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February 2018

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Order these featured CDs today:

Popa Chubby


Erin Harpe

Casey Hensley

Bobby Kyle

Dave Keyes

Kevin Breit

Davide Pannozzo

Andy Gunn

Zoe Schwarz

Danny Bryant

Gerry Jablonski

Vance Kelly


Popa Chubby
Popa Chubby
’s latest effort, Two Dogs (Popa Chubby Productions), finds the Bronx-based blues rocker plying his usual trade, but also expanding into a few other genres while keeping things close to his blues and rock roots. Don’t let that scare away any of his longtime fans, because there’s still plenty of that great guitar work and his frank reflections on modern times haven’t gone away either. Chubby’s new release includes 11 new studio tracks plus a pair of live tracks that fans will love.

The opener, “It’s Alright,” has a catchy, retro feel that mixes soul, rock, and pop and a track one could easily have imagined hearing on the radio back in the ’70s. Longtime Chubby compatriot Dave Keyes makes his presence felt on this track, as well as numerous others, with his keyboard wizardry. The churning boogie of “Rescue Me” melds ZZ Top and Chuck Berry, and the funky (and funny) “Preexisting Conditions” adds horns to the mix. The somber narrative “Sam Lay’s Pistol” is a tribute of sorts to the late drummer, and also a moment for Chubby’s drummer, Sam “Freighttrain” Bryant, in the spotlight.

The title track stays in the funk mode. It’s an ominous tale of the opposing sides we each battle and our struggle to choose which “dog” we feed. “Dirty Old Blues” is a really cool upbeat track that will put a spring in your step, and “Shakedown” has a driving rhythm laced with wah wah guitar. The ballad “Wound Up Getting High” is a marked change of pace with Chubby’s acoustic guitar and Key’s gentle accompaniment on piano. Chubby does a fine job on vocals here as well.

The instrumental “Cayophus Dupree” is marvelous, with a strong Memphis vibe, thanks to Keyes’ stellar keyboards and Chubby’s muscular riffs. The defiant “Me Won’t Back Down” has a swampy southern soul vibe with a hint of Memphis and New Orleans thrown into the gumbo. The final studio track is “Chubby’s Boogie,” which has a hint of southern rock in its twin lead guitar attack and Keyes’ driving piano.

The closing “Bonus” tracks are a pair of live covers. First up is an urgent take on the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil,” with Chubby turning in an appropriately intense vocal, followed by an exquisite, nearly ten-minute read on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that features Chubby on vocals and acoustic guitar with Keyes on piano.

Most longtime fans of Popa Chubby knows that there’s much more to the man than the blues. Two Dogs gives both fans and newcomers a broader musical picture of this engaging artist’s talents and tastes, which makes for entertaining and rewarding listening.

--- Graham Clarke

DownchildSince 1969, the Canadian blues band Downchild has been making some mighty fine music, winning famous and not-so-famous fans along the way (Belushi and Ackroyd were huge fans and were inspired enough to include two of their songs on their Briefcase Full of Blues album in 1978). Though band members have come and gone over the years, the current edition has remained intact for 20 years, with founding member Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh still manning harmonica and guitar duties.

Downchild’s 18th album, Something I’ve Done (Linus Entertainment) proves that after nearly 50 years, there’s still no hitch in the band’s giddy-up. Truly a collaborative effort, eight of the ten tracks were written by five of the members. Singer/harmonica player Chuck Jackson penned the swinging, horn-driven opener “Albany, Albany” and the down-home boogie romp “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man.”

Bass player Gary Kendall also contributed two songs --- the standout soul burner “Take A Piece Of My Heart” and the cool rocker “Mailbox Money” --- while drummer Mike Fitzpatrick penned the funky “Into The Fire” and keyboardist Michael Fonfara wrote the boisterous title track. Walsh also gets into the action with the brisk instrumental shuffle, “Evelyn,” that wraps up the disc. Former Downchild member John Witmer passed away in 2004, but the band covers his previously unrecorded “She Thinks I Do” in tribute, and the band’s excellent cover of David Vest’s “Worried About The World” is an appropriate choice.

Just doing their part to help keep the blues alive, Downchild sounds like they’re prepared to kick off their second half-century of playing the music with a bang. Something I’ve Done is highly recommended listening for blues fans old and new.

--- Graham Clarke

Erin HawpeFor their second VizzTone release, Big Road, Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers headed to the studio hot on the heels of a three-week tour scheduled around the 2017 I.B.C. (where they advanced to the semi-finals). The band’s intent was to capture their sound by playing live in a room together. It’s obvious that this was a wise move because the disc is loaded with energetic and enthusiastic performances by the charismatic Harpe (vocals, guitar, washboard, percussion) and the band (Jim Countryman – bass, Matt “Charles” Prozialeck – harmonica, and Kendal Divoll – drums, percussion).

Big Road features ten tracks, four originals and six covers. The covers are an interesting bunch, nearly all of which are electrified updates of vintage Mississippi blues tracks from Mississippi Fred McDowell (a slide-drenched “Kokomo”), Tommy Johnson (the fun and funky title track), and a pair of excellent acoustic tunes from Mississippi John Hurt (“Frankie” and “Casey Jones”). The band also takes on Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips,” and positively dare you to stand still while listening. Randy Newman’s “Guilty” is also given an acoustic treatment, with Harpe solo on guitar turning in a powerful vocal.

The originals fit seamlessly with the classics. “Lonely Leavin’ Town” is a stripped-down, relaxed blues that sounds like it’s been around forever and it grooves along at a leisurely pace. “Voodoo Blues” has a rockabilly beat and adds Michael Casavant on accordion (he also plays organ on two other tracks), and the fast-paced shuffle “Stop & Listen” should get bodies in motion. The last original is the blues/funk workout “Gimme That,” originally recorded by Harpe and Journeyman in their old band, Lovewhip.

Harpe is a talented, versatile singer and guitarist and the Delta Swingers can really rock the house. Big Road is a superb showcase of their talents and serves as a strong incentive to check this band out in person if they come to your area.

--- Graham Clarke

Casey Hensley25-year-old Casey Hensley has a voice that you can feel down to your toes. She grew up listening to a wide range of performers: Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Gregg Allman, Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, and others. All of these varied talents figure into her vocal style. VizzTone Records just released a burning hot session, Live, recorded live at Thunderbird Analog Recording Studio in Oceanside, California that features the singer in good company with drummer Evan Caleb Yearsley, bassist Marcos C, saxophonist Johnny Viau, and guitarist extraordinaire Laura Chavez.

The set includes 11 songs, with eight covers tailor-made for Hensley’s powerhouse vocals. A pair of Big Mama Thornton classics, the sassy “Big Mama’s Coming Home” and a smoldering nine-minute take of “Ball and Chain,” serve as bookends to this smoking session. Hensley and Chavez both have some incredible moments in the closer. Hensley’s own “Put Your Lovin’ Where It Belongs” is another slow burner that she really digs into, and the cover of “You Can Have My Husband,” originally recorded by the great Irma Thomas, is given a great treatment here, with hot fretwork from Chavez and cool audience participation involved.

Hensley does a marvelous job on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Spell On You,” which also features a monster solo from sax man Viau, and rocks the house down with help from Chavez on “Hard Headed Woman,” from Elvis’ late ’50s King Creole flick. The ballad “Don’t Want It To Stop” was written by Hensley and is a real keeper thanks to her vocal dynamics. There’s also a swinging mid-tempo read of the Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters standard “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” with a nice vintage-style solo from Chavez, whose guitar work also really perks up the Hensley rocker, “Hot! Hot! Hot!”

Koko Taylor’s funky “Voodoo Woman” is a nice fit for Hensley too, as both ladies have that distinctive growl that will produce goose bumps, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Too Tired” proves to be a nice vehicle for both Hensley and Chavez, while the aforementioned “Ball and Chain” closes out proceedings.

Live is a superlative showcase for Casey Hensley’s talents. The young singer is off to a great start and has a bright future ahead of her.

--- Graham Clarke

Bobby KyleBobby Kyle has complied a pretty impressive résumé over his 40-year career, learning the trade from Lonnie Mack beginning in the late ’70s, later serving as a band member in Bill Dicey’s band for a few years before joining up with Eddie Kirkland in the mid ’80s, and spending most of the ’90s with Johnny “Clyde” Copeland. Since Copeland’s death in 1997, Kyle has focused on a solo career, developing into a well-respected singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer and leading his band, The Administers (Joel Perry – electric/acoustic guitars, Everett Boyd – electric/upright bass, Marc Copell – drums/percussion).

Kyle’s latest release is It’s My Life (Juicy Baby Records), a 12-song set evenly split between original Kyle compositions and well-chosen covers. Kyle, who also produced, and The Administers are joined on several tracks by guests Joey Simon (harmonica), Dave Keyes (piano, organ, wurlitzer, accordion), Fred Scribner (nylon string guitar), Laron Land (tenor/soprano saxophones), Alex Harding (baritone saxophone), James Smith (trumpet), and Little Sammy Davis (harmonica).

It’s My Life is a well-rounded set, beginning with Kyle’s funky take on former boss Copeland’s “Daily Bread,” followed by his wonderful original, “Lost And Found,” highlighted by Land’s soprano sax, and “Driftwood,” a tasty slice of Americana with accordion from Keyes. The title track is a soulful testimony where Kyle declares that he’s right where he wants to be with his life, and the slow burner “Highway Man” continues in that vein, borrowing a bit of its melody from O.V. Wright’s “Born All Over” (which was written and covered by the aforementioned Mr. Copeland), and “I Won’t Be Home Tonight” is a fine mid-tempo R&B tune.

“Blood From A Stone” is another soul number that gives that fabulous horn section a little elbow room. Kyle teams with Davis on harmonica and Scribner on guitar for a down-home reading of Lonnie Johnson’s classic “Tomorrow Night,” then stays in down-home mode for an acoustic take on Eddie Kirkland’s “I’ve Got My Bloodshot Eyes On You,” this time with harmonica backing from Simon. “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In,” from the late Denise LaSalle, gets a typically rousing treatment, and the recently departed Philly Soul legend Bunny Sigler’s “Tripping Out” gets a smooth R&B treatment, and Kyle closes the disc solo, accompanying himself on resonator guitar for a dandy version of Robert Lockwood Jr.’s “Little Boy Blue.”

Kyle is a strong and versatile guitarist and he easily handles vocals on the smooth soul numbers as well as the gritty blues tracks. He gets fantastic support from The Administers and all of the guest artists. It’s My Life is an exceptional release from Bobby Kyle, who hopefully will find his way back into the studio very soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave KeyesDave Keyes was the recipient of the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award during the 2014 BMAs, and his band won the Band Category of the International Blues Challenge in 2000. He’s a veteran of multiple festival appearances both in the U.S. and abroad, and in addition to his own career as a bandleader and solo act, he plays regularly with a host of blues artists, including Popa Chubby, Ronnie Spector, Slam Allen, and Alexis P. Suter. He also finds enough spare time to make excellent recordings, such as The Healing, his sixth and most recent album.

The Healing has nine Keyes originals, plus a pair of well-done covers. Keyes is joined by several of his colleagues. Popa Chubby plays guitar on several tracks, Suter contributes vocals as part of The Ministers of Sound on about half the tracks, and Shemekia Copeland guitarist Arthur Neilson, harmonica ace Rob Paparozzi, and Memphis chanteuse Vanesse Thomas also lend Keyes a hand on selected tunes.

The Keyes originals vary in style, going from the opening shuffle “Change,” to the Stax-esque soul of “Dance In The Dark,” to the irresistible Bo Diddley beat of “No So Nice Anymore.” Ms. Thomas duets with Keyes on the fine mid-tempo R&B original “Ain’t Looking For Love.” Keyes does a great job on the endearing ballad “Come To Me,” and goes to church on the inspiring “Faith Grace Love and Forgiveness with soaring choral backing from The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir.

Keyes also offers a cool swinging instrumental in “Blues for Stefan,” a slow burning blues ballad, “Take You Back” (one of several tracks that feature The Ministers of Sound’s backing vocals), and the Crescent City-flavored closer “Box of Blues.” Keyes covers Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues,” transforming it into a piano-driven blues (though Chubby gets a few nice moments on guitar as well), and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s rousing “Strange Things Happening,” where he and the Ministers engage in some entertaining call-and-response.

The Healing is a diverse set of energetic blues and soul tunes from one of the busiest guys in the blues world these days. Listeners should be glad he took some time to bless us with this engaging and entertaining recording.

--- Graham Clarke

Kevin BreitCanadian guitarist Kevin Breit has worked a host of artists (including Norah Jones, Taj Mahal, Rosanne Cash, k.d. land, Cassandra Wilson, and Hugh Laurie) spanning several genres (blues, country, jazz, roots, etc.). He’s recorded with several artists over the years and has also released a number of his own albums. In 2011, he and another guitarist of note, Harry Manx, released the stunning Strictly Whatever (reviewed in the June 2011 issue of Blues Bytes), an incredibly diverse album that touched on the above genres, but remained firmly rooted in the blues.

For his latest project, Breit has compiled a wonderfully creative and entertaining all-instrumental album called Johnny Goldtooth and The Chevy Casanovas (Stony Plain Records). The guitarist plays about 90% of the instruments on this set: guitar, upright bass, organ, melodica, vibraphone, percussion, and bass clarinet, along with the occasional vocal aside. He’s backed on a couple of tracks by guest musicians (Michael Ward-Bergeman – accordion, Russell Boswell – upright bass, Gary Diggins – trumpet, and Vincent Henry – saxes/flutes).

“Chevy Casanova” opens the disc, a horn-fueled stroll into ’50s urban R&B territory, while “C’mon, Let Go” combines surf and twang. “I Got ‘Em Too” is a rockabilly romp, and the upbeat “The Knee High Fizzle” and the mellow “Cozy With Rosy” lean toward pay tribute to Duane Eddy’s twangy guitar. The zesty “Zing Zang Song” has a movie soundtrack quality, not the only track that does on this collection for sure (see also “A Horse By Another Stripe” and “Dr. Lee Van Cleef, both of which would fit perfectly in the spaghetti western of your choice). As you might figure, “The Goldtooth Shuffle” is a crisp Texas-styled shuffle, and “One Mo Bo” is a funky salute to the great Bo Diddley.

Obviously, Breit had a ball putting this project together and it’s a lot of fun to listen to. There’s plenty of good music here for fans with an eclectic ear that don’t take themselves too seriously. If you don’t have a smile on your face while listening to Johnny Goldtooth and The Chevy Casanovas, seek counseling immediately.

--- Graham Clarke

Davide PannozzoDavide Pannozzo is an Italian blues guitarist who advanced to the semifinals at the I.B.C. last year. His guitar style is very distinctive, but one can detect the influences of guitar legends such as Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, Knopfler, and others. He has a pleasing vocal style as well, and his recent release, Unconditional Love, is a mix of blues and rock with a few traces of pop thrown in for good measure. The disc features ten tracks, eight written or co-written by Pannozzo, and was produced by a pair of Grammy winners in drummer Steve Jordan (four tracks) and bassist Will Lee (six tracks).

The opening track is “Six Wires,” a funky blues rocker, followed by the reggae-tinged message of inspiration “Living, Loving & Giving.” “I Heard You” is a smooth rock ballad about rediscovering love. “Bring Me To The Light” has a gentle, Americana vibe to it, plus splendid slide guitar from Pannozzo, while the catchy “One & Only” has a strong ’70s-era pop radio feel to it. “Chasing Illusions” is a slick modern take on the Delta blues.

The latter part of the set includes a dandy cover of George Harrison’s “Wah Wah,” that Pannozzo uses as a base, but builds upon impressively with his guitar work. The disc closes with three instrumental tracks, two of which are Pannozzo originals. “The Purest Thing” easily blends blues and jazz. Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” features fluid fretwork from Pannozzo and monstrous backing from Lee and drummer Shawn Pelton, and the gentle jazz of “Lord Knows What’s In My Heart” brings this interesting release to an idyllic conclusion.

Unconditional Love is a fine release from Davide Pannozzo that should appeal equally to fans of several musical genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Andy GunnFrom start to finish, Scottish singer/songwriter and guitarist Andy Gunn‘s ‘live in the studio’ album, Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now, is down-home blues rooted in personal tragedies balanced by celebrations of recovery and salvation. As a teenager, Andy found fame in 1993 with Virgin’s Pointblank release of the sensational debut CD, Shades Of Blue, and a tour of Memphis with his band Jumpin’ The Gunn. It is hard to believe that a quarter of a century has elapsed since those heady days during which Andy has suffered from significant periods of darkness as he battled with ill health and adversity. It says everything about the character of the man that Gunn has emerged triumphantly and matured into one of the most original and inspirational UK bluesmen of his generation.

“Misery Blues” sets the mood which is firmly within the authentic blues of the American masters from Robert Johnson to John Lee Hooker but with the added dimension of Andy May’s brilliantly atmospheric keys. It is Spider MacKenzie’s turn to take a bow on the jaunty “Let You Go” his stunning harp complementing Gunn’s powerful vocals and intricate guitar work.

“Sorry Mess Blues” is exactly what the title suggests, the anguish screaming from every instrument, the pain in Andy’s voice almost unbearable. Optimism returns with the balladic “Back On Song” the falsetto tones blending into Liz Jones’ beautiful, heartfelt backing vocals. The sumptuous harmonies continue on “Mississippi Ground”’ underpinned by tasteful, restrained guitar. “Battlefield Blues” starts with trademark slide followed by neat interplay between vocals and harmonica which captivates the listener.

“Eidyn Shuffle” is a welcome instrumental interlude with guitars, keys and harp jamming center stage and highlighting the versatility of each instrument. Gunn’s clipped vocal conversational style is effective on “Help You Along,” on which he proves to be a consummate storyteller. Songs like “Suffering Man’s Blues”’ can only be delivered with emotional depth and sincerity when the singer has plummeted to the depths of despair in his own life, and here we have Andy bearing his soul and exposing his vulnerability. By contrast, the foot tapping, guitar sliding, keyboard funking “Warm Heart Blue” eases the tension and typifies the ups and downs of the blues from tears to laughter.

The tempo and temperature rise with the autobiographical title track tracing Gunn’s blues influences and packaging them within a high octane rockfest which fires up the entire band to a show-stopping crescendo courtesy of the pulsating rhythm of bassist Al James and drummer Jim Walker.

One more surprise is in store with the country-and-western tinged “Going Home Again,” its appropriately rousing, anthemic finale symbolizing where Andy Gunn is today --- at peace with himself and the world, his career back on track and looking to the future.

--- Dave Scott

Zoe SchwarzRarely does an album title communicate what is actually on the disc but Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion achieves this on The Blues And I Should Have A Party, a shindig from start to finish and the ultimate blues celebration by four brilliant musicians at the top of their game.

“Please Don’t Cheat On Me” is a dynamic, catchy opener reflecting the party spirit, although Zoë’s edgy tone suggests more of a threat than a request, the searing guitar and organ solos providing this affirmation. The next indication that this is going to be a very special album comes with the title track, a slow burning ballad sung with gusto and interspersed with some of the best blues guitar you are likely to hear this year. Rob has been described at various times as subtle and intricate, his blues virtuosity somewhat understated, but this is 100% finger blurring fretwork, ‘eat-your–heart-out’ Bonamassa. Indeed, the whole album proves that Koral is as talented, dynamic and versatile as the best in the business.

“You’ve Changed” is similarly balladic and a vocal tour de force with its series of crescendos, contrasts of light and shade, magnificently and seamlessly arranged. The tempo and temperature rise with “Way Down In The Caves,” Pete Feenstra’s mysterious, atmospheric lyrical tribute to the 1960s enhanced by enigmatic vocals, haunting Les Paul guitar, mesmeric drumming and sumptuous Hammond organ. “Don’t Worry Blues” is as authentic as Ma Rainey, Billie Holliday and Bessie Smith in their prime, proving that not only is Zoë a contender for queen of the genre but also has the band to complement her status. “Shout” with its compelling drumbeat, jagged guitar fills and hurdy gurdy flavored middle section, courtesy of Pete Whittaker’s Wurlitzer, is refreshingly inventive.

“You Don’t Live Here Anymore” is best savored for its emotive lyrics delivered with trademark aplomb. Gems like this typify the exceptionally high caliber of all 13 original Schwarz-Koral compositions and set the band apart from others on the current scene. “My Handsome Man” brings a witty and lighthearted side to the proceedings whilst the jaunty “Tell Me” is sung in that natural conversational style which engages the listener. “Don’t Hold Back” is the perfect platform for Zoë’ s incredible vocal range and Rob’s sophisticated, measured guitar work. So catchy yet poignant is “The Memory Of You” that it could be a hit single, the band’s chameleon qualities coming to the fore. Feenstra takes another bow, having penned the lyrics for “Time Waits For No One”, his poetry a perfect fit.

It may be a “Thank You” from Rob and Zoë and a final flourish from drummer par excellence Paul Robinson to end this particular party, but for Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion the real party is just beginning.

--- Dave Scott

Danny BryantTo describe Hertfordshire-born Danny Bryant as an English national treasure is an understatement given his considerable achievements as a professional musician over the past 20 years, progressing from the UK pub scene to international stages. Mentored by Walter Trout whose band he was chosen to front while the American legend recovered from a liver transplant, Danny has toured relentlessly, recorded a succession of critically acclaimed albums, formed a seriously good big band and pushed the blues boundaries. An independent record label released his early CDs with the Red Eye Band when Bryant senior was bass player in the power trio. Danny signed up with Jazzhaus Records in 2011 and Revelation is his fourth studio album for the German-based label.

Revelation is both inspired by, and a tribute to, the recent death of Danny’s dad Ken following a long illness. The title track sets the scene with a beautiful piano introduction preceding Danny’s anguished vocals revealing depression and despair but also pursuing hope and salvation, a spiritual “Revelation” heightened by David Maddison’s sympathetic trumpet interludes. The balladic “Isolate,” its layered crescendos of searing guitar riffs underpinned by Raeburn’s spectacular drumming leads seamlessly into “Liars Testament” which develops the vibe into a Deep Purple-esque rock anthem.

The acoustic rural Americana-inflected “Someday The Rains Will Fail,” written by John Mellencamp, one of only two tracks not penned by Bryant, provides a timely contrast. “Truth Or Dare” is high energy rocking blues featuring the full band including a dynamic four-piece brass section. The emotionally laden, tear-jerking, heart-piercing and intensely personal “Shouting At The Moon” chronicles the last night spent together by father and son. It is typical of Danny that he wants the listener to share, indeed enjoy, this moment of intimacy.

Next up is the enigmatic and disturbing “Sister Decline,” a mesmeric haunting song about temptation and addiction, the mood enhanced by tasteful and atmospheric guitar work. The Howlin’ Wolf classic, “May I Have A Talk With You “was recorded live in the studio and takes Bryant right back to his blues roots.

The album ends with the slow burning, “Yours For A Song,” an apt finale to Danny’s gutsy, driving, honest performance. It also showcases the creative and dynamic contributions of drummer Dave Raeburn, bassist Alex Phillips and keyboard player, Richard Hammerton the alchemist who also produced, engineered and mixed this entire masterpiece.

Blues supremo Bryant proves with this ground breaking album that long-term he has the credentials to leave a legacy for the British blues, comparable to B.B. King and Buddy Guy in the United States and beyond.

--- Dave Scott

Gerry JablonskiDouble A-sided singles would not normally sit naturally alongside full album reviews but Heavy Water by Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band is the exception because of the title track’s intrinsic merits as an inspirational piece of music. Jablonski wrote it after witnessing devastating floods in his native Scotland which clearly had a profound emotional impact upon him.

Gerry’s spoken introduction is pure poetry and sets the scene for the unfolding tragedy, the complementary quiet, intricate guitar and harmonica suddenly shattered by anguish and fear as the vocals explode into full scale panic. The haunting, wailing harp of Peter Narojczyk intensifies the tragedy whilst the pulsating bass and drums add to the drama by conveying the full horror of floods as they reach their peak in a crescendo of albeit controlled noise and confusion expertly choreographed. The American Grammy Award winning musician and producer, Stacy Parrish, invited the band to Sweden to record the single after being impressed with their sound and raw energy during a gig in London, and what a great call he made.

Parrish works his magic equally well on “Soul Sister,” the driving rhythm and blues tribute to the 1960s soul icons. Dynamic drummer Lewis Fraser and dexterous bassist Grigor Leslie provide the perfect platform for Gerry and Pete’s innovative instrumental interludes. Once again Parrish brings the production skills honed on Jimmy Page and Alison Krauss to the benefit of the Scottish crew to make this a short but perfectly memorable experience.

--- Dave Scott

Vance KellyChicago blues veteran Vance Kelly has been on the Chicago scene for more than 40 years, including a stint as the guitarist for saxophonist A.C. Reed during the late '80s, with pretty much all of his solo recordings coming on the Austrian label Wolf Records. Kelly is noted for his ability to suit his live shows to the tastes of his particular audience, and he shows that versatility on his latest, How Can I Miss You, When You Won't Leave (Wolf), recorded in Chicago in 2017.

The album starts out in more of a straight Chicago blues sound, mixing in gospel and soul overtones, before becoming bold and brassy on the later cuts. While it's interesting to see how much musical territory Kelly can cover, perhaps it would have been better not to go in so many different directions and instead make a more cohesive set of 14 songs.

Among the better numbers in the first half of the disc are "Get Home To My Baby," a slow blues with solid guitar from Kelly and effective horn accompaniment from sax players Gary Salomon and Charles Kimble and trombonist Johnny Cotton. The horns give "Moving On" a big brassy sound while Kelly shows off his fine voice. "Count On Me" takes the blues to church, with nice organ accompaniment from John Walls and the background and inspirational backing vocals from a choir made up  of Ethel Reed and the two aforementioned sax players.

Kelly does some of his most impressive singing on the very soulful "Do It Right," being matched by the background singers and the brassy horn section. The music just plain hits you in the face on this cut as well as the following one, "Back On Track," which is still plenty soulful but also with a dose of funk mixed in. "Slicker Than You" brings more of Kelly's soul singing along with Ms. Reed's vocal accompaniment to highlight one of the better cuts on the album's second half.

How Can I Miss You, When You Won't Leave is a nice showcase for Kelly's talents, especially his vocals throughout. There's plenty to like here, but I keep thinking that not trying to range across so many types of blues and soul would have better showcased this fine Chicago artist.

--- Bill Mitchell



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