Well, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to get on their mailing list of upcoming shows. Web site --- http://www.mindspring.com/~brynet/
--- 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 www.thirstyear.com.
--- Graham Clarke
The 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. (www.raybonneville.com)
--- 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 (www.mickclarke.com), 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
As 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
Who 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: www.michaelpickett.com.
--- 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 www.honeyboydupree.com.
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 www.jocuseo.com.
East 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 www.severnrecords.com.
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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Revised: April 12, 2003 - Version 1.01
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