Breakin' News - 10 Years Of Blues
Nola Blue Records
It's not often that we cover a Various Artists
compilation as one of our featured albums, but, dang, this one's
a smoker. Each of the ten songs on Breakin' News - 10 Years
Of Blues deserve to be heard again and again.
Nola Blue has been slowly pushing itself into
the upper echelon of blues labels, with outstanding artists like
Clarence Spady, John Németh, Lil' Jimmy Reed, The Love Light
Orchestra, and Trudy Lynn, with this compilation including songs
from these artists and more.
Benny Turner is the real star here, and I'm
almost ashamed to say that my blues collection doesn't contain
enough of this wonderful singer's work. To get caught up, I went
searching for past albums that I missed the first time around.
Breakin' News opens with the title cut
from Turner, a solid blues shuffle that first appeared on his
Journey album from 2014. It's a wonderful number that opens
with nice steel guitar from Marc Stone before we hear the first
of Mr. Turner's rich vocals. He returns on the next cut, Elmore
James' "It Hurts Me To," a downhome blues that he shares with
Cash McCall from Going Back Home, the album the duo put
together in 2019. Nice, raw blues, with McCall handling lead
vocals while Turner sings background and plays bass. Billy
Branch contributes nice harmonica.
Turner does one more number, the closing cut,
"Who Sang It First," a slow soulful gospel tune that he co-wrote
with James George. Keyboards come from Clayton Ivey on the
Wurlitzer and Joe Krown on organ. "Who Sang It First" was a
single released in 2019, and not real easy to find. McCall gets
another song, the mid-tempo blues shuffle "One Who's Got A Lot,"
a single from 2020. Lyrics are great, as he sings lines like
"... I don't need no super model, just give me one that's got a
lot ..." Tasteful guitar work is provided by Jim Koeppel, who
also wrote the song.
Soul/blues singer Frank Bey was a vastly
underrated artist in his day, with the wonderful "All My Dues
Are Paid," from the 2020 album by that name having been recorded
in the prolific Greaseland Studios in San Jose. Of course,
anything coming from Greaseland has the musical genius Kid
Andersen's touch all over it, as the native of Norway produced
the album as well as playing guitar and keyboards. Like I did
after hearing the song, you will want to find the original
album. Yes, it's still available.
I'm a big fan of Scranton, Pennsylvania blues
cat Clarence Spady, so it's good to have more music from this
very fine guitarist and singer. "If Only We Could" was a single
released in 2022, likely from the same sessions as his excellent
2021 album, Surrender. Spady shines on guitar, and we
also get stellar B3 accompaniment from Dave Archer. It's just
good, basic blues.
One of the biggest blues names from the past on
the label is Trudy Lynn, with the title cut from her 2022 album,
Golden Girl. The horns give this mid-tempo blues shuffle
a big sound before we hear Ms. Lynn's powerful voice. The
McKendree family (son Yates on guitar, father Kevin on organ)
both provide powerful accompaniment.
We get two outstanding vocal performances from
John Németh --- "After All," a slow blues from the album,
Leave the Light On, when he was fronting The Love Light
Orchestra, and the slow, gospel-influenced blues of "The Last
Time," from his 2022 album, May Be The Last Time.
One of my favorite downhome blues albums of 2023
was Back To Baton Rouge, from the combo of Lil' Jimmy
Reed and young pianist Ben Levin. Reed sings out his
autobiographical tune, "They Call Me Lil' Jimmy," one that will
likely convince you to seek out the full album if you haven't
already added it to your collection.
The fact that I've already searched for many of
the previous albums indicates that there's lots of quality blues
packed into the ten songs here, and is just the tip of the
iceberg of solid blues recordings from Nola Blue. Trust me. You
want this album.
--- Bill Mitchell