I 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 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
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
You can do a lot of things with a Tas Cru disc…..you
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
There 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
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 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
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
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
Based 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
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 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
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
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
--- Graham Clarke
Lynwood 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
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
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 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”
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
Here’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
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 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
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
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
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
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
This is a fabulous CD, and it’s for a good cause –
buy it NOW!
--- Terry Clear
From 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
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
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.
The 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
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
Recorded 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
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
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
No 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
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
The 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
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
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
"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
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”
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
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