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March/April 2022

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Back Issues


Order these featured albums today:

Trudy Lynn


Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts

Diunna Greenleaf

Bob Stroger

Mike Zito - Resurrection

Mike Zito - Blues for the Southside

Micki Free

Louisiana Red

Bob Corritore and Friends

Tony Holiday

Tas Cru

Lady A

Lindsay Beaver and Brad Stivers

WildRoots Vol 1

WildRoots Vol 2

Tiffany Pollack

Willie Jackson

Kurt Crandall

Jack de Keyzer

Jon Spear Band

Dave Keller



Trudy LynnIt was exciting enough for me to receive notification of a new album from Houston veteran blues singer Trudy Lynn, but I was especially happy to see that it was produced by the same team that put out last year's Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 1 by Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps. That album was one of my favorites of the 2021 blues season, and I just knew that producer Terry Wilson and basically the same team of backing musicians would maximize Ms. Lynn's immense talents to deliver one of the better releases for this year.

I was right. Golden Girl (Nola Blue Records) is a winner!

Ms Lynn turns 75 later this year, but the strength and quality of her voice belies her age. She's still got the vocal chops that made her a star on the Houston blues scene more than 30 years ago. With backing musicians like Anson Funderburgh and Yates McKendree on guitars, Kevin McKendree on keyboards, Steve Krase on harmonica, and horns from Darrel Leonard and Mario Calire, this one was guaranteed to be a winner.

Opening the album, Ms. Lynn demands that her significant other tell her right away if she's wasting her time on him on "Tell Me," with Yates McKendree showing his guitar prowess early on with this mid-tempo funky blues. McKendree and Funderburgh share guitar solos on the blues shuffle "Golden Girl Blues," while Krase takes a prominent role with his blues harp.

The title of "If Your Phone Don't Ring" tells us that this one is really going to thick with blues content. It's a standard slow blues with Wilson adding very tasteful slide guitar to the effective horn accompaniment. Drummer Brannen Temple highlights "I'm Just Saying" with a New Orleans second line beat, with Kevin McKendree adding the requisite piano work. Ms. Lynn's voice soars through the octaves on the slow, soulful blues "Is It Cold In Here," framed by a big, big horn sound and strong guitar work from Yates McKendree.

Krase provides the opening bars of "Trouble With Love," a driving up-tempo blues that finds Teresa James on backing vocals and a sublime guitar solo from Funderburgh. "Take Me Back" delivers a big sound on a mid-tempo blues that has just a touch of swamp to it, with nice guitar fills from Funderburgh. "Live With Yourself" is infused with plenty of soul and a touch of gospel from Ms. Lynn, with the same horn sound and Yates McKendree guitar chords that we were accustomed to hearing on Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 1.

"Heartache Is A One-Way Street" opens with a pulsating Bo Diddley beat with Temple providing the appropriate rhythm, and Krase's harmonica is heard throughout the tune. Funderburgh stars on the mid-tempo blues shuffle "I Just Can't Say Goodbye," as Ms. Lynn expresses her regrets that she just can't leave that man no matter how hard she tries.

Closing the album is "Life Goes On," a slow blues with a strong guitar intro from Funderburgh and gospel-influenced piano from Kevin McKendree. Ms Lynn hauls us into the choir loft as she tries to go on despite the losing game she's playing. The inspiration in her voice comes out throughout the song as she packs even more power into the vocals.

Trudy Lynn is a gem in the blues world, and so is this new album, Golden Girl. Both should be cherished,. Thanks also to Terry Wilson for assembling a great team in putting it all together. Highly recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

HOROJO TrioOttawa, Ontario blues ensemble HOROJO Trio has been well-known on their home front for several years, finally making some noise outside their home base when they won the Best Band contest at the 2020 International Blues Challenge. The rest of the blues world will now get to hear this exciting young trio with the release of Set The Record (Stony Plain). Making up this Canadian supergroup, and thus forming the name of the trio, are Jeff Rogers (singer / keyboards), JW-Jones (guitar, backup vocals) and Jamie Holmes (drums), with the first two letters of each last name contributing to the HO-RO-JO moniker. Jones is the most familiar name to us outside of their Ottawa base, having released more than a dozen albums dating back more than 20 years.

All 11 cuts here are band originals, a mix of rockin' blues, soul and R&B. My pick to click is the soulful mid-tempo shuffle "A Little Goes A Long Way," introducing us to Rogers' versatility on vocals. Rogers also puts out plenty of emotion on the slower soul ballad "Stay Crazy" and the slow blues "The Night," on which he complements his passionate vocals with nice organ accompaniment.

Of course, we expect JW-Jones to be providing very fine guitar accompaniment, and he especially tears it up on the up-tempo driving blues "Hard As I Can." The trio takes it down to the Louisiana swamps with the nice "Ragman's Blues." Holmes shines with some creative drumming on the up-tempo and funky "Something You Should Know."

Now that the rest of the blues world is learning about the HOROJO Trio, we can enjoy this debut release and look forward to hearing more from this fine group of musicians.

--- Bill Mitchell

Kathy MurrayFully Charged (Blue Heart Records) is the fifth album by Austin, Texas-based Kathy Murray & The Kilowatts, but it's my first introduction to this ensemble. I'm impressed, and am now wondering how this group got past me before this. Ms. Murray is the star of the show, joined on guitar and sometimes on accordion by fellow bandleader Bill "Monster" Jones. An added highlight is the addition of The Texas Horns, one of the finest collection of horn players around these parts.

Ms Murray has received nominations and rewards for her songwriting, and it's easy to see why when listening to Fully Charged. She's got quite a creative side and weaves interesting tales into her original compositions.

With that said, it turns out that my favorite songs on the album are her four covers, starting with the Doc Pomus original "Suspicion," which we all know from Elvis Presley's hit version. The band makes their version sound like it's a Texas song, with Jones picking up the accordion and also laying down a solid guitar solo midway through the tune. Ms. Murray also packs more of a wallop into her vocals, showing more range than on other songs.

Equally impressive are the versions of Tampa Red's "It Hurts Me Too," given the Kilowatts treatment with accordion and nice slide guitar. My only question on this song was why the slide guitar and accordion parts are lower in the mix instead of being brought to the front. She also does a beautiful version of Doug Sahm's slow soul ballad, "Breakup Breakdown," with the horns coming in behind the heartfelt vocals.

The final cover song is "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is," a soul classic from the Irma Thomas songbook. The Texas Horns give this one a real big sound, and instead of sounding like Irma, there's a little bit of Patsy Cline coming out in Ms. Murray's vocals. At least that's what I'm hearing.

There are also very fine renditions of Ms. Murray's original songs, and she consistently paints a picture of each story through her vocals. On "Expense Of Love," this mid-tempo blues shuffle talks about how money isn't everything. Another favorite is a blues shuffle, "Hard Act To Follow," starting with strong guitar leads from Jones before Ms. Murray creates the symbolism of equating her new love to a strong opening act in her concert of life.

Ms. Murray also brings back memories for anyone who's spent time on the Austin music scene with the mid-tempo blues "The House That Freddie Built," referring to the Armadillo World Headquarters and the many shows that Freddie King did at that legendary Austin music palace. Lewis Stephens joins in with a wonderful organ solo before Jones tears it up on guitar.

If, like me, Kathy Murray is a new name to you, Fully Charged is a great introduction to this very fine group of solid musicians. If you're already on the Kilowatts bandwagon, then it will be just one more addition to your Kathy discography.

--- Bill Mitchell

Diunna GreenleafDiunna Greenleaf won the Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female at the 2014 BMAs, beating out an impressive group of singers, including Teeny Tucker, Lavelle White, Trudy Lynn, and Zora Young. Since 2004 she’s released four albums, the most recent is the appropriately-titled I Ain’t Playin’ (Little Village Foundation), which was recorded at Greaseland, USA and produced by Kid Andersen, who also played guitar on the session. The session also features a host of guest musicians, but this is Ms. Greenleaf’s show from start to finish and the album title sums it up pretty well.

Of the 13 tracks, four are originals by Ms. Greenleaf. The rest are a well-chosen set that help display the depth and breadth of her vocal talents, touching on blues, soul, gospel, and jazz. The opener, “Never Trust A Man,” is a powerful track originally from Koko Taylor, with Greenleaf singing it like she’s lived it. Next is the first of her originals, “Running Like The Red Cross,” with a sweet gospel feel reinforced by the backing vocals from The Sons of the Soul Revivers. It’s followed by Big James Montgomery’s “If It Wasn’t For The Blues,” a fine mid-tempo blues with horns and superb guitar work from Andersen,. Another original, “Answer To The Hard Working Woman,” is a funky, feisty retort to Otis Clay’s 1970 Cotillion single.

Greenleaf does a wonderful job on “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.” While it’s usually associated with Nina Simone, that may not be the case anymore. “Sunny Day Friends” is another original, a jazzy word of warning to be careful who you choose for your friends. The Vince Gill hit, “When I Call Your Name," is a country blues showcase for Greenleaf and guest vocalist Alabama Mike, who also contributes to a terrific reading of the Staples Singers’ “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” Hopefully, these two have more collaborations in the works down the road.

Greenleaf’s world-weary vocal sum up Long John Hunter’s “I Don’t Care” perfectly, and I love her take on Joe Medwick’s obscure late ’60s single “Damned If I Do,” tempering the ferocity of Medwick’s original but still maintaining the intensity. The last original tune, “Back Door Man,” is a bouncy mix of R&B and funk with a dash of pop, before the disc wraps up with Johnny Copeland’s smoldering slow blues, “Let Me Cry,” and Dietra Farr’s exuberant “My Turn, My Time.”

That last song could serve as a mission statement for Diunna Greenleaf. Though she’s been very active, this is her first album release in over a decade. This talented lady deserves to be heard more by blues fans. Hopefully, I Ain’t Playin’ will ensure that those album releases fall closer together from now on.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob StrogerI was early into my love for the blues when I first became familiar with Bob Stroger. The first time I paid attention was when I picked up a copy of the first volume of Antone’s live 10th Anniversary Celebration from the mid ’80s. The album cover consisted of several action shots of the musicians taken while they performed at the celebration. In several of the pictures, there was a guy playing bass in the background, and when I looked at the liner notes, I discovered that it was Stroger, who held down the bass for the majority of the performers during those performance, including Snooky Pryor, Eddie Taylor, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, and Jimmy Rogers.

Stroger played with all of those guys at one point or another during his career, not just on this set at Antones, but also many more during his long musical career which indicated to me at that time that he had to have been a “go-to” bass player on the Chicago scene. Stroger released his own albums a few times over the years, but he’s played on over 30 releases for Delmark.

The label just released That’s My Name, Stroger’s first album for Delmark as a leader. Backing the Windy City legend is the Brazilian band The Headcutters (Joe Marhofer – harmonica, Ricardo Maca – guitar, Arthur “Catuto” Garcia – bass, Leandro “Cavera” Barbeta - drums), with guests Luciano Leães (keyboards) and Braion Johnny (saxophones).

The album contains 13 songs, five songs by Stroger and eight covers, including a pair of Jr. Parker songs with the downhome shuffle “What Goes On In The Dark” and “Stranded in St. Louis,” a slow burner with tasty slide guitar from Maca. Stroger also gives us a smooth, reserved read of the standard “C.C. Rider,” lively takes on Eddie Taylor’s “Just A Bad Boy,” Jay McShann’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her,” and Eugene Church’s “Pretty Girl,” and smoky, after-hours versions of Casey Bill Weldon’s “Move To The Outskirts of Town” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “Just A Dream.”

Stroger’s own tunes include the slow blues “I’m A Lonely Man,” which borrows that well-known Magic Sam riff with satisfying results, the rocking shuffle “Come On Home,” and the jazzy late nighter “Something Strange.” The lively “Talk To Me Woman” packs a punch, and the title track, which closes the disc, serves as Stroger’s mission statement --- “my real name is the blues.”

The Headcutters do an excellent job of capturing the essence of Chicago blues, hewing very closely to the original with their performances. Marhofer works overtime on the harp and the rhythm section of Leães, Catuto, Cavera, and Stroger provides superb backing. The 91-year-old Stroger’s vocals are warm and confident, reflecting his eight decades of living the blues.

It’s great to see these veterans still making vital music on the Chicago scene. Bob Stroger is still going strong and, based on the wonderful quality of That’s My Name, doesn’t look to be hanging up his hat any time soon, which is good news for blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Big LlouBig Llou Johnson has one of those deep, rumbling, sultry voices that sticks in your head. If you listen to BB King’s Bluesville station on Sirius XM satellite radio, you’ve heard his voice between songs since the station’s inception. He’s also an award-winning actor, producer, and event host. His first album, 2013’s They Call Me Big Llou, won a 2013 BMA for Best New Artist Debut Album of the Year. Johnson’s long-awaited follow-up, Bigman (GoldenVoice Audio Recordings), is a dynamite set of contemporary blues and soul that should make even more noise than its predecessor.

The horn-fueled, guitar-driven “Lightnin’ Strikes” launches the album, with Johnson smoothly announcing that he’s coming to your town and you better be ready. The title track follows, an upbeat, updated version of the traditional blues tunes about sexual prowess that Johnson delivers with a wink and a smile. “Chill On Cold” is an ominous tale about a female predator who’s prowling the scene, and Johnson really takes his time making his move on the smoky blues ballad “Let’s Misbehave,” while on the mid-tempo shuffle “Shucky Ducky (Quack Quack)” he describes an amorous fan of his who “rides like a Cadillac.”

The laidback, acoustic “Sunshine On Yo’ Face” is a cool love song that features Anne Harris on violin. “Stuff To Do” is an upbeat call-and-response tune that moves along briskly, while “I Got The Fever” is a splendid slow burner about the end of a relationship. “Never Get Over Me” begins as a slow, string-driven ballad and quickly transitions to mid-tempo funk as Johnson proclaims that his lady will not get over him once she gets under him. The album closer, “Beezthatwaysometimes” continues in the funky R&B vein and brings the disc to a most satisfying conclusion.

Big Llou Johnson’s compelling vocals and delivery would be impressive even if he was just reading the phone book aloud. Backed by a superlative band and with an excellent set of songs (he penned four of the ten featured here) like he is on Bigman, the big-voiced singer can’t miss. Soul-blues fans will want to get their hands on this one for sure, but there’s plenty here for anyone who just digs great music.

--- Graham Clarke

Mike ZitoMike Zito has been a pretty busy man over the last few years, toiling away on his own releases or producing/performing on other albums from his label, the Texas-based Gulf Coast Records. Known for his intense guitar work and vocals, as well as his honest, pull-no-punches songwriting, Zito has released some memorable work both as a solo artists and during a four-year stint in the early 2010s with the Royal Southern Brotherhood. Over the past six months, he’s released a pair of his own albums for the label, both of which are certainly worth any blues-rock fan’s time.

Resurrection was released in the summer of 2021, consisting of 11 songs, eight originals from Zito and three covers. One of the covers opens the disc, a rocking version of J.J. Cale’s “I’ll Make Love To You” that really pops. “Don’t Bring Me Down” really soars musically as Zito describes the ill effects of negative energy on us all. “Dreaming Of You” is a mid-tempo track Zito wrote in appreciation of his wife, and the moody “In My Blood” describes his restless inner spirit. Meanwhile, Zito gives Eric Clapton’s “Presence Of The Lord” a slightly more energetic feel while still staying reverential to the original, and “When It Rains” has a rock and soul feel, thanks to the horn section.

“You Don’t Have Me” is a catchy, straight-ahead blues rocker, while “Damned If I Do” ranks as one of the best tunes on the disc with Zito’s most powerful vocal, searing guitar work, and heartbreaking lyrics about hanging on to a love too long. The hard-rocking “Running Man” mocks our ongoing political madness and electorial routine. The last of the three covers is an amped-up version of Willie Dixon’s “Evil” that bears little resemblance to the Howlin’ Wolf standard, but the new arrangement works really well. The title track closes the album, a moving ballad about a failing relationship that bounces back stronger than ever.

Resurrection is a typically strong effort from Mike Zito, who continues to release albums at an astonishing rate, all of amazing quality.

Mike ZitoZito’s most recent release is a stellar two-disc live set recorded in late 2021 at the Old Rock House in St. Louis. Blues For The Southside finds the guitarist back in his old stomping grounds backed by his impressive band (Matthew Johnson – vocals/drums, Lewis Stephens – keyboards, Doug Byrkit – vocals/bass), along with guest guitarists Tony Campanella, Dave Kalz (both labelmates), and Eric Gales. The 15 songs include several from Zito’s recent releases, one new song (the title track), plus his versions of classic tunes by several blues rock giants.

Zito doesn’t waste any time, launching into the storming roadhouse rocker “Mississippi Nights” before settling into the mid-tempo “First Class Life,” and the title track, a gorgeous instrumental where Zito and Stephens really play off each other extremely well. There’s also an excellent cover of “Texas Flood,” on which Zito puts his own unique spin both vocally and instrumentally. “Hell On Me” are both solid blues rockers with great fretwork, and the now-timely blues boogie, “Make Blues Not War,” closes Disc One with some sizzling slide guitar and a little audience participation.

Disc Two includes three tracks with the guest guitarists joining in. “Highway Mama” features blazing guitar from both Zito and Campanella, while Gales (who happened to be in St. Louis for a rehearsal) was invited onstage to join Zito for a fantastic 12-minute read of the Hendrix’s slow-burner “Voodoo Chile” (not the “Slight Return” version), and Kalz sits in on the raucous “The Road Never Ends.” Zito also offers a spicy read of Tampa Red’s “Love Her With A Feeling,” the driving rockers “Wasted Time,” “Dying Day” (which has a nice funky edge, thanks to Stephens’ B3 backing), and Fred James’ splendid slow burner “Life Is Hard.” The closer is another cover from another longtime St. Louis resident, a storming version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode.”

Blues For The Southside features everything one would want from a Mike Zito album --- great songs, powerful, heartfelt vocals, and superlative guitar work (and not just from Zito). This is a must-have for any blues rocker’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Micki FreeGuitarist extraordinare Micki Free has performed, written songs, and recorded with a regular who’s who of music legends, including Gene Simmons, Bill Wyman, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Prince, Sam Moore, Cheap Trick, Billy Gibbons, Carlos Santana, and Shalamar, with whom he earned three Grammy nominations and one win. Always a blues-rocker at heart, he has embraced the genre completely during his solo career, most especially with his sixth, and latest, studio release, Turquoise Blue (Dark Idol Music), a dynamic set that features 14 tracks (13 originals) and guest appearances from Gary Clark, Jr., Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Steve Stevens, and Cindy Blackman Santana.

The opening track is “Low Ridin’420,” a Texas-styled roadhouse rocker, while the album’s first single, “Bye 2020,” a scorcher that includes guest Stevens’ blazing guitar (he takes first solo and Free takes the second). Who wins the duel? Listeners do. “Heavy Mercy” finds Free’s guitar taking a menacing lower tone before launching into a stunning solo, and “Invitation Love” is a crunching blues rocker.

“Come Home Big Mama” is a bump-and-grinder with back-up vocalist Trish Bowden making a nice contribution, and Free really tears up the terrific cover of the Bob Dylan via Jimi Hendrix classic “All Along The Watchtower” (At age 12, Free got to hear Hendrix in Germany).

“Spring Fever” is a Latin-flavored ballad that provides a subtle break at the album’s midpoint. Ingram joins Free for “Judicator Blues,” a ferocious mid-tempo blues with another awesome pair of solos mixed in (Kingfish first, then Free), and “World On Fire” addresses current affairs with a Santana-esque flair, thanks in part to Free’s inspired fretwork and lead vocalist Andy Vargas, as well as guest appearances from Santana percussionists Cindy Blackman-Santana and Karl Perazzo. Meanwhile, Stevens rejoins Free on “The Big Regret,” playing nylon guitar on the smooth ballad. Free handles all the guitar fireworks on the driving rockers “Heaven or Heroin” and “Ring of Fire.”

“Woman” teams Free with Gary Clark, Jr. It’s a funky blues rocker which really catches fire during the guitar solos (Clark, Jr. #1, Free #2). The album closer, “Blue Memories,” features acoustic and electric guitars and a cool, mellow summer vibe.

Turquoise Blue is powerful stuff and blues rock fans should definitely put this one on their “must-hear” list. With these powerful songs and performances, and plenty of tremendous guitar pyrotechnics, they will be hitting “replay” over and over.

--- Graham Clarke

Louisiana RedLouisiana Red and Bob Corritore first met at the Delta Fish Market in Chicago in 1981, where they performed together for the first time. Corritore moved to Arizona the next year and Red soon followed, where they worked local clubs for a year before Red relocated to Europe after meeting his wife there during a tour. Red returned to the U.S. once a year and always stopped in Arizona to visit and perform with Corritore, who often recorded their sessions together.

Red passed away in 2012, but Corritore recently unearthed a prime set of tunes the pair recorded in seven different sessions between 2000 and 2009. Tell Me ‘Bout It (VizzTone/SWMAF) features 11 tracks, seven previously unreleased, pairing Corritore and Red with an all-star cast of musicians in support, including Johnny Rapp, Buddy Reed, Bob Margolin, Little Victor’s Juke Joint, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, Chico Chism, David Maxwell, and Brian Fahey.

“Mary Dee Shuffle” kicks off the album, a previously released shuffle with Reed on guitar and Matt Bishop on piano. “Early Morning Blues” is an old school slow blues track featuring just Red and Corritore which really shows their musical rapport at it’s best, and “Alabama Train” is a muscular, driving blues with superb support from Little Victor’s Juke Joint, with David Maxwell on piano. The jaunty “Caught Your Old Man and Gone” is a slight rhythmic variation of “Trouble No More,” with Rapp on guitar, Paul Thomas on bass, and Chism on drums.

“New Jersey Blues” re-teams Reed and Red on guitar, as Red tells the story of the woman in Jersey who took his relief check to buy beer while he toiled away at the steel mill. On the terrific “Freight Train To Ride,” listeners get a taste of Red’s slide guitar prowess, and on the stop time title track (with Maxwell, James, Fahey, and Rynn), Red laments his hard luck with women and money while living in New Jersey. “Earline Who’s Been Fooling You” is a lively shuffle, and “Edith Mae” is a slow burner with Margolin guesting on guitar as Red remembers a wonderful woman from West Point, Mississippi.

“Bessemer Blues” is a tribute to Bessemer, Alabama, the town where his mother was born and where he spent time when he was a kid. “Bernice Blues,” the album finale, is a tight Windy City blues with splendid slide guitar from Red, who recalls another woman from his days in New Jersey.

Red is in fine voice throughout and his guitars and songs (he penned nine and his wife, Dora, wrote two) are first-rate, as always. Corritore is simply one of the best at what he does, one of the finest, most soulful harmonica players currently practicing. The harp master also seems to have an endless supply of wonderful, unreleased material at his disposal (called his “From The Vaults” series) and blues fans hope he doesn’t run out anytime soon. In the meantime, Tell Me ‘Bout It is a most excellent set that traditional blues fans will want to get their hands on.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob Corritore & FriendsAnother fine set from Bob Corritore’s “From The Vaults” series collects 13 traditional blues tracks the harp master recorded during eight sessions in Phoenix between 1995 and 2012 with a host of blues legends. Bob Corritore & FriendsDown Home Blues Revue (VizzTone/SWMAF) teams Corritore with veterans Robert “Bilbo” Walker, Tomcat Courtney, T-Model Ford, Henry Townsend, Smokey Wilson, Honeyboy Edwards, David “Pecan” Porter, Al Garrett, Dave Riley, and Big Jack Johnson. Lending support to these tunes are guitarists Johnny Rapp and Chris James, bassists Paul Thomas, Patrick Rynn, and Yahni Riley, and drummers Chico Chism, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Mart Reinsel, and Brian Fahey.

Robert “Bilbo” Walker rips through a trio of songs, backed by Corritore and guitarist Rapp. His riproaring version of Lightnin’ Slim’s classic “Rooster Blues” leads off the disc, and he also dazzles on Muddy Waters’ slow blues “Still A Fool,” and Sam Cooke’s “Baby, Baby, Baby.” Tomcat Courtney teams with Corritore and guitarist James for his own “Clara Mae,” a modern countrified blues on the perils of drug use. Next up is T-Model Ford, who turns in a gritty version of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “Mean Old Frisco,” and later covers Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked For Water,” even throwing in his version of the Wolf’s growl.

The legendary St. Louis piano man Henry Townsend appears on his own haunting “Nothing But Blues,” sounding as potent as he did when he first recorded in the late ’20s. Smokey Wilson does a fine job on the laid back (well, as laid back as Smokey Wilson ever got) “Don’t Know What I’m Gonna Do,” and Corritore really tears it up on harp. Honeyboy Edwards rambles through Robert Lockwood’s “Take A Little Walk With Me,” as only he can, joined on this vintage blues by Corritore and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. David “Pecan” Porter, who lived in the Clarksdale cabin Muddy Waters once occupied, covers “Let’s Work Together,” made popular by Canned Heat in the ’60s.

The underrated Al Garrett offers up a splendid slow blues original, “My Money Done Run Out,” and Corritore teams with longtime musical partner Dave Riley on the marvelous “Home In Chicago,” with their musical chemistry sparkling. Big Jack Johnson wraps up the collection with Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bluebird Blues,” an eight-minute take that truthfully could have gone for at least eight minutes more.

Sadly, all of these featured artists, except Riley, have passed on over the years, but thankfully Bob Corritore was able to capture them all in performance so that their music endures long after their departure. The harp master always gives his musical partners ample space to shine, and this album is no exception. Down Home Blues Revue is another welcome addition to his “From The Vaults” series that will satisfy fans of classic blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Tony HolidayMemphis harmonica ace Tony Holiday recently released Porch Sessions, Volume 2 (Blue Heart Records), following up on the excellent first volume released in 2019. The sessions, recorded without overdubs in Memphis, Jackson (Tenn.), Bristol (Va.), Fort Collins (Col.), Clarksdale (Miss.) Anaheim, and San Jose, feature an amazing array of current and soon-to-be blues legends, over 35 of them, performing a mix of blues classics and originals that’s every bit as compelling as its predecessor.

Opening with a rollicking version of Jerry McCain’s “She’s Tuff,” Holiday is joined by Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals. Willie Buck ably handles vocals on Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee,” capturing the blues legend’s feel on vocals while backed by Fabulous T-Bird Kim Wilson on harp and Rusty Zinn on guitar.

Colorado blues man AJ Fullerton teams with harmonica player Jake Friel on the acoustic original “Change Is Inevitable,” with an easygoing Piedmont vibe, and Bobby Rush sings his own “Recipe For Love,” as only he can, with guitar accompaniment from Vasti Jackson. Watermelon Slim offers his take on “Smokestack Lightnin’,” a favorite song of his many years.

The late James Harman sings “Going To Court 2,” with Holiday on harp and Kid Ramos and Landon Stone on guitar. Holiday raised $50,000 for Harman when he was diagnosed with cancer, and this may be one of his last performances. Sounds like they had a good time, though. Guitarist Jon Lawton joins Andrew Ali on harmonica for the Delta-flavored “Go,” and Chicago guitarist Lurrie Bell teams up with harp master Mark Hummel for a sturdy take on the classic “Every Day I Have The Blues.”

The second half of the album is equally strong, beginning with Richard “Rip Lee” Pryor (Snooky’s son) channeling his dad on the humorous “Brazilian Brothel,” backed by Jon Atkinson’s slide guitar. Johnny Burgin offers his original “Bad Bad Girl,” recorded at Greaseland Studios with Kid Andersen on bass and Holiday on harp. Rae Gordon sings her “Find Me When The Sun Goes Down,” with Ben Rice on guitar and Friel on harmonica, and Rice takes the mic for his own soulful shuffle “That’s How I Learned,” with Dennis Gruenling on harp.

Gruenling joins forces with Hummel on “Cake Walk,” a wonderful instrumental shuffle where both harp masters battle it out. J.D. Taylor and his son, Alex (on guitar), play the somber Delta blues “Family Tree,” before Southern Avenue inspires all with a beautiful acoustic version of their “Peace Will Come.” Rush returns on the album closer, an a capella folk tale called “Get Outta Here (Dog Named Bo)” that will leave a smile on your face.

To these ears, Porch Sessions, Volume 2 is just as formidable a set as Volume 1. Both albums are a great opportunity for blues fans to hear some of their favorites in an intimate, acoustic setting. Hats off to Tony Holiday for both of these sessions and, hopefully, we’ll be blessed with a Volume 3 soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Tas CruLike most of us, Tas Cru dealt with the full gamet of emotions over the past couple of years of suffering, uncertainty, and confusion. Like most musicians, he didn’t exactly sit on his hands during that, as he worked on a set of songs that ended up reflecting his mood during those times. He calls Broke Down Busted Up (Subcat Records) his “quasi-acoustic” album, as it features mostly acoustic instruments in a largely-roots/Americana setting.

His songwriting has always spanned genres, but the music follows suit this time around, as Cru plays acoustic and resonator guitars and brings in fiddle (compliments of Annie Harris), acoustic bass (Mike Lawrence), and even mountain dulcimer (Mary Ann Casale) on selected tracks.

Cru asks “Where Do We Go” from here on the country blues-flavored opener, Ms. Harris’ fiddle sweetly floats throughout the song, as he asks for peace and understanding. The bluesy title track follows with Cru good-naturedly laments the perils of aging, a theme many of us can relate to, while the gentle slow blues “Turn On The Light” is a lovely, comforting ballad, and the lively rhythmic backdrop of “River of Insanity” belies the desperation in Cru’s lyrics and vocal, as he seeks a safe route to normalcy. Solace seems to be found in the next song, the encouraging gospel tune “Be My Strength.”

Ms. Casale sings on the next two tracks, solo on the smoky ballad “All Stays The Same,” which also features Lawrence on acoustic bass and Dave Liddy on piano, and with Cru on “You’re The Deal,” a swinging tribute to those who are playing the blues which also calls out those who refuse to help move the music forward to keep it vibrant. On “Stay Home Blues,” Cru discusses the trials of being a performer/entertainer during the pandemic, and ponders ending a relationship with a woman with “a smile so warm, but a heart just as cold as ice” on the amusing “So Damn Hard To Like.”

The final two songs are “Henry,” a toe-tapping tribute to a musician who inspired Cru as a youngster, and “Write Me My Own,” a solemn ballad. Harris’ fiddle really adds to the mood on this closing track.

The mostly-acoustic setting, plus the addition of fiddle and dulcimer to multiple tracks, really add a whole new dimension to Tas Cru’s music. It was already pretty exciting and innovative, but Broke Down Busted Up opens up a whole new direction to his music that should make things even better.

--- Graham Clarke

Lady AIn the summer of 2020, the country music band Lady Antebellum announced that they would be changing their name to the band’s nickname, Lady A, to offset any anticipated racial connotations in light of the tensions of that summer. However, in the blues world, there was already a Lady A, blues and gospel singer Anita White, who had been using that title for over 20 years and contested the country band’s commandeering of her name. The band filed a suit against White, who promptly filed a countersuit a couple of months later. Recently, both parties agreed to drop all lawsuits, but it’s still not clear what the actual outcome of the decision, regarding ownership of the Lady A title.

Ms. White, the REAL Lady A, just released Satisfyin’, her ninth album, which captures the blues-soul sound her Seattle fan base has come to love. The ten originals include the opener, “Whatever You Do,” a rollicking shuffle that blends jazz and blues seamlessly, the funky title track, which locks into a simmering R&B groove, and “Miss Buela Mae’s,” a southern soul story song about a lady club owner not to be trifled with. “Big Momma” sings the praises of the well-rounded ladies, and “Blues On My Mind” finds Lady A paying her respects to some of her heroes, namely Denise LaSalle, Betty Lavette, Nina Simone, Rosetta Tharpe, and Mahalia Jackson.

The imagery of the southern soul number “Blues, Soul, Catfish, & Fried Wings” is so real that you can smell the grease and taste the food, and the exuberant spirit of the optimistic “Brighter Day” will get listeners on their feet. “Enjoy Your Life” is a groovy slice of retro soul that brings Motown to mind, and the defiant, gospel-flavored “For The People In The Back (All I Got)” is a powerful tune of perseverance. The closer, “Heaven Help Us All,” finds Lady A praying for peace and guidance, not just for her but for the whole world, in arguably her best vocal performance on the album.

Blues fans know who the REAL Lady A is, and she resides in Seattle. Despite her place of residence, Satisfyin’ is a wonderful, much-needed slice of pure southern blues of soul.

--- Graham Clarke

Lindsey Beaver & Brad StiversBoth Lindsay Beaver and Brad Stivers have enjoyed successful careers as solo artists, Stivers with his 2017 debut on VizzTone (Took You Long Enough) and Beaver with her 2018 Alligator release (Tough as Love). The duo recently connected in Austin, where both had relocated and discovered that they had an extraordinary musical kinship. Journeying to Canada to record at Canadian blues star Garrett Mason’s Halifax, Nova Scotia studio, Beaver and Stivers came up with a most impressive self-titled debut release as a duo on VizzTone Records. The 12-track set features six originals from Beaver, four from Stivers, with one joint effort and one cover tune.

Beaver and Stiver’s musical rapport shows up right off the bat with the good-natured “One Condition,” featuring co-lead vocals from the pair and some tasty guitar contributions from guest Kirk Fletcher. Joe Murphy guests on harmonica for the old school shuffle “I Know What To Do,” with vocals from Beaver, who also perfectly compliments Stivers’ soulful vocals on the ballad “Hesitate.”  Meanwhile, Mason teams with Stivers on guitar for the vintage rocker “See You Again,” followed by Stivers’ sizzling raver “Getting Gone,” and Beaver’s smoky soul burner “Take It Slow.”

Stivers’ driving shuffle “Be Alright” is a standout, and so is the rambunctious “You’ve Got No Right,” which also features guest guitarist Zach Zunis. Beaver and Stivers co-wrote the loping Jimmy Reed-esque shuffle “It’s Love,” and Beaver wrote the slow blues “Somebody Else Will,” with Stivers handling vocals. “Slim Pickin’” is a fine instrumental showcasing Stivers and Beaver on guitar and drums, respectively, along with organist Barry Cooke (who also plays bass on the album). The closer is the cover “You’re So Fine,” a raw, stripped down version of The Falcons’ 1959 hit with Beaver’s heartfelt vocal backed by Stivers’ guitar.

All in all, a most promising release from Lindsay Beaver and Brad Stivers and, hopefully, the first of many for the duo.

--- Graham Clarke

ReddogYears ago when I first started reading Living Blues magazine, I noticed an ad in the back section for an album by a guitarist called Reddog. I was still pretty new to the genre, so I didn’t know much about him, but a few months later I was reading Guitar World magazine (their 1988 blues issue) and Reddog was featured in their “Who’s Who of the Blues / 50 Bluesmen that Matter.” That led me to a lot of great music, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to track down any music from Reddog, who I discovered was based in Atlanta and played “in the tradition of Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Duane Allman.

I had completely lost track of Reddog until his recent release, as Reddog and Friends, called Booze, Blues, and Southern Grooves (Survival South Records). Reddog resettled in Pensacola about 25 years ago, after spending a couple of memorable decades in Atlanta, and has been touring regularly in that area. He was contacted by legendary producer Johnny Sandlin, who invited him to record at his Duck Tape Studio in Decatur, Alabama. Sandlin passed away after three songs had been recorded and the remainder of the album was finished at East Avalon Recorders, in Muscle Shoals, with support from Clayton Ivey (keyboards), David Hood (bass), Bill Steward and Justin Holder (drums) and backup singers Carla Russell, Mary Mason, and Angela Hacker.

Reddog wrote all 11 of the tracks, deftly mixing blues, rock, and soul. His vocals are solid soul and his guitar work is deep blues. The opener is an easygoing shuffle with a positive message, “Love, You’ve Got To Spread The Word.” “The Blues Will Get You Everytime” is an upbeat tune testifying to the healing powers of the music, and “Down, Down, Down” is a smoldering slow burner. It’s hard to pick what’s stronger on this track, Reddog’s soulful vocal or his superb guitar work. He adds slide guitar to the irresistible “She’s A Georgia Peach,” and gets sentimental on the soul ballad “Simple Song,” which features some sweet backing vocals from the ladies.

“Searching For Some Soul” is a bluesy shuffle with more fine slide guitar, following Reddog through Alabama and Georgia as he tries to track down some good soul and blues in some lowdown places. “Why Oh Why Are You Calling Me,” is another soulful ballad with excellent vocals from Reddog and the ladies in support.

Meanwhile, the band really kicks into “Don’t Muscle That Shuffle,” a sinewy instrumental that grooves along nicely and gives the guitarist ample opportunity to strut his stuff. “Old School Blues” is a cool, stop-time track that cites several blues legends and serves as a bit of a mission statement for Reddog himself.

“Back In The Bottle Again” is a mid-tempo southern rocker with a bit of a country flavor, and on the closer, “Honest Man,” Reddog reminisces about his mother, who offered him some sound advice as a kid that he still tries to heed.

After hearing Booze, Blues, and Southern Grooves, I regret not having the chance to track down Reddog’s previous releases. His last release was in 1993, but hopefully, we won’t have to wait that long for his next release. This is as good a set of southern blues and soul as you’ll likely hear this year.

--- Graham Clarke

Wildroots, Vol. 1Victor Wainwright, Stephen Dees, and Patricia Ann Dees began their musical collaboration back in 2005, and released several albums as The WildRoots, along with the Dees backing Wainwright on several of his albums. Last year, the trio released WildRoots Sessions, Volume 1 and recently issued Volume 2 (WildRoots Records, LLC), both of which team the trio with a huge supporting cast of past and current collaborators. A blues and roots supergroup, if you will. Volume 1 features 16 tracks, 14 originals, and Volume 2 features 15 originals, a deep and wide selection of blues, roots, gospel, and soul music.

There are nearly 30 guest artists on Volume 1, way too many to list here, but the songs are uniformly fine, touching on a variety of styles and there are some standout vocals. Wainwright sings on several of the selections, including the two covers, “634-5789” (with Patricia Ann Dees) and Leiber and Stoller’s “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” He also teams with Beth McKee on “Cradled In The Bosom Of Jerusalem” and the jaunty closer “I’m Yours.”

Mrs. Dees sings on the funky “Move Along Part 1,” and a pair of acoustic numbers, “Easy Chair” and “Bend In The Road.” Other vocalists include John Oates with a soulful “Our Last Goodbye,” Nick Black on the swinging “Memphis Queen,” and Mark Hodgson, who also plays harp on the wistful “Misty Morning in New Orleans.”

Volume 1 is a quality set from start to finish, with well-crafted tunes, excellent musicianship and great performances.

Wildroots, Vol. 2Volume 2 offers more of the same with most of the same performers, including Anthony “Packrat” Thompson, who turns in a gritty, swampy vocal on “Lazy Little Daisy.” Reba Russell guests with Patricia Ann Dees on the acoustic blues “Long Way To Go,” and Mr. and Mrs. Dees team up for another acoustic track, the spicy “Put Your Hand In The Fire,” while Mrs. Dees, Russell, and McKee go old school with “That Man of Mine.” Robert “Top” Thomas ably handles another acoustic blues, “Pile of Blues,” and Wainwright shines on several tunes, including the ballad “I Feel Fine,” the horn-driven “Good Word,” and the hard-charging instrumental “WildRoot Boogie.”

Several tracks rock pretty hard, such as “The Bad Seed” (with vocal and guitar from Dyer Davis), “The Threads of Time” (with Hodgson on vocal and Bryan Bassett on guitar), and “Working for My Car Blues” (with Billy Livesay on vocals). As with Volume 1, there’s a wide variety of styles present and the original songs (written or co-written by Stephen Dees) are uniformly superb.

WildRoots Sessions, Volumes 1 and 2 offer nearly two hours of fantastic blues and roots music and should satisfy even the most persnickety blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Tiffany PollackWe last heard from Tiffany Pollack in 2019, when she collaborated with her cousin Eric Johanson on the marvelous Blues In My Blood. This time around, Pollack has teamed up with a stellar set of New Orleans musicians (guitarist Brandon Bunious, drummer Ian Pettillo, and bassist Stu Odom, pedal steel guitarist Eric Lewis, and saxophonist Christopher Johnson) and producer/label mate John Németh as Tiffany Pollack & Co. for her solo debut, Bayou Liberty (Nola Blue Records), a lively and memorable set of southern blues and soul recorded in Memphis at Electraphonic and featuring a dozen songs written by Pollack.

Németh contributes harmonica to the swampy opener, “Spit On Your Grave,” which also features some nice moments from Bunious on guitar and Johnson’s sax. Bunious and Johnson also figure prominently on “Colors,” where Pollack soberly reflects on her childhood. Meanwhile, she chastises an ex-lover and lets him know he’s in her rear view mirror on the jaunty “Crawfish And Beer,” ventures into country territory for the gently swinging “Mountain,” a beautifully sung tribute to a good friend, and captures that greasy Memphis vibe with the funky “My Soul My Choice.”

“Devil In The Darkness” is a moody blues rocker with a hint of Louisiana swamp mixed in and crunching fretwork from Pollack (who plays slide) and Bunious. On the sultry “Sassy Bitch,” Pollack plays ukulele and demonstrates her sharp wit, and she’s playful but direct on the Crescent City-flavored “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” “Hourglasses” is a somewhat sentimental look back at a failed romance, and “Baby Boys” is a wonderful slice of Americana which to these ears features Pollack’s best vocal on the album.

The jazzy “Livin’ For Me” is somewhat laid back, but the lyrics are fiery and defiant, and on the closer, “Do It Yourself,” Pollack’s advice is for all to take care of business.

With Bayou Liberty, Tiffany Pollack shows that she’s a gifted songwriter, but her powerful vocals are still the main draw. That said, the gap is closing considerably. This is a fine set of southern blues and soul from a most unforgettable vocalist.

--- Graham Clarke

Willie JacksonAbout four years ago, I heard Chosen By The Blues, a dynamite six-song EP from a Savannah, Georgia native named Willie Jackson that was an intriguing mix of old school blues and soul with a definite modern edge. While Jackson is certainly a gifted vocalist with a deep rich voice that’s a solid fit in blues or soul, his songwriting takes on some familiar blues topics, but also focuses on not-so-familiar topics that will make you wonder why few others venture into that territory. Jackson’s new release, All In The Blues, is his first full-length album and he provides another interesting set of entertaining original songs.

The opener, “I’m Your Landlord,” is a funky shuffle that finds Jackson indicating to his tenant that there might be more than one way for her to pay his rent, while the rollicking “The Whole Book Is Wet” discusses a topic that’s a bit off the norm from the routine blues braggadocio. The good-humored “Come Here Jr.” is a fun track, too, comparing and contrasting his treatment from his mother to his woman.

“Beautiful Disease” really kicks with a rumbling bassline (which, truthfully, is a factor throughout the album from several players), and “The Old Man Luv” hilariously looks at the benefits of ladies keeping company with an older fellow.

“Stranger In My Hole” has an almost jazzy funk vibe and sounds great, and on “Sticky Hand Blues,” Jackson warns potential suitors to stay away from his woman. On the slow blues “She Need Satisfied” he’s waiting impatiently on his pharmaceuticals for his upcoming date. “Coon Hound Nose” is a Chicago-styled shuffle about a man who’s caught his woman slipping around, and “Give Me My Rib Back” finds him regretting the Adam’s Rib Biblical story. “Hey Gangsta” is a bit of a change from the overall lightheartedness of the rest of the album as Jackson confronts a man who’s been abusive to his daughter.

The album closer is “Brother I’ll Take Her,” where Jackson confesses an unrequited love for his brother’s woman, also confessing that he wishes his brother would just do him a favor and die. Again, definitely not your conventional blues song, but it’s hilarious.

Overall, this album reminds me a lot of those great southern soul blues albums I used to listen to in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Had it been released during that time, I have no doubt that several of these tunes would have made their way to the radio. As it is, All In The Blues is a lot of fun and is a great set of VERY original songs with a great mix of tradition and modern musical flourishes.

--- Graham Clarke

Kurt CrandallHarmonica master Kurt Crandall has played the blues throughout the U.S. with lengthy stays in Kansas City, Washington, D.C. (playing with Jesse James Brown, former Bo Diddley bass player), Macon, Georgia (where he played with the Macon Blues All-Stars), Chicago (where he played with Dave Specter, Kenny Smith, Barrelhouse Chuck, and Jimmy Sutton), and Richmond, Virginia. He’s released four albums, the most recent being Starts On The Stops (YesterYear Records), recorded in two days with backing from two excellent bands on five songs apiece.

On the first five songs, Crandall is joined by Karl Angerer (lead/rhythm guitars), Aaron Binder (drums), Rusty Farmer (upright bass), Bill Heid (piano), and background vocalists Jaisson Taylor and Lawrence Olds. These songs include two fine instrumentals, the kinetic “Skedaddle” and the jaunty mid-tempo shuffle “Beignets And Coffee,” as well as “Early Bird Special,” “Razz My Berries,” and “Devil’s Got A Hold On You.” These five songs have a distinctive, lively West Coast blues flair, and Angerer’s liquidy guitar backing complements Crandall’s diverse harmonica playing perfectly.

The second five songs find Crandall backed by Angerer and Reid Doughten (guitars), Johnny Hott (drums), John Sheppard (electric bass), Clark Stern (piano), and Carl Bender (saxophone). Some of these tracks are played in more of a Windy City style of blues as Crandall provides strong covers Rudy Toomb’s “Home At Last” and Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “Bluebird Blues,” though the swinging “Goes Without Saying” does revisit the West Coast sound briefly. “Bullheaded Woman” is a great original Chicago-flavored shuffle, and the muscular instrumental “Sidecramp” serves as an excellent album closer.

Crandall’s harmonica playing is superb throughout and he has a warm vocal style that fits well with his material. The bands are excellent in support and fans of traditional harmonica blues would do well to get a copy of this outstanding album.

--- Graham Clarke

Jon SpearThe Jon Spear Band were able to take advantage of the lockdown to work on their third studio album, B-Side Of My Life, a release which takes their music in a few different directions. They call it a collection of B-sides, associated with the old 45 records that sometimes produced a surprise hit song.

The blues/roots band boasts three distinctive lead vocalists, guitarists Spear and Dara James and bass player Andy Burdetsky, along with drummer John Stubblefield, who also provides backing vocals, and guest keyboardist Skip Haga, who appears on five of the album’s thirteen tracks.

James ably handles vocals on the opening two tracks, the funky rocker “Big Talk” and the Santanaesque “Heartbeat Like A Samba.” Spear takes the mic for the beatific country-flavored “The Shaman” and the title track, a cool rock n’ roller that mentions several actual B-side hits (“Rock Around The Clock,” “Green Onions,” “Tequila,” and several others) as he wishes he could flip his life over to the B-side and give it another shot. James returns for a nice cover of the Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon,” driven by Burdetsky’s thunderous bass line.

The acoustic/electric “Follow The Light” has a rustic Americana feel, while the rocker “Kick In The Head,” sung by Burdetsky, reflects on the events of the past couple of years. Meanwhile, James sings about his apprehension about “Snakes And Spiders,” but you can’t help but look a bit further into the lyrics for deeper meaning. On “Can’t Have Nothing,” Burdetsky chides those who lament their fortunes when they have much more than they need, and the soulful “Darker Side,” from Jonny Lang’s first album, is a tour de force for James on guitar and vocal.

I can definitely relate to “My Old T-Shirts,” a fun little tune about t-shirts and all the memories they hold, and so can most middle-aged guys, I’m sure. “The Muskie Grind” is a good-natured, grinding rocker about fishing and the trials and tribulations that go along in pursuit of that monster catch. “Time For The Blues” is a perfect closer to the album, a rollicking tribute to blues legends past and present that should appeal to any blues fan.

The Jon Spear Band always entertains. They know how to play the blues and have a good time doing it. It’s always a pleasure to hear any of their new releases, and B-Side Of My Life is a definite pleasure!

--- Graham Clarke

Jack de KeyzerJack de Keyzer’s previous release, Checkmate, was a tribute to the Chicago blues in general, Chess Records in specific. His follow-up is itself called Tribute (Blue Star Records), as the Canadian blues legend pays homage to classic blues, rock, and soul with 12 original songs and a tight band (Richard Thornton – sax/congas/percussion, Alan Duffy – bass, Nick Succi – keyboards, Peter Grimmer – drums) in support for a rocking good time.

The driving boogie rocker “Are You Ready?” sends the disc into hyper drive right off the bat. “On The Money” adds horns and has a real Memphis groove, and “Let’s Do It” gives a nod to ’60s-era British blues rock. “That’s How We Make Love” has a Motown soul/pop feel. On “Coming Up,” de Keyzer’s fretwork is dynamite and the band really kicks in behind him, and the smooth, Latin-flavored “Supernatural” ventures into Santana territory.

“Shake What Your Mama Gave You” is a hard-charging blues rocker, “You Turned My World To Blue” is a sweet blues burner with equally sweet guitar, and “Just For The Funk” is a tight Philly funk workout. “If My Baby Left Me” is another slow blues in a Chicago vein that would have also been a good fit on de Keyzer’s previous album. “Keep The Fire Burning” combines blistering guitar with taut reggae rhythms, and the closer, “Forever,” mixes rock and pop with the blues quite effectively.

Tribute is a fine set of blues, rock, and soul originals from a talented artist who’s at home with all three genres. If you’re a late comer to Jack de Keyzer, like I was, you need to check out this excellent release and dig into his catalog. You can thank me later.

--- Graham Clarke

The County WellThe County Well consists of founders Don Zimmer (guitar) and Graham Guest (lead vocals, banjo, pedal steel, keyboards, guitar) with fellow collaborators Micheala French and Michael Batdorf (vocals), Josh Kelly (drums), Lyle Evans (bass), Bob Hemenger (sax), Bill Panks (violin), Adam Rossi (keyboards), and guitarists Paul Gregory and Mark Karan. Their music is an interesting mix of blues, jazz, country, and rock. Drink More (Floating Records) is the band’s third release and features 12 original songs that touch on the above-mentioned genres and more.

The fast-paced “Gifted Spirit” kicks the disc off with laconic vocals from Guest. It’s followed by “Hope I Fall,” which is a modern mix of acoustic and pop with vocals from French, and a slow-paced, country-flavored travel song, “Jackson,” sung by Guest, who also sings the amusing “Wigwam,” about the search for a potential mate. The gentle “Volume and Speed,” sung by French, and the funky “Big Country Love,” sung by Batdorf, are both memorable as well. Guest’s “Shimmy Shake” mixes funk and Americana quite effectively.
French returns for the smoky country blues “Drinkin’ And Smokin’,” which is followed by Guest on “Peruvian Lilies,” a modern-sounding excursion that blends rock, funk, and pop. French and Batdorf duet on the mid-tempo rocker “Truck,” which is followed by the short, grooving instrumental “Wamwig,” and the title track, an upbeat Americana track that wraps things up nicely.

Drink More takes listeners through a variety of musical genres, but everything is rooted in blues and roots music, so the changes blend effortlessly and make for rewarding listening.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave KellerI actually wrote the review for You Get What You Give: Duets (Tastee-Tone Records), the recent album by Dave Keller, about a year ago, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle of CDs that I have awaiting review. I decided to do some reshuffling in an attempt to get up to date and ran across this review on my computer. Even though it’s a little late, the album is so good that I wanted to share my review just in case there are a few people who somehow missed it when it was first released.

The album consists of 13 tracks, with Keller writing 11 of them. The guest vocalist list is a most impressive one, with Annika Chambers, Trudy Lynn, Johnny Rawls, Joe Louis Walker, Dawn Tyler Watson, Katie Henry, Carly Harvey, and Brother Bob White among the luminaries. “One More Tear,” the opener with Ms. Chambers, is a horn-driven soul burner, while “That Thing We Do,” with Ms. Harvey, is more blues-oriented soul and Keller and Harvey make a good vocal team. The optimistic title track teams Keller with Annie Mack as well as his daughters Havvah and Idalee and his partner Katie Sterling.

Keller is joined by Lynn, Chambers, and Rawls on the somber “The Evil That Men Do,” reflecting on the ongoing battle over man’s inhumanity to man. Each of the vocalists really pour their hearts into the emotionally-charged lyrics. Joe Louis Walker makes a memorable appearance on the menacing “Scratchin’ At Your Door,” with Keller and Chris Robertson handling the guitar work. Ms. Lynn guests on the Latin-flavored “Your Kind of Fool,” while Dawn Tyler Watson and Keller take us to church on the upbeat “God Is Love/Love Is Everything.”

The next two tracks are intimate, acoustic affairs. as Keller goes solo, joined by Ira Friedmann on piano for the ballad “The Spark." On the hopeful “Make It To Tomorrow,” he plays acoustic guitar as Chad Hollister sits in with vocals and cajon. Keller and his musical hero Rawls do a marvelous job on the intense “Land of the Lonely,” and another Keller hero, Brother Bob White, handles the vocals and piano on a moving rendition of the gospel standard, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Katie Henry and Keller go the Muscle Shoals country soul route on the rousing “The Kiss I Want,” before the album wraps up with “I’m Gonna Let It Shine,” featuring spoken-word vocals from Toussaint St. Negritude and Keller backing on steel guitar and harmonica.

You Get What You Give was obviously a labor of love for not only Dave Keller but all of the participants. It’s an inspiring set of passionate blues and soul that will shake you to your bones.

--- Graham Clarke



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