Blues Bytes

February 1999

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Order these featured CDs today:

Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets

Koerner, Ray & Glover

...and check out this previous reissue of the early sides by Koerner, Ray & Glover

Cesar Rosas

Jimmy Rogers

 

What's New

Anson Funderburgh and the RocketsChange In My Pocket is the new release by Anson Fundeburgh & The Rockets featuring Sam Myers. It is their debut release on Bullseye Blues & Jazz label, but the band is in familiar musical territory. The CD opens with the original title track, which is instantly recognizable as an Anson and Sam song. Unfortunately, the next thing instantly recognizable is the fact that Sam's vocals continue to lose power by degrees. But although his voice no longer has the power of a hurricane, he can still bring heavy weather. One thing that has not changed is the level of musicianship and the great ensemble sound. Anson’s solos are solid, tasteful and uncluttered, never jamming notes where they wouldn't comfortably fit. Sam's solos transport you to the smoky, dimly lit nightclubs. John Street's piano playing is solid, whether it’s accompanying Anson or Sam or soloing himself. This is the blues from start to finish. Six of the CD’s 13 songs are originals, the best of which are "Change In My Pocket," the slow burn "Highway Man," and the closer "Things Have Changed," which include the lyrics "...I went in a bar to have a Jack and Coke, the bartender said ‘You have to go outside to smoke.’..." My favorite cover was that of Buddy Guy’s "$100 Bill." I liked the CD, more so after I listened to it a few times. If you already have their earlier releases, this is a nice addition. This CD is scheduled to hit the stores on March 2. So if you don’t own any of their music yet and can't wait for this, I suggest starting with My Love Is Here To Stay or Rack ‘Em Up. Or if you prefer a majority opinion, try Sins, which was a W.C. Handy award winner.

--- Tony Nowicki

The Queen and her hive are back for one more time around on the new Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band CD, Front To Back (Sharkstooth), which offers up new tracks, as well as live treasures from their long and distinguished career together. Lead singer Tanya Browne and guitar player Marc Ross make up the heart and soul of this band, as they have since its inception. With her career ready to take off, and his family life being so important, the two have decided to end a long run together. Tanya will surely be heard from again, and hopefully, so will Marc. The new stuff shines, as sax player Doug Bernstein delivers a powerful and soulful performance on "I Put a Spell On You," and Ross soars on the instrumental masterpiece "Ana McKinley." The rhythm section of Jack Wilkinson on drums and Rene Witzke on bass is tight throughout, making for a wonderful backbone for the fantastic play during solos. When listening to this disc, no one could possibly miss the fantastic "Let’s Buzz," and the highlight of any of their live shows, their version of Bobby Troup’s "Route 66." In addition, the live tracks highlight past performances of The Hive throughout their touring career. All in all, this disc is a great way to remember just what Queen Bee meant, and just what they will always mean…great times and great blues.

Have you ever been to Chicago? Blues harp player George "Mojo" Buford has, judging by his new disc, Harpslinger (Blue Loon). (Editor's Note: This disc was recorded earlier in the decade, and reissued in 1998). Mojo has played with Muddy Waters, and he brings every bit of his years of experience along with him. He even brought along another harp player, which isn't as unusual as it may sound when it comes to Chicago blues. The guitars are strong throughout, with Dan Schwalbe giving solid performances throughout, and even dazzling a little on "Oh Baby" and others. Mojo has a great voice, and he uses it to its full extent on the hypnotizing "Champagne and Reefer." The band cooks throughout, staying just far enough behind the beat to make anyone kind of shake their heads along with the music, and say, "Oh yeah! That's Chicago!"

--- Brad Allen

Koerner, Ray and GloverThree young Minnesota kids, all of whom looked more like extras from the Leave It To Beaver set than real bluesmen, were putting out some terrific traditional blues stuff in the mid-1960s. (Lots More) Blues, Rags and Hollers (Red House) contains 21 cuts originally recorded and released in 1963 and 1964 by the trio Koerner, Ray & Glover. These guys were excellent instrumentalists, and purveyed a more authentic blues sound than many of the artists during the '60s folk/blues revolution. I especially like the grit and authenticity in the voice of Dave "Snaker" Ray on Leadbelly's a capella number, "Black Betty"; it sounds as if he instead grew up on the other end of the Mississippi River. "Spider" John Koerner's nimble guitar picking is incredible, especially on his anthem "Whomp Bom." Tony Glover provides able harmonica accompaniment on many of the cuts, and is featured vocally on Memphis Minnie's "What's The Matter With The Mill." Despite being recorded 35 years ago, none of the music on this CD sounds dated at all. Highly recommended!

Blues Blues Blues (Atlantic) was going to be the album that would finally introduce Jimmy Rogers, already known to those of us in the blues world, to the rest of the music world. Sadly, Rogers passed away before this album came out, turning it instead into a tribute to one of the greats of Chicago blues. He's joined here by luminaries like Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Taj Mahal, Jeff Healey, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Keith Richards, and Stephen Stills, as well as blues vets Lowell Fulson, Carey Bell, Johnnie Johnson, and Ted Harvey. Rogers is in good form, and the guest appearances aren't too intrusive. Most of us blues diehards are going to prefer Jimmy's previous releases with his own band, but there's lots of excellent music here. The wonderful playing of harmonica player Bell and pianist Johnson really hold everything together, and help to keep the recordings to a straight blues agenda. The opening "Blow Wind Blow" is exceptional, with strong guitar from Healey and great piano from Johnson. There are also versions of oft-recorded Rogers classics "That's All Right" and "Ludella." The latter contains a nice vocal contribution by Taj Mahal, and is one of the nicer cuts on the disc.

The Jelly Roll KingsThere should be an asterisk next to the name of The Jelly Roll Kings on this album, as original member Big Jack Johnson is replaced by Nashville guitarist/producer Fred James. But please don't take that as any kind of complaint, because the music The Jelly Roll Kings (HMG/HighTone) is as good as it gets. Veteran blues harp player Frank Frost and drummer Sam Carr, both of whom have been playing around the Mississippi Delta for five decades, are in great form. All of the dozen cuts are originals, with Frost writing all but the one from Carr. This is one of those CDs that's hard to pick out standouts, because every cut is great. The disc kicks off with the hard-drivin' "Let's Go Out Tonight," highlighted by Frost's harmonica intro. If you insist that I select a favorite, I'll choose the slow blues "It's Cold Outdoors," on which Frost's rough-hewn vocals are punctuated with slide guitar fills from James. Also good is the urgent shuffle "Will It Be You," on which all three instrumentalists blend their sounds together intending to put everyone on the dance floor in some kind of hypnotic, rhythmic trance. A superb album!

Mali To Memphis is an interesting concept album from Putumayo World Music. The disc alternates African music numbers from Mali with American blues numbers, mostly from artists with roots in the Mississippi Delta region. It's interesting to hear how well the music flows from song to song, proving that blues really did evolve from its African origins. They could have done a little better job in choosing the blues numbers. For example, John Lee Hooker did a lot more rootsier-sounding stuff than his later version of "I'm In The Mood." Other blues artists here include Guy Davis, Eric Bibb, Muddy Waters, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Taj Mahal. Not an essential purchase, but an interesting listen if you can find it in the bargain bin.

Cesar Rosas - Soul DisguiseIf you're on the hunt for some interesting musical diversity today, check out Soul Disguise (Ryko) from Los Lobos regular Cesar Rosas. The blues content is minimal here, although "Treat Me Right" sounds like it came right out of Chicago via Austin and East L.A. There's also a strong, rockin' version of Ike Turner's "You've Got To Lose." Then Rosas takes us down to San Antonio and joins the legendary accordionist Flaco Jimenez for a spirited "Angelito." "Struck" sounds like Los Lobos if they had spent a few years in New Orleans along the way...a nice fusion of two musical styles, with Jimmy Roberts playing Lee Allen-style sax and Eddie Baytos adding the conjunto accordion sound. Further adding to the cross-cultural mix here, Soul Disguise closes with Rosas pouring out his heart on an original deep soul ballad, "E. Los Ballad #13." This disc is recommended for more than just Los Lobos fans, but anyone interested in getting a taste of a wide variety of diverse musical styles.

Dan Klarskov and the HoneydrippersThe Danish blues group Dan Klarskov & The Honey Drippers does a fine job in paying tribute to a generation of jump blues artists on their self-titled release, issued in the States by Clearwood Records. Klarskov is a tasteful, but not flashy, guitarist and a strong, smooth vocalist. He seems happiest playing T-Bone Walker songs like the three found here: "Strollin' With Bone," "T-Bone Shuffle," and "Jealous Woman." The disc is highlighted by the excellent sax work of Anders Gaardmand, who is known to many American blues fans through his work with The Holmes Brothers on their first couple of Rounder albums. Gaardmand especially does a nice job on Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper."

Minneapolis guitarist Jimi "Prime Time" Smith and his regular band were captured live at Blues Alley in the Twin Cities last May, and the result is Give Me Wings (Atomic Theory). This is a nice set of blues, featuring some real strong guitar from Smith. I especially like his work on Luther Allison's "Soul Fixin' Man," although his style here is more reminiscent of that of Guitar Shorty rather than to Allison. Smith also does some exceptional work on his version of "I'll Play The Blues For You."

James Peterson, known more often as the father of blues artist Lucky Peterson, has been bouncing around the Deep South blues circuit for a number of years, having released albums on a number of blues labels. Wrong Bed! looks to be an independent release on Hown Dog Records out of Palmetto, FL. It's a decent enough album, with 10 original compositions, but nothing to distinguish it from his earlier stuff. Or from a lot of other contemporary Southern blues albums, for that matter.

--- Bill Mitchell

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