Blues Bytes

What's New

February 2006

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Tommy Castro

Chicago Blues Reunion

Watermelon Slim

Bob Brozman

Tom Hunter

Roscoe Shelton

Earl Gaines

Precious Bryant - The Truth

Precious Bryant - Fool Me Good

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz


Lee Rocker


Tommy Castro DVDDuring the second half of the ’90s, Tommy Castro helped develop today’s contemporary blues. He grew up in San Jose and became enthralled with the blues after realizing it influenced Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. Castro sings charismatically, plays wailing guitar, and writes forceful rock ‘n’ soul numbers. Randy McDonald (bass), Keith Crossan (sax), and Tommy have been performing and recording together for 14 years. Chris Sandoval (drums) is the newest band member.

Like Blind Pig’s other recent live DVDs, Whole Lotta' Soul was also recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewery “Big Room” in Chico, California in 2005. The 350-seat venue is where the PBS TV series Sierra Center Stage is recorded, has excellent acoustics, and has been called one of the best live music spaces on the West Coast. This professionally produced DVD was filmed in wide-screen, and features camera angles from seven different operators. Of course, Castro appears dressed in black and plays his well-worn Stratocaster. Although he is constantly smiling, he doesn’t possess a spellbinding stage presence. In between songs, there isn’t much interaction with the crowd. Castro communicates via his powered music, which keeps the dance floor packed.

The riveting 11-song set includes nine songs from Soul Shaker (which spent 19 weeks on the Billboard blues chart), Castro’s most recent and best Blind Pig CD. The only songs that do not appear on Soul Shaker are "You Only Go Around Once" and "Texas Flower." The latter, which sounds like it came from an Elvis Presley movie soundtrack, appeared on McDonald’s solo CD and is the only track not written by Castro. The song exhibits rocking piano and guitar solos, as well as the very intense and animated McDonald.

Interviews with Castro and his band add 16 minutes to the hour long concert. Kevin Bowe adds guitar to several numbers, while sultry red-headed Renee Austin provides jostled backing vocals on "Let’s Give Love A Try." Tom Poole’s assertive trumpet and Jimmy Pugh’s bold organ can be heard on practically every Castro CD. These choice musicians guest on many songs here – including the lovely "Anytime Soon," which contains hopes and dreams for a better world. Shivers will run down your spine when you hear the lyrics. "The Next Right Thing" is sleek, chic, and loaded with funk. It features a great arrangement that travels from mellow to heavy. During "Take Me Off The Road," Castro is self-reflecting and soul-searching, while McDonald launches into a wild trucker’s CB radio rap. "What You Gonna’ Do Now?" is thought-provoking and expresses questions which many of us cannot or will not address. At times, Crossan blows his sax as deep as a Great Lakes freight ship’s horn. Throughout, he injects a rock ‘n’ roll feel ala the Silver Bullet Band.

Castro is a real inimitable string-bender. As proof, just watch and listen to "No One Left To Lie To." Time and time again, the ghost of Otis Redding can be heard in Castro’s vocals that moan, shout, scream, and hum. In a different era, Castro would have been the ruler of FM radio. For the present, he is without a doubt, the king of rock ‘n’ soul.

--- Tim Holek

Chicago Blues ReunionBuried Alive In The Blues (Out The Box) is a celebration of the first generation of white musicians who openly embraced the blues. They were accepted and included to the point of performing with their black heroes and establishing the first integrated blues band. The generation is now approaching or has already entered their senior years. Like your favorite grandparents, they have a valuable history that deserves to be told and heard. Chicago Blues Reunion’s members have led interconnected professional lives for the past five decades. Nick Gravenites (vocals/guitar) wrote "Buried Alive In The Blues" for Janis Joplin and "Born In Chicago," the signature song of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band featuring Sam Lay (vocals/drums). Butterfield’s guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, later joined The Electric Flag, which included Barry Goldberg (keyboards) and Gravenites. Tracy Nelson (vocals) was a fixture on Chicago’s 1960s folk and blues scenes before she founded Mother Earth. Harvey Mandel (guitar), a Bloomfield protégé, was part of Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Corky Siegel (harmonica/vocals) has been a Chicago fixture from his years with Siegel-Schwall. Joining them are Gary Mallabar (drums), Rick Reed (bass), and Zach Wagner (guitar).

Appearing aged and not well-preserved, Gravenites states, “We have a history,” while the youthful looking, gray-haired Siegel adds, “We are part of each other’s lives.” In a nutshell, they took black blues out of the black Chicago clubs and introduced it to the world beginning in the city’s north side. This stylishly packaged DVD/CD combo includes a bountiful 32-page booklet loaded with archival photos. The 80-minute DVD presents six live performances (these plus eight more are included on the hour-long CD), but it also exposes interviews with band members and Buddy Guy, as well as archival video, and a photo gallery with many never before seen photographs. Especially cherishing is the footage of Electric Flag at Newport and film clips from an early ’70s Soundstage PBS TV show featuring Muddy Waters, Jr. Wells, and Gravenites. The praise-filled interviews have been visually edited to have a retro look. Overall, the DVD unfolds like a well-written special feature in your favorite blues magazine.

Recorded in stereo on October 15, 2004 at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois, Gravenites performs while seated throughout. On "Born In Chicago" Mandel’s guitar screeches as it is yanked in the background. The title track contains a relaxed groove that is welcoming and familiar. At times, as on this song, the tiny stage makes it a challenge for the camera operators to maintain a non-obstructed view. "Walk Away" exhibits the warbling vibrato vocals of Nelson. During the song, you can tell Siegel loves the performance. This image echoes his interview exclamation, “We love the blues.” The deepest blues emerges on "Left Handed Soul." Here, the electric piano is audacious, while the organ is haunting. The keyboards punch out and make Slim Harpo’s "Miss You Like The Devil" a rockin' shuffle while Nelson’s vocals command enthusiasm. "Drinkin’ Wine" is an outright fun song that jumps and rocks at the same time. Delbert McClinton’s "I Need All The Help I Can Get" contains the best rhythm and a dose of funk. "Death Of Muddy Waters" is traditional electric blues performed in honor of its ultimate purveyor. Mandel’s wicked guitar is showcased on "Snake," while Lay kicks out incomparable vocals on a medley of classic rock ‘n’ roll. Additionally, you’ll hear boogie rock and psychedelic blues-rock.

Gravenites’ vocals aren’t strong; Mandel’s heavy guitar is outlandish, while Goldberg’s keys are scintillating. The title of the virtuous group is a bit misleading, since Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lil’ Ed, and Carl Weathersby are golden era and modern day artists that come to mind when you think of Chicago Blues. It is doubtful the artists who comprise this super group would land near the top of an exhaustive Chicago Blues listing. The fact remains --- they were actively part of the Chicago Blues scene and were mentored by its golden era prophets. After watching the DVD, you walk away with nothing but respect and admiration for these artists. They achieved what no one had done before them and, thankfully, some of them have persevered so a new generation can enjoy them and hear their worthy story.

--- Tim Holek

The Montreux Jazz Festival began in 1967. Today, it is one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals. Eagle Vision’s Live at Montreux DVD series features concert footage from some of the best Montreux performances. Legends featuring Eric Clapton bring together five significant musicians for a special concert. All the artists are equally talented and revered within their individual genres and the music industry as a whole. The unassuming band includes respected jazz drummer Steve Gadd, coveted multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller on bass, Crusaders founding member Joe Sample on piano, prominent saxophonist David Sanborn, and legendary Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals. Miller was the nucleus of Legends, who he put together specifically for an 11-date tour of major European jazz festivals. Clapton is one of rock’s most prolific artists. If he isn’t recording or touring as a solo act, he is taking part in a side act. Lately this has spurred a plethora of DVD releases such as Cream Royal Albert Hall May 2005, The Concert For Bangladesh, and Sessions For Robert J. Live At Montreux 1997 is one of the most interesting because it is extremely different from all of Clapton’s other work. Dressed in cargo pants, a bowling shirt, and sporting black rim glasses, he appears relaxed and more aligned with today’s fashions than those on the late ’90s.

Recorded on the Fourth of July, 1997, ironically Clapton is the only non-American of the group. That same year he also went incognito when appearing as X-Sample on the TDF CD. "Full House" features stunning solos from everyone except Gadd (who doesn’t perform a solo); Sanborn’s solo is the most breathtaking. Viewers are left pondering how a skinny guy can make so much noise from his wind instrument. The electric piano on "Groovin’" brings back memories of Herbie Hancock LPs. "Ruthie" is powerful. The grand piano sounds charming, and when combined with the arresting melody on guitar takes you away to a distant and tranquil land. Looking for dignified and mesmerizing saxophone and guitar? Check out "Snakes" (the definite highlight of the DVD), where all band members receive a solo. "The Peeper" is another highlight. Here, Sanborn erupts via a wailing solo while the guitar and piano solos are classically astounding. During the introduction of "Going Down Slow," EC makes a mistake and laughs it off. The sax adds genuine rank over the studio recording, which appeared on Clapton’s Pilgrim. All five musicians evenly contribute as band members. There is no single superstar in this super group. However, on two occasions, two of the members clearly enjoy the spotlight. "Third Degree" is pure blues and is Clapton’s chance to shine. Likewise, Joe Sample momentarily steals the show on Jelly Roll Morton’s "Shreveport Stomp."

If I was forced to classify this genre-blending act, I’d have to consider them as jazz. As with any reputable jazz act, there are lots of instrumentals, improvisations, solos, yet the group performs as if they have been together for years. The DVD contains no special features, but the 12 camera operators create an enjoyable view and the audio is available in a 5.1 mix.

--- Tim Holek

Jeff ChazTo say the year 2005 was a rough one for Jeff Chaz would be an understatement. The New Orleans guitarist evacuated the Crescent City for Florida prior to Hurricane Katrina’s arrival, but like most residents there, was unable to return home for months. Chaz spent several months after the hurricane battling depression and wondering what he was going to do next, and whether he was even going to return to New Orleans or just start from scratch somewhere else. After months of soul-searching, Chaz returned to New Orleans (after all, he is known as “The Bourbon Street Bluesman”) and has released his newest CD, In Exile, on his own JCP label.

This CD was in the can, so to speak, prior to the hurricane, and it features more of Chaz’s tough high-energy blues. The production has more of a “live in the studio” feel to it than his previous releases, but it works just fine. It’s hard to say what Chaz’s strong suit is, musically speaking, because he’s strong in several different areas. On guitar, he’s first-rate, and his diverse skills are on display on several instrumentals, including “Brownin’ The Flour,” “Gumbo Roux,” and “The Shuffle in ‘C’.”

Chaz is also an excellent singer, with plenty of emotion and grit to his voice, and he is hitting his stride as a composer as well, with some of the most imaginative themes and lyrics you’ve heard in a while. He can tackle familiar blues themes, like “Hello Blues,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and “I’m Sick & Tired (Of Being Broke All The Time),” and give them a fresh face. “Dreams Don’t Lie” is a deep soul number, with one of Chaz’s best vocal efforts. He also displays a playful nature in his songs, with tracks like “New Car Smell,” “Drunk & Stoned,” “You’re Wearing Out Your Welcome,” and “I Smell Something Funky.”

Like most musicians in New Orleans, Chaz is slowly beginning to get some work again as tourists begin trickling back to the Crescent City, but right now there are a lot of musicians out there competing for a limited number of gigs. Hopefully, In Exile will enable Jeff Chaz to regain some momentum and get back on his feet. Blues fans of all kinds, especially those who love blues guitar, will find a lot to enjoy about this disc. While you’re surfing around, visit Chaz’s website ( for biographical and booking information.

--- Graham Clarke

Bill Homans, a.k.a. Watermelon Slim, has an interesting past. He learned to play left-handed, backward slide guitar while laid up in an Army hospital in Vietnam, using a $5 guitar and a Zippo lighter as the slide. He recorded an album in the ’70s, did some watermelon farming, academic work (a masters degree in history), and truck driving (hauling industrial wastes) during the ’80s and ’90s. Slim also played with artists like Henry Vestine of Canned Heat, “Earring” George Mayweather, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker, and did a stint in Paris with Champion Jack Dupree, where he nearly died from a heart attack. The heart attack gave him a new outlook on what he wanted to do with his life, leading him to leave his truck driving job and recording a couple of albums, including 2003’s Up Close & Personal, which helped earn him a Handy nomination.

Now in his mid-50s, Watermelon Slim is performing like there’s no tomorrow and stands poised to reap some long-awaited benefits, especially from his latest release on NorthernBlues Music, Watermelon Slim & The Workers. Teamed with a potent band (Michael Newberry – drums & percussion, Ike Lamb – guitars, Cliff Belcher – bass), Slim’s powerful brand of blues, like Slim himself, is as authentic as the gumbo mud of the Mississippi Delta. The opening cut, “Hard Times,” by all rights, should become a new blues standard, but really most of the songs could fill that slot as well, like “Check Writing Woman,” “Bad Sinner,” and “Juke Joint Woman.” “Frisco Line” has a Mississippi Fred McDowell/RL Burnside edge to it.

More fresh sounds come from tracks like “Devil’s Cadillac,” “Mack Truck,” and “Folding Money Blues.” The closer, “Eau De Boue,” sung in French, is a poignantly autobiographical song about why Slim continues, and will continue to play the blues as if his life depends on it. Slim plays slide guitar, dobro, harmonica, and his fervent vocals give all his lyrics a personal edge.

Quite simply, Watermelon Slim’s blues are unlike any you’ve heard in a long time. If you’re a blues fan, you really need to check this one out.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob BrozmanBob Brozman has been regarded as one of the best blues guitarists around for many years, but he has branched out over the years to other styles and genres, including Hawaiian music, African music, and ska. His latest effort from Ruf Records, Blues Reflex, is the best of several worlds, as Brozman puts a new twist on several of his favorite pre-war selections, playing them in different styles, giving them a complete makeover in most cases.

Of the 13 tracks, nine are Brozman originals, and they include some of the real standouts, such as the opener, “Dead Cat On The Line.” Beginning with a recording of a 1929 sermon by the Reverend J. M. Gates, the song turns into an incredible journey with Brozman playing a National Baritone Tricone guitar, a Bear Creek Kona Hawaiian guitar, Chinese temple blocks, and several other instruments.

The other standout is a remake of a song Brozman recorded over two decades ago. The 1920’s classic, “One Steady Roll” is revamped by Brozman on two Tricone guitars in sega rhythm, and is a heart-racing thrill to the ears. Other highlights on this stunning release include “Death Come Creepin’,” which sounds like a Tommy Johnson original, though it was written by Brozman. “Mean World Blues” also revisits Johnson’s distinctive sound with satisfying results. Brozman also pays tribute to Charley Patton with loose interpretations of two of the Delta legend’s standards, “Rattlesnake Blues” and “Poor Me.”

Other highlights include “Vieux Kanyar Blues,” a fast-paced instrumental with Brozman playing two Kona Hawaiian guitars, “Little Tough Guy Blues,” another Brozman original on Hawaiian guitar that sounds like it sprang straight from the Mississippi Delta, and “It’s Mercy We Need,” a mournful instrumental that Brozman describes as “a protest song without words.”

Bob Brozman’s catalog has always made for interesting listening, but Blues Reflex may be his most diverse set yet and should be required listening for fans of acoustic guitar.

--- Graham Clarke

Tom HunterOver the past 15 years, keyboard man Tom Hunter has played with or appeared on recordings by Bill Perry, George Davis, Murali Coryell, Little Sammy Davis, Big John Dickerson, and Bernard Allison. Hunter’s third solo release, Here I Go Again (FS Music), is a lively disc that mixes blues, pop, jazz, and soul standards with a couple of Hunter originals. Hunter is a talented musician, playing piano, Fender Rhodes, and Hammond Organ, and is a robust singer, able to tackle any of the genres he chooses.

Any song list that includes three covers of Doc Pomus tunes has to be a strong one. Hunter selected wisely from that catalog and shows a real gift for interpreting these songs (“I Underestimated You,” “Imitation of Love,” and “The Night Is A Hunter”). Hopefully, he will cover more Pomus tunes in future releases. Other solid selections include Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint,” Ray Charles’ “Drown In My Own Tears,” Spencer Williams’ classic “Basin Street Blues,” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Hunter also takes an interesting stab at Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness.”

Two original compositions by Hunter, the title cut and “Nothing’s For Free,” stand up well with the standards. The band provides exemplary backing, particularly Jon “Gunnar” Gunvaldson’s jazzy guitar work.

There just aren’t enough blues albums out there these days featuring the piano as the lead instrument, but Here I Go Again is ready and able to buck the trend, with some great music covering a broad range of styles.

--- Graham Clarke

Lou PrideBefore I even start this review of Lou Pride's Keep On Believing (Severn Records), I must comment on the excellent production found on this release. It is the way all soul CDs should be done, with real musicians, fabulous background singers, and horns to die for. The sound is pure Hi or Stax records in their prime, a time prior to using synthesizers and drum kits, and a sound that works so well with Pride's classic soul voice.

This release is his third for Severn, but in the truest sense it is really only his second of new material, since The Memphis/El Paso Sessions date back to 1970-73 and his Suemi sides he recorded for that label. Keep On Believing is a CD with 12 songs penned by Pride, and one cover, the Bob Marley "Waiting in Vain." One of the Pride originals is the U.K. dance classic "I'm Com'un Home in The Morn'un," re-sung here. There's an interesting story surrounding this song. The original Suemi was quite rare in it's original 45 issue, and became so big on the U.K.'s Northern soul scene that originals go for about 1,000 pounds in England (the equivalent of $1700.00 in the United States). Another Suemi original, "Your Love Is Fading," commands about $1,200, so it might be time to cash in if you own either of these original 45s.

After listening to the original "I'm Com'un Home" many times on the Memphis/El Paso Sessions, I felt this newer version lacked the intensity of the original, but still works well enough in this new setting. A few of the upbeat tunes, like "I Wanna Be The Man You Want," sort of go nowhere, as does "Another Broken Heart," and "Layin' Eggs" doesn't get my sunny side up.

There are those classic ballads such as "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (Pride, not Lennon-McCartney) that is pure classic Memphis-sounding soul. " Love Will Make It Alright" is another that scores high, but overall this release is not quite as strong as 2003's Words Of Caution. On a scale of 1-5, perhaps a three. Now, seeing Lou Pride live is a different matter. One of the last great soul performers from the days when singing and performance really mattered, Pride is a delight to see and hear, and one of soul music's classiest people. If he comes to your town, make attending one of his shows a priority.

--- Alan Shutro

Roscoe SheltonIn previous reviews I have discussed the historically important Sound Stage Seven record label. It's name might not create as much interest among Southern Soul devotees as Stax or even Goldwax, but true followers of that genre are sure to have some SS7 records in their collections.

Sound Stage Seven started in 1961 as a subsidiary of Monument Records and continued to release record until 1977, a year after Stax went belly up and disco music was becoming a musical force to be reckoned with. SS7 was owned and operated by John Richbourg, who was one of the most influential DJs in the world. He broadcast out of WLAC in Nashville, one of the nation's highest wattage AM radio stations. With such great artists as Joe Simon, Ann Sexton, Sam Baker, Geater Davis, Fenton Robinson and of course the two artists featured this month, Roscoe Shelton and Earl Gaines, SS7 had a roster to rival the major labels. With Richbourg and another great DJ Hoss Allen promoting the records on the air, many hits flowed through their doors. Their signal was strong enough to be heard as far west as Texas and as far north as New York but of course their real strength remained in the deep south.

Roscoe Shelton was one of the most prolific artists on the label. His career started back in the late '50s with Excello Records and peaked in the mid '60s on SS7. He continued to record up until his death in July of 2002, with releases on several labels including one on the now defunct Black Top label.

Deep In My Soul (AIM - Australia) contains 27 tracks of pure deep southern soul, with such classic songs such as "Strain On My Heart," which peaked at #25 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1965, and "Easy Goin' Fella," which peaked at #32 in 1966. It is with great hope that reissues like this will allow new generations to discover these important pioneers of early soul music.

--- Alan Shutro

Earl GainesEarl Gaines' career is even a bit more diverse than Roscoe Shelton's. Starting a few years earlier, Earl got his big break in 1955 singing lead on The Louis Brooks and the Hi-Toppers record of "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day" on Excello. Brooks and his group were reluctant to tour and leave behind their lucrative studio and nightclub work, so the next two singles were released under Earl's name. Earl went out on the road usually with package tours, but also sang lead with the very popular Bill Doggett's group. The Excello records didn't chart and Excello did not renew his contract. He recorded a few singles for the Champion label in the late '50s with enough success to keep him on the road. In 1964 Earl turned his career over to the aforementioned Bill "Hoss" Allen, the legendary WLAC disc jockey. Featured on Allen's television show, "THE BEAT," on several occasions gave Gaines the needed exposure and his career was on its way.

A single, "The Best of Luck To You," was licensed to the HBR (Hanna-Barbera) label and it peaked at #28 on the R&B charts. In 1966 a full album titled the same as the single was released, and it has become a deep soul classic.

In 1967 Hoss Allen took many of his artists to the King-Deluxe label. Earl had some strong selling singles for them which ultimately spawned another great album, Lovin' Blues, in 1972. With Allen's health problems interfering with his business, he enlisted another WLAC DJ, John Richbourg, to be Gaines' new manager. Earl recorded five singles for Seventy-Seven between 1972-1974, having a chart hit with The Mighty Hannibal's "Hymn #5." Richbourg closed his labels in 1975 and Gaines was on his own once again.

From 1975-1995 Earl worked as a long haul cross country driver and performed sporadically until the late '80s. His comeback really took hold as part of the "Excello Legends" tour along with Roscoe Shelton and Clifford Curry. The long and winding road also led him to the Black Top label where he recorded an excellent album before they folded.

It is his output for Sound Stage 7 that is featured on The Lost Soul Tapes (AIM - Australia), 20 great tracks of burning southern soul blues. He still performs today around his hometown of Nashville, and one of my regrets is that I never got to see the Gaines/Shelton tour.

This release is a must have, as is the King-Deluxe material that was released in England a few years ago. There's also a fine album produced by the great Fred James on the Appaloosa album that is well worth seeking out.

Another great release on the Black Magic label out of the Netherlands, 24 Hours A Day, features the great Hanna-Barbera sides and was reviewed in the March 1999 Blues Bytes issue by editor Bill Mitchell. You be glad you picked up any of these releases, as they are all classics from the Golden Age of soul music.

--- Alan Shutro

Storm WarningI have to admit to not having heard of Storm Warning before, but it’s a good band and I’m sure I’ll be hearing more of them. Breaking Out is the debut album from the band, which has been together for just over a year, but which sounds as though it is very well established. The band members certainly have plenty of experience between them, as well as heaps of musical ability. Front man Son Maxwell (vocals & harmonica) is the author of a couple of books on harmonica playing, and cites Sonny Boy Williamson II as a major influence. Drummer Roger Willis has played on albums by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Linda Lewis, Tony Ashton and Jon Lord, as well as playing in support bands for major acts on tour. They are joined by Bob Moore on guitar, Derek White (bass) and Ian Salisbury playing piano & keyboards.

Breaking Out features nine tracks altogether, most of which are written by the band – the exceptions being Keb Mo’s “Dangerous Mood” and Peter Green’s “Long Grey Mare,” which the early Fleetwood Mac played with such verve. These two covers are played to perfection, slightly changed from the original rather than just exact copies – it always a good thing for a band, or musician, to put their own stamp on a cover of someone else’s song.

“Dangerous Mood” has almost a big band feel to it, there is so much going on in this track – I’m sure that Keb Mo would approve heartily. The approach to “Long Gray Mare” is more simplistic, the harp of Stuart Maxwell getting a good outing at the front of the rhythm section, and sounding good.

The band’s original tracks are a good mix of slow and up-tempo numbers, possibly with a slight emphasis on the slow, and there isn’t a bad track amongst them. The first two tracks are good, solid blues that open the album in good style. Track six, “Ballad Of ‘64,” is a good rocking blues looking back at life in the '60s, with some very inspired lyrics – a “foot-tapper.” The following track, “Upton Strut,” brings out some nice Hammond sounds from the keyboards of Ian Salisbury, combining nicely with Maxwell’s harp, on this instrumental funky blues.

I’m left pondering which of the next two tracks qualifies as my favourite – the driving “The Blues Are Back” or the slow and moody “Whisky Blues.” It’s difficult to choose between the two, even though they are so different in their execution – so I’ll have to have two favourites!

We’ll be hearing a lot more from this band, they deserve to be listened to!! Have a look at their website –

--- Terry Clear

Precious BryantFool 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 two 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.

--- Terry Clear

Precious Bryant’s follow up to her superb debut album, Fool Me Good, moves on from pure country blues and mixes that genre with some electric blues and some R&B. The Truth (Terminus Records) is a mix of songs that include influences from songs heard in her family environment. Some of the songs here are covers of old numbers that she heard on the radio and learned,while others are written by Precious Bryant, but strongly influenced by what she heard years ago. Her son Tony plays bass on the album, along with J.D.Mark on drums. Jake Fussel plays guitar on two of the tracks (“Morning Train” and “The Truth”) and Amos Harvey takes over the bass for “Sit Down Servant.”

Fool Me Good was a hard act to follow, and Precious has chosen to move on, rather than just produce a volume two of the same style. She certainly succeeds, because this is compulsive listening for anyone that likes their blues traditional and uncomplicated.

The title track, “The Truth,” occupies the number four spot on the CD, and it’s a gentle, introspective, ballad that is very relaxing to listen to – the sort of thing that an old musician would play sitting on the front porch on a summer’s evening. From the opening track, a superb rendition of the traditional “Morning Train” to the closing track “Good Night” there is a fantastic mix of tempos, styles, and genres – Precious Bryant has the talent to switch from ballad to rocking blues, to country blues and back again. There are some really good “foot-tappers” here, something which always sets a standard for my listening --- “Sit Down Servant,” “Tennessee Song” and Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” being but three of them.

If you want pure traditional blues, played the way it should be, then listen to “You Can Have My Husband,” but my favourite is Denise LaSalle’s “Don’t Jump My Pony.” Precious Bryant’s guitar playing is shown to good effect throughout the album, as is her skill at adapting songs to her own style and giving them a slightly different flavour.

This CD makes a great addition to any blues collection.

--- Terry Clear

Rev. Billy C. WirtzJust got back from Memphis, where the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz served as the master of ceremonies for the 2006 International Blues Challenge, so it seemed only fitting that the first CD into my player for review was Billy’s Blind Pig release, Sermon From Bethlehem. Recorded live at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the project was also filmed for DVD, and what a wild night it had to be.

For those of you who have never attended the First House of Polyester Worship, this disc will definitely introduce you to the inanely brilliant ramblings of a very talented artist. After his introduction Billy jumps right in with “Rockin with the Rev,” a short-take on his qualifications for directorship of the First House, and segues right into “Sleeper Hold on Satan,” comparing the taming of Satan to a wrestling match, intoning his mother’s description of life as “a wrestling match with no disqualification” and a continuing fight against the devils unleashed by Satan in a championship match. Fortunately for Billy, Jesus is his tag team partner and ultimately he prevails against Satan and his sinful temptations.

“Cousin Cupcakes Got the Blues” is a sorrowful lament of the fate that is his life. The kids are grown up, the wife’s left….all that remains is the blues. “Do the Toleration” is Billy’s answer to the problems of the world….if we can’t all get along at least let’s all tolerate each other. The end result will be less prejudice in the world and even in his next life the Reverend will be tolerant of Tom DeLay, a reoccurring foil in this recording.

The wonderful instrumental “Jerry Rig” leads into Billy’s discourse on his love life, cleverly named, “Female Problems,” and boy does Billy have them. From a doctor to a contortionist to a landscape surveyor to bait shop operator to everyone else, Billy has indeed experienced his share of setbacks. Decorum properly suggest that I don’t delve too much further into the Reverend’s love life, but when he comments that his narcoleptic lover gave him the nod….you can pretty much go from there.

“The King & I” finds the good Reverend recounting his experiences with Elvis, just a couple of regular old guys, “having the time of our lives.” Billy has been privileged to see the King on several occasions and one night even followed him home to the trailer he lives in now. Elvis even offered him a couple of beers while “they waited for the UFO’s.” It’s probably my favorite song on the CD.

“Grandma vs. the Crusher” brings back fond memories of AWA championship wrestling. It turns out that on Saturday nights when Billy’s parents went out, he and his grandma would watch wrestling. The wrestler she loved to hate was the Crusher, the champion of Milwaukee. It turned out that she died cussing out the Crusher on Channel 5. Billy fondly remembers those late nights with his Grandma back in 1963, and all of us who grew up watching wrestling on Saturday nights can definitely relate. “Pipeliner Blues” tells the tale of a pipe laying man who laid pipe all day. He had five kids and was often known to stray…”You never can tell what a pipeliner man will do…just when you think he’s working he’ll fool around on you!”

“What I Used To Do All Night” is the common lament of the older man. “What I used to do all night takes me all night to do!” Things just never get easier when you get older. “The Visitor” is Billy’s tribute to Elvis done in the style of Red Sovine. Red is known for his trucker songs that tell a story and Billy emulates his style to tell the story of a waitress friend of his who is in the hospital dying. Her one unfulfilled wish is to see the King before she dies….so Billy arranges for an Elvis impersonator to fulfill her wish and he shows up the next day in a huge limousine. Elvis jumps out and goes into his friend’s room and proceeds to entertain her…in the midst of all of this Billy is paged and leaves the room to learn that the impersonator was in a car crash and unable to make it. Upon his return to her room Billy finds a note from her friend telling him that “thank you very much, Elvis and I have left the building….thank you very much!”

“Last Date” is wonderful instrumental that segues into Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On!” Billy’s playing emulates that of Jerry Lee’s and is a great closing song to this project. For the uninitiated, I would strongly recommend the DVD version of “Sermon From Bethlehem.” For those of us who have witnessed the good Reverend in person, any version will do. Nobody else does it quite like the Reverend Billy C., and that’s a good thing.

--- Kyle Deibler

One of the fondest memories I have of taking my father with me to the Blues Music Awards several years ago is standing behind Gaye Adegbalola at the bar when she impishly broke into an impromptu song. The beauty of Ann, Gaye and Andra, those wild uppity blues women we affectionately know as Saffire, is that you never know exactly what to expect from them. I’ve turned a number of friends onto Saffire over the years and it’s fittingly appropriate that Alligator Records has chosen to celebrate their legacy in the release of it’s newest Deluxe Edition.

All of the great Saffire songs are here. “Middle Aged Blues Boogie” won a W.C. Handy award (aka Blues Music Award) for song of the year. “Sloppy Drunk” segues into one of my favorites, “It Takes Mighty Good Man.” There’s something particularly hurtful to the male species once he learns that “it takes a mighty good man to be better than no man at all.” A lesson well learned for all the players out there.

“Ain’t Gonna Hush” is typical Saffire. There’s just no way they are ever going to be put down or shut up. The wild women of Saffire have blazed a trail by playing their own music their own way and “Ain’t Gonna Hush” is their answer to the critics. “Bitch with a Bad Attitude” is just classic Gaye. It’s a live version that has her discussing the acronym for Bitch. I beg to differ slightly in the final result --- Bitch actually should stand for “Beauty In Total Control of Herself,” and with that understanding I can affectionately call a number of my female friends bitches and they’ll be pleased. Hopefully Gaye likes my definition as well.

Andra’s take on “Lightning in These Thunder Thighs” is the first song I always think of when anyone mentions Saffire to me. In this day and age of lifetime fitness, her concept of aerobics still appeals….a number of us would head to her gym anytime. “Tom Cat Blues” and “(No Need) Pissin’ on a Skunk” keep us in our place. Men are dogs, we admit it and Saffire makes damn sure we know it. That said, “Don’t Treat Your Man like a Dog” confirms the fact that dogs deserve better treatment than men. Dogs are loyal, protective and loving. I think we get the hint.

“Because of You” tells us that even the wild women of Saffire have known great loves. Blessed is the man who has Andra lamenting her feelings. “T’aint Nobody’s Business” is a wonderful rendition of the Granger & Robbins song that Ann sings with great passion and supports with wonderful keyboard work. It’s an understated version of a classic song that just continues to endure.

Gaye introduces us to the latest creature to exist in blues folklore, the “Silver Beaver.” Up there beside red rooster and the kingsnake, the silver beaver proves that it is indeed a new creature that must be dealt with in the blues world. Nuff said on that topic. “Elevator Man” is Ann’s latest love and he’s driving her “up, down and out of her mind.” Obviously a technician who knows what he’s doing. Ann sings wonderful ballads and “Elevator Man” is just another classic on this wonderful disc.

More man bashing occurs on “How Can I Say I Miss You.” It’s hard to miss a bad man when he won’t ever leave. Fortunately when he does you can ysay you don’t miss him. Andra sings great ballads as well, and a classic example is “In My Girlish Days,” her tale of her misspent youth. “I didn’t know better, oh boy, in my girlish days.” Andra goes on to say, “I do know better but I still have my girlish ways.” Good for Her!

Students being what they are, when Ann sings about the “School Teacher’s Blues,” the only thing to lose is her pay and that “ain’t nothing.” Teacher’s pay has never been up to the degree of effort required to educate today’s youth and Ann readily admits that. “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” asks the age old question. Are you true to me or not? Men by nature always stray and here’s hoping that one maybe decided to change.

Saffire’s Deluxe Edition closes with another wonderful ballad by Andra, “Falling Back In Love With You,” the irrepressible “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” and a song I’d not heard before, “The Equalizer.” “The Equalizer” celebrates the diversity of blues and the fact that it doesn’t discern between races, religions, sexes or age. Given that Saffire has bucked every blues tradition along the way, “The Equalizer” is a fitting song to close out an incredible record.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Saffire. To be able to sit and enjoy almost 75 minutes of the best of Saffire has been a huge treat. There aren’t any new songs on this disc but it definitely does contain the best of three women who in their own way have become a vibrant part of the blues fabric of our history. Enjoy Saffire, celebrate their uniqueness and be sure to add the Deluxe Edition to your collection. On any given rainy day it will serve to move you, uplift your spirits and make you appreciate the wild woman that exists in your own life.

--- Kyle Deibler

Sam SalomoneOn the Hot Fudge Music label, meet Hammond B3 organist Sam Salomone from Iowa. Recorded in Des Moines, with the label based in Cedar Falls, this CD is entitled Voodoo Bop. Voodoo? Yes. Bop? Well it’s not Dizzy’s bebop nor is it the bop of Buddy Holly. Maybe it’s what track seven calls “Flip Flop” post-bop!

This is a 10-piece band that sounds like acid jazz with a horn section almost the tightness of Tower Of Power, and as if Wilton Felder of the Crusaders were playing the tenor sax solos (the player here is Don Jaques). The title track quotes the African hit Soul Makosa, New Orleans voodoo seeps from the next, Earl King’s well-known “Big Chief.” Most of the disc could be blues or jazz, moreover the sound of ’60s “soul jazz.” Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song” is the jazziest of the entries albeit danceable, a possible concession in the ears of a jazz snob. Conga drum, so prevalent in similar period music, seems more obvious as the disc progresses. The alto sax that sets up some riff patterns, plus some solos, is thin and whiny unlike the richer tenor. 3/4 time is an occasional device, sometimes doubling effectively to 6/4.

The late great ground-breaking organist Larry Young is represented as composer on one track, Miles Davis’ “Milestones” is broken down to “Miles Tones,” and the album concludes with an original “Blood Alley.” Let’s boogaloo!

Sam started his musical career in the early '60s. First influenced by Little Richard and Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis was the one to ignite his passion. He then toured with Del Shannon and The Duprees. It’s interesting to note that of all these, only traces of perhaps Ray Charles come across in this album of Salomone’s music. This isn’t his first recording, but vintage sessions are rare and apparently local to Iowa, one focusing on works by Lee Morgan and Jack McDuff, and another featuring the Trenton, New Jersey jazz saxophonist Richie Cole.

Sam bought his first Hammond B3 organ in 1965, then studied theory and harmony at Grand View College. Making a move to jazz, he traveled from coast to coast and the Midwest including Chicago and Kansas City, but has in recent years decided to stay closer to home. He is acknowledged there, having been inducted to the Iowa Jazz Hall of Fame in 2001 as well as the Iowa Blues Hall Of Fame. His bio looks more jazz than blues, but I find this CD right down the middle. Musical grade of B-.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

Lee RockerLee Rocker is known for “muscular slap bass playing” and is most associated with The Stray Cats over a couple incarnations, but has been maintaining an impressive solo career since. His Alligator Records debut is Racin’ The Devil, and follows six other solo albums since ‘94. He is clearly proudest of this project, having taken a year to do it, and as producer to boot.

He grew up in Long Island, the son of classical musicians. He started first on cello, adapting to rock on electric bass, and in high school with cohorts including Brian Setzer fulfilling a demand for “a contemporary punk attitude” toward traditional rockabilly, utilizing the upright bass he had come to specialize in. In 2002, Rocker toured the U.S. with ex-Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore.

This CD is madness with metal meeting rockabilly and the Dick Dale guitar sound thrown in (despite no indication that Brophy Dale, one of the disc’s guitarist and vocalists, is related). And let us not discount the pioneering Link Wray 'Rumble' attitude. In the remake of the Stray Cats hit “Rock This Town,” a story is told of using drink change for the jukebox, only to find techno music, and justified defiance. There’s a lot of screaming above the energy, yet by “River Runs” the song structure and lyrical story of the road demands appreciation, country/folk in root, topped with rich tremelo guitar. This is a sample of Rocker’s writing and he also plays a third guitar part in places.

Two-step standard rockabilly tempo suffices mid-way thru with Carl Perkins’ “Say When.” But hold on: At the “Race Track” it’s doubled- and stepped-up, in pace and scale. The backup singers may as well be the Jordanaires. But this full sound comes from just four pieces, the other two being Buzz Campbell's additional guitar and vocal and drummer Jimmy Sage, the latter apparently overdubbed. “Ramblin’” returns to the CD’s road theme, while “Running From The Hounds” comes from Rocker’s post-Cats days with his next group Phantom, Rocker & Slick.

There’s no letting up due to “Rockin’ Harder,” then the next trip stops at various roadhouses. “Lost On The Highway” is the slowest of the program, medium tempo at best. (I know, when racin’ the devil, it’s almost impossible to pull back, but a slow blues would fit just right in the middle of this disc). We almost end up in the “Funny Car Graveyard,” but the concluding track features twin lead guitars on a Cat-like instrumental.

This is evolved rockabilly, after all the original form forbade even a drummer. Graphics are great and the theme is obvious. If the Cats had become jaded over time in the opinion of some, Rocker forges demonically ahead with a form that certainly has blues as a grandparent on one side. His hard work on, and passion for, this disc is obvious. Musical grade of B.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

From a batch of live Iowa shows, and on the Iowa Hot Fudge label, comes Summer Souvenir by Bob Dorr And The Blue Band. They’ve obviously been a fixture in the area for a long time judging by the announcements among the tracks and the myriad photos in the fold-out CD graphics. Their appearance looks like a plain old good time, great guys to hang with, probably pulling a loyal following to most all their partying. Adhering to an unwritten blues suggestion, “don’t take yourselves too seriously.”

Also among their attributes are a good balance of talented soloists: tenor sax, organ, guitar, and unlike most new blues product of today, OCCASIONAL rich harmonica (unless listening to one of the late greats, a little goes a long way--thank you). The organ bass playing adds a nice blues touch. The overall production is in good taste.

But among the detractions are forced vocals, and though adequate in meter, a rather weak collective groove. Take for example the opening chestnut, “Good Morning Little School Girl.” This has so much more potential for feeling. The leader/singer matches composer Sonny Boy # 1’s linguistics right down to “...go home witch you.” I doubt he talks to his mortgage banker this way. If this was the band’s debut disc, dings like these would practically be understandable. What’s rather disturbing is it’s the Blue Band’s eighth or ninth disc (including a “best of” and Christmas collection) so by now they should be hitting note one of track one absolutely on fire.

The disc fares better as it goes along, group vocals sound like camaraderie, swing and shuffle-type rhythms are steadied at one point with drum rim shots, imitating the slap-bass sound of rockabilly. Multiple horns work well together as a section. For Earl King’s “Big Chief,” the rhythms suggest their New Orleans source, the vocals and drumming are warmed up and less mechanical.

There’s also too much announcing. I wish the leader would just sing like he talks. Leader Dorr has experience as a radio host and even has a CD release exclusively of his interviews with blues greats. Here, patter is probably part of stage presence, involving the audience part of the show, which is well-intended. But it doesn’t transfer well to strictly audio. The inclusion of the home video of “Elvis In Paraguay” is different, but sometimes novelty turns silly. This is probably a performance the public would, or does, love.

I stayed with the disc, expecting to hear “Mustang Sally” and “Stormy Monday” around the bend. Instead Kevin B. F. Burt did a grabbing midrange vocal workout on the funky closer “Don’t Treat Your Good Thing.” Overall CD musical grade of C-.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

Detroit area harper and vocalist Wixom Slim has assembled 20 great Detroit tunes that do the region proud on The Ultimate Detroit Blues Collection, Volume 1. The title may be a bit on the hyperbolic side, but it sure does do its best to live up to that “ultimate” tag. This is definitely the disc for those of you in Anywhere Else, USA to introduce you to what’s so cool about the Detroit blues scene. More than the Detroit disc of the year, it’s flat out one of the most enjoyable listens of 2005, period!

Bon Temp Roullle’s infectious “I Just Can’t Live With You” opens the ride with an injection of finger snapping swinging blues in the Johnnie Bassett mode that sets the pace. Al Hill’s “Nothing I Can Do” is infused with his great piano work and vocals and a crackerjack band that lays a funky foundation. Steve Somers and Valerie Barrymore follow that funky theme with extraordinary vocals and punchy horn charts.

The first three tunes are heavy with horns, reflecting as favorably on the players as on the production team. Doug Deming and band, with Fingers Taylor on board, swing it up like no one else in town on “Goodbye Baby.” Deming’s guitar work is straight out of the West Coast and the band just shreds behind him. On “I Was Born to Play the Blues,” Motor City Josh & The Big Three bring the Texas influence of Albert Collins up front. Josh is never a man to take for granted. This is a world class guitarist who keeps his local connections strong even though he blew out of town a few years ago.

The Alligators, who just celebrated their 20th year as one of the most popular bands in town, check in with “I Ain’t Your Fool,” with guitarist Steve Schwartz and harper Wailin’ Dale chasing each other, and drummer Mark Seyler and bassist Pete Kiss hot on their tails. Dave Krammer sings “I ain’t your fool baby, I’m busy being mine” with conviction and an explosion of butt kicking music swirling behind him. Wixom Slim and the Wyze Gyze samba in with a swinging “Pretty Little Woman” that induces a smile from a block away. The world class Harmonica Shah is here with “Have Mercy Mr. Reed,” a tune that is as much the epitome of Detroit blues as anything on the collection. Eddie Kirkland’s guitar work here is killer, too.

Slowing it down just a bit, Paul Miles’ solo acoustic “Blue On Blue” proves that this is not a town that lives exclusively on electricity. Miles is a great guitarist and one of the most expressive singers in town. Miles won the acoustic category of the Detroit Blues Challenge a few years ago. Chef Chris took it a step further by winning the whole shebang on the International Blues Challenge (although representing Windsor) some years back. His “You’re Going To Jail And Your Car Is Too” is one of the coolest, cleverest and most twisted tunes to come out of this motor city in years.

Shirley Franklin & Delta Drive’s “Cold Heart” shows off Franklin’s dark, expressive vocal power, and the Tip Jar Blues Band’s “D’Jump” is a sweet swinging instrumental driven by organ and guitar that reminds of Cass Corridor grooves of 30 years ago. Luther ‘Badman’ Keith’s “Nose Wide Open” benefits from James Payton’s screaming saxophone and Jim David’s piano. Luther’s lyrics are always clever and the vocals satisfying.

The John Reese Project’s “High Octane” is a hip horn-and-organ-driven instrumental. Sweet Claudette’s “PDQ,” heavy on the wah-wah and attitude and reminiscent of classic Rufus, is a major treat. The guitar work here is first-rate and Claudette’s in fine and sassy voice throughout. The Glen Eddy Band is one of those quality Detroit bands that just doesn’t get out as often as their fans would like. Their “Everything’s OK” is loaded with hip guitar work and Eddy’s fine vocalizing, reminding of a Motor City Los Lobos at times.

The Motor City Sheiks’ “Quality Time” is deep out that Little Walter thing with Mark Robinson on a cool harp and Emmanuel X. Garza’s guitar standing out. The Witch Doctors’ “Guilty of Love” is a slice of classic jail cell rock with Thayrone X on typically impressive vocals and guitar. Jeff Maylin and the Detroit Blues Project power through “Blues Woman” with Maylin’s volume cranked to 10. The closer, “Amtrak Shuffle,” credited to Matt Zacharias, is Wixom and the fellas in thinly veiled disguise doing the cover to their 2003 disc.

In addition to all of this great music, there is contact info on the bands, as well. This is highly recommended.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Darren WatsonFrom way on the other side of the world comes a strong CD, South Pacific Soul (Red Rocks Records), the second solo release from New Zealand's Darren Watson.  This disc is a real mixed bag with most of the music being blues- and soul-based. It starts out strongly with a folkie soul number, "That's All There Is (Take My Hand)," featuring a nice bluesy guitar solo from Watson. The slow, churchy "This Fool's Advice" continues in the same vein, inviting comparisons to the music of Otis Redding, which is dangerous territory for any singer. Watson is no Redding, but he's still got an entertaining groove going.

Watson next launches into the bluesiest thing on the CD, the shuffling rhythm of "All Going Wrong"; it's a catchy tune. Later in the CD, the material starts to resemble Elvis Costello's more soulful material; Watson's vocals are more suited to this stuff. Really, the highlight of the CD and one of the catchiest tunes I've heard all year is the upbeat "Another Lonely Person." I was compelled to hit the repeat button on my CD player to hear this one again and again. Yeah, it's a bit more pop sounding, but it's a good song, and Alan Norman's accordion playing is a very nice touch.

"Such Sweet Lies" sounds a little like 'Elvis Costello meets Z.Z. Top' with heavy slide guitar accompaniment fueling this urgent lover's lament with some creative imagery --- "... I'm working way to my first ulcer, just swallowing this napalm that's killing my friends, 30 or 40 tubes a day, just working my way to a cigarette end...each morning after, it's one true disaster, but all that she thought was that he told such sweet lies."

South Pacific Soul ends after just 10 songs, so the listener just gets a taste of Darren Watson. It's worth searching out ... check

--- Bill Mitchell

Duke Robillard's live shows throughout his career have been all over the map, with some great ones and then some not so good performances. I kind of feel the same way about his latest CD, Guitar Groove-A-Rama (Stony Plain Records). Duke says in the liner notes that he wanted to "... make an album of tunes that showcased all the sounds and influences that make up my style, or styles ..." That's just the problem --- there are way too many things going on here to make this a cohesive album.

When Robillard's good he's very good, like on the Ray Charles cover "I'll Do Anything But Work" and the Chicago blues "No Way Out." But "Blues A Rama," which Robillard uses to introduce the licks of every guitarist that influenced him, is a good concept and probably works in a live setting, but goes on way too long.

"This Dream" is another number that has too much happening and seemingly never ends --- it's more of a bad dream. There's a very interesting instrumental version of "Danny Boy," which starts as a slow jazzy number before shifting into a higher gear for a funky ending. But even this one goes on a little longer than it should have.

The upbeat shuffle, "Cookin," is a strong instrumental that keeps a good groove going throughout and demonstrates Robillard's guitar prowess as well as anything on the disc; he really is one of the best players of this era and he shows it on this number.

Guitar Groove-A-Rama is not the definitive Duke Robillard CD, but has its moments --- pick your favorites, load them to your mp3 player, and away you go.

--- Bill Mitchell


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