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February/March 2010

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Luther Allison

Chris Smither

The Sojourners

Hollywood Blue Flames

Keb' Mo'

Nick Curran


Luther AllisonI can still remember reading on the internet about Luther Allison being diagnosed with cancer over 12 years ago and thinking that surely he would be able to beat it and would be entertaining blues fans for many years to come. He was so alive and vibrant, his marathon live shows were as exhausting for his audiences as they had to have been for him and his band, and he had been absolutely relentless since returning to the American blues scene after 15 years of living in Europe, so the prospect of anything slowing him down or stopping him was hard to imagine. Sadly, Allison was dead within a month of being diagnosed. For blues fans, many of whom had just discovered him in the previous couple of years, it was like being smacked in the face with a 2x4.

Since Allison’s death, there have been several CDs released, both live and studio recordings, that have helped introduce the blues legend to a whole new generation of blues fans. Most of these releases have come from Ruf Records, which is owned by Thomas Ruf, a long-time friend of Allison’s. Ruf appreciated the incredible talent and charisma of Allison and has worked tirelessly to keep his name and music alive for both fans old and new.

Ruf’s latest Allison project is Songs From The Road, an incredible CD/DVD capturing the guitarist/singer’s July 4, 1997 set at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The set, which features Allison with James Solberg (guitar), Mike Vlahakis (keys), Ken Faltinson (bass), and Rob Stupka (drums), was recorded less than a week before Allison received his grim diagnosis.

Listening to the CD or watching the DVD, you would never know that anything was wrong with Allison as he tears through song after electrifying song. Many of the songs are from Reckless, which had been released a couple of months earlier, including the opener, “Cancel My Check,” “Living In The House of Blues,” “You Can, You Can,” “There Comes A Time” (which also demonstrates Allison’s easy rapport with his audience), and “Low Down and Dirty.”

There are also a few songs from Allison’s previous CD, the Handy Award-winning Blue Streak (Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong” and “Cherry Red Wine,” the 1996 Song of the Year at the Handys), plus a smoldering cover of Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too,” and “Serious,” from his Blind Pig release in the mid ’80s.

The CD documents 80 minutes of the 90 minute set, but the DVD was edited down to 56 minutes, as it was later shown on Canadian television, so several of the songs on the CD are not represented on the DVD (“Serious,” “There Comes A Time,” and “What Have I Done Wrong”). However, the DVD includes a performance of “Move From The Hood” that is not on the CD.

As would be expected, there are tons of scorching guitar runs, soulful vocals, and a mesmerizing performance by Luther Allison. This set is essential listening, and viewing, for blues fans.

Extra features on the DVD include a twenty-plus minute interview conducted in Montreal the day after the performance. Allison is an engaging subject, as he briefly touches on his beginnings, his influences, and his general viewpoint on the state of the blues and where he thought it was headed. There’s also a ten-minute excerpt from an upcoming documentary about Allison, called One Step Further, discussing the blues scene in Europe. It includes footage of Allison playing with his son, Bernard, and a great quote from the late Koko Taylor, describing Allison (“When he break a string, it deserved being broke.”).

For fans of Luther Allison’s music, Songs From The Road will bring back fond, sometimes bittersweet memories of what a great ride it was and also of what might have been had he lived. Regardless, you’ll take it all in with a smile on your face from start to finish. Just sit back and enjoy the ride once again.

--- Graham Clarke

Chris SmitherSinger/songwriter/guitarist Chris Smither has been toiling away since the 1960s with his compelling brand of acoustic blues played in the tradition of artists like Mississippi John Hurt. Now in his mid-60s, Smither is still a master guitarist and songwriter, with artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris having recorded his compositions, and he continues to put out consistently fine recordings on a regular basis.

His latest release, Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds) is a typically excellent effort, with a solid mix of originals and a trio of well-chosen covers.

The original compositions include the opening track, “Don’t Call Me Stranger,” which is simply a guy, somewhat clumsily, trying to seduce up a woman. The title track is a lovely tribute to Smither’s wife. “Surprise, Surprise,” a cynical tune about struggling through hard times, is one of the real highlights on the disc. “I Don’t Know” was written for Smither’s daughter and anyone with children will surely be able to relate to it. Another standout track is “Old Man Down,” a poignant track written for Smither’s father, who recently passed away. “I Told You So” picks up the tempo a bit and features producer David Goodrich on electric guitar.

The cover tunes include the requisite Bob Dylan track; this time around it’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” and Smither does a splendid job. The classic tune, “Miner’s Blues,” from Frank Hutchison is transformed into a lively jaunt, and the album closer is Mark Knopfler’s “Madame Geneva’s,” with Smither performing solo.

Goodrich does a fine job backing Smither and drummer Zak Trojano complements the pair well with his understated percussion work. Smither’s fretwork is as smooth as ever, and his weathered vocals improve with time. Time Stands Still is another great addition Chris Smither’s impressive body of work.

--- Graham Clarke

The SojournersSeveral years ago, Canadian blues singer Jim Byrnes needed some backup vocals for a new album. He called his friend, Vancouver-based gospel singer Marcus Mosely, who contacted two of his friends, Will Sanders and Ron Small. When the trio began singing, they knew that they had stumbled onto something special. During the session, Byrnes gave them the name The Sojourners, and an act was born.

After the session with Byrnes, they teamed with roots music producer/performer Steve Dawson to make their own recording, and then they made a name for themselves appearing on numerous sessions. Their latest self-titled release, on Black Hen Music, is an excellent showcase for their vocal talents, honed over a combined 150 years of musical experience. Re-enlisting Dawson as producer, the trio is presented in a traditional classic gospel setting, highlighted by Dawson’s stellar blues-based guitar work and Mike Kalanj’s soulful Hammond B-3, and a tight rhythm section (Keith Lowe – bass and Geoff Hicks – drums).

The 11 tracks include several traditional tunes, such as a breathless version of “Brother Moses Smote The Water,” an exuberant “Great Day,” and “Another Soldier Gone,” which features a moving vocal from Sanders. Though most of the vocals are done in unison, each singer gets a lead vocal of their own. Small does a fine job on Doris Akers’ “Lead Me Guide Me,” Mosely nearly brings the house down on “Great Day” and “Strange Man,” and Sanders’ lovely take on “When I Die” is another standout.

Those wonderful group harmonies are the selling point of the disc, however, and the trio is at their best on tracks like “Nobody Can Turn Me Around,” Los Lobos’ classic tune, “The Neighborhood,” the country-tinged “It’s Hard To Stumble (When You’re On Your Knees),” and a mesmerizing reading of the Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Has No Mercy.” A superb “By and By” featuring Dawson on Weissenborn and Jesse Zubot on mandolin closes the disc.

The Sojourners’ vision of gospel music has roots in soul, country, blues, and doo-wop. Whatever your religious leanings may be, you’ll find that there is a lot to love in their music.

--- Graham Clarke

Hollywood Blue FlamesDeep In America, the latest release from the Hollywood Blue Flames, continues the band’s efforts to update the traditional blues of the 1950s. The band sprung from the ashes of the Hollywood Fats Band, fronted by the late Michael “Hollywood Fats” Mann, in 2005. Four members of the group (singer/harmonica player Al Blake, keyboardist Fred Kaplan, drummer Richard Innes, and bass player Larry Taylor) are Hollywood Fats alumnus, while guitarists Junior Watson and Kirk “Eli” Fletcher have been added since the new group’s inception in 2005.

Deep In America consists of 14 tracks, with mostly original compositions written by Blake (Kaplan wrote the sparkling piano-driven instrumentals “Crescent City Rock” and “Hushpuppy”). These songs touch on traditional blues themes, but also inject some modern flourishes. Among the many highlights are “Rambler & A Rollin’ Stone,” “My National Enquirer Baby,” and a trio of acoustic country blues tunes (“Music Man,” “Hip-Hoppin’ Toad,” and “Leavin’ California”).

The covers include L. C. McKinley’s swinging “Nit Wit,” a swampy take on Jimmy McCracklin’s “I Don’t Care,” and a reworking of Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “Jalopy To Drive” that nearly eclipses the original. Considering that these recordings were done over a five-year period, it’s a remarkably cohesive set and will please fans of classic blues.

As with their previous release, 2006’s Road To Rio, Deep In America is a two-disc set. The second disc is a collection of live tracks from the Hollywood Fats Band, circa 1979 and 1980, and is not to be missed. The band broke up not long after these recordings, frustrated by lack of work in the dreaded disco/glam rock era, and the tapes sat in storage until rediscovered by Blake.

Most of the tracks on the second disc are covers of familiar blues tunes, like Tampa Red’s “She’s Dynamite,” Arthur Gunter’s “Baby, Let’s Play House,” Freddy King’s “Hideaway,” and a pair of Memphis Slim tunes (“Blue and Lonesome” and “Lonesome”). The recordings bear witness to the fact that Hollywood Fats was an incredibly gifted guitarist (check out his work on “Hideaway”) who left this world much too soon in 1986.

Fortunately, the Hollywood Blue Flames are working hard to keep his memory alive. Down In America is a stellar set from start to finish.

--- Graham Clarke

The Real Stormin NormanNorman Zamcheck, aka The Real Stormin’ Norman, may be familiar to some blues fans, especially those on the East Coast. In the ’70s, the piano man teamed up with singer Suzy Williams to form the duo, Stormin’ Norman & Suzy. The pair built a large following in Boston and NYC to land a record deal with Polydor. After the band split, Zamcheck became a school teacher and administrator, toiling away in New York’s tough inner city schools for a number of years.

Stormin’ Norman’s primary inspirations on the keys are Mose Allison and Otis Spann. He also writes songs that are rooted in blues and boogie with lyrics that are, shall we say, interesting. His latest album is Every One Tells A Story (Abaraki Records).

While Stormin’ Norman’s talents on piano are formidable, his vocals don’t share the same level of confidence that his piano playing does, coming off a lot like Randy Newman at times. There are some nice moments, with songs like “Love Everlasting,” a love song, “At The Wastrel Bar” sounds like one of those New York story songs that were popular in the 70’s, with each character’s story briefly told, and the gloomy “Snow.” The tunes, “Guadalupe” and “Purple Shadows” both explore aging, loss, and the passage of time.

While the blues influences here are mostly on the musical side, Stormin’ Norman’s songs will bring to mind the late ’70s New York City rock stylings of artists like Billy Joel or Paul Simon. It’s definitely worth a listen, so visit CDBaby and give it a spin.

--- Graham Clarke

Kristine JacksonThanks to three degrees of separation, I’ve managed to come back from this year’s International Blues Challenge with one of the best CDs I’ve ever heard from an IBC competitor, Kristine Jackson’s Candy Store. It all began with fellow PBS board members Jack & Barb Wandrey accompanying me to Memphis for the first time. Barb’s innate ability to talk to anyone about anything led to us to attending a showcase for the R & K Brew Crew at Wet Willie’s. The R & K Brew Crew is one of Kristine’s projects and during their performance the President of the West Virginia Blues Society, Jack Rice, got up to extol the virtues of Kristine’s Band. At the band finals Saturday evening, the R & K Brew Crew were one of the finalists and Jack’s significant other had a copy of Candy Store to give me.

So here we are. Let’s give it a spin.

The title track, “Candy Store,” is the first song up on the disc. Here we find Kristine struggling with various images in her mind and reaching for an escape, a place to find solace. Hence the “Candy Store,” a place full of memories for Kristine as a child, a quarter in her pocket and a store full of choices. Something good can always be found in the “Candy Store” and those memories are of a happier, innocent time that all children enjoy.

Our next cut, “Hey,” finds Kristine wondering where her friend has been. Times have been tough and a friendly face is a warm respite for all that’s been wrong. “Hey, where you’ve been for so long? Cause my soul’s been wearing down, yeah my soul’s been wearing down…and it’s time to keep the devil underground.“ Kristine’s guitarist, Rob Muzick, is very talented and his solo lends the right amount of angst to “Hey.”

Next up is a tune that Kristine wrote for her cousin, Liz "Shorty" Bohman Szczepanski, who unfortunately lost her battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A song of comfort, “By Your Side,” finds Kristine pledging to always be there for Liz. “I know the journey’s been such a long, long road for you…but don’t you remember when…I promised…to never leave you…I’ve been by your side…even though you don’t see me…and I felt all your pain…even though you still hurt.” Liz was a huge supporter of KJ’s music and dreams; together they formed the Kick the Cancer Blues Foundation to raise funds for Hodgkin’s research and treatment. Kristine is continuing her work with the Kick the Cancer Blues Foundation in support of her cousin’s memory.

“Mean Ol’ Hound” is a song about a man in town and his dog. Neither are good and it’s best to give them a wide berth if you come across them. “Now you may think he’s clean…looking oh so nice…with his wing tip shoes at a fancy price…but I’m telling you now…he ain't no good…let’s keep a watch around the neighborhood…for his mean ol’ hound…follow him everywhere…and if you see them coming…you better, just beware!”

Rob’s guitar dueling with Kristine’s bass sets the tone for our next song, “Way Down in the Hole.” “If you walk through the garden…better watch your back…and I beg your pardon….walk the straight and narrow track…if you walk with Jesus….he’s going to serve your soul…and you got to keep the devil…way down in the hole.” Kristine’s faith has served her well and “Way Down in the Hole” is a reminder to the rest of us to have faith as well. “Wishing Well” is up next and it’s a place of refuge of Kristine. “There’s a place I call my wishing well…a place I’ve come to know so well…peaceful dreams in the dead of night…scatter in the morning light…well I talk to Jesus…it’ll calm my soul…there’s a pause in my voice only he can know…as the whirlpool tries to keep me down…I’ll stand by the water…lay my burdens…down.”

Kristine’s faith has seen her through some very tough times and she addresses those in “Unseen.” Kristine was sexually abused as a child and for years those memories haunted her until she finally faced them with Liz’s support. “Was it you or was it me…was there something I could have said…deep in my heart…I know you love me so…but in my mind…I can’t let it go…bask in the truth…til it be told…see the consequences…yet to unfold!” From what little I know of Kristine and the e-mails we’ve exchanged, she’s emerged from this ordeal a remarkable woman with great strength and a very bright future.

“I’ve been riding the rails…all night long…seems like the night will never end…heaven defines the road I know…feel the bitter cold…it takes control…crying Lord, can it take much longer…'til you take this poor body home” sings Kristine in “Hammer Mill 5.” Hammer Mill #5 is the train the Kristine hopes will carry her spirit to heaven. The journey’s been tough and she’s ready to go. I don’t know the story behind “Baby Girl” but it could easily be a song she wrote for Liz after she passed. “With your smile so bright…you warm my soul, Baby Girl…I know we got to say goodbye, Baby Girl…but the good book says we will meet again, Baby Girl.” “So rest well in your Savior’s arms…we’ll meet again when my time comes, Baby Girl.”

Our last cut on Candy Store is the upbeat “What Moves You.” “You got to get up…get out…tell me what moves you?” “Move on down the road…ain’t no use in…standing still….you got to get up…get out…get up…get out!” Living means moving forward and the only way to do that is to get up…get out…and do it.

I’ve enjoyed Candy Store immensely. Kristine Jackson writes from a very personal space, one that enables her to disperse the demons that haunt her at times and be able to look to the future with optimism. She’s got a very bright future, indeed. For more information on Kristine, or to grab a copy of Candy Store, visit her website at Loved the disc Kj!! And that’s how we roll out here in the desert, in Phoenix, Arizona. 8-)

--- Kyle Deibler

Keb MoIt’s probably best to start out by telling everyone that I’m a huge fan of Keb’ Mo. I own everything he’s ever produced and Just Like You is one of my all-time favorite discs. That said, I’m puzzled by the first release, Live & Mo’, on Keb’s own Yolabelle International label. A mixture of live and studio tracks, the disc leaves me wondering what Keb’ was trying to achieve. It’s not a complete live album, it’s not a complete studio album and I find myself wishing that Keb’ had taken more chances with his first personal release. It’s good music and the production values are outstanding, but as a listener I find myself feeling like I had dessert and no steak. I’m still wondering where the meat is.

The live tracks were all culled from vintage Keb’ Mo concerts. The cuts include: “Perpetual Blues Machine”; “Shave Yo’ Legs”; “More Than One Way Home”; “The Action”; “One Friend”; and “Change.” Of the live tracks, I appreciated “More Than One Way Home,” “One Friend” and “Change” the most. “One Friend” in particular grabbed me the most. “I’m a sinner…and a saint…and no matter where I am…or what I do…it’s you I appreciate…my one friend…to get me through the day…one friend…who never goes away…only one friend…to understand…and never let me down.” We’re all lucky if we have the one great friend that Keb’ speaks about in our lives and count your blessings for having that one friend.

The studio tracks include: “Victims of Comfort”; “Hole in the Bucket”; “Government Cheese” and “A Brand New America.” “Hole in the Bucket” is a metaphor for never having enough money. “I’m working…working…I’m working all day long…and there’s a hole in the bucket…but I keep on keeping on.” There’s no doubt in Keb’s mind that he can’t figure out the reason for the hole in the bucket or where his money goes. But he’s getting by. The next studio track, “Government Cheese,” finds Keb’ in line for a government hand out. “It’s a bad situation…but I love my friend Louise…yeah…she’s a wiz in the kitchen…and she knows what to do with that government cheese.” Seems Louise is holding Keb’ back from making a living somehow. “First thing tomorrow…I’m going to find me a full-time job…I’m going to make my own paycheck…I will not steal and I will not rob!” Keb’ sounds determined to change, to make it on his own and I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Live & Mo’ closes with the beautiful ballad, “A Brand New America.” “So lift up your voice…and let freedom ring…be eternally grateful…for everything…for the mountains and valleys…that stretch to the sea…a brand new America is calling to me.” A song of optimism and hope, “A Brand New America,” lets us know that everything is possible…’it’s a brand new America…and a brand new world!”

Live & Mo’ somehow feels like a “safe” record to me for Keb’s first release on his own. I’ve enjoyed listening to it, after all, Keb’ is one of my favorite artists of all time. But I expected more and that feeling stays with me. It didn’t have the energy of a great live record and it isn’t a complete studio release either. Whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to Keb’s next record more than I’m enjoying listening to his current one.

--- Kyle Deibler

30th anniversary DVDEvery May our extended Blues family meets in Memphis for the Blues Music Awards. It’s an opportunity for fans to meet artists, artists to greet and spend time with old friends, and for a select group of volunteers to work hard behind the scenes to make it all happen. I’m one of those volunteers and it’s been my pleasure over the past few years to do so; it’s my contribution to the greater good of this genre that we are all a part of. That said, my review of the DVD of the 30th Annual Blues Music Awards put out by the Blues Foundation will no doubt be influenced by my pride at the work that we did. From top to bottom, the 30th Annual Blues Music Awards was an outstanding event and all of the memories can be found on the DVD.

The DVD is organized into three sections: Pre-Show; Winner’s & Awards; and Nominee’s Performances. A slideshow of the event is included as well, but it’s the performances that make this DVD special. I’m not going to cover all of them, don’t have that much space to do so. But I do want to share some of the memories that I have of this event.

I’d have to start with Kenny Neal’s victory for song of the year for “Let It Flow.” Kenny was off the road for 14 months enduring liver treatments and emerged on the other side with a great CD on Blind Pig Records. I’ve known Kenny for a long time now and he asked me if he should shorten his performance time. I said, “Kenny, if you do that…I will kick your butt! I’m one of your biggest fans and everyone here is proud that you're back and proud of your record, take your time!” “Let It Flow” is a great song and that’s what Kenny did, he let it flow.

Janiva Magness winning the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year was another special moment. Janiva is only the second woman in the history of the awards to win Entertainer of the Year besides Koko Taylor. Holding her in the aisle after her win for Contemporary Artist of the Year was a very special moment. When Janiva realized the reason for keeping her close to the stage, tears flowed and we were all very proud of her accomplishment. I made sure she got up and down from the stage in one piece and her performance afterwards just rocked.

Other special winning moments involved Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Billy Gibson and Eden Brent. Cedric & Lightnin’ had just been to Phoenix to play at Blues Blast and their performance on stage of “R.L. Burnside,” Cedric’s tribute to his grandfather, was stellar. Billy was just blown away to win the harmonica award and I don’t think his feet touched the ground for the rest of the evening. Eden’s wins were special because I’ve been a big fan of her music since she won the solo/duo competition at the IBC and we’ve had her out to Phoenix twice to play. She had us all laughing when she sat down to play and the piano didn’t work right away. “At least it’s not a wardrobe malfunction” is what she said and I was especially appreciative of her playing “Until I Die” in honor of her mother Carol.

It was nice to see Otis Taylor win an award for banjo. His band was there to play and just gave a killer performance. And I would be remiss to not mention Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials winning Band of the Year. Lil’ Ed is the consummate entertainer and was grinning from ear to ear.

On the Nominees side there were a number of special performances, including those by Bettye Lavette, Taj Mahal & Maria Muldauer, and Paul Rishell & Annie Raines. But it was Koko Taylor’s performance of "Wang Dang Doodle" with the Mannish Boys that blew everyone away. I was Koko’s handler for the evening and she was so happy to be there. We had a grand time heading backstage for her performance and Koko just set the stage on fire when she got up there. Koko passed away shortly after that, but her performance that night was classic Koko Taylor and we are all grateful to have witnessed her last performance that evening.

I could go on and on about the special moments found on the DVD of the 30th Blues Music Awards but would be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the hard work that producer Joe Whitmer put into the final product. The photography is outstanding, the music wonderful and it’s as close to being there as you can get. I highly recommend that any fan of the Blues should get this DVD for their collection. Joe will always tell you that there’s room for improvement somewhere, but if this disc isn’t perfect, it’s damn close.

You can order this disc from the Blues Foundation on their website at And if you’ve never been to Memphis for the Blues Music Awards, you should go at least once. The DVD is the next best thing to being there, but that’s not a good enough excuse for everyone to not attend the BMA’s at least once. You’ll be glad you did.

--- Kyle Deibler

On Me (Cheyenne Records) is the first that I’ve heard of Lino Muoio, so I don’t have a comparison of earlier work of his to work from.

The CD opens with "Consolation Blues," a very country blues influenced number, as are most of the tracks on the album. This opening track shows just what Lino can do, and it includes some very well played guitar.
The tracks are, I guess, influenced a lot by Mississippi John Hurt and musicians of his era, and this is a very laid-back CD to listen to – very gentle blues. It does need to be listened to more than once to get the best out of it, but if you persevere, then you’ll find yourself enjoying tracks like the instrumental “Bad Job Blues,” “Midnight Walk” or “Roosevelt Stomp.”

On Me is a CD that shows that the Italian blues scene is alive and kicking!

--- Terry Clear

Tim Lothar, Peter NandeThe name of Danish musician Peter Nande is probably familiar to readers of Blues Bytes, as he has had three earlier CDs reviewed. For Two For The Road (Gateway Music), he has teamed up with the drummer from the Peter Nande band, Tim Lothar, to form Tim Lothar & Peter Nande. ,.They're backed by the upright bass of Magnus Lanshammar on one track, and joined by Ronni Busack-Boyson with his slide guitar on one track, with backing vocals provided by James Harman on three tracks – James also produced the album.

Nine of the 12 tracks on the CD are originals written by Tim Lothar & Peter Nande, or these two together with James Harman; the remaining three are a Tampa Red track “Can’t Get That Stuff No More,” “Ain’t Too Old,” written by Al Simmons, and the traditional blues track “Poor Boy.” The originals are all top class songs, written with the flavour of blues from long ago.

For lovers of traditional blues, this is a must-have album and it’s one that I can see me playing until it falls apart!

The album opens with the foot-tapping “Slow Train” – slow it ain’t! It’s a great choice of opening track, this one. Track 12, “Pa-Ta-Nin’ Ta Jook-Jernts” (whatever that means), has a very distinct influence of R.L.Burnside, particularly in the guitar and bass lines, and some fantastic harmonica supplied by Nande.

In between the two there is some great music, some great blues, lots of influences, tempos and proof that the blues in Denmark is the real deal.

--- Terry Clear

Dave MorettiThere’s no telling where the next blues CD will come from – Dave Moretti's Bluesjob is from Italy! I hadn’t heard of Moretti before, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to this CD.

This album is mainly based on jump blues type music, and it sounds as though the band had great fun making the CD. The of the music really grabs you and carries you along with feet and fingers tapping.
Six of the ten tracks are written by Moretti, the exceptions being Percy Mayfield’s “Baby You’re Rich,” two tracks credited as being Ray Charles numbers, “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and “Rockhouse” (a new one on me), and a Little Walter track, “Up The Line.”

The original tracks are all good quality, especially “Love On The Phone,” a slow moody, harmonica rich, ballad, and “Beauty Queen.”

If this CD is a preview of things to come, then we’ll be hearing a lot more of this band.

--- Terry Clear

Nick CurranGuitarist Nick Curran has always straddled the line between roots rock and blues, and he continues the trend on his latest disc, Reform School Girl (Electro Groove Records). This one has him turning up both the tempo and the volume, with muddy, shouting vocals à la Little Richard, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, etc.

12 of the 14 cuts are Curran originals, with one of the covers, Etta James' "Tough Lover," opening the album and setting the tone for the frantic rockin' blues to follow. Curran sounds especially like Little Richard by imitating Mr. Penniman's trademark shouts and whoops on this one.

The title cut is reminiscent of a Jan & Dean epilogue, this one telling the tale of that bad girl who did more than not just return his love ... "she stole my car, then she stole my heart ... she stole my heart, then she blew this town." "Kill My Baby" is a dark, foreboding, yet rockin' number that could easily have been done by Screamin' Jay Hawkins had it been written 50 years ago. Great surf guitar licks here from Curran.

"Sheena's Back" has a little bit of a New Orleans sound to it --- maybe it's the baritone sax accompaniment from Dan Torosian that brings to mind the work of Alvin "Red" Tyler on Fats Domino's big hits.

Later in the disc, the familiar voice of Phil Alvin shows up on "Flyin' Blind," as Curran and Alvin trade off on vocals on this uptempo rocker.

Derek Bossanova's pounding piano can be heard throughout the album, but he really gets to give the ivories a workout on the heart-pounding "Lusty L'il Lucy."

Yeah, I know Reform School Girl isn't a straight blues disc, but it sure is a fun ride and one that I will play often. Just be advised that it's not for the faint of heart ... check your pacemakers at the door, please.

--- Bill Mitchell

Tommy KeysTommy Keys may hail from New York, but the piano player has a lot of New Orleans cursing through his veins. He was a 2007 finalist in the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo contest. But on his latest album, The Man In The Moon (LPF Records), Keys is backed by a full band, horns and all, making for a satisfying collection of 10 mostly original songs.

Keys kicks it off with the title cut, kind of a swampy blues that brings to mind Dr. John, but without the raspy vocals. The next song, "No Money," gives Keys a chance to show some good boogie woogie piano playing while guest start Kerry Kearney contributes nice slide guitar.

I could easily imagine Randy Newman doing "You Can't Live On Love," with its elaborate storyline and horn arrangements. I had to look twice at the songwriting credits to make sure this one was also a Keys original.

Keys shows that he can really get down and dirty with the blues on the slow "Born With The Blues," on which he sings about other great blues piano players that obviously influenced him. With limited accompaniment on this number, Keys gets to really show off his instrumental skills here. I really think that Keys is at his best when doing a slow blues, as he turns in another great performance on "Troubled Life Blues." John Whelan also kicks in a couple of stellar guitar solos on this one.

The Man In The Moon ends with the only two covers on the disc, first with Professor Longhair's mid-tempo shuffle, "The Hadacol Bounce." Floyd Dixon's song of hope, "My Wish," closes the album, featuring Gary U.S. Bonds (yes, that Gary U.S. Bonds!) on background vocals.

The Man In The Moon is worth finding. It's not an essential, "desert island" album, but enjoyable nonetheless. Check Tommy's site for more details.

--- Bill Mitchell


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