Blues Bytes

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January 2007

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Joe Louis Walker

Bob Margolin

Duane Allman book


Joe Louis WalkerIt was not until I was preparing my Top Ten list for this issue of Blues Bytes that I realized we had never reviewed Playin' Dirty (JSP), the latest from the prodigious Joe Louis Walker. Few blues artists have been as consistently good as Walker since his debut disc for Hightone in 1986. Playin' Dirty is just the latest in a long line of top quality albums from the Bay Area guitarist. Recorded in Paris with only two backing musicians, the album has Walker playing all guitar parts, as well as dubbing in the harmonica and piano parts.

Playin' Dirty begins with "Nobody Wanta To Know Ya," a deep, plodding song with a little touch of Hendrix to it. With the licks he serves up, Walker makes a strong case that he needs to be taken more seriously as one of the premier guitarists on the blues scene today. He knows when to add effects to his guitar playing without taking it to annoying extremes like many guitar hacks. Walker then shifts gears on "Barefoot Rock," pumping out Chuck Berry-style riffs, but also going into another dimension, on this up-tempo number. These two songs alone show that Walker can pay tribute to the guitarists that influenced him without being a slave to their exact styles.

If there's any question left about Walker's ability on guitar, he seals the deal with the instrumental "Pickin' The Blues," on which he gives the listener just short of three minutes of mean slide guitar.

One of the album's highlights (perhaps because I consider it to be one of the all-time party anthems) is Walker's version of the oft-covered New Orleans classic, "I Got Loaded." This song is more of a showcase for JLW's vocal abilities, although he finds time to infuse it with an extended hot blues guitar solo. It's a great version, rivaling Los Lobos' cover of the L'il Bob & the Lollipops original.

Walker's voice has always been well-suited to a slow blues, and "Woman Was Made To Be Loved" is his vehicle on Playin' Dirty." The five and a half minute playing time of this song also allows him time to stretch out on the guitar.

One that will certainly get the blood flowing is "Juicy Fruit," a jump blues shuffle with a few rockabilly riffs mixed in. Playin' Dirty ends with a four-minute instrumental, "From The Projects To Paris," which is a street corner traditional blues on acoustic guitar, heavy on the slide.

Joe Louis Walker has never released an album that is anything less than superb. Playin' Dirty continues that tradition.

--- Bill Mitchell

Bob MargolinBlues fans know what they’re getting from a Bob Margolin release….a consistently fine mix of original songs and well-chosen covers, along with some of the best blues guitar around. Margolin learned his craft at the feet of some of the masters. He was a guitarist in Muddy Waters’ band for seven years before forming his own group and has played with a veritable who’s who of blues artists too numerous to mention. Margolin has released multiple CDs on his own for Alligator, Blind Pig, Telarc, and others, but his latest, In North Carolina, on his own Steady Rollin’ Records, may be his best yet. Certainly, it’s his most personal.

The disc features 14 tracks, half of which are compositions by Margolin. He also plays all the instruments, including electric and acoustic guitar, bass, and snare drum. Margolin’s goal with In North Carolina was to show listeners the type music he plays in his North Carolina home for himself and his wife and pets.

Margolin’s taste in cover tunes is always first rate and there are no exceptions here. The opening cut, a tight version of Muddy Waters’ “Tell Me Why,” threatens to jump out of the speakers, while his lively take of Louis Armstrong’s “You Rascal You” is also a highlight. Other standout covers include a mournful version of Bob Dylan’s “Tears of Rage,” featuring some inspired slide guitar, “Red Hot Kisses,” where Margolin’s guitar work is a nice, appropriate tribute to Robert Lockwood, Jr., and “Floyd’s Guitar Blues” is a beautifully played instrumental that pays tribute to another of Margolin's heroes, Les Paul.

As far as original compositions go, Margolin has always possessed a unique lyrical style that’s always entertaining. “She And The Devil” has long been a favorite of his fans, so they will be pleased to have this solo, acoustic version to add to their collection. The title cut does an excellent job of conveying loneliness experienced while on the road. “Just Before Dawn” is an original Chicago Blues tune that would have made his mentor proud, and “Colleen” is a bouncy instrumental inspired by Margolin’s Border Collie, Colleen, who passed away earlier this year (and is pictured on the cover of the CD).

Capping things off is a revealing narrative about a night in the life of a bluesman, “You Never Know,” which is taken from an article Margolin wrote for Blues Revue a few years ago.

As expected, there’s plenty of great guitar to be found on In North Carolina. Margolin has long been one of the most tasteful blues guitarists around, accomplished in a wide variety of styles and never overplaying his hand. Muddy would certainly be proud of his latest effort and you will be, too.

In North Carolina is slated for a January 23, 2007 release, but you can go to and get an advance copy.

--- Graham Clarke

Skydog - Duane Allman Story(Book review)- Duane Allman made a tremendous impact on modern guitar in just a handful of years. First gaining notoriety as a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals on records by Otis Rush, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Herbie Mann, and Wilson Pickett (most especially his incendiary solo on Pickett’s “Hey Jude”), Allman’s personal musical vision was hamstrung for years by clueless record companies, tough luck, and sometimes his own decisions. It eventually all came together in the form of The Allman Brothers Band, who introduced the phrase “Southern Rock” to music and influenced a ton of followers with their revolutionary rock/blues/jazz/classical hybrid. The band was truly one of the most talented groups of musicians ever, and seemed to be of the same voice when it came to making their music. However, the stabilizing force behind the band was Duane Allman with his incredible slide guitar, which still leaves one in awe some 35 years after his untimely passing.

Though there have been several books published about the escapades of the Allmans, none of them have put the focus on the band’s founder and guiding light like Randy Poe’s Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (Backbeat Books), which gives us as complete a look at both the man and the musician as we’ve ever had.

Skydog covers Allman’s early years (including the terrible murder of his father) and his childhood with recollections from people close to him at that time, including his brother Gregg, as well as buddies and musicians like Johnny Sandlin, Pete Carr, and Paul Hornsby. There are also chapters devoted to the brothers’ earlier bands, such as the Allman Joys (who were told by Dial Records owner Buddy Killen to go “look for a day job”), Hour Glass, and their stint with the 31st of February. Poe also shares how hearing Taj Mahal’s first couple of albums, which featured guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, encouraged Allman to seriously pursue playing slide guitar.

Naturally the story picks up steam with the formation and development of The Allman Brothers Band. Poe is really at his best here, telling stories behind the recording of the band's first two albums as well as their non-stop live appearances. Most informative is the account of their 1971 appearance at Fillmore East, which led to what is considered to be one of the finest live recordings ever.

The chapter on Allman’s appearance at Eric Clapton’s Derek & the Dominos sessions in Miami for what would become Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs should be required reading for any fan of rock guitar. Interviews with the late producer Tom Dowd (who also produced several of the ABB’s biggest records) and musician Bobby Whitlock provide a bird’s eye view into the proceedings and shed light on the incredible rapport established between Skydog and Slowhand.

Though a stellar musician, Allman was not without his character flaws and none of them are glossed over in Skydog. His drug use and undependability, as well as his failed relationships, are discussed, though they are presented as part of the whole story. Allman’s intense personal drive to succeed played a role in these flaws, though he was trying to clean up just prior to his death.

Poe doesn’t stop the story after Allman’s tragic death from a motorcycle accident in 1971. The star-crossed history of The Allman Brothers Band is brought to the present, and it’s amazing how strongly Allman’s influence is still felt in the band, as well as in countless rock, blues, and even country guitarists.

There’s also a meticulously detailed chapter on Allman’s guitars, a “Where Are They Now” section on some of the book’s sources, and a detailed discography on albums and sessions the incredibly prolific Allman played on.

In the prologue, Poe remembers how he, as a nine-year-old, stumbled onto Allman playing at Daytona Beach during a family vacation. Obviously, hearing Allman’s guitar changed Poe’s life as well as many others who encountered it. Skydog: The Duane Allman Story is a well-written and researched study of an influential young musician who left us much too soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Eddie CottonIs it possible for lightning to strike twice in the same place? In the case of Eddie Cotton and the Alamo Theater, it certainly is. Six years ago, Cotton released an incredible live set recorded at the Alamo Theater on legendary Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi that garnered rave reviews from many blues publications. Cotton has toured nationwide almost nonstop since then, but did stop long enough to make a return engagement at the Alamo. Live Back At The Alamo Theater may actually surpass the energy and excitement of the original.

Cotton has been recognized as one of the biggest up-and-coming talents for a while now, long enough that he should probably be considered as having arrived. His talents include prodigious guitar from the Albert King School of influence, a soulful, supple voice confident enough to tackle anything from the Al Green catalog, and a spirit of showmanship that is second to nobody these days......the complete package for a modern-day bluesman.

The Mississippi Cotton Club (James “Hot Dog” Lewis - keyboards, Myron Bennett - bass, Xavres Good - drums) is in superb form and are joined this time around by Carl Russell on harmonica on several tracks and the Jackson Horns (Kimble Funchess - trumpet, Lorenzo Gayden - trombone, Booker Walker and James Evans - saxophones). The horns add plenty to the Cotton Club’s sound, making a strong band even more potent.

The CD consists of ten tracks, four original tracks and six covers, and clocks in at over 78 minutes. Cotton’s taste in cover material is impeccable, ranging from soul (Latimore’s “Straighten It Out,” a longtime staple of Cotton’s live set, and a breathtaking reading of the Brothers Gibb’s “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” that nearly equals Al Green’s take from the early ’70s), to soul/funk (James Brown’s “Funky Good Time”) to blues. The blues covers consist of three Albert King tunes, “I’m Gonna Leave You,” which features an electrifying sax break from Evans, a smoldering version of “I’ll Play The Blues For You,” with some of the best guitar work on the disc and another strong sax break, this time from Walker, and “Match Box Blues,” which closes the disc in grand style.

As far as original compositions go, the opening track, “I Need Your Love,” is a funky first cousin to Jimmy Rogers’ “That Ain’t It.” “Love War” finds a strong groove and features tasty guitar and horns, as does the spicy “All Night Long.”

It is obvious that Cotton is in familiar surroundings. His rapport with the audience is relaxed and sure. He knows what they like and what they’ve come to hear and he delivers the goods. His guitar work is magnificent throughout the disc as are his vocals. Clearly, he was at the top of his game during this 2004 appearance.

Hard as it may be to believe, Cotton still doesn’t have a recording deal with a label, major or independent. He produced and released this disc himself. It can either be picked up at local record stores in the Jackson, MS area or at Cotton’s forthcoming website (look for it in February). If you haven’t had a chance to see Eddie Cotton in person, you really should make an effort to do so. Until then, Live Back At The Alamo Theater is the next best thing.

--- Graham Clarke

Terry GarlandTennessee guitarist Terry Garland has released four previous albums featuring his unique and energetic interpretations of classic blues tunes, and has gradually added more and more of his own compositions with each subsequent release. Garland’s latest effort, Whistling In The Dark (Silvermoon Records), is his first release of original songs.

Garland is master of the slide and acoustic guitar and his gruff vocal style sometimes reminds you of John Hiatt, especially on the opening cut, “Get Bitchy,” and “Vacation Due,” both of which would be pretty decent fits on a Hiatt album. Some of his songs touch on current events (“Too Much Blood,” “When You See Their Eyes,” and “Soapbox Saturday Night”), while others cover familiar blues topics in new and interesting ways, such as the harrowing “Jim Beam and the Bible” and “Stumbling In the Dark,” which are both studies of man’s constant battle between God and the devil. “Walk With Me (aka Minnie’s Song)” also touches on the same topic with satisfying results.

“Memo to Jo” is a sweet love letter to Garland’s wife, and you can feel the loneliness permeating from “Without You.” One of my favorite cuts is “Hard Luck Blues,” which has the classic line “It’s not for love of money that’s turning me gray/It’s just the not having enough I hate.” I imagine a lot of listener will nod their head to that couplet.

Though Garland plays mostly solo, he’s ably assisted on several tracks by piano (Bruce Courson or Butch Taylor), bass (David Owen), percussion (Adrian Olsen), or harmonica (The Nighthawks’ Mark Wenner).

Also worth noting are the creative Robert Crumb-like graphics of the packaging. The entire disc has a warm, intimate, relaxed feel. Whistling In The Dark is a vibrant well-crafted set that will please acoustic blues guitar fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Midnight ShiftMidnight Shift is a four-piece band that recently has been burning up the tracks in Pennsylvania. Featuring frontman Mike Mettalia on harmonica and vocals, the band boasts a powerful blues sound that borrows from rock & roll and rockabilly as well. Having competed in the IBC in Memphis in 2005, the band has released Bullet Proof, which is a solid representation of their talents.

At the time of the recording, Midnight Shift consisted of Mettalia, “Lonesome” George Riola on guitar, Doug Brown on bass, and Nick Lauro on drums. Since the album’s recording, the band has gone through some changes, with Mettalia being the lone holdover. However, the band as recorded shows they can jump from straight blues to rock with ease.

Their opening track, “Built for Speed,” is a fine Chicago-style shuffle. “Heartsick” is a rock and roller with some great piano by guest Dan McKinney. “Unemployment Risin’” is another blues track with a smooth guitar break by Riola. “I Don’t Remember” is noteworthy for some amusing lyrics by Mettalia, while the title cut gives him a chance to display his impressive harmonica chops.

“Jump This Dive” is a nifty little piece of jump blues, and “Work Don’t Work” would have been a solid fit as a Billy Boy Arnold single from his Vee-Jay days. “Heart To Break” features a guest vocal by Marie James (who also appears on “Goin’ Home”) and another notable guitar solo from Riola, who also smokes on “Midnight Shift.” “The L & N” is a lively train blues songs, and “Calabash” is a Chuck Berry-style rocker that closes out the disc.

Mettalia wrote most of the tracks for Bullet Proof (the lone covers being Cleanhead Vinson’s “Hold It Right There” and John Lee Hooker’s “Goin’ Home”), and he proves to be a gifted composer as well as a harmonica ace. Bullet Proof is a rock-solid disc of blues and rock from a band that knows its stuff. For more information, go to the band’s website,

--- Graham Clarke

The Saucecats are Frankenmuth, Michigan’s fun and friendly roots band. The gifted group is comprised of eight extremely talented multi-instrumentalists. The core cats responsible for the eclectic music include Maureen Lee (accordion/keyboards), Dave McGregor (fiddle/guitar), Nick Vermis (drums/harmonica), Kim Braeutigam (bass), and Perry English (rubboard/percussion). Since recording their debut, Some Like It Hot, the band has a new brass section. The reedmen are Zucko (sax/guitar) and Kelly Hengy (trombone/percussion) while Mike Clark adds B-3 organ.

Many of the songs on The Saucecats' second independent release, Havin' Fun, are staples from their live repertoire. The catchy rhythm of "Early In The Mornin’" ensures you won’t stand or sit still. On it, the horns are given a chance to blast while the trombone rumbles, the harmonica reverberates, and the congas clank. It features a clever arrangement, but the vocals are shrill and harsh.

An agitation that most of us have experienced is expressed on "Mother In Law." Thanks to the rhythm pattern’s change, honking sax, and bellowing trombone, the song becomes romantic and classy. The doo wop background vocals are reminiscent of Bowser from Sha Na Na. Yet ironically, and perhaps purposefully, the track becomes as annoying as in-laws.

With a mix of zydeco and rock ‘n’ roll, "On A Night Like This" is totally grooving. The credits aren’t clear as to who sings which songs, but they reveal that many band members contribute vocals. Some of the singers are better than others. The lead vocals on "Summertime" try to emulate Louis Armstrong, but the vocalists don’t do justice to this classic Gershwin song.

"Oh, What A Day," an original number, doesn’t fit the style of the rest of the songs on the CD. The melody is a country hoedown combined with a waltz and a polka. The lyrics – told from a parent’s point-of-view – tell about a day in the life of raising kids. Although "All Along The Watchtower" has been over-recorded, you’ll enjoy the timing, beat, and reggae rhythm on this version.

Like the opening original track, "Let’s All Go," The Saucecats are drowned in a New Orleans tradition. You won’t be surprised to learn their motto is, “we will play for gumbo.” This sophomore release confirms The Saucecats possess proliferate talent. However, the energy and frolic from their stage party hasn’t transitioned to the studio. With more guidance and originality, The Saucecats will have their recipe perfected.

--- Tim Holek

Small Blues TrapThis is the first time that I’ve heard of a blues band from Greece, and I wasn’t sure what to expect – it’s a lot more than “Can a white man sing the blues”! I have to say, right at the beginning, that I’m impressed by Small Blues Trap on Crossroads Ritual (Shelter Home) – they know what the blues is all about.

The album gets off to a slow start with “The Blues That’s Callin’” – a stripped down blues with harmonica, vocal, and not much else – it really generates an atmosphere and then makes way for “Cold In Hand And Lonesome” , a moody, slow, blues with some really lovely harmonica riffs.

The tempo starts to pick up with “If You Flag My Train” – this is a superb track, with all sorts of old blues influences showing through – Bukka White, Son House, Muddy Waters, all contributing to the music, and again some more great harmonica from Paul Karapiperis.

The title track to the album, “Crossroads Ritual,” showcases some slide guitar work that really gels. Vocalist and harmonica player Karapiperis shows that he can also handle a bit of slide guitar work, and the resonator guitar that he uses has a rich tone to it.

My only real criticism of this fine CD is the lack of sleeve notes. The music is good, the production is good – but please, tell us more about the band, the music, the recording!! I’m assuming that all of these tracks are originals, written by the band, which makes their talent even more impressive.

On track eight, “I Scream, I Play, I Feel,” Panagiotis Daras displays some fine slide guitar work, and it’s hard to choose which of the two guitarists produces the best sound on slide on this album.

On the “Rusty Train,” Paul Karapiperis takes his vocals onto a different level, and he sounds a lot like an early Joe Cocker – not a bad thing! I have to mention the bass playing of Lefteris Besios here, because he really shines through on this track.

This reinforces the impression that this band can change the tone, and style, of their music without a problem. Rather than just sounding the same the whole way though the album, they let all of their different influences peep through from the background.

Two of the tracks have a guest appearance from sax player Angelos Psarras, “Up & Down” and “VAT69,” which again changes the style of music. Leaving his mention till last – by no means the most insignificant member of the band – Drummer George Poulos lays down some excellent rhythm section foundation of “Your Mother Told You That I Play The Devil’s Music” and “Remembering Peter” – this letter track being my favourite on the CD and I assume that the Peter referred to is Peter Green as the track immediately brought him to mind with the beautiful guitar work from Daras.

--- Terry Clear

Coming back full stride with his latest release, Name Your Poison (Mercy Seat Records), The Rich Fabec Band has managed well to serve up some pretty tasty blues/rock courtesy of Fabec’s blistering guitar work and very capable songwriting.

The band consists of Fabec on lead guitar and vocals, Danny Vinson on bass and John “big sound” Shadowens on skins. Both Vinson and Shadowens surround Fabec with a rhythm section one can be proud of. One noteworthy accomplishment from Fabec’s last recording to this one is his improved vocals that have seemed to find their niche in the blues/rock idiom that Fabec delivers beautifully being the sole vocalist on Name Your Poison.

The opening tune, "One Da," leads off in fine form in a slightly rollicking mood giving Fabec the room to show off his picking prowess. In "Walk Me Home" we get treated to Fabec’s slide work in all its fine glory. "We’ll See" smolders nicely as the tempo slows down a bit for some laid back blues. But a few tunes later on "Lew’s Blooz" Fabec speeds things up considerably on this fast paced instrumental. Here, Fabec has something to show for all those years playing and teaching. It looks like it paid off in spades. We take a slight diversion on "Tears in the Rain" with a smoothly rendered instrumental that once again proves Fabec knows how to play in any style and convince us of that fact. Closing out the disc, Fabec chooses to entertain us with just his voice and some enjoyable Delta slide on the tune "Midnight Train."

You should truly take a listen to "Name Your Poison" and become a Rich Fabec fan like myself. No disappointment here. For more info and to sample some tunes, check out and for info and samples from his first release. Good listening.

--- Bruce Coen


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