The 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.
this CD at your peril. Buy it and your soul will thank you.
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. (www.dennismcclung.com).
--- Connie Getz
What 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
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
Ecko 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.
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
I 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
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
(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
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
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.
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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
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
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
comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhythm & 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
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.
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In 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
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
For CDs and information, contact
--- Tim Holek
In 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.
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
"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
--- Tim Holek
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
"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
--- Tim Holek
Radio 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 www.mississippiheat.net.
--- Tim Holek
Another 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”
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
--- 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.
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, www.barbarablue.com to pick up this disc and check out her
other releases while you’re there.
--- Graham Clarke
What 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
“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
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
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 cdbaby.com,
or from Blue Voodoo at
bluevoodooblues.com. 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 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
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
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
--- Kyle Deibler
Pinkie & 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
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
--- Terry Clear
Satisfied (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
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
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
All in all, a worthy follow up to their previous album and I’m looking
forward to the next one!
--- Terry Clear
Watermelon 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
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
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 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.
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
--- Bruce Coen