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April 2008

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Mac Arnold

Albert Castiglia

Jeff Healey

Maximum Mojo

Albert Collins

Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue

Mac ArnoldThe name Mac Arnold might not be familiar to some blues fans, but Arnold has been involved with some of the big guns of the genre since the 1960s. Born in South Carolina, Arnold moved to Chicago after high school and played with Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (plus with James Brown in their high school band). He also served as the first associate producer on his friend Don Cornelius’ show, Soul Train, and that’s his bass you hear on the opening theme for the Sanford & Son TV show.

In the early ’90s, he moved back to South Carolina and started farming and truck driving. A chance encounter with mechanic/musician/Muddy Waters fan Max Hightower led to Arnold recording Nothin’ To Prove in 2005 (financed by Hightower, who took out a second mortgage), which was one of the surprises of that year. Arnold has returned with his band, Plate Full O’ Blues, to release his sophomore effort, Backbone & Gristle (Plantation #1 Productions).

Backbone & Gristle differs from its predecessor in that all the songs are written or co-written by Arnold this time around. His writing is very personal, sometimes autobiographical, and always interesting. He’s lived the city life and the country life, and judging by the tone of compositions like “Things I Don’t Need,” “Buster,” and “The Garden Song,” it's obvious which life he prefers. One of Arnold’s specialties is constructing guitars made out of gas cans. He even plays one on a couple of songs and tells a story about them on “Gas Can Story.”

Arnold also offers some good advice on the opening cut, “Love and Relations,” as well as his two tracks that feature youngsters. He’s involved in the Blues In The School program and wrote the song, “I Can Do Anything,” which is featured in two different versions. The first is a studio version with vocal support by the New Mount Colony Baptist Church Youth and there’s also a live version which showcases Greer High School, Middle School, and Elementary School, along with their marching band.

“U Dawg Gone Right” mixes blues with a funky backbeat, as does “Gitty Up.” The title cut is a tribute to Arnold’s father, who used the term “backbone & gristle” when Arnold and his siblings complained about working in the fields to define courage, character, and fortitude. While Arnold may not have appreciated his father’s philosophy as a youth, his life’s journey indicates that he certainly embraced it as an adult.

Long forgotten as a sideman, Mac Arnold has reemerged as a frontman from complete obscurity to become one of the most vibrant voices in the blues today. Backbone & Gristle is a fascinating album from an old pro who still has a lot to offer. Don’t pass it up. Go to for more information about this busy artist and his various ongoing projects, including the Mac Arnold Cornbread and Collard Greens Blues Festival.

--- Graham Clarke

Albert CastigliaAlbert Castiglia learned to play guitar in his early teens and got his start professionally by playing with the Miami Blues Authority in the early ’90s. Junior Wells liked what he heard and hired him as his own guitarist/vocalist on several of his world tours. After Wells passed away, Castiglia joined Atlanta-based blues singer Sandra Hall for a while, then started his own solo career, which to date has featured two studio albums and a live release. Over time, he has developed an aggressive guitar style that serves as a fine compliment to his sturdy, but soulful vocals.

Castiglia’s latest release, on Blues Leaf Records, is These Are The Days. It’s a mix of solid cover tunes and impressive original compositions. His originals include the clever “Bad News Blues,” the lively “Twister,” and “Godfather of the Blues,” a warm tribute to his mentor, the late Junior Wells. Longtime collaborator Graham Wood Drout contributes another fine tune, the upbeat “Celebration.”

The covers are mostly familiar tunes. Fenton Robinson’s “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” gets a slow burning treatment, as does the blues standard “Need Your Love So Bad.” Both offer Castiglia a wonderful opportunity to really stretch out on guitar and his vocals fit the songs like a glove. Castiglia also does a good job on Nappy Brown’s “Night Time Is The Right Time,” though the background singers could have been a little grittier.

Every cut is a winner here. Castiglia’s guitar and vocals are excellent. The band (Susan Lusher – keyboards, Steve Gaskell – bass, Bob Amsel – drums, along with Ken “Stringbean Sorensen on harmonica and Rio Clemente on organ) provide first-class backing.

These Are The Days shows that Albert Castiglia has developed into one of the more exciting talents to emerge on the blues scene in a while. Fans of high-energy blues and incendiary guitar work won’t be disappointed with this release. Check out his website at

--- Graham Clarke

Josh Boyd & the V.I.P. Band list as their influences such artists as James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Earth, Wind, & Fire, the Gap Band, Albert King, and Albert Collins. That’s a diverse group, to be sure, but believe it or not, the band touches on nearly all of these sounds in their self-titled, self-released disc.

To be sure, Boyd has guitar chops to burn and can blow the doors off when he feels like it (“Can’t Stop Your Love,” “I Don’t Wanta Think About It,” “High Heels”), but he’s also capable of getting funky as well on tracks like “Free,” “What’s Turning You On,” and “Funky Popstand.” The autobiographical “Down On The East Side” tells how he made his move to the blues and the guitarists who influenced him, including his father. The closing track, “Sometimes,” is a show-stopper and mixes rock, blues, and funk. I defy you to sit still while it’s playing.

This disc is a completely intense, high-energy set, with no let up between songs. There are no ballads here, just pure unadulterated blues, rock, and funk. The V.I.P. Band consists of Junior Springs (bass) and Charles Gaston (drums). If you look up “in the pocket” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of them.

If you like the up and coming blues guitarists like Anthony Gomes, Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Joe Bonnamassa, you will love this CD, pure and simple. Go to for more information on the band and to check out some of the tracks on this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Michael Holt & the Trophy 500's play a muscular style of blues that also combines rockabilly swing and elements of hard rock as well. The band consists of Holt (guitar and vocals), Randall Stockton (harmonica), Brandon Gonzales (bass), and Kevin Wright (percussion). These guys play with a fast and furious intensity and their recent EP release, Boogalu’ (self-released) is an excellent capsule summary of their sound.

The EP consists of five tracks, four originals plus a fiery cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples.” The other songs are also high energy, with the opening track, “To The River,” being the standout of the originals, but the rest of the tracks don’t disappoint. Holt is a very good singer and guitarist, and the Trophy 500's provide exceptional support.

Boogalu’ is a solid, but short set of hard rocking blues and roots music that will get your blood pumping and your feet moving. The band has a full length CD in the works. Based on this EP, it will definitely be worth checking out. This EP is available at, Amazon, and the band’s website,

--- Graham Clarke

Jeff HealeyGuitar fans everywhere mourned the sudden loss of Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey, who lost his long, frustrating battle with cancer in March. Fortunately, he was able to put the finishing touches on his final release, Mess of Blues (Ruf Records), before his untimely passing at age 41.

Healey, who first came to prominence in the late ’80s with his remarkable debut recording, See The Light, and his appearance in the movie “Road House,” lost his sight as a baby due to a rare form of cancer. He picked up his first guitar at age three and began to play it across his lap, developing his distinctive style by accident in the process. He recorded several memorable blues/rock discs in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but since the turn of the century Healey’s focus has been on classic jazz, his first love, and he’s released three discs with his Jeff Healey Jazz Wizards since 2002.

Mess of Blues is his first blues/rock release in eight years and it’s a welcome return. Backed by a powerhouse band (Dan Noordermeer – guitar, Dave Murphy – keyboards, vocals, Al Webster- drums, Alec Fraser – bass, acoustic guitar, vocals, and Holger Petersen on backing vocals), Healey really gets an opportunity to stretch out on guitar, something he didn’t always get to do on his previous recordings. This disc is a mixture of live (two done in London and two in Toronto at Healey’s Road House club) and studio tracks.

The songs are mostly classic blues tunes with only one track that Healey previously recorded (a live version of Freddie King’s “I’m Torn Down”). A slow take of B. B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get” is wonderful, with Healey really getting a chance to put his blues guitar chops on full display. “Sugar Sweet,” a Mel London track best remembered by Muddy Waters’ version, is also a keeper, revamped with a funkier R&B arrangement.

There are some other standout tracks and, while most of them are usually not considered blues, they get the full blues treatment and come out sounding great. Among these are a fun romp on Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya,” The Band’s “The Weight,” and Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane.” The last two tracks, “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” close the disc out in exciting fashion, with Healey’s guitar front and center.

The band, Healey’s house band at his club, performs like a well-oiled machine. Keyboardist Murphy is prominent, peppering the disc with sparkling solos and fills. He also takes lead vocals on “Jambalaya,” as well as his own composition, the rowdy “It’s Only Money.” The only complaint about this disc is that it’s just not long enough. It would have been nice to have some additional live tracks mixed in, but hopefully, there were enough additional recordings for a future release.

Unfortunately, Jeff Healey was taken away far too soon, but he left an impressive catalog of recordings for us to enjoy. Mess of Blues is a superb addition to that catalog.

--- Graham Clarke

Rick Fowler grew up listening to British blues/rock guitarists and American blues guitarists. He’s played with bands like Ziggurat, Deacon Little, and Bertie Higgins (of the early ’80s hit “Key Largo”). He was a member of the band Fortnox, who had a Top 50 hit with “Storm Inside My Head” in 1982 (it also made MTV’s Top 20 videos), and toured non-stop with them for over a year. He also formed the band Bombay, and toured with Bad Fun before relocating to Athens, Georgia in the early ’90s and immersing himself in the local music scene. He’s played on hundreds of albums, toured several countries, and recorded the music track for the movie, Dirty Work.

Fowler’s latest project is Back On My Good Foot, for the Jammates label. It’s loaded with Athens-area musicians, among them former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry and most of the Randall Bramblett Band (Bramblett on Hammond Organ, drummer Gerry Hansen, guitarist Michael C. Steele).

The disc features those styles Fowler grew up with, stripped-down blues songs and blues/rock in the British style. Nine of the ten tracks were written or co-written by Fowler and they are all well-done. The highlights include the opening cut, “Infected With The Blues,” the clever “Skeletons In Your Closet,” the chilling “Walk Softly,” the hard-rocking “Road To Nowhere,” and “Hitchhiking.” Some of Fowler’s songs touch on topical themes, such as “Preacher” and the thought-provoking “Running From The Truth,” which might have you shouting, “Amen!” The disc’s lone cover is a compelling ten-minute version of Savoy Brown’s “Hellbound Train.”

Fowler’s guitar work is potent and he has a rugged, warm vocal style. All of the tracks get a wonderful lift from the Hammond Organ (from Bramblett and Tim “Drawbar” White), which adds a moody ambiance.

Back On My Good Foot features impressive original songs, wonderful music, and a gifted front man with something profound and original to say, a trait that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Blues/rock guitar fans will want to get their hands on this one. Visit Fowler’s website,, for more information.

--- Graham Clarke

Maximum MojoOne of the most unobtrusive events of 2007 was the tenth anniversary of Electro-Fi Records. In 1996, President and Founder Andrew Galloway, a life-long fan of music, decided to create a record label. With the release of the first Electro-Fi CD, Little Mack Is Back by Little Mack Simmons, his dream came true in 1997. Throughout the past ten years, Electro-Fi has recorded underrated, underappreciated, and obscure American blues artists by teaming them with Canada’s best musicians. Many of the recordings on this disc were made in Canada with Canadian-based studio musicians and band members.

This specially-priced two CD set, Maximum Mojo, contains 32 tracks – including one previously unreleased song – which feature all of the artists on the label’s roster. No songs are repeated from their previous compilation CD, Upside ‘n’ Down Tight, however Paul Oscher, Fruteland Jackson, Mark Hummel, Sam Myers, and Snooky Pryor each are featured on more than one song on the new collection. The CD’s liner is a multi-page booklet with Galloway’s reflections on each song. Songwriting and session credits are not included, but they are available on the label’s website.

For the most part, Maximum Mojo contains real authentic blues the way it used to be performed and recorded. Even with a voice that’s worn, Snooky Pryor sounds like he is having the time of his life. Listen as his brawny harp waddles while the equally talented band members of Fathead create a joyful sound and Curley Bridges fluently tingles the ivories. You’ll also hear Willie Smith’s spanked drums, Enrico Crivellaro’s articulate guitar, Kenny Wayne’s bustling piano, Finis Tasby’s stately vocals, Fruteland Jackson’s acoustic story-telling blues, Lil’ Dave Thompson’s untainted contemporary blues guitar, Julian Fauth’s gripping lyrics and New Orleans style piano, Sam Myers’ sweaty, old school blues, Sharrie Williams’ potent rhythm, and Paul Oscher’s revered harp and dignified guitar.

Though the label’s first release came from Simmons, Electro-Fi has become the house that Mel Brown has built. His recording career got back on track in 1998 when he was a featured guest on Snooky Pryor’s Can’t Stop Blowin’ release on the label. Since then Brown has recorded three solo albums for Electro-Fi and has appeared on countless others. On this compilation, he appears on eight songs. Forming the beauty of Brown’s benevolent blues are downhome arrangements, graceful guitar, and savory keyboards.

Some of the songs may be too slow-paced for today’s impatient world, but overall, Galloway has developed a winning and simple formula. “No teenage guitar heroes, no aging rock stars, no tribute CDs, no blues fusion CDs … just plenty of straight natural blues music served up by some of the real originators from blues music’s greatest generation alongside with the best of this generation’s emerging artists, to whom the torch of the blues tradition has been passed.”

--- Tim Holek

Albert CollinsAlbert Collins was one of the most distinctive blues guitar players in history. The Master of the Telecaster was dubbed the Iceman from the cold purity of his guitar playing. Born in Leona, Texas, in October 1932, Collins’ musical career began in Houston but didn’t skyrocket until he signed with the respected Alligator Records in the late ’70s.

Like all DVDs in Eagle’s Live At Montreux series, this July 10, 1992 Montreux Casino concert was filmed in widescreen with multiple cameras. Without using a pick but using his ever present capo, Collins makes each guitar note cut briskly. He is distracted by his amp and is obviously not happy about something during "Iceman," yet he still manages to release that piercing sound which was unmistakenly his own.

The Legendary White Trash Horns perfectly complement the tone of Collins’ guitar notes on "Honey Hush." In fact, roaring horns were as much a part of Collins’ signature sound as his ferocious guitar and resonating vocals. "Lights Are On (But Nobody’s Home)" is a slow blues, with lots of close-ups of Collins performing guitar, that features an extended tenor saxophone solo by Jon Smith. He performs another long sax solo on the other slow blues number "Too Many Dirty Dishes," which also features an impressive and lengthy solo from second guitarist Pete Thoennes. However, if you aren’t into slow blues with extended solos from numerous instruments, you’ll likely become bored with this track.

Not all of the songs feature extended jams. The shorter songs are very similar to their studio counterparts. The medley blasts and jumps out as Johnny B. Gayden’s sassy and funky five string bass pulsates on "Put The Shoe On The Other Foot" while Collins walks into the audience and lets a frenzied solo rip. Collins’ solo at the end of the song is so forceful and energetic, it’s as if the durable six-member support band, The Icebreakers, pushed him to another level. Things conclude with Collins’ signature instrumental, "Frosty."

Four lengthy bonus songs are culled from Collins’ first Montreux appearance on July 8, 1979. It is not as polished a performance as 1992. Although there is some noticeable hiss and the stage lighting could have been better, the video and audio quality is surprisingly strong given its age. Collins and his Icebreakers, A.C. Reed (sax), Larry Burton (guitar), Aron Burton (bass), and Casey Jones (drums), are dressed like a disco or funk band. The Iceman comes out blazing on the instrumental "Listen Here," where he walks out into the crowd, takes a seat, and keeps frantically jamming for nine minutes. During "Cold Cold Feeling," some idiot from the audience disrespectfully joins the band on stage and pathetically blows harp, but this doesn’t fizz the band or Collins. Gatemouth Brown joins the band on "Frosty," but has many problems with his amp while many stagehands try to correct the problem. This comes over extremely non-professional on behave of the crew.

The CD version of this release only contains the 1992 concert and five of the seven songs were previously released on Live ’92/’93 on Pointblank Records. Thus, it’s the DVD that you will want. On it, you get two concerts of Collins’ best known and loved songs. Albert Collins died in November 1993. Whether or not you had a chance to see him before he succumbed to cancer, this is an essentially video.

--- Tim Holek

Command PerformanceThe Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue disc, Command Performance (Delta Groove Records), arrived in my mailbox the day before our Blues Blast festival here in Phoenix. Deanna Bogart was one of our artists and I looked forward to hearing what I knew had to be a special record. Conceived by Roger Naber of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in cohoots with the Master of Mayhem himself, Tommy Castro, this record had “great listen” written all over it. I can honestly say that it met those expectations and then some.

Command Performance represents the best of several live recordings of the group from stops along the Rhythm & Blues Revue tour. I had hoped to catch their performance in Kansas City but it just wasn’t in the cards, so the record had to be the next best thing. Kicking things off with Tommy’s band is Ronnie Baker Brooks singing an original tune, “Can’t You See.” “Oh wee girl…you’re so damn find…can’t hardly get you off of my mind…please tell me…I’m not wasting my time!” Deanna’s piano is kicking it in the background and this record’s off and running. Up next is Tommy singing one of his favorites, “I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On.” Love is in the air and Tommy’s feeling it come back around to him. Next up is Magic Dick’s harp out in front on the instrumental, “Whammer Jammer.” It turns out that his harp mic broke the night this song was recorded, so he played through a vocal mic and the result is one of the gems on the record.

We finally get around to Deanna’s turn on one of my favorites, “Girl in the Band.” I’ve seen Deanna perform this song on two or three occasions now and although she’s “still the girl in the band!” Deanna rocks. Given its Blues Cruise origins, the band takes its own sweet time on a number of songs, and this extended version of D’s song is one of my favorites. Next up is one for the ladies, “See You Hurt No More,” with Ronnie and Deanna. Ronnie’s definitely learned from the best, his father Lonnie Brooks, and this is a beautiful ballad. “Give me your dream…for us to share…give me your hand…so I can be right there…and give me your joy…give me a tear…I’ll be your security…so give me your fears!” By far my favorite cut on the CD, I hope to see this done live by Ronnie and Deanna some day.

Curtis Salgado has come back from his health issues and he takes the lead as a special guest on the next cut, “If It Ain’t Me.” “Baby…I need your love…now if it ain’t me…now baby…tell me who you’re thinking of!” It’s good to hear Curtis back singing again and this cut is special for his harp work as well. “If I Had a Nickel” finds Tommy thinking too hard again. Things aren’t well at home and he’s in the midst of trying to work it out all over again…”if I had a nickel baby…every time my heart were broke…just a nickel baby…oh yeah…every time…nobody cared…just a nickel…I’d be a millionaire!” I heard that.

Deanna’s back in charge on the Billy Preston tune, “Will It Go Round in Circles.” Ronnie’s sharing the vocals with Deanna on this tune as well, and I for one could definitely listen to a record of their duets. Hmm…maybe a recording project for the future! Ronnie’s back on the Muddy Waters classic, “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” “Nothing I can do to please her…to make this young woman satisfied.” Ronnie cracks me up with his double entendre to introduce the resident harp man, “Maybe I give her some Magic Dick.” I’ve been around Roger Naber enough to know that this happens all the time!

Speaking of Magic Dick, he fits seamlessly into this outstanding cast of characters and takes the lead on our next cut, “Tell Me Mama.” I remember fondly the days of his J. Geils Band’s hit, “Centerfold,” and his harp work on this record is amazing. Tommy Castro finally works his way back to the lead microphone on “Looking for a Love.” “I’m looking for a love…looking here and there…searching everywhere…looking for a love…to call my own!” Deanna shares the vocals with Tommy and she’s on a search of her own. “Some one to get up in the morning and rub my head…fix my breakfast…bring it to my bed…do a little housework…pamper me again!”

An extended version of “High on the Hog” is up next. At just over nine minutes it’s the longest cut on the record. But we get a chance to hear Tommy and the gang each take a turn at soloing and Elvin Bishop lends his guitar magic to the mix, a welcome treat on its own. Command Performance closes with Marcia Ball at the helm singing (what else?) “Sea Cruise!” “Won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?”

What a record! I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. All of the players obviously had a great time on the LR&BR tour and it shows in their playing and camaraderie. Kudos to Randy Chortkoff of Delta Groove Records for clearing all of the hurdles to make this record happens. Buried deep in the liner notes is Randy’s goal: “To keep the blues alive you have to put out fresh new music, not just rewrite history.” Amen to that! Hearing the ship’s foghorn at the end is a perfect way to close out this record in honor of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. I’ve not made a cruise yet, but Lord knows I will, until then, this record is the next best thing. Enjoy!

--- Kyle Deibler

Visions of two old bluesmen on the back porch of a juke deep in the Delta wanders through my mind’s eye as I listen to the newest release by Colorado Bluesman, Dan Treanor, the eclectic Brothers, Blood & Bones. Perhaps I should say two new, old bluesmen on the back porch of a juke. Dan’s current collaboration with Jack Hadley is the latest in series of explorations of what Dan calls “Afrosippi Blues” and continues the musical journey begun in Dan’s two previous releases, African Wind and Mercy.

Dan’s concept is simple in theory, complex in its execution. He marries the use of ancient African instruments, such as the Khalam and Ngoni, with modern interpretations of traditional styles that have helped to bring a breath of fresh air to blues as we know it. His partnership with Hadley enables Dan to bring to the forefront his skills as a harp player on this new release.

“Hard Luck Child” kicks off the record with Dan playing both banjo and harmonica. They provide the right sense of desperation as Jack lets us know that he’s “down in the bottle…can’t find my way back up…I’ve been down here so long…Lord, I think I’m stuck!” A hard luck child he is and hopefully he’ll find his way out. Flute, drums and Dan’s harp all lend a tribal feel to the next cut, “I Wish You Would.” Jack’s woman has left him and the pain he feels is tearing at him. “Come back baby…give me one more chance…you know I still love you…want to give you romance…come back baby, I wish you would…love you real strong like a good man should!” If you’d done that in the first place, Jack, she wouldn’t have run away.

“Deeper and Deeper” finds Jack in the midst of deep depression. “Deeper and deeper…into the well I go…deeper and deeper…I’m moving too slow…what did I do before the darkness came?, I just don’t know.” I’m depressed just listening to Dan’s harp in the background as Jack bemoans his fate. Nicely done. Sonic tones emit from Jack’s guitar as the tempo picks up in “Help Me.” He’s an accomplished guitarist and his work on this album is stellar. Dan and Jack are accompanied by the rhythm section of Gary Flori on drums & percussion and bassist Jody Woodward. The back end is rhythmic and tight, just like it needs to be. “Help me, baby…can’t do it all by myself…don’t want to help, Lord…I’ve found myself somebody else!”

“Brothers, Blood & Bone” surprises me with its almost reggae feel. “But find the time to teach your children well…will they learn…only time will tell…after all is said and done…we’re all brothers, blood and bone.” I appreciate Dan’s harp work on this song and the reverb I can hear in the right channel is a nice touch. “Water from the Well” is a country blues song and continues the light mood found in the previous cut. “Going to take my baby…to my favorite fishin' hole…going to pack a little lunch…and down the road we go.” A darker mood returns in “Callin’ Out Your Name.” “Can you feel me?’re deep in my soul…if you feel me…don’t leave me on hold!” A vocal choir consisting of Delores Scott, Sky Downing and Christine Webb makes a surprise appearance and contributes a gospel touch to Jack’s query.

“It’s a Blues Thing” pays homage to the bluesmen of the Delta. “Over in the corner…sitting on a chair…a funky old man with snow white hair…the music is grooving…it touches his soul…so he picks up his harp and he starts to blow.” I don’t know if Dan needed that much introduction but in another 20 years he’ll be that old man in the corner, blowin' on his harp. Country blues comes at us again in the form of the gospel flavored “The Other Side.” “When the time comes…I’ll cross to the other side…lay me down…beneath the big oak tree…with a banjo by my side…when the time comes…I’ll cross to the other side. Our vocal choir is back in full force as Jack contemplates life in the hereafter.

“You and Me” finds Jack reaching out in the spirit of brotherhood to the world. “All over the world…people want the same thing…all over the world…you’d better tell the children…somebody better help me…to find my way…to believe in you…like you believe in me!” This spirit of brotherhood is contrasted with conflict on the next cut, “The War.” “Oil for guns and money…it’s a policy of state…suicide bombers…just another form of hate!” Haunting harp work by Dan echo’s the feeling of desperation conveyed by the knowledge that in parts of the world, we’re just not getting it right. “We’ve really done it this time…we live in a world of hurt!”

Treanor, Hadley and company close out what has been another very interesting project with their version of the Blind Lemon Jefferson classic, “See that My Grave is kept Clean.” The inclusion of radio commentary on casualties in Iraq at the end of this tune is just another example of the intricate details that can be found within the tapestry of a Dan Treanor project.

I find that Dan Treanor is true to his vision of what he wants his music to sound like, call it “Afrosippi Blues” or give it another name if you’d like, but give Dan credit for the way in which he presents his music to you. His last album, Mercy, was an absolutely brilliant record from beginning to end. Brothers, Blood & Bone is surprising in the amount of social commentary it presents to us, but that’s really what the blues is all about.

The more I listen to Dan Treanor’s music, the more I appreciate the details found in its presentation. I’m sure this Colorado bluesman is never going to garner the appreciation his music truly deserves, but do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy of Brothers, Blood & Bone and give it a real listen. You’ll hear a record that is rich in the details, true to its origins and amazingly contemporary in its sound. You’ll also hear an amazing bluesman true to his inspiration; it doesn’t get any better than that.

--- Kyle Deibler

The boys from Delta Highway were recently here in Phoenix to play Blues Blast, and they rapidly proved themselves to be a crowd favorite at the festival. They’re touring heavily behind their new record, Devil Had a Woman, and their mix of contemporary and Delta Blues styles appealed to everyone at the festival.

They open up with “23 Hours” and Justin Sulek’s guitar picking sets the tone with just the right amount of distortion for Brandon’s apology to his woman. We’re never clear why she’s mad at Brandon, but out the door she went and so far she hasn’t come back. Like Brandon says, “Well…I’m sorry, Baby…surely didn’t mean to do you no wrong…you’ve been gone for 23 hours, baby….that’s 23 hours too long!” In the end she never comes back and that’s the last of it. “Devil Had a Woman” finds Brandon entranced with a new love. “I never met a woman…quite like you…you treat me so bad…always untrue…the Devil had a woman…looked a lot like you!” This one is obviously bad and Brandon is smart to let her go. Victor Wainwright plays piano on this cut and tears it up in support of Brandon’s decision to move on to a woman who will treat him better. Justin kicks in with some wicked slide guitar and the haunting melody of this song will stay with you for awhile.

Slow mournful tones emanate from Brandon’s harmonica and Chris Stephenson fills in behind Brandon on the organ as we begin to hear the sounds of Brandon’s despair. “I’m feeling bad now baby…Lord, I don’t believe another day is going to change…as long as we’ve begin together now Baby…I sure nuff would have thought you’d change your evil ways”. I don’t know what it is with Brandon’s choice of bad women but they’ve just been tearing him apart. The misery continues with “We Got a Thing Going On”. “Only last night…I sit all alone…I was just waiting for you babe…honey child, I was waiting for you to come back home”. Brandon, the only “thing going on” is in your mind, a little more Jack Daniels and a little less misery is definitely a preferred alternative to being treated like dirt. Move on dude! The rhythm section for Delta Highway, Keven Eddy on drums and Slim Louis on bass provides a solid back beat on “Got a Thing Going On” and deserve their props as well for keeping the back end as tight as it can be on this record.

More piano from Victor and a stirring harp intro from Brandon lighten the mood as the boy finally gets it together and decides to head out on “Got to be on My Way.” Keven’s drumming is extremely tight on this track and matches Brandon’s staccato harp notes as the we hear the truth, “I’m going to leave her baby…honey, I got to be on my way…I ain’t going to have no more…of you treating me this a way!” 'Bout time, Brandon! It finally sounds like Brandon gets it right on “Funky Little Baby.” “I got a funky little baby…yeah…she’s so sweet and fine…I got a loving little baby…you might see is so nice and kind…she’s the sweetest little woman…that a man ever did find!” Hang on to this one!

The tempo picks up on “Shake It Just a Little Bit”. “I said don’t tell Ma…don’t tell Pa…we’re going down to the old Blues Hall…going to shake it…shake it just a little bit!” One of Delta Highway’s faster numbers, I have visions of swing dancers running through my mind as I listen to the intensity of Justin’s guitar work behind the staccato notes of Brandon’s harp. This song is just a full out train out of control and very much appreciated. So of course the record slows back down as Justin picks the intro to “Somebody’s Got to Go.” Chris’s organ track mirrors the haunting depression of Justin’s guitar as Brandon sings, “You know you done me wrong…I got to find somebody else…leave here woman…honey, take yourself on down that road…you’re going to reap just what you sow!” “Somebody’s Got to Go” is definitely my favorite song on this record and the perfect melting pot of harp, guitar and organ that is indicative of the Delta Highway sound.

“I like the way you work it baby….the way you shake that thing…you know you drive me crazy darling….drive me right near insane!” Brandon’s definitely feeling the new love of his life in “I Want You to Know” and finally happy for a change. Here’s hoping this one works out and she stays awhile since Brandon is definitely motivated to treat her right. Delta Highway closes out Devil Had a Woman with “Going Home.” “Well I told you, baby…once before…if you don’t love me, baby…I’m going out that door…I’m going home!” The boundaries are set and she either gets the message or she doesn’t. But at least Brandon is clear on what he intends to do, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction even if leads to going back home!

Delta Highway’s sound continues to be an interesting mix of Delta T-Model Ford-style blues with contemporary edges that defies categorization. Brandon, Justin, Slim and Keven continue to spread the Delta Highway gospel one stop at a time and look for them at your favorite Blues bar or festival soon. The hidden track at the end of Devil Had a Woman pays respect to one of their strongest influences, R.L. Burnside, and is indicative of their reverence for the roots that help to shape their music. When you see the boys, buy them a shot of Jack Daniels --- they’ll be your friends for life and that’s a good thing!

--- Kyle Deibler


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