Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hold On To Me reviewed by Steve Jones

Hold On To Me
Grand Marquis
Grand Marquis Music
13 tracks

Grand Marquis were the Topeka Blues Society’s entry into the 2011 IBC and what a great band they are!  If you like jazzy, swinging, jump blues with a lot of horns, this band will rock your boat nicely.  Led by Bryan Redmond on vocals and saxes, the other members are Chad Boydston on a very evident and hot trumpet, Ryan Wurtz on guitar, Ben Ruth on upright bass and sousaphone, and Lisa McKenzie on percussion who all also provide backing vocals.  They take the listener back to the sounds of the 20’s and 30’s, when their hometown of Kansas City was the hotbed of swing and was dubbed as “Paris of the Plains”.

I love this album.  I won’t hold back and be picky here at all.  From the opening strains of “Night is For Lovers” I was hooked on them.  The bright, forward trumpet and deep baritone sax that gives ways to Redmond’s excellent swinging vocals just grabbed me and made me dance in my seat as I listened intently.  Boydston’s trumpet is solid gold- he sells song after song with his amazing solos.  Redmond is a superb singer and no slouch on the horns, giving track after track an authentic, old time sound that is ancient yet fresh.

“Topsy” is a grand old tune that has been covered by the great swing bands of by gone eras and Grand Marquis gives this song up for new audiences to appreciate and revel in.  Upbeat and with bright and blistering trumpet solos, we get to revisit and marvel at this classic.  “Sway”, “St. James Infirmary Blues/Still Blue Water” and “After You’ve Gone” are just a few of the great oldies this bands freshens up so well.  The original stuff is equally good; “Hold On To Me” and “Ain’t No Good to Me” are two examples of great new jump tunes.

If you are a “Roomful of Blues” fan I think you’ll love this band.  If you like jump blues hot and authentic, don’t delay in checking these guys out- they are both authentic and fresh in their approach.  Highly recommended!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That's The Way You Do It reviewed by Steve Jones

That’s The Way You Do It
Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings
Delmark Records
15 tracks

I’ve listened to a lot of Studebaker John Grimaldi’s recordings over the years, and this new release (the first on Delmark) may just blow the rest of them all away! John offers up 15 original cuts, all offering his take on really low down, Westside Chicago Maxwell Street blues. His harp is greasy and hot, his slide cuts like a knife and his vocals are truly inspired. Joined by Rick Kreher on guitar (the last guy to play guitar with Muddy Waters and Rockin’ Johnny’s rhythm player) and drummer Steve Cushing (who is also radio host of “Blues Before Sunrise”), this is gritty, filthy dirty blues the way it is supposed to be played!
Studebaker John’s songs here all hearken back to the West Side of Chicago and the days when blues were played in open air markets by the up and coming along with the greats who played the clubs. John and his band the Hawks began there in the early ‘70’s, honing their skills while listening to and playing with the masters. John writes his own stuff and has filled many acclaimed CDs with his great songs.
The album opens to the title track and introduces the listener to John’s nasal tones and stinging harp. “Side by Side” shuffles along and shows you how John’s guitar can burn it up. “Fine Cadillac” then goes ballistic with a rocking good tempo. Then on the next track John gives us a superb history of Maxwell Street blues with his lyrics and greasy harp on “Headin’ Down To Maxwell Street”. That’s just the first four tracks and there are 11 more that are equally good! “If You Would Love Me”, “Son Of The Seventh Son”, “When Your Mule Won’t Ride”, and “Steppin’ Stone” are but a few of the other great tracks showcasing John and his legendary Maxwell Street Kings band. All of the songs are very tight and well done- no fluff here!
This album is filled with primal blues energy. Each song evokes deep rooted emotions of loves both won and lost, heartaches, fine automobiles, and the time when his blues forefathers blistered the world with their songs and playing. John and his band play it all with equal skill and loving care: slow blues, shuffles and a rocking good style. If you are a fan of his, this one needs to be added to your collection. If Studebaker John is new to your horizons, this is an ideal CD to both introduce you to him and to how the blues should be played! Delmark has delivered another winner with Studebaker John in their stable of great artists.!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hook, Line & Sinker reviewed by Steve Jones

Hook, Line & Sinker
Roomful of Blues
Alligator Records
12 tracks

This year, Alligator Records celebrates their 40th Anniversary.  Quite the feat, but I was looking and this band has been around for even longer- forty three years now.  There have been many a musician who have graced the stage and recording studio as part of this band.  Frankly, I love their live performances but I must admit their last few CDs left me feeling kind of ‘meh’.  Well, that has all changed.  This is one hot album!

Chris Vachon on guitar leads this current band of eight talented members.  Phil Pemberton has taken the helm with lead vocals for the band as of last year.  Veteran New England jazzman John Turner is on bass, Travis Colby graces the keys, Ephraim Lowell is on drums, Rich Lataille and Mark Earley are the sax players and Doug Wovlerton is the young but talented trumpet player.

I rarely quote liner notes and promo materials, but this short note really sums things up: : “Hook, Line & Sinker features twelve carefully chosen songs from Little Richard, Dave Bartholomew, Amos Milburn, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Floyd Dixon and others. Produced by Vachon, the CD is a ferocious and enthusiastic blast of rocking guitars, punching horns and huge, room-filling vocals. The results are a non-stop hip-shaking party. It’s clear why People magazine said Roomful’s music “can turn a dull evening at home into a heel-clicking night of fun.”

This really is a party right in a CD package.  “Some Kind of Love” opens the set.  The horn section and Vachons’ guitar set the stage, but Pemberton gives it his all on vocals and sells this one big time.  When I heard this opening cover I knew the band had morphed into something really great.  The driving beat and brassy sound really are hot. “She Walks Right In” and many other cuts might be a big band number out of a WWII ballroom; these guys have taken the sound from the old days of 78’s and 45’s and given it a fresh and new facelift.  Pemberton and band do some call and response and we get a great guitar and sax solo to boot.  The band backing them could be Glenn Miller or one of the Dorsey Brothers– this one swing sand jumps!  The title track and tracks like “Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin’” we see Pemberton shouting out his vocals in a great traditional New Orleans style– he and the band really make you want to get up and dance a la the originals sung by Smiley Louis and Little Richard.  “Kill Me” opens with a little wicked guitar and then Pemberton hits you in the face with gritty vocals on this Don Harris and Dewey Terry cut. I can’t mention them all, but they are all great covers of great tunes by a great band!

I’d be remiss not to mention the CD cover.  The bikini-clad Vargas girl look-a-like is very in the period of the pre-and post-WWII sound the band is playing to and modernizing here.  While a tad sexist (ok, more than a tad), it serves as a great depiction of the Dave Bartholomew title track.

If you hearken back to the days when big bands were king or when Roomful of  Blues were white hot with their jumping and swinging sound, then you need to run out and buy this one– I did!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

You Can't Keep a Big Man Down reviewed by Mark Thompson

You Can't Keep a Big Man Down
Big Joe & the Dynaflows
Severn Records
12 tracks/40:50

I have been a fan of Big Joe Maher's work ever since I heard his 1994 release on the gone-but-not-forgotten Black Top Records label. The title cut contained a humorous description of the perils of a night spent drinking too much alcohol. The rest of the project expertly mixed blues with R&B and jazz influences, all delivered by Maher's potent singing voice over the solid rhythms generated by the leader's drum kit. His third recording for the Severn label follows a similar formula with equally fine results.
Maher loves to work that spot where blues and jazz intersect, so his music always features hip vocals over a swinging beat punctuated by stinging guitar licks and a smooth horn section. The band that brings his musical vision to life include Rob McNelley on guitar, Bill Campbell on bass, Dennis Taylor on the saxophones and Kevin McKendree on keyboards. All but Campbell have been members of Delbert McClinton's band ( Taylor passed away last year). McKendree also filled the role of producer for the sessions.

Maher gets the party going right from the start, belting out the title song as he emphatically claims that life's trial and tribulations will never get the best of him. McNelley delivers the first of his many impressive guitar solos. Another original, “Property Line”, uses a funky groove to underscore Maher's tale of an escalating neighborly dispute with Taylor forming a one-man horn section. McKendree's work on the organ is another highlight. When the pace slows down on “Nothin' But Trouble”, Big Joe delivers a smooth vocal, ripe with resignation at the financial misery currently surrounding the world.

“Evangeline” has a swaying rhythm that would be perfect for the old dance move, the Stroll. McKendree plays piano in the classic New Orleans style on the song, written for the young daughter of Maher's cousin. “Supercharger” is Maher's stomping tribute to the late, great guitarist Earl Hooker. McNelley incorporates some of Hooker's trademark licks into his fiery performance that will leave you wanting more.
Filling out the disc are a batch of covers that show that Maher has unerring good taste in good material. The band gives B.B. King's “Bad Case of Love” a New Orleans feel, with Taylor's saxes riffing behind Maher's spirited singing. Billy Wright's “Watcha Gonna Do” is a supercharged workout with Big Joe shouting the blues with style. Another highlight is Maher's portrayal of a tormented lover on “Someday”, his voice crying out in pain and praying for retribution. Jay McShann's classic, “Confessin' the Blues” has been covered many times but the Dynaflows do it as a straight blues tune, with McNelley playing some more fine guitar over McKendree's pounding piano licks. “I'm to Blame” is invigorated by Taylor's sax work, McKendree's pumping piano and another forceful vocal from Big Joe. The closing number, “What the Hell Were You Thinkin'” finds Big Joe exhorting a cheating lover to come to her senses as McKendree channels Jerry lee Lewis on the piano.

If you have never had the pleasure of listening to a Big Joe & the Dynaflows recording, this is the perfect place to start – plenty of irresistible rhythms, excellent singing and stellar musicianship. Be advised - falling under the spell of this fine release will soon have you searching for copies of Big Joe's five previous releases. This one is highly recommended !!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Jook Joint Thunderclap reviewed by Mark Thompson

Jook Joint Thunderclap
John Alex Mason
Naked Jaybird Music
10 tracks/42:28

There have been many attempts over the years to take blues music back to its roots, to offer fresh interpretations of the traditional styles. Some musicians, like Chris Thomas King, have tried to extend the musical roots by incorporating modern styles like rap and hip-hop into the music. Rarely have both goals been accomplished as successfully as they are on this new release from John Alex Mason.

Mason has spent time busking on the streets of European cities during a stint in the Army and returned home, ending up in Memphis. There Mason honed his one-man band approach to a razor-sharp edge, utilizing a Lowebow cigar box guitar to create his elemental sound along with a drum kit. His skill with this rig can be heard on five of the tracks. Mason also gets plenty of help from a stellar cast of musicians that includes Cedric and Cody Burnside, Lightnin' Malcolm and recent IBC winner Lionel Young. Also appearing is multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt, Mason's former musical partner.

Willie Newbern’s classic “Rolled and Tumbled” gets a laidback treatment with Hundt’s harmonica playing dancing around Mason’s expressive vocal and slashing guitar licks. Backed by Malcolm on guitar, Andy Irvine on bass, Hundt on mandolin and Cedric Burnside on drums, Mason tears into “Signifying Monkey”, vocalizing like a man possessed. The same musicians turn in a spirited rendition of “Write Me a few of Your Lines”, with Young filling in for Irvine on bass. Mason’s harp work is buried in the mix but his exuberant singing is a highlight, as is Hundt’s contributions on mandolin.

On the original material, Mason incorporates the African roots of blues music on several tracks. On “Free”, Fara Tolno punctuates Mason’s one-man band on the djembe, a skin-cover drum played with the hands. Tolno also appears on “Diamond Rain”, a subdued folk blues with Young on fiddle, showing the talent that has garnered him two top finishes in the IBC Challenge competitions.

Tradition merges with modern influences on “Riding On” as Alva Sylla joins Tolno on djembe and Fasinet Bangoura makes an appearance on the balafon, an percussive instrument played with padded sticks that was an early version of the xylophone and marimba. They bring a strong African flavor to the track until Cody Burnside jumps in with a fast-paced rap that fits like a glove. On “Gone So Long”, Burnside delivers another hip-hop vocal that rides the trance-groove perfectly, proving that the seemingly disparate styles can work together. Mason returns to a more traditional style with a tribute to his wife, playing “Whisper” on a 1925 Martin acoustic guitar and channeling all of his feelings into a magnificent vocal performance.

In another nod to modern technology, Mason is offering what he terms as Tracks 0 and 11 as on-line downloads, available as a Tweet, Facebook or through e-mail at Mason’s website ( “Delta Bound” is more upbeat than the material on the cd release while “If You’ve Got a Good Friend “ has Mason and band playing in a more traditional electric style. Lighnin’ Malcolm’s guitar work enlivens the former cut while Young’s solo on the latter song has his fiddle sounding like a slide guitar. Hundt blows some hot harp licks on both tracks.

Through it all, Mason pulls all of the elements together through the strength of his vision that embraces the old and the new. His passion is apparent in his heartfelt vocals and his instrumental efforts are the bedrock that lifts this release above the ordinary. If, like me, you are not familiar with Mr. Mason’ work up until now, take the time to check out this marvelous recording. It bodes well for the future of the music.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Getting’ Kinda Rough reviewed by Steve Jones

Getting’ Kinda Rough
Grana’ Louise
Delmark Records
12 tracks

Grana’ Louise has a big voice and an even bigger on stage presence.  She won the Windy City IBC in 2009and has now released her first CD for Delmark Records.  She has two prior releases (from 1999 and 2003) but this is her first release for a big blues label.  She is not afraid to get down and dirty, both figuratively and lyrically.  She belts out tunes with some vey blues lyrics with the best of them.

Her big voice and charisma really carry her through her efforts.  She blasts out her vocals in a gripping manner- she grabs you by the ears and makes you listen to her.  Delmark offers up a mix of her studio and live performances on this CD.  The first seven tracks were recorded in the studio; one through six at Riverside Studio in 2009 and seven by Bill Syniar last year.  These were the highlights of the CD for me, as I will explain later.  Tracks eight through twelve were done live at Blue Chicago on Clarke Street last year.

Louise offers us some new stuff; four of the seven studio cuts were written by her.  She also growls and shouts out some classic blues, from the standards to pre-WWII stuff.  She is an emerging presence that the blues world will have to stand up and take notice of!

She begins with the traditional “Stagger Lee”, giving us a great rendition of this old tune.  Perhaps an overdone song, but Louise kept me listening! “Where You Been?” is a kitschy and fun old tune that Louise delivers quite convincingly. Eddie Vinson’s “Back Door Blues” gets royal treatment as does “Queen Bee”.  “Back Door Blues” features some mean and greasy guitar from Carlos Showers in addition to Grana’s big time vocals on this quintessential slow blues.  Originals like “Lead Foot Mama”, “Gonna Get ‘Cha”, “Bang Bang Ba-Bang, Bang Bang Bang!” give some fresh tunes and give us some fun lyrics.  The innuendo of going to get some of the “tall trees bending in the wind but not breaking” in the cut “Big Dick, Mississippi” is probably well beyond innuendo and just bluntly dirty.  Louise gives us some old style, traditional”blue” blues in this original cut.  Guitar by Tom Holland on this and in all the 2009 studio cuts is impeccable.

Where I fault the CD is with the live production.  The five tracks recorded at Blue Chicago are technically somewhat flawed.  Overall the sound is somewhat muffled; Louise is miked up to sound way behind the guitar and bass to start, and the overall sound throughout is a little deep with  the high end sounds clipped.  Grana’s performances are very solid as are the bands, but the technical challenges by system, engineer, venue, or whatever it is detracts from the enjoyment of this woman’s marvelous talent.  At a minimum it sounds like a club with bad acoustics, which was a bad choice.

But enough of that; what we have here are a dozen tracks by a relatively new to the big time blues scene vocalist who has a tight band and a big and beautiful voice.  If you like traditional female blues vocals done right, this is a CD you need to buy.  Louise is a powerful singer who we will be hearing a lot from in the coming years!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Devil Got His Way reviewed by Steve Jones

Devil Got His Way
Damon Fowler
Blind Pig Records
12 tracks

Damon Fowler follows up his first Blind Pig release “Sugar Shack” with another well done album of cool Florida swamp boogie blues rock.  His guitar and slide work continues to impress me.  Joined by Chuck Riley on bass and James McKnight on drums, this trio gives a great effort delivering us a mostly original and creative set of tunes.

The title tracks features Fowler on slide guitar.  His approach to the slide has been compared to some of the greats, and I can see why.  The slide punctuates a great song and lyrics.  His musical skills are maturing nicely– he’s been playing publicly since he was 14 and has spent the past 16 or so years making a name for himself.

“American Dream” is another dark tale with Fowler the story teller and performer excelling at his craft.  His vocals show the despair that he wrote about in his story so very well.

In “28 Degrees” he delivers a fine guitar solo with some nice percussive stuff laid in by McNight.  “Cypress in the Pines” is another great cut, with a throbbing beat and another demonstration of his slide work.

There are a few upbeat tracks mixed in with the somewhat darker majority.  “Fruit Stand Lady, “Don’t Call Me” and “Once in Awhile” are up tempo and occasionally even upbeat lyrically.  We also get to hear a little lap steel on “Fruit Stand Lady”

There are two covers in this set.  “After the Rain” and “Tight Rope” are quite the  contrast in style and approach.  The former is slow and lyrical, with a very contemplative vocal and guitar delivery.  “Tightrope” is the popular Leon Russell song from 1972.  The guitar work is impeccable and the vocals are strong. Russell’s version with piano and his wailing vocals is hard to beat, but  the guitar  solo here is worth the listen.  Fowler gets an good mark for his attempt here even though the song seems a little out of place.

“You Go Your Way” is a bigger production wit Rob Stoney adding his organ to the mix.  Fowler’s guitar solo is super on this one, too.  He ends the CD with “Happy Hour”, a tongue in cheek, drunken party that sounds like it could come from any corner blues or country bar.

Overall I give Damon high marks for this CD.  “Sugar Shack” was a fine national debut and his sophomore attempt continues in that vein.  While not pure blues, this blend of rock, blues, lap steel and swamp pop blend very well.  He’s a solid songwriter and performer with a superb guitar tone and outstanding vocal style.  He will get props for this one, and I recommend it to fans who liked his earlier stuff or who like JJ Grey and that genre of music. 

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Pro – Bone – O reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Pro – Bone – O
Boogie Bone Band
Bone Daddy Records
12 tracks/46:26

“Pro-Bone-O” is the third CD to be produced and released by the Boogie Bone Band. This group is really a unique blues band based in Portland, Oregon. Boogie Bone was formed in 2006. Three of the band members, Steven Dee Williams, guitarist and lyricist, Howlin’ Jake Johnston, vocalist, along with Steve Snyder on sax, harmonica, flute and keyboard are the base for Boogie Bone. Todd “Spuds” Stevens joins the band as a fine drummer and after trying out two other bass players Henry Gavaldon was chosen to be the bass player.

I will say from the start that if you want your blues fix to be traditional, straight forward blues, “Pro-Bone-O” may not be for you. If you are open minded and enjoy a band that takes the blues into a special place you are in for a treat with the Boogie Bone Band. This band is hard hitting and driven by a rock influence while retaining the meaning of a blues band. This band brings a whole bunch to the table. All twelve songs were written by Steven Dee Williams and Jason R. Pope.

“Pro-Bone-O” gives us a look at the versatility of Boogie Band’s talent. Their songs take us on a venture of boogie woogie, rock blues, traditional acoustic blues and even some James Brown type funk music. As they perform all these type of music we quickly become aware of the massive amount of talent that this band has to write and play great music.

The opening tune, “Deep Black Water”, gets us in the blues mood with Steve William’s guitar and Steve Snyder’s harp playing off each other with a train type rhythm. This sets up the stage for Jake Johnston’s very interesting vocal style.  “Deep black water don’t pull me down” and “if I live this day I will turn my life around” is just part of the tale told by this tune. What a way to start a CD but this is just the start. Todd Stevens on the drums and Henry Gavaldon on bass do a fine job on this track.

“Got It Made” takes us on the road to some real rock blues. Steve Snyder’s solo harp work really stands out here. This is good for me. From here we are given a taste of some acoustic traditional blues with the tune “The Preacher”. The harp player and guitarist do a lot of playing off of each other on this one. Add to all this some hand claps and foot stomps and we are really enjoying the blues of Boogie Bone.

There is much more to the Boogie Bone Band than I can list here, the rest is all good. ”Pro-Bone-O”, as I said, may be a step from where some consider being the blues. So what! Take a chance, broaden your mind and enjoy the Boogie Bone Band’s “Pro-Bone-O”. It is all good listening.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Groove reviewed by Rick Davis

Johnny Childs
Hightone Records
14 Tracks

Combine extreme talent, perseverance, the drive to land a record deal, a love for the blues and you have captured the persona of the solid bluesman, Johnny Childs. "Groove" Child's long awaited cd runs the gamut from Chicago blues style music to R&B influenced tunes. Joining Childs to round out his blues band are Cliff Schmitt on bass, drummer Michael Bram and piantist/organist Dave Keys. "Groove" combines a traditional style of blues music with Johnny's own experimental style of blues guitar. His unique vocal style and expert guitar skills sets the stage for a full length cd produced by Grammy Award winning producer Bruce Bromberg.

The CD opens with "Black Bag Blues", capturing his listeners early with his hard driving guitar style. "Walk the Floor" is slower blues number with Childs further displaying his skills a veteran blues guitar slinger. He captivating boogie style guitar rocks with "Don't Quit the Man". He completely breaks tradition with the gypsy style tune "Junkman's Son" dedicated to his fascinating documentary film that chronicled his life and his struggle to obtain a record deal called The Junkman's Son. He continues with a 60's rock-blues style number titled "Back In the Middle". He once again returns to a more traditional, slower blues cut "Leaving In the Morning". His use of the wah pedal brings back shades of the 60's group Cream in "Find My Baby" The cd continues with his return a Chuck Berry boogie guitar style heard in "Thumbs Boogie" and "Chromatic Boogie". "I'm a Ram" introduces a horn arrangement, bringing yet another element to this unique collection of the blues. "Don't Leave Me Baby" in my opinion showcases Johnny's guitar style and vocals in this new cd filled with variety. The cd wraps up with "Rollaway the Stone" and a less traditional blues number "Fairwell My Love" on which he tears up the fretboard. "Groove" concludes with a famed Jeff Healy number "See the Light" Johnny Childs style.

Blues followers will soon come to recognize this well hidden Southern California blues secret after listening to the Johnny Childs blues cd "Groove". His vocals have been compared somewhat to Tom Waits but he has a guitar style all his own!

Review by Rick Davis

Porchlight reviewed by Mark Thompson

Todd Sharpville
String Commander – MIG Music
Disc 1 – 7 tracks/37:54
Disc 2 – 8 tracks/45:29

If you are looking for a musician with a unique story to tell, Todd Sharpville more than fits the bill. He is London-born, descended from royalty and has even been offered a chance to run for a seat in the British parliament. He won several British blues music awards, including one in 1995 for “Best British Guitarist” over fellow nominee Eric Clapton. Additionally he has been an advocate of the Fathers Rights Movement following a lengthy battle with his ex-wife over visitation rights for their two children. And just as Sharpville started to work on this project, his father,  the 3rd Viscount St. Davids, passed away unexpectedly.

Dedicated to the memory of his father,
Porchlight is a two disc set that gives listeners an in-depth look at Sharpville's many talents. Besides his skill on guitar, he is accomplished vocalist and a deft songwriter, composing all but one of the fifteen tracks. And you have to be good to get musicians like Joe Louis Walker, Kim Wilson and Duke Robillard to be part of your project. The band consists of Bruce Bears on keyboards, Jessie Williams on bass and Mark Teixeiria on drums. Besides playing on one cut, Robillard filled the role of producer.

The opening tune, “If Love is a Crime”, finds Sharpville in the clutches of a captivating woman and begging for his release, framed by Wilson's rich harp tones. “Lousy Husband (But a Real Good Dad)” takes a honest look at Sharpville's domestic situation as he trades biting guitar licks with Robillard. The stripped-down sound on “Used” serves to enhance the painful emotions captured in the lyrics. “Why Does It Rain” is a highlight with a soaring performance from Sharpville backed by a horn section of Doug James on baritone sax, Mike Tucker on tenor, Scott Aruda on trumpet and Carl Querfurth on trombone. Wilson returns on “Can't Stand the Crook”, a frenetic rocker that takes to task those who lead us into war under false pretenses, featuring some blazing hot guitar from the leader.

“Old Feeling” is a smoky ballad with a rich vocal from Sharpville. Highlights on Disc 2 include the hard rocking “When the World's Not Enough”, a tale of a man lead into a life of crime by love, with Wilson blowing more great harp. Walker and Sharpville take turns squeezing notes out of their guitars as the pace slows on “When the Blues Come Calling”. Wilson delivers a stunning solo on “Misery”, a two minute masterpiece worth the price of admission. The cut is further enhanced by Sharpville's downhearted vocal and a solo that nearly matches Wilson's.

Many listeners will not be amused by the mentions of violence toward women on Shel Silverstein's “If That Ain't Love What Is”. And the dark “Legacy of Greed” rehashes topics covered more effectively on other songs. But the fat sound of Doug James' baritone kicks off “Whole Lotta Lady”, a cut that would get the dancers on their feet. Sharpville wrote “Busted in Pieces” while he during a month-long hospital stay for depression following the break-up of his marriage. Tucker's wailin' tenor sax provides a spark. The title song is Sharpville's musical meditation on the passing of his father, with his emotions laid bare until he and the band take off on a spirited romp to finish things off in style.

These performances represent a man's struggles to deal with his personal demons – which is what the blues is all about. Sharpville is still standing, having created this musical testimonial to his indomitable spirit and exceptional talent. Available on-line at the price of a single disc, this one is definitely recommended.

A Part of Me reviewed by Rick Davis

A Part of Me
Tom Principato
Powerhouse Records
8 Tracks

“A Part of Me”, Tom Principato's latest studio endeavor, summarizes his life as successful blues artist playing, writing, and touring over 40 years. The cd is composed of all original material written by Principato himself,  consisting of a blend of blues, rock, R&B, and funk characterizing the versatility of Principato.

Principato's live shows feature Tommy Lepson on organ & vocals, Bob Shellhouse on guitar, Chris Watling along with a 3 piece horn section, as well as regular band members Steve Wolf on bass, Josh Howell on percussion & vocals, and Joe Wells on drums. Performing along with these talented band members on “A Part of Me” are guest artists Chuck Leavell on organ and piano, Willie Weeks on bass, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, Brian Auger also on keyboards, Jim Brock on drums, and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns. 
The cd opens with “Don’t Wanna Do It”, mixing the precise guitar licks of  Principato and the unique Louisiana slide guitar sound of Sonny Landreth.  These two guitar legends delivering guitar solos along with Chuck Leavell's organ and piano and a spectacular rhythm section provide quite an opener. “Sweet Angel” dedicated to that special someone in a person's life starts a little funky and progresses to an impressive rock style number. 

The title track, “Part of Me” (You’ll Always Be a Part of Me), delivers quite a slow, soulful R&B ballad style tune with stellar vocals and guitar from Tom along with an electrifying horn arrangement from Wayne Jackson. Tommy Lepson makes his contribution on organ along with the rhythm section consisting of guests Willie Weeks on bass and Jim Brock on drums. “Down The Road” is a funky instrumental featuring the expertise of Brian Auger on keyboards along with the guitar work of Principato, Willie Weeks on bass, Jim Brock on drums, and Josh Howell on percussion. “Down in Lou’siana” a tribute to the city of New Orleans creates a Mardi Gras sound delivered like a Mardi Gras marching band. "Back Again & Gone", a jazz flavored instrumental tune, features Steve Wolf on bass, Joe Wells on drums, and Josh Howell on the shaker. This 40 minute cd concludes with the two part number "Stranger's Eyes" creating an island sound featuring vocals and a haunting guitar that only Tom Principato could deliver along with Steve Wolf on bass, Wes Johnson on drums, Gali Sanchez on congas, and Tommy Lepson on the Hammond B-3 and harmony vocals. This is a superb collection of some of Principato's best work!

Reviewed by Rick Davis

Brand New Eyes reviewed by Mark Thompson

Brand New Eyes
Doug MacLeod
Reference Recordings
11 tracks/55:55

Doug MacLeod is the consummate acoustic blues musician; a gifted songwriter, expressive vocalist and superb guitar player. He has been nominated for the Blues Music Award for Acoustic Artist of the Year by the Blues Foundation, the fourth year in a row he has been considered. On his latest CD, the sixteenth of his career, the full scope of his talent is on display throughout the program of original tunes that illuminate MacLeod's honest appraisals of the road he has traveled.

His intricate fingerpicking creates a jaunty rhythm on “Zu-Zu Woman”, a upbeat country blues that celebrates the affections of a sweet lover. “Something Dark is Walking” is a foreboding look at the concealed danger that lies all around us. But MacLeod also has hope for mankind, a sentiment expressed on “The Train of Change” with Denny Croy on string bass and Dave Kida on drums. The lone instrumental, “Somewhere South of Somewhere”, finds MacLeod spinning dazzling embellishments on a delicate melody. He switches to slide guitar on “I Rolled a Nickel”, his voice crying out in anguish over lost love.

“One Eyed Owl” is a highlight of MacLeod's live shows. The tune is based on conversations Doug had with George “Harmonica” Smith's wife Christine, mixing folk wisdom with a touch of the mystical realm that helps stay on the right path. Another stellar track is “Midnight in Memphis” with a heart-wrenching vocal from MacLeod that shakes you deep in your soul. MacLeod's wry humor is expressed on “The Nature of the Man” while the title track finds him picking out a sprightly rhythm as he encourages listeners to take a fresh look at the wonders of the world. Son Seals recorded a MacLeod tune on Bad Axe under the title “I Can Count on My Blues”. Here it is done under the original title, “Same Old Blues Song” with MacLeod delivering a riveting performance. The closing song, “Welcome in Your Home”, features a soaring vocal and a taut rhythm on the slide guitar as MacLeod acknowledges the healing power of love.

MacLeod uses his ability as a storyteller to enable us to briefly see the world through his eyes. His spellbinding performances will captivate you, just as he does on a live stage. And the superb sonic qualities of this recording are exactly what you would expect from a label that is part of the Reference Recordings group, a label with a long history of audiophile-quality releases. No questions here – this one comes highly recommended !!!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson