Saturday, September 11, 2010

Keepin' On reviewed by Rick Davis

Keepin' On

Albert Castiglia
Blue Leaf Records
12 Tracks

Albert Castiglia began his music career in Miami, Florida in 1990 with a group called The Miami Blues Authority, winning local competition as “Best Blues Guitarist.”  In 1996 he met Junior Wells and became his lead guitar player until Well's death in 1998. Having toured with Junior, he ended up in Chicago and started touring with Sandra Hall. Albert has also performed and jammed with blues greats Pinetop Perkins, Aron Burton, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Sugar Blue, Melvin Taylor, Ronnie Earl, Billie Boy Arnold, Phil Guy, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Larry McCray, Lee Oskar, Michael Coleman, J.W. Williams, Little Mack Simmons, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Burns and Otis Clay.

Since opening for ZZ Top, Elvin Bishop, and The Radiators, he’s quickly becoming a popular performer across the country. During a recent Midwest tour, I had the pleasure of seeing Albert perform in Sterling, Illinois at Starlight's Theatre and Lounge along with Dave Gross on bass. I now understand why he has become so popular after the stellar performance he gave that summer night.

The release of his 5th cd Keepin' On includes five new original songs, plus other covers by John Lee Hooker, Mack Rice, T-Bone Walker, Robert Nighthawk and Bob Dylan. The cd opens with a Mack Rice tune "Cadillac Assembly Line" and the Bob Dylan song "Till I Fell In Love" displaying Albert's blues-rock side quite well. An original Albert Castiglia tune "Mojo 305" opens with a great bass intro and continues with a solid guitar instrumental. He follows with an orignial swamp boogie title "Keep On Keepin' On". It is then time to slow things down with a T-Bone Walker tune "My Baby is On My Mind". With the next title, "Do You Love Me" Castiglia keeps a funky rhythm in the begining before taking a high-energy blues solo on guitar. A Peter Green song "Could Not Ask For More" features a piano solo from Bill "Mighty" Quinn and another great guitar solo from Albert as he delivers with the fire we would expect. With the support of Toby Walker on the dobro guitar, Albert's original tune "Sweet Southern Angel" searches back into the roots of blues with this acoustic showcase. Castiglia continues some down home acoustic guitar with Robert Nighthawk's "Murderin' Blues". The next selection is a John Lee Hooker tune "Goin' Upstairs" done with that swamp boogie groove. The cd is concluded with a soulful original "Gettin' By" and an original masterpiece "Closing Time" delivered with the Albert Castiglia guitar style that is becoming so popular in the blues world today.

This CD is a good collection of the past and present presented by, in my estimation, one of the best blues performers today. Albert Castiglia continues the blues tradition as a great representative of the next generation of blues artists.

Peaches Staten Live At Legends reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Peaches Staten Live At Legends

Peaches Staten
Swississippi Records
9 tracks/59:01

Swississipi Records is Chris Harper and Dave Katzman’s new recording company. This venture is using the concept of recording blues artist that do not get recorded to get recorded, as they should be. Check them out on Facebook.

Peaches Staten is a World traveled blues singer. She may be in Europe today and maybe in South America next week. Her start in her music career was in a Zydeco band and also with an Afro Brazilian Samba ensemble. In the blues field she has performed and recorded with the likes of Carl Weathersby, Katie Webster and C.J. Chernier to name a few.

This new recording, “Peaches Staten Live At Legends”, is a fine piece of work. Being recorded live at Buddy Guy’s Legends is a great way to showcase Peaches Staten. She surrounds herself with a fine band on this CD. Mike Wheeler on guitar, Larry Williams bringing on the bass line, Brian James with the keyboards, Cleo Cole on the drums and also special guest Chris Harper on harmonica. This is a fine band indeed. Of course we also have Peaches doing vocals and the Frottoir, “Zydeco washboard”.

Starting out the show is “Long Distance Phone Call” which Peaches penned. This up beat tune features some of Brian James awesome keyboard playing. Peaches gives him plenty of room to really workout the keyboard. Mike Wheeler treats us to an outstanding guitar solo also. Peaches has that bluesy, gritty, raspy, throaty vocal quality that makes a true blues singer.

“Gotta Find My Man”, also written by Peaches, is a Zydeco type tune showing off that Frotoir. I do like that word, sounds better than washboard. Chris Harp shows off his harmonica skills on this number. Another guitar solo from Mike Wheeler stands out here. This is one of the best tunes on the disc for me.

The inclusion of “I’d Rater Go Blind” just accents the fine job done bringing this music project to us blues lovers. Peaches give the good old blues story leading into her captivating vocals on this tune. This is an over 10 minute version of this great song. Good job on this tune Peaches.

There is not a cut on this CD not worthy of listening to numerous times. This had to be one heck of a live show to witness. I hope that I get to see her perform somewhere but until then this CD, “Peaches Staten Live at Legends” is one awesome second place to be in! Nice job by Swississippi Records, Peaches Staten and the band.

Who I Am & What I Do reviewed by Steve Jones

Who I Am & What I Do

Chris Beard
Electro Glide Records
12 tracks

Chris Beard is a great guitar player who sings well and produced a “big” sounding CD here. Fans of Ronnie Baker Brooks will eat this CD up. The production, songs and style of this CD hearken to the sound Ronnie gives his CDs; he even wrote or helped write four of the songs. Big, driving beats with guitars layered on the bass line with familiar riffs from softer ballads through the funky, rocking stuff.

The Syl Johnson’s “Gotta Find My Baby is a wailingly good time. He picks and bends some mean stuff here on his guitar. His straight up blues like this, “Tied Up, Down and Twisted”, “The Blues is My Livin’” and others are delivered with precision and soul– these are my favorite tracks.

The title track is a soft and mellow ballad. Beard offers up a few slow cuts. He pulls off the slow stuff fairly well, but sounds better on the “bigger cuts” where his guitar and vocals are predominant. The vocals are a little sing song sounding here and there on some tracks, but that is not a huge problem overall.

Beard also ventures out into funky stuff that is more “out there” (as does Ronnie Brooks) and pulls it off well, but his money stuff to me is straight blues. He’s got a great tone when he plays them and his vocals seem most comfortable when he got the blues.

This is a nice CD with a lot of new stuff and some good covers. The CD is well-produced and the sound is clean and balanced. Beard’s fans will love it and blues fans in general will appreciate his style and sound!

Harmonica Blues reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Harmonica Blues

Bob Corritore And Friends
Delta Groove Music
15 tracks/61:33

Bob Corritore’s latest release from Delta Groove Music, “Bob Corritore And Friends Harmonica Blues”, is very exciting to me! This CD is over one hour of Bob Corritore’s harmonica talent being showcased on 15 tunes with 14 different blues singers. Also we are treated to a great instrumental track, “1815 West Roosevelt”, featuring Eddie Shaw on the saxophone. What a treat this track is.

If you are not familiar with the name Bob Corritore, this recording will make you know who he is. He is one fine understated, underrated harmonica player! For about 40 years he has been playing harmonica with just about anyone that plays or sings the blues. He is a very traditional, old school blues harp player. Do not look for the Jason Ricci style here. That is great stuff also. He has developed his own style with great tone, which is an essential part of blues harp. Bob’s style can be said to be somewhat understated but always tastefully present.

Corritore is very successful at being a blues artist. Besides recording and performing the blues he also owns his blues club in Phoenix, AZ, The Rhythm Room, has a weekly blues radio show and sends out a blues newsletter on the internet. Bob is dedicated to the blues.

The lineup of blues singers on this project is like a list of blues history. Starting out with Koko Taylor’s, “What Kind Of Man Is This?” is a great start. Koko’s heavy vocal style and Bob’s harmonica just compliment each other all the way through this tune. Not to list the entire vocalist on the recording does not seen fair. When you have a list including Louisiana Red, Eddy Clearwater, Dave Riley, Honeyboy Edwards, Nappy Brown and Big Pete Peterson you realize why I say this. You know that this CD is serious blues material!

“Big Fat Mama” with Pinetop Perkins on piano and vocals is a standout tune on this CD. How do you go wrong with lyrics such as, “big fat mama with meat shaking on her bones”? Who would we offend with this line of thought? Pinetop plays some great piano on this track and with Bob’s harp solo this is a fine tune.

Also included in the list is Chief Shabuttie Gilliame with Kid Ramos doing “No More Doggin’” and “Bumble Bee’ with Honeyboy Edwards to name a couple. The great artist on this disc just goes on and on.

You do not have to just be a fan of blues harmonica to enjoy Bob Corritore’s Delta Groove CD, “Bob Corritorre And Friends Blues Harmonica”. This recording is truly a blues lover’s CD to listen to. From the start to the finish it is all about the blues and how blues should be felt and played. There is not one bad or iffy tune on the project, check it out.

The Leric Records Story reviewed by Mark Thompsom

The Leric Records Story

Presented by Jimmy Dawkins
Delmark Records
16 tracks/62:12

Guitarist Jimmy Dawkins decided to start his own record label in the early 1980’s to document the undiscovered talent in the West and South Sides of Chicago. Dawkins had paid attention to the details of his own career and felt he had acquired the knowledge needed to make his Leric label a success. The business plan was to record some of the artists making a name for themselves in the city’s still vibrant blues club scene or lease undiscovered records from producers who lack the means to get their records in front of a wider audience. Blues records were still getting radio airplay in Chicago at that time, so Dawkins concentrated on turning out 45’s that could garner airtime and also find a home on the jukeboxes in all of the clubs.

This compilation of the Leric recordings certainly illustrates the quality of talent that was available and highlights Dawkins ability to identify performers who had staying power. Tail Dragger has received acclaim in recent years for his deep, raspy vocals and animated stage presence. He is featured on two tracks with strong backing from Eddie Burks on harp, Johnny B. Moore on guitar, Lafayette Leak on piano and Willie Kent on bass. “So Ezee” is an up-tempo workout and “My Head is Bald” is Tail Dragger’s original version of one of the signature tunes in his repertoire. Delmark Records is planning on releasing all of the tracks from this session in the near future. Given the fine performances on these two cuts, that release should be a real treat.

Another mainstay of the current Chicago scene, Vance Kelly, is featured on three previously unreleased tracks. “Use What You Got” has a healthy dose of his biting guitar style. The instrumental “The Jam” is a soul-jazz piece with some nice tenor sax courtesy of Kreen. His final song, “Why You Hurt Me So Bad”, is one of the highlights of the collection with a spirited vocal from Kelly.

Little Johnny Christian never was able to get a break before his untimely death in 1993, ignored by all of the major labels despite his obvious talents. His tough vocal on “New Life” rides over the horn-driven accompaniment. “Luv Somebody” sports a funkier beat with Michael Coleman on guitar. It’s hard to fathom why Christian’s exceptional vocal on “Ain’t Gonna Worry About Tomorrow” didn’t have the blues labels fighting to sign him to a contract. The companion track, “I Gotta Sad Feeling” suffers from a slightly out-of-tune horn section but these two cuts feature the first recorded performances from the late guitarist Chico Banks.

Robert “Big Mojo” Elem was playing bass for Freddie King in the early stages of that guitarist’s storied career. His lone cut, “Special Kind of Love”, provides a brief glimpse of his energetic vocal style, again with Dawkins on guitar.

Dawkins didn’t ignore the women and thankfully he recorded several songs with Queen Sylvia Embry, whose album with her husband John on the Razor label is classic Chicago blues. Her colorful vocals get a boost from Dawkins distinctive guitar tone and urgent fretwork. Nora Jean (now Bruso) was just starting her career and her two cuts show that she was still developing the vocal skills that have elevated her to the upper ranks of the town’s blues singers. That point is driven home by the last two cuts featuring Sister Margo’s strong, powerful singing on two gospel hymns. She is in full command of her voice on “My God Is Real”, another highlight on this package.

Bob Koester and the folks at Delmark are to be commended for this vital glimpse of a forgotten company. The Leric label trained the spotlight on a roster full of deserving talent. And while it didn’t survive the decade, it served as a launching pad for some artists and made sure others like Johnny Christian will not be lost in the haze of history.

Back in Style reviewed by Mark Thompson

Back in Style
Tad Robinson
Severn Records
10 tracks/47:21

Tad Robinson has always straddled the territory where blues and soul music meet. His early solo recordings and his partnership with guitarist Dave Specter, all on the Delmark label, focused on straight ahead, Chicago-style blues but provided Robinson the opportunity to wrap his sweet tenor voice around several soulful ballads on each release.

All three of his Severn recordings have shifted the focus to soulful part of Robinson’s nature. His latest project shows that Robinson has fully integrated the classic sounds of the Stax and Hi record labels into his musical vision.

The tight band interplay on “Full Attention Blues” evokes the work of the renowned Hi rhythm section and the presence of the celebrated Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson on trumpet, Jack Hale on trombone and Tom McGinley on baritone saxophone) is an added plus. Robinson’s voice dips and soars throughout “You Name It I’ve Had It”, the singer utilizing his impressive range on a tune that looks back on life’s trials and tribulations. “Sunday Morning Woman” opens with several hollers in the falsetto range before Robinson spins the tale of a relationship that isn’t perfect, as the couple exists in two different worlds. The Memphis Horns punctuate the percolating rhythm on “I’m In Good” over Kevin Anker on the Wurlitzer keyboard and Alex Schultz on guitar.

The band shifts gears on “Turn to the Music” with a horn-driven arrangement that slides into jazz territory with Anker supplying the requisite Hammond organ part. Robinson really mines Al Green territory on the opening track “Rained All Night”, his fervent vocal rising over the simmering rhythm supplied by Robb Stupka on drums and Steve Gomes on bass. The restrained funk rendition of “Half Smile” gets a boost from the sumptuous backing vocal from Karla Chisholm, Todd Goggins and Callie Bliss. Robinson closes the disc with “Get Back to Love”, as he offers a hopeful plea for change in a relationship that is slipping away.

Together with Eli “Paperboy” Reed and John Nemeth, Tad Robinson is making sure that the blue-eyed soul tradition stays alive and vibrant. He offers the most sophisticated approach of the three, using finely crafted arrangements to showcase his vocal prowess on a program of mostly original material that he and Gomes composed. Robinson’s previous Severn releases have garnered numerous Blues Music Awards nominations and this one will surely get serious consideration in the “Soul Blues Album of the Year” category for this year.

Ringers reviewed by Harmonica Joe


Watermelon Slim
Northern Blues
14 Tracks/54:07

Watermelon Slim’s, newest recording, “Ringers”, released by Northern Blues Music Inc., is just that. I put the disc in the player without reading the liner notes or the press release. To my surprise, I was hit with a full- blown country tune in Watermelon Slim style.

Not being a big country fan, I said to myself, “Where do I do I go with a review of this CD?” How do I change a Memphis style country recording into a blues CD revue?” This will not be an easy task for me to do. So here I go on an unknown journey into the country genre

First I listened to “Ringers” several times with an open mind. Then I tried to find the blues within this recording that are surface though thegenius of Watermelon Slim’s music. I was sure that in the lyrics, his guitar playing and his harmonica skills that I would find it.

This recording starts off with “Good Old Boys Never Change”. This just sounds country to me. It is an all out twang-filled country tune. “Watermelon Slim’s harmonica playing is really swell on this tune. In a fine country style.

“Truck Driving Buddy” to me is like a Keb Mo’ style tune which has a nice blues flair to it. Watermelon Slim’s lyrics fill the tune with words of loneliness on the road and the lady at home waiting for your return. These lyrics are blues filled!

Watermelon Slim’s new CD, “Ringers”, is a very well done country recording. I guess it is even called that now that I’ve read the liner notes. Every track is filled with great heartfelt lyrics, Watermelon Slim’s great guitar playing and a great backup band. This is all good stuff for a country CD but I really prefer enjoying Watermelon Slim doing the blues stright up live on stage and on CD’s. Check out Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans) at

Joined At The Hip reviewed by Steve Jones

Joined At The Hip

Pinetop Perkins and
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith
Telarc International
13 tracks

Just mentioning the names of Pinetop Perkins on piano with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on harp and vocals should be sufficient for a review of a new CD two of two living legends like these guys. Do you really need me to tell you that these 97 and 74 year old blues masters are great and that you should pay attention to everything they do?

I see that you’re still here. I guess I have to. Okay, I will go on…….

Here on this new CD we have 174 years of blues music heritage going back to the Muddy Waters Band and much earlier. Pinetop Perkins has been performing for about 83 years now and pretty much invented his own unique blues piano style which has become a standard. Smith began his career on harp, became famous as Muddy’s drummer, but in his latter years returns to his original instrument and also offers some up fine vocals. Together they play in a natural and unassuming manner. The comfort level here is high- few artists know each other as well as these two. Joining them are guitarists John Primer and Little Frank Krakowski , Bob Stroger on bass and Kenny Smith, Willie’s son, on drums. I believe that Little Frank has sat in with Willie since he was a teenager.

Almost half of the CD are Willie’s songs. They are spot on in all of them, top to bottom. I especially liked “You Better Slow Down”, but they are all good cuts. They also do one Pinetop cut (“Grindin’ Man”, a seminally wonderful song), cuts from both Sonny Boy Williamson’s, Big Bill Broonzy, and a few others. It’s a great set of tunes done by two great older men and some wonderful younger ones who accompany them. They even take a gospel number and blues it up a bit in “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”. “I Would Like to Have a Girl like You” is a good Billy Flynn cover that I really liked, too.

Pinetop Perkins and Willie Smith fans will appreciate that these greats are not yet in decline and are amazingly still pretty much on top of their games. If you’ve never heard either of these guys before there is other earlier stuff that you should first sample, but it can show you what two amazing blues veterans blues can do (even if you are one of the most virginal neophytes of the blues out there). Two men who have played together for over five or more decades can be a pretty damn good thing to listen to!

Big Otis Blues reviewed by Rick Davis

Big Otis Blues

Rob Blaine
Swississippi Records
No website
12 Tracks

Rob Blaine is no stranger to the blues world. At the age of 15, he got his first guitar and shortly after performed with his guitar instructor in Michigan. While visiting the Chicago area, his dad would take him to Rosa's Lounge to sit in with the artists. After coming of age, he moved back to Chicago and started working at Rosa's. The local bluesmen realized how talented he was and started hiring him around the windy city. He began touring the United States and finally internationally with artists like the late-great Little Milton and most recently with The Chicago R&B Kings (formally Big Twist and The Mellow Fellows). He now performs with his blues band Big Otis Blues working at the famed Chicago Kinston Mines.

Having had the pleasure of seeing of him perform with The Chicago R&B Kings locally recently, it was obvious just how talented he was at guitar. His vocals matched his ability to play guitar.

His new album Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues showcases his talents supported by Joewaun "Man" Scott on bass, James Knowles on drums, and a host of seasoned veterans on organ, piano, vocals, and guitar. Blaine opens this collection of blues with "Not The Forgiving Kind" exploding on guitar with excellent use of his wah pedal. He then switches gears with a smooth subtle guitar style in "Only Mine". He once again turns the heat up with "Affection and Pain" displaying his powerhouse vocals. "Same Old Blues" is done with deep down soul and really shows the full potential of this young blues artist. Throughout the tune "Hourglass Baby", Jowaun Scott supports Blain's high-powered guitar and vocals with an exceptional bass part. Nigal Mack performs a solid national steel solo in "Gone, Not Forgot" with Rob Blain playing acoustic background. Blain again returns to his high-energy explosive guitar style on tunes "Trouble", "Can't Help But Wonder", "Don't Burn Down The Bridge" and "Must Be Nice". The cd is completed with another soulful R&B number "Find A Way" and a solo acoustic guitar tune "Must Be Nice". Blaine seems to have the talent, drive, and passion to perform on blues scene for many years to come.

Addicted to the Blues reviewed by Mark Thompson

Addicted to the Blues

Phil Gates
2010 DCT Productions
12 tracks/43:03

Originally from Chicago, Phil Gates has spent the last twenty years in the Los Angeles area. His latest is his fifth independent title in the last decade. It features Gates on lead vocals and guitar on an all-original program. The unusual part of this recording is that Gates also handles the bass and keyboards on most of the tracks while also setting up the drum editing. Guest musicians appear on five songs plus backing singers are added on the final song. So the success or failure of this recording rests squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Gates.

As a guitar player, Gates has a clean tone and a light touch, able to navigate the fretboard with speed and dexterity when appropriate. His singing voice is equally smooth, although he can add a harder edge as he does on “My Babe”, a tune that describes a great woman and features some of Gates’ dynamic guitar work. “Addicted to the Blues” provides Gates with the opportunity to relate what blues music means to him over a modified “Spoonful” lick. He switches to slide guitar to highlight “Sexy Little Cool”, a shuffle hat is fleshed out by some keyboard work from the leader.

The pace picks up on “End of Time” with Gates’ voice taking on a raspy quality as he tries to match the intensity of the Texas shuffle. Once again he lays down a fine guitar solo the simmering organ accompaniment. Gates is effective when the tempo slows, as witnessed by his handling of “You Should’ve Listened” as he tries to get a woman to benefit from his life experiences. On “Evening Train”, uses a common blues theme to relate some of the feelings of a disassociated factory worker. “Road Shufflin’” gives Gates three minutes to spotlight his guitar abilities. The swinging tempo of “I Never Knew” proves to be a bad match as Gates can’t muster the vocal skill the song requires.

Gates is definitely talented in a variety of ways. Perhaps his one mistake on this project was the decision to use programmed drum tracks rather than the real thing. The rhythms often have a static feel to them, lacking the feel a live drummer can supply. But overall, Gates pulls off this one-man project with a solid effort that should raise his profile. Hopefully his next release will show us what he can do with a full band backing his impressive guitar.

Lemonace reviewed by Rick Davis


Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace
Vizztone Label Group
12 Tracks

Cathy Lemons started at the age of 23 working with groups like Anson Funderburg and Stevie Ray Vaughan. She worked briefly with Mark Hummel, Paris Slim, and toured with John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Band in 1987. After headlining her own bands, and working with the Bay Area's finest guitarists, she teamed up with veteran bass player and singer Johnny Ace in 1995. Johnny is a very well respected blues bass player and stellar performer. He has worked with stars like Otis Rush, John Lee Hooker, Victoria Spivey, Eddie “Clean Head” Vinson, Roscoe Gordon, Charlie Musselwhite, Boz Scaggs and Elvin Bishop.

Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace with their new CD "Lemonace" have created a soulful blues master piece. They are supported by talented musicians Pierre Le Corre on guitar and Artie "Styx" Chavez on drums. They open with a heavy rhythm guitar tune "Brand New Day" creating a perfect vocal duo. "Love Like a Fire" delivers a deep soul tune with a haunting slide guitar background from Pierre Le Corre and leads from Kid Andersen who has performed with Rick Estran. The third cut "Used To These Blues" opens with Johnny's bass, a funky rhythm guitar from Le Corre, and piercing lead guitar coming from Tommy Castro. Lemons adds vocals that will penetrate your soul.

They return to a funky R&B number and blends well vocally with the tune "Sink Or Swim." "Shoot To Kill" introduces the lead slide guitar of Ron Thompson. "When Bad Luck Looks Good" features Tommy Castro once again on lead guitar, David Maxwell on piano and Cathy delivering great vocals once again. "Gimme a Penny", a slow blues tune, opens with Johnny on bass, Kid Anderson on rhythm guitar, Maxwell on piano, and Paul Oscher on harmonica. Le Corre once again takes the lead guitar duties on the funky tune "I Got It", the slow blues tune "Stay", and the hard-driving number "I'm Not The Woman I Used To Be". Kid Anderson returns with his incredible lead guitar work in a John Lee Hooker style tune entitled "Get This Thing Off'a My Back". The cd concludes with "Move On", a fast paced road story told by Johnny Ace and Cathy Lemons like they were delivering a sermon.

Andy Grigg of Real Blues Magazine says of the effort, "If Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace don’t become Blues ‘Stars' because of this disc then there ain’t no hope for the future of Mankind.... I declare this to be the greatest thing I’ve heard so far in 2010!"

Four Aces and a Harp reviewed by Steve Jones

Four Aces and a Harp

Swississippi Chris Harper
Swississippi Records
18 tracks

Chris Harper appeared on our Crossroads Blues Society radar screen in 2008 with his “Blues is My Life” CD. A guy who is apparently a lifelong harp player and a Swiss businessman turned professional musician, hangs around with the current royalty of Chicago blues and produces great songs with them. This new CD features four real aces of the Chicago blues world along with Harper and a host of other great musicians. The Four Aces are Jimmy Burns, John Primer, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Robert Stroger. Also appearing in this jam are “Rockin’ John Burgin, Dave Katzman, Little frank Krakowski, Felix Reyes, Marty Sammon, Rick “Cookin’” Sherry, Kenny “Beady Eyes Smith”, Peaches Staten, Jimmy Sutton, Tail Dragger and Mark Wydra. Quite the lineup!

Filled with great covers of blues classics and one original song, Harper shows off the tongue blocking talent he switched to as a disciple of Sugar Blue. These guys sat around and played and figured out what they wanted to do as time progressed. It is a great mix of Chicago blues. The dual harps on “Born in Arkansas” and vocals by Willie Smith are impressive. The harp and piano nstrumental duo on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” are fun and a littlel unexpected. Muddy’s “Long Distance Call” opens to the traditional searing notes on slide guitar and then the soulful harp; Primer, Harper and Willie really sell this one. “I Smell Trouble” is a haunting piece with Jimmy Burns that is a winner, too.

Virtually every legend of Chicago blues is represented here. John Lee Hooker, Sleepy John Estes, Willie Dixon, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson and so many others get covered here. I couldn’t see any information on line anywhere yet about this CD, but it’s an inspired and good set of covers from the masters done right by many of the remaining and new masters and a Swiss harp disciple who put this together. I enjoyed this CD and think anyone who likes Chicago blues classics will, too.

Side One reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Side One
The Mighty Jivesters
Jasco (Self-produced)
Demo 6 tracks/ 22:05

I have just received a very interesting CD to listen to and review. After several times through it I am really impressed with this recording project. The bandleader of the Mighty Jivesters, Jasco, has chosen to send many of copies of the band’s 6 track CD to a whole bunch of blues societies to listen to and enjoy. The disc is called “Side One”. This is fine but after listening to it you wish that it also had a “Side Two”.

The Mighty Jivesters is made up of four fine professional musicians. All of them have been doing music for many years. The leader, Jasco, is the guitarist as well as a songwriter. Andras Csapo, AC, does vocals, plays harmonica and piano plus is also a songwriter. Joining the band on bass is Dave Foret and also Ryan Sapp doing a great job on drums. For more bio info you may check out the bands website.

The lead in track of the CD is “Anybody Will Do”, which is kind of a slick bluesy rock song. Jasco is featured here using the slide guitar in the rhythm guitar part. This is very cool and unique. He also has a very strong lead guitar solo on this track. Right from the start we become aware of A. Caspo’s, AC, harmonica playing ability. This man plays the harp with great feeling, fine tone and depth with an edge to it. AC also has his own vocal style of which is quite likable also. Jasco and AC did a fine job writing this song.

“Sailing On” is one of my favorite tunes of the six on the CD. It is a slow blues based ballet. Jasco really has a smooth guitar solo featured on this track. Here again we have AC doing another very smooth heart felt harmonica solo as well as some awesome piano playing. Ryan Sapp’s fine drumming comes out also clear on this tune. This is some good stuff to listen to.

“AC Boogie” is just that, an instrumental boogie showcasing all of The Mighty Jivesters. AC is pounding away on the boogie-woogie piano while Jasco does the fiery guitar licks. Also there is a fine bass line from Dave Foret and Ryan Sapp whacking away on the drums. AC plays some really tasteful harp adding to the quality of this tune. This track is an ideal platform to show case the whole band.

I would like to give my thanks to Jasco and The Mighty Jivesters for sending this CD out to a bunch of blues societies. I also hope that 6 more tunes are added to it and it becomes a full record CD. This CD can be purchased at the bands web site for $6 also.

Miracles and Demons reviewed by David Stine

Miracles and Demons

Eddie Turner
Northern Blues Music
13 tracks/54:24 min.

Northern Blues has been cranking lately! Check out their website. With a focus on the blues, it’s natural that Crossroads ends up in their sights. I don’t assume that every CD coming for the likes of Northern Blues, or even Alligator for that matter, has to be pure blues. But I’m not sure what to make of this CD from Eddie Turner. The packaging I very slick, showing Turner reflected in a chrome metal-bodied guitar. Inside is a foldout of Turner shot successively moving into a squat. So what you say. Well the CD’s packing is emblematic of how I read the disc: slick, overproduced, and enigmatic. After four listens, I still don’t have a sense of who Eddie Turner is or who he is writing to or for. Having been a one time guitarist for Colorado’s Zephyr and then Otis Taylor gives some clue. This CD is layered THICK with metal bodied guitar and LOTS of highly processed electric guitar. Part of me thinks Eddie would like to be Jimi Hendrix. I hear “Belly Button Window” and “Room Full of Mirrors” in his “In The Morning,“ and “Mr. Blues.“ Literally, every song is wrapped in a thick layer of guitars, keys, and percussion. Turner tends to speak and even whisper his lyrics. Can he sing? On some fade outs it appears he is straining in his attempt to sing. He composed all the songs, but like I said, they seem to be mysteries . There are no stories to grab, no characters we’ve encountered before. The songs all seem to be about Eddie’s demons or to a female that’s never developed. Maybe Eddie doesn’t want us engaged in anything but the heavy grooves he lays down. Much like Northern Blues Samuel James, Turner seems to be writing for himself. Maybe I went to sleep and blues isn’t universal anymore.

Either way, blues fans will be confused by this CD. Hendrix fans may find something here. But what Hendrix had: poetry, hooks, and I-live-on-Mars visions, Turner is sorely lacking. The guitars serve only to keep the groove alive. The only solo, in “Mr. Blues,” is so irritating that it’s temping to hit the Skip button. Turner borrows from himself at times--see the reprise of the title song at the end and how “Miss Carrie” is just “Say” (song 2) all over again. The nods to blues-like intros and outros and borrowed “hellhounds” and “wolves” and “blues falling like rain” seem to only distract us from what is a heavily electronic “dance” CD. Yet I don’t see this disc being played in clubs nor even satellite radio. Again, who is the audience?

Because Turner never really says much, sings much, or plays much, it’s hard to say something positive about this CD. It definitely has a groove factor. But the groove and the production (overproduction) can’t carry the day, not make this a “blues” CD. Turner’s blues may have, indeed “fell down like rain” but we want to know why. What miracles? Where are the demons? Why a Side One and Side Two labeling on a one-sided disc that has no discernable storyline or break? I’m afraid that under the slick cover, Eddie Turner has no clothes.

Red Dog Speaks reviewed by Rick Davis

Red Dog Speaks

Elvin Bishop
Record Label: Delta Groove Music, Inc.
11 Tracks

In 1963, Elvin Bishop met Paul Butterfield in Hyde Park, joined the band, and remained with him for five years. Traveling the road all over the world as a rock-n-roll artist and blues performer with a host of other artists, has allowed him to accumulate many life experiences that he weaves into his lyrics on his new cd.

Red Dog Speaks is a collection of stories like only Elvin can tell them, mixed with blues, gospel, rock, zydeco, R&B, and doo-wop. This cd with is the second with the Delta Grove label and includes guests like John Nemeth, Roy Gaines, Tommy Castro, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Kid Anderson.

In the title track "Red Dog Speaks", he talks about his '59 Gibson ES-345 as his long time partner that he appropriately names "Red Dog", who has been faithful to him all these years. Throughout the cd, his cherry red Gibson performs well creating a great slide guitar sound with a little help from Elvin. He continues the cd with a song about his nosey neighbor in "Neighbor, Neighbor" and his attitude about life lived on his terms in "Fat And Sassy", with more smooth slide guitar throughout. He picks up the pace and rocks with "Barbeque Boogie". The album follows with a soulful "Many Rivers To Cross", in my estimation, an award winning gospel/R&B number with wonderful vocals. Bishop continues with a zydeco tune "Blues Cruise", featuring many of the guest artists, followed by a nostalgic doo-wop instrumental "Doo-wop Medley". The rollicking tune "Get Your Hand Out Of My Pocket" is a good blend of harmonica and slide guitar. "His Eye On The Sparrow", another instrumental, features a small horn section and steel guitar sound that Elvin creates with his slide. He returns to his stories about life with the "roots" blues tune "Clean Living", and completes his collection with a country blues number "Midnight Hour Blues".

After listening to this cd, I'm sure you will agree that it is one of Elvin's finest and most diversified collection of songs. It really shows the versatility, wit, and humor that makes Elvin Bishop a unique artist.

Man From Another Time reviewed by Steve Jones

Man From Another Time

Seasick Steve
Atlantic Records
12 tracks

It’s embarrassing to me to hear an artist for the first time this past year on Sirius/XM radio who has been around this long and is so talented. Steve Gene Wold, was born in Oakland in 1941, toured with Janis and Joni in the ‘60’s, has been a recording engineer, was a close friend of Kurt Cobain, lived as a busker in Europe for awhile and began getting some real exposure there in 2006. Sporting a long grey beard, a weather beaten John Deere cap and overalls, and using an equally weather beaten set of guitars and other musical pieces, Steve is winding his way to notoriety in the blues scene.

This 2009 effort is Steve’s fourth album (he has a newer one from this year), the first I’ve had the honor to listen to. I had heard a few cuts on BB King’s Bluesville satellite radio station and was impressed; listening to the entire album shows me this guy is the real deal. Performing mostly solo with a one-string didley bow, a three-string Trance Wonder guitar, a guitar made from Morris Minor hub caps, a banjo, a drum box made from small wooden box, a license plate and a piece of carpet that he calls the MDM (Mississippi Drum Machine), and a Roland Cube Amplifier, we get a very hills country folk sound that is real and authentic. Dave Magnusson is on drums for 7 tracks.

He starts off the CD with a song featuring and called the “Diddley Bow”. If a diddley bow can wail, this one surely does. The deep and colorful sound is almost magical, with a tribal thump and rhythm and lyrics reminiscent of the man who used the name of the instrument reversed as his stage name. “That’s All” is a big and driving song that is one of my favorites on the CD. “Seasick Boogie” is another great track: it weaves a hypnotic boogie that grabs at both your mind and soul. These and all songs here are originals; the deluxe edition (which we did not receive) has extra tracks including a cover of a Hank Williams song). “Big, Green and Yeller” is an interesting homage to his John Deere tractor. The title tracks is also quite interesting, where he describes himself as feeling as a man from another time. All the cuts are quite interesting, well done and sung with his world weary yet still determined vocals.

Traditional, authentic, down home, Spartan, impressive, mystical, worldly; these descriptors only begin to capture something about this man and his music. If you like acoustic music delivered in a unique manner with unique instruments and an even more unique performer then perhaps Seasick Steve and his music are something that must be experienced by you. I recommend him- it was a fun ride and I can’t wait to hear the new and earlier work!

Gumbo Blues reviewed by Steve Jones

Gumbo Blues

Mitch Woods
Club 88 Records
12 tracks

Gumbo Blues is a beautiful blend of Cajun swing and jump blues delivered by Mitch Woods and a cast of impressive players. Woods’ boogie woogie piano and strong vocal work are perennial standouts and he delivers another superb performance here with this tribute to Smiley Lewis and Big Easy blues.

Mitch Woods covers two of the great songs that Smiley sang before others made them famous: “Blue Monday” and “I Hear You Knockin’” and gives us an authentic and impressive performance. He does not emulate the later Fats Domino and Dave Edmunds versions on these cuts, he offers up a fresh and vibrant take that hints of the prior versions yet offers something new, clean and full of life.

Mitch brings back Herbert Hardesty (who was on his prior offering “Big Easy Boogie”) on sax along with two young lions of the horn world: Amadee Castenall and Brian “Breeze” Cayolle hail from Alan Toussaint’s band. John Fohl on guitar, Cornell Williams on bass and Eric Bolivar on drums round out the band and they all deliver a romping and delightful stroll through New Orleans blues and boogie. Famed producer Dave Bartholomew had his hand in writing (at least part) of 10 of the 12 tracks, and they and other two songs offer the listener a stroll through Big Easy musical history.

Big Bartholomew anthems like “Gumbo Blues” and “Can’t Stop Loving You” are hopping good times as are “Big Mamou”, “L’il Liza Jane” and “Shame, Shame, Shame”. Woods gives us a trip through the juke boxes of the 50’s and early 60’s and an appreciation of a genre non one can hate. One also has to wonder how Smiley Lewis never became a household word doing many of these songs as the original artist.

The well traveled Brooklyn born Woods is a regular on the New Orleans scene and offers an authentic and exciting offering of some great songs with an inspired band that features a horn section that would be hard to best anywhere. If you like your blues and boogie dripping with a heavy gumbo roux filled with crawfish and shrimp , then this CD is for you! It’s an impressive set of covers and pays homage to a sound that should be kept alive forever!

Precious Cargo reviewed by David Stine

Precious Cargo

The Steve Wiggins Band
11 tracks/54:54 min.

This is the kind of CD you buy at the end of a live concert hoping to capture some, if not all, of the good time you had. But like so many CDs we have all bought, it just doesn’t come alive. Ten of the 11 tracks on this CD are the SWB live in Panama City, Florida. Wiggins plays keys over and above the call of duty (see more later). He is aided by bassist Bruce Hebert, saxman Wally Trado, and drummer Leonard Cherry, Jr. I tend to gripe a lot about today’s blues guitar players overplaying songs to the point where lyrics are just a bridge to the next long solo. Steve Wiggins sort of made me long for a guitar album. He is definitely a “more is more” keyboard player. His style is firmly rooted in Boogie Woogie/Honky Tonk, but he doesn‘t know when to let up. He aptly switches between piano and organ but rarely uses chords to any effect. His fingers dance all over the keys, which isn’t necessarily a band thing unless it starts to make you head numb. His partner in crime on this CD is drummer Cherry, who is a bit heavy handed.

The CD boasts three instrumentals” “Steve’s Boogie,” “Roosterfish” (both Wiggins’ compositions), and a reading of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” The latter ropes in Wiggins a bit by its emphasis on melody and groove. He still manages to add more notes than the song calls for. Another problem I have with the CD is the vocals. Wiggins takes on John lee Hooker’s “Dimples” providing one of the worst readings of this song I’ve ever heard. To compound things, bassist Hebert tackles an almost note-for-note (sans guitar) reading of SRV’s version of “Cold Shot,’ that will send you the liquor cabinet for a double shot. To say it’s lackluster is giving it too much credit. This song is followed by Hebert, again burying James Taylor’s “Steam Roller” in a steamless version that even if you where there, you think, OUCH. Drummer Cherry handles the rest of the vocals; and thought he’s a stronger and WAY more soulful singer than Wiggins and Hebert, only rises to the occasion of an OK vocalist. His personal reading of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” seems to plod too much for the effort he puts into it. Cherry’s “Black Cat Woman,” fairs no better. Wiggin’s composition, “My Last Tear,” has little in the way of lyrics, like his “Doing My Thing” (live and studio versions), and structurally just ‘Stormy Monday” with different lyrics.

Tacked on to the end of this CD is a studio version of “Doing My Thing” which adds the guitar of Ted Shumate (he adds little) and the Jack Bruce-like bass style of David Goldflies. Sonically, this song isn’t as crisp as the live version, but gets a slight boost from bassist Goldflies and drummer Cherry.

I wish I had more to recommend here. Wiggins sure knows his was around a keyboard, but writing is weak, and the performances aren’t saved by his two-handed assault. Again, I think even purchased in the heat of the moment at the show, this disc probably won’t readily capture the moment.

I Want It All reviewed by Mark Thompson

I Want It All

Al Stone
Electro Glide Records
11 tracks/45:09

“Not Your Everyday Blues” is the motto that appears on the business card for the Electro Glide Records label. Based on the material on their latest release, it appears that the company is looking to make its mark in the land where straight blues progressions take a backseat to the higher energy and driving beat of the music’s rock influences.

Guitarist Al Stone has playing music for more than four decades, establishing his blues roots in his hometown of Chicago before hitting the road and eventually settling in the Florida panhandle with Jacksonville as his home. He is the primary vocalist, with backing vocals from Debbie Bailey Rider of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band. Stone also handles the lead and rhythm guitar parts while Erik Guess contributes some fine slide guitar work throughout the disc. Banner Thomas of the Molly Hatchet Band is the bass player on nine cuts with Danny Best on drums filling out the rhythm section. Additional musical assistance comes from Robbie Morris on percussion and Rob Peck on harmonica. The attractive packaging was designed by Kate Moss at Moonshine Design.

The program of all original material employs standard blues themes like fast cars, cheating women and too much alcohol. Stone sets a blistering pace on “Pontiac 4 Door”,, as he describes watching his wife drive off in his dream car after a disagreement and trying to decide which one he misses more. The title track finds Stone expressing his desire for ’59 Cadillac convertible, complete with a fine looking woman and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Stone and Guess both turn in hot guitar solos.

Things slow down on “Blind Dog” with Stone’s world-weary vocal telling the tale of getting kicked-out to the street without a home for him and his old dog while Peck gets a chance to stretch out on his harp. The band rocks hard on “She’s Gone” and uses a fast shuffle beat on “Drunk Again”, with Stone lamenting that he no longer can figure out if he is drinking whiskey or wine. “The Captain” is a ballad that succeeds due to Stone’s understated vocal.

Stone goes deep into the blues on “Old #9”, incorporating the train theme into his bitter tale of escaping the aftermath of romantic betrayal. Then the band erupts as the energy level skyrockets on “Don’t Try to Change Me”. Stone’s measured vocal is complimented by Rider’s spirited backing singing. The guitars join together to form one hellacious groove. Just as good is the closing track, “Walking Cane”, that opens with Stone’s distorted voice over a slide guitar. Once the band kicks in, Guess wails away on the slide guitar and Matt Marseglia delivers the strong beat that drives the track.

If Stone can manage to cut an entire disc of performances as strong as the last two on this recording, he would definitely live up to the Electo Glide motto of creating something beyond ordinary. The band can really rock when they cut loose. The other performances may not match the intensity of these songs but still serve to present Stone as a talented singer, songwriter and guitarist, one worth checking out listeners looking for a healthy serving of blues ala rock & roll.