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Order these featured albums today:

Curtis Salgado

AJ Fullerton

Linsey Alexander

Johnny Burgin

Savoy Brown

Eliza Neals

Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne

Reverend Shawn Amos

Avey Grouws Band

Jim Gustin and Truth Jones


Curtis SalgadoI always look forward to any new album from Curtis Salgado, and his latest, Damage Control (Alligator) doesn't disappoint. Even as he gets older, Salgado's voice is still powerful, with a heaping helping of soul coming out when he belts out the lyrics to the 13 songs on this disc.

The fact that he's still a powerful force as he progresses well into his 60s comes out in the opening cut, "The Longer That I Live," in which he sings about his hopes for immortality, with the line, "...the longer that I live, the older I want to get ..." The gospel overtones on this number start early with the piano playing of Jim Pugh coupled with organ accompaniment by Mike Finnigan, and Kid Andersen contributes a solid guitar solo. Hop onto YouTube to check out the official video for this song, with Salgado looking very much like an old-school evangelist.

Up next is the mid-tempo soulful blues, "What Did Me In Did Me Well," taken to another level by the outstanding keyboard work of both Pugh and Finnigan, and then later by a chromatic harmonica solo by Salgado himself. Kevin McKendree steps into the session with rollicking boogie woogie piano on the up-tempo blues, "You're Going To Miss My Sorry Ass." Johnny Lee Schell provides background vocals.

A recurring theme of this album is the top-notch piano work by a host of players, with Jackie Miclau providing the gospel overtones on the slow, heartfelt blues, "Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)," as Salgado expresses remorse at the loss of a friend. Wendy Moten comes in with very nice churchy background vocals and Finnigan is back with a killer organ solo about two-thirds of the way through this very nice number. Another really strong slower number is Salgado's political statement, "The Fix Is In," on which he sings, "...What's happening to our country? There's so much greed ...," while also working in a solid blues harmonica solo.

Salgado undergoes a complete transformation on "Truth Be Told," turning the session into a Cajun dancehall with Wayne Toups joining him on accordion and vocals. It's a complete change of pace from his usual soulful and sometimes tormented blues, and I can easily envision Salgado fronting a band at a Mardi Gras dance in Lafayette or Mamou. The title cut also moves the band into a different setting, with the feeling of being in a late night, smoky jazz club, thanks in part to Finnigan's piano playing and Schell's tasty guitar riffs.

"Count Of Three," with Salgado giving his significant other a very short deadline, is a rollicking up-tempo number that turns into a bit of a rockabilly rocker later in the tune thanks to Schell's frantic guitar chords. I also like Pugh's piano playing here. On "Hail Mighty Caesar," Salgado summons his inner Dave Bartholomew with a New Orleans-sounding novelty tune about Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and other denizens of ancient Rome.

Damage Control closes with the album's only cover, a fast-paced version of Larry Williams' "Slow Down," with McKendree pounding the piano keys throughout the tune while Salgado shouts out the vocals. His voice is well-suited for this early rock 'n' roll classic.

This is a very fine album and a worthy addition to the Curtis Salgado discography. He set a very high bar with the 2012 release Soul Shot, which is on my desert island list. If you are just starting to build your Salgado library, start with Soul Shot and then move on to the 2016 release, The Beautiful Lowdown, before rounding out your collection with Damage Control.

--- Bill Mitchell

AJ FullertonAJ Fullerton was a new name to me when the latest album, The Forgiver And The Runaway (VizzTone), arrived in my mailbox, but I can see why this young man from western Colorado has already attracted a following in those parts. The media release that accompanied the album describes his music as soulful blues & roots, and that's an appropriate description. In addition to handling the vocals, Fullerton plays guitar and occasionally the banjo. He was teamed up with a notable cast of Canadian musicians, notably producer / guitarist Steve Marriner, Paul Reddick, Jake Friel, and others on this album produced in Toronto.

His voice has a very pleasant and soulful edge, although I think it needs just a bit more power and grit for Fullerton to move up to that next tier of soulful blues singers. But that doesn't distract from the strength of this set of a dozen tunes.

The album starts strong, with the intro to "Remind Me Who I Am Again" sounding kind of like that of "People Get Ready," thanks to the very fine backup singers and Jesse O'Brien's keyboard accompaniment. It's a mid-tempo soul number accessorized with strong blues guitar riffs and nice gospel-ish Hammond B3 playing. Fullerton's blues side comes out on the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Slippin' Away," with nice piano playing from O'Brien and strong blues guitar from Fullerton and Marriner.

Ten of the songs on The Forgiver And The Runaway are covers, with the absolute killer being "Cherry Red," written by JD Taylor & Tyler Goodson. Highlighting this blues shuffle are the harmonica solos of either Reddick or Friel (liner notes don't identify who plays on what), while O'Brien continues his excellent piano work. O'Brien takes his playing to church on the soulful blues, "Never Was," and the background singers keep it there. Nice slide guitar solo, too.

Two diverse sides of Fullerton's music come out on "Wish You'd Tell Me" and the closing number, "Hooks In the Water," with the former being a mid-tempo funky blues with a heavier guitar sound while the latter has Fullerton fingerpicking his acoustic guitar on a laid-back country blues.

If, like me, this album is your introduction to the AJ Fullerton, you should be pleasantly surprised. The Forgiver And The Runaway is a keeper, whetting my appetite for what he's got in store for his next album.

--- Bill Mitchell

Grainne DuffyWhat started out as a slow burning, blues-rocking CD release last October, Voodoo Blues (Independent) is now deservedly achieving acclaim of incendiary proportions as word travels globally about Grainne Duffy’s best album to date. A compatriot of and spiritual successor to Rory Gallagher, Duffy has similarly achieved legendary status in her native Ireland and beyond. This reviewer has seen both of them live in concert, albeit half a century apart, and the similarities are remarkable, both musicians delivering inspirational, high energy, memorable performances characterized by expressive, emotional vocals and blistering, innovative fretwork never to be forgotten.

Voodoo Blues kicks off with the title track, and within a short space of time it becomes apparent that this is going to be a big performance and a very special fifth album, this one solely comprising self-penned material from Duffy and Paul Sherry. Starting with a distinctive solo guitar introduction, the song metamorphosis's into an up-tempo, punchy blues song incorporating a series of climaxes as top session bassist Dale Davis and dynamic drummer Troy Miller hit the groove. Pleading for “Mercy” is the perfect theme for Duffy’s impassioned vocals as she screams above the haunting vibe.

The infectious riff on “Blue Skies” precedes the implosion of Grainne’s smoky, powerful vocals reaching a crescendo with the chorus, “I got the blue skies baby up above/I got the bright lights burning and I just can’t get enough,” complemented by mood-enhancing background vocals. Duffy’s piercing guitar interludes are timely and tasteful, with virtuosic guitarist Paul Sherry maintaining the pace and rhythm.

A country feel is evident on “Shine It On Me,” with its sumptuous Hammond organ courtesy of the multi-talented Miller, Grainne holding on to every note and showcasing her impressive vocal range. Normally, the gospel tinged, emotionally drenched “Don’t You Cry For Me” would be a standout track, but here it blends in effortlessly with the high caliber fare of the whole album.

The funky, soulful “Roll It” highlights the synchronization of the band as each musician retains their individuality within the context of a tightly knit unit. “Wreck It” does exactly what the title suggests, spellbinding and hinting at chaos, but with musical intelligence and subtlety permeating the instrumental interludes.

A novel introduction to ‘”Tick Tock” is the actual sound of a ticking clock which sets the pace for the muscular guitar work and powerful vocals with anthemic chants of “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” The vibe is reminiscent of Grainne’s raucous, party time live gigs and encouragement of fans’ participation, replicated here and indeed across much of the album albeit in an empty studio thanks to its superb production. The listener is transported back to the heady days of packed venues, sweaty rooms and noisy devotees responding to every movement and sound on stage.

The fitting finale, ‘Hard Rain’ extends this thrill as early sparseness gives way to the crescendo of howling main and backing vocals, stomping bass and drum rhythms, grinding axe work and swirling, atmospheric keys.

--- Dave Scott

Linsey AlexanderFor fans of traditional Chicago blues, Live At Rosa’s (Delmark Records), the latest release from the venerable Linsey Alexander, will be a wonderful reminder of the excitement they once had putting a live record from one of their Windy City favorites on the turntable (or, heck, actually watching a live show). On this sterling set, the singer/guitarist is backed by a fine band, including longtime collaborator Ron Simmons (bass), keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy (Lurrie Bell, Toronzo Cannon, Sharon Lewis, etc..), drummer “Big” Ray Stewart, and guitarist Sergei Androshin.

The nine-song set, recorded over two nights in May 2019, contains five Alexander originals and four tasty covers. The festivities open with “Please Love Me,” one of B.B. King’s go-to songs from "Live At The Regal." Alexander’s rugged vocals and crisp guitar work is complemented perfectly by a fine solo from Purifoy. “My Days Are So Long,” an Alexander original from his 2006 release of the same name, is an lively blues boogie track. Next, things slow down for a smoldering take of the blues standard, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” which really gives Alexander an opportunity to showcase his guitar skills (and vocals) considerably over the duration of the nearly nine-minute track.

“I Got A Woman” originally appeared as part of Alexander’s 2014 Delmark release, Come Back Baby, and it’s a terrific, funky shuffle. The upbeat “Goin’ Out Walkin’,” from the same album, keeps the same tempo rolling with Alexander adding more inspired fretwork. Next is a dynamite cover of Latimore’s mid-'70s hit “Somethin’ ‘Bout ‘Cha,” which Alexander slows down a bit, transforming it into a slow-burning soul-blues ballad. Following are the up-tempo “Snowing In Chicago,” also from Come Back Baby, and a superb take on Junior Wells’ “Ships On The Ocean” that’s a textbook example of how slow burning Chicago blues ought to sound. The funky album closer, “Going Back To My Old Time Used To Be,” was originally released on Alexander’s Delmark debut, Been There Done That, in 2012.

For those who’ve missed live music over the last year, especially live BLUES music, Linsey Alexander’s Live At Rosa’s will certainly cure what ails you. The veteran singer/guitarist is still going strong at age 78 with no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny BurginIn the 1970s several Chicago blues legends, including Otis Rush, Jimmy Dawkins, and Eddie Taylor, began touring Japan, an endeavor that rewarded both artists and fans at the time. Fans embraced the music and the artists themselves with such enthusiasm that some fans even began playing the music themselves, eventually launching a small but potent Japanese blues scene that still resonates today.

Guitarist Johnny Burgin has been touring Japan since 1996 and began meeting some of the amazing talented musicians that play the blues. He has now gathered some of the country’s finest, as well as some who immigrated to Chicago and joined the Windy City blues scene, on the Delmark Records collection No Border Blues. The set includes 11 tracks of traditional Chicago-style blues, four originals by the featured artists, and seven covers.

Since we’re talking about Chicago blues, it’s only natural that the harmonica is prevalent on multiple tunes, contributed by several talented artists, including Iper Onishi, who launches the album with a spirited take on Carey Bell’s “One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky,” with a vocal delivery and harp tone that the late master would surely admire. That’s the only song Onishi sings, but his harp is heard to great effect throughout. Burgin takes the mic for Elmore James’ “Sunnyland,” backed by Kaz Nogio on harp, Lee Kanehira on piano, and Yoshi Mizuno on guitar.

Nogio sings (with Kanehira) and plays harp on Tampa Red’s “So Crazy About You,” and Nacomi Tanaka sings Burgin’s “Hurry Up Baby,” and the pair really mix it up on guitar. Kanehira is featured on her own composition, the rollicking “Pumpkin’s Boogie,” backed by Kotez on harmonica, who offers up a sensational “Mada Sukinanda,” the Japanese version of Little Walter’s “I Just Keep Loving Her.” Onishi returns to back Burgin on John Brim’s “Rattlesnake,” the Burgin original, “Old School Player,” and the obscure slow burner “Two Telephones.”

The storming instrumental “Samurai Harp Attack” features all three harmonica players --- Kotez, Nogio, and Onishi --- and it's rip-roaring fun. Kotez returns for the album closer, “Sweet Home Osaka,” an interesting take on the standard “Sweet Home Chicago.”

As Burgin points out in the liner notes, there can be a stigma about being labeled a purist in the states, but that is certainly not the case in Japan. These songs, both originals and covers, played in the traditional style not only pay tribute to the masters who preceded them, but each musician brings a little bit of their own style to the interpretations. That said, it all seems to have a fresh quality to it. It’s not just dusting off the old classics, but putting on a new coat of paint.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Johnny Burgin (and partner Stephanie Tice, who produced the album) for gathering all of these fine musicians together for No Border Blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Savoy BrownSavoy Brown and singer/songwriter/guitarist Kim Simmonds got their start in 1965 --- yes, 1965 --- which gives them the distinction of being one of the longest-running, if not the longest-running blues rock bands in existence. Though the band’s line-up has changed frequently over their nearly 56-year career, the current incarnation (Simmonds – guitar/harmonica/vocals, Pat DeSalvo – bass, Garnet Grimm – drums) has been together for over a decade, and their latest (41st!) release, Ain’t Done Yet (Quarto Valley Records), is most aptly titled.

The thunderous rocker, “All Gone Wrong,” opens the disc, with Simmonds unleashing a fierce solo midway through. “Devil’s Highway” strikes a more mellow groove, and the guitar work is more subtle, but no less potent in this atmosphere, and the temperate “River On The Rise” has an acoustic backdrop, but Simmonds’ adds slide guitar as the lead. “Borrowed Time” rides a pulsing groove with the guitar played through a “Multivox FullRotor” that gives it a shimmering tone.

The title track is a hard-driving blues shuffle that certainly verifies that the band still have plenty of fuel in the tank, and “Feel Like A Gypsy” is a Latin-flavored blues with a Santana feel where Simmonds really stretches out on guitar at the song’s conclusion. Meanwhile, the Hookeresque boogie, “Jaguar Car,” is a fun track that features Simmonds on slide guitar and harmonica, and he pulls out the dobro for the acoustic “Rocking In Louisiana” before plugging back in for the chugging rocker “Soho Girl.”

The instrumental closer, “Crying Guitar,” is just that --- four and a half minutes of string-bending bliss from one of the finest guitarists of the past half century in any genre.

Ain’t Done Yet proves that Savoy Brown, and Kim Simmonds, remain one of the most creative and powerful blues rock combos in the genre and they continue to add impressive new releases to their already formidable catalog.

--- Graham Clarke

LeRouxIn the late ’70s, in east central Mississippi, it was nearly impossible to listen to the radio at any time, day or night, and not hear “New Orleans Ladies,” the hit single from Louisiana’s LeRoux. The band had a few other hits along the way: “Nobody Said It Was Easy (Lookin’ For The Light),” “Take A Ride On A Riverboat,” and “Carrie’s Song,” to name a few) and appeared on a number of popular TV shows at the time (The Midnight Special, Solid Gold, and the legendary Dan Kirshner’s Rock Concert).

The band ceased operations in 1984 but played occasionally from time to time beginning the next year, finally reuniting completely in 1996 to perform festivals and fairs throughout the southeastern U.S. After issuing five albums during their first run, they managed to release a couple of albums since reuniting (in 2000 and 2002). One Of Those Days is their most recent, and first in 18 years.

The engaging title track opens the disc and will immediately remind fans of those great days of ’70s rock, but the next track, “No One’s Gonna Love Me,” has a gospel/soul feel with tight harmony vocals and Nelson Blanchard’s smooth B3 support. The Crescent City-styled “Lucy Anna” strikes a funky, swampy groove reminiscent of Little Feat, and “Don’t Rescue Me” is a sturdy blues rocker, while “After All” is a pop-flavored ballad.

“Nothing Left To Lose” is a swamp rocker with a slight country vibe, and “The Song Goes On” is a reflective southern rock ballad. Longtime fans may recognize “Lifeline (Redux)” from the band’s early ’80s period by the lyrics, if not the melody, which is more laid back and soulful than the original pop rock version. The instrumental “Sauce Piquante” mixes jazz and funk and reminds listeners that the band originally made their mark backing such Louisiana luminaries as Clifton Chenier and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

Now, if you were a teenager in my neck of the woods back in the late ’70s, you heard “New Orleans Ladies” on the radio or at parties (great slow-dancing song) for at least five years. The band offers a new version of this track that hews closely to the original, with the addition of Tab Benoit on guitar. This new version should please fans of the old version.

One Of Those Days will be a nice stroll down memory lane for those fans of Louisiana’s LeRoux in their salad days, but it also shows that they’re still very much at the top of their game some 40 years later, and still have a lot to offer.

--- Graham Clarke

Eliza NealsI’ve reviewed the last few releases from Detroit-based singer/keyboardist Eliza Neals, and it’s been a lot of fun watching her develop and gain confidence as both a singer and composer. Her latest release, Black Crow Moan (E-H Records) is her best effort to date, as she tears through a powerful ten-song set (nine originals) of blues, rock, and soul backed by a formidable crew of musicians including guitarists Joe Louis Walker, Derek St. Holmes, Mike Puwal, and Howard Glazer.

The album opener, “Don’t Judge The Blues,” is a stalwart Hill Country blues rocker that should get folks moving. “Why You Ooglin’ Me” is a slow grinder that includes some sweet slide guitar from Puwal, while “The Devil Don’t Love You” is a funky mid-tempo blues that features Walker on co-lead vocals and guitar, and Neals’ soulful vocals are particularly effective on the blues ballad “Watch Me Fly.” Meanwhile, Glazer unleashes a tasty guitar solo on “River Is Rising,” another powerfully sung ballad with a bit more of a rock edge.

Neals’ keyboards propel the irresistible “Run Sugar Run,” an upbeat, catchy rock n’ roller with a lot of spunk. Walker rejoins Neals for the title track, a slow burning traditional blues. He backs her vocals on this track, adding his typically sharp guitar work.

Guitarist St. Holmes contributes on the next three tracks, “Never Stray,” a ballad with a smooth, understated vocal from Neals, and Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain.” Neals’ interpretation of the latter is taken at a slower pace than the original, but her vocal is perfect, different from Thornton’s and Joplin’s versions but definitely on the same level.

The album closes with a bang via the lively “Take Your Pants Off,” a rocking tune that leaves little to the imagination. Neals and St. Holmes have a ball with this song for sure.

As stated above, this is Eliza Neals’ best album to date, and she’s at her best vocally and as a songwriter. Black Crow Moan should satisfy blues and blues-rock fans totally.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny WayneRolling into his sixth decade playing the blues, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne delivers another fine set of piano-driven blues and boogie woogie with Go, Just Do It! (Stony Plain Records). The new set features 13 tracks, 10 written by Wayne, and guest vocalists Dawn Tyler Watson and Diane Schuur, along with harmonica player Sherman Doucette, horn section Jerry Cook (tenor/baritone saxes) and Vince Mai (trumpet), and rapper Cory Spruell (a.k.a. SeQuaL, Wayne’s son). Wayne’s regular band includes Russell Jackson (bass), Yuji Ihara (guitars), Joey “The Pocket” DiMarco (drums) and Barry Sharbo (tamborine). Wayne’s compositions have an attractive pop sheen to them, and he has a knack for catchy lyrics and concepts.

The title track opens the disc, a tough and funky number with guest vocals from Ms. Watson, followed by the irresistible “You Did A Number On Me” (with backing vocals from Julie Masi from The Parachute Club), and the Crescent City-flavored “Sittin’ In My Rockin’ Chair.” Wayne also covers two Percy Mayfield tracks, the first being “You’re In For A Big Surprise,” featuring Ms. Schuur’s dynamite co-lead vocal, and a fun take of “I Don’t Want To Be The President,” which features SeQuaL.

Wayne and Watson share vocals on the ominous, mid-tempo “Sorry Ain’t Good Enough,” while “Motor Mouth Woman” is an entertaining tune lamenting an overly-chatty mate, and “Lost And Found” mixes blues and soul deftly. Doucette adds harp to a jumping downhome read of J.J. Cale’s “They Call Me The Breeze” that really sparkles, and Wayne’s own “Bumping Down The Highway” is a cool instrumental that lets the band have the spotlight, while the effervescent “That’s The Way She Is” sings the praises of a particularly fine woman.

Wayne closes the disc with the jaunty “T&P Train 400,” a rollicking train song, and the exciting boogie woogie instrumental “Let The Rock Roll,” which shows the 75-year-old piano man still knows his way around the keyboard.

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne is one of those blues artists who deserves to be better known. He releases one quality album after another, always giving listeners a lot to enjoy. Go, Just Do It! is another fine addition to his already-impressive set of recordings and will surely satisfy blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Shawn AmosBlue Sky (Put Together Music) is the latest release from The Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood. Amos (vocals, harp) collaborated with drummer Brady Blade, bassist Christopher Thomas, and his longtime guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts, who form The Brotherhood. They are joined by a group (Friends of The Brotherhood) on several tracks – a group which includes Ruthie Foster, Piper Amos, Sharlotte Gibson, and Kenya Hathaway (vocals), Matt Hubbard (keyboards), and Ben Peeler (guitars).

Amos penned all ten tracks on this top notch release, which kicks off with the warm, breezy shuffle “Stranger Than Today” before Amos teams with Foster on the swampy “Troubled Man'” Foster’s soulful vocals are a fine complement to Amos’. “Her Letter” is a gentle country blues that really showcases Amos as a lyricist and it’s a great segue into the driving blues rocker “Counting Down The Days” and the manic rock n’ roller “Hold Back.”

“The Job Is Never Done” nimbly mixes rock and soul with the blues, and “The Pity And The Pain” is a reflective, mid-tempo track that adds R&B to the blend. The haunting “Albion Blues” continues on the same trend, Amos’ despairing lyrics backed by more of an after-hours theme, while “27 Dollars” is a rockabilly rave-up take on a familiar blues subject. Meanwhile, “Keep The Faith, Have Some Fun,” is a Crescent City good-time tune, featuring backing from the Mudbug Brass Band, bringing this fine album to a funky conclusion.

Blue Sky is one of those collaborative efforts that you hope will lead to even more collaboration from the parties in the near future. Amos’ songwriting is first-rate and the musical vibe set forth by him and The Brotherhood will take in blues and roots fans completely.

--- Graham Clarke

Avey Grouws BandBased in the Quad Cities, the Avey Grouws Band has advanced to the semi-finals in the 2018 and 2020 I.B.C. Guitarist Chris Avey and vocalist Jeni Grouws formed the band in 2017 and proceeded to win the Iowa Blues Challenge that same year, mixing a variety of blues and roots styles into their musical palette. The Devil May Care is their debut long-player (the band released an EP in 2018) and upon listening, listeners will be hard-pressed to believe that this is only their second recorded effort.

The opener, “Come And Get This Love,” is a swinging Latin-flavored groover with a strong vocal from Grouws. The title track follows, a tale of desperate love powered by Grouws’ defiant vocal and crisp fretwork from Avey. “Rise Up” is a rocking blues calling for working together to achieve common ground, and “Let’s Take It Slow” is a soulful love song with a memorable guitar solo, while the anthemic rocker “Long Road” soars both vocally and musically.

The sassy shuffle “Let Me Sing My Blues” features some fine piano from Nick Vasquez, and “Weary” is an acoustic road song that effectively conveys long hours endured on the road. The swampy “Dirty Little Secret” is another tale of forbidden love, and the hard-charging “Dig What You Do” is a southern rocker with Avey and Grouws sharing lead vocals. The album closes with “Two Days Off (And A Little Bit Of Liquor),”  a jazzy slow burner adding horns (Nolan Schoeder – sax, Dan Meier – trumpet).

Grouws has a powerful voice that works superbly in a variety of styles and Avey’s guitar work is first-rate and versatile as well. The rhythm section (Vasquez – keys, Bryan West – drums, Randy Leasman - bass) is more than up to the challenge as well. The Devil May Care is a most excellent full-length debut from this band that deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Jim Gustin and Truth JonesJim Gustin and Truth Jones offer another resilient set of blue, rock, and soul with their latest release, Lessons Learned. Gustin and Jones (a.k.a. Jeri Goldenhar) penned 11 new tunes that touch on the above-cited genres, teaming with their regular band (Steve Alterman – keys/vocals, Scott Duncan – bass/vocals, Chuck Strong – drums/vocals, and Lawrence Tamez – sax) and several guests artists, including Tower of Power trumpeter Lee Thornburg, harp man Chris LeRoi Hansen, and Crooked Eye Tommy guitarist Tommy Marsh.

The disc opens with the jumping blues, “I’d Been Drinking,” with Gustin and Jones alternating on vocals, while on the soulful horn-driven “I Heard About You,” Jones takes the mic solo, and Gustin’s gravelly vocals are a keen fit on the socially-charged “The Truth.” “When This Ship Sails” is a smoky ballad with a sultry vocal from Jones, following by Gustin having a good time with the thumping rocker “I Hate To See You Go,” and the funky rhumba “Never Forget” brings the pair together on vocals once again.

“All You Ever Bring Me Is The Blues” is one of the album’s standout tracks, with clever lyrics, a strong vocal from Jones and ample solo room for Gustin, Alterman, and Tamez. Heading over to the country (blues, that is), “Never Too Big For The Blues” goes unplugged with Marsh guesting on slide guitar and Hansen on harmonica. Meanwhile, “Rockslide” is a bold and brassy blues rocker, the slow burner “My Love Is True” finds Gustin and Jones sharing vocals again, as they do on the closer, “Three Things,” which combines gospel, soul, and rock influence.

All in all, Lessons Learned another solid set of original tunes from Jim Gustin and Truth Jones that will certainly satisfy any discriminating blues fan who enjoys well-crafted songs and rock-steady grooves.

--- Graham Clarke

Alastair GreeneOne of the outstanding tracks from Alastair Greene’s recent release, The New World Blues on Whiskey Bayou Records, is “Bayou Mile,” which the singer/songwriter/guitarist penned with producer/label owner Tab Benoit. The label recently released an acoustic version of “Bayou Mile” (which was the original format of the song) that might be better than the album version. Greene’s guitar work mixes the blues with a bit of country and roots and his heartfelt vocals project the vivid imagery of the lyrics most effectively. If you liked The New World Blues, you will certainly love this warm acoustic version of one of the album’s best tracks.

--- Graham Clarke

The blues is alive and well in Europe, especially in Belgium. Let’s look at a trio of singles recently issued by three of the country’s finest bands.

The BluesbonesThe BluesBones have released another single, “Sealed Souls” (Naked Productions) from their recent Live On Stage album (which will hopefully be reviewed in next month’s issue of Blues Bytes). It’s a moody, simmering song dealing with the insanity of war and the accompanying suffering and death that follow in its path. Nico DeCock does a masterful job conveying anger, desperation, and weariness, while Edwin Risbourg’s B3 is mesmerizing and Stef Paglia’s guitar work is amazing. It’s a powerful song with an equally powerful message that more countries should heed.

Boogie BeastsMeanwhile, the Belgian blues rock band Boogie Beasts offer an electrifying new single, “Bring It On” (Naked Productions) in celebration of their 10th anniversary. After the lockdown, the group (Jan Jaspers – guitar/vocals, Patrick Louis – guitar/vocals, Fabian Bennardo – harmonica, and Gert Servaes – drums) booked a studio in Waimes, Belgium and began working on new songs. “Bring It On” developed from a bass line and the band began jamming and decided to add lyrics, melody, slide guitar, and backing vocals from guest Rijkje Crommen. It’s a crunching blues rocker with a little bit of Hill Country vibe thrown in and it works really well. Stay tuned for an upcoming album, and if it’s as good as this single, it will definitely be a treat.

Travellin Blue KingsBlues Bytes reviewed the Travellin’ Blues Kings’ impressive Wired Up album back in 2019. The group was originally founded by Belgian and Dutch musicians, but the pandemic made it impossible for the band to stay active across national borders, so a Belgian contingent (call it “Blues Kings 2.0”) was assembled, with regular members Jimmy Hontelé (guitar), Winne Penninckx (bass) and Marc Gijbels (drums) joined by B3 player Patrick Cuyvers and vocalist/saxophonist Jb Biesmans. “Gotta Get Away” (Naked Productions) is a funky mid-tempo blues rock number with a spicy touch of New Orleans, highlighted by Biesmans’ rugged vocals and sax. His contributions and Cuyvers’ B3 are a nice touch and hopefully, when the full band can reassemble, they can incorporate those instruments into the Kings’ already potent mix.

--- Graham Clarke




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