Blues Bytes

What's New

April 2010

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Nick Moss

Cash Box Kings

Matthew Stubbs

Kilborn Alley Blues Band

Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas

Coco Montoya


Cee Cee James

Solomon King

 The Nighthawks

Nick Curran

Guitar Shorty

Alastair Greene Band

Phil Berkowitz

Sean Chambers

Catherine Russell

Kirk Fletcher


Nick MossNick Moss has been all about the Chicago brand of blues for the most part over his previous seven releases, and he’s very good at what he does. However, Moss’s latest effort, Privileged (Blue Bella Records), stretches beyond his usual boundaries to combine his usual Chicago mentors (Jimmy Rogers, Lurrie Bell, Jimmy Dawkins) with his rock guitar influences (Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and 60’s-era Fleetwood Mac).

He’s also composed a set of songs for the disc that vary greatly from the standard Chicago fare, venturing into current events and tackling some topical issues. These topical songs include the powerful opening track, “Born Leader,” and other tracks like “Privileged at Birth,” and “Tear ‘Em Down.” The new songs, in addition to covers like a funky reworking of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth,” and Cream’s “Politician,” indicate that Moss is not afraid to address what could be controversial topics.

That being said, the topical tracks blend seamlessly with the more traditional blues, also a combination of originals and cover tunes, such as a rowdy take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Louise,” and Sonny Boy II’s “She’s So Fine (Born Blind).”

The standouts tracks of the disc to me, however, are two Moss originals….the relentless “Georgia Redsnake,” and the incredible, nearly eight-minute guitar tour de force, “Bolognious Funk,” which is even better than its title would indicate.

The new direction to his music seems to have paid dividends for Nick Moss. Privileged is another outstanding addition to an already impressive body of work.

--- Graham Clarke

Cash Box KingsThe Cash Box Kings bring their brand of authentic Chicago blues to Blue Bella Records for the first time. For their debut release for the label, I-94 Blues, the band (Joe Nosek – harmonica, vocals, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith – drums, Chris “CB” Boeger – bass) are joined by vocalist Oscar Wilson, and a host of honorary “Kings,” including Mark Haines (drums), Joel Patterson (guitar), Jimmy Sutton (bass), Billy Flynn (guitar), and Barrelhouse Chuck on the ivories.

The debut track, Nosek’s “Default Boogie,” with its oh-so-current subject matter, has a great chance of becoming an instant classic. It’s a rocking track featuring Flynn on mandolin and Nosek on harmonica. Nosek wrote seven of the 15 tracks, with highlights being “St. Paul Wintertime Blues,” which features a searing slide guitar workout from Patterson (who also shines on the Muddy Waters standard, “Country Boy”), the title track, which has a 1930’s retro feel to it, and “Fallin’ Down,” a classic Chicago shuffle.

Another great track is the original, “Tried So Hard,” written by Flynn and featuring him on slide guitar. “Quesadilla Boogie” is a raucous instrumental featuring Barrelhouse Chuck on keys, Nosek on harmonica, and Flynn on mandolin. The selection of cover tunes is first rate, with tunes from John Lee (Sonny Boy I) Williamson (“Mellow Chick Swing”), Blind Willie McTell (“Warm It Up To Me”), and Jim Croce (“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”).

Nosek and Wilson acquit themselves quite well on vocals and all the guitarist turn in powerful performances (guest Steve Freund is a standout on Flynn’s “Second Chance”). According to the liner notes, this disc was produced in a single session with only a few vocal overdubs and Freund’s guitar being added at a later time, so it was basically done live in the studio. Hearing the results here makes you wish that more bands took this approach to recording.

I-94 Blues is a superlative effort by an emerging force on the blues scene. The Cash Box Kings are living proof that the Chicago Blues are alive and doing just fine, thank you.

--- Graham Clarke

Matthew StubbsGuitarist Matthew Stubbs currently fronts his own band and also plays with Charlie Musselwhite. He has also played with John Nemeth, Janiva Magness, Lynwood Slim, Junior Watson, and many others. As a bandleader, he has shown a knack for writing instrumentals with catchy melodies. His latest release, Medford & Main (Blue Bella Records), serves as testimony to his prodigious talents.

This set of 11 instrumentals combines hearty Memphis soul with blues, rock, surf, and even a little jazz. A huge boon to the disc is the incredibly tight horn section led by Sax Gordon, who give tracks like “Uncle Sonny,” “Sleepy Eyes,” “Yikes Ike,” and “Waffles” a definite Stax Records groove. Other tracks like the title cut, “Fazzo Beans,” and “Pistol Whip,” make a strong effort to resuscitate the surf guitar genre.

Best of all are a couple of tracks about midway through the disc. “Double N” can best be described as three minutes of Robert Ward meets Lonnie Mack (actually, the two were pretty much kindred spirits) with its drenchy reverb. The following track, “Tube Top Temptation,” is a grinding rocker with some of Stubbs’ most inspired playing.

You don’t hear a lot of instrumental guitar albums anymore, so when they’re as inventive and bold as this one, it’s really an extra treat. Guitar fans will absolutely love this disc and will want to hear more from Matthew Stubbs.

--- Graham Clarke

Kilborn AlleyIf the lowdown, authentic Chicago blues are your bag, look no further than The Kilborn Alley Blues Band. Their latest release, Better Off Now (Blue Bella Records), is a versatile set of Windy City blues from beginning to end. Producer Nick Moss has given this disc the feel and atmosphere of those old Chess and Vee-Jay recordings. The band provides the rest, laying down an irresistible groove.

The band wrote all but two of the 11 tracks. “Nothing Left To Stimulate” features timely lyrics, while the title cut is a solid soul sender, as is “Tonight.” “Train To Memphis” has a quasi-Magic Sam guitar riff and the instrumental “Bubbleguts” showcases the band’s instrumental prowess with some zany Farfisa-like keyboard work from Gerry Hundt.

Harp wizard Joe Asselin shines on “You Can Have The Tail,” and singer/guitarist Andrew Duncanson turns in a bravura vocal performance on the classic slow blues, “Keep Me Hangin’.” The only non-band compositions are Moss’s menacing grinder, “Watch It,” and John Brim’s “Tough Times,” which closes the disc in fine old school fashion.

Formed ten years ago, when some of the members were still in high school, these guys (Duncanson – vocals/guitar, Josh Stimmel – guitar, Asselin – harmonica, Chris Breen – bass, Ed O’Hara – drums) really get it. Their brand of Chicago blues steers clear of the flashy guitar solos and bombast for tight ensemble playing, which is part of the allure of the vintage Chicago sound in the first place. Fans of straight-ahead blues are encouraged to check out this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Terry WilliamsTerry “Big T” Williams has played the blues since the early ’70s, when as an 11-year-old, he began tutoring with Clarksdale, MS’s Johnnie Billington (who trained many of the up-and-coming delta blues musicians and was a driving force behind the Delta Blues Museum Arts & Education program). He earned his wings playing behind Delta blues legends like Big Jack Johnson, the Jelly Roll Kings, Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson, and Big George Brock, and blues icons like Bobby “Blue” Bland and Albert King. In 2007, he teamed with Jefferson on Broke and Hungry Records to release Meet Me In The Cotton Field, one of the best discs of that year.

Williams’ latest release, Jump Back, Big T’s In The House (Matt The Scat Records), is somewhat less traditional than the Broke and Hungry release, and is more typical of a Big T live performance, with a stronger emphasis on funk and R&B mixed in with the blues. Joining Williams on the set are drummer Lee Williams, who’s previously recorded with T-Model Ford, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, and Pat Thomas, bass player Jeremie Horton, an alumnus of the Arts & Education program), session keyboardist Elijah “Doc” Wilkins, and harmonica player Vann Durham.

Williams penned five of the 11 songs, including the opener, “The Night Doctor,” which is a second cousin of the Big Jack Johnson tune, “The Oil Man,” the acoustic blues, “Bound For Clarksdale” and “Devil In The Cottonfield,” “Riverside Hotel,” a slick urban blues, and “Last Jelly Roll,” a tribute to the legendary trio of Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, and Sam Carr. Durham wrote four tracks, including the funk workout, “Booty Wild,” the rowdy title track, and the traditional “How I Got The Blues.” There’s also a pair of covers, Luther Allison’s “Change Must Come,” and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone” AKA “Catfish Blues.”

Jump Back, Big T’s In The House is a solid mix of traditional and contemporary blues and is a must-have for fans of the Delta blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Blue LunchBlue Lunch is a Cleveland, OH-based blues band that plays a wide range of music, ranging from blues (jump or Chicago), New Orleans R&B, soul, jazz, and classic rock & roll. The eight-piece band has just released their fifth recording, on Wilberts Records, called Sideswiped.

Guitarist/singer Bob Frank penned all the originals, including the groovy instrumental title tune that kicks off the disc. Other highlights include the horn-driven “Which Way To Go,” the ballad, “All Things Come,” a wistful tune that’s popular with their fans, and “The Best I Can,” a straight blues number. “Chinese Knock-Off” is a humorous track about con jobs and rip-offs with great lyrics, and “Don’t Point That Thing At Me” sounds like vintage Rice Miller and even features Frank on harmonica. Another fine blues number is “My Baby Knows Lovin’,” which features some killer slide guitar in the Muddy Waters tradition.

The covers are a diverse set, ranging from Crescent City R&B (“Always Pickin’ On Me” and “Mother-In-Law”) to jump blues (“Too Much Boogie” and “Doggin’ With Doggett”), doo-wop and soul (“Monkey Hips and Rice” and William Bell’s “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday”), and the blues (Roy Gaines’ “Isabella” and Bobby Bland’s immortal “36-22-36”). Blue Lunch shows their versatility on this eclectic mix of tunes.

Though the band (Frank, Pete London – harmonica, vocals, Raymond DeForest – bass, bass vocals, Scott Flowers – drums, Mike Sands – piano, Keith McKelley – tenor sax, Bob Michael – trombone, vocals, Mike Rubin – trumpet, vocals) is in fine form, they also get a helping hand from fellow musicians “Sax” Gordon Beadle (tenor sax), Sammy DeLeon (percussion), Tim Longfellow (Hammond B3), Erwin Michael (clarinet), Ryan Pennington (vocals), Kate Brown (vocals), and Lisa Rubin (vocals).

Fans of good-time rocking blues and boogie will enjoy Blue Lunch’s latest effort.

--- Graham Clarke

Mickey ThomasI have to admit that when I was a youngster during the Jurassic Period, I thought that Jefferson Starship singer Mickey Thomas was sometimes a bit over the top with his performances. Back then, I was more into soul and R&B and liked things a little more low-key with my singers. Over time, I came to appreciate his vocal gifts. A few weeks back, I was listening to Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,” which features Thomas on vocals, and I wondered to myself how Thomas would sound in a blues setting. I hadn’t heard anything from him or even thought about him in years. About a week later, this disc arrives in my mail titled The Bluesmasters Featuring Mickey Thomas.

Most music lovers remember Thomas from his days with the pop rockers Jefferson Starship during the ’70s and early ’80s, when he belted out hits like “Sara,” “We Built This City,” and “Jane.” Prior to his days with the Starship, Thomas added masterful lead vocals to the Bishop classic, “Fooled Around and Fell In Love.” Though he’s still with Starship, Thomas has moved over to the blues with The Bluesmasters to present a powerful set of blues standards. The Bluesmasters Featuring Mickey Thomas (Direct Music) features 11 tunes of mostly familiar covers that are transformed in a manner that should appeal to Thomas’ longtime rock/pop fans and blues fans alike.

Thomas does a fine job with straight blues tunes by artists like Muddy Waters (“Can’t Get No Grindin’,” “Rock Me Baby”), Willie Dixon (“Third Degree”), and Elmore James (“Over Yonder Wall”). He plays the New Orleans’ R&B hit, “Sick and Tired,” pretty straight, but transforms the swing classic, “Cherry Red,” into a slow blues burner. The Etta James standard, “I’d Rather Go Blind” is a nice slice of Memphis soul.

Other highlights include “Walkin’ Blues,” the Robert Johnson tune that features guest guitarist John Wedemeyer, “Get Your Business Straight,” one of two tracks (the other being “Can’t Get No Grindin’) with the legendary Magic Slim lending guitar and vocal support, and the lone original track, “Long Gone,” which mines pop/soul territory. The remake of “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” is not as strong as the original (how could it be), but measures up pretty well, nevertheless.

Thomas gets outstanding support from the Bluesmasters, which include Tim Tucker (guitar/producer), Doug Lynn (harmonica), Danny Miranda (bass), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), and Ric Ulsky (B3), and a great set of guest stars in addition to Wedemeyer and Slim (Sean Benjamin – piano, Stephanie Calvert and Darlene Gardner (backing vocals).

All things considered, it’s really good to hear Mickey Thomas again. He always added a soulful edge to Jefferson Starship’s pop/rock sound with his vocals, and probably added years to their shelf life as a popular act. He works well in this blues/R&B setting so hopefully, we’ll hear more of him with the Bluesmasters in the coming years.

--- Graham Clarke

Coco MontoyaI Want It All Back (Ruf Records) marks an interesting change of pace for Coco Montoya, with the focus shifting from his amazing guitar skills to his underrated vocals. Producers Keb’ Mo’ and Jeff Paris put Montoya in a variety of settings ranging from blues, soul, rock, R&B, and even doo wop with impressive results. In addition, they’ve surrounded him with an all-star cast of musicians, including bassist Reggie McBride (Keb’ Mo’, Stevie Wonder, B. B. King), drummer Steve Ferrone (Average White Band, Eric Clapton), with Paris playing keyboards and Keb’ Mo’ adding rhythm guitar.

Highlights include an excellent pair of Motown tunes, the Marvelettes’ “Forever,” and “The One Who Really Loves You,” written by Smokey Robinson and originally done by Mary Wells. Songwriter Gary Nicholson contributes two tracks, “Cry Lonely,” and “As Close As I Have Come,” and Paris’ two R&B-oriented tracks (“She’s Gonna Need Somebody” and “The Life of My Broken Heart”) are both memorable.

The blues are not completely left out as Montoya shines on the Buster Brown classic, “Fannie Mae,” which also features Rod Piazza’s harmonica and Honey Alexander on piano. Montoya’s own composition, the funky “Don’t Go Makin’ Plans,” is also first-rate, and the closer, a fine remake of Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” is also a standout.

Montoya does a superlative job on vocals and his guitar work is as strong as ever, though slightly more understated than his usual fare. It’s nice to see him attempting to branch out in different directions and it pays big dividends on this latest effort.

--- Graham Clarke

DownchildFor 40 years, Downchild has reigned as Canada’s most popular blues band. The award-winning band has won countless awards and employed over 80 musicians over the years. They also served as the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi when they created The Blues Brothers. They were chosen Entertainer of the Year in 2007 at the Annual Maple Blues Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Blues Music Awards) and began touring in Europe in 2008.

Their latest release, I Need A Hat (Linus Entertainment), provides clues to Downchild’s longevity, with 11 strong original compositions, nine by band founder Donnie Walsh. This incarnation of the band (Chuck Jackson – vocals/harmonica, Pat Carey – saxophones, Michael Fontana – keyboards, Gary Kendall – bass, Mike Fitzpatrick – drums) has been together for over 15 years and their interplay is fantastic. They are complimented by guest stars Aykroyd, Colin James, Colin Linden, and Wayne Jackson of The Memphis Horns.

As might be expected if you’re familiar with Downchild, the focus is on good-time, conventional blues guaranteed to get you on your feet. The many highlights include the lighthearted title track, “You Don’t Love Me,” a shuffle featuring harp from Aykroyd, “Somebody Lied,” a grinding slow blues, “Rendezvous,” which features some tasty slide guitar from Walsh, and “Some More of That,” with Walsh on vocals. The closing instrumental, “El Stew,” is as smooth a groove as you’ll find.

Downchild has been setting the bar pretty high in Canada for over four decades with one quality release after another. I Need A Hat ranks with their best and shows that there’s enough fire left in the tank for another 40 years.

--- Graham Clarke

Solomon KingLos Angeles-based singer/guitarist Solomon King has impressed local blues fans with his live performances at places like the Hard Rock Café and Whiskey-A-Go-Go. With his soulful vocals and guitar work, it seems only a matter of time before he branches out. His latest release, Under The Sun (Blue Skunk Music), offers ample proof that King is more than ready to take the next step.

King started out working in an auto factory in Detroit, but found his way to the West Coast after losing his job. Eventually, he started playing his guitar and writing songs, hanging out with area blues musicians. His brand of blues mixes the sounds of urban blues with soul and funk. Helping him out on Under The Sun is a supporting cast of musicians that includes several familiar names (Ray Parker, Jr. on guitar, Reggie McBride on bass, Ollie Brown on drums, Sylvester Rivers on keyboards). The background singers (Shea Chambers, Elaine Gibbs, and Cristi Black) contribute mightily to the proceedings, as do Johann Frank (guitar) and Jimmy Powers (harmonica).

The title track is a funky update of the old “I’m A Man” theme. Next is a remake of “Love & Happiness,” on which the band really cooks, followed by a stripped-down remake of the old Procol Harum hit, “Whiter Shade of Pale,” which is probably the weakest song on the disc. Much better is the energetic “Frankie & Johnnie,” one of two King songs (the other being the gritty rocker, “Jack Me Up”) featured on the recent HBO series, True Blood.

The remake of Bobby Bland’s classic, “Ain’t No Love,” and the original “You Look Good” are strong R&B-based efforts, and “Freaky” is a loose restructuring of the old Leon Haywood’s ’70s R&B hit. I was a little worried when I saw Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of my Tears” on the track list due to the difference in vocal styles, but King does a very good job on it, with his vocal sounding even more pained and vulnerable than the original version. The rock and roller, “Who’s Lovin’ You Now,” is a strong closer.

Under The Sun is a very strong, well-crafted release for Solomon King with well-chosen covers and some first-rate original tunes. Remember that name because you’ll be hearing it again in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Cee Cee JamesThe first thing you notice when you hear Cee Cee James is, obviously, the resemblance in vocal style to Janis Joplin. The second thing you notice is that she writes some impressive songs. Her latest release, Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl (Blue Skunk Music) is one of the most intense recordings you’ll hear this year in any genre.

The atmospheric opening track is the title cut, and James doesn’t leave anything on the table with her performance, draining every ounce of emotion out of the song. “Black Raven” is an acoustic track featuring James with guitarist/co-producer Rob “Slideboy” Andrews and Michael Wilde on harmonica. “Love Makes Change” swings into a neat little groove and Howard and Andrews really shine on guitar (lead and rhythm respectively).

Other highlights include the sassy “I’ll Ask The Questions, You Tell The Lies,” the deceptively alluring “White Picket Fence,” “Watermelon Lucy,” with its swampy charm, and “Done Love Wrong,” which features a masterful vocal from James, one of many on the disc.

Produced by James and Andrews, and featuring a first-rate band in support, Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl and Cee Cee James are already starting to get lots of attention. Despite the inevitable comparisons to Joplin, there’s much more to this lady’s talents than mere imitation. Pick up this disc and see what all the fuss is about.

--- Graham Clarke

Keith LittleKeith Little has been a big part of the Cincinnati music scene for over 35 years, performing and recording his special brand of music blending blues, R&B, and soul. He’s worked as a performer, songwriter, playwright, producer, and writer. He’s also created, produces, and hosts Mr. Little’s Hangout on Cincinnati TV. His latest release, Take It Off and Get Loose With It (Blue Skunk Music) is a fine display of all of Little’s talents.

Little wrote 12 of the 13 tracks here, and in addition to singing, he plays bass, some lead and rhythm guitar. He has a big warm vocal style that is sometimes reminiscent of Little Milton. He also has a great band behind him, including a tight horn section. Among the highlights of the disc are upbeat numbers like the funky title track, which features guitarist Marcos Sasstre, “Copper Tops,” which has a bit of New Orleans in its rhythms, thanks to Ricky Nye’s piano, and very original lyrics, and “Show Some Sign” sounds like one of those Old School Malaco singles.

Little’s wife, Cheryl Renee Little, ably assists with lead vocals on the horn-driven “It’s All About You,” and plays keyboards on several other tracks. Other standout tracks include “New Shoes,” a slow soulful groover, and a pair of rocking soul tracks (“Get On Your Job” and “Mr. Knocha”) featuring some serious string-bending from Sasstre. Even Little admits that it’s futile to improve the original version of the disc’s lone cover, “Rainy Night In Georgia,” but Little’s relaxed, confident version comes pretty close.

Keith Little has done an outstanding job with this release. It’s as good a set of soul blues as you’ll hear. He’s a masterful performer, an engaging composer, and hopefully, based on this effort, he will get some love outside of the Cincinnati area if there’s any justice in the world.

--- Graham Clarke

Jason KingBlue Skies & Black Shoes (Hip-Rox Music) is the debut release from The Jason King Band. Fronted by Jason King Roxas, this band specializes in a high-energy blues/rock. King, a native of the Philippines, has been playing guitar for over 25 years, not only playing blues, but gospel, rock, soul, funk, country, and pop music. Let’s just say he knows his way around his chosen instrument. The core of his band (bass player Wilbert Banks, drummer Michael Moore, and Weissenborn/lap steel guitarist Tommy Stiles) has been together since the late ’90s and they work together like a well-oiled machine.

The disc consists of 11 original tunes; impressive in itself for a debut release, but the songs are standouts to boot. The opener, “Steppin’ Out,” is a funky shuffle punctuated by some sharp harmonica from Freddie Mills. “I’m Your Man” swings pretty hard and features some impressive fretwork by King, and “Driftin’” is a powerhouse rocker.

“Cryin’ Shame” is a definite highlight…..a slow blues with some fantastic guitar and a strong vocal from King. “Mean & Nasty” is a slow Texas shuffle that features King with tenor saxophonist Rick Metz and Jason Stanton on B3. The title track is a nice slice of southern rock that will satisfy fans of the Allmans, and the funky rocker, “Soul Shaker” is a crowd pleaser as well.

The Jason King Band offers a fresh approach to blues/rock, acknowledging their influences while steering the music in new directions. Blues Skies & Black Shoes shows them as a force to be reckoned with on the blues scene. This won’t be the last you hear of this band.

--- Graham Clarke

NighthawksLast Train to Bluesville is a change of pace for The Nighthawks. Recorded live at Sirius/XM Studios in Washington D.C., it’s an all-acoustic set of blues standards that rates as one of the best recordings in their long and storied history. It’s also the last recording with longtime drummer Pete Ragusa, who left the band shortly afterward to pursue other projects.

The band rips through ten blues standards, including three Muddy Waters tunes (“Nineteen Years Old,” “Can’t Be Satisfied,” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”). Founder Mark Wenner blows some mean harp throughout and handles vocals on the three Waters tracks as well as Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ In My Heart,” and the Sonny Boy Williamson classic, “Mighty Long Time.” Bass player Johnny Castle provides vocals for “You Don’t Love Me” and “Thirty Days.”

The band also ventures into R&B territory for an acoustic version of the James Brown hit, “I’ll Go Crazy” and a doo-wop incarnation of Little Walter’s “High Temperature.” A rousing version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” closes the disc.

While some fans might be a bit put off by the set list…..most of these songs have been done to death…..what really makes this disc stand out is the sheer exuberance and camaraderie that shows through every note. This atmosphere breathes new life into these old tracks. The acoustic setting works really well and hopefully, they will revisit this format in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Nick CurranReform School Girl, the latest CD from Nick Curran and the Lowlifes, is a non-stop, no-holds-barred celebration of rock and roll, blues, and R&B. Although this music has been around for over 50 years, with Curran you almost get that tingly feeling that listeners must have gotten when they first heard this style of music way back then.

Curran counts as his influences musicians from Little Richard to Lazy Lester to T-Bone Walker to the Ronettes and Shangri-La’s, all the way to the ’80s rockers like Guns N’ Roses. Believe it or not, they all figure into this set in one way or another.

Highlights range from the opening cut, “Rough Lover,” where Curran does his best Little Richard to the title cut, which would have been for a Jan & Dean album, to the menacing “Kill My Baby.” “Psycho” is probably what the Ramones would have sounded like if they’d started recording in the late ’50s. “Dream Girl,” with its eerie shimmering guitar is also first-rate, as are the frantic rockers, “Baby You Crazy” and “Lusty L’il Lucy.”

The Lowlifes are awe-inspiring in their support. Guest stars include Jason Ricci (harmonica on “Reel Rock Party) and Blasters frontman Phil Alvin (guitar and vocals on “Flyin’ Blind”).

Nick Curran’s reverence for this era of music is obvious. He painstakingly recaptures the sounds of those classic hits. Some of the tracks, especially the vocals, sound as if you’re hearing them through your tinny little AM radio speaker, which adds even more to the excellence of these recordings. He’s not only recreating the sound, but he’s also injecting new life into it.

If you’re a rock and roller at heart, you absotively, posilutely must have this disc. Rock and roll is here to stay, Baby!

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny AIf you’re not familiar with guitarist Johnny A, you should be. Since the turn of the century, the versatile guitarist has released several fine instrumental CD, after playing for artists like Bobby Whitlock and Peter Wolf. His latest release is a CD/DVD set called One November Night (Aglaophone Records) and actually serves dual purposes for his fans as a neat retrospective of his previous work and also is his first live recording.

The DVD features 10 tracks recorded at Sculler’s Jazz Club in Boston with sidemen Jesse Bastos (bass) and Chris Farr (drums). The set is dazzling in its range and scope as several genres of music are explored. The opening track, “I Had To Laugh,” is rockabilly, “Lullaby for Nicole” is a lovely ballad,” and “Tex Critter” roams off into country & western territory, as does “Two Wheel Boogie.” The scorching “Jimi Jam,” is a tribute to Hendrix and some other influences (Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck). The DVD closes with a beautiful version of the old Left Banke hit, “Walk Away Renee.”

The CD includes four additional songs not on the DVD, which is a shame because they’re uniformly excellent. The Jimi Hendrix standard, “The Wind Cries Mary,” is transformed into a funky workout. The Beatles’ “The Night Before” is pretty straight-forward and melodic, Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” rocks hard, and Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” gets a lovely jazz treatment.

This is a marvelous release that’s well worth finding by an excellent guitarist whose performance will make you want to hear and see more.

--- Graham Clarke
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Guitar ShortyGuitar Shorty has been putting out some great music for Alligator Records and his latest, Bare Knuckle, is no exception. Great guitar work, a nice selection of songs and the right attitude all make this CD a joy to listen to. Kind of makes me wish I’d seen the Blues Blast where Shorty did his legendary back flips, but I’ll just have to picture that in my mind. Let’s get on with it.

Shorty’s piercing guitar notes emphasize the help he needs as a working man in “Please Mr. President.” “Please Mr. President…lay some stimulus on me…cause I’m just a working man…trying to feed my family!” Times are tough; the banker’s at the door to repossess the house, Shorty could definitely use the help. “I’m not looking for a bail-out…I just need to pay my debts.”

“Too Hard to Love You” finds Shorty getting ready to move on down the road and leave this woman behind. “You make it too hard to love you…you just want money…I won’t keep buying your love, now…I just can’t make enough money for you!” Sounds like a good woman to be rid of. On the flip side of love, Shorty tells us there’s the good with the bad in “The Sting.” “The more things change…it still feels the same….there ain’t no honey without the sting!”

The tempo slows down and Wyzard’s bass leads us into our next tune, “Slow Burn.” A commentary on the plight of the soldier, Shorty tells us that our vets aren’t being treated right. “When a vet comes back…without an arm or a leg…did he give all that for the right to beg?” We send our soldier’s to war to fight for liberty and in return we can’t treat them right when they come home? No wonder they’re experiencing a slow burn.

Our next song, “True Lies,” finds Shorty’s woman lying to him about where she’s been late at night. “You’ve been doing me so wrong…thinking it’s true…I guess you don’t think it’s wrong…it ain’t being done to you.” It’s definitely time for her to go. Shorty will survive and moving on, he knows he can trust a Texas woman as he tells us in “Texas Women.” “Like a yellow rose…her beauty draws you in…she’ll work all day…make love all night…stand by your side…just as long as you treat her right…women born in Texas!” As long as Shorty is good to her, she’ll be good to him.

Shorty’s guitar is back at the forefront with the intro to “Too Late.” His woman’s done him wrong and he’s telling her about it. “’ve done me wrong for so long…baby, it’s too late.” There’s a point at which you can’t go back and Shorty’s reached it. “You tell me lies…when you should be true…I gave you love…but all you gave me was the blues! You did me wrong…you should have done me right!” But she didn’t and Shorty’s moving out.

Unfortunately his luck doesn’t get much better in “Neverland.” “We never go to movies…we never go out on a date…you never say you’re my sugar…you never act like my mate…there’s always quicksand…in a never, never land…I never planned…for a never, never land!” “Betrayed” finds Shorty going through more of the same. “How long…were you dragging me along…I was sure you were so into me…you kept such a great face about it…I knew with me…was the only place you’d be…but walking in on you with the enemy…the one thing I thought I’d never be…betrayed!” I’m wishing Shorty better luck next time.

Moving on, “Get Off” finds Shorty wanting to get off the train so he can get back home. “Trying to get off…trying to get to you if it’s the last thing I do…got to get off!” The train won’t stop and Shorty’s losing his mind, she must be one good woman for him to feel this way.

Bare Knuckle closes with two opposing viewpoints, “Bad Memory” and “Temporary Man.” In “Bad Memory” Shorty’s got a call on his answering machine from a woman who wants him back and he’s got no good reason to do so. “I do remember someone…who sounded…just like you…I think she said she loved me…but she loved my best friend too…maybe I’ve got…a bad memory!” “Temporary Man” finds Shorty on a short term mission, “No rings…on your hand…you’re looking good…ain’t got no man…you just want to party…and stay out all night…I’ll try as hard as I can…to be your temporary man!”

Bare Knuckle’s a good disc. Shorty’s band is tight; his fretwork off the hook and this is one disc best served loud. You can get the disc from Shorty at, and catch his live show if you can. Shorty’s a great showman and loves to play more than anything else. You can bet the farm on that.

--- Kyle Deibler

Alastair GreeneI’m glad I took the time to go out to YouTube and watch some video of Alastair Greene. You don’t get a gig as the lead guitarist with the Alan Parsons Live Project without having the chops to do it. That said, Alastair’s newest release, Walking in Circles, didn’t jump out at me to start with.

It has its redeeming moments; the rhythm section of Tom Lackner on drums and Jim Rankin on bass is solid and Mitch Kashmar adds his harp virtuosity on several cuts. But Alastair’s fretwork at times felt like more quantity than quality when it came to impassioned blues rock guitar. I can’t put my finger on it but that’s the way it sounds & feels to me. It’s not a bad disc; I just expected and thought it would be more than it is.

We open with the title cut, “Walking In Circles,” and Alastair is lost without his woman. “I’ve been worried about my baby…cause you know she can’t be found.” He’s been walking in circles, “hoping to find a straight line back to my baby, cause I got lovin’ on my mind!” Mitch blows a mean harp on this cut and it’s clear that Alastair wants this woman back bad. All’s well that ends well; she says she’s coming home. This theme continues with our next cut, “Look Out Baby,” Alastair is back in town and he’s looking for some down time with his woman. “Look out baby….cause you know I’m back in town!”

Our third cut, “Drunk Again,” finds Alastair has hit the bottle and he’s rather unruly when he’s been drinking. Fortunately he’s got a solution in mind when that happens, “Baby, if I get that drunk again….slap me upside my head!” Hopefully that will help.

Next up is a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman.” Alastair’s guitar is front and center; I’m enjoying his fretwork here as he encourages this woman to get out of the way. “Get out of my life woman…I don’t love you no more…Get out of my life woman…I don’t love you no more!”

The band stretches its legs on an Albert Collins instrumental, “Don’t Lose Your Cool.” Here Alastair goes to town and I’m hearing Mitch’s harmonica prominently displayed as well. The back-end is tight and this is a well-done instrumental. Up next is another original by Alastair, “Say What You Want.” There’s a woman at the end of the bar that everyone’s hitting on and no one is having any luck. “I know what I know…cause I’ve already tried…you can say what you want to that woman of stone…she just wants you to…leave her alone!”

Another cover, “Pocket Full of Change,” features prominently features Mitch’s harmonica and he takes his turn at the keys as well. Alastair’s in love with his woman and he’s saving all of his spare change to get a train ride home. “I just can’t make it by myself little girl…I just can’t make it on my own…If I had a $100 baby….I’d fly home to you…on a jet plane…so I’m waiting round the change station…waiting around…with my pocket full of change.”

ZZ Top influences are heard in my headphones as Alastair’s band moves on to our next cut, “Cut You Loose.” This woman is causing Alastair more pain and trouble than she’s worth and the only solution is to cut her loose. “The only thing that you give me baby…is a hard way to go…so I’m throwing up both of my hands…I’m going to holler ‘What’s the Use’ well I ought to but I ain’t a…cut you loose!” “Back Alley Strut” is another instrumental that features Mitch’s harmonica front and center as the perfect foil to Alastair’s guitar.

The last two cuts are a ballad written by Peter Green, “Merry-Go-Round,” and a fun tune by Hound Dog Taylor, “Give Me Back My Wig.” I really like Alastair’s guitar playing on “Merry-Go-Round,” and Hound Dog Taylor’s song is a fitting ending to this disc with Mitch’s harmonica doing it the justice it deserves.

But I have to admit that this was a disc that took some warming to. It’s not one that grabbed me the first time around and it’s not one that I’ll come back to soon. Alastair is a brilliant guitarist; I just didn’t feel like his talents translated well on this disc. It will be interesting to see what the next one brings.

--- Kyle Deibler

Jeff JensenA lot has transpired since I hung out with Jeff Jensen at Hopson’s Commissary. One of the hardest working Bluesmen in Socal, Jeff has gotten engaged, moved to Portland, Oregon and found time to put out a new record, I’m Coming Home. Jeff enlisted the assistance of the Pandis Horns and some other notable LA players to record a very ambitious project that totally reflects Jeff’s tastes as a Bluesman. So let’s hit play and get to it.

The disc opens with Jeff’s version of B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” and he predictably puts his own spin on it. Jeff’s having trouble with the woman in question and she’s not always agreeable, “you don’t always want to love me…but I think about you all the time…yes, I do!” This one’s probably not going to work and if Jeff doesn’t ask her any questions, there’s a good chance she won’t tell him any lies. Jeff’s telecaster is still going strong and I appreciate the presence of the Pandis Horns.

Our next track is the title track, “I’m Coming Home,” and finds Jeff in a reflective mood as he packs up his gear to head north to Portland to see his fiancé, Mary-Esther. “I’m going to call my baby…in the 503…and tell her…I just can’t wait to see her…I’m going to pack my suitcase…five nights…find more bread…I’m going to get myself a plane ticket…so we can spend a week in bed!” Now that’s the Jeff I know. Going to have to make the trip to Portland someday soon to see what the fuss is all about. The band is very tight and Jeff’s passion for Mary-Esther is evident…”Now look out baby…cause I’m coming home!”

One of the things I like about Jeff’s writing is his tongue-in-cheek view of the world and “Living in Los Angeles” is a perfect example of that. “Homeless people pushing shopping carts…all the Hollywood folks with the plastic parts…these are some things I learned while growing up in Los Angeles!” I’m sure the move to Portland was an interesting change from what Jeff’s used to in LA.

Riz guests on piano on our next cut, “Worried Life Blues,” and Dan Heffernan’s work on the baritone sax is a nice intro to the song. “You’re on my mind…every place I go…how much I love you…baby, you’ll never know…but someday Babe, I ain’t going to worry my life…anymore!” Jeff’s woman has left him and the pain of her departure has cut him deep. The healing will take time but Jeff’s up to the task. Riz’s keyboard work is excellent and this is one of my favorite cuts on the disc.

Marcy Levy lends her vocal talents on Jeff’s next tune, “Doing the Right Thing.” “You can it in her eyes…you can feel it in your heart…this woman is for you…but you knew it from the start…you found the girl you want…you found the girl you need…now you’re together…she’s just not the love for me…sometimes doing the right thing….can hurt so bad!” Jeff loved this woman dearly but she just wasn’t the one for him…the memories still cause him pain but he was right to let her go.

“Good Morning Judge” is up next and this could pass for Jeff’s theme song. “Good morning Judge, why you look so mean, sir…now Mr. Judge…what can the charges be…if there’s been trouble…I will plead not guilty….must be someone else…you know it can’t be me!” There’s nothing I could say that would add to the commentary on this song, what happened in Memphis stays in Memphis and I’ll have to plead the 5th on behalf of Jeff.

Jeff is a man who feels deeply and his feelings often catch up with him. A good example is our next tune, “Cocaine Spiked Whiskey.” “Well, I don’t make good decisions…at least as far as I can see…but like cocaine spiked whiskey…maybe you’re just not the buzz for me.” At least he was smart enough in this case to realize that the woman in question was just not the right one. Jamieson Trotter’s B3 work is right on and adds to the feeling of depression we hear in Jeff’s guitar solo.

Of course the mood changes 180 degrees when Jeff discusses his feelings for thin girls in the next tune, “Skinny Girls.” “I need a skinny girl…from her head to her feet…I’m going to find me a woman…a skinny woman just for me….about 98 pounds….standing at 6’3.” That tall and that thin just isn’t a healthy combination, she’s going to need a few more pounds on her bones but I’ll take that up with Jeff next time I see him.

Kyle Culkin is one of Jeff’s good friends and evidently they share some experiences with the same woman that finds both of them needing to get the truth off their chests in “She’s Evil.” “What happened to you, Kyle?” “Well…she said that she loved me but she don’t care…when I’m at work…she spreads her loving everywhere…she’s evil!” Hopefully both of them have learned their lesson and moved on.

Jeff’s version of Muddy’s classic tune “Nineteen Years Old,” is up next and he’s passionately in love with this young woman as George Pandis’ trumpet leads us to the truth. “I’m going to say something to you…and I don’t care…how you feel…you just don’t realize…that you got yourself a good deal…she’s 19 years old…she’s got ways…just like a baby child…Lord, there’s nothing I can do to please this woman…to make this young woman feel…so satisfied!” Jeff’s doing all he can but somehow it just isn’t enough. He’s eventually going to have to let her go and the pain of doing so will be profound.

Appropriately enough, I’m Coming Home closes with “Please Don’t Go.” “Baby please don’t go…please don’t hurt me anymore…baby, please don’t leave me…here all alone…baby, please don’t go…don’t make me chase you out the door!” Love sometimes is fleeting and this one was a good woman for Jeff to love, I just don’t think she’s coming back for him.

I’ve enjoyed this disc by Jeff Jensen and his band. We’ve been good friends a long time now and I’m excited as well to see the growth in the arrangements, the vocals and Jeff’s writing. Portland’s gain is definitely Southern California’s loss but Mary-Esther had something to do with that and you can’t argue with real love so congratulations Jeff. You can grab a copy of this disc from Jeff’s website, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate it.

--- Kyle Deibler

Phil BerkowitzI’d have to call Phil Berkowitz a “lounge lizard.” Don’t really know how else to describe him. Phil was here in the Valley recently touring with Sean Carney and his new record, All Night Party, takes me back to the days of the Old Bombay Bicycle Club here in Scottsdale. I can picture Phil in my mind holding court there and playing till the wee hours of the morning. All Night Party is a definitely a pleasant listen and comes highly recommended.

We open with the title track, “All Night Party,” and everyone is having a good time. “Wine, women, whiskey, rhythm & blues….with all these things…how can a young man choose?” Can’t go wrong with any of the choices although I’d pick tequila over whiskey. Phil blows a subtle harmonica and the fun’s just getting started. Notes from Sean Carney’s guitar emanate into the night and “Straight Up” is our next tune. “If you can’t help yourself….who the hell’s going to help you…straight up pretty baby…that’s the way it’s got to be…straight up baby…is it him or is it me? Three’s a crowd and Phil’s laying it down on the line straight, hard to say who she’s going to pick but at least everyone’s clear where they stand. “Tonka T” gives everyone a chance to air it out a bit as Phil’s band tackles this instrumental. Phil’s a very good harp player and I’m impressed by his phrasing in this instrumental.

Our next tune is “Ghost Child” and Marvin Greene is on the guitar for this one. “Cause I feel like a stranger…in my own mind…my thoughts just won’t let me be.” Phil lost his mother at an early age and no place feels quite right. “There goes another ghost child…riding across the night….ghost child…he hides in the shadows…keeping his dreams out of sight.” Phil’s had to learn a lot of life’s lessons on his own but he’s come through ok. “Always a First Time” finds Phil lamenting the loss of his girl to another man. “Nobody knows…nobody can tell…what tomorrow can bring…that’s how I realize there’s a first time…for everything.” The girl has moved on and Phil will recover but the loss of your first love is tough and this one will take some time. William Beatty’s keyboard work compliments Bill Stuve’s upright bass on our next tune as Phil tells us about “Ginger T”. “My little Miss Ginger T…she makes me feel so strong…you know every time I’m around her….feel like a man can do no wrong!” Phil’s got a good woman here and hopefully he’ll be able to hang onto her.

“Beach Bar Boogie” is inspired by time Phil spent in the Virgin Islands performing at a festival there. “They got a special kind of place…where they play all night and day.” “They do the beach bar boogie….boogie all night long!” Evidently everyone had a good time and kudos to Steve Simon for all the events he produces down that way.

“She’s a fine little honey dripper…and she’s driving me out of my mind…she’s got a cool way of loving…I’ll tell this mad…mad…world its fine.” Phil obviously found a good woman and he’s smitten by all the good loving she’s giving him in “Fine Little Honey Dripper.” This theme continues with our next tune, “If You Were Mine.” “I’m not one….to believe in love at first sight…but you changed my mind…changed it last night…I fell in love…even though I didn’t intend to…hard as I tried…I couldn’t take my eyes off you!” Phil fell hard and he’s definitely got it bad. He’s hoping she’ll keep him in mind in “Here’s My Picture.” “Well, here’s my picture, baby…please keep it in the frame…now when I’m not around…you’ll see me just the same.”

Evidently the relationship is still going strong because Phil can’t stop telling us how good it is in “She’s My Baby.” “She digs boogie woogie and rock n’ roll too…this little girl is no snooty Sue…for that love I’d run a Texas mile…cause she’s a living doll.” The tempo picks up considerably in “I Want a Roof Over My Head.” “I want a roof over my head and bread on the table…and love in my heart…just for you!” Phil’s a man of simple needs and shelter, food and the love of a good woman pretty well cover all the bases.

Sean’s intricate picking is evident on our next tune, “Midnight Rooster.” “The days of wine and roses are here and now…so drink from the bottle…and welcome the dawn…little boy blue…sees it all go by…time stands still when it plays…slow down….slow down Rooster!”

What has been a great record from Phil closes with the tune “The Party’s Over.” “Well…I remember all those crazy nights…staying out drinking til dawn…I can’t say they were wrong or right….only that those nights are long gone!”

All Night Party has been a very enjoyable disc to listen to and review. I’d not known of Phil’s music before he came to town and this disc will definitely be one of the sleepers this year. For more information on Phil, check him out on his website,, and pick up a copy of All Night Party; it’s definitely going to be a disc that finds its way back into my CD player very soon.

--- Kyle Deibler

Sean ChambersIt’s 12 years since Sean Chambers launched his first CD, Strong Temptation, the same year that he played with Hubert Sumlin at the Memphis Blues Festival, but some 15 years after he first started to perfect his musical style. He brought out Humble Spirits in 2004, and his latest creation, Ten Til Midnight  (Blue Heat Records) in 2009.

Chambers cites Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan as some of his prime influences, but this man’s work is a lot deeper than that, and it’s obvious that he goes way back into the blues for his influences.

This CD features Sean Chambers with a rhythm section of Tim Blair on bass with Paul Broderick on drums, and they gel together really well. Of the ten tracks on the CD, seven are originals written by Chambers or Chambers and Tim Blair. The title track is a good rocking blues and it opens the album in some style, and with a good pointer of what’s to come on the CD it slips into “Blues & Rock n Roll,” with lots of fancy guitar work.

The first of the three cover versions is next - “All The King’s Horses,” a Luther Allison song played very much in Allison’s style, and none the worse for that. The other two covers are Guitar Slim’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” which really rocks along and had my feet tapping the whole way through, and a Z.Z. Top song, “Brown Sugar.” which was written by Billy Gibbons.

As well as rocking blues, the album features some regular blues and some absolutely stunning slide guitar – listen to “When I get Lonely” for an example of this! Most of the tracks are medium or up-tempo numbers, but the pace slows way down on track six “In The Winter Time.” For me, my favourite track, without a doubt is the last track on the album, the acoustic “I Don’t Know Why” – acoustic slide and harmonica with a flavour of thirties and forties blues. I wish Sean Chambers would produce a whole album like this!

--- Terry Clear

Thorbjorn RisagerTrack Record is Thorbjorn Risager’s fifth CD, and his third on Cope Records, but the first one that I’ve heard. Danish bluesman Risager writes some good blues songs, probably the main reason that this album contains eight original tracks written by him, one by drummer Martin Seidelin, and one cover version (big Joe Williams’ Baby Please Don’t Go”).

As well as Risager on vocals and guitar, the band consists of Soren Bojgaard on bass, drummer Martin Seidelin, Emil Balsgaard on piano and organ, Kasper Wagner (saxophones), Peter Kehl (trumpet), Jarno Varsted on harmonica, and a handful of good backing vocalists. These are accomplished musicians who know their blues – if you thought that Northern Europe was too far from Chicago or Mississippi to produce good blues, then have a listen to this CD.

The CD opens with the Risager track “Rock ‘n Roll Ride,” a good, medium tempo, driving blues/rock number that showcases perfectly what the band are capable of – Risager picked the right track to open the album. The Big Joe Williams track follows up, and it’s an extremely good version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” played at a slightly faster pace than usual, and with brass backing – it works well!

“Let’s Go Down” slows things down – a slow moody, atmospheric blues track, with haunting harmonica providing the atmosphere, backed with tinkling piano. Track four, “You Walked Right In,” is another one with brass backing and Risager’s voice sounds like a blend of Government Mule’s Warren Haynes and Chicago’s Peter Cetera – a good up-tempo soul/blues track that’s guaranteed to make you tap your feet.

“7 Steps To heaven” is another soul blues number, and it leads into a ballad “Stand Beside Me” which has a little bit of Bob Seger flavour to it. “Eyes That Turned Away” gets the tempo back up to medium flame and contains some excellent guitar work from Risager. This track is really well-written and could easily be a commercial hit.

The sound of the rhythm section beat on “Rhythms Of The Night” put me in mind of the old '70s track “Low Rider” by War, whilst “I’ll Be Moving On” has a jazz feel to it – bouncy, full of brass.

The album closes with “Bells Of Joy”, a slow blues ballad with Emil Balsgaard playing organ in the background, adding a little something that you find yourself listening out for.

This is a very good effort from a very good band

--- Terry Clear

Catherine RussellCatherine Russell presents a vintage blues sound on her new disc, Inside This Heart of Mine (World Village). This album harkens back to the days of sophisticated clubs, customers dressed to the nines, the air thick with smoke, and the tinkling of cocktail glasses emanating through the place.

Ms. Russell covers 13 standards from back in the day, covering the spectrum from swing to jazz to blues. She's got a good horn section backing her, but I especially like the work of trombonist John Allred; he really adds an extra oomph to the Fats Waller jump number, "We The People."

Not surprisingly, the other cuts that most appealed to me were the bluesier ones towards the end of the disc. Ms. Russell moves into jump blues territory with Wynonie Harris' "Quiet Whiskey," which presents her with a smaller, acoustic combo compared to Harris' big band. It's different, but it works.

She then moves on to Willie Dixon's "Spoonful." Again, it's her own take on this Chicago blues classic, highlighted by banjo from Matt Munisteri and tuba from the legendary Howard Johnson. Both the banjo and tuba are back in the band for "Slow As Molasses," originally recorded in 1929 as an instrumental by the Jungle Town Stompers. Allred returns here with a very nice trombone solo.

Wrapping up the CD is Louis Armstrong's classic, "Struttin' With Some Barbeque." The band really gets to swing here, especially trumpet player Jon-Erik Kellso and trombonist Allred.

My minor complaint with the album is that the sound is TOO pure and pristine. This is music that originally could be on the raucous or bawdy side, and I'd like Ms. Russell's renditions to be a little rawer. Just because we now have the technology to make recordings sound so clean doesn't mean that we should always be using it. After all, it's the blues ... make it sound like the blues, please!

Otherwise, Inside This Heart of Mine is a fine disc from a woman who's building a strong discography.

--- Bill Mitchell

Kirk FletcherKirk Fletcher has built a strong reputation as one of the finer young guitar players on the scene today through his work with, among others, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Charlie Musselwhite. On his second solo CD, My Turn (Electo Groove Records), Fletcher steps to the front of the stage and demonstrates the ability to be "the man" with 10 funky blues numbers.

The disc begins with a Stevie Ray Vaughan-style instrumental, "El Medio Stomp," and Fletcher immediately gets to flex his guitar chops. Yeah, he's good. Real good.

While stepping up to the microphone has not been a common occurrence during Fletcher's blues career, he acquits himself well on the slow, shuffling Jimmy Reed tune, "Found Love." No, he's not nearly as good of a singer as he is a guitarist --- but he's not bad.

My favorite number was Fletcher's take on the traditional New Orleans number, "Congo Square." With Paulie Cerra handling the vocals, Fletcher is left to excel on guitar --- and excel is what he does. Cerra also sings and plays sax on the straight blues shuffle "Ain't No Way"; this one's got kind of a B.B. King sound to it.

"Blues For Antone" is another strong one, sounding a bit like Stevie Ray Vaughan's version of "Texas Flood." It's a tribute to the late Clifford Antone; I think that Clifford would be smiling all the way through this one.

"My Turn" is a funky jazz instrumental composed by several of the band members, including bassist Travis Carlton, son of the legendary jazz guitarist Larry Carlton.

Fletcher mentions in the liner notes that he's been listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix lately, and that influence shows on "Let Me Have It All," complete with use of all of the appropriate guitar effects.

The disc concludes with a drawn out, psychedelic original, "Continents End," including spoken word from Karen Landau. This one didn't really excite me, but that's a matter of individual taste.

My Turn is one of the best and diverse blues CDs of the year. It's going to be in the regular rotation for me for quite some time.

--- Bill Mitchell


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