Blues Bytes

What's New

January 2016

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Mighty Mike Schermer

Texas Horns

Mississippi Bigfoot

Micke Bjorklof

Amy Hart

Lara Price

Mick Kolassa


Mighty Mike SchemerThere aren't many Blues artists on the scene today that thrill me as much as California guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer. His new album, Blues In Good Hands (VizzTone Label Group), was a welcome addition to my library to close out the 2015 Blues season. It's a worthy follow-up to his excellent 2013 disc, Be Somebody.

Schermer is best known for his exemplary guitar playing, but there's also a lot to like about his vocal work. While he's not a prototypically powerful Blues singer, there's just something comfortable about listening to Schermer sing his original compositions. It's just good comfort food for the ears.

Opening the album is a pleasant mid-tempo romp, "Baby Don't Stop," with a bit of a New Orleans R&B rhythm and gospel-influenced background vocals from Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland. Terry Hanck also contributes some fine sax work midway through the song. Mighty Mike then shows his versatility by getting funky on the second cut, "Heaven's On The Other Side." Oh wow, this cat's just such a good guitarist! I'd be remiss in not crediting Tony Stead with nice, subtle organ accompaniment here.

Schermer slows down the tempo on "It's A Pleasure," just the kind of catchy and addictive melody that his voice handles so well. Just as heartwarming is "One Tear At A Time," with a lilting reggae backbeat serving as its foundation. Yeah, I told you Schermer was a unique and versatile artist.

"World Gone Crazy" is a smooth, jazzy topical number where Schermer sings about some of the problems in our world. In another artist's hands I'd be tempted to dismiss this song as just a little too schmaltzy, but it works here. Steve Ehrmann contributes a nice funky jazz bass beat and Hanck comes in periodically with tasty sax riffs.

Schermer pays tribute to some of his biggest influences on the mid-tempo number, "Blues in Good Hands." He starts by mentioning how Albert Collins inspired him to pick up the guitar, but then gets even more personal when he sings about Albert, "Drove his own bus, saw him change his oil once." There are also nods to Hubert Sumlin and Junior Walker before Schermer goes on about the torch being passed, singing, "Now I'm proud to be a soldier" and then closing with "Gotta keep the Blues in good hands ... something real and something everyone can feel .... gotta keep the Blues in good hands."

The first Blues shuffle of the day comes along with "Wait-On-Me-Woman," this one featuring solid Blues harp riffs from Greg Izor and rock-steady drumming from Damien Llanes. Schermer then takes it back to New Orleans with the mid-tempo "Most People," on which we get to hear nice piano work from Austin Delone.

Austin Blues superstar Marcia Ball makes a guest appearance on "Barkin' Up The Wrong Tree," but confining her contribution to solid piano work, and then Schermer launches into a harder driving blues number, "Take My Hand," pulsating along over a heavy harmonica bed from Izor and a Bo Diddley-style beat from drummer Llanes.

Another member of Blues royalty, Tommy Castro, joins in to share guitar duties with Schermer on the serious Blues number, "Stop Crying." Two great guitarists sharing hot licks --- what could be better? It smokes. John Nemeth then comes aboard to play really nice blues harp on the feelgood shuffle number, "Baby Be Kind." We're on a serious roll towards the end of this disc, folks.

To close out Blues In Good Hands, Schermer returns to the New Orleans-style rhythms that he likes so much with "Hear You Call Him Baby," featuring solid 'Fess-style piano from Stead and still another blistering guitar solo from the star of this show.

Blues In Good Hands proves that Mighty Mike Schermer is one of the most versatile yet underrated artists on the Blues scene today. Highly recommended!

--- Bill Mitchell

Texas HornsMy favorite time of year for Blues Bytes is in January when we post each regular reviewer's Top 10 list for the previous year. I find out about CDs that I missed out on during the year and go on a buying binge to fill in the gaps in my Blues collection. I somehow missed out on the release of Blues Gotta Holda Me (VizzTone Label Group) from Austin supergroup The Texas Horns --- but it didn't take long for me to add it to my own Top 10 list for 2015, and it's also my newest favorite CD in my collection.

The Texas Horns collaboration is a project by three esteemed session horn players --- Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff (tenor sax and harmonica), John Mills (baritone and tenor saxes) and Adalberto Gomez (trumpet and flugelhorn). Add Austin regulars Barry "Frosty" Smith (drums) and Derek O'Brien (guitar) and you've got one of the tightest bands I've heard in a long, long time. Kazanoff also handles vocals on four of the cuts and acquits himself well when pulling double duty. There are also a few special guests sitting in at times --- we'll get to them later.

Opening the CD is a Kazanoff-penned instrumental, "Soul Stroll," a shuffle that gives everyone a chance to solo, including guest guitarist Anson Funderburgh.  I especially like Gomez's trumpet solo midway through the tune --- the man is obviously a very fine horn  player. Marcia Ball then joins the band for the old Dave Bartholomew composition, "Go On Fool," done originally by Smiley Lewis. It's classic New Orleans R&B, with Ms. Ball providing her typical fine vocals and piano playing. Everything Marcia touches turns to gold for my ears, and her inclusion here just makes a fine album even better.

Kaz gets to step up to the mic for the early swing classic, "You're Driving Me Crazy," proving that he's a vastly underrated singer with a very strong voice. Gomez comes in with a muted horn solo, followed later by Kaz on tenor and Mills on baritone. Man, this just keeps getting better! "Kick Me Again" is a Mills composition and his baritone sax takes the lead on this jazzy instrumental, complemented nicely by O'Brien's guitar work.

Perhaps the best song on the disc follows when Austin godfather W.C. Clark joins to handle the vocal on a Kaz original Blues shuffle, "Cold Blooded Lover." Kaz adds his underrated harmonica playing to this cut and O'Brien joins in with smokin' Blues guitar. Then it's back to Kaz on vocals for the Percy Mayfield classic, "Lost Mind." Nick Connolly contributes tasteful piano playing here. Connolly takes the vocals and instrumental lead on the Earl King tune, "Sing Sing Sing (Make A Better World)."

Up next is another Kaz-penned instrumental, "Rippin and Trippin," a feisty, uptempo swing number that would certainly fill the dance floor in any live venue. Kaz gets the main solo on his tenor sax and guest pianist Danny Levin joins in. Johnny Nicholas boogie-woogie piano provides the opening for an up-tempo mover, the title cut "Blues Gotta Holda Me," that he co-wrote with Kaz, who doubles on vocals here. I could easily imagine Jerry Lee Lewis pounding on the 88's on this one if he happened to be near the studio that day, but Nicholas acquits himself quite well.

Now for the song that really caught me by surprise --- an instrumental version of Curtis Mayfield's classic, "People Get Ready." They leave out the vocals, instead letting the horns do the talking. Each of the horn players get to take their turn at the front, with O'Brien coming in with subtle, tasteful guitar and Roscoe Beck contributing an understated bass solo,. The end result is merely a beautiful rendition of a wonderful song.

It's then time to jump a little, with Kaz doing the vocals on a great version of Louis Jordan's "Caldonia." It's your typical fun rendition, with Connolly really turning loose on piano. The jazzy "Home Cookin'" follows, with horns arranged by Gomez and solid B-3 playing by Connolly. Finally, still another Kaz up-temp original instrumental, "Spanky's Twist," closes everything out, with Connolly, Kaz, O'Brien, Mills and Gomez handing off the baton to each other for one hot solo after another.

As I finished writing this review, I went back into my 2015 Top 10 list and nudged Blues Gotta Holda Me up a little higher than before. Yeah, it's that hot.

--- Bill Mitchell

Randy McAllisterGristle To Gold (Reaction Records) is the latest release from Randy McAllister and his band, The Scrappiest Band in the Motherland. McAllister is a fifth-generation Texan who has been recording for nearly 20 years, but has been performing since he was a kid, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a drummer. McAllister started out on drums, but graduated to harmonica in his early 20s (learning from Boston blues legend “Earring” George Mayweather) and packs a wallop as a vocalist as well. He’s also a gifted songwriter, penning all 12 of the tracks on this new release.wendy

The autobiographical “The Kid With The Really Old Soul” kicks off the disc in rousing fashion, combining McAllister’s rugged vocals and harmonica with testifying background vocals from Andrea Wallace and Rob Dewan’s slide guitar. That intense pace continues with “The Push,” but eases into a funky vibe with “Something That Don’t Cost A Dime” for a bit.

Next up is “Crappy Food, No Sleep, A Van, and a Bunch of Songs,” a breathless boogie rocker about life on the road. It's followed by the soulful ballad “I’m Like A Boomerang” before “You Lit the Dynamite” raises things up a notch with a relentless rhythm, amusing original lyrics, and searing guitar from Dewan.

For another change of pace, check out “Someone’s Been There,” a stripped-down ballad with McAllister’s voice, Dewan’s guitar, and keyboards from Carson Wagner. The driving “Bowling Pin” picks things up for a couple of minutes before “Glass Half Full” turns on the deep soul again, with McAllister reflecting on life backed by a smoking horn section.

“A Whole Lot of Nothing” is an up-tempo rocker punctuated by insistent backing vocals and Wagner’s swirling keyboards. “Hey Hooker” is a piano-driven boogie number featuring McAllister giving John Lee Hooker a nod, and “Ninja ‘Bout Cha” turns up the funk one more time to close the disc in upbeat fashion.

The Scrappiest Band in the Motherland consists of guitarist Dewan (a star in the making), Matt Higgins and Rick Stanmyre (bass), Maya Van Nuys (fiddle), with Wagner (keyboards), Kevin Shermerhorn, Sean Mcurley, and Eric Smith (drums), backing vocalists Wallace and Bernita Arterberry, Steve Howard (trumpet), Jeff Robbins (saxophone). Guitarist Mike Morgan plays guitar on two tracks and bass on one.

The rough and rowdy Gristle To Gold is a great way for blues fans to kick off the new year, another excellent release from Randy McAllister, one of the most uniquely talented songwriters and performers the blues currently has to offer.

--- Graham Clarke

Wendy DewittWendy DeWitt, former powerhouse pianist for Hank Ballard and Steve Freund, has teamed up with drummer Kirk Harwood, who backed Norton Buffalo to produce Getaway (Wette Music), an 11-track set of swinging blues and boogie. With eight original tunes penned by DeWitt and three choice cover tunes, the duo is joined by Freund on guitar, Steve Evans on bass, and a slick horn section (Mike Rinta – trombone, Keith Crossan – tenor sax, Tom Poole – trumpet).

The originals include the Crescent City-fueled opener “Sonoma County,” the swinging “Treat A Woman,” the sparse, but soulful ballad “Sometimes I Wonder,” and “Built To Last,” which has a gospel feel with DeWitt doubling on piano and Hammond. “I Want To Believe You” is a slow blues that features some nice fretwork from Freund, and “Never Be Too Much” has a funky backdrop, while “Trouble” is a driving boogie woogie track. “Everybody’s Crying for Something” is a mid-tempo look at the current state of affairs in the world.

The covers are well-chosen and include Chuck Willis’s “Feel So Bad,” which is given an easy jazzy swing and features a terrific guitar break from Freund. “29 Ways,” made popular by Willie Dixon, is a fun and interesting track presented as a slinky shuffle. Finally, the duo covers Freund’s “Folks Like You,” an old-school shuffle with Harwood joining DeWitt on the vocals.

DeWitt and Harwood complement each other well on these tracks. She’s a monster on the keys and a strong vocalist, while he is a model of versatility behind the drum kit. Freund’s guitar work is just perfect on these tracks as well. Getaway is an enjoyable set of piano-based blues that will surely satisfy traditional blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Mississippi BigfootThe band Mississippi Bigfoot was formed in May of 2015, after a show played at Ground Zero in Clarksdale. Five months later, they were releasing their debut CD, Population Unknown (Silver Tongue Records), which was recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios, which has previously been the studio of choice for bands like ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, and the Vaughan Brothers. Their debut included eight original tunes penned by the band, with one smoking cover.

Their lead vocalist, a talented young lady named Christina Vierra, is a singer of stunning intensity. Many will note the similarities to Janis Joplin right off the bat, but that’s really only scratching the surface of her talents. She’s equally comfortable whether rocking the house or belting a soul ballad, but all of it is rooted in the blues. Lead guitarist Johnny Holiday is a powerhouse as well, and the rest of the band consists of Ashley Bishop (guitar, cigar box), Doug McMinn (drums, congas, harmonica), and Cade Moore (bass).

Listening to them work, you’d never know that they’d only been doing this together for a few months.
With all of that said, the biggest selling point of Mississippi Bigfoot is Vierra’s powerful vocals. She can play it tough and with plenty of swagger on tunes like the Albert King classic “The Hunter,” the southern rocker “Burn That Woman Down,” “Mighty River” (featuring Vierra on ukelele), the Hill Country-styled “Who’s Gonna Run This Town,” and “Wag The Dog,” but she can also do tender soul such as on the ballad “You Did.”

“No Flesh In Outerspace” is a great funky workout with some standout guitar work, and “Tree Knockin’” is a boogie track loaded with swampy atmosphere. One of the coolest tracks is “Clarksdale,” a duet from Holiday and Vierra, with McMinn backing them on harp, that pays tribute to the legendary crossroads.

Though a bit short by today’s album standards with nine songs, Mississippi Bigfoot says all that they need to say with these selections. Despite being a debut release, this band really seems to have their voice in place as if they’d been doing this together for years. If you’re a fan of muscular blues rock, Population Unknown will leave you eager for their next release and, indeed, it will be interesting to see where this impressive band goes from here.

--- Graham Clarke

MickeMicke Bjorklof & Blue Strip have been a part of the music scene in their native Finland and throughout Scandinavia for over 20 years. Founded in 1991, the band started out as an acoustic blues rock cover band, but soon went electric and began writing their own material. Singer/harmonica player Bjorklof and bass player Seppo Nuolikoski are the sole original members, but the band has remained intact for over 15 years (Lefty Leppänen – electric/slide guitars, Teemu Vuorela – drums, Timo Roiko-Jokela – percussion, MalletKat). Their musical rapport is apparent on their sixth, and latest, release Ain’t Bad Yet (Hokahey Records).

The band wrote all 11 songs, including the driving rocker, “Last Train To Memphis,” that kicks off the disc (nice slide work from Leppänen), the slinky “Troublemaker,” the funky “Get Ya In Da Mood,” the harp-driven “Hold Your Fire Baby,” and the Delta-flavored title cut, with Leppänen backing Bjorklof’s somber vocal on resonator.

The fiery “Rat Chase” moves between rock and reggae with its feverish rhythm, and the topical “Rain In Jerusalem” pleads for peace. The catchy “Sweet Dream’s A Sweet Dream” has a bit of a pop feel, “Today” is a rambling country blues, and “Blame It on the Bright Lights” has a swinging ’60s rock rhythm. “In Chains,” the closer, is a Delta-styled story song with a mournful vocal and shimmering slide work from Leppänen.

An energetic album of original tunes and great musicianship that covers a lot of blues and roots-related territory well, Ain’t Bad Yet will satisfy fans of blues and roots.

--- Graham Clarke

Walkin Cane MarkWalkin’ Cane Mark is a self-proclaimed disciple of the late, great Howlin’ Wolf, but he also learned a bit at the feet of several other blues legends --- harmonica aces like Snooky Pryor and Junior Wells, and songwriter extraordinaire Willie Dixon, who gave him his nickname back in 1988. Mark worked with another legend, R&B great Nappy Brown, and even recorded a few albums, fronting his first band at age 21. He took some time away from the blues scene, but now the Phoenix-based singer has returned to do his part to keep the blues alive for another generation.

In 2010, Mark recorded a collection of some of his favorite tunes into an album for his family and friends. He has remastered this collection and is now releasing it for public consumption. Tryin’ To Make You Understand (Enable Records) collects 12 songs, seven originals and five covers that sound a lot like the blues as recorded back in the Chess days. Mark co-produced the disc, takes all the vocals and blows a mean harp. He’s backed by co-producer Kirk Hawley (guitar/mandolin), Brenden McBride and Gordon Lynde Jr. (bass), and John Rumbaugh (drums).

The opener is a Howlin’ Wolf rarity, “Somebody’s Walking In My Home,” and the band recreates that authentic sound. Mark does a good job with the vocal, and while he doesn’t exactly sound like the Wolf (who does?), he effectively captures that menacing tone of the original version. The title track was started by Mark with Junior Wells over 20 years ago, and was finished later after Wells’ death. It will bring a smile to anyone who knew or listened to Junior Wells.

The remaining covers are pretty wide-ranging. Former Wolf drummer Chico Chism’s “Arizona Woman” is given the acoustic treatment, as is J.J. Cale’s “Rock and Roll Records,” both featuring some stellar harmonica from Mark. There’s also a sweet reading of Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got To Memphis,” which is featured as a tribute to Mark’s wife, Ellada, who is the subject of another tribute, the Walkin’ Cane Mark original, “Ellada Ellada.”

Mark’s other original are top notch as well, including the rousing shuffle “Let Me In While You Can,” “(I’m A) Freight Train,” a swaggering blues, and “Take Me Back To Bergen,” a relaxed tune with mandolin from Hawley. “The Devil’s @ My Door” is a moody slow blues, “Ocean Full of Women” is an upbeat shuffle praising the fairer sex, and “Eddie’s Boogie” is dedicated to Mark’s young son, Eddie.

Tryin’ To Make You Understand is an entertaining romp through old school blues that will put a smile on your face and a hop in your step if you’re a traditional blues fan.

--- Graham Clarke

I’ve known Walkin’ Cane Mark for the better part of 20 years and had many opportunities to see him perform live when I lived in Phoenix. Sadly, I didn’t get to see him perform way back in the day when Junior Wells was a friend and Mark toured Europe with Nappy Brown. Mark’s a shouter in the Howlin’ Wolf tradition, and his new disc, Tryin’ to Make You Understand, is actually a re-mix of a disc Mark put together as a gift for family and friends. It captures the true spirit of one Walkin’ Cane Mark, so let’s give it a spin.

Kirk Hawley’s guitar sets the tone for our first cut, “Somebody’s Walking/Somebody’s in My Home,” and Walkin’ Cane is quick to join in on his harp. There’s seems to be an intruder in his house and Mark is well aware of it, “There’s somebody walking…in my home you know…in my home.” We’re left to speculate on what might have happened to the intruder, but never know for sure.

Mark’s harp leads to our next cut, “Tryin’ to Make You Understand,” a tune based on lyrics that Junior Wells dictated to Walkin’ Cane in a club’s green room one night. Mark’s ready to move on from the woman in his life and he’s trying to make it clear to her. “Yes…I love your little sister…she’s a sweet thing I adore…baby, I hate to tell you this…I don’t need you anymore.” Mark’s clear it’s time for him to move on and it’s a coincidence that his new woman happens to be her sister. Kirk is one of the Valley’s great guitar players and he’s matching Walkin’ Cane’s intensity lick for lick. The rhythm section consists of John Rumbaugh on drums with both Brenden McBride and Gordon Lynde Jr. handling the duties on the bass. Walkin’ Cane Mark’s harp provides the intro for a tune Chico Chism wrote next, “Arizona Woman,” and here we go. “Arizona woman…how do you like your rolling done? Do you like it early in the morning…or in the mid-day sun? Chico was a ladies’ man and one of the sweet talkingest gentleman you’d ever come across, and this tune reflects that, for sure.

“Rock and Roll Records” is Walking Cane’s favorite JJ Cale tune and he covers it next. “I make my living…and feeding my children…all in good time. You know, the Blues sell for a quarter…it’s a real funky deal…don’t let it pass you by.” Mark makes his money making rock & roll records but his Blues is what satisfies him the most. Some New Orleans funk is up next with Mark’s tune, “Ellada Ellada,” a tune he wrote to honor his Russian born wife. “Ellada…Ellada…I’m so in love with you…you’re on my mind all the time...what’s a poor man to do? Fortunately for Walkin’ Cane, she said yes and they’ve got a great family together. So, of course the courtship was a long one and Mark uses a Tom T. Hall song, “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” to illustrate his point. “If you love somebody enough…you’ll go where your heart wants to go…that’s how I got to Memphis.” Mark pursued Ellada for nigh on seven years before she finally succumbed to his charms.

A wicked harp intro by Walkin’ Cane takes us on to a tune he wrote, “Let Me in While You Can.” Here we find Mark hot for a woman he’s met and he’s definitely on her trail. “Let me come over, Babe…let me in while you can…I know you’re lonely, girl…let me be your man.” The woman ultimately invited him over, things got interesting and then her husband kicked the door down. I’m definitely going to ask Walkin’ Cane about this tune the next time I see him. “I’m a Freight Train” is another tune Mark wrote and the band segues into it next. “I’m a freight train, baby…rolling on through your town…you can’t hide from me…no, I’m going to mow you down.” An ode to Mark’s wilder days and the women he indulged in back then. Kirk hits a blistering guitar lick and you can tell Walkin’ Cane is relishing this memory from his wilder days.

Kirk adds a little mandolin to the mix as Mark indulges us with another tune he wrote, “Take Me Back to Bergen.” “Take me back to Bergen…the land of the midnight sun…take me back to Bergen…to my basement to have some fun…there was Memphis Charlie…Delbert and Nappy Brown too.” Walkin’ Cane is evidently from Bergen and there was trouble to be found in his basement for sure. Mark blows a mean harp intro to our next cut, “The Devils @ My Back Door,” and the mood is dark and somber. Walkin’ Cane is a man of many moods and sometimes the dark side gets the best of him. “You can’t please just one woman…when you’re loving everything in sight…it’s hard to be a good man…with the devils at your door.” Kirk’s fretwork echoes the pain and despair that Mark is feeling and there’s no doubt that life’s a struggle at times.

Fortunately, Walkin’ Cane lightens the mood and we move on to “Ocean Full of Women,” a light hearted ode to Mark’s favorite pastime. “I want to go swimming…in an ocean full of women…I want to drown in a female sea.” Hopefully Mark’s a good swimmer and can find his own way out of the water. “Eddie’s Boogie” is the final track on Walkin’ Cane Mark’s disc, and it’s dedicated to his baby boy. “I’ve got a little pal…his name is Eddie…he’s a little spitfire if you know what I mean…Eddie pitches a little boogie woogie…all night long.”

Walkin’ Cane Mark is an Arizona bluesman through and through, and kudos to Kirk Hawley for working with him to produce this record and help it see the light of the day. All of Mark’s various moods can be heard on Tryin’ to Make You Understand and it’s been a treat to listen to. The classic blues shouter is a dying breed and Walkin’ Cane is more than happy to prove that they aren’t gone yet. Mark’s been playing the Blues for over 25 years; you can learn more about him at Please grab a copy of his disc while you’re there. We’ve got to keep the blues shouter tradition alive and kicking.

--- Kyle Deibler

Amy PriceAmy Hart has followed her blues all around the country before ending up in Nashville and calling it home. Born and bred in Chicago, Amy returned to the Windy City for a concert at the renowned Mayne Stage Theater in Rogers Park. The concert was filmed for broadcast on PBS and Amy took advantage of the opportunity to record the live session for release. Her new disc, Live at the Mayne Stage (VizzTone), is an interesting mixture of Blues, Americana and a dab of Country. Let’s give it a listen.

Amy opens her show with “In the Zone” and we’re treated to the amazing harp of PT Gazell to start us off. Here we find Amy appreciating the man in her life. “Thank you, baby…for the way you make me feel…you take me to a higher place…I never knew was real…I’m in a zone.” Amy’s definitely in love and being in the zone is good for her. Husband Wall Hoffman’s upright bass figures prominently in the mix and we’re off and running. Gene Bush’s dobro is clearly a part of the plan in our next cut, “Blues at the Top of the World.” Doesn’t matter where you go, you can get the Blues anywhere. “Cry baby, cry a little longer…what doesn’t drag you down…will only make you stronger…life is a journey that never ends…and I’ve got no right…to get the Blues at the top of the world.”

The next track, “Get Ready,” was written for her husband and Amy isn’t mincing any words or intent here. “Baby, get ready…I’m going to love you…like you’ve never been loved….if you’re going to get me…you’ve got to let me…straight into your heart.” I’m thinking Wally’s a smart man and this will work out ok. Amy has Matt McDowell keeping the back end steady on the drums and he figures prominently in the mix for “Put Me Back.” Life isn’t always easy for Amy and she’s looking for some divine intervention to get her back on the right track. “Put me back…oh, put me back together right…cause when I do it on my own…I get it wrong every time.” I’m not sure whose responsibility it is to put Amy back together, but hopefully he gets it right.

Up next is a new tune, “Blue Eyed Blues,” and Amy is recovering from a broken heart. “Yesterday…my heart was open like an empty cage…now it’s broken…cause you’ve gone away…I’ve got the blue eyed blues.” Hopefully, Amy’s broken heart will heal soon and she’ll be back in the game in no time. The next track, “Ribcage,” features a more aggressive tone from both Amy and the band. “There’s a bird in my ribcage…she’s calling your name…you better get ready…cause you’ll never be the same…she can’t laugh…she can’t cry…she can’t do anything without you babe…she’s getting ready to fly.” The bird’s been caged up long enough and she needs to spread her wings and fly.

“Red Dress Blues” is another new tune being recorded for the first time and Amy’s getting ready to go out and hit the down. “I put my red dress on…and my dancing shoes…I put my hair down…and some lipstick too…the last thing I need tonight…is the blues.” Amy’s not going to stay down for long and now that she’s out in her red dress…look out world. Amy’s attitude continues with her next tune, “Get the Girls Dancin’,” and it’s definitely time to get the party started. “Preheat the dance floor…to 103…shake it…bake it, honey…you’ve got all that you need…to get the girls dancing…everybody’s going to have a good night.” Something tells me that’s exactly what happens when Amy puts her mind to it and a good party never hurt anyone.

The band slows the tempo for the next cut, “Even Country gets the Blues,” and here we have a cowboy down on his luck. “The rain starts falling…and the tears do too…sometimes, even country gets the blues.” The cowboy loved the woman in his life but she just couldn’t stick around and wait for him to get it together. PT is blowing a particularly mournful harp solo here and I’m emphasizing with our down on his luck cowboy. “Congratulations” is the title track from Amy’s last record, and the band kicks it into high gear here. “You ain’t got no woman…you ain’t got no dog…all you’ve got is holes in your shoes…congratulations, baby…you’ve got the blues.” It’s no fun looking up from the gutter, but the only way out is up and it’s time to pay some dues. “Congratulations, babe…you’ve got the blues.”

Amy moves on to “Rich Ass Daddy,” a tune ostensibly about a rather larger male friend of hers who happened to be loaded. “I want a big, fat, rich ass Daddy taking care of me…don’t need no young buck, broke ass punk…so baby, let me be.” You’ve got to love a woman who knows exactly what she wants and knows the price she has to pay for it.

Our final track, “You Drive Me,” was inspired by her husband’s 1959 Chevrolet Apache truck. It’s got three on the tree, no power steering, just a big old bumpy truck. And Amy works in into her song beautifully. “You drive me like that old truck….three on the tree…when we make love…don’t need no key to start me up…you drive me…like you drive that old truck.” I’m not sure how many of us even remember what “three on the tree” means in terms of a manual transmission, but I appreciate the sentiments that Amy expresses in this tune.

Kudos to Amy Hart and her band for their performance, Live at the Mayne Stage. It’s an accurate picture of where Amy and the guys are at musically these days and they played to a very appreciate audience that evening. Amy primarily tours the Southeast but you can find out more about her and the band at Amy has video from the show on her website and it’s definitely worth a look after you perused her merchandise page and grabbed a few goodies. I’m thinking I might need the t-shirt with the '59 Chevy on it, but only time will tell.

--- Kyle Deibler

Nick BlackNick Black’s on a roll. He executed the perfect proposal that led to his recent marriage, he’s on the road with Victor Wainwright as well as Southern Hospitality, and he manages to find time to put out a record or two under his own name. Nick’s new disc, Deep Blue, allows him to explore his R & B influences and he’s a pretty good crooner in his own right.

He starts off with the horn-driven “Ocean,” and we have Darryl Sanford on the keyboards providing a steadying hand. Nick explores the ocean as a metaphor for an obstacle standing between him and the love he desires. “If I drink too much…I’ll always be alone…if I don’t drink something soon…I’ll die of dehydration.” I think we can safely say that Nick has successfully negotiated his “ocean” and is moving forward. Nick moves on to examine the inclination to do adult things without actually being a grownup in our next tune, “Grownups.” “There’s not a soul but us two…and my blinding love for you…so come over here…let’s give our love sight…oh, we don’t have to be grownups tonight.” Always the lover, Nick is working his magic tonight.

Our next track is “Falling in Life,” and sometimes we don’t always get it right. “I’ll show you what you need…but you’ll go your own way…the sky is the limit but the ground is where you stay.” It’s not always easy to take a risk and that’s the case here. There are way too many musicians on this project to list them all, but suffice it to say Nick has an extensive amount of Memphis talent behind him on this disc and the production is outstanding. A shrill piano run takes us to our next cut, “D.I.Y,” and Nick is offering his advice to a friend. “Listen…to the sound of a heart beating in your ears…anyone who makes you feel angry…after all these years…you don’t need him to tell you how to love…all you got to do is D.I.Y.” Sound advice from one so young, sometimes you have to love yourself more to truly find the love you deserve.

“Only One Man” finds Nick conflicted between the opportunity to do great things and still be able to love the woman in his life. “I am only one man…if I had the chance…I’d be two.” Being away from the woman he loves is hard for Nick to handle and he’d love to be able to be in two places at once. We move on to “Let’s Be Glad” and Nick is feeling the same emotions. “We’ll drink wine…for the battles we’ve won…I’ll beg your forgiveness…for everything bad I’ve done…so, let’s be glad…for the things that we’ve got.” This is a spirited tune and I appreciate the muse that drives Nick to write such great songs. Our tempo slows way down and Nick tackles a ballad that finds him pleading his case in “The Worst that You Can Do.” “Please unpack…all of your clothing…put away your travel case…lock the front door…quit your walking…look at my face…if you love me…please don’t leave.” The worst she can do is say no and Nick would prefer not to hear that word from her lips.

The horns come back into play and the mood lightens with our next track, “Reason to Stay,” and Nick is on the optimistic side this time. “I will even…give you my name…if you will take me…and be mine…I promise you will love me in time.” Nick is definitely in love here and he’s working very hard to keep the woman of his dreams. He then moves on to another slow ballad, “Don’t Leave Louise.” Louise was a woman Nick loved very much, one who saw him through some very hard times and he definitely wants her to stay. “I feel like I’ve gone…to a faraway land…I’m missing your face…the touch of your hand…did I do the right thing…I’m missing you every day….but I’m doing just fine…I’m dealing with stress…please don’t leave, Louise.”

Nick closes Ocean with the funkiest tune on his disc, a song called “All Over Again.” Life is a journey best experienced by two, so get out there and find the one you seek. “There’s always someone out there…who is gasping for air…in the middle of the deep blue sea….before the waves over take them…please resuscitate them…and bring them back to harmony…take a chance and dive right in.” Life and love are truly adventures to be enjoyed and I’m thinking Nick is definitely on to something here.

Memphis is a town full of outstanding musicians and Nick Black is definitely one of the truly talented to be found in the Bluff City. You can learn more about him on his website at and please check this Memphian out. He’s got the chops to be around your heart and ears for a long time to come.

--- Kyle Deibler

Lara PriceMy first introduction to Lara Price was at the Women in Blues festival held in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was the second year of the festival and I went to support the efforts of my friend, Michele Seidman, in promoting the cause of women in Blues. Lara had Laura Chavez with her on guitar and I appreciated how tight their set was. She’s a great vocalist and Laura made many friends that week-end, sitting in with a number of the women performing that year. Fast forward to now and Lara’s new record, I Mean Business (VizzTone), showed up on my doorstep for review and I hit the web to do a little research on what Lara’s been up to. Lara’s a survivor in every sense of the word and one of the hardest working Blues women in the Bay Area. Let’s give her disc a spin and see what she has to offer.

Lara opens with “Get It When I Want It,” and we find her in the middle of a relationship that has its share of conflicts. It works for Lara as long as she, “Can get it where I want it…put it where I need it…I’m satisfied with you.” There’s no guarantee he’ll stick around but Lara’s clear in terms of what she needs and that’s fine by her. Kid Anderson produced Lara’s disc and plays on the disc, as do Derrick Martin on drums and percussion, Steve Evens on bass, and Mighty Mike Schermer lends his guitar to the mix along with Chris Cain. There’s also a fantastic horn section consisting of Michael Peloquin on sax and baritone sax, Mike Rinta on trombone along with Mike Rose on trumpet and flugelhorn. It’s an impressive cast of musicians and I have no doubt that Lara does indeed, “mean business.”

We move on to a tune that Mike Schermer wrote, “Cryin’ over You,” and Lara finds herself pondering the end of a romance. “When you left me…and said goodbye…I didn’t know that I would cry…but it’s true…cryin’ over you.” Lara’s having second thoughts over how quickly she fell for him, but it happened and she’s working through her pain. Mike’s guitar playing is stellar and the horn section is impressive as well. Kid’s been producing a lot of great records lately and this is definitely another one that passes the test. D’Mar’s drums provide a heavy introduction to our next tune, “Undone.” Lara’s fallen heavily under the spell of love again and she’s definitely feeling out of control and “undone” here. “Undone…you’ve got me shaking…like a victim…you got me falling…in a hole so deep…I feel like hollering…but my voice won’t speak…you got me undone.”

Our next cut, “Moon in the Mirror,” was written by Jim Pugh and that solves the mystery of who’s been at the keyboards for Lara’s disc. “Moon in the mirror…sun in my eyes…night leads me to sunrise…I can justify…we’ll make tomorrow out of yesterday, babe…I know we can make it…I’m coming home to stay.” Steve’s bass is heavily in my ear on this tune and it’s refreshing to know this relationship will work itself out. “Crazy Lucy” is a funky tune written by Lara, Laura and Mighty Mike. Here, Lara is telling us the story of two girls in her neighborhood. “Sweet little Mary likes to have fun…but Lucy don’t stop 'til the whiskey’s gone…I’m begging you…crazy Lucy…send sweet Mary back home.” Lucy’s definitely a bad girl of the first degree and poor Mary is usually the one who ends up paying the price for her antics.

“Happy Blue Year” slows the tempo down and here Lara is wishing her ex and his new love less than happiness. “Maybe someday…I’ll be able to wish you well…caused me so much pain…and put me through hell…just cried in my sleep…and I’m awake…to spend New Year’s Eve…all I can do…is wish you a Happy Blues Year.” Time heals all wounds but I can’t blame Lara for the wishes she bestows this New Year’s Eve. Lara continues to have bad luck picking men and we hear about it in “Slipped, Tripped, Fell in Love.” “Getting hooked on you, baby…was the last thing on my mind…now you got me wanting you, baby…I want you all the time….when you touch me…I just lose control…I said I slipped, tripped, fell in love…you slipped your love on me.” Lara knows it will never last but she just can’t seem to help herself.

This theme continues with our next cut, “Pack it Up,” and here Lara seems to be finding the resolve to move on. “I tried my best to understand…you kept saying it will work out fine…and baby…don’t look like it will…every time I try to talk to you…you tell me you ain’t got time….I’m going to pack it up…give it up…I’m going to put you…right out of my mind.” That’s probably the best course of action this time Lara. “Time” is a tune written by Lara and Laura, and we find Lara exploring the reasons for the distance she’s feeling in the relationship she’s in now. “You’ve become someone I don’t know…one look will tell me that you’re gone…when we believe it ain’t there any more…baby, baby, baby…it’s time…time for me to go.” Lara really believed this relationship was going to last and you can hear the pain in her voice at facing that fact that it is indeed, “time for her to go.”

The title track, “I Mean Business,” is next and here we find Lara full of attitude and ready to go. It’s a funky tune as reflected by Chris Cain’s lead guitar, and Lara is meeting life and love head on. “I’m going to set the world on fire…going to yell from the rooftops, my desire…you don’t get it, then guess again…my spirit comes from where I’ve been…I mean business.” “One Tear at a Time” finds Lara giving a friend in need some sound advice. “Sometimes you got to cry…one drop…one breathe…one tear at a time.” When the tears fall…cry it out and move on.

Lara closes out her disc with a tune co-written with Christine Vitale, “Love Lost.” “Love is like the wind…don’t always come back again…but you’ll remember when…what wasn’t could have been…we begin when this love is…” Definitely a heartfelt ballad and a fitting end to a great record.

I’m happy to have had this reintroduction to Lara Price and her music. I Mean Business reflects the maturity of an artist who’s found her way, surrounded herself with a great cast of supporting musicians to share her vision, and an able producer in Kid Anderson who coaxed the best out of everyone. You can find out more about Lara and her music at and grab a copy of her new disc while you’re there. We’ll be hearing more from Lara on a national basis this year, and kudos to VizzTone for supporting Lara’s new record.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mick KolassaIt’s easy for me to envision Mick Kolassa sitting on the deck of his new home in Mississippi, guitar in hand, reflecting on the simple joys of fishing the stocked pond on his property and composing a few blues tunes as well. He’s got a glass of good Tennessee whiskey nearby, probably a cigar in the ash tray and he’s dispensing wisdom as only Mick can. His latest disc, Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel (Swingsuit), is another collection of Mick’s latest observations as well as a new twist to a classic tune or two. Since we’re not on the porch with Mick, let’s give his new record a spin.

We start off with Mick’s take on a Hank Williams classic, “Ramblin Man.” Mick’s a traveling man by nature and the whistle of a nearby train will send him on his way. As Mick sings, “When the Lord made me…he made a rambling man.” Mick’s lived a lot of life in his time and I’m sure he’s spent many a night on the road to nowhere, somewhere. “Grapes & Greens” is the next tune on our adventure, and here Mick is reflecting on the wisdom of one Muddy Waters on the value of Grapes & Greens. “He told us what he want when he was thirsty…what he needed to get high…you better take his advice…you’ll feel so nice…yes, something everybody ought to try…I love my grapes and greens and I don’t need no reason why.” There’s not a lot I can add to this, everyone has their vice of choice and our friend Mick has more than one or two.

Mick moves on to tackle a Depression-era standard, “One Meatball,” and here we find a man down on his luck with 15 cents to spend. “He told the waiter near at hand…the simple dinner he had planned…the guests were startled, one and all…to hear that waiter loudly call, “one meatball.” That was all the poor man could afford and he made due the best he could. He requested bread with his meatball and was told, “You get no bread with one meatball.” We all have someone in our past who we should have stopped to love and didn’t. Mick covers that topic next in “I Always Meant to Love You.” “I think about you everyday…I dream about you every night…I should have stood up long ago…and did what I knew was right.” Jeff Jensen’s guitar is echoing the sorrow of Mick’s memory and Mick has surrounded himself with a core group of some of Memphis’s finest musicians: Bill Ruffino on bass, Robinson Bridgeforth on drums and Chris Stephenson on the organ. Add in an amazing array of guests ranging from Victor Wainwright to Reba Russell to Brandon Santini to Annika Chambers, with many others, and you know Mick is having himself a good time.

Our next cut, “Trouble,” finds Mick in the middle of an intense predicament. “You’re going to get me in trouble…if you keep looking like that…I may be alone…but there’s someone at home…Lord, I know I’m making a mistake.” Mick’s already fallen over the line and now he’s trying to come up with appropriate excuses for the bad behavior he’s about to indulge in. Good luck with that one, Mick. “Nothin Left to Lose” brings with it a very somber tone and there’s some beautiful saxophone from Kirk Smothers in the introduction to this melancholy tune. Mick’s been a wanderer all his life and is reflecting on the time he’s spent looking for Lord knows what. “I might be smiling on the outside…I know you heard this one before…but I can’t ever do for me…what I do for you…I need a change…Lord, help me make a change…this is not what I would choose…I’ve got nothing left to lose.” Jeff’s intricate guitar solo catches Mick’s mood perfectly, and we’re left to appreciate the sorrow of this man who’s lost his way.

Fortunately for us, Mick’s mood brightens and we’re on to a tune that is classic Mick Kolassa, “If I Ain’t Fishin’.” “So don’t you bother to call me…I just packed my leaving trunk…and if I ain’t fishing…I’ll be sleeping…and if I ain’t sleeping…I’ll be drunk.” Mick is actually a world class fisherman, so there’s a lot of truth to this tune of his. Just don’t bother him when he’s fishing. Brandon Santini’s harmonica provides the intro for our next track, “Mama Told Me not to Come.” Between Brandon’s harp and the rhythm section of Bill Ruffino and Robinson Bridgeforth, this tune has a lot of power to it. And of course Mick ignored his mother’s advice, “Mama told me not to come.” That said, Mick’s right where he wants to be…in the middle of the party.”

Up next is “Whiskey Woman” with Logan Layman on the bass and brother Logan playing guitar. Mick’s proud of the woman in his life and isn’t bashful in telling us all about it. “I’ve got a t-shirt and jeans woman…she ain’t trying to impress nobody…she just dress for her and me.” She cooks a mean casserole, drinks whisky and manages to keep Mick in line --- must be a helluva whiskey woman. Only Mick could write a tune involving zombies and that’s found in our next track, “Walkin’ (Dead) Blues.” Brandon’s back with his harp and our hero has fallen to the dark side. “I ate my mother-in-law last night…she was stringy and hard to chew…you’d better run…we’re coming after you.”

I’m happy to move on to “Mama’s Got a Mojo” and Jeff’s soulful guitar is back leading us into this tune. “Mama got herself a mojo hand…wondering what she’s thinking to do…hope she ain’t got plans against me…after all that we’ve been through.” She’s not been treating Mick right lately and it’s hard to say what she’s going to do. “Why do you got to treat me this way…we’ve been together for so long.”

We close this disc with “Delta Town,” an ode to Mississippi where Mick comes from. “We got so much going on…we’re going to make you lose your mind…we’ll get you moving…it’s going to set you free…so many making music…don’t know who you’re going to see.” Mick takes us on a lyrical tour of the various venues in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and you can stay at the revered Riverside Hotel if you like.

I’ve enjoyed this disc by Mick Kolassa immensely. Mick’s a generous man and all of the proceeds from this disc go to fund two Blues Foundation programs near to his heart: the Hart Fund and Generation Blues. You can grab a copy of Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel at Mick’s website at You can’t go wrong here --- you get to enjoy a highly entertaining disc of Delta Blues and support two key programs of the Blues Foundation. It’s a win-win for everybody, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

--- Kyle Deibler


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