Blues Bytes


February 2024

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Various Artists
Breakin' News - 10 Years Of Blues
Nola Blue Records

Nola Blue

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


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