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February 2023

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Order these featured albums today:

Johnny Nicholas

Dyer Davis

The Cadillac Kings

Jewel Brown

Paul Filipowicz

Lonestar Mojo

Joe Louis Walker


Johnny NicholasMoon Mullican was nicknamed “King of the Hillbilly Piano Players.” The singer/songwriter/pianist and his band, The Showboys, became one of the most popular groups in Texas and Louisiana in the ’40s and ’50s, playing a mix of country music, Western swing, Cajun, and blues. Mullican himself was influenced not just by country and swing artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, but also by blues artists like Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, and was introduced to the blues by a black sharecropper that worked for his family.

Mullican influenced many artists in a number of genres, including former band member Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Asleep at the Wheel. The legendary Texas roots and blues artist, Johnny Nicholas, a former frontman for Asleep at the Wheel, was also influenced by Mullican and is a big fan.

Nicholas recently released a two-volume tribute set to Mullican, Moon and the Stars: A Tribute to Moon Mullican (Valcour Records), a fantastic set with a huge list of guest artists of multiple genres equally influenced by the gifted piano man.

Earl P. Ball starts Volume 1 in rollicking fashion with “Good Deal Lucille,” the 81-year-old bringing tremendous energy to this tune. Kelli Jones and Tif Lamson duet on the gorgeous “When Love Dies,” and Los Texamaniacs rip through the jaunty “Moonshine Polka.” Bluegrass veteran Peter Rowan sings the somber “I’m Waiting For Ships That Never Come In,” with Danny Levin on piano and Greg Piccolo on saxophone.

Nicholas makes his first appearance, on vocals and Resonator, for the bluesy “Big Big City,” and plays guitar behind Linda Gail Lewis’ (sister to Jerry Lee) piano and vocals on the country swinger “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” before taking the mic again (and playing piano) on “You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry.”

Volume 1 concludes with Katie Shore playing fiddle and singing on the upbeat “There’s A Little Bit Of Heaven,” Kelli Jones returning with the wistful “So Long”, and Nicholas teaming with Danny Levin on piano for the lively “Make Friends.”

The second volume begins with Marcia Ball on piano and vocals for the upbeat “Good Times Gonna Roll Again,” Emily Gimble (backed by Nicholas on harmonica) with the forlorn country tune “Leaving You With A Worried Mind,” and Shore, who returns for the toe-tapper “What Have I Done.” Lamson and Nicholas share vocals (with Kelli Jones on acoustic guitar) on “I Was Sorta Wondering,” and Nicholas swings, Western style, on “All I Need Is You.”

Augie Meyers, founding member of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados, tackles the swinging blues “Pipeliner Blues.” Rowan returns on vocals for the serene “Downstream,” while Mamou Playboy front man Steve Riley sings and plays accordion on the zydeco-flavored “Seven Nights To Rock,” supported by Lamson, Shore, and Nicholas on “gang vocals.” Lamson and Jones team up again for the mournful “Bottom Of The Glass,” and Nicholas concludes Volume 2 with “Don’t Take My Picture Down.”

The core band for the set features Shore (fiddle/harmony vocals), Floyd Domino (piano), Rusty Blake (steel/electric guitars), Scrappy Judd Newcomb (electric/acoustic guitars), Chris Maresh (bass) and Lamson (drums). Other contributors include Los Texamaniacs (Max Baca – bajo sexto, Josh Baca – accordion, Noel Hernandez – bass, Chris Rivera – drums), Trey Boudreaux (bass), Danny Levin (piano/fiddle), Joel Savoy (acoustic and electric guitar/percussion), Alex Goodrich (sousaphone), and Mike Archer (bass).

Moon and the Stars: A Tribute to Moon Mullican is a fantastic set of tunes paying tribute to an artist who influenced a host of musicians in a variety of musical styles. Whether you like blues, country, Cajun, zydeco, swing, or just music in general, this is an absolutely wonderful ride.

--- Graham Clarke

Dyer DavisDyer Davis gets the New Year off to a rousing start with Dog Bites Back (Wildroots Records), a blistering set that mixes blues, rock and soul from one of the most exciting new voices in all three genres. The Florida-based singer/guitarist contributed a powerful vocal on “The Bad Seed” on the WildRoots’ WildRoots Sessions Volume 2 release, and this 13-song set of tunes, 12 originals written or co-written by Davis, Stephen Dees, Victor Wainwright, Billy Chapin or Stan Lynch, shows that performance was no flash in the pan.

Davis is joined by a host of musicians, including drummers David Weatherspoon, Lynch, and Billy Dean, bassist Jacob Barone, Mark Earley on baritone sax, Doug Woolverton on trumpet, Joe Young, and keyboardist Dave Mikeal. Also joining are Wainwright on keyboards for three tracks and vocals for one, Walter Andrews on dobro, WildRoots head man Dees and Chapin on multiple instruments, and Patricia Ann Dees on tenor sax, flute, and background vocals.

The album’s lone cover, an energetic read of Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart’s “Let Me Love You,” comes roaring out of the gate, setting the bar extremely high for the remainder of the record. Fortunately, Davis is more than up to the challenge, rolling into the powerful shuffle “Walk Away My Blues,” co-written with Wainwright, the moody rocker “Water Into Wine,” and the soulful, horn-charged “Cryin’ Shame,” which shows the singer is equally comfortable in the soul/R&B department.

The horns are also present for the gripping blues rocker “Train Wreck” and “Lifting Up My Soul,” another solid soul burner.

“Long Way To Go” features Wainwright on co-lead vocals with Davis and searing slide guitar work from Chapin, complementing Davis’ own stellar fretwork and Wainwright’s keyboards. “Wind Is Gonna Change” is a gentle acoustic blues penned by Davis that features Andrews’ dobro playing, while the mid-tempo title track is a another strong blues rocker, and “Angel Get the Blues” is a piano-driven ballad where Davis’ tender side is on full display.

“These Walls” reintroduces the horns and the soul vein, with Davis really shining on vocals as well as guitar. The last two tracks, “Don’t Tell My Mother” and “AKA,” lean toward the roots and Americana genre, and are both quite effective.

Dyer Davis grew up listening to blues rock, the southern and the British varieties, and soul music. His sound incorporates all of those styles and does it tremendously well. Fans of those styles of music are strongly encouraged to check out Dog Bites Back and the stunning singer/guitarist responsible for it.

--- Graham Clarke

Cadillac KingsThe Cadillac Kings were formed in 2000, consisting of former members of the bands of Otis Grand, Paul Lamb, Big Joe Louis, and The Poorboys. One of the hottest bands in the UK since their inception, the Cadillac Kings currently consists of guitarist Mal Barclay, keyboardist Tim Penn, bassist Paul Cuff, drummer Jason Reay, and founding member/singer/songwriter/harp player/slide guitarist Mike Thomas.

Crash and Burn (33 Records) is their sixth album release, and the 14 tracks (12 written or co-written by Thomas) deftly mix blues and R&B in contemporary and traditional styles.

The blues-rock shuffle “Doubtin’ Thomas” gets the album off to a great start, quickly jumping into the old school rock ‘n’ roller “Betty Lou Just Broke Outa Jail,” and “Bona Fide” has a lot of swagger. The rousing “Cadillac Boogie” should get listeners inspired to shake a tail feather, and the swinging “It Ain’t Smart” is an amusing cautionary tale. “Don’t Fix It” and the sinister “Havana Mama” both have a funky swamp blues feel.

“Farmer John” is a sturdy vintage rocker and the title track is a churning blues rocker with a slippery slide guitar break from Thomas. “When One Door Closes” has an R&B feel with cool Crescent City-styled keyboards from Penn. The band has a good time with Memphis Slim’s slow blues “Beer Drinkin’ Woman,” and the rollicking, humorous “Too Much Stuff” finds Thomas lamenting the online ordering craze sweeping the world.

The swampy, Gulf Coast-flavored “Six Feet From A Rat” leads into the album closer, “Zombie Walk,” a all-too-true narrative about the mobile phone obsession played to Magic Sam’s “Sam’s Boogie” instrumental.

The Cadillac Kings have something to offer any blues, R&B, or vintage rock ‘n’ roll fan. Crash and Burn is a great set of original tunes in a variety of styles from a superb band that knows their way around the block.

--- Graham Clarke

Jewel BrownThe legendary Houston-based soul and jazz singer Jewel Brown returns with Thanks For Good Ole’ Music and Memories (Nic Allen Music Federation), her first album in eight years. Unlike previous efforts, Ms. Brown wrote seven of the ten tracks, collaborating with Nic Allen, who was longtime musical director to the late Joe Sample.

At 85, her voice remains strong and soulful , as she deftly moves through this diverse set of blues, jazz, and R&B that lean traditional, but give a nod to contemporary sounds, as well.

The opener, “Jerry,” is a song that has appeared a few times in Brown’s repertoire, most recently on her 2013 album with Milton Hopkins, and it’s always a pleasure to hear. This version is funky and jazzy with a Latin flair, featuring contributions from RADS Krusaders and Live! In The Clutch. “Pain And Glory” is a brief a capella number where Brown gives her testimony of faith backed by a male chorus, and “Why Did You Do That” retains that Latin flavor, mixing jazz and R&B, and her interplay with the male vocals works very well.

“Which Way Is Up” was a disco hit in 1977 for the Motown group Stargard. Brown’s version is a little grittier and more downhome, but still retains that funky edge. The feisty “Nitches And Glitches” finds her frustrated with her lover’s antics and ready to put him in the street, and “Flatitude” is a playful jazz number. “I Love Sunshine, Even More Rainy Nights” is a slow urban blues burner, with more interplay between Brown and the male vocalists.

“Song of the Dreamer” was written by Brown’s ex-husband Eddie “Tex” Curtis and her version is sung superbly, as the music blends R&B and blues with a contemporary jazz feel. The relaxed, laid-back “On The Road” features her best vocal on the album, as she looks back at her days traveling the world as a performer, including her days touring with Louis Armstrong. The male vocalists (Allen, Dashon Brown, and Zedekiah Franklin) provide excellent backing once again on this track. The album closes with the playful, swinging blues of “How Did It Go.”

At 85, Jewel Brown sounds like she’s up for much more singing and performing. Now that she’s writing her own songs, she may have a few more albums in her, and that’s not a bad thing at all for blues and jazz fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Paul FilipowiczA half century in, guitarist Paul Filipowicz is still making mighty music. The Chicago blues veteran, who played with Mighty Joe Young, Lefty Dizz, Hound Dog Taylor, and Luther Allison before starting his own band, offers up his 11th album, Pier 43 (Big Jake Records), a downhome, gutbucket set of blues like they used to play ‘em. This nine-song set of mostly originals feature Filipowicz (lead vocals/guitars), Steve Lewis (bass), Brian “Tito” Howard (drums), and Big Al Dorn (harmonica).

Also included on the album are two bonus tracks recorded at a WIBA live radio concert in November of 1979, featuring Clyde Stubblefield (drums), “Fat” Richard Drake (sax), Gary Zappa (bass), Will “Smokey” Logg (guitar) and John Chimes (piano).

Opening the disc is “Old Time Superstition,” a greasy, slide-driven trip through the Louisiana swamp. “Angel Face” is a old-fashioned Windy City shuffle that will surely satisfy, and the instrumental title track is a splendid, slow-burning guitar fest. “When I Get To Town” is a rumbling Mississippi Hill Country track that will shake you to your soul and the tasty instrumental “Spit Shine” is driven by a funky rhumba beat.

“Hip Shake” is a crunchy boogie blues rocker with a relentless groove, and Filipowicz’s cover of Copperpenny’s “Poor Man’s Throne” (famously covered by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1977) is first rate. “Hundinger” is a sturdy blues rocker, and the blues standard “Cut You Loose” is a crowd pleaser as well. The first part of the album wraps up with a raucous instrumental segment called “Texas Out.”

The bonus tracks at the end include covers of the Meters’ “Ain’t No Use,” and Coffin and Goldberg’s “Use My Imagination,” a hit for Glady Knighth & the Pips back in the day. Both of these tracks are deliciously funky. Could they be any other way with that backing band??!!! Fans will certainly be glad that Filipowicz found room for these two track on what is already a most excellent album.

--- Graham Clarke

Lone Star MojoDuring the pandemic, work slowed to a crawl for most musicians, at least the touring and performing in local clubs. Five guys from Wichita Falls, Texas who were a part of the local blues scene decided to take advantage of the down time and make an album. Hammond B3 player Joe Splawn, who spearheaded this project, had played with the Turner Blues Band, which appeared in the I.B.C. three times, coming in fourth the last time they appeared. The other members of the group, dubbed Lone Star Mojo, include guitarists Mark Snyder and Scott Biggs, bassist Tim Maloney, and drummer Barry Sloan also have deep roots in the local scene.

The group’s debut album, Rough Around The Edges, features 15 original songs written by Snyder, Splawn, and Biggs, and it’s a tough set of blues rockers like they play them in Texas. Opening with the funky blues, “This Time,” the band quickly rolls headlong into the rocking shuffle “Victim of the Blues,” the smoldering “Texas Drought,” and “Big as a Bus,” an amusing blues with a funk edge. “Low Down Dirty Side of the Blues” slows the pace down a bit before livening things up again with the fast-paced shuffle “Heart Broke, No Good, Nasty Loving Woman.”

“All You Have Left is the Blues” is a soulful slow burner, “Not in the Groove” is a strong, R&B-flavored number with a hint of rock in the mix, and “Crazy About That Woman” is a pleasing blues rocker. Same goes for the sturdy “Texas Sky,” while “Gold Digger” is a gritty blues with a nasty guitar riff.

“I Pity The Fool” is not the Bobby “Blue” Bland classic, but a greasy, somewhat offbeat southern rocker, and the sizzling “Fine and Nasty” continues along that same line, with a bit more of a Texas vibe. “Humpty Dumpty Blues” is a slow blues with the emphasis on Splawn’s nimble B3, and the album wraps with the funky “Toppish Groove.”

Splawn takes the mic for six tunes, Snyder handles five songs, Biggs sings four, and Maloney does one vocal. The musicianship throughout is first rate. It’s obvious that these guys have played together off and on in various groups since the mid ’80s, and their songwriting and composing skills are impressive.

Rough Around The Edges is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic and, hopefully, Lone Star Mojo will make it happen again under more ideal conditions.

--- Graham Clarke

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker has been one the more consistently solid blues performers during a career that spans nearly 40 years, always keeping his music fresh sounding, with nearly 30 albums to his credit. Walker's latest, Weight of the World (Forty Below Records), shows that this man's still got it, with ten solid cuts showing a variety of blues styles. Walker and producer Eric Corne shared songwriting credits, with the latter also showing up on guitar and background vocals.

The title cut gets the show underway, a soulful number with a Caribbean feel to it, as Walker sings about dealing with the state of the world today but in an optimistic vein. "Is it a Matter of Time" brings out a big sound of brassy soul in a mid-tempo shuffle beat. Changing the mood completely is the very quiet, ethereal "Hello, it's the Blues," with most of the accompaniment coming from Scott Milici's piano  as well as strings arranged  by Eric Gorfain, while background singers give it a gospel feel. .

Walker takes us to New Orleans for the second line sound on "Waking Up the Dead," with Corne's snaky slide guitar giving it that swampy feel. Back to a big soul sound on "Don't Walk Out That Door, with plenty of horns. This one just plain reeks of classic Memphis soul, and is the highlight of the album. "COunt Your Chickens" is an up-tempo blues that again features guitar with plenty of funky effects from Corne.

The up-tempo stomper "Blue Mirror" gives Walker the chance to showcase his inner Chuck Berry, with Milici pounding away on the 88's. Plenty of staccato guitar picking from Walker here. "Root Down" is a mid-tempo shuffle with harmonica and keyboards giving this one a different sound from other songs on the album. "Bed of Roses" is an ominous, snaky blues that wrings the pain from both Walker's voice and his guitar. His woman left him a letter and he is begging her not to give up on him. This song grew on me the more I heard it.

Closing out the album is a jazzy, mid-tempo shuffle. "You Got Me Whipped," with Milici's organ and electric piano work and Walker's resonant guitar solo putting this one over the top. It's a nice pleasant ending to a very fine album. Just one more in Walker's impressive discography. Recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

Blind Raccoon - Nola Blue CollectionGood things always happen when notable blues publicist Blind Raccoon and independent label Nola Blue team up for their periodic collections of songs from various artists, and Blind Raccoon And Nola Blue Collection, Volume Five is no exception. This double-album is released on Blue Heart Records, so we hear contributions from their artists, too. 30 cuts of a variety of musical styles. It's hard to please everyone when you're doing this kind of diverse project, but there is plenty for every blues fans to enjoy, regardless of individual tastes.

The cut that absolutely blew me away is the soul number "Maybe You Will Someday," from New York artists Robert Hill and singer S. JĀ. It's good. Really, really good, and I can't wait until this group releases a full albums. When that comes out, S. JĀ may just turn out to be my favorite singer on the current scene. From listening to this one cut, S. JĀ's vocals remind me of what I heard from Ivy Ford, who was last year's discovery.

Other cuts on Disc One that hit me include "I'd Do It For You" (Teresa James), "Time Brings About A Change" (legendary pianist Floyd Dixon), "Savin' Up For Your Love" (great soul from Carol Sylvan and The Uptown Horns), "Hey Nola" (The Maple Blues Band, "Jefferson Way" (Stacy Jones), "Come On People" (The Gayle Harrod Band), and "Dissent" (Tiffany Pollock).

Jumping right into Disc Two, the highlight here is "My Baby's Gone" by the always outstanding John Németh. It's a live cut, with Németh blowing away on the harmonica on this up-tempo stomper. Other standouts include "Haven't Seen My Baby" (Anthony Geraci), "My Baby Came Back" (Rochelle & The Sidewinders), "Blues Without Borders" (Debbie Bond), a soulful gospel version of John Lennon's "Imagine" (Frank Bey), and "Born In This Time" (Benny Turner, with another dose of gospel-influenced blues).

There's lots more here, and it's a good introduction to artists that we may have never heard before. I'm most thankful for turning me on to Robert Hill & S. JĀ, as well as giving an unreleased number by both Teresa James and John Németh. Also, Frank Bey's extended version of "Imagine" is worth the price of admission. Check it out and hopefully you'll find your new favorites.

--- Bill Mitchell


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