young's voice in Ma Rainy's "See See Rider" blends well with the core of professional musicians surrounding her. Her next tune begins with dialogue leading into the Mac Davis/Elvis Presley hit "In The Ghetto". The next tune in this showcase of music is the hit "Mystery Train" a song written by Junior Parker and Sam Phillips. The next live tune is an incredible rendition of a Hank Snow's hit "I'm Movin' On". This version has arrangement for horns, piano, and a flawless guitar solo. Back to back live cuts feature Young's own song "Toxic" displaying the real "power" of her blues voice. This number features one of best trumpet solos that I have heard on a blues cut with Olivier Bridot on trumpet. The cd concludes with a second acoustic version of "Goin' Back To Memphis" followed a live performance of the B.B. King / Joe Josea hit "Rock Me". This last song alone will convince any blues lover that this lady could indeed be the new "Queen of The Blues".

If you need a first class collection of blues, gospel, soul, Mississippi Blues, and country blues, this cd is must for any collection. A famous quote comes to mind after listening to this cd - "If you don't dig the blues you got a hole in your soul"... Albert King.

Boogie Woogie Kings reviewed by Rick Davis

Boogie Woogie Kings
Various Artists
Delmark Records
19 Tracks

Boogie Woogie Kings is a collection of traditional boogie woogie piano masters of the day from Jazz Reports Paul Affeldt's Euphonic Sounds label. The CD offers a combination of barrelhouse boogie and early swing starting as early as 1939. Picture yourself walking into the famous Sherman Hotel in Chicago for a nostalgic look at some of famous boogie woogie kings of the late 30's. Seated a piano is the incredible Albert Ammons playing "Pinetop Blues".

The album starts with Albert Ammons in Chicago October 4, 1939 playing "Pinetop Blues". Boogie Woogie Kings continues with Pete Johnson pounding out "G-Flat Blues" in Chicago September 30, 1939.

This collection contains several of "Cripple" Clarence Lofton tunes recorded sometime between '38 and '39 in Chicago. Among those historic recordings are "Streamline Train", "Pitchin' Boogie", "Mistaken Blues", "Travlin' Blues", "I Don't Know", and "Mercy Blues". Lofton's vocals are featured on "Streamline Train" and "I Don't Know". The next boogie woogie king featured is Meade Lewis playing his tunes "Doll House Boogie" and "Whistlin' Blues".

In addition to the early Chicago recordings, this trip into the past takes you to St. Louis with Henry Brown and his boogie woogie tunes "Deep Morgan", "22nd Street Stomp", and "Pickin' Em Out Again" late August, 1960. Blues piano legend Speckled Red follows in late December, 1955 with great tunes like "Dirty Dozens", "Dad's Piece", "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" (Clarence "Pinetop" Smith), and "Right String But The Wrong Yo Yo". Speckled Red was the first bluesman to record for Delmark Records.

This CD of historic boogie woogie piano classics concludes back in Chicago with legends Ammons, Johnson, and Lewis rockin' out with "Boogie Woogie Prayer" and Meade Lux Lewis wrapping up with "Closing Time". If you are big fan of the piano style popular in the early 1930s and 1940s known a boogie woogie, which was a important chapter in blues roots, Delmark's new collection needs to be on your list.

Pale Rider reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Pale Rider
The Hitman Blues Band
Nerus Records
12 Tracks/47:43

Having never heard of The Hitman Blues Band, I did not know what to expect when I first listened to "Pale Rider". I was pleasantly surprised from the start. Russell "Hitman" Alexander has released four albums since 2001. One was recorded live on stage and the others in the studio. The Hitman Blues Band traveled to the UK in 2004 and has toured there three more times since. In 2008 they toured Europe. They are booked as a blues - rocker type band.

The Hitman's band members vary while on tour except for the leader, Russell Alexander. Russell has also written most of the songs on the albums released. The band for “Pale Rider” consists of Russell Alexander on guitar and lead vocals, Kevin Ryman on keyboards, Mike Porter on bass and Ed "The Hat" D'Alesso on the drum set. This is a real solid mix for a blues band.

"Your Blues" sets the stage for this recording. It is an up tempo solid blues tune. Featured on this song are the Hitman's gritty vocals, his solid guitar licks and lyrics that tell a story. It is all about "Blues in the night”, “your man's no good", “your woman let you down", "the rent is overdue”,” times are good” and "times are hard." But in the end it all comes down to the fact that the band will "Before this night is done we're going to play your blues". Good tune it is, enough said.

"I Know About The Blues", is a slower paced blues tune. This song showcases some fine slide guitar work from Russell and a steady drum line from Ed "The Hat" D'Alessio.This song also has great lyrics. It seems to me that the Hitman is correct when he states "I Know About The Blues".

On the tune "Miss Catherine", we see a different side of The Hitman Blues Band. Joining the band on this track are a piano, a clarinet, a tuba and a guitar solo from Mike Mulieri. "Miss Catherine" has a Mose Allison, Dr. John swing type sound to it. Russell Alexander's lyrics make you think on this track. One is left to wonder who is or what is this "Miss Catherine?"

This latest release on Nerus Records is a solid, refreshing blues CD. With the bands rock - blues style, Russell "Hitman" Alexander's gritty guitar licks, throaty vocals, blues lyrics and a fine band backing him up we are given a recording that is easy to listen to, keeps your attention and one that you will also remember.