Blues Bytes

What's New

March 2014

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Damon Fowler

Mary Bridget Davies

Annie Mack

Dixie Peach

Blue Lunch Special

Jason Vivone

Adrianna Marie

Savoy Brown

John-Alex Mason tribute

Kelly's Lot


Damon FowlerIn my mind’s eye I see Damon Fowler and Tab Benoit spending more time outside of Tab’s Whiskey Bayou Studio fishing than inside recording a record, but by the sounds of things they managed to do both. Tab has coaxed a brilliant record out of Damon, and his new release on Blind Pig Records, Sounds of Home, is one of my early favorites of 2014. It will make many return visits to my CD player this year, but since it’s in there now let’s give it a listen.

Discordant notes emanate from Damon’s guitar as some wicked slide work introduces us to “Thought I Had It All.” Damon’s content, thinking he’s got the world by the tail. and then finds that not all is what it seems. “Thought I had it all…but it all had me.” Things are more difficult than they seem but I have faith that Damon will figure it all out in due time. “Sounds of Home” features a brighter guitar intro with some assistance on vocals from Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. “The sky turns orange…with shades of black…the clouds split open…when the lightening cracks…I’m tire of hoping…for the sounds of home.” Damon is remembering the familiar sounds of all the funky clubs he’s played in and the comforting sounds of home after time spent on the road.

Up next is “Trouble” and Damon’s telling the woman he loves that it’s inevitable that she will break his heart. “Sparkle like a diamond…venom like a snake…the trouble light is shining…I can’t find my way…I know that it’s just waiting on me…but I can’t see the signs…if I get any closer to it…trouble all the time.” He knows he’s going to get hurt but he just can’t stay away.

“Spark” features more of an up tempo, rock feel and the band’s in high gear. Damon’s rhythm section of Chuck Riley on bass and James McKnight are more than up to the task of keeping the back end tight as Damon tells us of the importance of a spark in romance. “Got a fine…blue-eyed woman…she’s got a great big, old heart…going to try to keep the woman happy…she’s going to need a spark.” Amen, Damon! The spark is indeed the key.

Up next is probably my favorite tune on the disc, “Old Fools, Bar Stools, and Me.” Damon is lamenting the fact that the bottle came between his woman and him. “At noon…when I wake up…the fog…hasn’t cleared…I stumble through my kitchen…as I hold back my tears…just give it an hour…and you will surely see…old fools, bar stools and me.” Mournful notes from Damon’s guitar echo his sadness at the love his affinity for the bottle has cost him.

Tab co-wrote the next tune, “Where I Belong,” with Damon and the tone is decidedly upbeat. Sounds like Damon’s on his lap steel and sharing his happiness with us. “Daytime turns to nighttime…jamming with my friends…music feels me up…and I don’t want it to end…moon of Kentucky…everyone sings along…sweet, old melodies…its where I belong.” Damon is definitely where he needs to be.

That swamp rock feel that Tab is known for makes an appearance in the form of “Grit My Teeth.” Damon’s having relationship problems again and this time it might be best for him to leave. “Don’t try to drag me down…into the flame…I grit my teeth…and I’m gone. Leaving is probably the wisest thing that Damon can do and I’m enjoying what are obviously Tab’s influences musically with this tune.

Damon moves on to a cover of an Elvis Costello tune, “Alison,” and he’s reflecting on the life that is hers. “Alison…I know this world is killing you…oh, Alison…my aim is true.” Alison is living a largely loveless life and while the truth is apparent to Damon, there’s not much he can or should do to alleviate her human condition. Damon then heads toward “TV Mama,” an old Johnny Winter tune. “My baby’s crying…she wants my TV fixed…all it needs is serving…and it needs it mighty quick.” Sounds like the TV repairman has this one well in hand.

The band closes out the record with a tune by Damon, “Do It For the Love,” and a traditional spiritual, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” In “Do It For the Love,” Damon is focusing on the positive moments of life on the road, “We’ve got friends out on the road…friendly faces…that we know…open arms…in every town…come on in…sit on down…through the rain…through the mud…through the pain…through the blood…then the sun shines…from up above…think about the good times…do it for the love.” Life on the road isn’t always easy, but it’s always been the fans in every town that provide a bluesman with the bright spots on the road. Damon showcases his guitar virtuosity one last time as he finger picks his way through “I Shall Not Be Moved.” “March right up to heaven….I shall not be moved…just like a tree…planted by the water…I shall not be moved.”

Damon’s blessed with a very tight band and the groove throughout this record is very strong. Tab’s building himself a pretty extraordinary portfolio with some of the records he’s been producing lately and Sounds of Home is a gem out of Damon. The band is touring behind Sounds of Home as we speak, and both the disc and the band will be well received. Damon’s website,, has his touring schedule posted on it and his show here in Colorado is one I’ll be at. I’m sure Damon will have the new disc with him and I’d grab a copy as soon as you can. Mine is going to stay very close to my CD player for a long time to come.

--- Kyle Deibler

Richardson-CarneyI was happy to run into Sean Carney on the steps of the Orpheum Theater in Memphis at this year’s IBC. I was even happier when Sean handed me a copy of the new disc that he and Jonn Del Toro Richardson had recorded, Drivin’ Me Wild. Any disc that features three Albert King Award winners for best guitarist has to be good in my book and I’m happy to report that it definitely is. I also have to say for the record that since I’ve either been in the audience or working backstage for Jonn’s, Sean’s and J.P.’s IBC victories that I’m starting to feel my age. But, a good record is a good record, and Drivin’ Me Wild is definitely that.

The disc starts out with Jonn and vocals and wondering if the woman he’s got his eye on feels anything for him at all in “Tell Me Do You Love Me.” Jonn’s got a distinctive voice and he’s definitely hoping this girl feels the same way for him. “Tell me pretty baby…am I right or am I wrong…tell me baby…my suspicion is growing strong.” I’m not even going to try to figure out which lick is from which guitar player so for the record just let me say this --- all three of these guys can play the hell out of the guitar and all I can do as a listener on this disc is just sit back and enjoy it.

I’m starting to get the feeling that maybe Jonn’s out of luck with this woman so let’s move on to Sean at the microphone for the title track, “Drivin’ Me Wild.” This tune has more of a swing feel to it so Sean’s fretwork is fairly clear to me on this one. Sean’s in love as well and the object of his affections is definitely driving him wild.“I get so excited…when I hear you call my name…you know you shake me up…just like a hurricane.” Sean’s got it bad and hopefully this one will stay awhile. Unrequited love seems to be the topic of the day as Jonn’s back on the vocals and he’s still “Lookin’ for My Baby.” “Looking for my woman…going to find that girl somehow…looking for my baby…got to go town to town.” She’s out there somewhere and if I know Jonn…he’ll find her faster than we think!

A very soulful guitar intro from Sean finds him back on the vocals for “Cloud Nine.” “I’m open for your business…stop in any time…just ring my bell for service…and I’ll take you to cloud nine.” Sean’s in love and he’s open for business 24/7 for this one. House calls, special appointments…Sean’s more than happy to oblige. Omar Coleman takes the lead on our next tune, “A Man like Me,” and though I’ve not seen Omar perform personally, he’s more than up to the task. “You don’t need a man like that…all you need is a man like me…a man who will know….the meaning of…monogamy.” Omar’s making his case for the woman he’s after and he’s promising to be true with his love for her. She really can’t ask for much more than that! Jonn assumes the role of confidant and healer as the band moves on to “Sit Back Baby.” “Sit baby…kick off your shoes…sit back child…tell me what’s wrong with you…as I told you once…life’s too short to lose!” Jonn’s got the answers to all of her problems and part of it involves good loving from this Texas bluesman.

The only cover on the disc is a classic Tom Waits tune, “Chocolate Jesus,” and Sean takes the lead on this one. “Chocolate Jesus” is a very dark tune and San VanFossen’s work on the upright bass in perfectly complimented by Louis Tsamous’s drumming to give Sean the canvas he needs to tell us the story of the “Chocolate Jesus.” The band’s tempo picks up and Omar’s back on the mic for a tune he wrote, “Slow Down.” “Slow down baby…you’re too fast for me…slow down girl….I love your harmony.” Omar wants to make this woman his bride and if she doesn’t start to slow down soon, he might not catch her! Omar stays at the mic for a tune he wrote with Jonn, “Hold Me.” A classic, slow love song, Omar is definitely turning on the charm as he works to keep his woman close. “Love me baby…please, don’t you leave me alone…hold me real tight…like you hold…your telephone.” The sad fact in this day and age is that she’s more likely to hang onto her phone than Omar. Good luck with that one, my friend!

A little raw distorted guitar gives Sean leeway to head into the next tune, “Come on With It.” “Come on with it people…give me everything you can…when I lay my six string on you…your blues will leave on my command.” Feeling bad? Life sucks? Trust in the Reverend Sean to give you absolution and play yours blues away! The back end is again in full force as Jonn tells us to “Shake That Thang”. “Take your time my friend…don’t you worry bout a thing…bring your troubles with you…we’ll help you shake them away.” Our sense of healing continues as Jonn’s a firm believer in dancing away your troubles.

We finally get to hear a bit of Omar on the harmonica with Jonn on the vocals as the band tackles another song written by Jonn, “Peace of Mind.” “Going home…I get no comfort…no comfort or peace of mind…got to get myself back to the country…going to find me…a new state of mind." My experience has been that the country is a good place to take stock of life and get the insights you need to move forward in your life. I like this tune a lot and it’s probably my favorite one on the disc.

We close Drivin’ Me Wild out with an instrumental tune, “One for J.B.” featuring Sean, Jonn, Louis and Sam. Smooth and sultry in its attack this feels like a late night appetizer to tide us over until tomorrow. The quartet is tight and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to close out the evening or this record. I’ve enjoyed this disc a lot. Instrumentally it's top notch and Jonn, Sean and Omar all give great vocal performances. It appears that the best place to grab a copy of this disc is on Sean’s website, Jonn and Sean rarely get to play together but if the opportunity arises for you to see them do so, get out and go. It’s a rare treat, indeed!

--- Kyle Deibler

Mickey ThomasThe Bluesmasters was originally conceived as a vehicle to showcase former Elvin Bishop/Jefferson Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas’ blues vocal chops, but has since branched out to include the powerhouse singer Hazel Miller and the impressive fret work of guiding force Tim Tucker. The band also includes Larry Thompson (drums), Doug Lynn (harp), and Mitch Towne (keyboards). In addition, Tucker’s 16-year-old daughter, Kassidy, holds down the bass guitar position with an aplomb that belies her youth.

The first two Bluesmaster releases focused on mostly cover material of familiar blues tunes, but Volume Three (Direct Music Distribution) offers up seven dynamic original tunes, with three covers and guest appearances from Ric Ulsky (B-3), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Bob Birch (bass), and a formidable quartet of guitarists (Hubert Sumlin, Rusty Anderson, Eric Gales, Jake E. Lee).

Miller and Thomas threaten to blow the proverbial doors off on these tracks, Miller handling lead vocals on six choice originals, all penned by Craig Ericson. These include the opening shuffle, “Loving Man,” the slow blues burners, “Can’t Let You Go,” “Suspicious,” and “One I Need.” Thomas’ three tunes are all covers and they’re “good-uns,” with two Chicago classics….Little Walter’s “Up The Line” (featuring some sweet harp work from Lynn) and the Jimmy Reed standard, “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” along with the ’70s rock classic, Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On.”

Tucker’s guitar work is standout from start to finish, and he and Lynn get to relive the golden era of Chicago Blues with the instrumental, “Colorado Boogie.” Volume 3 will be a treat to blues and blues-rock fans, just like the first two volumes were. The band’s next set is promised to be a live recording in early 2014, so there’s more to look forward to.

--- Graham Clarke

I’ve got admit that I’ve been lukewarm in my response to the previous Bluesmasters releases, in part I think because Jefferson Starship was one of my favorite bands growing up and I just couldn’t relate to Mickey Thomas as a blues singer. They’ve done well in spite of my token resistance and The Bluesmasters, Volume 3 is the disc that is shifting me over from the dark side. The presence of Colorado’s own Hazel Miller has made me a fan for sure. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Hazel perform live here in Colorado and the woman can flat out Sang!! Her impact on this disc is impressive and I’m happy to see her getting her due. Are y’all ready to hit Play?

The disc starts out with the slow grooving “Loving Man.” Hazel is looking for someone to bring some joy into her life and she’s willing to take another woman’s man if it suits her fancy. “Going to show you…the way you make me feel…going to let you know…that my love is…so real.” Hazel is more than willing to put her charms to the test to win over the man she wants. We move on to “Can’t Let You Go,” and here we find Hazel reflecting on the decisions she made in regards to a man she loved that evidently has decided to move on. “I’m missing you like crazy…and I got to let you know…that I got to get you back…cuz, I can’t let go.” Not sure if Hazel is going to make this one happen, but she’s determined to try!

Mickey Thomas takes the vocals for our next tune, a cover of Little Walter’s “Up the Line.” The tempo is definitely faster and Mickey is up to the task. “I’m cutting out…girl. I’m going back up the line…if I stay another day…it’s going to drive me…out of my mind.” Doug Lynn is providing the fireworks on the harmonica and he’s doing a great job of matching Mickey’s intensity to make this tune happen.

Doug’s harp continues to be showcased as he and Tim Tucker on guitar tackle the instrumental-driven “Colorado Boogie.” It’s a refreshing change from the vocal intensity of both Hazel and Mickey, and a welcome break in the sequencing of tunes on this disc. Hazel has been wary of her man for awhile now and she shares her thoughts with us on the appropriately named tune, “Suspicious.” “I’ve been suspicious…been wondering where you go…I got news for you mister…won’t be a fool anymore.” Hazel’s got eyes and ears out all over town and the feedback she’s getting in regards to this man is not good. Time for him to go!

Having kicked her man to the curb, Hazel is back on the prowl and she tells us so in “Good Time Woman.” Hazel knows the effect she has on men and her loving is hard to beat. “Good time woman…need a good time man…yes, I do…and if you ever love me…I’ll think you’ll understand.” Hazel will take good care of her man and you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll leave her bed satisfied.

Jimmy Reed’s tune, “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” is up next and Mickey’s back at the microphone for another soulful vocal. “I’m going up…yes, I’m going down…anywhere you want me to go…yeah, yeah, oh yeah…you got me where you want me…now tell me…what you want me to do.”

Hazel returns to the microphone for two of the disc’s final three cuts and the next one up is “Come Back Baby.” Her man is on the road and Hazel’s counting the time until he returns. “Baby, I’m a tell you…you’re always on my mind…now, come home baby…cause we will have a good time.” Hopefully he’ll be home soon and Hazel will make sure he stays awhile.

The soulful “One I Need” is next and here we find Hazel postulating on the kind of love she’s really wanting in her life. “I think that you’re the one…so please don’t tell me no…I don’t know what I’d do…if you should ever go.” Hazel loves this man and he’s doing a good job of keeping her happy as well. Hopefully this will be a love that will last.

Mickey’s on the microphone for the final cut of the album, and here we find the band re-working the Eddie Money classic, “Baby Hold On.” The Bluesmasters give it a nice, funky groove and Mickey takes us out in fine fashion. “Baby, hold on to me…whatever will be will be…the future is ours to see…when you hold on to me.”

I’ve got to admit that I’ve enjoyed The Bluesmasters, Volume 3. Hazel Miller’s vocals tear up most of the disc and there’s a very talented band led by Tim Tucker on guitar and Doug Lynn on harp providing a very tight context for both Hazel and Mickey to shine. The band’s website is, and that’s the first place I’d head to learn more about the group and grab a copy of this excellent disc. It appears the band will be on tour this summer and I’d love to catch a show with Hazel Miller in the mix. As I said earlier, “that woman can Sang!”

--- Kyle Deibler

Tribute to Janis JoplinI’m not even going to offer the pretense that I’m qualified to review anything Janis Joplin has ever done, but I do think it’s important to the readers of Blues Bytes to step outside the norm a bit to discuss the recently released, original Broadway cast recording of A Night with Janis Joplin. It features my friend Mary Bridget Davies as Janis, and the recording Mary Bridget and the cast have recorded is amazing. It blew me away the first time I listened to it and without a doubt will be in my top ten list at the end of this year!

My first introduction to Mary Bridget was at the 2011 International Blues Challenge where she and her band took second place. They proudly represented the Kansas City Blues Society and were a strong contender to win it all in spite of being a fairly new band to the world. Mary Bridget went on to release her record, Wanna Feel Something, and it was a contender at the Blues Music Awards for the Best New Artist award that ultimately went to Big Llou.

I was aware of Mary Bridget’s leading role as Janis Joplin in A Night with Janis Joplin and I made it a point to head up to Milwaukee after last year’s BMA’s to see the show. Thankfully, my friend Tracey had a room for me and we went to see the show at Milwaukee’s Repertory Theater. The show that night was amazing and we talked with Mary Bridget after the show about the direction the play was heading. It had been invited to Broadway by several theaters but the Lyceum Theater on Broadway is where the show belonged. It opened to tremendous reviews with Mary Bridget and the cast appearing on shows on VH1, the Macy’s Parade, etc to trumpet the virtues of the show. And while the show ended its Broadway run in February, plans are in the works to remount the show at a theater in Union Square. Its New York life is far from over and I’m hoping to get to New York to catch another performance.

So, back to the disc. It isn’t enough to say Mary Bridget sounds like Janis on this record, Mary Bridget IS Janis on this record and it’s amazing. The recording does an amazing job of chronicling Janis’s tunes as well of those of her influences such as Aretha Franklin, Odetta and Nina Simone. Everything is here from “Tell Mama” to “Piece of My Heart” to “Me and Bobby McGee,” and for the entire length of the recording we’re all transported back in time to when Janis was alive and we loved her for her honesty and emotion. There was magic in the studio the day this disc was recorded and there’s magic on the stage whenever Mary Bridget and the cast of “A Night with Janis Joplin” hit the stage.

Not everyone is going to have the opportunity to still get to New York and see the play, but we all have the opportunity to get a copy of the original Broadway cast recording and it’s the next best thing. Even though I know its Mary Bridget Davies as the lead singer, I still hear and feel the vulnerability and raw emotion of Janis in her performance. So take a minute and grab a copy of the original Broadway cast recording of A Night with Janis Joplin for yourselves to hear what I mean. The disc can be found at and it quite simply might be the best recording you listen to all year. Enjoy!

--- Kyle Deibler

Annie MackI had it on good authority that Minnesota’s entry into the 2014 IBC, Annie Mack, was a force to be reckoned with and I looked forward to the opportunity to catch this chanteuse from the land of 10,000 lakes. Unfortunately, our paths never crossed in Memphis, but I did come home with Annie’s record, Baptized in the Blues, and Annie blew me away. She’s not only baptized in the blues, they threw her in the river and made her swim to shore! It’s a great record and I can honestly say the pre-IBC hype was justified. Let’s give it a spin.

Let me begin by saying that Annie’s disc features all original tunes and she’s starting off strong with “Fool to Believe.” Annie’s trying hard to believe in the love she thought she’d found, but the truth seems to be very different from reality. “I got my bags all packed…waiting by the door…I’m all broke up inside…you don’t want me anymore.” Unfortunately, this relationship isn’t what Annie needs and she finds that “she’s a fool to believe.” Hopefully things will be looking up for her soon.

The title track, “Baptized in the Blues,” is up next and has a soulful, funky feel too it. “Down on Beale Street, blues saints gather ‘round…Beatin’ out the rhythm…on that hallowed ground….getting baptized…getting baptized in the blues.” The ghosts of Memphis are serving Annie well and she’s learned the lessons they were there to teach her. Our next cut, “Hey, Hey Mama,” starts out with a much slower and sweeter tempo as Annie tells us about a woman she knows. “Had to smile the other day…I could hear your voice…in the words I say…hey, hey mama…put your records on…get you a little taste of whiskey…listen to them old blues songs”. Sounds like a dear old friend of Annie’s who definitely draws some comfort from “them old blues songs.”

Annie’s roots are steeped in Gospel and she draws on those roots in our next tune, “Call on Jesus.” “You’d better call on Jesus…to get through...well, you keep chasing after the world…now, you’re dying in the world…ain’t nobody else gonna save you…you’d better call on Jesus.” Sounds like good advice to everyone truly looking to find their way.

We move on to the bass heavy “Little Bitty Girl Blues” and Annie’s expounding on the troubles of a little girl stuck in a very dangerous world. “The world was so big…and she was so small…really didn’t have nobody else to call…that’s when she knew…that she had the little bitty girl blues.” Oftentimes the world is just as tough for the children that inhabit it as well as us adults and kids are capable of getting the blues, too. This theme continues as Annie sings about what seems to be her little girl in “Saying Grace.” “Brown eyes…wild curls…dancing so free…round and round…pure at heart…God’s gift to me!” Annie’s love for this little girl is evident and it’s clear that she’s the apple of her mother’s eye.

Miles Johnston on the drums and Tim Scribner’s bass lay down a thick and nasty back end as Annie sings another song of sadness, “Seems like Sorrow.” “There ain’t never…no rest from this pain…seems like sorrow…be my name…be my name.” Tom Kochie’s laying down a tasty guitar like to lead us into the tune he wrote with Annie, “G-Groove.” It has a ZZ Top kind of groove to it, more instrumental with just a taste of vocal from Annie, and gives the band a break before they head into “Walking Dead.” “Walking Dead” is an old school tune and features Annie singing with a great deal of reverb in the mix. “So tired of whiskey-laced love…don’t need no half-hearted tenderness…I just want to feel my heart beat…all the way down…in my fingertips…don’t want to be…no walking dead."

Annie and the band close out Baptized in the Blues with another Gospel-tinged tune, “Revolution.” “Can I get an amen…or am I preaching to the choir…we need a revolution…truth start a righteous fire.” I’ve enjoyed Annie’s disc immensely and am glad that my Minnesota buddies --- Gary, Spike and John Hammer --- brought her to my attention. Sad that I missed seeing a live performance from Annie in Memphis, but I’m hoping to correct that later on this summer. Annie’s website is and I’d head over there and grab yourself a copy of Annie’s disc. We need a revolution in Annie’s case, and buying her CD is the best way to start a righteous fire!

--- Kyle Deibler

Dixie PeachDixie Peach is a Southern blues/rock band from Ohio that has basically risen from the ashes in recent years. Originally formed in the early ’70s, they released one album before breaking up in the mid ’70s, only to reunite, basically intact, in 1998. The band has opened for many noteworthy acts, including Joe Walsh, Lee Roy Parnell, Johnny Winter, Cheap Trick, Roy Buchanan, Billy Cobham, Larry Carlton, and Blue Oyster Cult. Since 2002, the band has served as the house band for Gibson Custom Guitar Shop and backed the likes of Parnell, Dickey Betts, Johnny A, and Carl Weathersby.

Dixie Peach (Ira Stanley – lead/slide guitars, vocals, Steve Benson – drums/percussion, Tony Paulus – keyboards/guitar, Mike Rousculp – bass, Steve Williams – keyboards) recently released their third album, Blues With Friends (Big Shew Records), and it’s a humdinger that’s guaranteed to put a hop in the step of Southern blues/rock fans from all over. They are joined by a host of friends that include guitarists Lee Roy Parnell and Jack Pearson, and vocalist Etta Britt.

Loaded with ten original songs, Blues With Friends packs a wallop from the first note on the opening track, “Too Much Trouble,” which has a countrified feel with some splendid slide work from Stanley. “Pork Chop Blues” literally sizzles from the beginning, with guitar solos from Stanley, Pearson, and Parnell, and a four-piece horn section. The jazzy “Night Ride” channels the Allman Brothers, complete with reference to the “Midnight Rider,” and some tasty fretwork from former Allman Pearson, and the acoustic slide workout by Stanley on “Coming Home Today” is a treat.

Stanley and Etta Britt duet on a pair of tunes, the gospel-flavored “Don’t Want To Wait” (with some great slide guitar from Parnell) and the blues/rocker, “Trouble With Love.” “It’s Crying Time” is a soulful ballad with a nice vocal performance from Stanley. There’s also a pair of cool instrumentals, “Bottle Hymn of the Republic” is a slide guitarist’s dream with some great playing from Stanley, Parnell, and Pearson, and the closer, “Rick’s Shuffle,” teams Stanley with another guest, guitarist Lee Swisher.

As stated above, Blues With Friends will thrill Southern blues/rock fanatics with its guitar virtuosity. Hopefully, it won’t be so long between recordings next time, because these guys can deliver the goods.

--- Graham Clarke

Blue LunchBlue Lunch, based in Cleveland, Ohio, has been making mighty fine music that spans a number of genres for 30 years. Their sound ranges from blues (Chicago and jump) to jazz to doo-wop to R&B, in many ways similar to Roomful of Blues, but with even more versatility if that’s imaginable. That versatility is on full display for all to hear on their latest release, a 30th Anniversary retrospective released by Rip Cat Records called The Blue Lunch Special, which pulls 16 tracks from the band’s six previous recordings dating back to 1997.

The opener is a greasy Memphis-styled instrumental and the title track of their 2011 release, Sideswiped. There’s also plenty of tasty jump blues with tracks like “The Fidget,” which also features founder Pete London’s sizzling harmonica, “Cuttin’ Out,” “Skin Bones and Hair,” and “Leo The Louse.” “Cold Day Down Below,” “Monkey Hips and Rice,” “Sixty Minute Man,” and the Ernie K-Doe classic, “Mother-in-Law,” all feature some nice vintage vocal harmonies.

There are a few tracks that veer from the jump blues and R&B that makes up most of the disc and they prove the band’s flexibility. Robert Lockwood, Jr.’s “Little Boy Blue” is a stripped-down tribute to Lockwood, with whom the band performed regularly. Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness” gets a torrid workout, thanks to an amazing trio of tenor saxes played by Chris Burge and former Blue Lunchers Keith McKelley and Tony Koussa, and “IC Boogie” is a strong piano-driven boogie rocker.

Blue Lunch’s current line-up (London – harmonica/vocals, Bob Frank – guitar/vocals, Raymond DeForest – bass/vocals, Scott Flowers – drums, Mike Sands – piano, Mike Rubin – trumpet, Bob Michael – trombone, and Burge – tenor sax) sounds poised to keep this band going strong for another 30 years. Based on what’s heard on The Blue Lunch Special, it should continue to be a rewarding experience for us listeners.

--- Graham Clarke

Jason VivoneIf you liked the previous release from Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats, the decidedly offbeat Lather, Rinse, Repeat, you should love their equally idiosyncratic follow-up, Eddie Ate Dynamite. This time around, the Kansas City-based band (Vivone – slide guitar/vocals, Paula Crawford – guitar/vocals, Rick MacIvor – keyboards, Ben Hoppes – electric banjo/backing vocals, Jeremy Clark – bass, Matt Bustamante – drums, Joanna Berkebile – backing vocals) are joined by Grand Marquis’ Bryan Redmond (sax) and Chad Boydston (trumpet).

The opener, “Cut Those Apron Strings,” is a swinging duet (with the Grand Marquis horns in support) featuring Vivone attempting to seduce Crawford, but being rebuffed at every turn, while “Placebo” is a funky blues a la Johnny “Guitar” Watson, circa 1970s. “Mean” keeps up the funk, but with more serious subject matter as Crawford and Berkebile take on domestic abuse. The title track is next, and if it’s lively beat and crazy subject matter doesn’t put a hop in your step, you should see if there’s a tag around your toe.

“Analog” is a fond remembrance of the days of the “crackle and hiss” before digital recording, and “The Blues & The Greys” is a spoken-word sci-fi “blues opera”… read that correctly… the grand tradition of Orson Welles’ “War Between The Worlds” broadcast that has to be heard to be believed. Trust me, you will love it, and it’s followed by “Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much,” which can best be described as either “Shakespeare with a twist” or “twisted Shakespeare”….you be the judge.

“Where Did the Day Go” is mostly instrumental, with some great interplay between Vivone’s slide guitar and Hoppes’ electric banjo, and was part of the band’s Kickstarter campaign, where they promised bidders that they would make a song out of a phrase chosen by the highest bidder. The closer is an R&B ballad, “I Can Never Say Goodbye,” which Vivone turning in a great vocal with tongue firmly in cheek.

Every blues fan needs a Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats CD in their collection for when things get too serious. Eddie Ate Dynamite is the equivalent of the dude who wore Converse high-tops with his tuxedo to your senior prom…a bit of a jolt at first, but you’re glad he came to the party before it’s over.

--- Graham Clarke

Adrianna MarieFor her latest release, Double Crossing Blues (Midnight Owl Records), Adrianna Marie and her Groovecutters focus on the swinging blues and R&B that was hot in the late ’40s and early ’50s with outstanding results. Adrianna Marie is a charming singer with a natural feel for this style of music and the Groovecutters (L.A. Jones – guitar, Dave DeForest – upright bass, Ron Felton and David Kida – drums, Lee Thornburg – trumpet, trombone, Ron Dziubla – saxophones, and Larry David Cohen – piano, harmonica) churn through this 11-song set of standards with ease.

Many blues fans will be familiar with most of the songs here, which include tunes made popular by Lucky Millinder (“I Want A Tall Skinny Papa”), Louis Jordan (“Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”), Little Esther (“Cherry Wine”), Jay McShann (“Hands Off”), Big Maybelle (“That’s A Pretty Good Love”), and Helen Humes (“He May Be Your Man”), and the Johnny Otis title track, but Adrianna Marie’s versatile pipes put a new spin on each of these tracks so even longtime fans of this music will be pleased with her interpretations.

Jones, whose muscular guitar work is another plus, also shares lead vocals on the title track, a nice slow blues punctuated by his T-Bone-esque lead guitar. The Groovecutters take to this music like a duck to water and each musician (especially Jones, Cohen, and Dziubla) gets an opportunity to strut their stuff on multiple tracks, most notably on the wonderful slow blues instrumental jam, “Sad Night Owl,” that closes the disc.

Double Crossing Blues is a dazzling romp through a classic era of Blues and R&B that, like the music itself, never gets old. Adrianna Marie has a voice that you will want to hear more of.

--- Graham Clarke

Savoy BrownKim Simmonds always envisioned his band, Savoy Brown, as “a British version of a Chicago blues band,” and even though the band has occasionally moved in different directions over its nearly unrivaled 50-year history, the blues has always remained a part of the big picture. With the band’s latest effort, Goin’ To The Delta (Ruf Records), the band comes full circle, with the blues front and center on this electrifying release.

Savoy Brown’s line-up has changed frequently over the years, but with bass player Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm, Simmonds has found a winning combination to go with his righteous vocals and his robust fretwork. They tear through this muscular 12-song set of blues and blues/rock originals, all written by Simmonds, with power and precision, as if they’ve been doing it all their lives…which they have.

On Goin’ To The Delta, the band gives a nod to a wide range of blues styles and legends, with Chicago-styled tunes like the opener, “Laura Lee,” with a definite Elmore James vibe, “ Backstreet Woman,” and “Sad News,” which features a great vocal from Simmons and some inspired guitar. The title track, “Sleeping Rough,” and “Turn Your Lamp On” veer toward the Texas side of the blues.

“When You’ve Got A Good Thing” offers some very cool jazzy guitar from Simmonds, and “I Miss Your Love” spotlights his magnificent slide guitar talents. “Just A Dream” is one of those T-Bone Walker/B.B. King-styled slow blues that gives Simmonds plenty of room to stretch out on guitar, and the churning boogie instrumental, “Cobra,” is another standout.

Goin’ To The Delta is one of Savoy Brown’s best releases in a while, really a keeper from start to finish. After nearly 50 years and over 30 albums, Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds show no signs of letting up or slowing down, thank goodness.

--- Graham Clarke

John-Alex Mason tributeI first heard the late blues guitarist John-Alex Mason on his 2008 release, Town and Country, which was a great introduction. A mix of classic blues covers and some remarkable new originals, this disc was one of my favorites of the year, but I enjoyed his 2011 follow-up, Jook Joint Thunderclap even better, where he expanded from the country blues sounds and began exploring the music’s influences, even employing three musicians from Guinea, along with Cedric and Cody Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm.

Not long after the release of Jook Joint Thunderclap, Mason underwent what was supposed to be minor surgery to remove cancerous tissue, but complications developed and he passed away unexpectedly on October 19, 2011, leaving a wife and two children, one born just a few weeks after his death. A group of Mason’s musician friends joined together to produce a tribute album in mid-2012, called Homeward Bound. Produced by Elam McKnight, this disc is a tribute in every sense of the word. All 13 tracks are original songs contributed by the artists in honor of Mason.

The list of musicians is an impressive one; Big George Brock, Cedric Burnside, Mississippi Gabe Carter, Microwave Dave, Valerie June, Fiona Boyes, Rev. K.M. Williams, Davis Coen, Garry Hundt and Ronnie Shellist, Sam Simon, Johnny Lowebow, McKnight and Bob Bogdal, and Jeff Norwood (who passed away during the album’s completion). Each one mourns the loss of their friend in their own style and manner, touching on blues, blues/rock, country blues, and roots, all styles that Mason was more than adept in playing himself.

This is what a tribute album should sound like. Though it is somber and haunting at times as these artists mourn the loss of their friend in their own way, there’s also an underlying sense of love and admiration for what Mason brought to the blues during his brief life. Though his time was short, he obviously moved a lot of fans and fellow musicians with his talents.

The best thing about Homeward Bound is that all the money that comes from sales of the disc go to a special fund for his children, a worthy cause if there ever was one. Listeners that are interested can go to the album’s Indiegogo site to make a contribution of their choosing and purchase the disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Kelly's LotThe L.A.-based band Kelly’s Lot was formed in 1995 by singer Kelly Zirbes and plays a mix of blues, rock, and roots music. They have toured extensively in the U.S. and abroad, opening for Tommy Castro, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, Curtis Salgado, and John Mayall. In 2011, they released a live recording from Brussels, Live In Brussels, that captures their essence pretty well.

The band consists of Perry Robinson on guitar, Matt McFadden on bass, Robert Dill on drums, and Rob Zucca on guitar, and they provide superb backing to Zirbes’ sultry vocals, tearing through this 15-track set of mostly original tunes (the lone cover is a crackling version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”) with gusto, beginning with the opening cut, “Reason for the Blues.” Other highlights include “Taking Time,” “Redbone,” which has an almost jazzy backdrop, the feisty “Better Way,” and the set’s centerpiece, “Tired,” an intense slow blues that allows both Zirbes and the band to really stretch out.

The second half of the set has even more stellar material, including the funky “Train,” “Right Now,” a tight blues rocker, the country-flavored “Pistol,” and an excellent tribute to Janis Joplin, “Take This Heart,” which features Zirbes’ best vocal turn of the album, and that’s really saying something. While she doesn’t really sound like Joplin, her vocals more than capture the fire and soul that was such a part of the late singer’s style.

Live in Brussels is an excellent live set that will please fans of blues and blues-rock equally. It’s a set that’s meant to be played loud and often and you’ll find yourself doing both once you give it a spin.

--- Graham Clarke

Yonat MayerYonat Mayer is a singer/songwriter based in San Francisco who was raised by a skilled blues and jazz guitarist and educated at one of Israel’s preeminent music schools. Her music draws on numerous genres, including blues, rock, soul, folk, and world music. Vocally, at times she will remind listeners of another singer/songwriter from several years back, Carole King.

The feel of a few of the songs from her impressive debut EP, Daybreak, also bring to mind the work of King, an underrated soulful singer, from the early ’70s. The opener, “Intangible,” features a bluesy vocal with a funky jazz/pop backdrop with some nice lead guitar work from A.J. Rivlin. “Come Around” is a soulful ballad with an understated vocal from Mayer and solid lead work from Rivlin. The inspirational “Like a Flower” is a lovely tune with a bit of a world music sound, and “Give Up Your Ghosts” has an appropriately ethereal setting.

Daybreak offers Yonat Mayer in a variety of settings, ranging from blues to jazz to soul to pop, but laced throughout the set is a definite blues backdrop. The singer was raised listening to the blues, jazz, and gritty soulful singers like King and Aretha Franklin, and it shows on these tunes. It will be interesting to hear what she does on a full album, hopefully soon.

--- Graham Clarke


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