My first exposure to Byther Smith came from a wonderful LP released on Razor Records in the late 80s, and I had the privilege to see him perform here in Phoenix at The Rhythm Room several years ago. I have been a fan of his ever since. His recent recorded output has been sporadic and not up to his live performances, but that has changed now with Smitty's Blues (Black & Tan). As soon as "So Many Roads, So Many Trains" came wailing out of my speakers, I was engulfed in a world of blues few performers can achieve. That Otis Rush tune has always been a favorite of mine, and Smith does the original justice. Lowell Fulson's "Tramp" is another track that Smith covers well in his own inimitable style. Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years" is given an impressive rendition as is Rush's "She's A Good 'Un." As you can tell by now, this is an album of primarily covers, although there are three Smith originals. Byther Smith has been singing and loving these songs for so many years, and sings them with such emotion that you cannot fail to be moved. Kudos goes to Black And Tan Records for this fine and important release.
Big Shot (Black & Tan) is the second release by Minneapolis-based
singer/harp player Big George Jackson on the Dutch label Black & Tan, and it is a winner from start to end. It was recorded in Minneapolis with his regular band and is rooted in the Chicago urban blues sound of the
50s and 60s. It could have easily carried the Chess or VeeJay label, but still sounds modern by today's standards.
The CD starts with an up tempo tune about the girls across the river in St. Paul and also closes the CD as a slow scorcher. Both versions of "St. Paul Woman" work well, as do all the tunes on this fine release. I always thought the women of the twin cities were pretty equal. Well, live and learn. There are a couple of cool covers, a Jimmy Reed tune
("I Found True Love") and Walter Horton's "Hard Hearted Woman." If I was pressed to describe the overall feel of this release, I would say John Lee Hooker or Jimmy
Reed from the early 60s. When I heard the instrumental track "The
Daddy," I immediately thought of Little Walter. There was a remembrance of Slim Harpo on "Friday Evening" (pretty good company huh?), and the remaining original tracks were interesting and topical,
too. This was quite an impressive release, and Black & Tan can certainly be proud. I look forward to hearing more by him and seeing his show live. This one will get lots of spins.
Sunny Ridell's Hey Osama (Ecko Records) is the first release I have heard that touches on the tragedy of September 11th. "Hey Osama" is a slap at you know who, with the lines ... "Hey Osama, A camel were (sic) your Daddy and a sheep were your Mama". The song is getting a considerable amount of airplay and is causing a stir wherever is has been aired. Ridell is a veteran of the blues scene having played club dates with Bobby Bland, toured Europe with B.B. King and appeared on local television with the likes of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. He even recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Percy Sledge. His career began in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, singing on street corners. At the age of 16 he recorded his first single for Whitecliff records in New Orleans, the same label that had Fats Domino and Little Richard on it's roster. This release is somewhat a departure for Ecko, as it has real musicians and a team of different songwriters. One of the songwriters, Frank-O Johnson, who has been discussed here in the past, contributes four songs, one of which is the catchy "Talk Dirty To Me," a song that Johnson first recorded a few years back on his O.J. I'm Guilty CD. All in all this is a fun CD. Check out his website at www.3kids.com/sunny/, where you can hear him blast Osama.
--- Alan Shutro
Fool Me Good (Terminus Records) is the first CD released by
Precious Bryant, a Piedmont guitarist/singer from Georgia who was recorded by folklorist George Mitchell in the late
60s. Precious Bryant also had some songs on various artist compilations put out by the Music Maker Relief Foundation. She shows off her tremendous skills through
four covers, five traditional songs and six originals. The CD starts off with a rolling cover of fellow Georgia bluesman Blind Willie
McTell's "Broke and Ain't Got a Dime" that shows off Precious's great guitar work. "Black Rat Swing" gives Precious the chance to
again show off her guitar playing with a swinging rhythm. One of the highlights of the disc is "Fool Me
Good," with Precious declaring her love for her partner, and her pleading for her partner to "fool me good" if he doesn't have the same feelings. "Fool Me Good" is pushed along by a great vocal performance and a rolling guitar pattern that accentuates the emotion of the song. "Precious Staggering Blues" throws some country stylings into her playing along with the amusing story of the song. Another highlight of the disc comes from the cover of Oliver Sain's "Don't Mess Up a Good
Thing," with its jumping, staggered guitar pattern and a soaring vocal performance. "Wadn't I Scared" and her cover of "Fever" are two of the best performances on this disk. Her version of "Fever" should not be missed, with a very relaxed, laid back, down home reading of the oft covered song that she truly turns into her own. The disc ends with 2 very good tracks, a very unique version of "When The Saint's Go Marching In" that is absolutely stunning to hear, and a chance for Precious to display her tremendous talent on guitar with "Georgia
Buck." This CD is one of the most enjoyable and original releases,
and is a rarity to find. It should not be missed. One of the most stunning performances to be released in a long time, this CD should be cherished by the listener.
Cool John Ferguson has been featured on many of the Music Maker Relief Foundation releases working with a diverse group of musicians that include Carl Rutherford, Essie Mae Brooks, Capt. Luke, and the Mat Harding Project. His solo CD is one of the more contemporary releases that has been put out through the foundation, and it is quite clear why he is used as a guitarist on their other releases. The left-handed Cool John has a tremendous ability to change styles at the drop of a hat and they are all demonstrated on this disc. "The Cat Ate The Rat, The Rat Ate The Wizard" starts the disc off with a soaring guitar performance that shows what Cool John is all about. John gets to show off his guitar wizardry in front of a pounding rhythm created by the bass and drums that pushes everything along. "Here Comes Floyd" is another rocking instrumental, with overdubbed audience clapping along for John's fast fingered playing. "I Love You" and the loungey "Strollin' By The Waterfront" show John changing it up a little bit, without losing any power by throwing in some jazz to the music. "Miss You Like The Devil" is a cover of a Guitar Gabriel song that John transforms into something wholly original, while doing justice to the original. "Miss You Like The Devil" also gives John another chance to show off his ability to play in many different styles, here showing off his guitar mastery while keeping the down home country blues feel of the original. "Let No Woman" is another cover of the late Guitar Gabriel, to which John does great justice with his reworking, giving it loping, jumping guitar patterns and a declarative vocal. "Pre-Alex Stomp" allows John to funk it up a bit, with a propulsive choppy rhythm and some great guitar work that shows why he is used on many releases. "Send Up My Timbers" is given a treatment that could have come straight off the Capt. Luke and Cool John CD, with its classic R&B ballad feel. "Log Cabin Woman" and "I Got A Right To Cry Sometime" are two more Guitar Gabriel songs that are slow country blues, with John turning in great performances. This disc shows that Cool John can step out on his own and perform at a top level in many different styles. This recording is much different than the other more traditional Music Maker CD's. Taken as that, it succeeds at an enormous level, a lot of fun to listen to. ( For more info on Cool John or other musicians go to www.musicmaker.org).
--- Kris Handel
Precious Bryant grew up in Talbot County, Georgia surrounded by a bevy of community folk, blues and gospel musicians. Eventually she acquired a Silvertone guitar through a Sears & Roebuck catalog and began her own career. Influenced by early rock-n-roll and R&B, like the song "Fever" she covers on her new release, Fool Me Good (Terminus Records), Bryant developed a punchy, strumming folk-blues style first recorded by folklorist George Mitchell in 1969. Bryant also appeared on a compilation of Chattahoochee River Valley artists, but this is her debut full-length recording. These songs are all from her repertoire, being her originals and the covers she learned from the radio and other regional artists. Though recently recorded, this is a time capsule back to late '60s rural blues.
Both Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters employed harmonica ace Jerry Portnoy as a featured soloist. Stylistically, his new album, Down In the Mood Room (TinyTown Records), is very close to the proto-jazz of Louis Armstrong's style in the '20s and '30s. By reaching back to this pre-electric blues style and the birth-of-jazz era, Portnoy's excellent album comes across as singular in an era in which blues more often fuses with rock sounds. There's also a stimulating tension and release of typified violent mood alternating with relaxed instrumental ballads. Check Portnoy's web site (www.harpmaster.com) for more information.
--- Thomas Schulte
Fans of straight forward blues and blues/rock will more than appreciate Fire It Up (Blind Pig), the latest effort from a very interesting guitarist by the name of Bill Perry. Based in New York, Perry spent quite a few years as Richie Havens’ guitarist as well as providing support for both Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. This 11 track collection of mostly originals exudes a tough-as-nails approach, much in the same vein of labelmate Jimmy Thackery due in part to Bill’s commanding deep throaty vocals and piercing guitar style. Starting things off is the humorous and suggestive “Itchin’ For It,” set to a rockabilly boogying backbeat with shades of George Thorogood rolling about and a sizzling slide break. “Clean Thing” follows with a mid-tempo bopping story of the sober side of life, segueing into the album’s hard driving soul-based title tune. This one is augmented by David Bennet Cohen’s barrelhouse piano playing that you will hear throughout the album. “Born In New York” is a smoldering piece chock full of attitude drenched vocals and a pair of solos that will make your hair curl, as will the razor edged “Thinkin’ Of You.” The instrumental “G & L Jump” catches fire from its opening note, and is followed by a shuffling “I Ain’t Lyin” that is pure roadhouse material along with “Heaven In A Pontiac.” On the mellower side of things is the ballad “I Can See The Light Of Day,” on which producer Jimmy Vivino’s crisp mandolin notes are highlighted. Vivino also contributes his talents on guitar and organ, as well as background vocals over the course of the entire project. Closing things out is the lone acoustic number that will lay to rest any questions about this man's ability as a guitar player that you might still possibly have. Besides the aforementioned players, the band is rounded out by Rob Curtis on the skins and former Icebreaker Johnny B. Gayden plucking the bass. I won’t proclaim that Perry is Stevie Ray and Albert Collins reincarnated into one, nor will I tell you that he is the greatest thing to happen to blues guitar since T-Bone Walker. What I will say about Bill Perry and Fire It Up is that his is the most honest, no frills sound I have heard as of late. Perry has definitely started to carve his own niche with both his playing and his voice. A very impressive debut, well worth repeated listens.
--- Steve Hinrichsen
I Ain't Wrong is the debut album from a band that has "Texas" in it's name, Samuel C Lees & Texas Flood, but comes from the middle of England. Having listened to the CD, it's fairly obvious that the "Texas" name is a tribute to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, which has definitely influenced this band (there's also some Albert Collins in there). Seven of the 13 tracks are original numbers written by the band, and they show that these guys know their way around the blues. There's a couple of tracks that the late Stevie would have been proud to play, and the original tracks are (to my ears) better than the cover versions that are on the album. Having said that, there are two cover versions that stand out from the crowd, "Six Strings Down" and Don Nix's "Going Down," the latter one of which Freddie King made such a good job. These two tracks are the sort of thing that this band do to perfection, and their own compositions reflect this, too. Listen to the opening track, "I Ain't Right," and the rocking "Don't Rope Me," and you'll immediately have an idea of what this band is all about --- solid rocking Texas-style blues! Don't let the fact that the band members all come from England put you off listening to this CD. By the time you get to track three, you'll be able to close your eyes and picture them in Dallas or Houston. A really good debut album from a band that deserves to be heard.
--- Terry Clear
Big Jack Johnson and Kim Wilson had never performed together until they teamed up in a Memphis studio in September 2000 to record the acoustic sessions heard on The Memphis Barbecue Sessions (M.C. Records). There was no set list of songs to be performed. Instead, Johnson would launch into a tune and Wilson would come in behind him on harmonica. The songs here have a real spontaneous feel, like two old friends sitting on a back porch together. In fact, the album might have worked better had the producers taken some portable equipment out to someone's house or jook joint in the Delta, as the studio sounds a little cold at times. But that's a minor quibble, as Johnson and Wilson, both excellent instrumentalists, combine to make beautiful music together on the 13 cuts. My favorite is one of the few in which Wilson takes the lead, blowing a very spirited harmonica intro on an instrumental version of Little Walter's "My Babe." The album kicks off with a Johnson original, "Oh Baby," on which Big Jack's voice goes to a slightly higher register and with more of a nasally sound. Also good is another BJJ original, "Humming Blues." Johnson starts out this one with humming introduction, followed by restrained, tasteful vocals. Legendary pianist Pinetop Perkins joins the party on a mid-tempo blues ramble, "Lonesome Road," and he fits in well with Johnson and Wilson. The latter gets to shine again on the Jimmy Reed standard, "Big Boss Man," blowing tasty harp behind Johnson's nimble guitar work and effective vocals. Fans of these two fine artists, as well as lovers of traditional blues, will want to pick up this album. For more info, check with M.C. Records at www.mc-records.com.
Buddy Guy's 1960s-era recordings for Chess Records are generally regarded as the defining blues sound of that decade. Three years after arriving in Chicago from his native Louisiana in 1957 and after recording a few sides for Cobra Records, Guy began a seven-year relationship with the Chess brothers that produced the 11 selections re-issued by MCA Records on The Best of Buddy Guy: The Millennium Collection. Working with the genius producer Willie Dixon, Guy took the Chess blues sound and turned up the juice several notches. With electrified guitar runs and impassioned, histrionic vocals, Guy laid down some of the most intense blues recordings ever. The album starts out with a classic from his first session, "First Time I Met The Blues," a slow blues with a lot of fervor packed into only two minutes and 20 seconds. Another great slow number showcasing Guy's soaring vocals is "Stone Crazy," which contains one of my favorite blues lines --- "...I think I'm goin' back down South ... where the weather suits my clothes..." Guy was obviously at his best on the slow burners, as heard on "When My Left Eye Jumps." The album closes with an acoustic number from the 1970 Buddy and the Juniors album, "Talkin' 'Bout Women Obviously," with Guy on understated acoustic guitar and Junior Wells playing some fine harmonica. If these essential recordings aren't in your collection in some way, shape or form, don't delay ... get this album now!
Lisa Otey is a Tucson, Arizona-based pianist / singer /songwriter who gathered her musical friends to record the independent production Hard Workin' Woman (Owl's Nest Productions). Otey's song selection generally jumps between hot boogie woogies to torchy vocal numbers. The opening title cut is a frantic boogie woogie tune, with scorching piano by Otey and good fiddle accompaniment from Heather Hardy. Otey then transforms herself into a torch singer for the original 'Maybe We'll Be Lucky Again," with subtle, tasteful horn work and nice piano. The one that's a real hoot is "Xena For Xmas," on which Otey sings about her dismay in tuning in the TV to watch Xena the Warrior Princess, only to instead find Baywatch on the air. For a change of pace, we get a funky, jazzy number, "Sittin' On The Back Porch," with excellent muted trumpet from David Otey. For more info on Otey, check her web site at www.lisaotey.com.
--- Bill Mitchell
Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida comes the wide-ranging and assorted sounds of
Mofro. Mofro's debut release for Fog City Records, Blackwater, is an eclectic mix of American music. Funk, Jazz, Blues, Rock and Soul mesh together for an individual and distinctive sound, which is already being praised by many critics and gaining national attention. While Mofro didn't come into being until the winter of 1998, founding members Daryl Hance and JJ Grey met year's prior in Jacksonville's thriving music scene. Even though their influences were separate in origin, the duo became quick friends and formed the group Alma Zuma in 1995. With Daryl's love of the blues and
70s funk and JJ's passion for soul music, the group adopted a very distinctive sound. After the demise of the band, Daryl & JJ decided to put together a new band with a fresh sound. They commissioned Australian born keyboard/sax player, Nathan Shepard, and French bassist, Fabrice "FABGREASE" Quentin, to share in the enthusiasm. The two were drawn to the Southern spirit of funk and blues and were a natural appendage to the sound Hance and Grey were after.
Mofro's debut is just as eclectic as the members of the band, with a mix of Front porch soul, "Jookhouse" funk and swamp blues. The title track is low key with a deep southern flavor, complete with soulful vocals, wailing harp, and weeping guitar.
"Ho Cake" is a funk driven number with aggressive guitar licks, featuring a mammoth sax solo, followed by an equally tight Hammond solo this tune could rival any James Brown recording.
Mofro slows it down a notch will some blue-eyed soul on the tender cut "Air." Special
guest Robert Walter, Fog City recording artist and founding member of The Greyboy All-stars, lays down some tasty electric piano grooves, adding a bit of psychedelia to the Curtis
Mayfield-esque track "Lazy Fo Acre."
Recorded live in the studio, Mofro's Blackwater is chock full of raw and soulful
lyrics and great musicianship, coupled with fat tones and good times. For more
info, check www.mofro.net/home.htm.
Long before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks took Fleetwood Mac to multi-platinum status on the pop charts, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac were major contributors to the British Blues invasion in the mid-sixties. While the group only had moderate success, they did provide Santana with their first hit, "Black Magic Woman." Still regarded by countless fans as the best white blues guitarist, aside from Eric Clapton, Peter Green has been an undeniable force in blues since his days with John Mayall's Blues Breakers. With an eerie Green instrumental called "The Supernatural," he demonstrated the beginning of his trademark fluid, haunting style on the Blues Breakers album A Hard Road in late 1966. His current band, Peter Green Splinter Group, continues to set the standard of Contemporary Blues with their latest release, Time Traders (Blue Storm Music). The Peter Green Splinter Group formed in 1996. The 1997 self-titled debut was met with mixed reviews and was to be the band's last recording of the decade. Green continued as a solo artist until 2000, when the Splinter Group released Hot Foot Powder. The disc was a follow-up to the 1998 release, The Robert Johnson Songbook, and now Green had recorded every song that Robert Johnson was known to have composed and recorded. With such notable artists as Nigel Watson, Dr. John, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Hubert Sumlin, and Joe Louis Walker contributing to the project, blues fans were delighted with the recording. The self produced Time Traders is a diverse mix of musical styles. Blues is the main course on this disc, but elements of soul, funk, and even touches of ethnic rhythms are thrown into the mix. While all but one song on Time Traders were written by band mates Nigel Watson, Rodger Cotton and Peter Stroud, Green's presence and influence is apparent on each and every track. The recording opens with a hidden track, "Well Runs Dry," which showcases Peter Green's well-traveled vocals and notable harp playing. "Running After You" is a classic shuffle that generates a brilliant solo from Hammond player Roger Cotton, as well as tasty harmonica and guitar solos from Green. With lead vocals by Nigel Watson, "Downsized Blues (Repossess My Body)" has a Dr. John feel, complete with Louisiana style piano, flugelhorn and trumpet. Peter Green's "Underway" is another masterful guitar instrumental reminiscing of his classic "Albatross." "Uganda Woman" has a soothing and entrancing quality with a Sting-like characteristic (Nigel's vocals even sound a bit like Sting) in the midst of African rhythms and chanting. With an eclectic mix of musical styles coupled with masterful musicianship, Time Traders is evidence that Peter Green continues to grow as an artist nearly 35 years after joining up with John Mayall while other blues veterans continue to flounder in the past.
--- Tony Engelhart
The blues scene is alive and well in this little part of North America where French is being spoken, the province of Quebec. Granted, the conditions that generated the blues in the south have never been present here, and the climate is radically different too (although this winter is remarkably
mild). Because of the different living conditions and because the blues got a rather late start around here too (the
60s, basically), the type of blues you will find here will not be confused with the Delta variety. Two interesting recent releases with a different outlook on the blues merit inclusion here this month. Montreal-based
Big Mark and the Blues Express have been nominated for the Maple Blues awards (the Canadian version of the Handy awards) for their first full-length effort, the independently released
Steak and Potatoes. Leader Big Mark Legault, who sings and plays guitar, as well as contributing all four original songs, is an imposing presence, but he won't be mistaken with Howlin' Wolf; the blues he favors has a strong swing or jive/jump flavor, with a two-man horn section busy blowing riffs and taking the odd solos. With his
B.B. King-derived guitar sound and the generally upbeat covers ("Caldonia," "She's
Dynamite," etc.), Big Mark strives for an "uptown" feel and mood, with plenty of humor and good time fun in the lyrics and the singing. Given that sharecroppers and chain gangs have never existed around these parts, it makes sense. In fact, it is when young blues bands cover material that is foreign to their living conditions that they fail miserably; by choosing appropriate upbeat material and generally avoiding the down-on-his-luck harder songs, this band has found what is often lacking with young blues artists: a real identity.
For more info --- www.bigmarkblues.com.
--- Benoît Brière
Bass playing singer/songwriter Sam Cockrell has been writing, performing and recording original music since the age of nine. He has played with B.B. King, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Rick James, Johnnie Taylor, Cicero Blake and A.C. Reed. Cockrell is part of the new bluesbloods such as Big James Montgomery who are determined to add diversity to blues music. Unlike the debut disc, Color Blind uses special guests, such as Chico Banks, only as required. This allows for Sam’s hot, regular backing band, the Groove, to avoid allusion and rock like a storm tossed ship. In fact, they play so tight you can’t blow this Groove apart. Throughout, Chris Forte (guitar), Rob Davis (drums) and John Kattke (keys) prove they are a distinct and proficient group. Your foot will be tapping and your hand will be slapping to 60 stylish minutes of all-original soul, funk and blues. The disc’s 14 tunes were recorded in Chicago and Memphis and the CD was produced by Cockrell. His vocals are strikingly similar to those of Robert Cray. However, Sam doesn’t try to imitate him. Cockrell’s voice is smooth and enticing, yet articulate and commanding. Things begin with "Let Me Love You." It hits you, grabs you and commits you to journeying through the entire disc. "Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark" is a radio-friendly pop song with complicated rhythmic chord arrangements. Here, Forte gives his wah-wah pedal a workout. Ronnie Baker Brooks performs "Life" as a loud and proud contemporary blues. The guest handles the vocals and guitar work on this song with excellent backing from Rick Perkins’ fiery keyboard. Using lyrics such as "...through the eyes of children, the world is colorblind...", the title track forces the listener to ponder why the people of the world (adults in particular) cannot live in harmony. In contrast to lyrics that paint a colorless picture, the CD’s cover and liner are colored vibrantly with many hues. You simply cannot resist appreciating the differences of them all. Together, the song and the cover make a striking statement. You will instantly recognize the pulsating, soulful horns that cut their teeth at Stax and Hi Records. The Memphis Horns guest on half of the tracks and add an attractive fatness to each cut. Joanna Connor shares the vocals with Cockrell on "When We’re Together." Then his thundering bass and her grinding slide guitar trade solos. "Sexx" is a funkalicious, danceable call for booty while the heart-breaking and frustrating outcome of the 2000 International Blues Challenge is told on "Mugged In Memphis." For an independent release, the packaging is impressive. Its high standard and professionalism is an embarrassment for the large labels who have plunged into mediocrity. Don’t expect songs of the 12-bar style. The music on this disc covers a lot of ground and changes patterns regularly. It is the perfect cross-pollination of blues, R&B, soul, funk, Motown, pop and jazz. Experience for yourself why Sam and his Groove confidently bill themselves as Chicago’s Premiere R&B and Blues Band. For CDs, booking and information, call (773) 543-0468, e-mail to email@example.com or go to www.samcockrell.com.
--- Tim Holek
In the grand style of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee comes an East Coast duo that truly delivers. Malkum & Chris (Gibson & Kleeman respectively) have recorded one of the best acoustic blues CDs to come down the highway for some time in their newest release Yes, I Want To Go on the Buckatoon label. Everything about this CD shines, from the wonderful singing and harmonizing throughout to the masterful guitar work Kleeman contributes on every tune with either his six string or national steel. Gibson¹s playful harp nicely compliments and enhances his partner¹s picking. The full sound these two guys generate is stirring, as they expertly travel through 13 tunes, mostly covers. There are a couple of originals, including "Hoodoo Baby," which sounds like it could have easily come from the Swamp Blues playbook. The rest of the tunes are favorites in this style from greats like Ledbetter and Mississippi Fred McDowell. The production is crisp and clean, which allows all the nuances to capture your attention, keeping you to want to come back time and time again. These two bring the front porch atmosphere directly to your living room, hitting the perfect bulls eye for their brand of blues. Of course, they have a website (what respectful indie blues artist wouldn¹t) at www.malkumandchris.com. This CD is not listed, but a quick e-mail to the boys should put CD in hand. One last note, which acts as an unbelievable testimony to these guys talent, is the fact that, in1970, B.B. King produced their first recording. You can¹t get better than B.B. These two deserve a listen.
Bay Area-based boogie/jump blues band The High Rollers are blasting through with their latest release, High Time (Rollin' and Tumblin' Music). This quartet of fine musicians delivers one tight set of 12 originals based on the swinging styles of blues having a resurgence of sorts in blues clubs from Redding to Fresno. The CD title explains the thread that runs through this disc, with tunes centering on time-related tales. Lead man "Harmonica" Phil Berkowitz blows inspiring harp and sings on every tune, causing the toes to tap and the fingers to snap along with his constant rhythm. Berkowitz also contributes to the songwriting detail by penning nine out of the 12 tunes. Rounding out the band is Bruce Todd on guitar, Des Mabunga taking the bass chores and Elvis Johnson drums. Sitting in on various songs is Tom Whitehead adding New Orleans boogie style piano on "Before You Go" and pianist Pawel Kuczera on the rest. What blues CD would be complete without some trace of horns? Enter Kevin (Spazz) Burkhardt on trombone and Doug Rowan playing alto sax on the lazy blues number "Before You Go." Berkowitz¹s wife, Ms. Ginger T, adds capable singing to "5-10-15 Hours." Very enjoyable disc. Wander through their site at http://highrollers.iuma.com.
Guitar slinger Lundy Lewis, from the pine tree country of lower New Hampshire, has recently released a nice mix of jazz/funk flavored blues (with the emphasis on jazz) on his new CD I Ain¹t Through Yet (Lundy Lewis Records). The title is prophetic according to the liner notes written by Lewis, who explains that these tunes (all written by Lewis) were bouncing around his songwriting brain since the 80s and finally found a home on this CD. Nice harp work by Mike Turk rings throughout, lending the blues flavor to these tunes. Lewis' picking focus more on the funk/jazz side when orchestrated with the horn section (Trumpet-Jay Daly, Sax-Richard Gardzina and Trombone-Walt Bostian). Producer John Paul lends his marvelous wah-wah playing to the tune "Big Cash Cow." Lewis' vocals tend to be a little bit on the raspy side, probably from his constant playing and touring. This does add an interesting feel to the sound when the vocals are highlighted through reverb. Soulful back up singing, featuring Leah Ortiz, Bethany Slack and Theresa Yasevich, evokes the female singing style of the 50s and 60s. If you like your blues with more of a pop feel, this is the CD for you. Find out more at www.lundylewis.com.
--- Bruce Coen
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Revised: February 20, 2002 - Version 1.02
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