Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Mathematics of Love reviewed by Mark Thompson

The Mathematics of Love
Peter Parcek
Redstar Entertainment/Vizztone
10 tracks/46:52

Based out of Boston, Peter Parcek bursts onto the blues scene with a recording that showcases his guitar virtuosity. Opening with Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues”, he delivers a non-stop flow of amazing picking engulfed in a variety of tasty guitar tones. Parcek spent time in London during the 60’s and was able to see many of the British guitar heroes like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Green live on stage. On his return to the US, Parcek got serious about learning his instrument. He has played around the Boston area, serving a stint in Nine Below Zero and also as bandleader for Pinetop Perkins, appearing on the legendary piano player’s On Top recording.

“Showbiz Blues” opens with an unaccompanied solo slide guitar passage from the leader before Steve Scully on bass and Marc Hickox on drums join the mix, pushing the energy level up several notches. Parcek’s slide dances up and down the fretboard, his hands picking out a furious pattern of notes. At one point, producer Ted Drozdowski employs the retro studio technique of panning the guitar track back and forth between the two channels. The title track slows the pace as Parcek utilizes an acoustic slide guitar to punctuate his brooding description of a failing love affair. Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy” is taken at a solemn pace, befitting a message with plenty of relevance in the world today. Parcek foregoes the slide and plays a lengthy solo at the end of the track that steadily builds in intensity while offering another view of Parcek guitar skills.

Parcek shows off his skills as a guitarist on three instrumental tracks. “Rollin’ with Zah” employs some effects pedals, a “chicken-picking” riff plus some fast and furious guitar lines on this high-speed romp. Lucinda Williams wrote “Get Right with God” and Parcek uses the song for more of his rapid-fire guitar runs. The pace slows for a run-through of “Busted”, the Ray Charles classic. With Al Kooper sitting in on organ, Parcek plays the original melody line before turning it inside out in with another sampling of his prodigious talent.

“Tears Like Diamonds” is a Parcek original that ruminates on the effects of lost love with his soft, gentle vocal sounding like a man in pain. The band kicks things into another gear on “Kokomo Me Baby”. Parcek sings with a harder edge and he unleashes an energetic solo passage that finds his hands flying up and down the guitar neck in another staggering display of his abilities. The closing track finds the leader back on acoustic guitar to open “Evolution”, then adding his electric guitar to the mix on Cousin Joe Pleasants ode to a cheating woman.
Based on the evidence on this disc, there is no denying that Peter Parcek is superb guitar player and a fine singer. While his playing may get a bit too frantic for some listeners, most will just sit back and enjoy this exciting package of great material and outstanding instrumental work.

Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story reviewed by Mark Thompson

Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story
Author – George Lipsitz
University of Minnesota Press
244 pages including notes

Johnny Otis is a familiar name to blues fans. As a musician, Otis had a huge hit in 1958 with the classic “Willie and the Hand Jive” featuring the famed drummer Earl Palmer and a guitar riff from Jimmy Nolen that, to this day, never fails to fill the dance floor. Otis had an extensive recording career with bands that featured many notable musicians, too numerous to list. And while he never had another hit on the scale of “Hand Jive”, he cut plenty of tracks that embodied the best traits of burgeoning rhythm & blues genre.

But as this book points out, Otis really is a modern-day Renaissance man with a mind-boggling list of interests from all aspects of the human existence. At various points in his life, Otis was a talent scout, a minister with his own church, hosted a long running radio program, a politician, a farmer, award-winning artist, author & writer, club owner and a record producer in addition to his duties as a loving father.

The truly unique part of the Otis story is that he was born to Greek immigrant parents, grew up in a mixed neighborhood and became such an admirer of black culture that he lived his life as a black man, able to pass as a light-skinned African-American due to his olive skin tone. Otis fought against racial injustice all of his life, even from his mother who rejected Johnny’s beautiful Afro-Filipina wife, Phyllis, without explanation for nearly twenty years. In the introduction, the author does a marvelous job integrating the various threads of Otis life in his reactions to the1965 Watts riots, which Otis viewed first hand. Several people recognized the musician when he arrived at the center of the riot and helped get him out of harm’s way.

Given that Lipsitz is a professor of black studies and sociology at the University of California, it is not a surprise that racism and the black experience in the last century figure prominently in the narrative. At times it seems Lipsitz is repeatedly returning to certain material and ideas, which pulls your focus away from the Otis story. And yet the two storylines are irrevocably intertwined. If you want to understand Johnny Otis, you need to know black history and have a basic under-standing of the black experience.

Otis discovered, mentored or promoted many outstanding musicians and singers, including Big Mama Thornton, Little Ester Phillips, Barbara Morrison, Etta James and Frank Zappa, who grew his moustache in tribute to Otis. One humorous tale in the book describes Otis developing L’il Julian Herrera as a singer and then producing his first record, “Lonely Lonely Nights”, which was a huge hit in the Chicano market. Later Otis discovers that Julian is really Ron Gregory who is, as Lipsitz writes, “…a Hungarian American Jew who thought of himself as Chicano singing black music in a band run by an ethnic Greek who thought of himself as black!” In 1970, Otis staged his legendary concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival featuring a roster of R&B legends including Little Esther, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Pee Wee Crayton, Roy Milton and Joe Turner. The resulting two-album release of highlights from the show revived the careers of most of the participants.

One gauge of a man’s legacy is the recognition of his peers. Johnny Otis has been honored with spots in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame plus the Blues Hall of Fame. This biography provides you with a deeper look at a man who helped shaped the music we listen to today, a man who never stopped exploring the world around him and never stopped fighting for justice and equality. His life should be an inspiration to all of us.

Testify! reviewed by Mark Thompson

Rocky Jackson
High Life Records
13 tracks/71:17

Originally from Texas, guitarist Rocky Jackson has been plying his trade in the L.A. area for the last 30 years. After a lengthy stint as a member of the Magic Blues Band, he has fronted his own band, the Igniters, and released several recordings. His newest project features eight original tunes and five covers that are associated with some of Jackson’s major blues influences. Backed is supplied by his regular band consisting of Eliot Witherspoon on drums and Joel T. Johnson on bass guitar. Michael Fell adds harmonica to five tracks and Hank Van Sickle takes over on bass on one cut.

As a songwriter, Jackson manages to avoid pitfalls like simplistic lyrics and over-used chord progressions to fashion a strong batch of tunes. “Voodoo Spell” describes an enchanting woman who brought the author to his knees. He praises his woman on “I Wanna Testify (About My Baby)”, a shuffle with Jackson showcasing his soulful voice. “Shoulda Never Left Texas” is a slow blues track that gives Jackson plenty of space for his dynamic guitar work. Another highlight is the acoustic “Chicken-Legged Woman”, with Jackson playing solo with two different guitars on separate tracks in support of his gritty vocal. He adopts a heavier beat for “In the Doghouse Now”, which is reminiscent of material cut early in Johnny Winter’s career.

“I Just Want to Make Love to You” opens the disc with Jackson singing with a raw edge but the cut fails to excite despite some strong guitar work. His version of “Stop Breakin’ Down” fares better with Jackson’s slide guitar playing off Fell’s full harmonica tones. Another cover, “Early in the Morning”, finds Jackson paying tribute to the Chicago blues tradition with Fell wailing away on the harp. The band rocks hard on Jimmy Reed’s “Don’t Say Nothin’ ” while Jackson and Fell both shine once again on “Long Distance Call”, with some quality slide guitar from Jackson.

The disc closes with a slide guitar rave-up on “L.A. to Austin” as Jackson shouts out the description of the trials and tribulations of a road trip back home. It is an apt ending for a recording that doesn’t offer any revelations other than the fact that Rocky Jackson is a talented and versatile musician. He has crafted a solid disc that impresses with his talent as a guitarist and singer on a diverse program that holds your attention as it blends the boogie roots from Texas and the electric Chicago style. Guitar fans will certainly find plenty to appreciate !!!

Back Around Here reviewed by Steve Jones

Back Around Here
Rob Stone
Earwig Music Company, Inc.
12 tracks

Rob Stone is the real deal. I have heard him on many other albums and here we finally see him out in front with a new CD for the first time in seven years. Rob wrote 8 new songs and presents 4 older tunes here; he’s done a fantastic job. His smooth vocals and powerfully expressive harp make him my favorite current artist in the Earwig stable of fine musicians.

Joining Rob are guitarist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn, his longtime C-Notes band mates. Also making appearances are pianist David Maxwell, drummers Sam Lay, Willie Hayes, and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and saxist Rodney Brown,a veritable all-star lineup. Stone has grown so much from being a Chicago House of Blues regular and is truly one of the top harp men out there, but I am also equally impressed by his vocals.

The title track is a smooth, jumping and rocking guitar tune which contrasts the greasy harp blowing on the opener “You’re No Good For Me” where Stone gives a Little Walter styled effort. Slow blues like “Love You For Myself” are equally impressive; he sells each song with his strong vocals and harp along with an equally great backup band.

Maxwell give his all in great barrelhouse fashion on classic tracks like “Sloppy Drunk Blues” and in the new “Can’t Turn Back the Clock”, adding a superb sound to the mix. Evoking the soul of Lerpoy Carr or doing his own stuff appear to be right up Stone’s alley. The covers and new stuff both showcase why the “hardest working bluesman in Chicago” is a force to be reckoned with.

I’ve listened to all six of the new Earwig releases and I think this one is my favorite. They are all damn good CD’s, but Stone’s vocals really pushed this over the top; he croons his way to your heart on this album. It was a long wait to hear a new CD from this guy but after to listening to this it was almost worth the long wait. James and Rynn got a lot of props for their recent CD and their new one is up there, too, but Stone’s work is great and he’d got his buddies and other stars supporting him well. Don’t miss this one!

Stand Together reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Stand Together
Harper (Peter D. Harper)
Blind Pig Records
12 Tracks/47:45

Blind Pig Record’s release of Harper’s new CD, “Stand Together”, is unique to say the least. This is one different recording for me. This is his first release with his touring band, Midwest Kind, from Michigan. The album was self- produced by Peter D. Harper.

Harper is a fine songwriter, imaginative harmonica player and capable vocalist. With the addition of an Australian didgeridoo, some ear grabbing percussion background and a backing band we have a good line up for this music project. This recording is Harper’s third CD for Blind Pig Records.

Harper’s music has been received with welcoming arms around the world. This includes the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Austria, Germany and the United States. Harper has a large following in the United Kingdom.

“Stand Together” is Harper’s first recording that includes his touring band, Midwest Kind. This band is very capable of adding to and backing up Harper’s abilities. The standard band instruments, guitars, bass, organs, piano and some awesome percussion work are all a fine compliment to Harper’s vocals, harmonica skills and the captivating sounds of the didgeridoo (I just like that word).

Harper’s lyric writing skills are very apparent in all 12 songs on the record. His songs with titles such as “Love=Peace=Freedom”, “We Stand Together”, “You Know What You Got” and “Not My Brother” just let you know that Harper deals with real social issues.

“Weaker Man” is one my favorite tracks on “Stand Together”. Harper’s harp playing stands out for me on this tune. His style, to me, is John Popper based with real blues licks laced in. The low dull continuous humming of the didgeridoo is almost haunting.

I have had a hard time reviewing Harper’s “Stand Together” as a true blues recording. Saying that, I also have to say that, to me, this is a very good recording project. I enjoy the whole concept of Harper’s blending of rock, World music, roots, blues harmonica, the didgeridoo, some awesome percussions and a great backing band on this CD. The Harper’s uniqueness in his approach to music is very refreshing and is a step to blending music across the World together. You can check out more info on Harper at

Bucket List reviewed by Rick Davis

Bucket List
Julius Pittman & The Revival
Maeco (Self Released)
9 Tracks

Bucket List, the debut disc from Richmond, Virginia-based Julius Pittman & The Revival brings back the lost passionate soul sound of the 50's and 60's. Pittman has created a collection of hot-buttered soul, seasoned with funky R&B classics like that of Al Green (“Tired Of Being Alone”), Albert Collins (“A Good Fool Is Hard To Find”) and a pair from Jack Mack & The Heart Attack (“Don’t Need No Reason” and the soulful ”I’m Willing To Learn”). Pittman, who contributes electric piano and Hammond B3, wrote four of the disc’s nine tracks.

With a raw, gritty voice comparable to Brook Benton, James Brown, Otis Redding, or Al Green, Julius Pittman has assembled an all-star band including a horn section like nothing you have heard! The Julius Pittman & the Revival band lineup includes Julius Pittman on lead vocals and keyboards, Randy Moss on guitar, Audie Stanley on bass, Chris McIntyre on drums, John Stanley on tenor sax, Howard Smith on baritone and tenor sax and Dave Triplett on trumpet and flugelhorn.

"Sideshow" and "Part Time Lover", two of the songs written by Julius, are masterpiece quality, with both tunes showcasing what could be one of the best horn sections since Chicago, Tower of Power, or The Blues Brothers Band. Randy Moss is sensational on lead and rhythm guitar on both numbers. "Part Time Lover" has almost an island sound percussion intro, followed by that full bodied horn section. Pittman concludes the collection with his own "Love Came Out Of Nowhere" and "Love Changes Like The Weather" with his incredible soulful voice echoing though out the studio.

Be prepared to hit the dance floor after listening to this superb collection of reverberating funk and soul just like the classic retro R&B groups of the past. This is a cd that you simply will not stop playing over and over again.

Soul Rockin’ reviewed by Mark Thompson

Soul Rockin’
Hounds Tooth
Tweed Tone Records
10 tracks/33:30

The latest release from this group based out of Milwaukee, WI finds the line-up down to a quartet. After using several female singers, the lead vocal chores are now handled by Jared James Nichols and J.D. Optekar, both of whom play guitar as well. The rhythm section is in the capable hands of Bob Noll on bass and Jeff Oscarson on drums.

The program includes three covers and a batch of originals from Optekar, who displays a talent for songwriting. The title track opens with a guitar riff borrowed from the Ted Nugent playbook, with Nichols singing and laying down some searing guitar lines. He also dazzles on the opening cut, “Blues is the Truth”, a funky workout that finds Nichols contributing more of his impressive guitar picking. Another highlight is “Black Coffee”, the strongest of Optekar’s tunes. Guest Gabe Marchan turns in a passionate vocal and the twin guitar interplay adds lots of heat to this slow blues number.

The band burns through the Chuck Berry groove on Duke Robillard’s “Jumpin’ Rockin” Rhythm”, which features a blistering guitar solo. Nichols gets another showcase on the classic “Goin’ Down”. He turns a credible vocal but really shines on guitar, playing with energy and originality. “Me and My Guitar” comes from the Leon Russell songbook. Optekar gets a chance to show off his instrumental abilities.

Several tracks lose steam due to Optekar’s mannered approach to singing, as his voice isn’t always up to the demands of the material. Tracks like “Is It Real” or “Time to Burn” are musically strong with finer guitar playing but the singing falls short of packing a similar punch.

There is plenty to enjoy with this title. Nichols is already an a guitarist with plenty of technical skill and an original approach to playing that has marked him as a player worth watching. Some day you just might see him onstage at one of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads guitar festivals. Other strengths include Optekar’s songwriting, his strong guitar work and a rhythm section that handles everything thrown at them. This is definitely a band on the rise. If they can tighten things up in the vocal category, their next release will be a killer!!

Wild Cards reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Wild Cards
Al Miller
Delmark Records
14 Tracks/70:10

Al Miller’s CD, “Wild Cards”, has just been re-released by Delmark Records. Originally released in 1994, Wild Cards” was produced by Dave Specter. This recording is one that is well worthy of being available again for new and old blues fans to hear.

Al Miller may not be one of Delmark’s most known blues artist but after listening to “Wild Cards” you will realize that he should be. Miller is one heck of a harmonica player vocalist, guitarist as well as a fine songwriter.

Over the years Al Miller played with Johnny Young, The Durty Works, and Mike Bloomfield (to name a few). Miller semi-retired from music to do a “real” job and have a family.

“Wild Cards” has a very formidable list of players, this includes Willie Kent, Harlen Terson and Mike McCurdy taking turns on bass. There are also four vocalist included in the mix. Theses are Al Miller, Willie Kent, Tad Robinson and Steve Fruend. Joining the list of players are three awesome guitarist, Al Miller, Dave Specter and Steve Freund. When Ken Saydak is added on piano and organ, “Wild Cards” has a great line up of blues musicians! This CD’s list of fine players and singers make it a very unique recording. At the same time this fact makes it hard to review individually with limited time and space.

“Special Way” is a tune that showcases Al Miller’s vocals, harmonica playing, guitar licks as well as song writing ability. The harp playing gets your attention along with the piano playing of Ken Saydak. This is a good tune.

“Deal The Cards” features Willie Kent doing a fine job on vocals and bass. Al Miller’s harp solos are really enhanced by Dave Specter’s guitar playing on this track. This tune is a strong tune for this CD project.

I do have to give special mention to the instrumental track, “Blues For John Littlejohn”. The guitar playing of both Steve Freund and Dave Specter are showcased here. Both of the guitars play off of each other to the beat of Harlan Therson’s strong bass line. This is one of the best tracks on “Wild Cards”.

I hate not to mention all the fine players and tunes on the CD, take my word for it that Al Miller’s CD “Wild Cards” is a blues recording to be listened to.

Have Blues Will Travel reviewed by Rick Davis

Have Blues Will Travel
Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King
Alligator Records
12 Tracks

Growing up in the Dallas area, Smokin' Joe Kubek began playing in clubs at the age of 14. Influenced by Eric Clapton and Peter Green, he became interested in blues music and formed his first band. Shortly after, he played rhythm guitar with Freddie King until his death in 1976. He then recorded and performed with several artists before teaming up with singer/guitarist Bnois King, from Monroe, Louisiana, whose soulful vocals and jazz guitar style contrasted well with Kubek's more obtrusive finger and slide guitar techniques. Kubek, with his substantial arsenal of instruments, effects, and techniques, delivers a blues/rock guitar display that is tempered by the remarkable accompaniment of Bnois King's jazz influenced guitar. Kubek, coming from the Texas blues/rock background after playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Freddie King, and B.B. King, found Bnois King's smooth jazz guitar style a perfect complement to his technique. The combination just clicked with their seamless mesh of styles. Together this dynamic duo has recorded 13 Records.

Have Blues, Will Travel, their most recent release, is a magnificent collection of Texas roadhouse blues tunes, opening with the title track "Have Blues Will Travel", a blues number with a driving beat and a combination of Kubek's blistering blues/rock and intense slide guitar styles. The cd continues with pair of well executed numbers "Got You Out Of My Blood" and "Out of Body, Out of Mind" showing how well this duo compliments each other. The fourth tune "RU4 Real?", opens with a John Lee Hooker style continuing with Kubek taking charge with an intense solo, and continuing with a steady rhythm as King belts out lyrics about his latest female acquaintance. Kubek opens "Payday In America" with quite a slide introduction and continues that style throughout. "Shadows In The Night" opens with a very haunting, lonely guitar introduction and continues with a similar style, creating one of the best ballads on the cd. The shuffle, "My Space Or Yours", incorporates the concept of technology and blues well. Kubek runs the fretboard on "Sleeping With One Eye Open" like only he can. "My Guitar" has a good mix of slide and rhythm combined with King's lyrics about the love of his guitar. "One Step At A Time" creates that Texas growl that only Smokin' Joe can create as he breaks away on solos. Once again the duo opens with a sultry ballad "Wishful Thinking" as Kubek's lonely slide guitar echoes out in the studio along with King's penetrating vocals, making this one of premier numbers on the cd. The dynamic duo completes this collection with "What A Sight To See", a steady rockin' display of talent from both Bnois and Smokin' Joe.

With Have Blues, Will Travel, Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King move forward as they complete a fiery roadhouse style blues album delivered well as a result of their superb musicianship. King calls the collaboration one the best to date.

Don’t Let the Devil In and Built Right on the Ground reviewed by Steve Jones

Don’t Let the Devil In
Les Copeland
Earwig Music Company, Inc.
15 tracks

Built Right on the Ground
Andy Cohen
Earwig Music Company, Inc.
15 tracks

Within the recent set of Earwig releases are two CDs with some similarity- they are not blues albums. What they really are are two very interesting and enjoyable predominantly folk albums that touch on the blues. Les Copeland performs with Honeyboy Edwards on 2 tracks and Michael Frank on harp on another three. Cohen is accompanied by Larkin Bryant (vocals on one track, mandolin on two others) ad Kurt Anderson (lead vocals on one track and guitar on another). These CDs are predominantly solo performances that highlight the skills of these two talented guys, one from British Columbia (Copeland) and the other from Memphis via Boston.

Copeland and Honeyboy intertwine their guitars on “Anna Lee” and “How’s That Drummer”, certainly some of the bluesiest of Copelands’ songs here. “Ry Cooder” is a thoughtful instrumental in a bluesy and spiritual way. “What’s the Name” is a duet with Frank that introspectfully asks who he really is. name is . An album like this would nt be complete without a train song, and Copeland offers up two; “Distant Train”, a nice little song, and “Riding the Sky Train,” a nice little instrumental romp. Frank’s harmonica is a nice addition to “Silently” and “Don’t Let the Devil In”, tracks that have a somewhat western feel with the harp. The other tracks are mostly folk, traditional and even sometimes a little vaudevillian. What sells Copeland to the listener is the precise and artful work he does on his guitar. His vocals are strong, too, often almost Celtic in tonality. His original songs are well structured but his outstanding guitar is truly his strong point.

Where Copeland mixes a little folk in with his blues, Cohen pretty much goes the straight folk route (with some blues thrown in for good measure). He’s probably one of the top acoustic guitar players you never heard of but should of. This CD gives the listener a good mix of his stuff and it is a great introduction to an interesting and talented artist. If you want blues, Big Bill Broonzy’s “Mopper’s Blues” is about as far into the blues as Cohen goes. He gives us a little Jelly Roll Morton and Meade Lux Lewis boogie woogie in “Grandpa’s Spells” and “Honky Tonk Train”; on train he switches to the 88 keys and shows us what he can do on the piano. “Shake-a-you-Boogie” is his other piano track; he is quite the good piano man in addition to being a great guitar player. The one original song on the CD is “Jim Dickenson Stomp”, an instrumental tribute to the albums producer. He overlays in a dolceola on top of his guitar, adding a very nice effect. Copeland aptly pays homage to Woody Guthrie, Memphis Minnie and other legends with his 14 covers. This is a soulful and thoughtful CD that acoustic music lovers will eat up.

Kudos to Earwig for giving us two different, interesting and well done CD’s from two very musical men most of us have never heard of. These are two great guitar players and artists whom I am quite happy to have been introduced to by these CDs!

The Life I Love reviewed by Harmolnica Joe

The Life I Love
Willie Buck
Delmark Records
17 tracks/66:18

Delmark Records has done it again. They have just re-released another great blues album. Willie Buck’s limited edition album that was released in 1982 as “I Wanna To Be Loved” is out now out as a CD, “The Life I Love”. At the time of the albums release it was made up of 12 tracks. Now 5 live tracks have been added to it making it one heck of a CD.

Willie Buck, was born William Crawford in Houston, Mississippi, in 1937. For over forty years he has been belting out true blues lyrics and leading his own blues bands. Willie is still active singing the blues in the Chicago blues scene. It is a shame that this recording, “The Life I Love” is his only CD. Backing Willie Buck’s vocals for this recording is a mighty talented band. On guitars we have Louis Myers plus John Primer on 2nd guitar. This was one of Primer’s first recorded performances. Playing harmonica is Little Mac Simmons with Dime-Store Fred added to most tracks. Dave Myers handles the bass line and Jerry Myers brings on the drums. We also have Big Moose Walker doing a fine job on the keyboards.

Right from the start of this CD I knew that I was going to be listening to some great blues. The first track is Muddy Waters’ “She’s All Right”. Willie Buck does an awesome job on this tune. He is one outstanding blues vocalist. This sets the stage for the rest of the CD.

Of the 17 tracks on this recording Willie Buck wrote two of them, “How Can I Be Nice To You” and “There’s A Time”. The rest of the songs are a great mix of blues tunes by Willie Dixon, Walter Jacobs, James Oden, Muddy Waters and Bernard Roth. Willie brings his own vocal quality to all of them and is not just a copy- cat vocalist.

“How Can I Be Nice To You” is a straight out blues tune. It contains great lyrics, the addition of Little Mac Simmons’ awesome, never over played, harmonica, and a very solid band behind him. John Primer and Louis Meyers on guitar, Big Moose Walker on keyboard, Dave Meyers on bass and Jerry Porter on drums make up the band. This is a great mix of players.

James Oden’s tune “Nineteen Years Old” is a fine blues tune to show off Willie’s vocals. With John Primer adding his slide guitar solos, a solid harmonica line, and Big Moose Walker on the keyboard this becomes one of my favorite tunes of the CD. The last five tunes added to the recording were live performances made up of the same players but with Jodie North on the drums. These tunes may not be of the best recording quality but they a good addition to the project. It is all an added bonus.

Willie Buck will be with us for a long time with the release of “The Life I Love”. This is one blues CD that you will want to listen to many times over. Thanks to Delmark for keeping blues history alive!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Whole Lotta Blues reviewed by Rick Davis

Whole Lotta Blues
Troy Turner
Evidence Music
14 Tracks

The latest album Whole Lotta Blues from guitarist and vocalist Troy Turner is highly reminiscent of the work of another Louisiana-blues swamp rocker, Kenny Neal. The two are good friends, have toured together, and Turner has done a lot of work with other members of the Neal entourage. However, Turner has got his own energetic blues/rock style that can be heard throughout this masterful blues CD.

Louisiana-born and raised, Troy Turner is a relatively young 42, but he's been creating a name for himself in the blues world for a couple of decades now as a tough guitar slinger. He recorded a couple of albums in the early '90s, then one in 1999 "Blues On My Back" for Telarc. Then he stopped recording until now, but toured it seems non-stop during the last decade.

In addition to Jon Tiven the producer, contributors to the songbook here include Hubert Sumlin, Steve Cropper, Don Nix, and Al Franken. Guests on Whole Lotta Blues include Brian May, Leslie West, Steve Cropper, Bobby Whitlock, Reese Wynans, Felix Cavaliere, and Bonnie Bramlett.

Turner opens with the title track "Whole Lotta Blues" smokin' on guitar. "Come To Your Senses" features Leslie West and Steve Cropper on guitars with Reese Wynans on keyboards and the smooth vocals of Turner. "Out On The Street" portrays the life of the destitute out on the street. "Note Ready" is a sensational duet with Jonell Mosser one of the best blues female vocalists that I have heard to date. "Foolin Yourself" features Steve Cropper on guitar and Felix Cavaliere on piano. "Fired On A Thursday", co-written by Hubert Sumlin and Jon and Sally Tiven portrays life at the bottom of the ladder. "Goin Fishin" and "Never Too Big For The Blues" really show the versatility and experience of Troy Turner. The Nix track, "Goin' Down," is an especially high energy number, with the high-spirited piano of Max Middleton, backup vocals by Bonnie Bramlett, Leslie West, Brian May, and Audley Freed on guitars, and Bobby Whitlock on organ. Following, a mellow "Don't Push Your Luck" and the up beat "Short Changed", Troy's musicianship on guitar once again is showcased along with the harp of Mason Casey. The Franken contribution, called "Blue-Haired Woman," written with Jon and Sally Tiven is a fine satiric little tribute to women of the golden age. The pair of down home blues that wrap up the CD are "One Way Ticket" and "Brand New Cadillac", both including Hubert Sumlin as co-writer.

This contemporary blues CD brings in rock and a distinctive Louisiana style blues and will keep your keep your mojo workin' throughout. This collection is a keeper!

Brown Sugar reviewed by Steve Jones

Brown Sugar

Shakura S’Aida
Ruf Records
12 tracks

She was born in Brooklyn, raised in Switzerland , lives in Canada , records for a German record label and did the CD sessions in Tennessee .  That’s a pretty multi-national resume for this high-powered singer!  After 20 years of touring, S’Aida was runner up in the International Blues Challenge in 2008.  This, her second album, is filled with predominantly original material that she and her guitar player wrote.  Donna Grantis wields both a powerful axe and pen; her playing on the CD is bold, powerful and strident and the songs that she and her musical partner wrote are quite original and emotionally charged.  Also backed by Lance Anderson on organ, Rick Steff on keys, Steve Potts on drums and Dave Smith on bass, the accompaniment is tight and focused throughout.

The CD showcases both the performance and songwriting skills of Shakura and Donna.  The highest point on the CD is “Missing the Good and the Bad”.  The first and last part of the cut swing and jump with great vocals, guitar and organ work, but it is in between those parts of the track that the true Shakura comes out.  The middle third of the song is pure, unmitigated down and dirty slow blues where her emotions are completely released and the vocals become visceral and gutty.  Backed by some powerful slow licks by Grantis, we reach heights that none of the other songs really reach.  The power and emotions displayed here are stratospheric and, frankly, makes me wish more of the “animal” Shakura was on display on the other 11 tracks.  Those other tracks are really super, too, but on this one track we see the performer completely out do the rest of her performances.  She has guts and power along the way to and from this track, but the level of emotion reached here is even so much more than in the other cuts.

If you want to hear the blues sung by a powerful female singer who co-writes some great songs and has a great band backing her, this CD is for you. You’ll be hearing a lot more from this singer as she gets exposure and tours the festivals and major clubs around the world.  She’s a talented woman with a great voice and superb band!

Name the Day! reviewed by Steve Jones

Name the Day!

John Nemeth
Blind Pig Records
11 tracks

When Nemeth’s first CD “Magic Touch” was released in 2007 I was impressed and hoped his sophomore effort would approach that. Well, he exceeded expectations in early 2009 with “Love Me Tonight” and now has added to his fame with this outstanding CD! He’s scored a trifecta of hits and every one is better than the last one! With his superlative vocals and harp work and backed up by a full suite of strong artists, he really delivers the goods. Bobby welsh on guotar and piano, Smokey Davis on bass, Nick Fishman on the skins, Austin deLone on piano and organ, Jake Smolowe on organ, Jeff Teczon on the tenor horn, Franki B on trumpet, and Mike Rinta on trombone give the CD a lush and full sound. Backing vocalist Steve Willis and Ed Earley also add nicely to the mix. The big sound with organs, keys, and horns on top of the guitar, bass and drums is beautifully played and mixed here.

This soulful bluesman sings with the best of them. He opens and jumps out at you with with “Breakin’ Free”, figuratively grabbing the listener by the lapels saying, ‘Hang on because this is gonna be a fun ride”. He slows it down and follows with the title cut, a soulful and love song. Heartbreak With A Hammer” opens with and features some sick harp solos. “Tuff Girl” is funky and features nice a big horn sound with his opulent vocals. He opens his heart up with the soulful ballad “Said Too Much” and later on more spiritual “Why Not Me”- fantastic, must listen stuff!

All 11 tracks on this CD are equally good– you’ll want to listen to this one over and over again, so add it to your Blind Pig cart with the Magic Slim CD and you’ll only need to find 3 more to fill your cart. Nemeth is stellar here and anyone wanting to hear the future of the blues industry needs to own this CD in their collection!

Raising the Bar reviewed by Steve Jones

Raising the Bar

Magic Slim and the Teardrops
Blind Pig Records
http://www.blindpigrecords/. com
11 tracks

The arrival of a new Magic Slim CD is always a welcome event. This CD, his tenth with Blind Pig in his 20 year tenure there, is a superb mix of new and old. The album title is commensurate with what Slim and his band consistently do- raise the bar of expectations for themselves and other blues bands.

Slim’s original favorites like “Do You Mean It”, “Shame”, "Treat Me The Way You Do” showcase Slim and his band, who are John MacDonald on guitar and background vocals, Andre Howard on bass and background vocals and BJ Jones of drums and background vocals. Slim is comfy with his own stuff, growling out the lyrics and spooning out note after greasy note. He is equally adept with the great covered material here. He opens to the bouncy and grooving “Part Time Love” by Clay Hammond and barks and growls his way through the dozen tracks with the ease and surety of the ultimate bluesman that he is. “Cummins Prison Farm” gives us some slow and angry blues, but the next song is J.B. Lenoir's “Mama Talk to Your Daughter” that raises the tempo and fever back up. Slim then wants to “talk to his baby” on Elmore James’ “I Can’t Hold Out”, another fine effort. “Sunny Road Blues” by Roosevelt Sykes brings things back down, and Slim finger picks it out with the best of them. Little Milton’s “4:59 A.M.” gets royal treatment, too, as do the other great covers.

As with all Magic Slim albums, true blues lovers needs to add this one to their collection. Slim and his touring band play and sing their hearts out. Blind Pig still runs the 5 CDs for $50 and free shipping special. With this and their other new stuff you can easily fill a shopping cart with great music!