Blues Bytes

April 2003

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What's New

Cold Shott and the Hurricane HornsWell, there's a party going on here. Those of us fortunate enough to live in Arizona know that Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns featuring Small Paul have been a major force on the Phoenix blues scene for the last 12 years. Although the worst was feared when founder, bassist and manager Ted Kowal passed away in July 2002, the band seemingly grew stronger, carrying on his dream. Now we have this powerful live album, If You Got The Blues, recorded at the Rhythm Room this past October. Those many fans who have seen Cold Shott at their finest, as this writer did at the gala New Years Eve party at the Rhythm Room this past year end, will now be able to enjoy those moments time and time again with this long awaited release. Just as so many of their live shows begin with Tim Finn handling the vocals on "Let The Good Times Roll," so does this CD. After much deserved applause, Small Paul (Hamilton) is introduced and he just wails on the Louis Jordan classic "Caldonia," a song that is fast becoming one of his most requested songs in their live show. This is followed by a Kowal original, "Heading Down the Beeline" (the Beeline Highway, for those non-Arizona residents). A rousing version of Freddy King's "Tore Down" gets us up on the dance floor, and before we can leave, we are slow dancing to Paul's incredible version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Two more Kowal originals, "Sittin' On The Back Porch" and "If You Got The Blues Girl," brought back memories of prior years. We do miss you, Ted. A Small Paul tune, "Ready Like Freddy," leads us into two of their show stoppers, the familiar "Sweet Home Chicago" and B.B. King's "Why I Sing The Blues," both given a rousing Cold Shott and The Hurricane Horns treatment. The horn section of Dave Axton on trumpet and fluegelhorn and Dave Russell on tenor sax, flute and piccolo, with special guest Jerry Donato on baritone sax, drive these songs to a higher level, something we have come to expect from all great horn-driven bands. The CD ends on a upbeat note, with Small Paul giving us his unforgettable version of the Wilson Pickett classic "Don't Fight It." Thanks once again to Paul, Rich and Jeff Brydle, Tim Finn, Tony Flores, Scott Engle, Jay Busch and the aforementioned Hurricane Horns for keeping Ted's dream alive. Contact them by e-mail at to get on their mailing list of upcoming shows. Web site ---

--- Alan Shutro

Albert King is a name that is no doubt familiar to any fans of the Blues. His brawny guitar licks have influenced countless other musicians such as Carl Weathersby, Michael Burks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and even Otis Rush. Though King’s best known work comes from his Stax catalog (with backing from Booker T. & the M.G.’s) in the mid ’60s, his entire body of work, particularly his work for Parrot and King in the ’50s and ’60s, is worth owning. Unfortunately, King left us too soon in 1992, the victim of a heart attack at age 69. His untimely death leaves you wondering how much more success he could have garnered with a few new albums in the ’90s (see Otis Rush, Luther Allison, and John Lee Hooker). As it is, he left quite a legacy. Thirsty Ear Records is now poised to add to the Albert King legacy with a fascinating live gig from Chicago, circa 1978. At the time, blues was considered dead in the water by most people, as disco, punk, and new wave were filling the air waves. However, King kept plugging away on the Chitlin’ Circuit and at the rock clubs, playing for his loyal fans, both black and white. Talkin’ Blues captures one of those performances. King gives a confident performance, playing many of his Stax hits, including “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “I’ll Play the Blues for You,” and “Blues At Sunrise.” He also throws in a sensitive reading of “The Very Thought of You,” but keeps the blues alive with a cover of Ann Peebles’ “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and “Rub My Back” (complete with one of his trademark solos). Interspersed are clips of interviews that King did with Thirsty Ear label head Peter Gordon, where King discusses the blues, growing up poor, Bill Graham’s influence on his career, and his outlook on life in general. The set is very well recorded, with King’s vocals and guitars right out in front, where they should be. Kudos to Thirsty Ear Records for allowing this vital recording to see the light of day. It’s available at

Looking for a CD to crank things up at your next party? Has anyone ever wondered what a fusion of blues, punk, rockabilly and rock would sound like? Well, wonder no longer. I have the answer for you in the latest CD by Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers. Titled Cockadoodledon’t (Bloodshot Records), it is definitely like nothing you’ve ever heard before. The best description of this band that I’ve seen so far is the one at the Bloodshot Records site --- “The Cramps on amphetamines,” which may actually be understating it a bit. This band (comprised of Col. J. D. Wilkes on vocals/harmonica, Joe Buck on guitar, Mark “the Duke” Robinson on bass, and Pauly Simmonz on drums) has more energy that any band I’ve ever heard. I can only imagine what their live shows must be like. There are bound to be emergency vehicles on call wherever they play. The band is fronted by Wilkes, who screams, moans, or slurs his wild lyrics through his harp mike over a steady beat. He is certain to be one of the more charismatic front men on the road right now. It is simply impossible to sit still and listen to this CD. I’m getting exhausted just typing about it. If you need to add a little spice in your CD collection, this wildly entertaining CD should fit the bill nicely. Go to for more information.

Lightnin’ Rod & the Thunderbolts’ new CD is a short one, clocking in at less than 25 minutes, but it shows a talented singer/guitarist/composer with a lot of promise. There are only six songs here, but they are all original compositions by Michigan-based Lightnin’ Rod Wilson. These songs show his versatility, be it topical (“TV Preacher"), bluesy rock (“Dreamful of Blues” and “They Call Me Lightnin’”), or swamp blues (“Alligator Woman”). He even throws in an acoustic number (“Why Are You So Cold?”) and a reggae-tinged track (“Goin’ To St. Thomas”). Lightnin’ Rod plays some mean guitar and is not too shabby in the vocal department, either. This is a surprisingly good little CD, and it makes you wonder what he could do with a full album under his belt. Maybe we’ll get a chance to find out soon. Anyone interested in purchasing this CD can do so by sending $10.00 to Justin Productions, 427 Pearl Street, Morenci, MI 49256.

--- Graham Clarke

Ray BonnevilleThe blues have become more and more widespread in the course of the last 100 years. Whether you are of the opinion that the blues, as a living form of music, has evolved and therefore changed, or whether you think that the blues as increasingly been mixed with other genres of music, one thing is certain: there are nowadays artists that are not strictly blues artists, yet which keep infusing their work with the blues, or at least adorning it with the bluesy side of roots music. Like Ramsay Midwood, whose CD was reviewed here in the December 2002 issue, Ray Bonneville is basically a singer/songwriter whose music has none of the usual flavor (a variation on '60s folk revivalism) associated with the genre, and lots of blues and roots vibes. His latest CD, Roll It Down (Stony Plain), is a continuation / evolution from Gust of Wind, his first record for the Edmonton-based roots label. The usual Bonneville themes are still here --- events from the past somehow come back in your life, sometimes, yet time moves inexorably forward, and the best way to deal with this is to take your time, savor life to the fullest, fall in love and roam where your whims take you. Roll It Down evokes vast expanses under empty skies, leisurely cruises (through life and on various roads), and the mood is definitely relaxed. This is summer music, not “let’s-party-with-the-whole-crowd” summer music à la “I’m Walking on Sunshine,” but blissful, “lazy-because-it’s-so-hot-and-anyway-why-hurry” summer songs. The producers (Colin Linden and Rob Heaney, with Bonneville co-producing) have kept the singer’s resophonic guitar and impressionistic harmonica up front, adding, as the song demands, mandolin or Hammond B-3 (the latter, courtesy of The Band’s Richard Bell), sometimes showcasing Bonneville solo, keeping time with his foot. As a bonus, for the first time in his career, the sometimes Montreal resident has included a song performed in French (or rather, in Frenglish), “Slow Matin,” a perfect vignette of a lazy weekend getting under way that should appeal to fans of Zachary Richard and The Savoy-Doucet Band. Give this guy a listen; as real artists do, he’ll take you for a trip in his world, and you’ll be glad for the souvenirs. (

If Ray Bonneville mixes blues with stylistic touches from other roots music genres, if Roomful of Blues mixes blues with some jazz flourishes, then surely The Allman Brothers Band mixes blues with a lot of rock elements, right? Right, but there’s more to it than that --- the free-flowing, jam-based improvisations also owe a lot to jazz and to hippie-based jam band styles, while the three-percussionist lineup at times can create a rhythmic frenzy akin to African tribal music. In recent years, the group has stayed in the public eye mostly through live releases. Hittin’ the Note (Peach/Sanctuary) is the Allman's first studio album in nine years. It features, in addition to founding members Greg Allman on keyboards and vocals and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, the dual guitar frontline of Warren Haynes (whose main band, Gov’t Mule, is on hiatus as bassist Allen Woody hasn’t been replaced since his death two years ago) and Derek Trucks (Butch’s nephew), whose own Derek Trucks Band has released an eclectic and well-received CD a couple of months ago. In addition, Oteil Burbridge, a real monster on bass, is also with the jam band Vida Blue. As you can see, The Allman Brothers Band, in addition to featuring more Trucks family members than Allman ones, is more and more an on again, off again project. One thing it isn’t, though, is a nostalgia-based oldies act. Even though the long-winded solo passages may not please all blues fans, the sheer complexity of the song structures, the richness of the interplay between the percussionists and the guitarists, the group’s tightness when negotiating those tricky turnarounds, all this indicates that the band is still very much willing to improve and explore. Not everything on their latest album is successful; for example, two of the bluesiest numbers, the back-to-back “Who to Believe” and “Maydell,” are relatively generic. But the Freddy King cover, “Woman Across the River,” is a remarkable exercise in tricky rhythm changes, from shuffle to funky groove. Other highlights include the instrumental passages in “Desdemona” and “Rockin’ Horse,” which truly transform/elevate these songs into something else entirely. And the closing “Old Friend,” with dual acoustic slide guitars, is a real beauty. The Allman Brothers band is back, and this is cause enough to celebrate. (

While we’re on the topic of “not-exactly-blues, but-not-that-far,” may I recommend the Countdown Quartet’s latest, Sadlack’s Stomp (Yep Roc). With two members doubling on apparently unrelated instruments, namely vocalist Dave Wright, who’s the band’s organist as well as its trombonist, and bassist Steve Grothman, who is also featured on alto saxophone, you know that this is not your average bar band. In fact, the Countdown Quartet excels at two (appropriately unrelated) styles, both of which are related to the blues: the funky brass band sound that The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is known for, as well as the older Dixieland jazz style, with collective improvisation, plucked banjo and a touch of clarinet (thanks to guest Zip Irvin). In a word, fans of things New Orleans will be in heaven when listening to Sadlack’s Stomp … even though the band is based in North Carolina! Pay particular attention to “Joseph,” a biblical retelling of Joseph’s story (that’s Jacob’s son, not Jesus’ dad), the greatest bass drum feature in recent memory. And dance, baby, dance! (

I don’t remember if it was Greil Marcus or Dave Marsh who said it, but I once read some comment on what it takes to play the blues: “Virtuosity, in blues or in church preaching, is irrelevant; the important thing is to feel and convey the feeling.” That’s the main problem with Dave Hole, whose latest CD, The Live One, has just been released on Alligator. The guy is such an absolute slide virtuoso (Hell! He might be, for all I know, an extraterrestrial, because what he does is truly otherworldly) that you’ll keep fetching your jaw on the floor and putting it back in your mouth … in a word, you’ll be shocked and awed (!?), but not really moved. Yes, the instrumental “Berwick Road” is beautiful; yes, “Short Fuse Blues,” “Take Me to Chicago” and “Bullfrog Blues” offer pyrotechnic prowess the likes of which you’ve probably never heard. But on the whole, the lack of nuance and unrelenting emphasis on high-energy attack left me numb and distracted. For serious guitar buffs, however, this is probably manna. Better to sample before buying. (

Speaking of not enough nuance, you may be interested in knowing that George Thorogood & The Destroyers are back with a new album, Ride ‘Til I Die (Eagle Rock), or then again, you may not. Good ol’ George could have recorded 12 takes of the same song, it wouldn’t have shown any less variety than what we have here, which is the same rockin’ boogie that he’s played for close to 25 years. At least, the final cut, which is the title track, recorded live during a sound check with Thorogood laying some cyclic, hypnotic acoustic guitar riffs, is a welcome change of pace. Not much else to report. (

Reverend Gary DavisTo end on a more traditional note, fans of the acoustic guitar style known as Piedmont blues picking, as well as fans of religious music, should try and find Reverend Gary DavisIf I Had my Way: Early Home Recordings (Smithsonian Folkways). Except for the last track, which was recorded on acetate in 1945, the songs (all gospel songs, except one instrumental marching band tune, over half of which were never released before) were recorded by folklorist, photographer, filmmaker and musician John Cohen on a reel-to-reel tape at Rev. Davis’ home in 1953, before Davis became well-known in the folk music circles of New York and the world. Even though the sound quality is not perfect, this historic piece is important because it shows the repertoire of Davis when he was still performing exclusively for blacks, singing and preaching in church and on the streets of Harlem. Although his earlier gospel recordings, made in 1935 for ARC, are the definitive masterpiece of his career, the blind reverend never stopped to improve his formidable skills on guitar, benefiting from the daily contact of other gifted guitarists who came and studied with him. (Among those who took lessons from Davis are Dave Van Ronk, Stefan Grossman, Jorma Kaukonen, and Roy Book Binder). Even if showing off was not something the preacher considered, there are flashes of brilliance and even wizardry here and there: the guitar “speaking” lines in “You Got to Move,” Davis playing with only one hand on “Get Right Church,” playing impossibly fast on “He Stole Away," etc. Davis’ voice, full of vigor and conviction, is also a commanding force, and you’ll quickly forget the imperfections of these recordings (there’s even a door opening and creaking at some point). As usual with Smithsonian Folkways, the liner notes are top-notch, and, since this is a John Cohen project, you also get beautiful, rare photographs of Davis performing at the corner store as well as on his couch. Maybe not the best introduction to Reverend Gary Davis, but if you already own some of the man’s records, you’ll probably wish to add this to your collection. Hallelujah! (

--- Benoît Brière

The Bluesville label, a subsidiary of Prestige, was relatively short-lived (1959-1962). During its brief tenure, however, it packed a mighty wallop, releasing 79 albums – all still in print -- on some of the great names in blues. Fantasy acquired the Bluesville masters upon purchase of Prestige in 1972. Since, Fantasy has acquired Milestone, Stax, Takoma and Specialty. Given that all of those labels are represented here, this exquisite sampler, Bluesville - Original Blues Classic Sampler, might more accurately be called a Fantasy blues labels sampler. Call it what you will, though, it is a superb compilation of first class blues. From Albert King’s classic 1972 “I’ll Play the Blues for You” to Jimmy Witherspoon’s 1963 “Grab Me A Freight,” with T-Bone Walker and tenor ace Clifford Scott on board nearly 80 minutes later, the sampler is impressive. Otis Spann’s 1964 take on “The Blues Never Die,” with Muddy Waters, James Cotton, S.P. Leary and bassist Milton Rector sittin’ in, is as good as the always mesmerizing pianist ever sounded. Muddy’s “Honey Bee,” recorded in Paris as part of a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour in 1963, captures the maestro in exemplary form. Muddy’s slide guitar work is frenetic, and he’s joined in the music making by Louis Myers, Mojo Buford, Pinetop Perkins, Calin ‘Fuzz” Jones and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – not to mention an audience of appreciative and lucky French fans. Alberta Hunter turns in a spirited 1961 rendition of “St. Louis Blues,” buoyed by trombonist Jimmy Archey. A 1925 recording on Ma Rainey’s version of “Chain Gang Blues,” with jazz giants Coleman Hawkins (on bass saxophone!), Fletcher Henderson (piano) and Don Redman (clarinet) in the band, is as impressive as anything from Bessie Smith’s catalog. Vocalist/guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1927 recording of “Lonesome House Blues” lists Leadbelly as the “probable” second guitarist and sole accompanist. Jefferson can be heard saying to said guitarist, “Play that thing. Play it like you live.” That’s some priceless recorded history! Lightnin’ Hopkins takes the lead vocals on “Got to Move Your Baby,” on which he is joined by harmonica legend Sonny Terry, bassist Leonard Gaskin and drummer Belton Evans. Originally released on Bluesville in 1960, this is knock-down acoustic blues that still impresses. Big Joe Williams, the master of the 9-string guitar, was a formidable player who settled in Chicago in the 1960s. He’s heard here on vocals and six-string on “Whistlin’ Pines” (Tacoma), trading licks with a young Paul Butterfield. The recording date is uncertain (mid- to late-1960s), but the power of the interplay is in no such doubt. Floyd Dixon turns in a mighty “Hole in the Wall” that highlights the piano master’s powerful comping. Cut on Specialty in 1955, it’s a drop-dead remake of Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie,” and is every bit as rockin’ as the template. Little Milton’s “If That Ain’t a Reason” sounds as good now as when it was released on Stax in 1971. Jimmy McCracklin’s country-ish “Yesterday Is Gone” benefits from a well-conceived string, horn (Memphis Horns) and vocal accompaniment. It’s hard not to smile when listening to Jesse Fuller. The 1963 solo version on “Jesse’s New Midnight Special,” on which the one-man band sings, plays superb guitar, blows a harmonica and kazoo, and plays washboard and something called a fotdella, is no exception. Lonnie Johnson’s “Don’t Ever Love,” obviously the model for Freddie King’s “Did You Ever Love A Woman,” was cut sometime in the 1960s. The influential guitarist is joined by tenor saxophonist Hal Singer, jazz pianist Claude Hopkins, journeyman bassist Wendall Marshall and drummer Chris Albertson for this Bluesville session. Sunnyland Slim’s version of Leroy Carr’s classic “How Long Blues” was cut in 1960. Though the legendary pianist offers solid keyboard work and authoritative vocals, he’s almost overwhelmed by saxophonist King Curtis and organist Robert Banks. Memphis Slim has no such problem on his solo version of “Letter Home.” Slim was one of the most popular and influential of the small coterie of blues pianists, and this is a stellar example of his work. John Lee Hooker’s 1959 take on his “Black Snake,” also recorded solo in the studio, is the stuff his legend was built on. Willie Dixon is joined by Memphis Slim and others on his self-penned “Good Understanding,” which reminds a bit of his “Same Thing,” with the added R&B edge supplied by Al Ashby’s tenor. Listening to a classic performed by the author is always an instructive exercise, and such is the case with Roosevelt Sykes’ 1960 recording on “Driving Wheel.” The legendary pianist is joined on the session by tenor, two guitars and drums for a somewhat subdued version. Additional cuts from Blind Willie McTell, Mercy Dee Walton, a young and powerful Odetta, K.C. Douglas, Frankie Lee Sims and Jimmy Witherspoon wrap this up quite nicely. It’s hard to imagine anyone putting out a more impressive sampler this year.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Unfortunately, Mick Clarke's Live In Luxembourg is only available from the artist's web site (, or at live gigs, which is a shame as it deserves wider recognition. There are seven really good tracks here, three of them Mick Clarke originals, offering a wide variety of blues styles & tempos. This CD was made from a live recording at the Big Blues Festival in Luxembourg in 2002. The album opens up with a Clarke original, "Bromley City Limits," instrumental blues at its best. A second Clarke number, "Looking For Trouble," follows before we get into the cover versions. The first of these is "That's Alright", a well done, nine minute interpretation of the old Jimmy Rogers number, given a raunchy treatment by Mick Clarke and the band. This particular track proves that this band knows what the blues is all about. The other covers are equally as good: Muddy Waters' "You Gonna Miss Me," Willie Dixon's "You Need Love" and Chuck Berry's "Don't Lie To Me." All three are totally different to the originals and are given the Mick Clarke treatment to the full. It's so much better than just making a direct copy that can't be distinguished from the original. Bearing in mind that this is a live album, I think that this is a band to look out for. If they're playing in your area, get along there and see them for yourself.

--- Terry Clear

David RotundoAs a whole, this genre is over-run with young, sensational guitar players. However, it has been ages since a youthful spitfire set the harp ablaze. Maple Blues (New Artist) Award winning David Rotundo is exactly what the blues needs now. David plays the harp on Blowin' For Broke (Stone Pillar Productions) as if madly possessed by the ghosts of Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and George "Harmonica" Smith. In 1997, Rotundo formed a band called the Blue Canadians (Peter Schmidt guitar, Shane Scott bass, Julian Fauth piano and Walter Maclean drums) and they began playing the Toronto circuit. Blowin' For Broke was recorded with them and released in 2001. The album was produced by Rotundo/Scott and features 12 songs that last 52 minutes. However, you will want to hear David’s heavy harp for longer than that. Many debuts contain too many over-played covers while others record too many immature originals. Thanks to ‘ahead-of-his-time’ songwriting capabilities, Rotundo wisely decided not to record any covers. David’s style of blues can be found in his song’s titles. Shakin’, bustin’, boogie and shuffle all accurately describe his music. "Make Up Your Mind" is a throw back to an era of blues harp gone by. Although David’s vocals are a bit rough, his harmonica wails with confidence and conviction. A boogie scuffle with a West coast feel follows, called "I’m Waiting." It has a contagious beat and complex timing. "Bourbon St. Blues" is a slow blues where the gaps are filled by Julian’s tingling riffs. The song’s guitar solo is barn-burning, while the harp solo will leave you awestruck. The drums are royally slapped around, producing big bangs on "I’m Into It." Rotundo is more than into it, he is on top of it! (A video of the track featuring Rotundo's overwhelming performance recently aired as part of Bravo! TV Canada’s Talkin’ Blues series.) The big, acoustic bass gets smacked around on the swinging "Butt Bustin’ Boogie," which is a sheer party. "My Leg Is Shakin’" features twice, once as an alternate take. Aren’t those supposed to be saved for box sets? The tune(s) features the classic call and response format, a bone-rattling piano solo and screeching harp. Listeners will require mighty fine hearing to determine the differences between the two versions. "Devil In A Dress" combines elements of "I’m A Man" and "Evil." It’s a rockin’ blues number from the Chess era.
If Rotundo is the next generation’s blues harp ambassador, then Fauth is the young prince of the keyboards. He makes the 88s dance especially on the dangling instrumental, "P.T. Shuffle." "Astro Van Blues" is a relaxed and calming instrumental where the harp displays a peaceful and soothing tone. David Rotundo, a stronger musician than producer, knows how to write mean blues tunes about women and drinking and blows harp with plenty of charisma. He has the potential to do for the harp what youngbloods like Jonny Lang did for the guitar. Canadian music legend Ronnie Hawkins nailed it when he said, "Rotundo plays the blues the way the blues are supposed to be played." And its a pleasure, a pure pleasure to experience.
For CDs, booking and information, contact

 Michael PickettWho can dispute the harmonica mastery of Canadian music legend Michael Pickett? That was proven once again when Michael won the 2002 Maple Blues Award for best harp player. However, his guitar prowess has been a bit of a secret. Pickett’s six-string first emerged on the Conversation With The Blues disc. After his long anticipated 1998 debut received critical acclaim, Michael continued to front a high energy electric blues band. They toured madly and received positive reviews where ever they performed. After a long hiatus, in the spring of 2000, Michael once again started performing acoustic guitar. He began delving deeper and deeper into the world of acoustic roots music. Eventually he became so entangled he abandoned his electric act in favour of being a solo acoustic artist. On Solo (Wooden Teeth Records), Pickett plays as passionate and intense as the emotion-laden cover photo. The 11 tracks on this 40 minute disc were co-produced by Pickett and Alec Fraser. Michael handles vocals, guitar (Gibson 6-string, 12-string, 1931 National Steel Duolian, and Yanuziello resophonic) and rack harmonica (Lee Oskar). There is a pretty even split amongst songs featuring the guitar only versus tunes with guitar/harp. "Louise" is an autobiographical reflection upon the meeting of his wife and the deep love that he has for her. How appropriate to emanate this via a deep Delta blues tune. We are talking as thick as the mud in the Mississippi River here. "Blues Is A Friend Of Mine" is foot-stompin,’ brown-jug country blues. This is as up-tempo as acoustic blues can get and should get. His wandering harp notes shriek and his vocals get a workout on "Steady Rollin’ Man." "The ‘Hood" has an accompanying video which aired as part of Bravo’s Talkin’ Blues TV series. Here, the vocals briefly sound like Long John Baldry and Howlin’ Wolf. The tune’s attractive melody contrasts with its words about the desperate human condition along skid row. "Cecil & Spadina" reappears from the Conversation disc and is considered a bonus track. The song’s basic melody is established over a few notes; still, the riff created is memorable. Obviously, Pickett learned plenty at this landmark Toronto street corner where a live music club exists. Michael is known for being outspoken and proudly Canadian. So, lyrics that tell of moving to California seem out of place. However, lyrics like the ‘president up in the White House, I believe the man is insane’ from "World In An Uproar" are the kind we have grown to expect. His guitar is unrepentant on "Lonesome Road," with its challenging arrangement, while the instrumental "Bill’s Song" is a lovely tune that is too short. Not being an acoustic connoisseur, I felt the oomph from the electric albums is missing. Solo acoustic music requires an acquired taste. If that is absent from your palate, the music on this disc may drag. However, this CD does not lack direction, and it clearly showcases Michael’s diversity as a performing artist and songwriter. The seven original songs mesh so tightly with the covers, many will think all the tunes are originals. If you are looking for Mississippi Delta blues, why not experience it Toronto-style with Michael Pickett. For CDs and information contact: Wooden Teeth Records, PO Box 501, 3364 Keele Street, Toronto, ON Canada M3J 3L0, Tel (416) 631-8393, Fax (416) 633-3254, Website:

--- Tim Holek

The ten songs on the anthology, Sanctuary Blues Sampler (Castle Records), were recorded in the '60s and '70s by American blues artists, some with British bandstand backing, for the British blues label, Big Bear. Artists include Snooky Pryor, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Charlie Musselwhite, Big Bill Bronzy, Lowell Fulsom, Jimmy Witherspoon, Eddie "Playboy" Taylor and Little Mac. Most readers will have heard of some or most of these frontmen, and virtually all readers will have heard recordings identical to these dozens of times. It's a good look at a once-good label from a currently good label that now owns these titles, and the artists are good, and the record's not special at all, though it is as good a ten-song blues anthology from that time and place as hundreds of others. But not better.

--- Arthur Shuey

HoneyBoy Dupree and the Smokehouse Players is a Phoenix-based band that came out of nowhere in 2001 for an upset victory in the Arizona Blues Showdown. Equally surprising is their new self-titled, self-released CD; it is much better than it has a right to be --- a pleasant, entertaining mix of originals and well-worn covers. The disc kicks off with a killer show blues, "Anybody Seen My Baby," with great instrumental work by guitarist Tim Finn (of Cold Shott - see above review). Following is a rollicking version of Willie Dixon's "300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy" that showcases lead singer Sal Caffarello's raspy, upfront vocals and a smokin' organ solo from Patrick McDonald. The slow, late night blues of "Full Moon On Main Street" has a sleazy, back alley feeling to it, highlighted by the mournful wail of Rich Arnold's saxophone.  The vocals of Caffarello (aka HoneyBoy Dupree) are aptly suited for the Wolf number "Howlin'," punctuated with Robert Turner's subtle yet tasty harmonica riffs. Turner is also featured predominantly on the swampy "Walking Sin"; he never tries to dominate the band with his solos, yet his work is efficient, always complimenting the other band members' sounds. Another notable original is the gospel-ish "Coming Home," on which Caffarello sounds his most inspired; for my money, this cut is the highlight of the album, and is worth hearing over and over ... as is the rest of the album. By the time you get to the end of the disc, with the closing slow blues "Need You So Bad," you'll be wondering "Who the heck are these guys?" --- and trying to search them out. For more info, visit

Another independent, self-titled release on Indianturtle Music comes from San Diego guitarist Jo Cuseo. It's more rock than blues, and the non-blues cuts aren't that strong. But there are a couple of cuts of the five numbers here that would appeal to Blues Bytes readers, namely the hot guitar shuffle "Stay With Me Awhile" and another shuffle, "Rain On Me." Cuseo isn't a great singer, but he won't have you reaching for your ear plugs, either.  For more info, visit

Steve GuygerEast Coast harmonica dude Steve Guyger is one of my favorite unknown blues players around; he's often referred to as a 'working man's blues man' or 'a musician's musician." Both statements are true. When you get down to it, Mr. Guyger just plays solid, unadorned Chicago-style blues ... no frills, but plenty of heavy stuff. His 1999 album, Past Life Blues, has now been re-issued by Severn Records, having been re-mastered to analog tape, giving the music a richer sound. Also added are three new cuts: "Kansas City Blues," "I Need My Baby" and "This Is The First Time." I originally reviewed the CD in the August 1999 issue of Blues Bytes. What I said then about this disc still holds true, and then some. The new cuts aren't throwaway tunes; they each make a positive contribution to the disc. "I Need My Baby" is a mid-tempo austere blues that starts out with a very nice chromatic harp solo. Also worth the price of re-acquiring this CD is the slow, subtle blues, "This Is The First Time," with tasteful, unobtrusive guitar playing from Brian Bisesi. If you haven't yet become acquainted with Mr. Guyger, then this update release of Past Life Blues, is a great place to start finding out about this underrated blues guy. For more info, visit

Still another fine Severn release comes from New England band Sugar Ray & the Bluetones. This self-titled release is bolstered by the addition of guitarist Monster Mike Welch, making a perennially solid band even better. The disc starts with a Welch-penned blues shuffle, "I Believe," that gives every band member a chance to stretch out and show their instrumental oomph. Sugar Ray plays chromatic harp on this one, while Anthony Geraci guests on piano and Welch completes the triumvirate with a good guitar solo in the middle of the tune. Sugar Ray leads on the instrumental "And The Angels Sing," a jumpin' shuffle version of an old show tune classic. Welch is at his best on the slow blues numbers, especially his original compositions "I Asked My Baby" and "Love and Trouble." This ex-teen prodigy is progressing nicely as both an instrumentalist and composer. Taking an excursion into a deeper blues, Sugar Ray pours his heart into the dirge-like "Burial Season." He then turns around and brings the listener back up with the Cajun-sounding tune "Why the Sun Sets Red and Low." Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable CD. Recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

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