Blues Bytes

What's New

March 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Gary Kendall

Future of the Blues, Vol. 3

The Soul of John Black

The Nighthawks

Adrian Duke

Fontaine Brown

Tommy McCoy - Lucky Peterson

John Nemeth

Bad News Blues Band

JJ Grey

Mitch Kashmar

Gary KendallThe veteran Canadian bassist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, and bandleader Gary Kendall has a winner on his hands with Feels Real Strong (47 Records). Given his prodigious talent and constant contributions to the Canadian music scene, this should come as no surprise. Having been a member of the legendary Downchild Blues Band from ’79-’83 and currently since 1995, Kendall is widely-known. When not touring with Downchild, Kendall books the entertainment at Toronto’s famed Silver Dollar blues club and performs with The Gary Kendall Band among other alliances. He released his first solo CD, Dusty & Pearl on his own independent label, 47 Records, in 2004.

That CD had so many guests, it was difficult to hear Kendall’s originality and style in the music. The new CD is far more focused on Kendall and his current, potent road band. They are comprised of Toronto’s finest roots musicians including Wayne “Shakey” Dagenais (keyboards), Darran Poole (guitar), Tyler Burgess (drums and harmonica), and Mike Fitzpatrick (drums). Additionally, there are six guest musicians.

From the opening bars on Real Good Night, 12 all-original, radio-friendly songs come straight at you for 45 multifarious minutes. This lead-off song describes, from both a listener’s and performer’s perspective, the feelings experienced when things come together in a perfect performance. With a guitar that sounds influenced by Mark Knopfler, the danceable Marlena contains the kind of pop/rock that was commonplace on celestial radio 25 years ago. "Deep In My Heart" contains hand-clapping, foot-stomping boogie/rock, while rhumba-style rock reverberates from "When You Tell Me." With poignant horns and prevalent guitar, the title track is a ’60s-era-sounding soul ballad.

Additional soul is found on "Wall Of Love," which challenges you to be grateful for what you have. Perhaps it was written based on the fact that he has been there and done that. Or maybe he is just incredibly strong-willed. Whatever the case may be, Kendall “saw a lifeline and grabbed that rope” and resists the temptation of a debauchery-filled lifestyle on "Here To Stay." "Streeta Groove" is a Texas shuffle that details the zany history of Toronto’s Spadina Street clubs and bands.

Additional American roots music can be heard on the zydeco-sounding "Sugaree." It contains an infectious Louisiana rhythm that is widely appealing. "Rainy Night In Hogtown" features a traditional blues pattern and romping slide guitar that would make Muddy Waters or Bob Margolin blush. "Terrified Blues" is a slow since-you-left-me-baby blues. "That Thing" is a contemporary take on Willie Dixon’s "The Same Thing." Here, the Downchild influence runs deep, while the song is reminiscent of Big Joe Turner style rock ‘n’ roll.

The most memorable things are the whirling rhythms and the exceptional musicianship – especially the Professor Longhair influenced keyboards, which steal the show. Most of all, the CD allows the listener inside the man who has been a pillar for so many others. If you are strictly expecting blues, you’ll be disappointed. If you prefer a more diverse menu, you be as satisfied as a diner in a New Orleans restaurant. This successful album is sure to end up on a few 2009 top ten lists.

--- Tim Holek

Northern Blues samplerThe da-da-da-da-dat riff – made famous by Muddy Waters on "Hoochie Coochie Man" – has been a blessing and a curse to the blues. It is one of the most recognized riffs ever recorded, but by today’s heady standards, it sounds dull. For those who think modern blues is boring, this sampler (and record label) is for you. Samplers like The Future Of The Blues, Volume 3 (NorthernBlues) are a great (and inexpensive) way to get exposure to various styles of blues and to a specific label. Even in this day of commercial free non-stop satellite radio, samplers are an excellent way to discover the blues.

There are 15 tracks – including five previously unreleased – on this 70-minute disc. Three of them are from Watermelon Slim, who has taken the blues world by storm over the past few years. NorthernBlues head honcho Fred Litwin is obviously looking to cash in on this popularity as well as try to feed the insatiable craving for the trucker turned bluesman. I don’t care for his unpleasant vocals and common music. But even critics like me will enjoy the butt-kickin’ boogie "Blues For Howard" that features searing slide guitar. A galloping beat makes one of his other songs, "Blue Freightliner," rock.

Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt unite classic east-Indian music and blues for the common goals of peace and humanity. Together they perform outstanding acoustic guitar and mohan veena, and the vocal harmonies are surreal. On "Penny Waiting On Change," Homemade Jamz displays great potential to blossom into huge blues stars. Here, the guitar crescendos from a leisurely pace and then explodes into fiery passion. The slurred and intoxicated-sounding vocals on the track from Moreland & Arbuckle only hints of the faux Mississippi hill country blues they perform so well.

Samuel James is a multi-instrumentalist who plays mean, acoustic country blues. His voice sounds like the folky Bob Dylan has met rapper Jay-Z. Eddie Turner combines grey modernism with genre-blending experiments. On a swinging instrumental, Carlos del Junco shows why he is one of Canada’s best harpists and why he is ready to compete internationally for the harmonica crown. His playing is based in the tradition but strays from it in a positive and exciting sense. He may play his scintillating swing blues into his retirement years, but 28-year-old JW-Jones isn’t planning to wait until then to make his mark on the industry.

Mason Casey’s Sofa King Badass was one of the most over-looked releases. With the following contributors, Don Covay, Steve Cropper, Jimmy Johnson, and Jon Tiven, how could it have been anything but great? Depending on how you feel about repetition, Mem Shannon’s 13-minute hypnotizing rhythm will either put you in a trance or a slumber. Zac Harmon’s track is lively enough, but it’s the most stereotypical blues sounding song on the sampler. It’s not what you expect from this label, which was incepted in 2001, because it’s too predictable.

Thanks to the forward-thinking of NorthernBlues and their innovative artists, the future of the blues sounds very hopeful.

--- Tim Holek

The Soul of John BlackThe Soul of John Black’s third release, Black John (Eclecto Groove), features more of that infectious “country funk” sound that was so enthralling on their previous two releases. The man behind it all, John “JB” Bigham, has quite a background in music, playing guitar and writing songs for Miles Davis, playing guitar and keyboards for the funk/ska/rock band Fishbone for nearly a decade, and playing sessions with artists like Eminem, Dr. Dre’, Rosey, Nikki Costa, Everlast, and Bruce Hornsby. His approach to the blues encompasses many different styles and it gives the genre a fresh, new sound.

Take the title track, which opens the disc; a variation of the old “Stagger Lee” tune, it starts out tamely enough with acoustic guitar and handclaps, but quickly changes gears with electric guitar, piano, bass, and drums. You’ll be playing this one again and again. The first single, “Betty Jean,” is a funky soul number that serves as a tribute to Betty Davis, soul singer from the ’70s and former wife of Miles Davis. “Last Forever” is a prime example of Bigham’s country funk sound. It’s steeped in the blues, but with a definite late ’60s/early ’70s Family Stone vibe.

“Bottom Chick” mixes in reggae rhythm with an irresistible hook. “White Dress” is a sexy number, with blues lyrics that might have come from an old Muddy Waters single over a sparse arrangement, mainly Bigham singing over his Stella slide guitar. “I Knew A Lady” blends old school (circa Leadbelly) sensibilities with a Go Go beat and “Push Into The Night” sounds like a mid ’80s R&B/Funk track. Closing the discs is “Thinking About You,” a quiet, meditative ballad featuring Bigham and his guitar.

Bigham is a masterful composer. His songs are full of catchy hooks and imaginative lyrics (including, on “Last Forever,” the girl who was like a bad cell phone; she liked to roam). He gets plenty of help from Adam McDougal (keyboards), Shawn Davis (bass), Jake Najor, Oliver Charles, and Scott Seiver (drums), Davey Chegwidden (percussion), longtime collaborator Chris Thomas (synthesizers and backing vocals), Satnam Ramgotra (bowed cymbals), and the indispensable background vocal team of Kandace Linsey and Laura J. Jones.

Black John is a heady mix of soul, blues, funk, jazz, country, and anything else that fit Bigham’s palette at the time. It’s said that a musical genre cannot continue to be vital if it stands in one place. Well, The Soul of John Black is breathing new, reinvigorating life into soul and the blues, and both genres are the better for it.

--- Graham Clarke

The NighthawksThe Nighthawks have been playing their brand of blues and roots music for over 30 years. Singer and harmonica player Mark Wenner, who founded the group in 1972 (along with a young guitarist named Jimmy Thackery) has built the band into an institution in the world of blues and blues/rock. They’ve toured all over the country and in over a dozen countries, released an impressive catalog of albums, and have played and recorded with many blues legends, including John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, Bob Margolin, and Muddy Waters. In 2005, guitarist Paul Bell became the latest in a long line of great lead guitarists (a list that includes Thackery, Margolin, Jimmy Nalls, Danny Morris, Pete Kanaras, James Solberg, Warren Haynes, and Steaurt Smith) and Johnny Castle took over the bass duties from longtime Nighthawk Jan Zukowski.

The Nighthawks’ latest release, appropriately on Powerhouse Records, is entitled American Landscape and mines sources ranging from raw and ragged swamp blues (Lazy Lester’s “Made Up My Mind”) to deep Southern soul (Sam & Dave via Steve Cropper’s “Don’t Turn Your Heater Down,” and Dan Penn’s “Standing In The Way”) to Motown (Marvin Gaye’s “Try It Baby”) to the songbooks of Bob Dylan (“She Belongs To Me” and “You Go Your Way”) and Tom Waits (“Down In The Hole”). The Nighthawks move easily from one musical style to the other, all the while leaving their own personal stamp on the music with Wenner’s gritty vocals, inspired harp work and Bell’s versatile guitar. There are two original compositions, both written by Castle and both upbeat numbers. “Where Do You Go” is a catchy pop rocker, and “Jana Lea,” written as a tribute to Castle’s wife is a hard-charging rockabilly tune.

Just in case you still question the band’s versatility, the disc closes with a blues version of The Andy Griffith Show theme (“Fishin’ Hole Theme”). I can just picture Opie and Andy strutting down to the fishing hole to this music.

If you’re already a fan of the Nighthawks, chances are you already have this disc. If you’re not familiar with them, consider the fact that Blues Bytes has now featured three reviews of this CD, all favorable, in the past three months, and check them out.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny HawthornJohnny Hawthorn returns with a powerful disc that picks up right were his debut release left off. Death & Taxes (Abe’s) is proof positive that Hawthorn is going to be a major player on the blues/rock scene for as long as he chooses. Hawthorn has been a part of the L.A. music scene for nearly a decade and has been a club favorite for years. In 2002, he joined up with Toad the Wet Sprocket and has toured with them playing lap steel, mandolin, and guitar. He’s also contributed music to several television shows and movies.

On Death & Taxes, Hawthorn plays guitars, bass, B-3, harmonica, and percussion. He’s joined by Mike Sauer (drums), Tris “Duke” Carpenter (bass), Steve Heidtman (bass), Dean Dinning (B-3), Carl Byron (B-3), and Nicole Gordon (background vocals). Hawthorn possesses a voice reminiscent of Tom Petty at times and he’s equally effective playing it tough or tender on the guitar.

The disc is not all blues. The opening cut, “Punk In The Streets,” has all the makings of a classic rock anthem and has received considerable attention already on the internet. After the opener, Hawthorn jumps into the blues with the scorching title track. “Bamboozled” is a hard-driving instrumental that sounds like Texas Flood-era SRV, and “Losers Game” is an atmospheric pop track.

The torrid “In My Time Of Dying” is the lone cover tune and drags Blind Willie Johnson screaming and kicking into the 21st Century. “When I Kiss You” is a change of pace with its jazzy feel, but it’s only temporary as “Cold Hearted Woman” kicks the disc back to full throttle for a bit before the acoustic number, “Traveling Roadside Blues.” If you weren’t convinced of Hawthorn’s versatility, the closer, “St. Stephan’s Green,” a moody instrumental that probably put a smile on Duane Eddy’s face up in Rock & Roll Heaven, should seal the deal for you.

An impressive follow-up to his debut, self-titled effort, Death & Taxes should bring Johnny Hawthorn some well-earned accolades, if there’s any justice in the world. Head over to or iTunes to check it out.

--- Graham Clarke

Alabama Blues MachineThe Alabama Blues Machine is an all-star band of sorts, consisting of veterans of southern bands like Dick’s Hat Band (guitarist and producer Ross Roberts), Wet Willie (drummer Lewis Ross), 2blu (singer/harmonica player Bruce Andrews), and a horn section (Mike Lingo – trombone, Rick White – trumpet, Jon Remley – saxophone) seasoned from years of playing with acts like the Temptations, the O’Jays, the Four Tops, and others. The ABM won the Magic City Blues Society’s Battle of the Blues Bands after only five gigs and won the right to compete in the 2009 International Blues Competition this past February in Memphis.

The band has also released a CD on R2 Records, called Must Be Love, which captures their brand of jump blues to perfection. Andrews, whose other band, 2blu, has made it to the semi-finals twice at the IBC, finishing sixth in 2007, has vocal style reminiscent of Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall and blows a mean harp. Roberts’ guitar work is sublime, and the horn section lifts things up a notch as well. The rhythm section (featuring Ross on drums, Clay Swafford on keyboards, and John Jackson on bass, who’s since replaced by Eric Onimus) grooves hard and steady.

Highlights included “Hindsight,” a song about viewing one’s lady from a different perspective, “Clay’s Boogie,” an instrumental featuring Swafford’s dazzling piano and Roberts’ swinging guitar, the southern rocker “LaQuita,” and the funky shuffle, “Rockin’ Me Baby.”

The disc is short, clocking in at seven songs and under 30 minutes. Considering the band’s been together for less than a year, it’s a very cohesive effort. These guys are seasoned professionals and all have a love for the music they’re playing. That shows up in every note they play and sing. For more information about the Alabama Blues Machine, check out their website at

--- Graham Clarke

Mike Hallal BandThe Mike Hallal Band has been packing them in for over a year now at Cambridge, MA’s Lizard Lounge with their sweaty version of blues/rock and roots music. The group has been captured in their element on their new CD, Live At Lizard Lounge (Pi Records). The tight four-piece band features Hallal on guitar and vocals, Chris Schluntz on guitar, Jim Antonellis on drums, and guest Jesse Flack from Jim’s Big Ego, who plays upright bass.

Of the eight tracks, Hallal wrote three of them, including the opening rocker, “Just The Thing,” the slow burner, “Maintain (Cruise),” and “Dancin’ In My Dreams,” which sounds a bit like Lou Reed. “25% of Nothin’” is a strong instrumental track showcasing Hallal and Chris Schluntz on guitar.

The remaining songs on the Lizard Lounge set are covers; one is a smoldering remake of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” and the other is Tom Petty’s “Apartment Song.” Probably of the most interest to blues fans is the electrifying “Doctor Blues,” the band’s reworking of Henry Townsend’s 1931 classic tune, “Doctor Oh Doctor.” Closing out the disc is a bonus instrumental, “A Minor Jam,” recorded a month later at the same venue with the band’s regular bass player, Robert DeCorte.

Live At Lizard Lounge is a memorable set of blues/rock originals and an eclectic set of covers, and should please fans of blues/rock guitar.

--- Graham Clarke

Adrian DukeNorth Carolina-based piano man Adrian Duke is a master on the keys and his rough, but soulful vocals remind you of a mixture of Ray Charles and Dr. John. He’s probably best known for his dazzling performance for Queen Elizabeth II during her 2007 visit to the U.S. Adriatica (Moon Glow Entertainment) is the first release by Duke since 2001’s live disc recorded in New Orleans. Duke dropped off of the music scene for an extended period to help care for his father, who suffered a debilitating stroke. After his father’s death, Duke returned to music and his fourth release is a stirring mix of New Orleans blues and R&B with more than a taste of funk and jazz thrown in.

Adriatica kicks off with an appropriately funky version of the Crescent City standard, “Cabbage Alley,” with Duke doubling on piano and Hammond organ, and the rhythm team of Lamont Sydnor (drums) and Damon Brown (bass) laying down a nasty second-line groove. There are three other cover tunes here, all barely recognizable. Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Around In Circles” gets a jazzy makeover. There’s also a frenzied remake of Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne,” which also features D. “Pickes” Brown and the Buzzard Luck Dixieland Explosion, and a more serene take on the classic “That Lucky Old Sun.”

Better still are Duke’s original compositions. “Frankie Jr., Get Me A Chair!” is taken at a breathless pace and features Roger Carroll on saxophone. “Long Road,” another Duke composition, features churchy background vocals and Duke’s Hammond organ. “Grown Damn Man” revisits that second-line beat and “Come On Home” is a straight blues track. The title cut is a journey into jazz fusion that bops along happily and showcases Duke on flute.

Also featured in support are Dave Finucane, who adds saxophone to the R&B/Funk workout, “Make It To The Water,” Derek Crowder and Harold Greene on guitar, and backing vocals by Carlton Miles, Theresa Richmond, and Yolanda Rabun. The Tower of Trinh Horns appear on “Snake Farm Woman.”

Adrian Duke is at the top of his game on Adriatica, a delightful journey to the world of New Orleans R&B and blues. Check out Duke’s website at and check out this disc at

--- Graham Clarke

Fontaine BrownFrom the Fence Line (Manatee Records) isn’t all strictly blues, but the blues that’s here is good blues, that’s for sure – and so is the rest of the music. The CD is a mix of soul, rock, & blues and Fontaine Brown either wrote, or co-wrote, all 12 tracks on the album.

Brown cut his teeth working production with Bob Seger, and recording a single for Chess records, and his songs have been recorded by the best – John Mayall, Joe Louis Walker, Dave Edmonds, Percy Sledge, Emmy Lou Harris, etc, etc. From that sort of background, you know that this guy knows his music, and that shines through on this CD. I would love to hear an album of just blues from him!

The opening track is the bluesy “Ain’t No Brakeman” with guitar, harmonica and vocals by Fontaine Brown, showing how versatile this man is. It rolls into track two, “Fence Line”, which is more rock based, but still has a blues feel and has some nice keyboard playing from Peter Holsapple, who also contributes mandolin on the album.

It takes three more tracks before we come back to the blues with “Southside Story” – a good medium up-tempo number which puts me in mind of some of the later R.L. Burnside material. A few more tracks pass by before the rocking blues “Just Out Of Reach” pops up – great rhythm section to back up Brown’s superb guitar work - great driving music, this one! The following track, “Pool Of Light”, deserves the cliché that the CD has something for everyone – electric sitar anyone?? A little bit of George Harrison influence, maybe, but there’s something compelling about it with the mix of harmonica, sitar, percussion.

The penultimate track, “Got To Git,” is another blues-rock track that again, somehow, puts me in mind of the later R.L. Burnside – probably the best harmonica on the album is found here. Which brings me to the last track, “Endless Road,” more rock than blues, but what a good track! This is the one that I’ve played the most, and I could drive all night to this, so I guess that votes it my favourite track on the album.
Definitely worth a listen!

--- Terry Clear

Paul KThe last time that I came across Paul Karapiperis was with the CD Crossroad Ritual by the Greek band Small Blues Trap, of which Karapiperis is the main man. That was an excellent album which proved that European blues can be almost as good as any.

This CD, 15 Raindrops in an Ocean of Blues Tales, reinforces the view that I had of Crossroad Ritual – it has 15 tracks all written (music & lyrics) by Paul Karapiperis and he has assembled some good musicians to help him along. Incidentally, my only criticism of the CD is that it is slightly lacking in information about who plays which instrument – we know that Karapiperis is the harp player, but there are three other guys in the band who play something. That’s a very small criticism, and it can be forgiven by the fact that Paul Karapiperis has produced the CD himself. The content of the CD is best described as experimental blues, I guess, but behind the different sounds incorporated in the album, plenty of good blues guitar and harmonica shines through.

The CD opens with an intriguing harmonica solo “Welcome Onboard! Clap Your Hands” and then moves into a very slow blues “Let’s Do The Boogie All Night.” Track three, “A Voodoo Woman Can,” features Karapiperis’ stylish harmonica playing on another slow blues, whilst the next track, “In Wood Alcohol Line,” picks up the tempo ever so slightly and features some well picked guitar.

There’s not much up-tempo music on here, it’s all fairly laid back, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good album – you just need to be in the mood for some slow blues.

--- Terry Clear

Tommy McCoy - Lucky PetersonThis man Tommy McCoy is obviously well respected in the business because he gets to play with some top names – last time it was Double Trouble, and now Lucky Peterson on yet another great release, Lay My Demons Down, from Blues Boulevard Records.

This album was recorded in 2002 at Bob Greenlee’s legendary Kingsnake Studio – Bob Greenlee having previously produced two of Lucky Petersen’s albums for Alligator Records. Here we have 15 tracks of some of the best blues around and it all kicks off with a Tommy McCoy written track, “Blues Thing,” an up-tempo blues with Lucky Petersen’s Hammond B3 kicking up a storm with some Jimmy Smith sounding riffs.

Things slow right down to a crawl with the next track “Bitter Soul To Heal,” late night blues à la Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues For You” – that’s not a criticism, by the way! For track 3, “They Killed That Man,” the quartet shrinks to a duo of Tommy McCoy and Ed Lanier on upright bass, and it’s pure magic – full of atmosphere and flavour.

The band gets back to being a four piece for the next few tracks, and then grows to a quintet by adding Mike Bell on slide guitar for track seven, “I Hate To Wait” – Mike Bell pops up again a couple of tracks later on “Stay in F.L.A.” In between these two tracks is a lovely version of Robert Nighthawk’s “Bricks In My Pillow” with a different quartet – Laptop Randy is on laptop steel guitar and Patrick Geoffrey on piano – I love it!!

On the subject of cover versions, there are three others on the album – Jimmy Rogers’ “Ludella,” Tampa Red’s “Crying Won’t Help you,” and Hop Wilson’s “Black Cat Bone” – they are all excellent, each one being given the Tommy McCoy touch without losing the flavour of the original. The version of "Black Cat Bone" has some magical lap slide guitar from Laptop Randy, played alongside Tommy McCoy’s guitar and Ed Lanier’s upright bass, and the trio stay together for the following track, “The Other Side,” and then the quartet reform to finish off the album with the instrumental “56 Chevy,” possibly the best track on the CD.

This CD didn’t get good distribution when it was first released, I really hope it does better this time – it deserves to.

--- Terry Clear

Rick MooreWell, those guys at Blues Boulevard Records have done it again – another couple of good issues keeping the blues alive in Europe and beyond.

Better Off With The Blues was a 2000 issue on Lucky Records, and it’s had four bonus live tracks added to it, much as Rick Moore did on his last album on Blues Boulevard, Slow Burning Fire – these four tracks were all recorded at The Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Nashville, and they add some nice flavour to the album, bringing the atmosphere of the bar into play.

The album opens with “Satisfied Man,” a track written by Rick Moore, as are most of the 17 tracks on the CD. The listener gets treated to some good rocking blues, with a foot tapping beat showcasing the piano work of Tim Hinkley. Things slow down with track two, the title track, a blues ballad, “Better Off With The Blues.” Great lyrics again from Rick Moore, and some inspired harmonica playing from Will Rhodarmer cutting through Moore’s fiery guitar work.

Track three, “Take It Down To Memphis,” is another rocking blues, but with the addition of The Memphis Horns, and a hot sax solo by Jimmy Hall. Flavours of Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band come through here, and it’s GOOD!

All the way through the album, there’s a mix of good blues in different tempos, and with different flavours and influences, some with the horns and some without, but all good music to listen to. Track 13 is an absolute gem, “Fire In The Delta,” with the band stripped down to a minimum – acoustic slide guitar, harmonica, good lyrics, pure blues – my favourite of the lot!! I’d love to hear Rick Moore do a whole album of this style of music.

--- Terry Clear

Alvin JettI last reviewed an Alvin Jett CD back in February 2008, when the East St. Louis-born Jett brought out How Long.

Jett's latest album a year later, Honey Bowl (Blues Boulevard), is even better – the Phat Noize Blues Band is still super tight, still producing great blues, and still backed ably by Frank Bauer’s sax playing. In addition the band has a handful of exceptional guest musicians in the shape of Arthur Mississippi Williams, John Wolf, Jim Rosse, Pete Ruthenberg and Scott Bryant.

Most of the 14 tracks here are written or co-written, by Alvin Jett, and they’re all good stuff - two of the others were written by the bass man Matt Davis and the remaining one by the sax player Frank Bauer.

The album opens with the Alvin Jett number, “Make Me Blue,” and straight away you know that you’re in for some good blues. This is a strong track, musically, with a driving beat, some fantastic sax playing from Frank Bauer, who takes off like an express train, and Alvin Jett’s trademark guitar work. Track two, “Lay My Burden Down,” is a song written by Jett and Bauer together, and it’s equally as good as the opening number, driving forward with absolute confidence.

On the next track, “Bluesman’s Hat” (also written by Jett & Bauer), Arthur Mississippi Williams is given the chance to strut his stuff with some down home harmonica playing which pushes the band along at a great tempo, and gives them a totally different flavour to the two previous tracks.

Just when you thought that you had this band pegged, they change to a Latin flavoured, Santana style, “Honey Bowl,” complete with some trumpet work from Jim Rosse – listen to this through headphones with your eyes shut, and the guitar work could be Carlos himself, especially at the start of the track – spooky, but nice!

The CD has a little bit of everything, including an eerie instrumental track, “Lucky Charms,” that just drips atmosphere and feeling. The guitar playing here reminds me a little of early Peter Green, but it’s not as though that was a direct influence, it’s more sutble than that and I can’t put my finger on it directly. Next up comes ”The Graveyard Shift,” pure slow, moody blues with possibly the best guitar work on the album – wow! This guy can play.

Frank Bauer’s track, “Alone & Drinkin’,“ shows that this man isn’t just a superb sax player, but he’s also got some tunes running around in his head that he needs to get down on paper – I hope we hear some more of his stuff on the next album. And his sax playing shines on the next track “Me, You & Cyndee,” a semi bossa nova type beat carried along by the sax with Jett’s guitar filling in – not very bluesy, but excellent late night listening.

The CD ends up with “A Year Or Two Or Ten Or Twenty,” followed by “Runnin’ Like A Dog” – two very strong bluesy numbers that wrap up the proceedings nicely, with all of the band working hard to show just how good they are together.

This CD deserves to be played……lots!

--- Terry Clear

John NemethIt’s always a treat to be able to sit back and watch an artist mature into a force in our industry. Such is the case with John Nemeth. I’m blessed to have copies of everything in John’s catalog and thought he was deserving of last year’s Blues Music Award for best new artist debut. John didn’t win, but he’s made a name for himself and his sophomore release on Blind Pig Records, Love Me Tonight, further cements the fact that this is indeed, an artist on the ride.

Up first is the title track, “Love Me Tonight,” and I find the band is attacking every note from the get go. “I’m disconnect the phone…putting the lock on the door…getting back to the basics of love…that we had before…love me tonight!” Bobby Welsh is on guitar for this journey and I appreciate his first solo of the record. He does double duty on keyboards and I hear them in the background as well. A great song to start off this disc.

Next up is “Just Like You.” The object of John’s affection is a bad girl and he can hardly stand it. “My dear old mother…wants you gone….sorry, sorry mother…I’ve done you wrong.” Temptation won out over common sense and the rest is history. John breaks out his harp for the first time and shows us why he’s one of the best coming up. “Fuel For Your Fire” slows the tempo down and gives John a chance to show his soulful side. “I’m just fuel…for your fire…fuel…for your fire…and your flame…will be your desire…it will burn…higher and higher…someday…everyone will see it shine!” I’m sure his woman appreciates the support John is showing her in face of the adversity she’s facing.

More hard-edged guitar from Bobby shows up on our next track, “Too Good To Be True.” “Who am I…to think you're mine…you’re not the kind to settle down…men can’t resist the way you twist…your automatic hips make your backbone slip!” This wild cat of a woman has captured John’s attention but like all the others, he gets left behind. “Daughter of the Devil” showcases John’s mesmerizing talent on his harp and features guitar work by Elvin Bishop. “Daughter of the devil…is my lover…somebody save my soul….who me.” The rhythmic backbeat of drummer June Core entrances the listener to feel John’s agony at being connected to this very wicked woman. In “My Troubled Mind” we find John needing a break from all that’s befallen him…a bad relationship and the resulting break-up. “I’ve been turned around and around…inside up and outside down…I’ve been reprogrammed for the old grindstone.” It’s time to take a break and the let the mind, heart and soul all mend peacefully.

“She’s My Heart's Desire” finds John back on the trail of a new woman who’s captured his eye. “You don’t care…how I feel…you know darling…down and dirty deal.” This woman is tough and John’s got serious work to do to stay in her good graces and make it all work out right. “I had my baby…in my loving arms…and I told her…that I love her…and I know…yes I know…she’s my heart’s desire!” This new ballad, “She’s My Hearts Desire,” finds John on his best behavior and being the man his new love needs him to be. I think John’s at his best singing soulful tunes like this one; “and my baby…she’s so fine…let me tell you…she’s mine…all mine…but my baby…has a heart of pure gold…and I believe it will never grow cold!” Enjoy the passion of this newfound true love John, sounds like you’ve found a great woman to care for.

“Love Gone Crazy” finds John thoroughly at odds with a woman who treats him badly. “She’s a dirty mistreater…and I treat her just the same…she’s a dirty mistreater…and I treat her just the same…yes its love gone crazy…it’s a cruel little game!” A blistering harp intro from John and more of Elvin Bishop’s guitar highlight the next cut, “Country Boy.” “This city living…sure is hard on a country boy…but if it makes this woman happy…give that woman all the joy!” John sacrificed his life in the country to follow the woman he loves into the city and hopefully it will all work out the way he wants it to.

Love Me Tonight closes with another soulful ballad from John, “Blues in My Heart.” Mournful notes of agony emanate from his harp as John begins to tell us his tale of woe, “I’ve got the blues in my heart…deep down into my soul…well, I’m feeling down and out…Oh, Lord…ever let me go?”

This has definitely been a sweet release from John Nemeth. To gain the respect of his elders, players like Elvin Bishop and Junior Watson, indicates that John is doing it right and Love Me Tonight definitely serves up the truth. Grab a copy of this disc from Blind Pig Records at their website,, or better yet, pick up a copy from John at one of his live performances and double your pleasure. There’s a bright future ahead of John Nemeth and we’re lucky he fell in love with the blues at a very, early age. You can find his gig schedule on his website at, and hopefully he’s coming to a club near you soon.

--- Kyle Deibler

Bad News Blues BandThe Bad News Blues Band is one of Arizona’s finest bands. For years they’ve played the Hot Licks Barbecue in Bisbee, Arizona and over the years some of those shows have become legendary for their stage antics, walking on the bar, etc. So it all made sense when they decided to record a live album to do it at Hot Licks and let the chips fall where they may. The result, Live at Hot Licks, comes as close to capturing the energy of Bad News at their best as you can find. The project was so successful it generated a two-disc set, one of un-recorded new originals and the other a disc of the group’s classic songs from previous releases. An ambitious project to say the least, but the result is definitely worth it.

Our first track finds guitarist Mike Blommer doing the vocal honors on “Ride with Me.” “What’s the use of walking…when the riding’s all in style…ride with me baby…in my brand new Cadillac…put on your pink dress darling…I’ve got my hair all slicked back.” Alex Flores and Carla Brownlee on the saxophones are letting it all hang out and you can tell early on that this three day recording session in Bisbee was something else. Next up is a song by Alex that I’ve been waiting for to be recorded for a long time, “Get a Job.” “I want to know…where you want to go with this…cause I’m tired…so tired…of putting up with all your bullshit…you’re asking me…what you can do…girl, I’m sick and tired of telling you…to get a damn job.” It’s time this girl pulls her weight or she’ll be out Alex’s door before she knows it. Mike’s fretwork speaks for itself as he’s back at the microphone for “Cold Cold Ground.” Seems he’s in a relationship that’s coming to an end. “I believe I break the ties that bind…I don’t know what happened…it’s nothing she has done…but I believe I should grab my clothes and run…I just keep thinking about sinking…in the cold, cold ground."

“We Need the Water” is a song written by bass guitar player, Steve Grams, who sings the lead on this one. “I’m going down to the river…I’m going to wade on in…and let that water…wash away…wash away my sins.” For those of us who know Steve, that’s a lot of sins. He’d better stay in the water a while. Next up is a traditional, "Para Donde Vas," arranged by Alex Flores. With the sounds of mariachis in the air, Alex sings this song in Spanish and I have a vision of him dancing on the bar at Hot Licks while performing this tune. It’s been done, trust me on that one. The tempo slows way down as Carla sings the lead on the ballad “Got a Lot of Drinking to Do.” “I promise I’ll be stinking…before the night is through…I’ve got a lot of drinking to do!” This and Alex’s “Get a Job” are two Bad News classics that definitely need to be recorded to disc and I’m glad they did.

The Bad News Blues Band is versatile enough to play a number of swing dancing gigs, so it’s only appropriate that they included a swing number, “Days of Old,” on the recording. “We’re going to ball tonight…we’re going to ball tonight…break all the rules…every man and woman too!” Next is a Bad News original collaboration by all the members of the band, “Nightlife.” The band’s in Sedona, Arizona and looking for a good time. “Where is the nightlife in this town? Checked the Yellow Pages and to my surprise…nothing listed but bar supplies…couldn’t find a drink so we had to get high.” Far be it for the band to go without a drink for too long. “Why is it you claim…I’m the one to blame…when you came to me…at 3 o’clock in the morning? I don’t know why…but somehow I…ended up with you…by the dawning” sings Mike on “Love With Someone Else.” A one night hookup comes back to haunt Mike as he’s moved on to a new love, “You can’t hold me down…I’m on higher ground…I’m in love with someone else!” It’s a really beautiful ballad and my favorite song of the previously un-recorded tunes.

Another Steve Grams tune, “Don’t Look Up,” is next. “If the blues are knocking round…don’t answer the door…if the blues are knocking around…you don’t need them no mor.e” Another uptempo tune by Mike and Alex, “Hey Baby,” is definitely catchy. “I’ve been watching you wiggle…in those tight little jeans…hey baby…you sure look good to me…I’m a sitting here thinking…how to get you next to me!” If there’s a way, Alex will figure it out and I’m sure the girl is definitely cute! “Mikey for Mayor” gives the band a chance to stretch out instrumentally before moving on to the final cut of disc one: “Push’ll Come to Shove.” “There now honey…let’s go downtown…why don’t you meet me with your red dress on…push’ll come to shove…I’m just a sad for your love.”

The second disc of Live at Hot Licks features new versions of Bad News classics such as “Nobody Understands Me,” “Make Up Your Mind,” One More and I Gotta Go,” “Liar,” “Still Cadillacin” and “Johnny’s Boogie,” amongst others. Juke Joint Johnny Strausser did a phenomenal job of getting it all recorded, and this is a project that the Bad News Blues Band should be very proud of. I haven’t had this much fun with the band since the Red Hat Harriers hit the stage at the Bisbee Blues Festival, and that’s a story for another day.

Congratulations go out to Mike Blommer, Alex Flores, Carla Brownlee, Steve Grams and Glenn Velardi for tearing it up in Bisbee for three nights and living to tell about it. This is a very high energy live disc that features the Bad News Blues Band at its very best (or worst) depending on your viewpoint. Pick it up from the band at any live gig they’re performing or order it from them at This is one disc you have to have in your party rotation.

--- Kyle Deibler

There’s no doubt that JJ Grey is Southern born and bred. From the first Allmanesque notes of his new record, Orange Blossoms, you can tell that his Southern roots run very deep. Appropriately enough, the title track is the first cut and it takes JJ back to his youth and his first love. He used to sneak into the bedroom of his girl to leave her notes to meet him in the orange groove, and the sweet smell of orange blossoms still reminds him of her. “All these years later…I can’t even remember her name….true love is hard to find….I can smell those orange blossoms…I can see her standing here…when I smell those orange blossoms…” All that remains is her memory and that seems to be enough.

“The Devil You Know,” our next cut, finds JJ reflecting on a woman who left him behind. “You turned on me…for the devil you know…well you can’t get clean without some blood, sweat and tears…that voice in your head’s got you all balled up in fear…time to pack your bags and tell yourself goodbye…you turned on me…for the devil you know.” “Your love is like the sweet…forbidden fruit in life…I’m another woman’s man…you’re another man’s wife…we both know right from wrong.” Such is the dilemma confronting JJ in “Everything Good is Bad.” Life is always about choices and some of them aren’t always as clear cut as we would like to believe. “With you I want to be…with her I just belong!” Does he go? Does he stay? We’re never really sure but it’s obvious the choice is more about choosing to live as opposed to just existing.

Violins and the Cello provide an interesting backdrop to our next tune, “She Don’t Know.” “If the morning finds her gone…I don’t know if I could carry on…she don’t know.” JJ definitely loves this woman who believes in him so much…to lose her would be a tragedy. “She believes…in what I do…even if I don’t…she don’t know…how much I love her…how much I need.”

“Darlin…wait for me…I’m coming home…keep those home fires burning bright…don’t leave me alone” sings JJ in “The Truth.” “One step closer…to the truth.” The moment has arrived in JJ’s life where he needs to honor the love he feels for this woman and try to help her understand just how much he loves her, how much she means to him. I think he’ll do just fine. “WYLF” (What You’re Looking For) is our next cut, and here JJ is working hard to convince the object of his affection that he’s got the goods. “There’s no need to try to hide…that come hither in your eyes…you know you want it too…this is…what you’re looking for!”

A solid bass line provides the back drop for our next track, “On Fire.” “She’s on fire…lord that girl is smoking…on fire…light them all up…she’s on fire.” Obviously, the hot girl on the dance floor has caught JJ’s eye and he’s tripping over himself trying to pull his wallet out to buy her a drink. All because, “that girl is on fire!” This game of cat and mouse continues in our next track, “Move It On.” “It’s a hard-nosed world that we live in…and we know life is full of pain…and its only love between us woman…that keeps us from going insane. So…move it on up…move it on over to the high side!”

“The higher you climb…the further you fall” is the lesson JJ imparts on our next cut, “Higher You Climb.” Everyone is struggling to make it in a dog-eat-dog world and not everyone is making the smartest choices. So be careful what you wish for…the climb may not be worth the fall. JJ pays tribute to his roots and his mother in “Dew Drops.” “Mama…don’t you know how much I miss you…I am stronger…stronger now…Mama…ain’t a day goes by…I don’t think about him…I can see his face still…I got to get away from here.” “Sipping on dew drops…float above the green tree-tops…walking on moonlight in the day.” “YBor City” is a place that JJ goes to escape from it all. “But I know…where the women are sweet as wine…when I get to YBor City…all them women going to treat me like a king!”

JJ chooses a ballad, “I Believe (in Everything),” for the final cut on what has been an enjoyable listen for me. “Let me look upon her one more time…this beauty that I love…she’s why…I believe…in everything…in everything…I’m a believer.” JJ’s a realist and he’s learned worthy life lessons along the way that have led to his belief in the world and the woman he loves.

Orange Blossoms more than proves that JJ Grey is at the top of his game as a writer and as a performer. Intelligent lyrics, well-crafted melodies and an amazing band to back him while he tells us his stories are all good reasons to pick up a copy of this disc. Grab a copy from Alligator Records or visit JJ at his website,, to learn more about this substantive roots artist who continues to impress both fans & critics around the country.

--- Kyle Deibler

One of the highlights of the 25th International Blues Challenge was the youth showcase held on Friday afternoon. 24+ groups, solo artists, etc.showed through their exuberance, frenetic playing and general attitude that the future of the Blues is alive and well. Blues Societies around the country are encouraging the growth of the music by supporting those coming up, and we’re the same here in Phoenix.

The current torch bearer for the future of Blues in the Valley is Kevin Casenhiser and his first album, Perfectly Toasted Blues, showcases his talents as a guitarist and vocalist.

Kevin is an ambitious guitarist and his fretboard work is found throughout this record. The first tune up, “Someday After A While,” starts out with a guitar lead from Kevin as he tells the girl in his life that she’s going to miss him. I hear B3 chords from Jim Riccitelli in the background, in addition to his piano, and Jim pulls double duty, serving as the producer of Kevin’s record as well. Harp stylings from Mike Morris are featured in our second cut, “I’m Tore Down.” Here Kevin admits that the girl in his life has had a dramatic on him and things just aren’t the same when she’s gone. “I’m tore down…almost to the ground…when my baby can’t be found!”

“Stormy Monday” has long been a favorite of Kevin’s and I’m glad to see he’s included it on Perfectly Toasted Blues. Other members of the KC Blues Band include drummer Ron Luke and bass guitarist Ray Lucero. Both are working hard to keep the back end tight on “Stormy Monday," and I hear both the bass and a light touch on the cymbals in the background as Kevin’s guitar solo takes center stage. Another of Kevin’s favorites, “Messing With the Kid,” is up next and it won’t be much longer before we’re all going to have to back off and quit messing “with the kid.” Stevie Ray Vaughn is another one of Kevin’s influences and “The Sky is Crying” is up next. I’m listening to Kevin’s fretwork and he’s confidently playing all the notes he needs to hit on this one as he sings Stevie’s song of despair about the woman who left him.

The tempo picks up and Mike Morris’s harp is back on “Born in Chicago.” Mike’s harp work is very tight as he plays a refined solo on this cut. Next up is Kevin’s tribute to Phoenix’s own Chico Chism, his version of “Big Fat Woman” paying homage to Chico’s “Big Fat Mama.” Chico has left quite an impression on our young Bluesman and his version of Chico’s song does him proud.

The last cuts on Perfectly Toasted Blues are two more standards: “Red House” and another favorite of Kevin’s, “Hoochie Coochie Man.” The KC Blues Band is tight behind him and Kevin sings admirable versions of both.

Any artist’s first record marks a milestone in their careers and Perfectly Toasted Blues does that for Kevin. Those of us who have had the pleasure of watching him learn and grow as a performer definitely will appreciate this CD, and the best is yet to come. I recently had the pleasure of watching Kevin sit in with two Valley legends, Hans Olson and Francine Reed, and he definitely more than held his own. The next step will be to record some original tunes and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s back in the studio, doing exactly that. To learn more about Kevin and the KC Blues Band or to order the CD, check them out at

--- Kyle Deibler

Mitch KashmarLive recordings are always an adventure. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you get the right degree of great performance, stellar audio and the foresight to hit “record.” Such is the case with Mitch Kashmar’s latest Delta Groove release, Live at Labatt. The Labatt Blues Festival is one of the premier Canadian Blues Festivals and the crowd that day in Edmonton was very appreciative of Mitch and the band’s efforts. Recorded by the Canadian Broadcasting Company and released by Delta Groove, this record finds Mitch at the top of his game accompanied by a fantastic band. The rest is pretty much undiluted history.

First up is a Kashmar original, “I Got No Reason,” Mitch’s harp and the bass of Steve Nelson get us up and running as Mitch tells us, “I got no reason to feel this good…just want to hug and squeeze everyone…in the neighborhood…want to strip buck naked…and run off in the woods!” John Marx, the former guitarist for the legendary William Clarke brings his axe to play and is just a beast on guitar as he duels with Mitch and his harmonica. “Dirty Deal” is up next, and we’re treated to shrill notes from Mitch’s harp to provide the backdrop for a relationship gone bad. “You don’t know…you don’t know…how I feel…I wanted to love you so bad…but you gave me a dirty deal!” “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” is dedicated to Mitch’s ex-wife as the keyboards of Jimmy Calire twinkle in the background, “I got a whiskey drinkin’ woman…she drinks whiskey all the time…but I love…I love my baby…cause she’s mine…all mine!”

“Evil Man Blues” is a re-worked version of Bessie Smith’s “Evil Woman Blues,” and the band more than does it justice. “I’m an evil man…don’t you bother with me…because I’ll…empty all your pockets…fill them back up with misery.” It seems that at his core Mitch is a bad man in search of a bad woman who knows he won’t stay long. The band gives Jimmy Calire an extended piano solo that more than solidifies his talents as a keyboard player and serves as a nice prelude to our next cut, “Song for My Father,” an instrumental that allows the entire band to stretch out and play for slightly over nine minutes. “Sugar Sweet” follows and finds Mitch with a woman that he’s enamored with. “She’s my baby…she’s my baby…can’t you see…I can’t call her Sugar, Sugar was never so sweet”.

Mitch is still in a loving mood with our next cut, “You’re the One.” “You’re the one…the one who gave me a buzz…I didn’t think I’d last much longer…shows just how wrong I was” John Marx’s guitar is at the forefront in this tune and he’s the perfect counterpart to all the harp licks Mitch is serving. The band segues into “Lollipop Mama,” in tribute to Mitch’s good friend, William Clarke. Both Mitch and John Marx spent many a long afternoon drinking beers with William, and they’re happy to pay respects to their dear friend. “Got a big fat mama…she call me her lollipop…when she starts loving…she never knows when to stop…I’m so scared…my lollipop going to melt away!” “Wake Up and Worry” finds Mitch concerned about finding a way to make some money. “Wake up and worry…if I ever get to sleep…living on my plastic…falling in too deep.” Mitch’s living way beyond his means and digging a hole he might not escape from.

Live at Labatt closes with “Castle Rock,” a song Mitch learned from John Marx back in the day. Somehow it seems fitting to close out his set with another instrumental. The players backing Mitch in Edmonton include: John Marx on guitar, Jimmy Calire on keyboards, Tock Lackner on drums and Steve Nelson on bass. Everyone was having a good time and this was definitely an experienced group of players who more than knew what they were doing as the treated the crowd at Labatt to a wonderful set.

Grab a copy of this disc from Delta Groove at their website or look it up at For a live recording, this is a very clean record. The crew from the Canadian Broadcasting Company definitely was on top of their game getting this set down perfectly and the result is the definitive capture of Mitch Kashmar, live at the top of his game.

--- Kyle Deibler



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