Blues Bytes

What's New

January 2011

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Solomon Burke

Tas Cru

Retro Deluxe

Grand Marquis

Frankie's Blues Mission

Lynwood Slim and Igor Prado

Marshall Lawrence

BB Wolf and the Three LPs

Louisiana Swamp Stomp

Mark Robinson

King Bizkit

Sabrina Weeks and Swing Cat Bounce

Blues Buddha

Boo Boo Davis


Solomon BurkeI heard early in 2009 that Solomon Burke was working on an album with Willie Mitchell. If you’re any kind of fan of soul music, that news had to have put a hop in your step. Somehow over time, I missed the April release of Nothing’s Impossible (E1 Entertainment) and it sort of slipped between the cracks while I was reviewing many other fantastic releases last year. My memory was jogged when I read news of Burke’s passing in October. 2010 was already a devastating year for soul fans with the death of Mitchell in early January.

All the Willie Mitchell trademarks from the Hi Records era are here: the sweet string arrangements, the tight rhythm section, the funky guitar and horn section. It’s like a visit from an old friend when the opening cut, “Oh What A Feeling,” cranks up. Adding Burke’s burnished and timeless vocals to that already formidable mix will make you wonder why these two never got together before this date.

Burke’s vocal influences took in gospel, country, and the blues in addition to soul music. On Nothing’s Impossible, Mitchell puts Burke in more of a gospel setting and Burke takes to it like a duck to water, testifying with fervor and passion on song after song, particularly songs like the wonderful Burke/Mitchell collaboration “Dreams,” the optimistic title track, and “It Must Be Love.”

Yes, that’s the Anne Murray hit, “You Needed Me,” on the track listing. Burke gives the song new life with his stunning delivery and it’s one of the highlights of the disc. Another is “You’re Not Alone,” another optimistic tune, which sounds like a B. B. King tune.

Mitchell pulled out all the stops for Burke on this release, even gathering a stellar group of musicians who have been playing this stuff for years, including Mabon “Teenie” Hodges (guitar), Bobby Manuel (guitar), Lester Snell (keyboards), and Steve Potts (drums). Mitchell did the horn and string arrangements, so you know they’re all top notch. At the center of it all is Solomon Burke, as close to a force of nature as we will ever get in modern music.

Sadly, Nothing’s Impossible is the swan song for Burke and Mitchell, but you have to admit that they went out with a bang, not a whimper. This set belongs in every soul music fan’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Tas CruTas Cru is without a doubt one of the most original blues composers currently plying his trade. The native Canadian has a real knack for telling everyday stories with a verbal flair. His latest disc, Jus’ Desserts, is his fourth for his Crustee Tees label, and sounds like another crowd pleaser.

The opening cut, “Just Let It Happen,” is a New Orleans-based tune that advises to live life as it goes, one day at a time…..good advice for all of us caught up in life’s hectic pace. The shuffle, “Glad To Be Alive,” sings the praises of a significant other, and “The Real Deal” is a gentle jab at current blues artists desperate to prove their authenticity. The lovely “Time and Time” is a heartfelt ballad about separation.

The mood lightens up a bit with the next few songs. “’Dat Maybe” finds Cru confronting his wishy-washy woman with “Don’t gimme ‘dat maybe.” “My GPS Mama” deals with his frustration over his woman’s overreliance on her GPS with some hilarious lyrics. “Eau De ‘Nother Man” is a slow blues that starts out innocently enough, but delivers a devastating punchline at the end. “Kinda Mess” is a double-time country rocker (with sizzling slide guitar from Jeremy Walz) about a woman who Cru sings is “the kinda mess I wish I was in.”

“Swing Doctor” is a classic boogie tune that allows piano player Chip Lamson to strut his stuff, and the title track finds a slow, funky groove that sounds like Little Feat at its best, and even drops a reference to “Dixie Chicken.” The closer, “The Lucky Ones,” is an acoustic number with a lyric that shows that maybe a lot of us aren’t as bad off as we think we are.

You can do a lot of things with a Tas Cru disc… can shake your tail feather, tap your foot, laugh out loud, and reflect on some profound words. You can do all of these things while listening to Jus’ Desserts, another winner from one of the unsung talents of today’s blues scene.

--- Graham Clarke

Retro DeluxeThere are some albums that totally transplant you from where you’re listening to a whole other place. Retro Deluxe’s Watermelon Tea (Rinkled Rooster) is such an album. By the end of the first song, you are back in the ’50s, rocking out to some of the strongest rockabilly blues (bluesabilly?) that’s been heard in some time. Watermelon Tea is actually Retro Deluxe’s second release, following their well-received 2009 release, Baby It’s Hot! I haven’t heard their debut, but I find it hard to believe that it was hotter than this one is.

Watermelon Tea was produced by Clarksdale blues royalty, Jimbo Mathus, and recorded at Mathus’ famed Delta Recording Service studio in Como, which probably accounts for at least part of the vintage sound of the disc. Retro Deluxe is led by singer/songwriter Bobby Joe Owens, guitarist Zach Sweeney, bassist Justin Showah, keyboardist Billy Earheart, and Jennifer Pierce Mathus (backing vocals). Jimbo Mathus also played percussion, rhythm guitar, harmonica.

Some of the 16 tracks emphasize that crunching Jimmy Reed-like rhythm, as experienced on cuts like the opening title track, “A Woman Like That,” and the fierce “You’re Lyin’.” Other tracks echo the deep Delta blues, like the amazing “Clarksdale, Mississippi,” “One Tooth Tessie,” and the tribute to Muddy Waters, “Hoochie Coochie Back Door Man.”

“I’ve Got One Woman” oozes with swampy atmosphere, and “The Mother Nature Song” is a muscular slow blues with some wonderful guitar work from Sweeney. The focus is on straight and true rockabilly on “Rockin’ The Blues Tonight” and “What The Devil Did I Do Last Night?” which serve as the “before” and “after” songs of what appears to have been a major party. “Beer and Whiskey, Wind and Cigarettes” swings mightily, as does “Heavenly Band,” which describes a formidable band at the Pearly Gates.

Watermelon Tea may be a pretty potent elixir, judging by the title track, but the album of the same name is equally intoxicating. Plug this one in at you next gathering and get ready for the roof to be raised. This is the blues at its best, raw, ragged, and righteous!

--- Graham Clarke

Grand MarquisGrand Marquis takes you back to the heyday of 1920s and ’30s Kansas City blues-based jazz. Since the late ’90s, this quintet (Bryan Redmond – vocals and saxes, Chad Boydston – trumpet, Ryan Wurtz – guitar, Ben Ruth – bass, sousaphone, Lisa McKenzie – percussion), the group has entertained audiences with crowd-pleasing performances and four stellar recordings. Their fifth release, Hold On To Me (Grand Marquis Music), continues that trend with 13 swinging tracks.

There are ten covers on Hold On To Me, including “The Spider and the Fly,” the silky smooth “Sway,” the Les Paul standout, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,” and a pair of Crescent City favorites, “Milenberg Joys,” and a medley of “St. James Infirmary” and “Still Blue Water.” Eddie Durham’s “Topsy,” allows the band ample room to stretch out individually and strut their stuff. Closing out the disc is a strong trio, “Dinah,” “After You’ve Gone,” and a torrid version of Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”

In addition, the band contributes three original tunes that stand up well to the classic tracks. The opener, “Night Is For Lovers,” is as perfect an introduction to the band as you could want. “Ain’t No Good To Me” and the title track are equally strong. Redmond shows amazing versatility instrumentally and vocally. The term “well-oiled machine” is overused, but certainly applied to the band.

If you were on board a few years ago with the Swing revival and with bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Squirrel Nut Zippers or the Amazing Royal Crowns, you will absolutely love Grand Marquis. Hold On To Me is a wonderful set of jumping Kansas City jazzy blues that will help move the genre forward into the next century.

--- Graham Clarke

JT BluesBased in Pennsylvania, blues and boogie woogie piano man John Thompson, also known as JTBlues, has spent extensive time in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia playing the blues. He’s shared the stage with Tommy Castro, Dave Fields, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and B’nois King, and Tab Benoit and has built a strong following in the Northeastern part of the U.S. Now he’s released his debut solo CD, Chase Away Your Blues.

Thompson wrote eight of the nine songs on his debut, including the optimistic title track, plus some decidedly modern-themed tunes like “The Boss Told Me” and “Cold Firey Lake,” which describes the BP Oil spill. Paul Byrd’s hilarious “Sugar Free” is another modern blues, and a favorite of Thompson’s live shows.

Other highlights include “Southern Belle,” a tribute to Mrs. JTBlues, the country-flavored “Chicken Bone,” the barrelhouse rocker “Murphee’s Boogie,” and “High Street,” a light-hearted instrumental.

Unfortunately, piano blues CDs are few and far between in these times, when the focus is too often on screaming guitars and screeching vocalists. If you seek a change of pace, I encourage you to check out JTBlues’ new release.

--- Graham Clarke

Frankie's Blues MissionFrankie’s Blues Mission is an Atlanta-based trio that plays it pretty close to traditional blues (especially Chicago West Side blues) and R&B, adding their own touches of soul and jazz to their sound. Their debut release, Sleepin’ Dog, bears strong witness to their artistry.

Frank “Frankie Lee” Robinson has been immersed in the blues since his early days….his father managed several bands in the southeast Georgia area. When Robinson moved with his family to Pennsylvania in his early teens, he discovered an old Kay acoustic guitar that had been left in their new apartment. He began to learn to play (taking lessons from Georgia blues/R&B legend Roy Lee Johnson at one time) and when the family moved to Atlanta when he was in his late teens, he saw B. B. King perform and knew he wanted to play the blues (wonder how many people B. B. King has influenced over the years?).

Robinson formed Frankie’s Blues Mission in 2000 and his current line-up (Kermit J. Maxwell – bass, Alfonso Largo – drums) has been together for four years. All three have years of experience playing blues, R&B, and jazz, and while the roots of their music is the blues, they’re not worried about taking things in other directions when so moved.

Sleepin’ Dog consists of 11 tracks, seven originals by the band. The opener, “I’m So Lonely Since You’ve Gone,” despite its mournful theme, pops along against a funky backdrop. The title cut is a tough West Side shuffle, featuring harmonica from Vince Alexander, and “I Need Me Some You” has a great guitar intro from Robinson. There are also three instrumentals – “Blues for C.K.” showcases Robinson playing some particularly grungy guitar, “Soul Shuffle” is a tight soul groover, and “McDaniel Street” leans toward the jazz side of blues.

There are also five solid covers, notably Roy Lee Johnson’s “When A Guitar Plays The Blues,” and two fine tributes to B. B. King (Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” and “Woke Up This Morning”). The band’s take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking” is also very good, staying pretty true to the original.

The band does an excellent job in support, and the addition of Martin Kearnes on keyboards for several of the tracks is an added bonus. An already great product is made even better thanks to the production skills of veteran Rodney Mills, who’s previously worked with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Tinsley Ellis, and Sean Costello,

If smooth urban blues and R&B are your bag, you need to check out Frankie’s Blues Mission first chance you get. Visit the band’s website or check out this disc at CD Baby.

--- Graham Clarke

Lynwood Slim - Igor PradoLynwood Slim, one of the foremost practitioners of West Coast blues, has joined forces with the pride of Sao Paolo, The Igor Prado Band, to record a smoking set of West Coast and jump blues that rocks from start to finish. Slim was contacted by Prado about doing production work for one of Prado’s upcoming releases. After listening to some of the band’s previous work, Slim headed to Brazil to meet with Prado and was immediately impressed with the band, most of who are under 25 years old, but experienced beyond their years. They asked Slim to sing on the CD and Brazilian Kicks was born.

Prado is a guitarist of amazing depth and also sings on the opening track, a punchy version of Junior Wells’ “Shake It Baby,” which closes with a flute solo from Slim. The band tears through a diverse set of covers, including Dave Bartholomew’s “Is It True?” They also swing hard on tunes like Wynonie Harris’ “Bloodshot Eyes” and Jimmy Nelson’s “I Sat And Cried.” They venture into Chicago territory for Little Walter’s “Little Girl,” and jazz things up with “The Comeback.”

The originals, penned by Prago and Slim, mix with the classics seamlessly. Slim offers up a smooth ballad, “Maybe Someday,’ that sounds like a classic jazz tune from 50 years ago, and a harmonica-driven shuffle, “Show Me The Way.” Prado contributes two instrumentals. The first, “Blue Bop,” is the song that Slim heard that inspired him to work with the group. “Bill’s Change” is a fast-paced swing instrumental. Slim and Prado collaborated on the closing instrumental, “Going To Mona Lisa’s.”

A lot of the credit to Brazilian Kicks has to go to this outstanding young band, which includes Prado on guitar, Donny Nichilo on piano, Rodrigo Mantovani on acoustic bass, Yuri Prado on drums and percussion, and Denilson Martins on alto, tenor, and baritone saxes.

Brazilian Kicks is a fantastic set that mixes West Coast blues, jump blues, roots, and jazz. If you like any of those styles, you need to add this disc to your collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Marshall LawrenceMarshall Lawrence calls his music “acid blues.” It’s a kinetic mix of blues, rock, soul, and funk. Primarily consisting of traditional blues, it incorporates all the above styles as well. Lawrence was influenced as a youth by Jimi Hendrix and began playing gigs in his native Canada in his early teens. Over time, he pursued a doctorate in psychology and earned his nickname, “Doctor of the Blues.” Absorbing influences as diverse as Johnny Winter, Chuck Berry, B. B. King, and Eddie Hazel, Lawrence played funk and reggae music for awhile before returning to his first love, the blues in the mid ’90s. He’s released a couple of well-received discs in the past couple of years.

Lawrence’s third release, Blues Intervention, is his second all-acoustic album. He is joined by harmonica player Sherman Doucette and former B. B. King sideman, bassist Russell Jackson. Lawrence himself sings, plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, jug, and “thigh slaps.” He wrote 10 of the 13 tracks, including the lively opener, “So Long Rosalee,” the vivid, solemn anti-drug “Lay Down My Sorrow,” and “If I Had a Nickel.”

Other highlights include “Going Down To Louisiana,” a breakneck boogie, “Going To The River,” where Lawrence shows his dexterity on mandolin and banjo, and “Love Like Heroin,” where Lawrence compares his woman’s love to the drug. One of the best tracks on the disc is the country blues number, “Once Loved a Cowgirl,” which packs a real “shot to the gut” punchline.

The three covers include revved-up versions of Tommy Johnson’s “Traveling Blues” and Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues.” The traditional “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” wraps up the disc. Lawrence plays this standard in a style reminiscent of the Rev. Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son.”

Blues Intervention is a dynamic set of acoustic blues, one of the best sets I’ve heard this year. It’s loaded with great original songs and some extraordinary fretwork. Acoustic blues fans longing for the next great record need worry no more. “The Doctor of the Blues” has the cure for what ails you.

--- Graham Clarke

BB WolfHere’s something you don’t see everyday….a blues-related comic book. I read comic books for years as a youngster, but more or less lost track of them in the early ’80s. At the time I gave them up, they were starting to try for an older audience with more mature themes. Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a few here and there. One of the most impressive was a two-volume set called Maus, by Art Spiegelman, which told the story of his father’s fight for survival during the oppression and murder of the Jews during World War II.

One of the more interesting devices Spiegelman used was substituting animals in place of the humans in his story….mice for Jews, cats for Germans, frogs for the French, and dogs for the Americans. In their new story, called BB Wolf and the Three LPs (published by Top Shelf), authors J. D. Arnold and Richard Koslowski employ the same device, using wolves and pigs in place of their human characters. Arnold and Koslowski’s book is a stunning look at the effects of racial oppression in America in the early 20th century.

Wolves are substituted for blacks in the story and pigs are substituted for whites. Obviously, from the book title, the whole story is a twist on the Three Little Pigs story. BB Wolf is a delta farmer and blues musician who refuses to bow down to his oppressors, who want to take over his farm. He finds out that his resistance has a terrible price and he sets out to avenge the loss of his family, with eerie parallels to the original story.

This is a gritty, violent tale told by Arnold and Koslowski, definitely not for the kiddies. It is a powerful story, however, about the violence and abuse that blacks endured during the early part of the century and will be interesting reading to blues fans….even those who haven’t read a comic book in years.

The book also comes, for a limited time, with an accompanying CD of music supposedly written by Wolf, but actually by Arnold and Koslowski, of course. The songs are performed by several Milwaukee blues and rock musicians. Three tracks are presented in acoustic form and then in thoroughly modern versions, plus there’s a bonus track with Koslowski on vocals. It’s a fun addition to the book. Visit Top Shelf’s site for more information

--- Graham Clarke

Louisiana Swamp StompLouisiana Swamp Stomp (Honeybee)  arrived in my P.O. box this morning, courtesy of the lovely Betsie Brown at Blind Raccoon. This woman knows how to pick some good music to send me – my first reaction to the first ten seconds of track one was WOW!!! And the feeling didn’t diminish through the next 14 tracks.

The CD goes to prove that Louisiana is getting back on track after its share of disasters, and that good music is still coming out of there – and that’s nothing but good news for music lovers. The other bit of good news is that the proceeds from sales of this CD go to the Northern Louisiana Brain And Spinal Cord Injury Foundation – just one more reason to get out and buy yourself a copy.

The album opens with the slow and moody “Scratch My Back” with Omar Coleman on vocals and harmonica, Billy Flynn playing some magic guitar, Kenny Smith on drums and Bob Stroger on bass – a good mix of musicians.

Henry Gray is up next, someone I love to listen to, with his own composition “Times Are Getting Hard.” Henry is ably supported by Sean Carney, John Richardson, Bill Stuve and Dave West. Gray’s piano is give a really good workout and he shows his skill as a blues pianist in the true style of Louisiana.

Paul ‘Lil Buck’ Sinegal lifts the tempo with “Don’t You Lie To Me” and the CD then slips into a bit of Cajun French with Carol Fran singing her own composition “Tou’ Les Jours C’est Pas La Meme” (every day is not the same). Half the song is in French and half in English, and it’s all good. I have to comment of the harmonica playing of Andy Cornett on this track – it fits so well!

Little Freddie King and his band perform “Can’t Do Nothing Babe” – King wrote the track, and it’s real traditional old swamp blues – I love it!!! Guitar, bass, drums and harmonica piling on the swamp flavour with King’s gravelly voice right at home.

Track six, “First You Cry,” surprised me when I saw that it was by the great soul singer Percy Sledge, but the great man still has his great soulful voice and he uses it to great effect on this lovely ballad which could qualify as either blues or soul.

The tempo lifts up high with “Swamp Stomp” featuring Sonny Landreth on slide, with Paul Sinegal on guitar, Gerard St.Julien on drums, washboard and accordion, and bass supplied by Lee Allen Zeno. Omar Coleman provides a second helping of his music with the energetic Lightnin’ Hopkins song, “Mojo Hand,” and then Carol Fran appears for the second time with another of her songs, “I Needs To Be Be’d With.” This track features some delicious guitar from Mary Christian together with Dave Egan’s wonderful piano.
Dwayne Dopsie provides track 10, the excellent title track to his 2006 album Travelling Man, before Larry Garner takes over with his song “It’s Killing Me,” a slow, moody, blues that is full of feeling.

This album was originally inspired by the suffering of Buddy Flett, who had viral encephalitis in 2008 and awoke from a coma unable to walk, talk, or play the guitar – he forced himself to recover from that and appears on this benefit CD with “Livin’ Ain’t Easy.” As the title reflects, he’s a man who should know, and this is a tribute to his guts and determination.

Charlene Howard comes up next with a soulful ballad “Send Me Someone To Love,” which she wrote herself – she provides the vocals over a backing from Dave Egan (keyboards), Glenn Delaune (guitar, keyboard & percussion) and the bass of Tony Ardoin. This woman has such a strong voice, and a way of getting her message across, that the track leaves you wanting much more.

The last two tracks on the CD are provided by second doses of Henry Gray – “How Could You Do It” and Larry Garner – “Ms.Boss.” The piano contributed by Henry Gray on his track is nothing short of excellent, and for me the whole CD could be bought for this track alone! (The Larry Garner track comes very close)

This is a fabulous CD, and it’s for a good cause – buy it NOW!

--- Terry Clear

Mark RobinsonFrom what I can find out, Quit Your Job, Play Guitar (Blues Boulevard) is the debut album from Mark Robinson – a man from Indiana, who learnt guitar in Chicago and then moved eventually onto Nashville.
He obviously learnt well and worked hard, whilst in Chicago, because he has put out a very good CD here, with a hatful of different influences and styles.

The CD opens up with “Poor Boy,” a song about a man who received his divorce papers while he’s in the jail – a good, traditional sounding blues with fabulous guitar work from Robinson, and an ideal way to open the album.

Track two, “Payday Giveaway,” a Bill Wilson track, sounds like a mix of influences from the Allman Brothers and Delaney & Bonnie, with vocals by Tom Petty! This is a slow, heavy blues/rock track that is compulsive listening.

The tempo rockets up with “Runaway Train,” a track written by Robinson which features his guitar at the forefront with some good harmonica playing in the background from Ben Graves, and then things slow way, way down with “Sleepwalk.” This guitar and keyboards fronted instrumental put me in mind of some of the better music from the British group “The Shadows” from the 1960s.

I really can’t make my mind up about track five, “This Old Heart” – I don’t know if I like it, or not. However, I still have to keep playing it! But I do know that I really like the next track, a country blues called “Memphis Won’t Leave Me Alone,” which showcases Robinson’s prowess on slide guitar.

“The Fixer” is a slow atmospheric song about a man who makes problems disappear, and it leads into a very Rolling Stones-sounding “Back In The Saddle” – well, I did say there are a lot of influences in this album!

The last three tracks on the CD just couldn’t be more different from each other –“Backup Plan,” “I Know You’ll Be Mine,” and “Try One More Time.”

Mark Robinson’s voice comes across as a little weak at times, but his forte is as a guitarist, and you can’t fault his guitar work on this album.

--- Terry Clear

King BizketThe British band King Bizkit is totally new to me, but I can already say that I like their sound. They have sent me a copy of their 1995 CD, Hooked On You, which has just been re-released. It’s a self-produced CD with just four tracks on it. The story behind the CD, and the reason that it has just four tracks, is that the band was invited by the BBC in London to appear on the Paul Jones (exManfred Mann, etc) Blues Show. Paul Jones arranged for them to record these four tracks for his radio show, and the band decided to put them out on a CD.

Hooked On You opens with an excellent version of John Mayall’s “Another Kinda Love” that features some great sax and guitar work, by (respectively) Ben Weston and Adam Clarkson. The track is true to the original without just being a direct copy, and it’s a good opening number.

The following track, “Hooked On You,” is a funkier number, putting me a little in mind of the great band Chicago – probably because of the saxes. Vocalist Richard Everett shows the strength of his voice on this track, and you certainly wouldn’t know that he wasn’t from the US.

Track three is “A Good Fool Is Hard To Find” and it’s a good up-tempo driving blues with the brass section really pushing hard and keeping the others in the band running hard to keep up – they do keep up and the whole thing gels into a strong piece of music.

The closing track, T-Bone Walker’s “Jealous Woman,” is guitar-led (Adam Clarkson) and excellent blues music – this track, for me, is by far the best on the CD, and I could easily listen to a whole album of this type of music.

Give this band a listen and you won’t be disappointed.

--- Terry Clear

Sabrina WeeksRecorded in Vancouver, BC, Tales From Lenny's Diner is a new disc by Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce, a band from Kamloops that can proudly represent its home base. The area is classy, clean, cultured. It has history and an identity. Its artists are talented and fun. Much like this CD.

Sabrina Weeks has confidence all right, and is on her way. The lady’s vocals don’t stand out way above other new releases, but her attitude and motives are very apparent. She has obviously devoted hard work to her presentation and surrounds herself with a top-notch band which sounds like they get along. Maybe they don’t, but something works to good advantage.

I envision impeccably dressed swing and Lindy hop dancers animated and flying from note one. Week’s voice comes off both comfortable and blatant. The disc next sequences into two-step stuff.

All tunes on the disc are original by Sabrina Weeks and Mike Hilliard save for Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” and I wouldn’t prefer this version over that. The singer is simply from another league. The medium/up tempo swing that follows is more suited to Sabrina’s voice, albeit sounding pushed occasionally. Background vocals add a nice touch.

We get more soulful with “Bad Boys,” the story line fits better with the vocal style and the band sounds warmed up, organ and horns well-done. Selection variety is complemented by what feels like a minor key pop-rock thing, “Detour.” Sabrina gets high marks for the following track, maybe it’s the medium tempo on “Ain’t My Time to Sing the Blues.” Because the following ballad doesn’t do it for me, yet the rocker “Wrath of Man,” in word and delivery, does.

The last couple tracks include the East Burnaby Senior Men’s Choir but not extensively. One is a somewhat appreciable novelty, and the last a funk, hinting at rap, which doesn’t really hit.

The packaging is attractive and fun. The group’s website has additional selections for download not on the CD.

--- Tom Coulson

Billy GNo Time For The Blues, from Billy G and the Blue Zone, is a warm-sounding album, and various guests are given credit and well-used, to achieve this purpose. For example, Ted Hennessy’s harp on the introductory “Riding That Train” rocks right along in an age of too many harp players. A flat tire rhythm and catchy lyrics transition into “One of Everything,” the untrained voice highly exaggerated to drive the point home.

The group almost achieves Motown on “Sweet Inspiration,” but that’s a far cry from their territory. The leader is a good guitar soloist. R&B arrangements and rhythms work, but a short play on rap doesn’t. “Blind in the Midnight” is group vocal rock, and “Outside Looking In” is almost jazzy with Dave Pickard’s trumpet.

It sounds like at least a couple singers share leads throughout the disc, the mystery is rather welcome. Funky harmonica and that over-the-top vocal return for “Big Mama,” followed by energy and formulaic pop blues. Then there’s a swing fiddle and simple lyrics suitable for dancing over the riff of “All Night Long.” It works every time!

Hard-hitting “Man of No Shame” sings a brotherhood of blues and serves more smokin’ guitar, “Angelee” is close to a ballad. Not sure how compatible the lead voice is here, but Cathy Garcia and multiple backup singers sound good.

Shuffle, rock and funk describe the next couple, overlaid with more true blue lyrics. “Can’t Take It Back” brings back R&B horn arrangements, with a relaxed yet tight beat. “Duality” is an effective closer, wrapping a program of varied, rather quick tunes. For a club date or a party, it’s good for sustained energy. But it’s a few too many tracks when simple statements are almost repeated elsewhere.

From the northeast, Billy G and the Blue Zone is a hard-hitting startup band (in terms of wider promotion and notoriety anyway). Admirable is their teamwork in business. Drummer John Garcia is booking agent, bassist Noble Francoeur handles marketing.

They sport a good-looking website, yet there’s no mention of this No Time for the Blues CD on the home page. It is mentioned in guestbook comments, and also available on their links page.

The music is clearly original, full of twists and turns structurally and in tempo, apparently fronted (mostly?) by who must be the uncredited voice of guitarist Billy Gilbert. It’s edgy and in your face.

--- Tom Coulson

Blues BuddhaThe cover on Blues Buddha's I Like It A Lot is good graphically, but I like this photo off his contact page of his website much better.

It is good in the business to go by a moniker. Blues Buddha is Tommy Dudley, a standup contemporary blues singer from the New York Metro District.

Blues Buddha fronts a band of excellent musicians and all the material is original. He is well-liked and active in his region, and has been called a shouter. His tenor voice is definitely seasoned and experienced. It covers rhythms he calls his own musical gumbo, and we agree. It’s great party and club music, with stories that guests and patrons have to identify with.

The first several tracks solidify where Blues Buddha is coming from, in full gear by “Buddha Boogie.” Piano and guitar work well together and separately.

A kind of funk number keeps things happening, and by this time we are aware of synthesized keyboard which works as horn arrangements. But halfway thru “Morning Song,” which feels good up to that point, a solo on the synthesizer is a real buzz kill. Reduces the effect of a really good selection to that of a garage band.

Fortunately boogie piano returns as the sole accompaniment on “Trouble.” The title track is a great statement in words and energy with an impressive guitar solo. The last track is “Low Cotton,” a reverent nod to a different blues region.

The variety of this CD warrants the Blues Buddha wider attention, maybe we’ll run into him on the festival circuit. His enthusiasm and repertoire would positively ignite a huge blues crowd.

--- Tom Coulson


Resuming CD reviews after not writing a while, I notice some good but very concerning changes in presentation and activity of groups such as the three above. Almost all the music is original (as has always been advice thru the ages, BE YOURSELF). Availability of the product right from a website or social media is a good thing. But the calendar pages of gigs looks quite lean. Whether Vancouver B.C., Massachusetts or New York as discussed here, or any other blues spot on earth, my hope is that blues groups are getting more work than how it appears.

--- Tom “Full Moon Hacksaw” Coulson-broadcaster/musician
Hear these and other blues and jazz artists Thursdays 6-8 pm Arizona time on

Charles "Boo Boo" DavisBoo Boo Davis is a St. Louis-based bluesman originally from the Mississippi Delta, but he spends a significant amount of time performing in recording in Europe. A majority of his recent discography has been released on Holland's Black & Tan Records, including his latest, Undercover Blues. Davis sings and plays harmonica on this disc, a selection of 12 raw, downhome blues. He's backed by the sparse but effective accompaniment of Black & Tan owner Jan Mittendorp on guitar and John Gerritse on a basic drum kit. Davis mostly shouts rather than sings out his vocals throughout the album, reminiscent of a street corner gospel singer in the deep South.

The disc kicks off with the title cut, "Undercover Blues," a dirge-like blues with just the right amount of effects added by Mittendorp to his guitar. Davis later picks up the tempo on a boogie number called "Turkey Walk" that is reminiscent of John Lee Hooker's sound. He adds a seasonal number in "Xmas Blues," a slow, plodding blues that borrows a few lines from other Christmas blues songs but is as far from a traditional holiday song as it possibly could be.

"Train My Baby Is On" is one of my favorites, with Mittendorp's hypnotic guitar licks laying the foundation for Davis' frenetic harp playing. This one just seems to have a little more energy than others on the CD and it gives a good impression of a train chugging along the tracks. The band then picks up the tempo on the next cut, "Shoot The Dice," on which Davis does his best Howlin' Wolf imitation.

The album closes with a gospel number, "Thank You Dave," which opens and closes with a little preaching from Davis, combined with an uptempo song that at times threatens to run out of control.

Undercover Blues is just plain unadulterated blues --- something that's heard less and less these days.  It takes a little effort on the part of the listener to get through it in one sitting, as Davis' voice and harmonica style is one that's better taken in small doses. It's not an essential purchase but worth checking out if you're looking for the real blues.

-- Bill Mitchell

Mo MojoMo’ Mojo is known for its engaging live shows that blend zydeco, the jam band spirit, and the rich musical heritage of its native Northeast Ohio. The Akron-based band, which in various incarnations has been active since the mid-1990s, recently released its debut CD, a polished blend of musicianship, passion and subtlety, long awaited by devoted followers and regularly sought after by emerging fans upon experiencing their first Mo’ Mojo show. Appropriately, the title of the CD is Finally!

Finally! leads off with "Acadiana," an upbeat tribute by Mo’ Mojo leader, singer/multi-instrumentalist Jen Maurer, to the band’s musical roots. From the opening groove laid out by bassist Darren Thompson and drummers’ drummer Rod Lubline, to lyrical solos by fiddle player Bill Lestock and guitarist Joe Golden, the track sets the tone for an enjoyable and cohesive 59 minutes of Mo’ Mojo originals, as well as covers in honor of legends Boozoo Chavis, The Meters, Bo Diddley, and contemporary New Orleans musician Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.

Another highlight is "Ride That Train," with precision harmony vocals shared by Maurer and Leigh Ann Wise, and supported by textural harmonica from special guest Sam Rettman, evoking a bluesy journey that John Lee Hooker and Little Walter would have readily jumped on board with. In addition, "My Jolie," a pretty Cajun waltz and longtime Mo’ Mojo classic co-written by Maurer, founding member the late Scott “Texas” Gann, and former band bassist Kip Amore, is a heartfelt love song that transcends musical styles.

Perhaps the most powerful song is "I Know My Business Too," Maurer’s confident statement supported with soulful solos by guitarist Golden and saxophonist Davidione Pearl. By the last verse, as Maurer sings, “I’m proud to be a sister on the stage doin’ the zydeco, it once may have been a man’s place, but it ain’t gonna be no more,” the listener recognizes that Maurer isn’t merely bragging, and she isn’t asking for approval; rather, she is an artist stating it as it is.

Finally! is a studio CD that accomplishes the feats of not only capturing the talents of an all-star team of Northeast Ohio musicians, but also reflecting the personality of a dynamic live band whose shows are known as being full-fledged experiences. To longtime fans who have hoped for a Mo’ Mojo CD, as well as to those who are just beginning to learn about the band, Finally! has, indeed, been worth the wait.

--- John Gadd


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