Blues Bytes

What's New

March/April 2006

Michelle WhiteThe rhythms and melodies of Michelle White’s latest CD, Wandering Road, take me into a groove so deep that I could happily remain trapped there for hours and, ahhh, that voice should come with an X-certificate …. think molasses, bourbon and honey poured down a gravel road, rich and sensual, and so firmly rooted in America’s Deep South. I wonder which gods have forged such beauty, and then I read that her father is the most worshipful Tony Joe White and all becomes clear.

The opening track, “Since John’s Been Gone,” starts with that 'old 78 vinyl' crackle and it pays homage to the demise of John Lee Hooker (and of Michelle’s cat, whom she named after the great bluesman!!). Sit back, close your eyes, and follow the blues trail from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The songs are penned by Michelle, except for two by her father and one by J J Cale, and there is something for everyone  --- songs of love, the haunting “You Can’t Rush The Angels,” and the oh so sultry “Take Me Down” (to New Orleans), where you wish you could stay longer.

She sings an unholy version of J J Cale’s “Anyway The Wind Blows,” and all the while that voice washes over you like angels’ breath, taking you on a circle round the sun. And there’s a bonus provided by Tony Joe’s soulful guitar enveloping each track.

Miss this CD at your peril. Buy it and your soul will thank you.

--- Gordon Morris

I have had the pleasure of seeing and most importantly, hearing the Dennis McClung Blues Band on several occassions. I would like to voice my opinion on the West Virginia artist's newest CD, Live! Out of the Ordinary. I was in the audience on one of those tapings. The sound on this CD is exactly as it was that night. It is so clear and crisp. To start with, the guitar work is impeccably clean, powerful and infectious. When added to the positive reinforcements of the keyboard, drums and bass, this effort is phenomenal!

From the moment it starts, you can't sit still. From the soulful "Jelly Jelly" to the moving slide guitar on "Touch of the Delta" to the intensity of "How Blue Can You Get," it is simply blues excellence at its best. The vocals are incredible and the harmony vocals are flawless.

I am an avid blues supporter and I think the performances of these blues classics should be compared to the likes of giants like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Allman Brothers Band, all of which I have in my collection. I have now added the Dennis McClung Blues Band to that collection. If you love blues like I do, you must own this CD. (

--- Connie Getz

Howard TateWhat a great live CD is Howard Tate's Live (Shout Factory). With so many recent releases not holding my interest, I was lucky enough to find two (Gwen McCrae and Howard Tate) this month that are a cut above the others, Actually Tate's is about as good as it gets, with a tight band featuring a fine guitarist (Mike Schermer) and an equally fine keyboard player (Austin DeLone), and a horn section that will literally blow you away. They are well rehearsed and Howard is in fine voice, but it is those great horns that catch your attention.

Recorded on June 26, 2004 at the Tuno Island Music Festival in Denmark before a large and appreciative crowd, the songs cover the full gamut of Tate's career. From Howard's first 1966 hit "Ain't Nobody Home," which reached # 12 on the Billboard charts, to his other 1966 hit "Look At Granny Run, Run," to his 1968 hit "Stop," each track carries the intensity of the originals. His "Get It While You Can," covered back in the day by Janis Joplin, has always been a deep soul classic. His version of the oft-recorded "Part Time Love," one of my favorite versions of that song, excels here, too.

His covers of two blues classics, B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen" and Memphis Slim's "Everyday I Have The Blues," hold their own with any performance. 11 of the 14 songs were written by his longtime collaborator, Jerry Ragovoy, and even the newer material, such as "Sorry Wrong Number" and "Eternity" from his last studio release (2003), are of the highest calibre, and again those glorious horns take it to another level.

Don't miss this one. After a 40 year hiatus Howard Tate has released his definitive statement. Five deep bows to Howard and his stellar band.

--- Alan Shutro

Lorraine TurnerEcko Records has come up with a winner in Shake It Down. Lorraine Turner, a new name to me, gives us an album full of potential, and one of this year's better releases so far. Chocked full of songs with great hooks and tremendous radio appeal, this release should be a great start to a promising career. Coupled with the already popular Sheba Potts-Wright, they supply Ecko's roster with a great 1-2 punch among the young, upcoming female southern soul singers.

Born into a gospel family (her grandfather sang with the Southern Jubilees), this Oxford, Mississippi diva has been a fixture on the local music scene for years. She has been compared to the likes of a young Aretha mixed with Shirley Brown. I can see where similarities could arise, but Turner doesn't have the power in her voice that these great singers possess. Turner's voice is higher pitched, almost a teenage girl group sound, which just adds to her uniqueness.

The opening track, "Now I'm Cheating on You," gets a lot of airplay, as does "Let Me Make Love To You Baby," a Turner-penned tune. Although a few tunes were written by Turner, the balance of the songs were written by the house staff at ECKO, giving this release a sameness that makes so many of their releases sound similar. It would be nice to hear Lorraine with a handful of different songwriters allowing her unique style to blossom. This is a artist to watch, and a satisfying debut release.

--- Alan Shutro

Gwen McCraeI was thrilled when this new CD, Live In Paris At The New Morning (Soulpower / Hi & Fly Records) arrived since I have been a fan of Gwen McCrae since the '70s. One of the stalwarts of the Miami based TK record label, along with Betty Wright and Latimore, they churned out many hits during those early soul years, and then glided gracefully into the Disco era. Gwen was married at that time to George McCrae, who had the mega disco hit "Rock Your Baby," a tune we all have heard hundreds of times. Her own "Rocking Chair" was another big hit.

She later moved on to Atlantic Records and recorded a couple of funky albums that have kept her name alive with the retro funksters out there. She also had the ability to belt out a great deep soul ballad when called for, and has recorded in the gospel field. She recorded for Ichiban and Goldwax into the '90s, and had a critically acclaimed release on Frank-O Johnson's Phat Sound Records in 1999 called Still Rockin.

To give you a better idea of where she's at today, I'd like to quote from the excellent liner notes accompanying this release. "Our (Soulpower's) first tour with Gwen in June and July 2005 hit like a nuclear soul bomb. In spite of her age, Gwen still goes at it as strong and powerful as if it were still 1975. She's hot, she's sexy, she's naughty, and rarely have I seen a woman tear her heart out in front of an audience thirsting for raw, natural and honest soul music. They call her the Queen of Rare Groove, and Gwen McCrae is soul royalty. By the time the tour hit Paris, she was ready to prove to the world that she rightfully has a claim to that throne. The first of the two nights at the New Morning was something else. Fans later compared it to the magic of a Beatles concert."

In listening to this release you can hear the audience's adulation of Gwen. With extended versions of her most popular tunes, such as "90% Of Me Is You," an eight-minute burner, or the seven-minute "For Your Love", a nine-minute medley of Rockin" Chair / Rock Your Baby," and a great sounding update of her classic "Funky Sensation," you certainly get with the spirit of that night. With Gwen in fine voice, and the Soulpower Allstars (an all European band) supporting her and playing as though they had been together for years, this comes off as a perfect release of a perfect concert and one I am truly glad I own.

Rock on Gwen, you've still got it all.

--- Alan Shutro

Jackie GreeneAmerican Myth (Verve Forecast) is the third release review published by Blues Bytes for Jackie Greene, notable since Greene is not a blues musician. For more reasons why this artist is well-liked by our reviewers go to December 2002 issue and read Bill Mitchell’s write-up on Jackie’s album Gone Wanderin’ in 2002. The next album, Sweet Somewhere Bound, was released in mid 2005 and was my first impression of the artist, as reviewed in the January 2006 issue .

This newest album is more focused on folk and acoustic guitar, whereas previous releases were melting pots. The list of instruments Jackie plays on the new recording are many, but he restrains himself in good taste. His already impressive songwriting has gotten even better, his voice is relaxed and warmed up.

What gives the opening statement a down-home earthy blues touch is the dobro slide guitar. Once the vocal statement is heard in track two, Greene is still bluesy without trying to sing like a blues man. The excellent production by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin is obvious early in the program, mainly thru the pulled-back, greasy groove of the percussionists. “So Hard To Find My Way” seems to be the only lukewarm spot, kind of like a pop single. The acoustic guitar-driven rhythm of “Just As Well” immediately resets the attitude. Laid-back rockabilly filtered thru San Francisco seems to describe a selection in the middle of the disc, whereas a later period R.L. Burnside drone or “acid jazz meets the north Mississippi hills” might describe the groove elsewhere among the tracks.

From there the fare continues forward in a much inspired, mainly storytelling mode. Jackie’s words are direct, yet flowery with just enough quirkiness while supporting the album’s main theme. In short, his music does its job by improving the listener’s mood. It provides often-needed escape from the daily grind and provides open-mindedness for the over-analytical. And if you’re seeking philosophy you’ll get it, but it’s not required. This CD gets an “A” since Greene is very gifted, and his producers thus far (from the three of his four albums we’ve heard) have utilized his talent to the utmost.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

The name behind the Don Brewer Blues Project is not the drummer Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, but rather the singer/guitarist/leader Don Brewer from Maine. He fronts what is normally a four-piece working band. The appearance of the self-titled and self-released disc and literature for review looks slick with stock photos, background and a sturdy press kit. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

One might make it thru track one and give it a continued chance. But the first musical impression permeates this frankly weak album, despite good studio sound. The leader might consider using a front person with better vocal chops, because here obviously no one told the emperor he had no clothes. Elsewhere, the keys are too jazzy, whether piano or organ, the bass is dull and sometimes out of tune, and there’s nary a trace of rhythmic groove.

The only elements saving the CD from an overall grade of “F” are okay sax, slightly above-average harp, and the slide guitar portions do have some redemption. Plus, you can’t fault anyone for tackling an all-original disc.

This band has hope if they gig every night for a couple years with the same personnel and woodshed. If they’ve already done that, there’s no hope.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

Jeff Cook Rhythm and Groove ClubRhythm & Groove Club's Groove Approved is an unusual package. Who is this vocalist Jeff Cook who seems to be in charge of the whole project? It’s very nebulous, purposefully mysterious. What’s not subtle is the list of backup musicians: Allen Toussaint as pianist, Tinsley Ellis (one of two guitarists) and Nicholas Peyton on trumpet! These three alone represent very different styles, and there are five additional musicians. Based on just this partial listing, I wanted to give the CD five stars even before removing the shrink wrap, despite the unknown vocalist.

There are no photos and the graphics are minimal. Once unfolded, the liner notes are cryptic, obviously written by Jeff Cook un-credited, and he talks in code. There’s much talk of New Orleans without mention of Katrina, but the release date is 2006 and the label is Asend Music. He talks of many big cities, roadhouses and jazz clubs of music history, how it was delivered “back in the day” and the evolution of musical inspiration. There are buried clues, like personal thanks to Otis Taylor for encouraging the project (Taylor uses the term “groove approved” on his own releases), and to “those who take it a day at a time.”

Once the disc makes the player, New Orleans indeed permeates --- the two horns sound like a big section. The festive mood and rhythmic mixture is commendable, the band top-notch and tight. Jeff Cook’s voice is mid-range, admittedly light and unseasoned, but it works. Often behind him are heavenly, mostly female, background vocals (on one track called “The Heartfixers”). There’s an occasional off-note, much like how a songwriter might sing his own stuff (which would make sense if any of these tunes were original) or like an arranger playing his own minimal piano accompaniment. The well-executed arranging, by the way, is also un-credited. What gives?

No producer or recording engineer is mentioned, other than it was done at “Sea Saint.” Jeff Cook is obviously in the music business somehow, but not as songwriter, otherwise we’d have at least a handful by him. Instead is a great playlist of tunes by Roscoe Gordon, Leiber and Stoller, Mose Allison (represented by “Days Like This,” where admittedly the singer sounds his most comfortable), Toussaint of course, and Booker T. Jones’ “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Mr. Cook has no website to go to, just an email. Ah, but for search engines! Jeff Cook, as it turns out, is a veteran record label radio promoter! And he has written music, covered by rock bands in the ‘60s/’70s. But he has always maintained close ties with the music of New Orleans.

The band gets an A+ hands-down, the leader/vocalist a B-, not so much for vocal quality as in humility (especially in the liner notes) and confidence. The actions his cohorts pushed him into produced admirable results. Keep it going, let us get to know you better the next time.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

Jack De KeyzerIn 1974, while still a teenager, Jack de Keyzer was playing professionally with Canadian harp legend King Biscuit Boy. de Keyzer then went on to play for Ronnie Hawkins. Throughout the first-half of the '80s, Jack played with numerous rockabilly bands. In 1985, he formed his own group, and since then has played a variety of musical styles. A unique assortment is well documented on Silver Blues (Blue Star), which celebrates 25 years of Jack de Keyzer published songs. The affable material includes 12 songs from his days with the Bop Cats, Rock Angels, four solo recordings, as well as one cover song "You Shook Me" (not previously recorded by de Keyzer). Essentially, it’s the best of Jack de Keyzer recorded live. Jack produces and handles guitar and vocals, and he drives the van.

Though de Keyzer gets classified as blues, his music includes a multitude of styles. That is especially the case on this live disc, which was recorded May 13 and 14, 2005 at Hugh’s Room, Toronto and Registry Theatre, Kitchener. In addition to blues, you’ll hear smooth jazz, adult oriented rock, and soul. de Keyzer is well traveled, and his stylistic band operates like a well-oiled machine beginning with the swinging "Train Called Rock and Roll." Jack uses the song to musically introduce his band via a series of buoyant solos by all members.

Thanks to David Dunlop’s brisk trumpet, the great Memphis soul horn sections come to mind on "That’s The Way." With melodious gusts, Chris Murphy’s saxophone lays the foundation for "King Of The Blues." Here, de Keyzer’s precisely-timed, expressive guitar playing is some of the best that the CD offers. Murphy has been the band’s pearl since joining in 2004. He was responsible for all the horn arrangements.

"Nothing In The World" is a love song appropriate as the first dance at a wedding. On it, de Keyzer bares his soul to an extreme. Pumping brass commands the slaughter on "Dressed To Kill." Here, the guitar is as smooth as raw silk that has just been refined into fabric, while Martin Aucoin’s organ is distinctive.

Over the years, de Keyzer’s music has matured, and his guitar tone has become one of the finest in Canada. de Keyzer is a well rounded musician, who strives for perfection. Re-recording a 25 year retrospective, with new song arrangements, took courage. Although this is a live record, most of the applause has been filtered out, so listening to the album is not like experiencing a concert. Even with a running time of 70 minutes, three lengthy songs had to be faded out in order for all songs to fit. The guitar, piano, and horns are skilled. Musicians and a grown-up crowd will thoroughly enjoy them. 

For CDs and information, contact

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Zac HarmonIn 2004, Zac Harmon and the Mid South Blues Revue (MSBR) won The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge for Best Unsigned Blues Band. Now, on the strength of this debut studio album, Harmon has been nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut.

Jackson, Mississippi’s Zac Harmon is a scholar of the city’s blues sound. While growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, Harmon hung out on Farish Street (in particular at his father’s pharmacy), and developed into a guitarist, organist, and vocalist. Of course the church was a big influence. While pursuing a college education, he put his music on the back-burner. However, he couldn’t permanently escape his musical calling. In 1980, he moved to Los Angeles and began a career in music. There, Harmon worked as a studio musician and writer/producer for many years. In 2002, he recorded his first blues project, Live at Babe & Ricky's Inn.

This time around he pays tribute to the legends that inspired him. On The Blues According To Zacariah (Bluestone Records), Harmon performs lead guitar, bass, keyboards, and lead vocals as well as produces. He is joined by present and former members of MSBR. The opening track, "That Mighty High," is a danceable and funky celebration about a train bound for heaven in Jesus’ name. Here, Harmon’s vocals are soulful and convicted, like the great Mighty Sam McClain.

"Sugarman" and "It’s Cool With Me" are deep blues. The former contains a twirling harp that gives the song a downhome feeling. The latter is entrenched in the south. "Who’s Knockin'" is very energetic. It contains a catchy rhythm and sweet slide guitar. With intonating vocals that are expressive and smooth, it sounds like Harmon is in conversation on it. In fact, the song is so entertaining; you can almost picture the main characters pleasantly squabbling. Vocally, "That’s Why" is slick and ideal for airplay on late night pillow talk radio.

Guest appearances include Mickey Champion (vocals) on "It Hurts Me Too" and Gregg Wright (guitar) on "Comfort Of A Man." His guitar tone, on the soft, loving song, is similar to those found on heavy metal ballads. Primarily, this is due to Christopher Troy’s production, which accentuates the L.A. sound. Two of the three chosen covers are performed too often by blues artists. It would have been better had Harmon concentrated on even more than six co-composed originals.

You can tell Harmon is a versatile showman based on his charismatic presentation. Throughout, Zac displays his divinely bestowed talents in guitar, songwriting, and vocals. In fact, Harmon’s wide ranging vocals are so diverse you’ll question where there are other lead vocalists on the album. He may currently be from the West Coast, but Harmon knows how to play chitlin circuit music. This CD was definitely one of 2005’s better debuts.

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Alligator began their Deluxe Edition best-of compilations to celebrate the essential recordings of their modern blues legends. Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women is an acoustic threesome of richly-talented, strong women who also are persistent, daring, and opinionated. They have grown from being a local draw in Virginia to one of Alligator’s most popular acts. Ann Rabson performs boogie piano and finger-picked guitar from the old school. Gaye Adegbalola plays incisive guitar and harmonica, while multi-instrumentalist Andra Faye adds bass, guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. Original bassist Earlene Lewis can be heard on six songs. For this righteous collection, the band personally selected material from their seven Alligator albums, which were recorded between 1989 and 2001. Each of the 20 previously released tracks, including ten originals (mostly written by Adegbalola), on this 75-minute disc have been re-mastered.

"Middle Aged Blues Boogie" has become the group’s anthem. The song features the basics of acoustic piano, mandolin, and guitar, yet it comes with all the sass of Bessie Smith and the authority of Sippie Wallace. "Ain’t Gonna Hush" sounds written in response to Lowell Fulsom’s "Honey Hush" Adegbalola’s novelty vocals growl during "Bitch With A Bad Attitude." Of course, the entertaining song features the group’s signature humorous lyrics.

Being quick to make fun of themselves and their age, Gaye once introduced "Silver Beaver" as something she sees in her mirror! The joking continues on "School Teacher’s Blues," which is sung by Adegbalola who is a former science educator and can use her voice like a brass instrument. These feisty ladies cleverly use their wit as comic relief since their woman’s straight-talking lyrics can run deep, as on "The Equalizer." Faye’s voice is the tamest and is real sweet on "Falling Back In Love With You," yet it may well be the strongest during "It Takes A Mighty Good Man (to be better than no man at all)."

Rabson’s vocals are the most mature and distinguished, as can be heard on "Tom Cat Blues." When their three exclusive voices come together in harmony, as on "Because Of You" and "How Can I Say I Miss You?," it is sheer enjoyment. At times, the lyrics carry a feministic viewpoint, e.g., (“Hard to find a human male as charming as a pup”) from Don’t Treat Your Man Like A Dog. Listen to decide whether the ultimate message states to treat a man like a dog is too treat him too good.

Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women ain’t no girly girls. You won’t find glitz and glamour, but that won’t prevent you from experiencing everything good about being a woman. Together, they leave women’s footprint in modern blues history. Their we-ain’t-gonna-take-no-shit approach meshes perfectly with their ragtime saloon music. There is no competition among these astute ladies. However, Rabson’s domineering vocals and boisterous piano are a highlight. Saffire is a leading force in an industry swarming with boisterous guitars and caustic harp predominated by male artists. If it is true that women mature faster than men, these middle-aged gals have more wisdom than a group of male mystics. Things couldn’t be closer to the truth when Saffire sings (“age ain’t nothin’ but a number / you don’t get older / you just get better”).

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Mississippi Heat DVDRadio introduced Israel-born Pierre Lacocque to African-American music and it forced him to leave Existentialism and Theology studies behind. In 1969, at age 16 he relocated to Chicago. Disillusioned with the music scene, he returned to the books in 1976 and eventually received a doctorate from Northwestern University. Even that couldn’t fill a void. So, he founded Mississippi Heat in 1991.

Ten years later, South Side lady Inetta Visor blessed the group with her robust vocals. When the DVD One Eye Open (Delmark) was recorded, at one of Chicago’s most respected blues venues on July 18, 2005, she introduced Lacocque as the star, but the entire band is riveting. Special guest Lurrie Bell demonstrates why many critics revere his guitar playing as Chicago’s best, while Kenny Smith proves he has inherited his father’s mastery of the shuffle. Other members include Max Valldeneu guitar, Chris Cameron keyboards, and Spurling Banks bass. Throughout, Visor is full of life, constantly smiles, and pours her very being into practically every note. At times, her entire body shakes while she sings. Her vocals range from lovely to curt, but they are not always vivacious. Although steeped in tradition, the DVD’s 11 songs are adaptable to innovation. They include six Lacocque originals and seven songs not previously recorded by the band. Available as both a DVD (in stereo and 5.1) and a CD, each contains a unique song that is not available on the other.

The Delmark label records authentic Chicago blues bands, so Mississippi Heat is a befitting addition to their roster. One Eye Open is filled with unabashed music, straight from Rosa’s smoky lounge. On the opening instrumental track, "Rosa’s Strut," Lacocque makes his stage entrance by slowly walking from the back of the club to the front. Along the way, he saunters past Bob Koester (sat at the bar) and Mama Rosa (working behind it). All the time, he scholarly blows his harp. During "19 Years Old," Bell plucks his strings and creates a distinct sound and a definitive tone. Here, and on the minor chord "Cold, Cold Feeling," he takes over lead vocals with his husky voice.

The title track is a humorous tale about a man who gives his woman a little bit too much. The song’s great groove gets repeated too many times. The painful good-love-gone-bad lyrics of "Dirty Deal" are blown free by Lacocque’s chromatic harp and Valldeneu’s B.B. King/Albert Collins sounding guitar. "Honest I Do" sounds similar to the Lonnie Brooks/Katie Webster rendition of "Lonely, Lonely Nights." "She Ain’t Your Toy" contains foolproof ideas (lavish her with complements, treat her as an equal, don’t disregard her, and make her feel wanted) regarding how to treat a lady.

This band is the real deal, and so is Rosa’s. Three cameramen do their best to provide multiple angles of all band members whose stage presence is modest. The best camera work includes close-ups of Bell’s finger dexterity. When the focus isn’t on Visor’s natural larynx-busting vocals or Bell’s captivating guitar, it is on Lacocque’s incredible and magical smooth harp, which is a cross between Sugar Blue and the Sonny Boys. Undoubtedly, Lacocque is one of the best harp players on today’s scene. You can hear his ’50s influences during "Jukin’," yet Lacocque uniquely stands out among today’s harp wailers. He is capable of inconspicuously providing fills until it’s his turn to solo. Then, his harp-playing builds in intensity until it explodes.

More info at

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Mississippi HeatAnother set of recordings, Glad You're Mine (Crosscut), shows more of Mississippi Heat's blues. Although steeped in tradition, the CD’s 12 songs – including nine Lacocque originals – are not hard core blues or 12 bar blues. However, on each song Mississippi Heat performs closer to the genre’s roots than many of today’s so called “blues” bands.

Glad You’re Mine is filled with unabashed music, straight from Chicago’s smoky blues bars. The painful lyrics of "Dirty Deal" are blown away by Lacocque’s harp. Here, guest guitarist Carl Weathersby (a dear friend of the band) delivers an excellent and unmistakable solo. On this and "Where Were You," he proves he can still be a supportive sideman.

"Heartless Fool" reflects Lacocque’s intellectual side. Using lyrics like (“man is a heartless fool and is tearing this world apart”), he attacks current socio-economic issues head on. He pleads for government to use money wisely, e.g., they send spaceships to the moon, but what about kids who go hungry in our streets. "She Ain’t Your Toy" is musically based on Cream’s rendition of "" and contains foolproof ideas (from a female perspective) regarding how to treat a lady. During the swampy title track, the vocals are a cross between Katie Webster and Marcia Ball. The song’s message is about unconditional love – the kind most associated between spouses and family members.

Vocally, shades of a young Tina Turner emerge on "Cool Twist." "I’m A Woman" deals with woman’s natural want to please her man and her rich talent of multi-tasking. Here, Steve Doyle plays wicked slide guitar without just making loud, screeching noises. "Take My Hand" is what Booker T. & The M.G.’s would have sounded like if they added harp into their mix. On it, and a few others, Cameron displays a supremely gifted keyboard talent. "Jamaican Night" pushes the blues out of its perceived rut via funky keys, amazing harp, and a reggae rhythm that transports you to the Caribbean.

Immediately you will be engrossed with these songs. You can hear the past in some of Lacocque's harmonica playing (Little Walter and Big Walter Horton were huge influences), but he uniquely stands out among today’s harp wailers. Likewise, Visor pours her very being into every note. Her vocals range from lovely to tense to curt. While they may not make her the next queen of the blues, they are as playful as a princess. Mississippi may have heat, but this band has ardor.

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

If you’ve wandered into one of those mall record stores or into the CD section in Wal-Mart, you’ve probably seen a few of St. Clair Entertainment’s releases. They specialize in inexpensive music collections --- sometimes anthologies, sometimes collections by individual artists. They’ve always provided a great way for new fans to get a start at a blues collection by making some great music available at low prices.

St. Clair has now introduced their Genius of Blues series, a five-title set of music by some of the blues’ greatest performers, with each featuring 12 cuts and a brief set of liner notes about each artist. The first set features Memphis Slim, and is subtitled Really Got The Blues. Matt Murphy’s wonderful guitar can be heard on most of the tracks, so that would put this music during either the ’50s or early ’60s. Any music by Memphis Slim is good, but when Matt “Guitar” Murphy is in the mix, it’s great. The track selections include “Mother Earth,” “Cold Blooded Woman,” “Slim’s Blues,” and “Blues For My Baby.”

Genius of Blues also offers a disc featuring another great piano player, Charles Brown. This disc is subtitled Trouble Blues, and features versions of several Brown classics, including “Drifting Blues,” “Black Night,” and “Trouble Blues” (actually “Trouble No More”). As is the case with Slim, you’d be hard pressed to find anything Charles Brown recorded that isn’t worth listening to. This is a nice set featuring Brown’s mellow vocals and flawless piano.

Another set features B. B. King. Subtitled The Thrill Is Gone, this is a mixture of live and studio recordings, but there are some B. B. standards present, including the title track, a big brassy version of “Every Day I Have The Blues,” “Payin’ the Cost to Be The Boss,” “Sweet Little Angel,” and “Why I Sing The Blues.” In a couple of cases, the sound on the live tracks is not that great, but most of the tracks sound fine and feature pretty good performances by the King of the Blues.

Lightnin’ Hopkins is featured on the disc, Just Pickin’, and the 12 tracks featured here are also well-chosen. Hopkins recorded a ton of albums during his lifetime and rarely hit a bad note on any of his songs. These songs are no exception, featuring Hopkins’ soulful guitar and laid-back vocals on tracks like “Lonesome Dog,” “Bring Me My Shotgun,” “Mojo Hand,” and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” Chances are that if you’re a fan, given Hopkins’ vast catalog, you may not have some of these tracks.

Of the five discs in the set, the disc by Big Maybelle, The Same Old Story, is probably the one that most listeners will be the least familiar with. Gifted with a powerful voice, Maybelle Smith was one of the premier R&B singers of the ’50s, with songs like “Candy,” “That’s A Pretty Good Love,” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” to her credit during stints with Savoy and Okeh, and was as comfortable singing pop standards as she was belting out the blues. This set features several of her lesser known tracks from both styles and she sounds great on songs like “Don’t Let The Sun See You Crying,” “I Will Never Turn My Back On You,” “I Cried For You,” and “I Won’t Cry Anymore.”

Each of the CDs comes with a brief set of liner notes that are largely accurate (B. B.’s birth date is erroneously listed as 1922 instead of 1925) and give a paragraph biography of the artist. For blues fans wanting to get a listen to some of the past stars of the genre that they’re unfamiliar with, St. Clair’s Genius of Blues series is a nice, inexpensive way to get started.

--- Graham Clarke

Been itching for some good old country soul? Jenny Detra surely will have the cure for what ails you? Her new self-titled disc, on Hallmark Records, offers a heaping helping of country soul in the tradition of the Amazing Rhythm Aces and Dan Penn. Detra assembles an all-star cast of musicians, including keyboardist & co-producer David Briggs (recorded with Elvis Presley and B. B. King, among others), guitarists Danny Parks (worked with Dickie Betts and the Amazing Rhythm Aces) and Fred Newell (longtime Nashville Now guitarist), bassist Larry Paxton (2004 nominee for CMA Musician of the Year, worked with George Jones and Joe Cocker), and drummer Steve Turner (currently touring with Dolly Parton), who certainly know their way around the genre.

Detra’s vocals are expressive and soulful, perfect for the soul/blues crowd who appreciate singers like E. G. Kight. Her husky, soul-drenched vocals really stand out on the slower tracks, like “If This Is Love,” and “You’re The Only Secret,” and her composition skills (she wrote 11 of the 12 tracks) are first-rate, as on the whimsical “Gold Digger’s Blues,” “Some Other Woman’s Man,” “We Sure Were Good Tonight,” and “Shut Up and Dance” (co-written by Detra and co-producer Tommy Martin). Other highlights include the country rocker “Push On Through” and the pensive “My Friend.”

All in all, this is a great effort from Detra, and a nice addition to your country soul collection. Look for it at

--- Graham Clarke

Lee Roy ParnellIt may seem unusual to see a review for a Lee Roy Parnell CD at Blues Bytes, but even though Parnell put 11 Top 10 singles on the country charts, his blue-eyed soul approach to country music has always had deep roots in blues and southern rock. He learned his trade on the Austin club circuit in the early ’70s, playing with such luminaries as Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he settled into a more mainstream country sound during his stint with Arista Records in the ’90s. Unceremoniously dumped by the label in 1998, Parnell recorded a well-received disc for Vanguard in 2001, but has not recorded since then. Now he’s reunited with the man who signed him to Arista, Tim DuBois, who is now senior partner at the Universal South label.

Parnell’s debut release for the label, Back To The Well, is a soulful journey back to his musical roots. Parnell co-wrote all 12 of the songs featured here, which range from the rockin' title cut (with backing vocals from Regina and Ann McCrary, daughters of the late Rev. Sam McCrary of the Fairfield Four) to the mellow soul of “Something Out of Nothing,” “Just Lucky That Way,” and “Saving Grace,” to the touching “Old Soul,” to the stirring “Daddies and Daughters” (a song written by Parnell for the high school graduation of his oldest daughter, Allison, who also sings on the track).

Parnell also throws out a couple of notable blues rock numbers with “Don’t Water It Down” and “You Can’t Lose Them All,” and the great closing instrumental “Cool Breeze,” with Kevin McKendree (whose percolating B-3 is a major asset on this disc) is reminiscent of a Jimmy Smith instrumental. Throughout the disc, Parnell’s guitar, particularly his impressive work on slide, punctuates each song perfectly and his tough but tender vocals lift this disc well above the norm. Everything works flawlessly on this disc, which will definitely please not only longtime fans of Parnell, but anyone who is a fan of roadhouse rock and blues as done by Delbert McClinton as well. Hopefully, this trip back to the well will help get Lee Roy Parnell back on the road to success.

--- Graham Clarke

Little Toby Walker has recorded some very good solo acoustic blues over the past few years, specializing in blues, ragtime, and bottleneck styles. This time around, to spice things up, Walker has invited a few musicians to play along on his latest self-released effort, Toby Walker Plays Well With Others. Among the guest stars are Muddy Waters alum Bob Margolin, who plays guitar on three songs, including Son Thomas’ “Beefsteak When I’m Hungry,” and adds some tasty electric licks to “100 Real Good Reasons To Sing The Blues” and “You Got Something On The Side.” Other guests include upright bass player Ernie Sykes (Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys), Bob “Hootch” Paolucci on harmonica, and Buddy Merriam (Backroads), who adds mandolin to several tracks.

Walker tackles some interesting covers, including Blind Boy Fuller’s “She’s Got Something There,” Gary Davis’ “Death Has No Mercy,” Doc Watson’s “I Am A Pilgrim,” “It Should Have Been Me”(most often associated with Ray Charles), and probably the most intriguing, a beautiful take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Walker’s original compositions hold up well to the standards and usually offer a wry look at the blues, such as “Been On The Job Too Long,” and “100 Real Good Reasons To Sing The Blues.” “Turner’s Retreat,” a tribute to one of Walker’s mentors, guitarist Turner Foddrell, is a Piedmont-style romp with some impressive slide guitar by Walker, and “Southern Cross The Dog,” a moody Delta blues tune, also features slide.

All in all, this is a remarkably well-crafted album that shows Walker, good as he is by himself, plays with others very well indeed. If you’re a fan of acoustic blues guitar, you should check this disc out at or

--- Graham Clarke

Memphis blues diva Barbara Blue returns with her latest effort on Big Blue Records. Love Money Can’t Buy offers more of the great Memphis blues and soul sounds Blue has brought us on previous CDs. Still receiving stellar support from Taj Mahal’s Phantom Blues Band, Blue lends her distinctive, expressive vocals to 13 tracks (plus a hidden 14th track, a live version of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” tacked to the end of the final track).

The highlights include the bluesy title cut, a cover of Eddie Floyd & Steve Cropper’s “On A Saturday Night,” Denise LaSalle’s “Man Size Job,” a stunning, hypnotic rendition of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Standin’ In My Doorway Cryin’.” Blue also wrote a couple of the songs here, channeling the spirit of Big Mama Thornton on “Low Down Dirty Dawg.” “Bag O’ Bones” is another cut in the droning hill country tradition that works very well, and the moving final track, “That’s Where My Brother Sleeps,” is a touching tribute to all those who have fallen in combat from the Civil War to the present day.

The Phantom Blues Band, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, drummer/producer Tony Braunagel, Larry Fulcher on bass, keyboard whiz Mike Finnegan, and the tremendous horn section (Lanny McMillan and Lon Price, tenor sax with Ben Cauley and Dedrick Davis, trumpets) are simply one of the best backing bands out there. The combination of great songs, great band, and great performances add up to another winner for Barbara Blue. Go to her website, to pick up this disc and check out her other releases while you’re there.

--- Graham Clarke

Sandy CarrollWhat the hell is "Delta Techno"? That was my first thought when the new record from Sandy Carroll hit my doorstep. I admit I had to check out Sandy’s website to get a clue. Described as, “imagine if Sade went to Al Green’s church with Bonnie Raitt, then the two headed over to Raifords near Beale Street that night to hang out with Little Feat.” The resulting collaboration is evidently Delta Techno. I’ve been to Al Green’s church and while I’m still not sure if the definition fits, Delta Techno is definitely one of the more interesting records to come out so far this year.

Produced by her husband, the legendary Jim Gaines, Delta Techno utilizes bongos, synthesizers, B3 organ, slide guitar, electric piano and a host of wonderful musicians to produce a sound that is at once distinctly different and uniquely enjoyable. Opening with the song “Back in Business,” Sandy lets us know that her heart is open to new love. She’s gotten over the hurt caused by giving her all to a man who treated her badly and she’s ready for a new man to treat her right. “Tool Box” segues into the thought that whiles she’s a fiercely independent woman, there is something in a man’s tool box that she doesn’t have in hers and a pipe laying man is good to have. “Tool Box” is an upbeat, enjoyable song that starts to define what Delta Techno must sound like to me.

In “Used to Be” Sandy proudly proclaims the advantages of her new life while musing on what it would be like to talk to an old lover, someone who “Used to Be.” A melancholy song, “Used to Be” reflects on a woman who’s moved on but definitely still has fond feelings of the man who was in her life. “Where Blue Begins” focuses on that point in the evening when it would be good to be held, to be loved, to be wanted by her man. He’s obviously left and he’s missed the most at that point “Where Blue Begins.”

“Bound for Glory” introduces a touch of gospel to the record. “Ease on down the road……Keep on tryin’…Keep facin the light.” The revivalist feel of “Bound for Glory” brings a nice interlude in the flow of Delta techno. And then things slow way down on the ballad, “Woman in Me,” an admonition to take things slow in the passion of the moment. “Love the woman in me…..let the child be free….love the woman in me.” I’m starting to hear the Sade/Bonnie Raitt reference with Little Feat in this song and the impassioned vocal by Sandy contributes to the feeling that permeates “Woman in Me.” Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.

In “No Looking Back” Sandy lets us know that this love is over. “The girl who believed (is the) Woman who knows we’re running on empty.” It’s time to say good bye and close the door on a love that was. Sandy then searches for a reason for the love gone bad in “Bottom of the Blues.” Down, out and out of control, Sandy is searching for a hand out of the darkness, hoping desperately that someone will show her the light out of the misery she’s feeling.

An impassioned guitar solo by Evan Leake highlights the intro to “Nothin’ Hurts like a Heart.” Tim Hinkley compliments Leake with his work on the B3 and we’re left to feel Sandy’s pain as a lonely woman in a neon world. The stark delivery of “Nothin Hurts like a Heart” leaves you wishing she would find some happiness in this world. Moving on to “Smooth Blues,” Sandy lets us know that there are times when the best thing to do is just let the music play……”Dance with the sound (of some) Smooth Blues.” A wonderful sax interlude by Douglas Daniels accompanies the sadness of being caught in middle between being blue and being happy.

On “Never Be Free” Sandy implores her man to stay away. She doesn’t want to take on the burden of intimacy that comes with exposing herself to the emotions of love he wants her to feel. In this situation it's best for her to not get involved and just stay free. The opposite thought process occurs in the song, “Make up Your Mind.” Here Sandy is tired of the drain on her energy caused by a man who loves her one day and can do without her the next. Trying to determine where he stands is more emotionally draining than the love that he gives her and, honestly, she’s better off without him.

Delta Techno closes with the song “King of the Mountain,” dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. Co-written by William Lee Ellis, the former music writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “King of the Mountain” speaks to the vision of purpose. Dr. King had a dream that he ardently pursued and “King of the Mountain” reminds us that the work is never done…..we must press on.

I found Delta Techno to be an interesting listen. Is it worthy of defining a new musical style called Delta techno? The jury is still out on that. But give credit to Sandy Carroll and Jim Gaines for having the courage of their convictions to produce something new and interesting. I’m hoping the next time I get to Memphis I have the opportunity to see Sandy perform live and hear what she’s all about in person. In the meantime, I’ve listened to a wonderful CD that challenged my musical senses. and that’s a good thing.

--- Kyle Deibler 

The beauty of working the International Blues Challenge in Memphis each year is the opportunity for three days to hear over 130 acts from around the world prove that blues is indeed alive and well. One of the new additions to the competition is the best self-produced CD contest; the entrant from Blue Voodoo, aptly titled The Storm, was a semi-finalist in this year’s competition. I promised Blue Voodoo that The Storm would be the first record in my CD player when I got home and I’m still trying to figure out if The Storm is the actual title of the record or a term that refers to the mayhem that occurs when lead singer BJ Allen walks into the room. Either way….The Storm was a worthy entrant into the competition and a well-produced independent record for this band from Missouri.

“Sweet Talk & Wine” opens the record with BJ lamenting the fact that her affections are easily won back with a “little sweet talk & wine.” An original tune by bassist JP Hurd, “Sweet Talk & Wine” eventually finds our muse with enough strength to turn the tables and walk away. “Don’t Be Hard on Me Baby,” another Hurd tune, establishes the rules for the relationship from the get go….."when you’re hard on me baby I gotta be hard on you.” Life shouldn’t be so difficult but at least she’s standing up for herself.

The title track, “The Storm,” finds guitarist Jerry Fuller contributing his songwriting talents to those of Hurd’s. Bad love is the common theme, this time her lover doesn’t have the innate ability to be honest….he can’t even look her in the eye when he tells her goodbye. At least she’s out of the limbo that finds her somewhere “between love and hate!” Things slow down on the song “Singin’ My Own Blues Now.” Blues singers are famous for singing about every one else’s pain, but this time BJ is the one being hurt. Immersed in the reality of her own pain, BJ intones that the reason she “seems a little bit different and strange tonight somehow….it’s because I’m singing my own blues tonight!” “Singing My Own Blues Now” is probably my favorite song on the record.

“The Devil in Me” is BJ’s response to being mistreated. The devil in her lover, who mistreated her, lied to her and cheated on her, is bringing out the devil in her. He can’t run far enough or fast enough to get out from underneath her wrath at being taken advantage of. “Something For Nothing,” another song by Jerry Fuller, reflects on the fact that everyone expects something for nothing and she’s tired of the seemingly endless expectations that everyone has of her. She gives and gives and gives and no one wants to pay.

“Willow Tree” finds our muse in love with a man who doesn’t return her affections. Things are so bad that even the willow tree won’t weep for her. Time to move on girl and let him go. “Disneyland of the Blues” pays homage to Beale Street and the fun that can be found there. Blue Voodoo is a two-time competitor in the International Blues Challenge and the spirit of Memphis definitely brings out the best in everyone. Inspired by their first foray into competition in Memphis, BJ intones that, “You’re never going to find a street like Beale…it’s like Disneyland of the Blues!” Written by guitarist Jerry Fuller, “Disneyland of the Blues” is a great original tune and a wonderful compliment to the spirit of the IBC. Well done, Blue Voodoo!!

The one cover song to be found on The Storm is “Sitting on Top of the World,” by Howlin' Wolf. BJ Allen and her crew did the song proud. BJ has tremendous range and “Sitting on Top of the World” gives her an opportunity to show just what a beautiful instrument her voice really is. This girl has a powerhouse voice and definitely knows how to use it.

“Ain’t Gonna Take It Anymore” definitely lets us know that our girl has had enough of her cheating man ...”Leave your key by the door….I ain’t gonna take it anymore!” Time to pack up, get out….and don’t look back. “Good-Bye Baby” finds the opposite to be true….this time BJ is the one leaving. “When I hit the road this time….feet won’t even touch the ground!” Her man tried to change her instead of loving her for herself and that just wasn’t going to happen.

It’s easy to see why the judges of the Blues Foundation’s CD contest liked The Storm. It’s indicative of all that is right about the blues today. It features wonderful original songwriting, tight musicianship by a band the obviously enjoys playing together, and powerful vocals by a lead singer coming into her own. You’ll find that The Storm is available through, or from Blue Voodoo at Pick it up, enjoy it and if you get a chance…come to Memphis for next year’s IBC and see why Blue Voodoo is correct in that, “Beale Street is the Disneyland of the Blues!”

--- Kyle Deibler

Jimmy ThackeryJimmy Thackery recently played the Rhythm Room here in Phoenix, AZ, and it was by far one of the best shows I’d seen all year. So I was anxious to listen to his latest release on Blind Pig Records. The Essential Jimmy Thackery is a retrospective look back on the eight albums he’s recorded for Blind Pig and highlights his work with the Drivers, a period of time that many feel showcases Jimmy’s best work to date.

Cars and the Motor City seem to be a predominant theme in this record as it opens with “Mercury Blues,” featuring Mark Stutso on vocals. Mark’s one wish is to simply buy himself a Mercury and “cruise it up and down the road.” The car itself is more important than the girl it will attract. An upbeat song, “Mercury Blues” is a great opening song for this disc. Jimmy takes the mic for the vocals on “Trouble Man,” the man with answers to all of his woman’s problems. Just ask the “Trouble Man,” he’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.

“Detroit Iron” is the tale of a hard working auto worker who specializes in building “Detroit Iron.” Great guitar work by Jimmy and a solid vocal by Mark bring to life this cut from Jimmy’s Sinner Street album. Next up is the title tune, “Sinner Street,” a wonderful instrumental featuring brilliant sax work by Jimmy Carpenter. “Cool Guitars” is my favorite song on the album. A perfect solution to love gone bad, I myself would probably, “Sell the bitch’s car and buy a cool guitar!” if the spirit moved me. Great song.

“It’s My Own Fault” brings Lonnie Brook into the mix on guitar and vocals. Lonnie tells you that it’s his fault so “treat me the way you want to do!” Jimmy and Lonnie take turns playing some inspired solos and musically this is one of the strongest played songs on the record. Love’s gone bad, Jimmy’s been done wrong, so he’s going to take himself downtown to the “Empty Arms Motel.” The Empty Arms Motel is a curious place to stay, “the blues are complimentary” for all those who stay there.

Hopping in the car and hitting the highway is one way to stay alive as Mark intones on “Drive To Survive.” One more highway, one more day, it’s a good way to have all of your troubles drift away. Moving on to “Jump for Jerry,” we find a upbeat swing instrumental that features Jimmy trading leads with the saxophone of Jimmy Carpenter.

Things slow down in the ballad “Dancing on Broken Glass,” that features vocals by Reba Russell. “It seems that loving you baby, is like dancing on broken glass.” Jimmy and Reba trade vocal leads as they try to work through the pitfalls of their romance.

“I’ll Come Running Back” adds the guitar work of John Mooney to the mix and finds Jimmy lamenting the loss of one good love. “Call out my name and I’m not ashamed…..I’ll coming running back to you!” For whatever reason, this is a love that refuses to die and Jimmy intones that it’s not over yet. One wonders if he got the girl back or not. “I'll Come Running Back” is a great ballad and my other personal favorite on this disc.

Jimmy cranks it up considerably on “Wild Night Out” … strong guitar work and a boisterous rhythm section indicates that you’d “better get ready for a wild night out!” The closing cut on the disc is “Jimmy’s Detroit Boogie” and finds the Drivers in high gear as they churn their way through this high octane instrumental.

While Jimmy has definitely gone on to do some more adventurous work, The Essential Jimmy Thackery captures a historical period in the evolution of Jimmy & The Drivers. It features some of Jimmy’s most brilliant guitar work to date and showcases the strength of the Drivers as his supporting cast in one of Blues' strongest trios. Any fan of Jimmy’s brilliant guitar work will be proud to add this record to their collection.

--- Kyle Deibler

PinkiePinkie & The Snakeshakers is a band that’s been around for a while, but escaped my notice – and that’s a shame because they’re a great band. Leader Pinkie, has a great voice for blues (but maybe not for opera!), a sort of cross between Janis Joplin and Etta James at times. Shake These Blues (Platinum Factory), their first album, was recorded in Oklahoma City in 2001, and all 11 tracks on the CD are written by Pinkie & guitarist Chris Henson.  It’s not an easy job to produce a whole album of original blues numbers, but these guys have succeeded in making a good job of it.

The band is Pinkie on vocals, Chris Henson guitar & vocals, Robert Riggs on harmonica, bassist Ike Lamb, and Russell Hinton on drums – they are helped out at various times by Terry Spears on keyboards (who also handled the recording), Fred Hanradt on bass and Sean Younge on drums.

The opening track, “Bad Weather,” is a good medium tempo driving blues, with Fred Hanradt taking the bass --- you just know that this is going to be good listening. Things slow down a bit for “Good Girl Gone Bad”, a haunting melody with some well written (possibly auto-biographical?) lyrics, and a nice guitar break in the middle --- this one is great late night music.

Track five, “Good, Strong Woman,” is a medium boogie beat with the harmonica lingering in the background. Possibly the harp could have been brought a bit more to the front, but that’s a minor criticism of an otherwise good number.

Whatever tempo/beat you like, you’ve got a chance of finding it on this album, from ballad through slow tempo blues via boogie to up-tempo driving blues, but my undoubted favourite is “Lonely Woman Blues” --- I just can’t stop playing this one, and not only is it a great blues track, it’s also over 11 minutes long! This is slow, smooth flowing, blues at it’s best. Great harmonica, great guitar, fine lyrics delivered through excellent vocals --- this CD is worth buying for this track alone (and then you’ve got ten bonus tracks!).

--- Terry Clear

PinkieSatisfied (Platinum Factory) is the follow up to the 2001 CD Shake These Blues by Pinkie & The Snakeshakers, and it took the band two more years to get it out – it was worth the wait! It contains 11 more original tracks written by Pinkie and guitarist Chris Henson, and recorded in 2003 in Oklahoma.

The opening song, “A Little Whiskey,” sets the standard --- a nice raunchy, mid tempo, blues with excellent guitar work by Chris Henson. The band slows down a little for “Voodoo Love” --- it’s a catchy track, although a little repetitive towards the end. Good, but not their best. The slowown continues for “From Beginning To End.” This is a moody, introspective, song,reminiscent of some of Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac’s slow blues numbers. Excellent for some lonely, late-night listening.

The tempo picks up a little for the next track, “Making Love” --- well-written lyrics and a good beat combine to make this is very good number indeed. The guitar backing is uncomplicated and simplistic, but really lets rip for the break in the middle with some clever slide work by Henson.

The best of the bunch, for me, is “Ain’t Been Satisfied” --- Henson produces some classic sounding acoustic slide guitar work, which puts me in mind of some of the best Delta blues sliders of the '50s and '60s. The vocals are verging on perfect, and this tracks shows you just how good this vocalist and this band really are. They should make this their signature tune! Once I’d heard this track for the first time, I just kept going back to it time and time again. There’s an electric version later on the album, the last track in fact. Again, it’s excellent, but it doesn’t quite have the impact of the acoustic version, in my mind.

However, there’s more to come --- some electrifying (and electric) slide guitar on “Blues Like The Devil” --- this is a real driving, foot-tapping blues that runs a very, very close second place as my favourite on this album.

All in all, a worthy follow up to their previous album and I’m looking forward to the next one!

--- Terry Clear

Watermelon SlimWatermelon Slim & The Workers (NorthernBlues) is Watermelon Slim's long awaited follow up to the 2004 CD Up Close & Personal, and if anything it’s even better! These people at NorthernBlues obviously really love their blues, because they release some great stuff! The album features 14 tracks, a lot of originals and a couple of covers --- the covers have been well chosen, and the originals are all top class too. Anyone buying this CD is in for a lot of enjoyment, it really is a winner --- no wonder Watermelon Slim was a nominee for the W.C.Handy award for Best New Artist Debut in 2005.

The “Workers” are Michael Newberry on drums and percussion, Ike Lamb on guitars, and Cliff Belcher with the bass --- they all take a turn on backing vocals too. They are helped out by Dennis Borycki on Piano, and Chris Wick plays electric bass on one track (Fred McDowell’s “Frisco Line”). Together with Watermelon Slim (harmonica, dobro and slide guitar) they produce a really tight solid sound, and they show that they really know what the blues is all about.

So, to start with the cover tracks --- “Baby Please Don’t Go” (Big Joe Williams) and “Frisco Line” (Fred McDowell) --- both very well executed, true to the original without being just copies. In fact, “Frisco Line” turns out to be my favourite track on the CD --- it’s one of those tracks that you just can’t sit still to, and Fred McDowell would (in my opinion) be pleased with this version. “Baby Please Don’t Go” is almost as good; I’m really having trouble in finding a track that’s not 100% good, pure blues.

The other 12 tracks are all written by either Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans) himself, or in collaboration with other band members. The album open with the superb “Hard Times,” a funky, medium tempo blues which kicks off the proceedings nicely and leads into “Dumpster Blues,” a good driving beat with some moody harp playing from Slim. There are some very mixed influences here and they blend together to produce a distinctive style for this band, going from good up-tempo rocking blues to slow almost ballads, and just about everything in between, and including some poignant and some amusing lyrics.

If you like traditional old-style slide guitar work, then have a listen to “Folding Money Blues” --- it could come straight from the 1940s or '50s --- wonderful stuff (well, I think so anyway!). The CD finishes on as good of a note as it started with the fabulous “Eau De Boue,” possibly my second (or maybe third) favourite on the CD. Give this guy and this record label some support – they deserve it for putting out a CD like this !!!

--- Terry Clear

Lou PrideLou Pride grew up on the north side of Chicago in the ’50s at the height of the flourishing blues and R&B scene where his musical connection started at an early age in his church ministered by none other than Nat King Cole’s father, Rev. E.J. Cole. When Pride witnessed a gig by B.B. King (taken to the concert by his Mom), his desire to sing the blues was formed. A few years later while singing with an USO act in Europe Pride met up with a lady, nicknamed JLC, formed a strong R&B duo and later married his singing partner where both relocated to El Paso. Here is where Pride first recorded his own unique brand of soul-fused blues. Being equipped with a silky smooth singing style Pride quickly got the attention of critics who made comparisons to such greats like Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Milton and Johnnie Taylor.

Pride has always believed in the power of touring, so recordings have been anything but plentiful during his musical career. Fortunate for the world Pride’s current full-length recording comes at us full force on Severn Records. Titled Keep On Believing Pride is at his best romping through 13 tunes aching to be classics. Armed with an arsenal of great sounding musicians and superb production Pride is allowed to soar vocally immersing the listener with the total scope of his range.

Right off the bat with "Midnight Call" Pride delights the senses with a blast of horns and a flourish of Hammond B3 that soothes our soul. This is helpful considering Pride’s tale of a cheating spouse making that “midnight call” to her lover cuts right to the bone of marital infidelity. This subject matter pops up throughout the disc but is evenly paired with songs of love and bliss.

On the love side we have Pride exclaiming that he is the "Real Deal," ready to take whoever is willing on the love ride of their life. With a wonderful beat and driving horns, this nicely upbeat tune makes the “train ride” very enjoyable. The blues is served up in fine form with "Sunrise," featuring some nice guitar licks. Out of the 13 tunes, Pride struts his stuff as an extremely capable songwriter and co-writer on the majority of the songs. The one exception is Pride’s beautiful rendering of the Bob Marley classic “Waiting in Vain.” Here Pride understands the need to stay away from a “copy” recording and more than aptly delivers his original feel for the song. Nicely done.

One song makes a ”comeback” of sorts. On "I’m Com’un Home in the Morn’un," Pride revisits a tune that when originally released in England (hence the different spelling) was a huge hit on the North England soul community in the early ’70s. This obviously shows Pride’s music touches all souls, even those overseas.

My advice to you is run to your nearest website (or, even better, your local independent record store) and grab yourself a copy of Lou Pride’s Keep On Believing. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll keep on believing in Lou Pride. Good listening.

--- Bruce Coen


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