Blues Bytes

What's New

February/March 2016

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers

Benny Turner

Professor Louie

Blues Harp Women

Laurence Jones

Tim Williams

Hurricane Ruth

Jefferson Grizzard

Karen Lovely

Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea

Jason Vivone

Bob Margolin

Barry Levenson

John Mayall


Pinetop Perkins - Jimmy RogersYou would have thought that Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers came up playing together in Chicago, especially since they both spent time in Muddy Waters’ band, but that really wasn’t the case. Perkins didn’t arrive on the Chicago scene until the early ’60s, shortly after Rogers took his sabbatical from music. Their paths didn’t cross until the mid ’80s, but they worked together regularly from that point until Rogers’ passed away in December of 1997.

Perkins played and recorded with the Legendary Blues Band, which originally consisted of members of Waters’ band, until the mid/late ’80s. After that, he began to play regularly with the New York City blues band Little Mike Markowitz & the Tornadoes. It was with the Tornadoes that Perkins released his first domestic solo recordings, After Hours, on Blind Pig Records. Markowitz was also booking Perkins on some east coast appearances and Perkins recommended him to Rogers, so soon he was handling both of them and it evolved into a tour featuring the pair.

Genuine Blues Legends (ELROB Records) captures a May, 1988 live performance of the duo, backed by Markowitz and the Tornadoes (Tony O Melio – guitar, Brad Vickers – bass, Michael Anderson – drums) at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth, Maine. Perkins kicks off the set with the Tornadoes and works through several standards: Cleanhead Vinson’s “Kidney Stew,” Tommy Tucker’s “High Heel Sneakers” and a nice, extended reading of St. Louis Jimmy’s “Had My Fun” (a.k.a. “Goin’ Down Slow”).

Rogers joins Perkins and the band for an enthusiastic take on Paul Gayten’s “For You My Love,” and takes the mic for the next three songs, “Big Boss Man,” and a pair of his own tunes, “All In My Sleep” and “The Last Time.” Perkins then takes vocals on his own “When I Lost My Baby” (borrowing from Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Lost My Baby”), an entertaining version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” and the set closer, “Pine and Jimmy’s Jump,” brings this inspired set to a close.

Perkins and Rogers are both in fine form on this set. It would have been nice to hear a few more Rogers tunes, but that’s a minor quibble. Though they hadn’t always collaborated, only in the previous few years, you’d never know it by listening to these tunes. Little Mike and the Tornadoes provide excellent support, successfully capturing the sound and feel of the ’50s/early ’60s era where most of this music originated, just like they’ve always done, and continue to do today.

Fans of traditional Chicago blues owe Mike Markowitz a debt of gratitude for ensuring that Genuine Blues Legends has finally been made available. It’s a rock-solid set of blues the way they used to do them.

--- Graham Clarke

Benny TurnerBenny Turner is a 50-year vet of the music scene. He, and his legendary brother Freddie King, learned to play guitar from their mother, Ella Mae (King) Turner, and her two brothers, Leon and Leonard King. He played and recorded with the gospel group The Kindly Shepherds in the late ’50s, toured with his brother for a decade, and served as bandleader for Marva Wright for over 20 years. When She’s Gone (Nola Blue, Inc.) is Turner’s fourth album, and it includes six tracks previously released on his 1997 debut recording, Blue and Not So Blue, and four new tracks that feature Turner’s take on some blues classics.

The reissued sides include a funky duet with Wright, recorded shortly before her death, “Pity On This Lovesick Fool,” and Turner holds his own and more with the powerhouse Blues Queen of New Orleans. The gospel-flavored “I Can’t Leave” is a gently swinging opener, and the lovely “Because of You” is a tender ballad with Dr. John backing on guitar. “So Deep” is a delightful slow blues that features a bevy of background singers and the irrepressible Charles Brown (in what were some of his last recordings before his passing in 1999) manning the keys.

The mid-tempo “If I Can’t Have You” kicks with a funky backbeat and “Have You Ever Been So Lonesome” features an emotional vocal from Turner, who also plays lead bass guitar on this number, and the previously mentioned “So Deep.” The four covers are superlative. Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of two tracks which feature Bob Margolin on guitar, the other being Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby.” While neither cover ventures far from the original versions, Margolin’s fretwork and Turner’s vocals lift them well beyond the perfunctory.

The final two covers are Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright – I’ll Get Over You,” with Turner taking lead guitar duties, and a masterful version of “Black Night,” originally recorded in New Orleans (with Brown on piano) at the time of Blue and Not So Blue that was believed to have been lost during Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately for us listeners, it was able to be salvaged. “Black Night” also serves as an homage to Freddie King.

When She’s Gone is dedicated to Turner’s mother, who was such a musical influence on him and King. It also pays tribute to the others on the disc who have passed away: King, Wright, Brown, and Andy “Bluesboy” Grigg, the late publisher of Real Blues Magazine, who worked tirelessly to help promote Turner’s music. Fans of Southern blues & R&B will enjoy this excellent release.

--- Graham Clarke

Professor LouieWith Music From Hurley Mountain (Woodstock Records), the 12th release from Professor Louie & The Crowmatix, the New York ensemble takes listeners on a musical short story about a typical day on Hurley Mountain, from daybreak to the end of the day. Professor Louie plays all manner of keyboards, from piano to accordion, and shares lead vocals with Miss Marie. They are backed by drummer Gary Burke, guitarist/vocalist John Platania, bassist/vocalist Frank Campbell, lead guitarist Josh Colow, and violinist Larry Packer.

The band’s repertoire mixes blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and roots, and the album features 12 songs, including three covers. The originals are standouts, with highlights including the spirited “Ulster Outcry,” which features a fiery vocal turn from Miss Marie, the piano-driven “Ashton,” and “Crop Dustin’ Blues,” with some dandy slide guitar from Platania and Hammond organ from the Professor. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Barn” is a dazzling roof-raising rocker, but for me, the show-stopper was the stunning and soulful “Light In Your Eyes.” This song would be heard in every household and would be a bona fide hit if there was any fairness in the world at all. Professor Louie’s earnest and heartfelt vocal sell the song even more.

The cover tunes include a funky reading of Jimmy Reed’s “You Got Me Dizzy,” the glorious old school country “Family Reunion,” and the lovely “Angel Band.” The lead vocals from Miss Marie and Professor Louie are just perfect for these tunes, and they also provide wonderful harmony on the backing vocals (with Campbell). The album is bookended by instrumental interludes, the opener, “Golden Morning,” representing sunrise and the closer “Goodnight, Hurley,” signals the end of the day. Both feature the Professor’s accordion.

While not all of Music From Hurley Mountain is blues, the music featured here is steeped in the blues. It’s an excellent set of American music --- blues, gospel, and roots --- that will please any music fan who gives it a spin.

--- Graham Clarke

Blues Harp WomenSeveral years ago, Ruf Records released a two-disc set called Blues Guitar Women that showcased, and in several cases introduced, some fantastic female guitarists to blues fans. Now comes a sequel of sorts from Ruf, called Blues Harp Women, that’s the brainchild of Norman Davis, who was inspired after playing a Big Mama Thornton track on his syndicated radio show, The Midnight Flyer. Davis became curious about the number of women who played the harmonica and, after searching and finding a sizable list --- nearly 200 --- he decided to create a website, to pay tribute to them.

Soon, Blues Harp Women was in the works, featuring 31 lady harp players, the first compilation of its kind. Disc One contains a boatload of standout tracks such as “Harmonica Girl,” from New Orleans’ Paula Rangell (of Paula and the Pontiacs), Roxy Perry’s jumping “Roadmaster,” and several dandy downhome tunes, “32-20 Blues” from LynnAnn Hyde, “Down To The Hollow” by Trina Hamlin, “Ain’t Easy” from Beth Kohnen, and “Stuck On You,” from Jane Gillman.

Other tunes on Disc One include a rocking “Stop. Wait a Minute” from Tracy K, and the smoldering slow blues “One More Lie,” compliments of Teresa “T-Bird” Lynne. There’s also the sassy “Naughty Girl” from Octavia, the swampy “Heavy Water” from Stacy Jones, the West Side-styled “Why You So Mean To Me” from Kat Baloun. A pair of fiery rocker, “Mechanical Beast,” from Zola Moon and “Please Call Daddy,” by Mattie Phifer, pave the way for the somber, but powerful Disc One closer, “Sadder Than Sad,” from Australian Dorothy Jane “DJ” Gosper. The gold standard for woman harmonica players, Big Mama Thornton, is also represented with “Down Home Shakedown.”

Disc Two is highlighted by “Lookin’ Good,” an inspired live performance from one of the better-known female harp masters, Annie Raines, who is backed by her longtime musical partner, Paul Rishell, on guitar, and another instrumental, the standard “Summertime,” wonderfully delivered by Christelle Berthon. The other songs on this disc include rock-flavored tracks from Jenny Kerr (“Cash Is King”) and Judy Rudin (“Hit The Road”), urban blues numbers from Cheryl Arena (“Blues Got Me”) and Diana Redlin (“Never Leave Me Home”).

There are several diverse tunes on Disc Two, such as Big Nancy’s soul-drenched run on Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home (To Me),” and blues rockers like “Crazy Maisie” (Dana Dixon) and “He’s Gone” (the Hound Dog Taylor favorite from Marion Turner). Beata Kossawska offers the Latin-tinged “Everybody’s Dancing,” and Cecilia Loforti contributes the funky “Doctor C.” Terry Leonino’s “Meet Me Where They Play The Blues” has jazzy underpinnings, as does Maria Coyote’s quirky reworking of Lead Belly’s “Riker’s Island.” There are three tracks, Jill Fromewick’s “Take The Lead,” Jackie Merritt’ “Fast Food Mama,” and Rhonda Rucker’s “Rhonda Alla Blue,” in the acoustic country blues vein.

Blues Harp Women is an outstanding introduction to a unique group among blues artists. It’s loaded with interesting, diverse, and energetic performances and hopefully, it will provide some much-needed and much-deserved attention to all of these talented ladies.

--- Graham Clarke

Laurence Jones23-year-old British blues rocker Laurence Jones started playing guitar at age 7, eventually graduated from the Birmingham Music Academy with a degree in Music, and released his debut recording in 2012, Thunder In The Sky, which won him rave reviews and introduced him to Thomas Ruf, who signed him to his record label. In 2014, he released Temptation, produced by Mike Zito, and began touring worldwide, opening for Walter Trout, Dana Fuchs, and the Blues Caravan with Albert Castiglia. He was honored as the Young Artist of the Year at the 2014 British Blues Awards.

Jones’ latest Ruf release is What’s It Gonna Be, and the young guitarist penned nine of the eleven tracks, including the fine blues-rock title track, which opens the disc. The emphasis is on blues-rock on strong originals like “Don’t Need No Reason,” “Evil,” “Touch Your Moonlight,” “Set It Free,” and “Being Alone,” which would be a hit if there was any justice in the world. Jones also duets with singer Sandi Thom on the pop-flavored “Don’t Look Back.” Jones covers Lead Belly on “Good Morning Blues,” a crisp reading punctuated by an outstanding guitar break, and his version of the Bad Company classic “Can’t Get Enough,” sung with the amazing Dana Fuchs is one of the standout moments on the disc.

Backed by Roger Inniss (bass, co-producer), Miri Miettinen (drums), with keyboards from Julian “Mr. Jools” Grudgings and Lewis Stephens, and backing vocals from S.J. Mortimer, Laurence Jones has outdone himself with this gem of a release, showing a maturity and sureness that belies his youth. Put What’s It Gonna Be on your must-hear list, and rest assured that we’ll be hearing much more from this talented young musician for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim WilliamsTim Williams’ career dates back to the mid '60s, when he started playing coffee houses in Southern California. Now based in Canada, his prowess on a number of stringed instruments is compared to other multi-talented guitarist such as Ry Cooder and David Lindley --- fine company indeed. He’s also a gifted composer and has won numerous awards over his career, including the 2012 Guitarist of the Year by the Calgary Blues Music Association. Most recently, in 2014 he took home top honors at the International Blues Challenge in the Best Solo or Duo category, and the Best Guitarist Awards.

Williams’ latest release is So Low (LowdenProud Records), and is his first release as a solo act. He plays six- and twelve-string guitars, along with resonator and mandolin and tapping foot for percussion, with no overdubs or multitracks --- it’s just Williams’ marvelous instrumental skills and his rich vocals on ten exquisite tracks, four originals and six covers.

Williams’ songwriting talents are first-rate. “More Peppers In Your Chili” is an entertaining tune about his love of spicy foods. “Anywhere C/O The Blues” is an appreciation of the music that Williams has played for over 50 years. “Midnight After Midnight” is a gentle nod to pre-war blues in a Lonnie Johnson vein, and “Lightnin’” is a tribute to Lightnin’ Hopkins in the tradition of the Texas bluesman’s reverb-drenched Gold Star recordings.

Williams’ taste in cover tunes runs from blues legends Mose Allison (“If You Live”), Big Bill Broonzy (“My Big Money”), Blind Boy Fuller (“Pistol Snapper”), and Tampa Red (“The Witching Hour”), to “Big River” from Johnny Cash, and a lively take on the traditional “The Grizzly Bear.”

Fans of solo acoustic blues will love So Low, and it will also appeal to any blues or roots music fans who enjoy guitar played well. Now that Tim Williams has ventured forth with his first solo effort, we can only hope that it won’t be too long before he blesses us with another.

--- Graham Clarke

Hurricane RuthHurricane Ruth LaMaster wowed blues fans in 2014 with Born on the River, a rocking set that featured the fiesty vocalist with a muscular blues rocking trio. For her latest effort, the EP Winds of Change (Hurricane Ruth Publishing), LaMaster offers four of her favorite songs presented in a big band format, the sound she grew up listening to and has always loved.

The EP kicks off with a choice nugget from Pat Benatar’s early ’90s venture into blues, the jumping “I Feel Lucky,” and is followed by a sassy take on Willie Dixon’s “Built For Comfort.” It takes a brave soul to cover Percy Sledge’s anthem “When A Man Loves A Woman,” but LaMaster really pulls this one off with a tough, but tender vocal turn. Her reading of Delbert McClinton’s party classic “Going Back To Louisiana” closes the disc, and wraps things up in fine fashion.

When you’re presented with a powerhouse vocalist such as Hurricane Ruth LaMaster, four tunes really just whets your appetite, but Winds of Change will certainly satisfy until she’s ready to give us more.

--- Graham Clarke

Jefferson GrizzardJefferson Grizzard is a storyteller in the grand tradition of artists like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits. He deftly weaves his tales in a musical setting that incorporates blues, rock, country, and soul, similar to the artists cited above. His latest release, on Back Porch Syndicate Records, is Daydream of Hope, which features nine original tunes of love, loss, regret, and as the album title indicates, hope.

The opener, “Give Me A Sign,” presents a desperate man at the end of his rope looking for guidance from above. “We Were Just Kids Babe,” about a pair of star-crossed lovers, finds Grizzard’s vocals taking on a Tom Petty-like quality. Both of these songs will bring to mind the early-period story-songs of Bruce Springsteen. The somber “Adelaide” is a tale of love lost. “Lovely Señorita” is another standout, and “Sinners Like Me (Can’t Be Saved)” has a bit of a Latin tinge, along with pedal steel from Dan Dougmore and swirling keyboards from Dennis Wage.

The menacing intensity of “Fallout Frenzy” is tempered by “All That We Can Do Is Try,” an upbeat rocker encouraging us to work through the dark to find the light. “Honey You Can Treat Me Wrong” has a country flair with a clever lyrical touch. The spare and sobering title track closes the disc, featuring Grizzard’s vocal and guitar.

With Daydream of Hope, Jefferson Grizzard paints a vivid picture of life in the world today, good and bad. He’s one of the most compelling songwriters I’ve heard in a long time and his music encompasses a host of styles and is worth seeking out for fans of blues and roots.

--- Graham Clarke

Karen LovelyKaren Lovely has certainly received a lot of attention from the blues world over the past few years, including several nominations for Best Contemporary Blues Female Artists (2016 BMA’s, 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards). She’s a seven-time Muddy Award winner as Best Female Vocalist, Best New Act, Best Regional Act, and Performance of the Year, and placed second in the Band Division at the 2010 IBC.

For Lovely’s latest release, Ten Miles of Bad Road (Kokako), the talented vocalist has employed a powerhouse set of L.A.-based session artists: guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, and keyboardist Jim Pugh, along with drummer Tony Braunagel, who also serves as producer. Other contributors include guitarists Alan Mirikitani and Vyasa Dodson, sax player Joe Sublett, bassist Reggie McBride, and T-Bird harp master Kim Wilson.

The results speak for themselves. This is a marvelously well-crafted album. Lovely’s powerful vocals and the sturdy musical backing, combined with the set list, 13 tracks touching on the blues themes of heartbreak, loneliness, and longing, mostly written or co-written by Lovely, make a potent album of comtemporary blues. The opener, “Low Road,” has a funky soulful HighTone era Robert Cray feel, with longtime Cray associate Pugh’s keyboards pecolating along in the background. “Company Graveyard” is a fierce rocking blues with some sharp guitar work backing Lovely’s fiery vocals.

The moody “A Better Place” has a hypnotic Hill Country rhythm, while “Ignorance (It Ain’t Bliss)” revisits the greasy soul groove of the opening track. The, no pun intended, lovely “Cross The Water” is a standout track with Mirikitani’s guitar, Pugh’s swirling keyboards, and sweet backing vocals from Julie Delgado and Kenna Ramsey. Next is the title track, a funky rocker co-written by Alan Mirikitani and Dennis Walker that adds horns to the mix. The smoky ballad “I Want To Love You” features one of Lovely’s most poignant vocals.

The upbeat “You Stole My Heart” changes the pace somewhat, followed by a pair of tunes written by Lovely, the ballad “Always Love You,” and “Blues Valentine,” which looks at a couple’s long relationship. The album closes with the gospel-flavored “Save Me,” the parting-of-the-ways ballad “I’m Over Goodbye,” and the rowdy closer, “Frank the Spank,” which includes Wilson’s distinctive harp.

Ten Miles of Bad Road is one of the stronger sets of blues rock that I’ve heard this year, but Karen Lovely’s vocals are equally effective on the soulful ballads, which add diversity to the album. This is an album that is certain to please contemporary blues fans. Expect to see it featured prominently in the end-of-the-year awards, along with its featured artist.

--- Graham Clarke

Joyann ParkerThe Minneapolis band Sweet Tea (Mark Lamoine – guitar, David Harris – bass, Mick Zampogna – keyboards, accordion, Nick Zwack – drums) was already a mainstay on the Twin Cities blues scene, but they’ve upped the ante considerably with the addition of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Joyann Parker last summer. Now billed as Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea, they’ve released a dynamite new album, On The Rocks, that features Parker’s sassy and soulful vocals on eleven original tunes, penned by Parker and/or Lamoine.

Parker really shines on all of these tunes. Her vocal style will remind rock fans of Heart’s Ann Wilson, which is definitely not a bad thing. Shemekia Copeland’s powerhouse delivery also comes to mind on several of the tracks. She’s as good on the blues rockers (“You,” “What’s Good For You,” “What Happened To Me,” “Hit Me Like A Train,” “Go For The Money,”) as she is on the more traditional blues (“Ain’t Got Time To Cry,” “Fool For You,” “Closing Someone Else’s Blinds”) and the slow burners (“Jigsaw Heart,” “Evil Hearted,” “Either Way”).

The band shows impressive versatility on these tracks, which move from blues to jazz to rock. Their original tunes are inventive, touching on the basic blues song themes, but with a fresh approach. Of course, the fact that Ms. Parker is a force of nature behind the mic doesn’t hurt one bit.

On The Rocks is a very interesting set of blues rock and soul. Blues fans will be glad that Sweet Tea and Joyann Parker found each other. Hopefully, it is a relationship that will pay musical dividends for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Jason VivoneFor their latest release, The Avenue, Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats pay tribute to their city of residence, Kansas City. In particular, the album’s eight tracks pay homage to one of the city’s roughest and toughest neighborhoods, Independence Avenue, where Vivone and his ex-wife used to reside. The neighborhood was apparently rife with with prostitutes, drug dealers, serial killers, and judging by the tunes on this album, great source material.

As on Vivone’s previous releases, the band takes the listener through a variety of musical styles, beginning with the Diddley beat of the amusing opener, “The Vivone Song (Pronounced Viv-O-Nee),” the somber title track dedicated to all the wrong-doers of the neighborhood, the swinging “Hello Mrs. Radzinsky,” “Train Musta Jumped The Track,” a rarity in the blues these days ---a genuine train song --- and the splendid slow blues, “Calendar,” one of several tracks that features some of Vivone’s slide guitar.

“My Heart Is In The Right Place” is an extended piece that gives the band a little room to stretch out on their respective instruments, and the closer, “His Honor, The Mayor,” is an instrumental played by Vivone on his cigar box guitar, Nicotina, in honor of Kendall Kohr, the of one of the Avenue’s icons and the unofficial Mayor of the neighborhood. The album’s lone cover is a good one, a scorching remake of Jim Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” that includes a shout-out to the neighborhoods in Kansas City, both KCK and KCMO.

The Billy Bats include Ben Hoppes (banjo, backing vocals, percussion), Rick Macivor (organ, keyboards, piano, backing vocals, percussion), Joanna Berkebile (backing vocals, percussion), Paula Crawford (guitar, backing vocals, percussion), Matt Bustamante (drums, backing vocals, percussion), and Jeremy Clark (bass). Just like Vivone and the Billy Bat’s other releases, The Avenue is a ton of fun from beginning to end.

--- Graham Clarke

BerdonOn their new EP, The Voodoo Sessions: Live at Down Under (Roller Records), the Norwegian band Berdon Kirksaether & the Twang Bar Kings capture a stellar four-song set recorded at Down Under, a night club in Mjøndalen. Kirksaether is a longtime veteran of the Norwegian blues scene, best known for his work in the band CIA. The Twang Bar Kings actually includes two additional former members of CIA, drummer Roy Hanssen and bassist Stein Tumert, plus guitarist Erik Gabrielsen.

Blues rock fans will be pleased with this recording. The opener, “Mama Roll Over,” is a crunching rocker that slowly builds in intensity, and “Some Kind of Voodoo” is loaded with swampy atmosphere, thanks to the funky rhythm and reverb-drenched guitar. The band also does a great cover of Robin Trower’s “Mad House,” with some effective Hendrix/SRV-based guitar work. The final track is “When The Moon Is On The Rise,” a moody blues track that offers some pretty cool guitar effects.

Although relatively brief at 20 minutes total running time, The Voodoo Sessions: Live at Down Under packs quite a wallop. Hopefully, we will get an extended live set from Kirksaether and the band in the near future. In the meantime, this muscular set of blues rockers will do just fine.

--- Graham Clarke

I’m impressed by the way Bob Margolin doesn’t hesitate to let his music take him where it will. His new disc on VizzTone, My Road, is a look at where Bob’s life and music are today. I appreciate his willingness to be introspective, to examine the path the way it is and the way it should be. This is an interesting departure from Bob, so let’s give it a listen.

He starts out with “My Whole Life” and it reflects a look at the music that is his life and where it has taken him and where it continues to go. Tad Walters lends a mean harp solo to the mix and we’re off. “I walked out on the bandstand…picked up this old guitar…I smiled at the crowd…thousands, near and far….they applauded…they listened…not a note did they miss…and behind my shades I realized…my whole life has led up to this.” Whether it’s a festival in front of thousands or a gig at the local watering hole, all that Bob has done before has led up to this. Bob segues on to “More and More” and here we have a look through those shades of his at love. “It’s easy to hurt…an open heart…when we don’t mean it…two lovers…solving their problems together…instead of trying to win a fight…we believe in each other…more and more…and true love is in sight.”

Our next cut, “I Shall Prevail,” has a rougher tone to it and we find Bob facing the challenges of life. “I try to keep my eyes closed…but my sweet dreams fade away….and I realize I’m too mean…and harder times are near…I’ve got to face today…and the years they’ve got me here…and if I should fail…I can’t fail…I must prevail.” “Goodnight” finds Bob reminiscing about a love in his life. “I see your smile above me…while I play these Blues for you…you see my tears below…love forever’s really true…and goodbye is just not right…so I’ll just say goodnight.” I love the intricate fretwork of this tune and the simplistic style that Bob brings to the song.

We move on to “Understanding Heart” and Bob brings out the slide for his trusty Tele on this tune. “My foot tapped silently…under my desk…to the music in my head…then the teacher told a Bible story…that I’ll remember 'til I’m dead…God gave one wish to Solomon…and his wish was so smart….Solomon wished to God…for an understanding heart.” An understanding heart will get us all through many of life’s trials and Solomon was indeed smart to wish for that as a gift from God. Chuck Cotton provides a heavy drum intro to one of the few covers on Bob’s disc, Sean Costello’s “Low Life Blues”. “I used to have…plenty money…pretty girls everywhere I went…I guess I had so many dollars…that I didn’t have no sense.” Tad Walters adds a particularly poignant harp solo here as Bob realizes there’s a downside to all that prosperity and he definitely has the “Low Life Blues.”

Nappy Brown was a close friend of Bob’s and he tackles one of Nappy’s songs next with his take on “Bye Bye Baby.” Tad joins Bob on the vocals as they sing, “bye…bye…, bye..bye.” The relationship has ended, she’s moved on and Bob has realized his love for the woman in question too late to the point all he can do is say, “Bye…Bye.” I love the way Bob tells a story and he relates an opportunity he had to see a young B.B. King in “Young and Old Blues.” “It was hard to believe…a man so old….could still play and sing…that ancient man played all night long…B.B. King was 44…I shake my head and smiled about…how we look at young and old…it depends on what side you look from…and the truth can sure be cold.” Age is indeed just a number and your perspective is everything.

Bob’s been on the road, seen many things and there are times where it’s best not to ask the question about where he is or where he’s been, a topic he covers in “Ask Me No Questions.” “I burned our bridge…a long time ago…what I’ve been up to…it’s best you don’t know…your heart is broken…buy my eyes are dry…ask me no question…I’ll tell you no lies.” “Feelin’ Right Tonight” finds Bob frisky and ready to play. “Right…right tonight…I’m feeling right…ain’t nothing I won’t do…unless I want to.” Tad is blowing a mean harp and I’m impressed by the wall of sound that Bob, Chuck and Tad are able to produce behind this tune.

More slide guitar is in play as Bob tells us about the “Devil’s Daughter.” “Oh, I’ve got a fever…makes me bleed…oh, if I could see her…she’ll have the answers that I’ll need…I’m dancing with the Devil’s daughter…I should quit…but my will is gone…I’m dancing with the Devil’s daughter…Lord knows…the things I’ve done.” Bob’s slide guitar is definitely poignant and remorseful for all of the sinful things you know that he experienced at the hands of the Devil’s daughter.

Our final track, “Heaven Mississippi,” pays homage to some of Bob’s friends from the great state of Mississippi. “I know we were in Clarksdale…was it now…or way before…Muddy’s house was rocking…he led me through the door…Heaven, Mississippi…the Blues I love was there.” Be it Muddy, Koko, Hubert, Junior Wells or many more, the Blues that Bob loves was created by many of the native sons and daughters of Heaven, Mississippi.

I’ve enjoyed this new disc, My Road, from Bob Margolin. The songwriting is exquisite and producer Michael Freeman maximizes the talents of Bob, Chuck Cotton and Tad Walters to achieve the musical requirements of the songs found on this disc. Bob’s website is and you will find his tour schedule there, as well as the opportunity to grab a copy of My Road for yourself. Bob still continues to evolve as a performer and songwriter in a way that caught my ear and made me pay attention to the music he had to share on this disc. Heaven, Mississippi may be a state of mind but a lot of great music came from there and Bob was fortunate enough to experience much of it live and in person. My Road is an excellent disc.

--- Kyle Deibler

RB StoneI’m happy to have been intimately involved in the lifeline of R.B. Stone’s new record, Some Call It Freedom (some call it the blues). From listening to a rough mix on my back porch with R.B., to the pre-production mix to the final copy, it all has been an interesting journey and an educational experience. R.B. and I commiserated over more than one bowl of green chili and I’m proud to let the world know he’s releasing a kick ass record. Its part Hill Country, part Americana, with just enough Rocking Blues to spice it up the way R.B. likes it. Let’s give it a spin and hope my CD player doesn’t experience a meltdown along the way.

R.B. has a fine selection of musicians behind him on this disc: Terrance Houston on drums, Larry Van loon on B2, B3 and piano, Randy Coleman and Josh Fairman on bass, along with Tim “Too Slim” Langford lending a killer slide lick to “Weapons of Mass Persuasion” and Colorado’s own Austin Young with the lead guitar pyrotechnics on “Standin on Top of the World.” The guys all lend killer performances to the mix, starting with our first track, “Hill Country Stomp.” Here we have R.B. playing lead while telling us all about his Mississippi influences. “It’s a primal rhythm…can’t resist…starts in your feet…in your hips…head starts bobbing…it won’t stop…you’ve been bit…by the hill country stomp.” R.B. adds a blazing harp solo to this tune and we’re off and running.

R.B.’s electric guitar provides the intro for our next track, “Some Call It Freedom,” and here he explores the relationship between being poor versus being completely free versus having the blues. “If you ain’t got a woman…no woman can hurt you…if you ain’t got a woman…no woman can leave you…some call it freedom…some call it the blues.” Terrance is hitting the kick drum hard and R.B.’s fretwork is some of the best I’ve heard from him. We move on to our next cut, “35 Miles to Mobile,” and here we have R.B. leaving Memphis to hook up with his sweetheart in Alabama. “I got a little Bama sweet thing…who treats me like a king…I may not be Elvis…but tonight he’ll want to be me…35 miles to Mobile…don’t want to be late.” With the urgency of the drums in the background, I’m thinking R.B. has the pedal to the metal and I know for a fact he won’t be late.

“Mind Your Bizzness” is the next track on R.B.’s disc and here we find him more than willing to live and let live. “Keep your spoon out of my Kool Aid...sip some tea…in your own shade…mind your bizzness…I’ll mind mine…and we’re going to along just fine.” The advice applies to everything from what you’re drinking to the woman in your life…”mind your bizzness….I’ll mind mine…and we’ll get along just fine.” Women in general are a vice of R.B.’s and he’s on the other end of it in “YoYo Lover.” “You talk trash…then say I’m great….not sure how much I can take…is it me…or do you want another…just tell me…my yoyo lover.” She sounds like a handful and I’d let this one be if I was R.B.. R.B. picks up one of his cigar box guitars for the tune, “Another Thief”, and I like the reverb in the audio mix. “I ain’t trying to be somebody…so desperately…you ain’t nothing but another thief to me.” We can’t get along with everybody and R.B. is definitely not connecting with the person in our discussion here.

Up next is an instrumental, “Nickajack,” and R.B.’s back at it with another one of his cigar box guitars. The Hill country vibe is infectious and about 30 minutes of this track would make the perfect work-out track for my next visit to the gym. More rocking guitar continues with the track, “You Don’t Want Me”, and here we find R.B. unlucky in love this time. “I’m crazy about you, baby…you don’t want me.” It doesn’t happen often but R.B. didn’t get lucky this time. R.B.’s got a great sense of humor and we hear this in our next cut, “Won’t Stop Rockin.” “The day I was born…the doctor slapped my ?...I said I won’t stop rocking’…and I slapped him back…it’s in my soul…it’s out of control…I won’t stop rocking that rock and roll.” An interesting twist on an old tune, this child is definitely a rock and roller.

“Weapons of Mass Persuasion” is by far my favorite tune on R.B.’s new disc, and I appreciate his perspective on the female collective. “Silky black hair…seductive stare…long, sexy legs…a Penthouse pair…pearly white teeth...when she says please…she breaks down defenses…of every man she meets…it’s so hard to resist her…weapons of mass persuasion.” Between Tim Langford’s killer slide guitar and R.B.’s harp, along with some clever lyrics…this tune is just bad to the bone and I like it.

R.B’s back with his harp for the final track with Austin Young handling the lead guitar duties on “Standin’ on Top of the World.” “I’m about to pinch myself…could this be a dream…the way she hugs on me…beats anything I’ve seen…she’s got a heart of gold…fit only for a king….why she ever gave it to me…is still a mystery…I’m standing on top…of the world.” She sounds like a helluva woman to me and I’d keep this one R.B. if I was you.

Kudos to R.B. Stone and his cast of merry men for creating one fine disc for us to listen to. Stellar musicianship, great songwriting, and clever lyrics all come together to make this a disc definitely worth throwing in your CD player. R.B. is one of the hardest working folks I know, so catch up with him on his website, and grab a copy of Some Call it Freedom (some call it the blues), and play it loud at your next party. You’ll thank me later.

--- Kyle Deibler

Rex PeoplesOne of the sweetest voices here in Colorado belongs to vocalist Rex Peoples. I first met Rex as part of African Wind when they performed at an acoustic festival the Phoenix Blues Society produced back in 2006, so Rex and I go way back. He and his amazing band, X Factr, just got back from Memphis, representing the Colorado Blues Society at the IBC, and they were able to record a killer record, Fried Food / Hard Liquor, in time for the big event. It’s smooth as silk so let’s give it a spin.

X Factr consists of Jim DeSchamp on guitar, Carleton Pike on drums, Dan Haynes on keyboards and Bob Tiger on Bass. They all contribute background vocals as well and the disc starts off with the gospel-tinged “Lord Willing.” As Rex tells us on this first cut, “Lord willing…and the Creek don’t rise…I will survive.” Rex has had numerous health issues to overcome and he’s right to give the Lord credit for surviving all that he’s been through. His love of our favorite genre is explored next in “I Love the Blues.” “I love the blues…it makes me feel good…when I lose…down in the Delta…nobody knew how far it would go…from out of the cotton fields…to sweet home Chicago.” The Blues is indeed everywhere and Rex & X Factr bring that point home with this track.

Dan’s keyboards provide the intro to our next tune, “Field Hand Blues.” “In the fields of Mississippi….working long and hard…in the sun….through blood, sweat and tears...the music was born…I hear the Master calling me home.” Rex pays homage to his Delta roots with this tune and it’s clear the Blues run deep within his DNA. We move on to “All Day Blues” with Dan and Jim providing the intro for the ballad that Rex brings to us next. “The Blues don’t mean something’s wrong…no, the Blues don’t bring me down…they just tell the truth…what’s going down…everybody gets the Blues.” We all get the Blues and the reasons why we do vary from individual to individual, but Rex is right, “everybody gets the Blues.”

The title track, “Fried Food / Hard Liquor”, is next and both can be found in the Delta in great quantities. An homage to the jukes of old, let’s let Rex tell the story, “Somewhere in the middle of nowhere…stood a tiny wooden shack…Christmas tree lights…hung year round…with a wood stove in the back…we’re serving fried food, hard liquor…playing them Blues.” Jim’s guitar solo brings us the desperate feel of the lonely jukes on forgotten roads in the South and this is my favorite tune of the disc so far. “Making Bad Look Good” is the next tune the band tackles and I appreciate the musicianship of X Factr as Rex spins us another tall tale. “Body aches all over…from your head to your feet…another day of trial…promote the new CD…fingers on the keyboard…foot pounding on the wood…people screaming ‘hell yeah”…ooh, he sounds good…you got a strange….strange way of making bad look good.” The life of a musician isn’t an easy one by any means but Rex and X Factr are making it look good.

“Trouble Man” is the next track the band tackles and here Rex lets us know that not all men are good in this world. “Oh trouble man…you’re going to die along…you know that you’ve been doing wrong.” Life has a way of balancing everything out and the sins of a ‘trouble man’ will catch up with him eventually. Now Rex has been known to sweet talk the women with the best of us but none of us are perfect and he covers that topic here in “Talkin’ with My Baby.” “Talking with my baby…somewhere…around evening time…I must have said something wrong…cause she was long gone…before the sun went down.” Rex doesn’t know what he said was wrong and he’s definitely not sure that she was right. In either case she’s gone and that’s all there is to it.

Our next tune, “Lover,” is the most up tempo song on our disc and Rex is definitely happy here. “She’s everything to me…she, brings out the best in me…I love her faithfully…she’s all I’ll ever need.” It’s always great to hear a good man has found a good woman to share his life with and Rex’s joy evident here. Our final cut, “I Wanna Know,” finds Rex questioning the woman in his life. “I can’t sleep at night…cause, I worry…I can’t sleep at night, cause I still care….if you love me girl, you need to show it…cause you treat me, like I’m not here.” Hopefully all turns out well for Rex in this cause and you can’t blame him for wanting to know the truth in his life.

Fried Food / Hard Liquor is a disc of all original tunes written by Rex and the disc was recorded live with most of the tunes in the can with one take. It’s a testament to Rex and X Factr that they were able to capture this gem of a record as quickly and smoothly as they did. There was a lot of buzz on Beale in Memphis about this Colorado band, and their semi-final set at B.B. Kings will be in my memory banks for a long time to come.

--- Kyle Deibler

Barry LevensonBarry Levenson is a masterful guitarist. The Visit (Rip Cat) is a masterful recording. Primarily comprised of original material and primarily instrumental, it is one of the most impressive guitar albums to come down that proverbial pike in a long while.

The liners indicate that he wanted to pay tribute to some heroes, and the tunes that pay homage to Albert King, Otis Rush, Bobby Bland and Lightnin’ Slim are, indeed, brilliantly performed. The original "Steel City" is reminiscent of Kenny Burrell’s classic recordings of the '50s and '60s. Mike Thompson’s big B-3 adds color and the rhythm team of drummer Mike Sandberg and bassist Hank Van Sickle sets a nice groove.

The guitar work is sinewy and sharp. On "I Wonder Why" the essence of Otis Rush is in the house. The guitar lines are dead on, echoing but not replicating the master. "Ice Cold Kiss" features Levenson on vocals. Ditto the rhythmic "It’s Mighty Crazy" and "Talking To Myself" and the gorgeously jazzy "Shadows At Midnight."

The vocal mastery of Billy Price is heard on "This Time I’m Gone For Good" and on Albert King’s "You’re Gonna Need Me." In both cases Price is impressive. Phil Krazak is credited with “horns.” Again, Thompson’s keyboards are impressive and Levenson’s guitar work is stunning.

Barry Levenson deserves a larger audience. This guy is a monster.

--- Mark E. Gallo

John Mayall82-year-old John Mayall sounds like a much younger man on Find A Way To Care (Forty Below Records). His voice is crystal clear and his keyboard work is creative and engaging. The song selection is about half classics and half original and 100% gripping.

"Mother In Law Blues" (Don Robey), "The River’s Invitation" (Percy Mayfield), "I Feel So Bad" (Lightnin’ Hopkins), "Long Distance Call" (Muddy), and "Driftin’ Blues" (Charles Brown) share space with Mayall’s own compositions that sound just as road tested.

The master is joined by guitarist Rocky Athas, who’s just as sizzling as you’d expect, given that long history of Mayall guitarists, bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport. In the 63 album galaxy of John Mayall work, this one ranks a strong B+.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Hyde and SeekThis treat of a recording, Hyde and Seek (HAS Records), comes from some of the cream of the San Diego blues scene. Vocalist Earl Thomas and pianist/vocalist Lady Bianca are joined by Rev. Paul Smith on the mighty B3, the great Ron Thompson on guitar on "Shake A Hand," Winfred Williams, drums, Oshmin Oden, bass, and Neil Barnes on harmonica.

Nine songs, including a pair from the pen of Allen Toussaint, give this charm and pizzaz. Opening with a soulful "Don’t Let The Devil Ride," Thomas sings “if you let him drive your car/you know you’ll go too far,” and Barnes is especially impressive. "Heart Like A Locomotive" is given an exceptionally bluesy treatment with superb B3, harp and drums (“I know I’m not singing about nothing new”).

"A Song For Jill," which is a reworking of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," with Lady Bianca and Earl Thomas sharing vocals, is deeply soulful, and their version of "Shake A Hand" is true to the original. "Rough Side of the Mountain" is gospel at its most riveting.

Earl Thomas has always been this close to breaking through and Lady Bianca is his equal. Paul Smith and Neil Barnes are decidedly as important as the singers and the rhythm team is rock steady. If you find yourself in Southern California, do stop in to catch these stellar musicians.

--- Mark E. Gallo



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