Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Like a Flower reviewed by Rick Davis

Like A Flower
Kaye Bohler
10 Tracks

Kaye Bohler has been compared to Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Tina Turner. The truth of the matter is her deep, smooth, powerful rhythm and blues vocals are like no one you have heard. She is well known across the Northern California Coast at such venues like Monterey Bay Blues Festival in Monterey, Ca, The Little Fox Theater in Redwood City, The Palms in Winters, and the Blues by the Bay Festival, entertaining blues fans for the past 25 years. If you are looking for first class rhythm, blues, and soul, Kaye has just the voice to go beyond your expectations! In reference to her first three CDs, statements about her like "Power House Blues Woman and Entertainer" and the "Rhythm and Blues Singing Baby of the Blues" are a testimonials of her talent.

Her forth CD Like a Flower, once again is a superb collection of rhythm, blues, and soul charged with emotion and backed by an all-star support cast. Lead guitar assignments are shared by Robben Ford, Tommy Castro, Danny Caron, Garth Webber, and Sammy Varela. Like a Flower, written Kaye, opens with the tune "He Helps Me" is a tribute to her soul mate for the day by day life support. "How Do I Get There" implements a superb horn section as Bohler sings with conviction for guidance to get through this thing called life! "Wasted On You" begins with a smooth sax solo and smooth background vocals and builds with Kaye's powerful, soulful vocals posing the question of has my love been "wasted on you?" "Constant State Of The Blues" is an over emotional testimonial of a caregiver riding that emotional roller coaster day and day out. Superb guitar solos by Danny Caron and Garth Webber create a nice tempo on this tune. "I Got To Know" opens with the fiery guitar riffs by Tommy Castro and blazing sax solos by Nancy Wright combining with the pure blues vocal quality of Kaye's vocals. "Another Mans Arms" delivers a funky R&B tune with some of the best 60's style guitar solos imagined created by Garth Webber. "Two Things At Once" is slow, rich, mellow tune with smooth lead guitar solos by Sammy Varela. "Got a Good Man" opens with a Texas blues guitar sound and brings the horn section back along with Tony Lufrano on Keys. Kaye belts out with jubilation she has found the perfect mate and intends to keep him right next to her! "My Heart Beats For Him" is a total shift to a Billie Holiday style jazz tune with Kaye showing her audience the stunning versatility of her voice. She will melt you with her seductive, charming vocal style on this one! She completes this treasury of soul with a pure rhythm n’ blues title track "Like a Flower" featuring Robben Ford on guitar and once again Kaye Bohler making her statement on vocals.

This Lady is the real deal and supported by a highly talented group of musicians!
Kaye Bohler will make a believer out of any R&B or blues music lover! I can only hope to someday see a live performance.

Reviewed by Rick Davis

Shiver reviewed by Rick Davis

Too Slim and The Taildraggers
Underworld Records
12 Tracks

Too Slim and the Taildraggers are celebrating their new release Shiver their 10th studio album, as well as celebrating their 25th year of touring worldwide. Their last two releases, Free Your Mind and The Fortune Teller charted on the Billboard Top Blues Chart a total of 17 times reaching as high as #5 and #9 respectively. Shiver features guest performances by BMA award winner Curtis Salgado, Duffy Bishop and the Texas Horns led by Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff. The band has sold approximately 100,000 albums since they formed in 1988. Too Slim and the Taildraggers have won over 30 Northwest Music Awards.

Shiver is a collection of hard drivin', heart poundin', foot stompin' roadhouse blues.  Too Slim and the Taildraggers pack a powerful charge for a three piece band. Tim "Too Slim" Langford founded The Taildraggers in Seattle in 1986, and is still going strong some sixteen albums to his credit. This latest CD showcases his technical ability as a guitar player once again as well as his ability as a superb song writer. With Langford on guitar and vocals, Polly O'Keary on bass, and Tommy Cook on drums, this power trio introduces us to quite the collection of talent within the confines of these twelve originals. The cd opens with "Stoned Again" featuring a simple roots intro before he explodes into one of his fiery slide blues tunes. Langford's gritty vocals tell a tale of a gunrunner's fate in "Daddies Bones." Langford brings in the Texas horns and displays his superb guitar ability on tunes "Can't Dress It Up," telling us you can't be someone you're not, while "She Sees Ghosts" is the strange tale of a dog who does just that! "Too Slim" once again displays that hard charging slide guitar on "In Your Corner" and the political statement "Workin" telling us "cheap talk don't pay the bills." Curtis Salgado the "eternal optimist" is the featured vocalist on the tune "Everybody's Got Something," and reassures us that "everything's gonna be alright!" "Inside Of Her," showcasing the "love of his life" features Joe Doria on the Hammond B-3. "As The Tears Go By" and the title track "Shiver" are blues/rock masterpieces showing the depth of Langford's guitar skills. "Shiver features Duffy Bishop on vocals and Austin Elwood Langford on lead guitar. Shiver concludes as well as it begins with the instrumental "Bucerius."
This latest CD is the culmination of the talented "Too Slim" Langford and his long term career as blues performer. Hopefully it will continue for years to come.

Reviewed by Rick Davis

35 Years of Stony Plain reviewed by Mark Thompson

35 Years of Stony Plain
Various Artists
Stony Plain Records
Disc 1 – 21 tracks/75:18
Disc 2 – 20 tracks/73:29
DVD – 11 tracks

This compilation celebrates the latest milestone for this celebrated record company based out of Edmonton, AB Canada. Stony Plain has managed to survive despite the twists and turns of the music business in recent years while offering a wealth of high quality music in variety of genres. The first two discs in this package give listeners a broad sampling of the treasures contained in the company’s catalog.

The first CD is titled “Singers, songwriters and much, much more…”, featuring examples of folk, western swing, country, swing jazz and roots rock music. Tracks of interest to blues fans include Maria Muldaur’s “The Diplomat” - done in the jug band style that she mastered early in her career – and the intertwined guitars of Jay Geils, Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin on the instrumental jazz cut “Shivers”. Another swinging track features rapid-fire comping from Jeff Healey’s guitar in support of the magnificent violin playing of Drew Jurecka. Asleep at the Wheel highlight the blues element in western swing music on a marvelous rendition of “That’s Your Red Wagon” with lap steel wiz Junior Brown making his first recorded appearance. The last  three tracks are unreleased tunes from Bob Carpenter, an influential Canadian singer/songwriter. Other artists include Steve Earle, Ian Tyson, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.

The second disc, “Blues, R&B, Swing, Jazz and even more…”, starts with a bang with Duke Robillard and his band getting everybody in the party spirit with title track from his release “Stomp! The Blues Tonight”. Duke is also paired with the legendary Kansas City jazz piano player Jay McShann on a splendid cover of “Moten Swing”. Jeff Healey returns with a live version of “I’m Tore Down” that reminds us that Healey and his guitar could rock with the best.  Another guitarist, Ronnie Earl, displays the intense passion of his work on the instrumental “Miracle”.

Many listeners will be scrambling to check more of Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s superb vocal and piano after hearing his playing on “Heaven Send Me an Angel”. The late Doug Sahm captures the heartbreak of “Teardrops on Your Letter” from a session with guitarist Amos Garrett and Gene Taylor on piano. “Honey Do Woman” features Sonny Rhodes, who plays blues on a lap steel guitar.

Other highlights include Doug James” baritone sax behind Sugar Ray Norcia’s delightful vocal on “Dirty, Dirty People” and Rosco Gordon doing a gritty remake of his big hit, “No More Doggin’”. The last five tracks are more unreleased gems. The first, “Ain’t Broke and Ain’t Hungry”, is from Richard Newell, aka King Biscuit Boy, a gritty singer and superb harp player. The other four cuts present the last four recordings done by influential slide guitar player, Robert Nighthawk, at a late session in 1965 in Toronto.  His marvelous slide work drives “You Missed a Good Man” and his spirited vocal is a highlight on “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby”, our favorite song from our Blues in the Schools programs (ask me about the story!).

The DVD contains a tour of the Stony Plain offices, a video montage of Jeff Healey behind his performance of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” as well as a too-brief clip of Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters live doing “Betty’s Bop” and Duke Robillard tearing through “Workin’ Hard for My Uncle”. The real treasure is Jay McShann and Johnnie Johnson, the piano player on Chuck Berry’s hit records, doing a piano duet in the studio on “Going to Kansas City”.

This package is the perfect summary of the 35-year legacy of the Stony Plain label. Holger Peterson and Alvin Jahns have released 100’s of titles in a variety of genres. Make sure that you take the time to sample the some of the treasures in their catalog.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Blues Calling reviewed by Steve Jones

Blues Calling
Barrelhouse Chuck
Viola Records
13 tracks/37:08

I think by my count this makes fourteen CDs for this generations’ top Chicago piano man, and he’s hit a home run with this one.  The sound is clear and clean, the tunes are classics with some of Chucks own stuff mixed in, and it’s just a barrelhouse of fun to listen to!

The opening chords on the CD are of Little Brother Montgomery’s “I Keep On Drinking”; they give you a sense of sitting on the piano bench next to Chuck, with a sound that is really clean and just right on.  The right hand notes are emanating on your right and the left on your left.  You and Chuck are one with the piano.  This is perhaps the best sounding CD Chuck has produced and the sound is up close and real. “Half A Pint Boogie” is a song Chuck and Erwin Helfer wrote, and served up here in second place it shows us why Chuck is one of the best keyboard men out there, and so is Erwin who joins him on the cut.  They run up and down the piano keys seemingly without effort in this fine instrumental.

“Tin Pan Alley/The Alley Blues” is a dark cover of this standard, making you feel as if you are in this alley that you shouldn’t be in.  “It’s You Baby” brightens things up Sunnyland Slim-style, with Chuck tickling the keys and howling in true Chicago blues form.  Robert Nighthawk’s “Anna Lee” takes us back down in a deep slow blues ad then Chuck stridently plays Leroy Carr’s “Barrelhouse Woman #1 to bring us back up.  It’s a marvelous dichotomy of the blues showing us both desperation and happiness.  He continues with Carr’s honky tonk “Ain’t Got No Money Now”, a fitting commentary on today from yesteryear.

“Church Street Blues” is a Barrelhouse Chuck song abut his love who lives far away.  He wrote this song about Betsy, his wonderful wife, and you can feel his strong emotions for her in both his vocals and playing.  He then gives us his “Blues For Little Brother”, an homage to one of his main mentors; he gives us some expressive play on this slow and mellow instrumental song.  Perry Weber from the Devilles next delivers the vocals on “Ten Long Years”, a song he wrote and Chuck plays backup on; it’s a cool mid tempo cut about bad relationships.  “Violas Stomp” is a nice rocking instrumental with Chuck and Ben Andrews on acoustic guitar.

Carr’s “Six Cold Feet In The Ground” is a lonesome sounding classic that Chuck does with both freshness and pathos.  He closes the music with Pinetop’s wistful “Gigolo”, who passed from us unexpectedly right before the CD’s release.  Chuck then gives us a fun bonus track of messages from his answering machine from all of the blues greats.

This is an outstanding album of some of Chuck’s favorite songs done by a man who is a legacy back to all the great Chicago keyboard players.  His fans will love this and those new to Mr. Goering will appreciate this as a fine initiation into Chicago blues piano done right!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Translucent Blues reviewed by Steve Jones

Translucent Blues
Ray Manzarek/Roy Rogers
Blind Pig Records
12 tracks/58:58

"Riders on the storm,
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm..."
Sorry, I was playing the new Manzarek and Rogers album and I thought I was Back in 1971. My bad. Wait, this is a new album with new songs and I was still transported back.

Blues?  Translucent blues? Blues for the 21st century?  Kinda, maybe, sorta, and at times maybe even not really. Cool as all git out? Hell yeah! This CD has some of the best lyrics I've heard in ages.  The stories, torments, desires, pains, and the rest of the gamut of emotions described are pure poetry in action. Manzarek's demonic vocals and hell bound keyboards with Rogers more laid back vocals and strident guitar make this a great CD to listen to.  It ain't all blues, it's stuff Jim Morrison could have sung and made millions off of had he lived, and now it's on a blues album that is not a completely a blues album.  There are blues in there, but this is on the whole is not at all a traditional  blues album.  I hope the mainstream music folks get a whiff of this because old farts (like me) would eat this stuff up.

If one needs to label things, this is psychedelic rock blended with blues and a little jazz.  But so what?  It's still some good music.  The low points for me were the last two songs.  Really nice instrumentals, but the lyrics are what sells the other ten tracks.  These two gents can make beautiful music and do on the final two cuts, but I miss the vocals and lyrics.  They should have perhaps spread them out and not finished with a pair of instrumentals because it just didn't sit right; it comes off as a beautiful afterthought, but still and afterthought.  The first instrumental is the twisted new age jazzy "As You Leave" and the second is "An Organ, A Guitar and and Chicken Wing", a bluesy blast of the past from the future. 

Ok, so now that I have that out of me, the other tracks range from whacked out to sad to disturbing to depressing.  It's the late 60's and early 70's all over again, and I am fine with it.  Manzarek's organ and keyboard work along with his vocals make one think this could be the Doors.  Tracks like "Game of Skill" have those classic keyboard lines, guitar work that could be a product of some sort of possession, and Manzarek screams out lyrics in a style beyond demonic possession.  He builds and builds this into a whirlwind of coherent incoherence.  Quite cool. "New Dodge City Blues" has that same Doors-like Manzarek sound, and Ray talks to us about how we're moving into a society that is just like the wild west being reborn.  He tells us things about how things are getting worse and worse.  This is the kind of flavor of stuff rock bands and singers sang about during the Vietnam and Nixon era.  Manzarek draws us some interesting similes.

Warren Zevon and others helped out with "River of Madness" and it is a romp through "the river of madness they call LA."  Rogers takes the lead on singing the verses  and then Manzarek blows it all up with him on the choruses giving this a level of madness fitting to the story.  "Blues In My Shoes" is more traditionally blues; penned by Rogers, we get him singing and playing some mean distorted guitar and Manzarek is as close to barrelhouse as Ray can probably get. "Greenhouse Blues" gives us a jazzy blues approach to a Michael C. Ford set of lyrics set to a bluesy melody that warn us of our global plight.  George Brooks offers up a succulent tenor sax solo on this one.

"Tension" gives us a distorted sounding cut with all sorts of vocal accouterments for both singers who give us some more interesting social commentary.  "On "Fives and Ones" Rogers blows us out with some big guitar and he warns us to keep our pockets full of fives and ones to pay off our markers and to watch out for yourself.  The opening track "Hurricane" is a haunting tale comparing life to living through a hurricane.  A wild ride.

The blues are certainly there as are rock, and jazz; all very psychedelic and transcendental and woven together. This is a tornado-like CD that whips you off into the Land of Oz except you are here on earth and hearing about some of life's worst sides.  I enjoyed this CD a lot- it was transcendental for sure- I recommend this one for everyone who wants to hear what the Doors would be playing if they still were around and what two very talented men who obviously love to make great music together can whip up and deliver.  Go out and get this one soon- you will not regret it and the sooner you get it the more you can enjoy it.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Renegade reviewed by Mark Thompson

Lightnin' Malcolm featuring Cameron Kimbrough
Ruf Records
13 tracks/46:58

Teamed up with drummer Cedric Burnside as the Two Man Wrecking Crew, guitarist Lightnin' Malcolm established his credentials as true practitioner of Mississippi hill country blues. Now he is the leader – singer, guitarist and songwriter plus playing drums and bass on one track each. His musical cohort, drummer Cameron Kimbrough, is the grandson of Jr. Kimbrough, who along with R.L. Burnside defined the trance style of playing that defines the hill country music.
The guitar-drum combo puts a lot of pressure on the guitar to bolster the rhythm pattern from the drums while simultaneously adding accents to keep the listener's attention. Malcolm succeeds admirably – in fact, he focuses almost exclusively on the rhythm, keeping his solos brief and devoid of any histrionics.

Check out his nasty tone and forceful guitar playing on “So Many Women”, his vocal riding the relentless beat supplied by Kimbrough. The title cut is an instrumental with crashing cymbals punctuating Malcolm's taut guitar lines. “Stop Fighting Over Me” is another example of the blues stripped down to the basics as guitar and drums intertwine to form a forceful rhythm pattern while Malcolm pleads for some peace in his love life. The Jimmy Reed-style groove on “Come Go With Me”
features hand-clapping, tambourine from Rosalind Wilcox and Malcolm handling the drum track.

The dark, primal guitar tone Malcolm employs on “Foxfire Ranch” makes that instrumental track special while his blustery vocal on “My Lyin' Ass” is another highlight. Three cuts feature the Lucero Horns – Jim Spake on baritone sax, David McNight on tenor sax and Nahshon Benford on trumpet. On these tunes, Malcolm shows his fondness for reggae music,the Caribbean version of hill country music. The horns energize “Guilty Man” before supplying a soulful backdrop for Malcolm's vocal duet with Nadirah Shakoor on “My Precious Jewel”. On “North Mississippi”, J Grubbz injects a rap segment rides Malcolm's guitar, briefly showing that these two styles can work together effectively.
Malcolm's thick guitar tone on the ballad “Last Night I Held an Angel” serves as a contrast to his sensitive vocal. “Tell You Girl” is another love song with a lighter touch that almost seems out of place in the midst of the deeper grooves of the other tracks. The duo bring the disc to a close with a fine performance on “You Better Recognize”, a swaggering, stompin' hill country blues.
Despite the inherent limitations of working in the guitar-drum format, Malcolm and Kimbrough consistently make this music sound fresh and vital. If you are longing for a chance to listen to a record that celebrates rhythm and feel over instrumental prowess, this record will cure what ails you. Just remember to play loud and make sure there's room to dance!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Hard Dollar reviewed by Steve Jones

Hard Dollar
Hadden Sayers
Blue Corn Music
13 tracks/50:45

As I do with almost every CD from an artist I am listening to for the first time, I dropped this CD in and listened without looking at the liner notes or promo materials.  I find that I can be a lot more objective by limiting any preconceived notions on my part (other than the visual of an album cover which is hard not to look at, and it's a pretty cool one in this case).  So what I heard was some Texas country-fried blues, served up hot and delicious!  I was very impressed and immediatley listened a second time through, enjoying it even more as I got more familiar with the tunes.  So then I went through the materials and I find out Sayers is from Houston (pretty obviuously a Texan by the song lyrics), everything here is original, Sayers plays some guitar for Ruthie Foster, he moved to Ohio to support his wife's career and things went very far south in his life for over 5 years but things are starting to work out, and he's released a killer CD.  So now that I perhaps have peaked your interest, let's get into this great album.

Sayers is a superb guitar players and has some earthy vocal skills that are just spot on; he sounds like a top notch bluesman.  His Texas country influenced blues are very hot and savory and he writes meaningful and intersting songs.  What is not to like here?  Ruthie even appears on "Back To The Blues", a "slow-jam" blues ballad, and she gives an an extemely nice duet with Sayers.  The groove is almost elegant as they sing of "going back to the blues" with an almost religiously convincing lyrical delivery.  The opening guitar riffs of the first song are almost ZZ Top-like; "Take Me Back To Texas" is a fast honky tonk boogie about Sayer's desire to return to his beloved home state.  This CD grabs you from the start and Sayers sells it with stunning guitar solo work.

"Flat Black Automobile" is quite an intriguing cut; he seemingly uses his spray painted, old car as an analogy for his aging body.  It is an excellent methaphor and an even better song. He wrote the first lines of the song over an decade ago and expanded in it here into a fantastic cut full of pathos and allegory.  "Sweet Texas Girls" is a fun song about his wife and all the Texas women he obviuously adores.  There is a cool music video on his site for this, too.  He follows that with a rocking number entitled "I Got A Crush on You" where he explains his feelings about his woman.  "Ain't Comin' Round No More" has a Willie Dixon-like groove that makes you want to get up and swing to it.  He gives us some nice licks guitar during the solo, too.   He closes the set with "Money Shot", done in a surfing rockabilly Texas approach.  "Burnin' Up" is another big rocker and does exactly what the title states- he just burns it up.

Sayers is joined on the CD by Tony McClung on drums, Mark Frye on bass and Dave DeWitt on Hammond organ.  I was very impressed by Sayers, his band and his music.  This is really an excellent CD that I unequivocably endorse.  Hot rocking Texas blues, laced with some country corn bread and barbeque just to spice things up.  I hope we see a lot more of Sayers and this album could help to get him noticed.  This one is a no-brainer to add to your CD collection if you like great guitar, superb original songs and well delivered and equally well written lyrics!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Almighty Dollar reviewed by David Strine

Almighty Dollar
Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers
Delta Groove Music
12 tracks

Part of the blues community is, I believe, infected with the “Johnny Lang” syndrome. We have our ears to the ground in hopes of finding the next and youngest new thing to squeeze the life out of in an effort to “keep the blues alive.” In this pursuit, we sometimes overlook the work of blues artists who have been “doing it” for several decades. My first listen through with the new Rod Piazza CD convinced me that we ALSO need to not take for granted artists that were “new” 20 years ago. Almighty Dollar is a CD worth owing. It’s a good, quirky, fun and well done affair.

The current Flyers are stripped down to the ubiquitous Honey, Henry Carvajal (guitar), and Dave Kida (drums). Bass chores on the CD are split between Norm Gonzales on electric bass and Hank Van Sickle on upright. Johnny Dyer sings two cuts and Rusty Zinn adds lead and rhythm guitar pretty much throughout the CD. Jonny Viau adds tenor sax on  six cuts that is SO restrained you might miss it on a small system.
The Hollywood Fats sounding, Jimmy Liggins “Move Out Baby” kicks off the CD. In case we’ve forgotten why we like RP & MF in the first place, this will bring it all back: the jumpin’ beat, rockin’piano, and big chromatic harmonica riffs are all here. “What Makes You So Tough” is another tongue in cheek tune aided with gospel tinged backup vocals.  The liner notes don’t indicate who exactly the choir is, perhaps Rod doubled but they sound oh-so female?? Piazza accomplishes a nice growl for a song there titled “Blues Shadows.” Piazza and Zinn own this song, but the Flyers prove they are a great backup band as well. “Wine, Wine, Wine” is a nice atmospheric tune: Piazza waiting for the floor show, drinking wine, and getting in the mood, which, by assimilation, gets us In the mood as well. The old standard “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” gets the Rod treatment. I should mention that this CD sounds great on a nice system, where the intimacy of the stripped down arrangements pull us in to the overall atmosphere of the disc. Next up is Little Walter’s “That’s It.” Again, the Flyers nail it. Another “move out” song follows which makes me wonder, oh never mind, its blues. “Baby Don’t Go” shows how Piazza’s voice has mellowed over the years. Is he becoming a crooner? I won’t say. Dyer is back for Muddy Water’s “Lovin’ Man,” and he sounds scarily like the man himself – nice job. The Piazza-penned “Almighty Dollar” is next up. The story is universal: “can’t you hear me holler; chasing that almighty dollar?” Zinn and Carvajal trade tasty guitar on this tune.  Listeners may be shocked by song ten, which drips of ‘50s doo-wop. “We Belong Together” even has the talked response to the vocal line. Cute, quirky or cliché’? I don’t know that I’ve heard “Confessin’ The Blues” since that last time I put on 12x5, but it sounds so good hear with Johnny Dyer on vocals and the Flyers proving they were and ARE a great blues band. The CD closes with another Piazza-penned instrumental called “Con-Vo-Looted.” Here Piazza does what he does best, play great harmonica.

Truly, listening to this CD made me say to myself, why haven’t I kept up with is band? Though not all blues, thematically the CD is blues-based and cool. Piazza still has some tricks up his sleeve. His voice has mellowed the band is tight as ever and the stripped down treatment is, indeed, a treat. Those listeners who bailed after the Holmstrom, Stuve, Mugalian exodus should check out this CD. RP & MF have not slowed down a bit.

Reviewed by David Stine

The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue: featuring Tommy Castro reviewed by David Stine

The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue: featuring Tommy Castro
Tommy Castro (and others)
Alligator Records
12 tracks/72:01 min.

I have a bumper sticker on the back of my rider mower that says “I’d Rather Be At A Tommy Castro Show.” Once you hear this CD, You’ll agree with me – this was the one to be at! Tommy smokes, the band smokes, the guests smoke, and I’m surprised anyone made it out alive! Besides Tommy and his horn-heavy band: Keith Gross man (sax), Tom Poole (trumpet), Tony Stead (keys), Scott Southerland (bass), and Ronnie Smith (drums). Guests include Debbie Davies, Joe Louis Walker, Michael Burks, “Sista” Monica, Janiva Magness, Rick Estrin, Theodis Ealey, and Trampled Under Foot. These songs are NOT from one show, but an assemblage of shows from both fall and spring 2010 and 2011, usually after one of the cruises has ended or before another begins AND when the "guest" roster is available.  Listening to the CD, however, it  sounds like one big continuous party!

From the first song, “Wake Up Call,” to the closer, “Serves me Right To Suffer,” the listener is treated to some of the best folks on the blues scene and friends assembled from Tommy’s years of being on the Legendary Blues Cruise. Tommy takes to first two songs and he is at the top of his game, here: his guitar playing has never been better, nor his voice and showmanship so strong. “Wake Up Call” is still sizzling when Castro kicks off a heart pounding rendition of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Michael Burks takes over song three to let us catch our breath a bit (intro only!) for his “Voodoo Spell.” When Burks kicks it in, rest time is over and he lays down some mighty slide work and we are under his spell. Next, Joe Louis Walker funks it up with a James Brown tweaked reading of “It’s A Shame.” Once again, the Castro band proves they can do anything. By backing so many artists so well, the band adds to the overall consistency of this CD and makes it a real joy. Following Walker, Sista Monica Parker takes the helm with the help of Castro on some nice understated guitar (for a while) on “Never Say Never.” At this point in the CD, it a nice touch to slow it down and quiet it down (we older folks can’t take too much high energy). Rick Estrin is next up with “My Next Ex,” arranged to fit the horn accompaniment. This is nice change from the album version. Kid Anderson, Little Charlie Baty’s replacement does his quirky playing where needed to keep the song theirs. My favorite family of lefties, Trampled Under Foot brings “Fog” to the cruise masses in a manner only they can do. TUF is definitely a band to watch. No help needed from the Castro band here. Tommy’s back for “Painkiller” with reminiscences of the Stones’ “Heartbreaker” (but I like it). I have been a Tommy Castro fan since I reviewed Can’t Keep A Good Man Down for another paper (back in the day) that rhymes with BAM. Songs like “Painkiller” show how Tommy has grown and perfected his craft and his show. Janiva Magness, Castro, and the band give a new read and new legs to “Think” (Not Aretha, James Brown). How do you pick a highlight on such a great CD? I’m tempted on this one but, I won’t go there. Theodis Ealey will make you run to your Al Greene recordings with his “This Time I Know.” No lie, you’ll swear it was a song you heard Al Green do and you just forgot. Soul supreme, here. Debbie Davies steps up next to “Strategize” with the band on “All I Found.” She’s one of my favorite contemporary Strat players and the only woman (I’m such a sexist). Tommy closes the CD (and, to our ears, the show) with Percy Mayfield’s “Serves me Right To Suffer.” From Mayfield smooth to a Magic Sam “house rockin’ boogie,” Castro takes it out the way he brought it in – making us wish the "show" would never end!

Walk, crawl, steal your brother’s bike, or maybe swim to get this CD. If you’ve ever wondered about the talent on the blues cruise, any of these artists or you just need to pick up your day, get this CD!

Reviewed by David Stine

Raisin’ Hell Revue reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Raisin’ Hell Revue
Elvin Bishop
Delta Groove Music
13 tracks /53:25

Elvin Bishop has been on the rock, blues music scene for well over forty scenes. Early on Bishop honed his music skills with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band before forming the Elvin Bishop Group. He also spent time with Bloomfield and Kooper and the Allman Brothers Band to name a few of the many that he performed with. Elvin Bishop created his own sound with his guitar, used his unique vocals and song writing ability to become a powerhouse performer while also releasing numerous studio and live recordings. Of course, we all familiar with his tunes “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” and “Travelin’ Shoes”. Check out for more information on this artist.

The Delta Groove Music release of Elvin Bishop’s “Raisin’ Hell Revue” is a very interesting and enjoyable event. This CD was recorded live on the 2010 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Joining Bishop on stage is a fine bunch of guitarist and vocalist. Featured singers included are, Elvin Bishop, John Nemeth, and the great blues vocalist Finis Tasby. The guitar slingers showcased on “Raisin’ Hell Revue” include Bishop, Chris “Kid” Anderson, and Bob Walsh. Terry Hanck adds his awesome saxophone playing and also sings on “Cryin’ Fool”. The list of players and background singers just adds to the enjoyment of this recording.

“Raisin’ Hell Revue” treats us to a really good selection of full blown blues, funk, Cajun, rockin’ blues and also a little gospel. This is all a good mix of music. On Bishop’s tune, “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”, John Nemeth takes over the vocal part of the song and let’s Elvin handle the guitar solos. This is a really good rendition of this tune. Finis Tasby is the featured vocalist for several tunes on “Raisin’ Hell Revue”. “Whole Lotta Love” showcases Tasby’s true blues vocals. He has that raw, raspy quality that yells out the blues to our ears. On this track Kid Anderson and Elvin Bishop trade some awesome guitar licks between themselves. Another standout tune, “Down In Virginia”, also has Tasby on vocals. This song features John Nemeth plying some very tasteful high end harmonica for us as well as Bishop doing some slide guitar.

“Dyin’ Flu” serves up some true Elvin Bishop blues. We get the old days narrative of Bishop’s times with the great Albert Collins, which is very interesting.  Bishop a really good rendition of this Albert Collin tune both vocally and instrumentally. I really enjoyed this tune.

“Raisin’ Hell Revue” shows us why the blues should be recorded live and spontaneously. One can listen to each track over and over to visualize the musicians and vocalists. It is a tough job to give all the players and background singers their credit due on “Raisin’ Hell Revue” but they all add to the quality of this project. All 13 tunes recorded here are enjoyable and leave one wanting for more of the same.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Put It On Me! reviewed by David Stine

Put It On Me!
Quintus McCormick Blues Band
Delmark Records
14 tracks/64:30 min.

Quintus McCormick is hardly a household name. His life, as with many blue men and women, has taken many a turn to get to the point where even recording a CD is possible. This is McCormick’s second. The various experiences in McCormick’s life are apparent in the variety of music hear from soul, to blues, to horn-driven R&B to gospel. Also apparent is the time McCormick spent in college learning music and arrangement.
McCormick wrote all the songs on the CD, sings them, and plays guitar throughout. He is aided by his band, John Chorney (keys), Vic Jackson (bass), and Jeremiah Thomas (drums). Billy Branch adds harmonica here and there, as well as The Chicago Horns (Kanny Anderson, Hank Ford, Jerry DiMuzio, and Steve Berry).

Thee CD starts off with “You Just Using Me,” a Jimmy Reed-esque toe tapper that brings a smile to those who have been used and know how to turn it around. Song two “Talk Baby,” is SO Average White Band that I looked for this influence in the Delmark propaganda that was included with the CD. Nope. However, this may be my favorite cut on the CD. “How Quick We Forget” (song three), is a nice, slow soul/blues that McCormick, unfortunately, decides to muddy up with unnecessary overdriven guitar solos. McCormick as great chops, but believe me fellas who want to do this: it adds NOTHING to the statement to kick in the OD! It’s not more soulful, hornlike, or “bluesy.” Forget Stevie Ray Vaughan—his brother had the right approach. Moving right along, “Same Old Feeling,” ride refreshingly along on top of an electric piano that sounds like and electric piano! Nice arrangement job on this one! The focus stays on the lyrics, McCormick’s soulful voice, and the lovely arrangement here – another bravo. Song five, “I Got It Babe,” is a ZZ Hill (who McCormick worked with for a while) influenced romper that is another highlight. Bill Branch’s harp opens song six, “The Blues Has Been Good To Me,” that melds blues and jazz chords putting a unique spin on what might have sounded oh-so-standard. Again, though, the guitar solo is ODed almost to the point where it is annoying. “Loveland” is another horn-driven soul with McCormick adding some nice Wes Montgomery style octave playing. “Don’t Know What To Do” with its “Boom Boom Boom” du da du du is funky and honest and bluesy. And because it’s bluesy, yes, THAT guitar sound is back. Branch blows some major harp on this tune and the backing B3, and clever lyrics, saved this from “filler” for me. McCormick’s lyrics kind of take a tumble on the awkward “Changes.” “If you don’t change, nothing’s going to change” reminds me of the last Aerosmith hit with the lazy “I miss you babe and I don't want to miss a thing.” Oh well, there’s not a lot of poetry left in music anymore.  Wait, is that “I’m Ready”? Nope, it’s song 10 and the title track, “Put It On Me.” This not the strongest song on the CD, but maybe that’s not the criteria for CD title choices – I’ve never known. It’s an OK song, but kind of redundant. “Sadie,” which follows is. To me, funkier and heavier, and guess what, McCormick proves he can play just as fast without the OD pedal! Who needs Barry White or Lou Rawls when you hear song twelve, “Say Lover”? Hey folks, it’s right in there. Nice horn arrangements and S-M-O-O-T-H vocals. McCormick nails it! Oh oh, what’s this - a blues song that McCormick plays without that doggone OD pedal?? Nice.
There’s some T Bone Walker here, so maybe that’s why. Just the same it proves to me he can do it without trying to doctor up an already good song. Q decides to close this fairly long CD with a gospel song titled, appropriately “Hallelujah.” Without going into details of McCormick’s personal life, this is indeed and appropriate closing to the CD.

Listeners seem to be both bombarded with and drawn to BIG names with the BIGGEST television or internet presence. Guys like Quintus McCormick will never compete with Buddy Guy or Eric Clapton or John Legend, but this is a CD with A LOT going on. It’s varied, well arranged and performed, and it is very good. If you like some soul mixed in with your blues, I think you will enjoy this CD. Forget what you saw on American Idol, Quintus McCormick is in it to win it, dog!

Reviewed by David Stine