Blues Bytes

What's New

February 2011

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Todd Sharpville

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Big Shanty

Todd Wolfe Band

John-Alex Mason

Cousin Harley

Paul Pigat

Patrik Jansson Band

Kenny Neal

Robin Rogers

Ron Tanski

Todd SharpvilleIf you’re a blues fan, you’ve probably heard discussions over the years about “Blues Royalty,” and who would and wouldn’t be considered as such. British bluesman Todd Sharpville is royalty, having been born in one of the UK’s oldest, titled aristocratic families. His father was the late Viscount St. Davids (who sadly passed away during the making of the album), and Sharpville is considered the “Heir Presumptive” to the family titles. As a 15 year old, Sharpville met Joe Louis Walker, who served as a mentor to the youngster in the art of becoming a blue performer.

Sharpville learned his lessons well, winning “Best Guitarist” at the 1995 British Blues Awards, and playing with such luminaries as Van Morrison, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Brian May, and the reformed Yardbirds. However, in 2004, his personal life crumbled as his marriage ended and he suffered a nervous breakdown while trying to deal with the separation from his two children. In 2008, he resurfaced and appeared with Walker on JLW’s most recent releases, and subsequently opened European tours for Pink, Joe Cocker, and B.B. King.

Porchlight (MIG Music), Sharpville’s latest release, is a two-disc set produced by Duke Robillard, who was also producer of Walker’s Witness to the Blues CD that Sharpville guested on. Recorded at Robillard’s Rhode Island studio, Porchlight apparently served as therapy for Sharpville, who composed 14 of the 15 songs on the album, many of which lay bare his personal issues of the past few years.

Folks, you hear a lot of people sing the blues these days, but not so many of them that have actually had the blues. Rarely will you hear music as personal as these tracks. “If Love is a Crime” addresses loving the wrong woman. “Lousy Husband but a Real Good Dad” pleads to keep the kids out of the grown-up problems that marriage sometimes bring (and no doubt brought to Sharpville, who waged a four-year court battle to have contact with his children). Tracks like “Used,” “Why Does It Rain,” “Busted In Pieces,” and “Old Feeling” vividly convey hardship, loss, and even depression. Delving into current events, “Can’t Stand the Crook” is a pretty sound undressing of the Bush Administration.

There are some more upbeat tunes as well, such as the second-line driven “Everything Will Be Alright.” “When The World’s Not Enough” is a darkly humorous tune about a man who will “do anything for love.” “When The Blues Come Callin’” is one of my favorites, a slow blues that includes the line “….when the blues come callin’, I know that you ain’t far behind.”

“Whole Lotta Lady” sings the praises of full-figured women and the lone cover on the disc, Shel Silverstein’s slightly twisted “If That Ain’t What Love Is,” is taken from the perspective of an abusive spouse.

Sharpville’s vocals are raw, ragged, and heartfelt, and you’ll understand why he earned that “Best Guitarist” award. The backing band includes Bruce Bears (keyboards), Jessie Williams (bass), Mark Teixeira (drums), Doug James (baritone sax), Mike Tucker (tenor sax), Scott Aruda (trumpet), and Carl Querfurth (trombone). Robillard and Walker add guitar to a couple of tracks and Kim Wilson blows some mean harp on four tracks.

Hopefully, Todd Sharpville has his personal life back where he wants it and can achieve the level of popularity and recognition that he deserves. He’s set the bar pretty high with Porchlight, as real a blues album as you will hear this year.

--- Graham Clarke

Rich Del GrossoThere are very few mandolin players in the blues genre, but Rich DelGrosso has been holding the line successfully for years. Having garnered five Blues Music Award nominations over the span of his career, DelGrosso proudly carries on the blues mandolin tradition started by such legends as Yank Rachell and Johnny Young. Recently, DelGrosso teamed up with another Houston-based guitarist, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, for an exciting disc of Southeastern Texas blues and roots music, Time Slips On By.

The album has 14 tracks, seven written by DelGrosso, six by Richardson, and one combined effort, the driving boogie track, “Baby Do Wrong,” which would be a smooth fit on the ZZ Top album of your choice. DelGrosso’s songs lean more toward the traditional side. On “Mandolin Man,” accompanied by harmonica player Sonny Boy Terry, he gives a nod to a few of his influences, Rachell, Young, and Charlie McCoy. “Shotgun Blues” was inspired by Rachell, but also mixes in a taunt horn section and some sweet Albert Collins guitar from Richardson. “Hard To Live With” is another standout, a laid-back seven-minute-plus track that allows both men to really stretch out.

Richardson’s songs include the supremely soulful title track, which mixes in Stax-like horns and some marvelous fretwork. “Katalin” is a lovely number that features some smooth guitar from Richardson and also adds Joel Guzman’s accordion for good measure. “Where’s Laura” is a bouncy jazz instrumental, and the easygoing tune, “Summertime Is Here,” reminds me of the New Orleans group, the subdudes.
In addition to Guzman and Terry, DelGrosso and Richardson are ably backed by Carl Owens (drums, percussion), Ed Starkey (bass), Nick Connolly (keyboards), and the Texas Horns (Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, John Mills, Al Gomez). Fiona Boyes also lends a hand, contributing backing vocals to DelGrosso’s “A Gig Is A Gig.”

Time Slips On By is a refreshing blend of blues and roots music, with great songs and performances. For music lovers who thought the mandolin was for bluegrass only, prepare to be enlightened. Hopefully, DelGrosso and Richardson will bless us with additional releases in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Joanne Shaw TaylorJoanne Shaw Taylor burst onto the worldwide blues scene in 2009 with her stunning debut, White Sugar, which garnered a Best New Artist Debut” nomination at the 2010 Blues Music Awards. On that debut effort, she blew listeners away with her scorching guitar work and her smoky, sultry vocals. Taylor’s sophomore release for Ruf Records, Diamonds in the Dirt, is a worthy follow-up, offering another set of powerful blues-rock.

Once again, producer Jim Gaines is behind the controls and the same backing band is in support (Steve Potts – drums, Dave Smith – bass, Rick Steff – keyboards), but that doesn’t mean that Taylor is running in place by any means. The opener, “Can’t Keep Living Like This,” opens with a solo acoustic guitar and a vulnerable vocal, but soon kicks into high electrified gear. Taylor wrote all ten songs on the disc and they include the torrid “Jump That Train,” “Who Do You Love,” and “Lord Have Mercy.” Tracks like “Let It Burn,” “Dead and Gone,” and “World On Fire” allow Taylor to show an impressive depth in her singing and playing.

The somber title track turns things down a notch and seems to be almost autobiographical in its content, showing a softer, more vulnerable side. While Taylor seems to be fully arrived as a guitarist and singer, her songwriting continues to improve and will only get better with time.

It looks like Joanne Shaw Taylor has easily avoided the sophomore jinx with this worthy follow-up. Diamonds in the Dirt shows that she is continuing to improve and develop. She will definitely be hearing her name being called around Blues Music Awards nomination time again.

--- Graham Clarke

Randy StephensRandy Stephens is a Nashville musicians who currently plays guitar for Double Your Trouble, a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band. He’s been playing guitar since his early teens, and has been playing the blues since the mid ’80s, even placing runner-up in the 2000 Jam With Kenny Wayne Shepherd Contest. He’s also found time to record an album, called American Guitar.

Recorded in Columbia, TN, the disc features 14 tracks, consisting of a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are a diverse set that should appeal to not only blues fans, but also rock, pop,and jazz. Stephens is a versatile guitarists, easily moving from genre to genre on this collection. Highlights include “After the Storm,” a poignant track dedicated to the city of Nashville and the 2010 flood, the rousing “Guitar & Saxes,” and “CJ,” dedicated to Stephens’ wife.

Stephens also acquits himself as a fine singer on tracks like the topical “Tickets & Taxes,” “Take A Train,” Keepin; It Real.” The slow blues “The Last Letter” is a standout track, co-written by Stephens’ son, who plays drums on the album. There’s also a foray into rap music with “Jack The Rapper,” with vocals provided by Luke Jones.

Guitar fans will really enjoy this disc. A portion of all CD sales will go to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. It doesn’t matter what style you prefer, Randy Stephens can play them all. American Guitar is an impressive and well-balanced collection of mostly blues-based tracks. For more information visit Stephens’ myspace site.

--- Graham Clarke

Big ShantyBig Shanty plays brash, blistering rock/blues that’s been called “Death Metal Blues” and “Heavy Metal Funk.” Since his breakthrough album, 2007’s Ride with the Wind, his renegade brand of blues has been reaching and converting music fans, who have tracked down his previously releases on his label’s website and downloaded them over a million times. Despite virtually no exposure from radio or media, the word has spread.

Collection (King Mojo Records) should play a big role in getting Big Shanty’s sound out to the masses. It’s a two-disc, 19-track compilation of all original material, featuring Shanty with a potent list of guest stars, including Wet Willie bass player Jack Hall, former Hydra guitarist Spencer Kirkpatrick, guitarists Liz Melendez, Chris Blackwell, and Col. Bruce Hampton.

Shanty wrote all of the tunes and they range from straight blues/rock (“Whisky Woman,” “Born Up In Trouble,” “100 Pound Hammer”) to dissertations on current or recent events (“Uncle Sam Go To Rehab,” “Killing Fields”) to funk/rock (“Kiss The Eight Ball,” “Love Train”). Even the more laid-back tracks (there are a few) like “Ride with the Wind” grab you by the throat.

Big Shanty dominates the scene with his omnipresent slide guitar and his growling vocals. The backing musicians are incredible, particularly Scott Robertson on drums, Ronnie Heath on bass, and all of the lead guitarists. If you’ve never experienced the force of nature that is Big Shanty, I strongly recommend this awesome two-disc set as a jumping-off point. Chances are that you will want to hear more.

--- Graham Clarke

Todd Wolfe BandIf the words “power trio” were in the dictionary, it would be accompanied by a picture of The Todd Wolfe Band. With their latest release, Live (American Home Entertainment), Wolfe and bandmates Roger Voss (drums) and Suavek Zaniesienko (bass) show the results of almost constant touring over the past two years with one of the most impressive live performances captured on disc in quite some time (a DVD is also available).

Like many blues artists before him, Wolfe was first enthralled by the musicians that were part of the British Invasion of the ’60s, before he moved to the blues artists that inspired his favorite guitarists. He paid his dues for a number of years, plugging away with various bands, opening for acts like Gregg Allman, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Dickey Betts, and the Neville Brothers, before hooking up with Sheryl Crow and serving as her guitarist for nearly five years. After leaving Crow, Wolfe started over, forming his own group, which he has fronted for ten years.

Live is a dazzling set of original tunes, recorded in Quakertown, PA last summer. If you were a fan of the late ’60s blues/rock monsters like Mountain, Cream, or even the Allman Brothers, this is the disc for you. Some of the highlights include the eight-minute-plus slow blues, “Cold Blue Night,” “Beg Forgiveness,” a rocker which opens with a classic Hubert Sumlin “Killin’ Floor” riff, and the other-worldly “Gates of Heaven,” with Wolfe’s shimmering lead guitar.

A pair of tunes steers toward the psychedelic days, “Black Hearted Woman” and “Change Will Come,” while the slow rocker “Silver Blue” sizzles. The closer, “Shame,” is 14 minutes of blues/rock heaven….the band doing what it does best, and it’s a perfect send-off to a great disc.

Wolfe is dynamite on guitar, while Zaniesienko and Voss are an incredibly tight rhythm section. They also provide excellent background vocals on most of the tracks. Blues rockers will absolutely have to have this one in their collection. The Todd Wolfe Band’s Live is as good a blues/rock disc as you will hear this year.

--- Graham Clarke

John-Alex MasonJook Joint Thunderclap (Naked Jaybird Music) is a departure for singer/songwriter/guitarist John-Alex Mason. For this release, the Colorado native has brought in an amazingly diverse group of musicians to contribute. Two of the late R.L. Burnside’s grandchildren (drummer Cedric and singer/rapper Cody), along with longtime collaborator Gerry Hundt (guitar, harmonica, mandolin), Steve “Lightnin’” Malcolm (guitar, bass), Lionel Young (fiddle, bass), Andy Irvine (bass), and a trio from Guinea (Alya Sylla – djembe, Fara Tolno- djembe, and Fasinet Bangoura – balafon) give this release a modern, multicultural approach.

As on his previous releases, Mason’s music takes in the Delta blues, mixing in Hill Country, and gospel music as well. The album is a mix of old blues classics and some exciting new songs, such as the blistering opening cut, “My Old Lonesome Home,” the forlorn “More Than Wind,” and “Diamond Rain,” a lively blues/country jaunt. The multicultural influences abound on tracks like “Free,” which features Mason in tandem with Tolno’s djembe, and an impressive pair of tunes that feature Cody Burnside rapping (the electric “Gone So Long” and “Riding On,” which mixes Mason and Malcolm’s guitars, Hundt’s harmonica, and the xylophone-like bolofone and djembes).

The cover tunes may be familiar to most fans, but Mason puts a fresh coat of paint on them as well. “Rolled and Tumbled” is taken at a slow, sensuous pace with Mason utilizing his one-man band rig to perfection. “Signifying Monkey” has a slow, ominous, swampy feel that’s pierced with Mason’s jagged slide guitar. The Mississippi Fred McDowell standard, “Write Me a Few of Your Lines,” is a highlight, with Mason and Malcolm dueling on guitars with Hundt on mandolin, all propelled by the fierce drumming of Cedric Burnside.

Fans can also go to Mason’s website and download additional tracks to the album via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Track “zero” is called “Delta Bound (Prologue),” and it’s a exuberant track singing the praises of the Mississippi Delta. The other downloadable track is a fairly straight interpretation of Robert Johnson’s “If You’ve Got A Good Friend.”

Jook Joint Thunderclap shows that John-Alex Mason is not afraid to take chances or try new things. It’s his best release so far and hopefully, he will continue his efforts to take his music, and therefore the blues, into new and uncharted territory.

--- Graham Clarke

Lara PriceSan Francisco singer Lara Price came to America from Vietnam as a two-week old baby in 1975 as part of President Gerald Ford’s Operation Babylift, a program designed to rescue infants orphaned or abandoned because of the war. The plane carrying Price crashed and many of the occupants were killed, but she survived and was adopted by a military family. She started singing at the age of 12.

Since the late ’90s, Price has been part of the San Francisco music scene, focusing heavily on the blues side of the aisle during most of that period. Her latest release, the aptly titled Everything, is a combination of styles that the singer grew up with and loved, ranging from blues to jazz to pop to soul.

Price moves smoothly through each style, whether it’s the smooth Memphis soul of “One More Day” or a sweaty version of the classic Bumps Blackwell R&B tune, “Fever,” or a fiery take on Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman.” The John Prine standard, “Angel From Montgomery,” gets a lovely acoustic treatment, and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me Till End of Love,” shows Price is comfortable in the jazz mode as well. Price is also top notch on a pop cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

Along the way, Price gets solid support from Marcia Ball guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer, who co-wrote three tracks. Everything shows that the sky’s the limits for Lara Price. While the blues makes up the biggest part of her music and style, she’s also a force to be reckoned with in other genres as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Macy BlackmanEven though Macy Blackman was born in Delaware and got his musical career started in New York, he specialized in New Orleans R&B, dating back to the mid ’70s, based on a friendship with New Orleans drummer Charles “Hungry” Williams. He also worked as a vocal and instrumental coach, taught music courses at Berkeley, and worked as a jazz pianist. Around mid-decade, he formed his band, the Mighty Fines, and returned to his first love, New Orleans R&B. Their second release, on Mamaru Records, is Don’t You Just Know It.

The disc features Blackman’s renditions of 16 classic N.O. R&B sides, opening with Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham’s “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On,” though Blackman’s version is closer to the Chuck Carbo version. Ernie K-Doe’s “Hello My Lover,” one of many tracks that feature the wailing sax of Nancy Wright. A swinging version of Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie” follows.

Blackman also pays tribute to several other Crescent City legends. There’s a pair of obscure Fats Domino tunes (“Detroit City” and “Ain’t It Good”), Huey “Piano” Smith (the title track and “Little Chickie Wah-Wah”), Smiley Lewis (“Someday You’ll Want Me”), and a pair of tunes associated with New Orleans’ Tan Canary, Johnny Adams (“Roadblock,” featuring a vocal by Wright, and “Imitation of Love,” written by Dr. John and Doc Pomus).

Blackman is a masterful piano player and also plays cornet. His distinctive vocals are perfectly suited for this material. The Mighty Fines are just that……mighty fine. In addition to Wright on tenor sax, they include Jack Dorsey on drums, Bing Nathan on bass and piano, and Ken “Snakebite” Jacobs on baritone sax and clarinet. Kit Robberson plays bass on one track.

If old school New Orleans rhythm and blues is your bag, you’ll find that Don’t You Just Know It is a disc worth checking out. Hats off to Macy Blackman and The Mighty Fines for doing their part to keep this great music alive.

--- Graham Clarke

Cousin HarleyWhile you might not have heard of Paul Pigat, chances are that you’ve heard him before. Over the past few years, the Vancouver native has backed artists like the Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, Jakob Dylan, and Neko Case, contributing guitar work that is the very epitome of roots music. At home playing styles ranging from blues to jazz to rockabilly to swing, Pigat is that rare artist who appeals to just about every fan of good music. He recently released two discs simultaneously on his own Little Pig Records, one under his own name and the other under his rockabilly hero guise of Cousin Harley. This pair of recordings is as different as daylight and dark.

Cousin Harley has been Pigat’s main project for over ten years and his latest disc, It’s A Sin, is as rough and rowdy a set of rockabilly as you heard in a long time. Pigat and his band mates, Keith Picot (bass) and Jesse Cahill (drums), work through this stellar set like a well-oiled machine. Though primarily a rockabilly album, there’s also some pretty cool jump blues included (“She’s Comin’ Back,” “Swingin’ Like A Mofo,”), and even some wild surf guitar thrown in on tracks like the title cut, “The Ballad of El Swartho,” and “Spaghetti No Sauce.” However, rockabilly rules the day with standouts like “Conductor Man,” “Beaver Fever, “Hoss’ Hoedown,” “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar,” and “Red Hair Baby.” Pop this one in the stereo and you might have problems removing it.

Paul PigatBoxcar Campfire is a whole different animal. There are traces of country, blues, folk, and even some old-timey jazz mixed together. Where the rockabilly disc is a great way to let off steam and just let loose, Boxcar Campfire is a more contemplative release, with the focus more on the songs than the music itself. Pigat really demonstrates his incredible versatility on guitar and banjo. He wrote most of the songs, and while they address most of the familiar themes, they’re by no means familiar in their lyrical content or delivery….mixing tunes about love and heartbreak (“Nowhere Town,” “Troubled Mind,” and “Johnny’s Poorly”) with more light-hearted fare (“Corn Liquor,” “Sweet Tooth”). He also adds a few standout covers by folks like Hank Williams (“Lonesome Whistle”) and Billy Vera (“Papa Come Quick”). Music like this is too good to let slip by.

Simply put, if you call yourself a music lover, especially a lover of American roots music, both of these discs belong in your collection and will provide many hours of listening pleasure.

--- Graham Clarke

Bo MolassesYou've Put Your Voodoo On Me is the debut album from Bo Molasses, a refreshing blues band from Marbella, the millionaire's playground, in the South of Spain, and England. The band comprises Paul Cufflin on electric and acoustic guitars / keyboards / bass / percussion / background vocals, Chris Daffin with electric guitar, Sugarcane Grey playing acoustic slide guitar, Chris Jackson on drums/percussion and Bo on main vocals. It’s a very interesting mix! Six of the songs off the album have already been licensed by Hollywood music publishers Crucial Music for use in various US film and TV project, which gives you an idea of just how good this music is.

The CD opens with “Just Enough,” a slow ballad aimed at a girl who fooled her lover, left and predictably came back. The backing is nicely simplistic, with some handclapping built in. Track two is “I Do Believe My Time Is Coming,” and what a good track this is. The music is moody, atmospheric and foot-tapping good. It’s very much Mississippi country blues flavour, even though it comes out of Spain! This track put me a little in mind of early Derek Trucks. My only criticism of the whole album is, that if the band were mine, then I would have made this track the opening one to really get people’s attention.

Track three, “I Want You,” takes the tempo up slightly, and it’s slightly less bluesy than the preceding two tracks, but still very good. This one runs into the title track “You’ve Put Your Voodoo On Me,” and this one is another good, slow, moody, blues. Just when you think that you’ve really got a hold on how good this band is, up pops “You’re Gonna Need Someone.” This brings the tempo back up just a small notch and it has a slow, driving back beat with some lovely guitar work laid over it, supporting haunting vocals.
“Sara” brings the slide guitar much more to the front, and it has a real catchy riff going behind the vocal. It leads into “Stay With Me,” a track with some great harmonica playing.

“I Know I’ve Had It Coming For So Long” keeps the music moving along, this one sounds as though it could easily be used as a movie soundtrack about the Deep South. “Faith Healer” and “Won’t You Come See About Me?” wrap the album up in similar style.

You've Put Your Voodoo On Me is an excellent debut CD from an accomplished band and hopefully they’ll follow it with another CD soon – maybe with some up-tempo numbers.

--- Terry Clear

Patrik JanssonPatrik Jansson Band (Sneaky Foot Records) is the debut CD from Swedish bluesman Patrik Jansson, and he supported by his band, comprising Hening Axelsson on keyboards, Fredrik Hartelius on drums and Per Enstedt playing the bass. I have to admit at the start that I’ve never heard of any of these guys before.

The CD was recorded in Stockholm, and it contains 10 original tracks written and arranged by Patrik Jansson, with influences from Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, ZZ Top and Joe Bonamassa. It opens with a fast paced rocking blues, “That’s What I say,” which showcases Jansson’s guitar work and it moves on at the same pace with “I’ll Keep On Moving,” a track with some clean keyboard playing by Axelsson.

“Just Move On” slows things down just a bit before a song about a musician’s life on the road comes in – “Hard Life On The Road” is a descriptive story about touring with a band, and the fun and hardships that are encountered.

Track five, “Separate Ways,” is a ballad sung with a lot of feeling, with some nice gentle backing and it leads nicely into a slow blues, “Please Tell Me,” a song about a broken relationship.

Track seven is entitled “Instrumental,” and that’s about as descriptive as it gets! It’s a medium/fast- paced rocking blues with some Stevie Ray Vaughan feel to it, courtesy of Jansson’s guitar work. “Come Along For The Ride” is an invitation to a lady to do just that – medium-paced with excellent guitar work, and leading into the final two tracks “Something Special” and “A Wonder Of Nature” – the former is a real Stevie Ray Vaughan influenced boogie shuffle track, and it possibly the best on the album, while the latter is a nice ballad to finish off the album.

The music is good; the only small criticism is that Jansson’s voice is a little flat – but, as he more than makes up for it with this guitar work and his song writing, this is a small point that can be easily overlooked.

--- Terry Clear

Kenny NealLife is good for Kenny Neal these days. His last disc, Let Life Flow, generated the song of the year and marked Kenny’s return to the business after taking time off to deal with a serious medical issue. His zest for life continues to show through on his new disc, Hooked On Your Love, out on Blind Pig Records. Let’s give it a spin.

“Hooked on Your Love” has to be written for Kenny’s dear wife, Josi. And he tells her, “I’m hooked on your love, your love is something to me…everything my heart desires…and everything I need!” It’s great to hear Kenny sound this happy, and Josi has definitely had a positive influence on her man. In our next tune, “Bitter With The Sweet,” Kenny lets know that life is not always perfect. “Sometime it's good…sometimes it’s bad…everything can stop…when you’re moving too fast. Life ain’t always a bed of roses…diamonds & pearls…champagne & toasting…got to be strong…can’t be weak…we got to take…the bitter with the sweet!” Faith seems to sustain Kenny these days and he’s right, life’s not always fair, we have to do what we can to get through.

Kenny’s childhood in the bayou rears its head in “Down in the Swamp.” Kenny blows a mean harmonica these days and the notes emanating from his harp contribute to the voodoo feel. “She looks good…swimming on the river bed…grandpa’s moonshine go straight to your head…Mardi Gras brothers moved in the backwoods…back on the bayou sure feels good!” In O.V. Wright's soul classic “Blind, Crippled, or Crazy” we find Kenny has had enough of the woman he’s dealing with and ready to move on. “I’d rather be blind, crippled, or crazy…somewhere…pushing up daisies…then to let you…break my heart…all over again!” Kenny’s had enough and he’s standing strong in the face of all of his heartache.

On our next tune, the shoe is on the foot in “If Walls Could Talk.” “If doors could tell…who turned the knob…when he’s away…away on his job…ain’t you glad…you ought to be glad that things can’t talk.” His woman is obviously messing around behind his back and Kenny sounds like he’s guilty of a few transgressions as well. So for both their sakes, “they ought to be glad…that things can’t talk!”

A very strong horn section surrounds Kenny as he delves into “Things Have Got To Change.” “I’ve been a lot of places…seen a lot of things…I’ve been a lot of places…seen a lot of things….things have got to change!” Children are walking in the street without shoes, folks all around are suffering…things do indeed got to change! Kenny continues to share Josi’s impact on his life in “New Lease On Life.” “When I go out…everybody know…she’s never at home…where I go she goes…we’re one of a kind…quite a pair…so much in love…we don’t have a care! I’m going to start my life…all over again…I’ve got a new lease on life…found a lover and a friend!” More horns and Kenny’s telecaster lead the way on “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do.” “A man can’t break a stone…he tries another lick…iceman can’t break his ice…he buys another pick…but when you got a heartache baby…there ain’t nothing you can do!” Healing a broken heart just takes time; there just isn’t another way to go about feeling better.

More harmonica provides the introduction to “Old Friends” and Kenny’s definitely on top of his game. “An old friend…you ask me…if I miss her….like the stars…miss the sky…and if I turn my back on you…while we’re talking….it’s to wipe those tears that I cry!” To Kenny’s way of thinking, there’s only one true love in a lifetime and if you’re lucky enough to find her, you’d better do your best to hang on to her!

Lucky Peterson is backing Kenny on keyboards and sets the mood for “Tell Me Why.” Something is up with Kenny’s woman and he’s not sure what it is. “Something’s strange going on in my home…tell me why…tell me why…you’ve been in a daze for the last few weeks…you look really nervous…tell me why!” Kenny never does figure out what’s wrong and eventually he just has to move on. A taste of Zydeco heavily influences our next tune, ‘Voodoo Mama.” “She point her finger…put a curse on you…have you walking round…without a clue…that Voodoo Mama…you’d better watch yourself before that Voodoo Mama voodoo you!” Sounds like a very good woman to stay away from.

“You Don’t Love Me” is the final cut on the disc and finds Kenny realizing that she just doesn’t love him anymore. “Go on babe…be on your merry way…you’re not going to come home…it’s going to be too late!” Even if she changes her mind, Kenny’s definitely had enough with this one.

Hooked On Your Love is another very strong disc from Kenny. I don’t know that it surpasses Let It Flow in my personal pecking order of Kenny Neal discs, but I enjoyed the listen and appreciated the fact that my friend from the bayou is doing what he does best --- putting out great music for us to listen to and dance to.

--- Kyle Deibler

Robin RogersDebra Regur, the publicist for Blind Pig Records, acknowledged Robin Roger’s influence and support of her work for Blind Pig during her KBA acceptance speech in Memphis. Debra’s words resonated with a lot of us in the audience that morning. Robin was a great friend; kind, caring, compassionate. Always cheerful and quick with a word of support, I enjoyed my conversation with her last summer at the Fargo Blues Festival and, fortunately for all of us, Robin left us a great disc as her legacy. Back in the Fire is a disc she had high hopes for and, safe to say, it met her expectations!

Robin opens with a ballad, “Baby Bye-Bye,” lamenting the current state of her relationship and its inevitable ending. To Robin’s credit, she feels the experience was of greater importance than all of her friends' warnings in regard to the object of her affection. “If you ever try to call me…if you ever try to come around…don’t be surprised if you finally realize….I’m not that little girl…that you once put down! Bye Bye Baby…Bye Bye…you ain’t going to steal my pride…a good scare is worth more than good advice!”

“Second Time Around” finds Robin eager to prove her love is real. “Let me love you…let me show you…it’s going to be better…the second time around…I’ve got real intentions baby…and I can’t slow down!” Robin’s harp fills are solid and she feels this relationship has too much time invested to just let it fade away. The second time around will definitely be different! In “You Don’t Know,” we find that Robin is cautious in love and it takes time to really get to know her. Robin’s been through a lot in her life and is naturally suspicious of anyone’s intentions. “Never been the kind that likes to shine or hold myself up to high…feels better to rest here in the shadows and let love pass me by…too many times I’ve been burned, I’ve been hurt…kicked to the side…nobody seemed to care if I lived or died.” Hopefully she found the love and happiness she was looking for.

Mark Stalling’s beautiful keyboard work provides the introduction for our next tune, “Need Your Love So Bad.” “I need someone’s lips…to feel next to mine…I need someone to stand up and tell me…am I wrong or right…and when the lights are low…and it’s time to go….oh I need your love so bad.” Just a really beautiful ballad and one of my favorite cuts on the disc. In “The Plan,” Robin is more than happy to tell us that everything worked out the way she wanted it to. “I got your love…and that’s all I need…nobody moves me…the way you move me…I couldn’t feel much better…even if I tried…you know that everything is going as planned”. Robin blows a mean harmonica and it’s a welcome presence next to Tony Rogers guitar solo in this song.

Unfortunately Robin’s not perfect and she tells us all about it in “I Know I Done Wrong.” “It feels too good being bad…that’s why I’m telling you…I know I done wrong…that’s why I’m writing you this song…I come crawling back baby…crawling back home to you!” At least she’s seen the error of her ways and appreciates the good man back at home.

Up next is another slow ballad, “Ocean of Tears.” “Won’t somebody please…save a drowning child…I’ve been treated so bad by my lover…nobody knows my problems and fears…every night I cry like a drowning child…sleep in an ocean of tears.” Robin needs saving and hopefully someone will rescue her from the misery that she’s experiencing. Robin’s soulful harmonica solo introduces us to the next song, one about domestic abuse, “Don’t Walk Away Run.” Here she’s giving advice to a good friend of hers. “I’m sorry to hear…about the bruise on your face…you’ve got to grab up those kids now…and get out of that place…pack some things and head for the door…you ain’t got to take it no more…leave him tonight…before the morning sun…don’t walk away…run!” An all too common scenario in our society, Robin’s advice to her friend was spot on. No woman regardless of circumstance needs to be struck by a man. It was definitely time to go.

“Hittin’ on Nothin’” is a fun, playful tune by Robin. “You can’t keep your sweet talk…keep your lies…keep all of your promises…save that jive…you ain’t hittin’ on nothing…unless you got something for me!” Enough is enough, Robin is valuing substance over style and it’s time for the man in her life to stand up and deliver on his promises. Robin’s got a brash attitude on this one and you have to admire her stance.
We’re blessed with more of Robin’s soulful harmonica during the intro to “Yesterday’s Blues.” “They say time heals all wounds…and I hope it does so soon…cause the pain is the same as it was…so long ago!” “Yesterday’s Blues” features the most harmonica playing by Robin of any cut on the disc; she truly was a very talented woman.

Back in the Fire closes with a very upbeat “What We Are Worth,” a tune about appreciation for another human being. “If I fall to the bottom…would you try and save me…would you leave me laying…lonely and hurt…we all need somebody to reach out and touch us…to hold us and hug us…tell us what we are worth!” I think that more than any other tune on the disc, “What We Are Worth” truly captures the essence of Robin’s spirit and her compassion for those she cared about.

The Blues world lost a very special woman on December 17th, but she left behind a definitive disc that I know she had high hopes for. Mission accomplished, Robin. You can still order this disc through Robin’s website, ---it's one disc we all should have in our collections.

--- Kyle Deibler

Ron TanskiIt's not often that an independent, self-released CD has me saying "Wow!" But Southern California pianist Ron Tanski has done just that with his new album, Dragged You Down. All 12 cuts are Tanski originals, and he performs solo on all but three of the numbers on the disk. With a voice that sounds like it's conditioned by drinking rotgut liquor and smoking unfiltered cigarettes, Tanski has a style reminiscent of Tom Waits, although not as dark and foreboding.

Dragged You Down starts strongly with a good introduction to Tanski's abilities with the uptempo "Marvelous Night For The Blues"; I especially like the work of his left hand on the piano's lower keys.

The comparison to Tom Waits holds up on the gritty tale "Corner Booth" and on the slow blues "Where Were You When I Was Still Cheatin'."

Even the best gravelly-voiced singers start to wear on my after a while, but Tanski changes the mood with the only instrumental number, the frenetic "Hurricane Boogie." For my money, it's the best cut on the disk and leaves me wanting to hear more of the same. He really is a very fine piano player, and I look forward to a whole album of instrumentals some day.

Another highlight is the slow number "Sun Don't Shine," which comes two cuts after the instrumental boogie woogie and provides a nice contrast to the preceding songs; it's a blues but with a outlook that better days are ahead. Closing the CD is a tune, "Thank You," that sounds like it could have come out of the Randy Newman songbook; Tanski's piano playing here has a little bit of a gospel feel to it.

Dragged You Down is a real surprise, and I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Tanski. Check his website for more info on how to find this CD or to find out where he's playing,

--- Bill Mitchell

Bill MumyI could barely believe what I was reading when I received an email from a publicist requesting a review of a new blues CD from Bill Mumy --- yes, one and the same as Billy Mumy, child actor who during the 1960s starred in "Lost In Space" (those of us that were regular TV watchers have the iconic line, "Danger, Will Robinson," permanently etched in our childhood memories), and other shows dating back to a 1958 appearance on "Romper Room."

Of course I said, "Yes, please send the CD to me!" Mumy's latest disk, Glorious In Defeat (Global Recording Artists), arrived in the mail a few weeks later. A visit to Mumy's website ( updates us on what he's been doing lately as he commemorates the 52nd anniversary of his professional acting career. In the past he's hosted an internet radio show, exploring "the past and present of modern music." He's also recorded quite frequently over the years, with Glorious In Defeat being his 12th album.

Enough about Mumy's past ... let's talk about whether the man can play and sing the blues.

Mumy is a one-band band on Glorious In Defeat, playing guitar, keyboards, harmonica and drums as well as doing the vocals. All songs are original compositions, except for a version of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain Blues." The problem is that he really doesn't do any of it very well. He's a rudimentary guitar player and a passable piano player, but Mumy's instrumental work far surpasses his vocals which lack range and projection.

The best cut is the aforementioned Robert Johnson cover, although Mumy's limitations on guitar are exposed in comparison to the multitude of other versions of this song. But his singing is a bit more tolerable here than on his original numbers.

There's really nothing to recommend about Glorious In Defeat, not even as a novelty piece.

--- Bill Mitchell


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