Blues Bytes

What's New

March/April 2012

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Lurrie Bell

Studebaker John

Eric Bibb

Mud Morganfield

Guy Davis


The Scissormen

Mary Bridget Davies

Microwave Dave

Suzanne and the Blues Church

Little G Weevil

Eric Hughes Band

The WitchDoctors

Pinetop Perkins

Big Llou Johnson

Nick Moss



Lurrie BellBlues guitarist Lurrie Bell, son of the late blues harmonica legend Carey Bell, grew up around the Chicago blues scene and became one of its newer generation of blues artists when he formed The Sons of the Blues with Freddie Dixon and Billy Branch in 1977. But prior to that he left Chicago as a young boy to live in the Deep South wit his grandparents, where he learned to play gospel (albeit with an underlying blues sound).

Bell returns to those gospel roots with the wonderful CD, The Devil Ain't Got No Music (Aria B.G. Records). This is back country gospel at its finest, mostly unadorned, loving renditions of traditional gospel numbers with a few more recent compositions mixed in.

The disc opens with the traditional spiritual "Swing Low," on which Bell's guitar and vocals are accompanied only by Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith's rhythmic percussion and hand claps from Bill Sims Jr. The emphasis here is on Bell's voice, which has aged into a nice rich, charcoal timbre. It's an effective way to start the album, setting the tone for the 11 numbers to follow.

Blues star Joe Louis Walker makes his first of three appearances on "It's a Blessing," sharing vocals with Bell and adds exquisite slide guitar. JLW's singing is more in a call and response with Bell, as the latter takes the lead vocals on this traditional number. Walker also handles the slide guitar work on a sublime version of Thomas Dorsey's "Peace In The Valley," performed at dirge-like tempo --- a really beautiful number.

Walker's final appearance comes on his own composition, "I'll Get To Heaven On My Own," which he originally recorded for his 1989 album Blue Soul. Bell handles the vocals and some limited guitar accompaniment, while Walker contributes backing hoots and hollers as well as hand claps and testifying. This is one of my favorite cuts --- simple but extremely powerful.

"Way Down In The Hole" is a stark, haunting version of the Tom Waits song, with Smith pounding out the beat on a lone drum while Cynthia Butts adds eerie background vocals.

Dorsey's "Search Me Lord" shows Bell's amalgamation of blues rhythms with traditional gospel, as he intersperses nice Piedmont-style guitar picking with the harmonizing backing vocals of Mike Avery and James Teague. Bell uses some of the same blues guitar chords on Oris Mays' standard "Don't Let The Devil Ride" and the up-tempo Muddy Waters number "Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You," the latter which was originally recorded in 1942 for the Library of Congress (search on YouTube to hear Mr. Morganfield's version).

The biggest ensemble of musicians gathers for Bell's rendition of the traditional "Trouble In My Way," which starts out sounding more like a Chicago blues thanks to Billy Branch's harmonica playing. Josef Ben Israel backs up on bass, with Smith on drums and Avery and Teague returning for background vocals. This slow number shows the marriage of blues and gospel better than any other tune on the album.

Bell goes solo, with the only accompaniment to his more resonant vocals being his meticulous guitar picking, on the closing number, "Death Don't Have No Mercy." This slow number is a nice ending to a very good album.

The Devil Ain't Got No Music is certain to rank as one of the best albums of the year. Whether you're a fan of Chicago blues, traditional acoustic blues or down home gospel, this one should be labeled as a "must buy"!

--- Bill Mitchell

Studebaker JohnStudebaker John Grimaldi couldn’t have found a more appropriate title, Old School Rockin’, for his new Delmark release. He’s been a mainstay on the Chicago blues scene since the ’70s, learning to play slide guitar after seeing Hound Dog Taylor perform. His searing slide work, plus his raw harmonica sound, and his distinctive vocals (similar to John Hiatt), combined with his songwriting skills, are a potent combination.

Grimaldi wrote all 14, including the riproaring opener, “Rockin’ That Boogie.” Other highlights include the swampy rockers, “Disease Called Love” and “Rockin’ Hot,” the veritable slidefest, “Fine Little Machine,” and “She Got It Right.” “Mesmerized” has a Latin flavor to it and is a nice change of pace on the disc, mixing well with the churning rockers like “Brand New Rider,” “On the Down Low,” and “Fire Down Below.” “Dark Night” is a pretty straightforward blues number with atmospheric slide work reminiscent of Sonny Landreth, and the hypnotic Hill Country rocker, “Tumblin’ Down the Road,” closes the disc with a bang.

Special notice must go to the supporting cast (Bob Halaj – bass, Albert “Joey” DiMarco – drums, plus Doug Organ – Hammond B3 on “Fire Down Below”). They provide top of the line backing and give Studebaker John plenty of room to shine, and shine he does. If you’re not familiar with this exciting artist, this first-rate set is a great place to start.

--- Graham Clarke

Eric BibbThe way I see it, Eric Bibb had to be a musician. For starters, his father is folk singer Leon Bibb. Next, his uncle was jazz pianist John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. His godfather was the legendary singer/actor/activist Paul Robeson, and selected houseguests included people like Odetta, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan, so, yeah, all of these things had to figure in somewhere down the road. Bibb got his first guitar at age seven, was soon attending NYC’s High School of Music and Art, and at 16 was playing guitar in the house band for his dad’s local TV talent show.

Bibb has been very prolific in the studio, releasing over 20 albums over the past 15 years, a consistently fine and diverse catalog that shows a musician who is not afraid to venture out into new directions, but always mindful of keeping the blues at the root of whatever he does. His latest release, and his first for Stony Plain Records, is a marvelous example of that quality.

Deeper in the Well finds Bibb immersed in the music of Louisiana, a musical genre unto itself that, like Bibb, has always incorporated old musical styles with new styles, while still keeping maintaining its own unique quality at the root. Joining Bibb on this endeavor are several outstanding musicians who know a thing or two about the music of the Bayou State, including multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell (banjo, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, and upright bass), Grant Dermody (harmonica), Cedric Watson (fiddle), Danny DeVillier (drums and tambourine), and Christine Balfa (Cajun triangle). Stopping by to help out on a few tracks are Jerry Douglas (dobro), Michael Jerome Browne (fretless gourd, mandolin, and guitar), and Michael Pepin (guitars).

Bibb wrote seven of the 13 tracks, including the opening track, “Bayou Babe,” as smooth a slice of funky, unplugged Crescent City R&B as you’ll hear. “Money in Your Pocket” addresses the plight of the homeless. “In My Time” is a lovely autobiographical track that features Bibb and Douglas, and “Sittin’ in a Hotel Room” finds Bibb advocating the itinerant life of a musician.

The remainder of the songs are traditional tunes (including the delightful title track and a moving version of “Sinner Man”), plus Taj Mahal’s “Every Wind In The River,” and a couple of tunes that focus on social commentary….a slowed-down version of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’” and Harrison Kennedy’s “Could Be You, Could Be Me.” These two tracks go well with Bibb’s own “Movin’ Up.”

Deeper in the Well is a lovely, relaxed session that features excellent musicianship and a strong mix of original tunes and well-chosen covers. Eric Bibb rarely, if ever, disappoints with his recordings and you will find that this is no exception to the rule.

--- Graham Clarke

Mud MorganfieldThe first thing you’ll notice on the cover of Mud Morganfield’s new release for Severn Records, Son of the Seventh Son, is how much he looks like his father, Muddy Waters. However, the next thing you’ll notice is how much he sounds like his father. Morganfield was a late comer to the blues scene, at least publicly. Waters bought him his first set of drums when he was seven, and he’s been singing since the ’80s, but not publicly until 2005, when called onstage by singer Mary Lane. After that experience, he decided to pursue music as a profession, making a memorable appearance at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival.

On his latest release, Morganfield finds himself in the capable hands of producer Bob Corritore, who knows a thing or two about vintage Chicago Blues. Also participating is an impressive all-star quality list of Chicago players, including Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitar, Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards, E. G. McDaniel on bass, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, and Corritore and Harmonica Hinds alternating on harp.

Morganfield also wrote seven of the 12 tracks on the disc, highlighted by such strong selections as “Love To Flirt,” “Catfishing,” “Loco Motor,” “Midnight Lover,” and “Blues In My Shoes.” The other contributions come from J.T. Brown (the rousing opener, “Short Dress Woman,” a Waters favorite), Studebaker John’s moody title track, Flynn’s shuffle, “Money (Can’t Buy Everything),” Corritore’s “Go Ahead and Blame Me,” and one from the old man himself, “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had.”

Morganfield sounds great on these tracks…..some of his vocal inflections are amazingly identical to his father’s and will bring a knowing nod and a smile to blues fans’ faces when they hear them. The band is nothing short of fantastic, and Corritore manages to make the traditional sound brand new with his production. As Bill Mitchell pointed out here last month, you will find Son of the Seventh Son on plenty of Top Ten lists at the end of the year.

--- Graham Clarke

Guy DavisGuy Davis grew up listening to stories told by his family, which included his parents, actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, and his grandparents. These stories, as well as Davis’ own experiences over the years as a blues musician, played a major part in his most recent project, the two-CD audio play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With The Blues (Smokeydoke Records).

Actually, this is not so new a project….Davis began writing it while serving as an understudy in Mulebone, the Zora Neale Hurston/Langston Hughes collaboration that appeared on Broadway in the early ’90s. In 1994, Davis got the opportunity to showcase his project at the Off Broadway, Henry Street Settlement, for a week’s run. It received critical praise from the New York Times and Village Voice, and Davis has performed it subsequently whenever he’s had the opportunity. Now, he’s taken the time to release it on CD to what will hopefully be a much wider audience.

The play is a mixture of song and narration. Davis seamlessly blends some well-done original compositions with a few choice covers from Robert Johnson (“Walking Blues”), Big Bill Broonzy (“Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me Down”), Blind Willie McTell (“Georgia Rag”), and Reverend Gary Davis (“Candy Man”). The narrations range from descriptions of everyday life as a traveling musician to character studies of people Fishy Waters encounters to humorous stories to a few harrowing tales about inhuman conditions that were a part of life during the time covered. Davis does a wonderful job vividly bringing all of this to life.

Though the graphic realism of a few of the narrations don’t make for easy listening, the music is great and Guy Davis’ latest project should be required listening for blues fans, because it provides a valuable look at the history of the early blues musicians. Hopefully, he will get the chance to present this onstage to a wider audience as a result.

--- Graham Clarke

PristineThe Norwegian band Pristine received a lot of attention and positive press at this year’s International Blues Challenge with their skillful mix of blues, soul, funk, jazz, and psychedelic rock. The release of their latest CD, Detoxing (BluesNews Records) coincided with the competition and I can tell you from listening that all of the above elements are included in their sound. I can also tell you that it works…, does it work!

Led by charismatic lead singer Heidi Solheim, Pristine’s band (Espen Elverum Jakobsen – guitar, Anders Oskal – Hammond and Clavinet, Asmund Wilter Eriksson – bass, Kim Karlsen – drums) is an impressive unit, making these styles blend effortlessly. Solheim wrote eight of the nine tunes on Detoxing. The opening cut, “Damned If I Do,” is an unusual, but attention-getting opener. Reminiscent of the ’60s psychedelic blues/rock, it starts with Solheim’s breathy vocal over Oskal’s eerie Hammond, and then segues into Jakobsen’s fierce guitar with Solheim matching his intensity as the song closes. Powerful song.

“Breaking Bad” is another highlight, a good old Texas-style shuffle with some inspired guitar work. The band also delves into deep soul on “Damage is Done,” driven by Oskal’s churchy B3, which also features a nice vocal turn from Solheim. “The Last Day” is another soulful ballad that features Solheim and pairs Jakobsen with Norwegian singer/songwriter/guitarist Knut Reiersrud on guitar, and the title track brings the psychedelic elements back to the front, and transforms you back to late ’60s San Francisco.

Covering an Allman Brothers tune, especially one like “Whipping Post,” usually requires a large amount of courage for most bands, but Pristine takes a different bent, stripping the song back to the basics and wisely not trying to match the originals fire and intensity, instead taking an understated, but successful approach.

Detoxing is an excellent set that becomes even better the more you listen to it, a good quality for a blues album to have. The blend of musical elements with the traditional blues works really well. It will be interesting to hear where Pristine goes from here.

--- Graham Clarke

ScissormenFor several years now, Scissormen have been attracting a solid base of fans who are appreciative of their high energy mix of Mississippi Delta Blues with Hill Country Blues, and a shot of psychedelic rock thrown in for good measure. Now, the band’s energy and personality has been captured on film. Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues (VizzTone) is a two disc set, a movie by acclaimed filmmaker Robert Mugge (Deep Blues, Gospel According to Al Green, Last of the Mississippi Jukes, Saxophone Colossus), accompanied by a CD recorded in Redkey, Indiana at the Key Palace Theatre during the filming of the movie.

Frontman/songwriter/singer/slide guitarist extraordinaire Ted Drozdowski has been a part of the blues scene for over 30 years, first as a writer (winning the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive Award for Journalism in 1998) and consultant for various film projects (including Martin Scorsese’s “The Blues” PBS series.), but also as a musician. Along the way, he developed a stunning slide guitar style that takes in both Elmore James and Sonny Sharrock. Drummer R.L. Hulsman, who is featured on the movie, actually left Scissormen and has been since replaced by Matt Snow.

The goal of the film, according to Mugge, was to demonstrate how Drozdowski honors past master of the blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, etc…) while also doing his part to guarantee the continued development of the music those masters had such a hand in creating. as summarized by the title track, described by Drozdowski as a “blues protest number.” Part of the film was recorded in Redkey, with additional scenes filmed at the famous Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis during a slide guitar workshop, and at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in Cleveland, OH.

About half the songs (“Tupelo,” the McDowell-influenced “Mattie Sweet Mattie,” “The Devil is Laughing,” the Jessie Mae Hemphill-inspired “Move Baby Move,” “When the Devil Calls,” “Whiskey and Maryjane”) will be familiar to the duo’s fanbase, but there are some interesting new songs, too. There are a couple of biographical tracks about Burnside (“R.L. Burnside,” about a night Drozdowski spent with the bluesman that inspired him to form Scissormen) and Hemphill (“Jessie Mae”). “Delta Train” is a moody piece loaded with vivid imagery and some scorching slide work.

The non-concert footage features Drozdowski and Hulsman talking with Key Palace Theatre owner Charlie Noble, Slippery Noodle owner Hal Yeagy and Beachland owner Cindy Barber about their respective clubs and their histories, and also the current state of the blues in Indiana and in general. They also visit Richmond, Indiana, home of Gennett Records, the legendary label that recorded many blues and jazz artists in the ’20s and ’30s.

Drozdowski’s background as a journalist comes in handy. He is the perfect host for the tour, narrating as he drives from place to place, setting the stage for the next scene, talking about how he was inspired to play, and never taking himself too seriously…he looks like he’s having a blast, whether on stage or just hanging out. While he’s an excellent performer and musician, he’s still as much a fan as he ever was, something us laymen can definitely relate to while watching. If you weren’t a fan of Scissormen before you tune into Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues, you will be once you watched.

--- Graham Clarke

Mary Bridget DaviesMary Bridget Davies has been singing the blues since 2002, when she appeared with Robert Lockwood Jr. at a blues jam in her hometown of Cleveland, OH. She formed her own band around 2005 and they represented the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice at the IBC’s. Also, in 2005, she won the lead to the Off-Broadway musical, Love, Janis. She’s also toured with Janis Joplin’s old band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, in the U.S. and in Europe. She’s also performed in the Broadway musical, It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues.

In 2010, she relocated to Kansas City and recorded her debut album, Wanna Feel Somethin’, a solid recording that puts all of Ms. Davies vocal talents on display. Davies and the band composed seven of the ten tracks and their originals are strong, touching on familiar subjects, but retaining a freshness. Highlights include “Your Kinda Love,” “Won’t Pay You No Mind,” the soulful “Real Thing,” and a pair of Delta-flavored tracks (“Getting’ Stronger” and “Trick The Devil”). The bouncy title track is another standout.
Davies also reinvents three choice covers. Noel Gallagher’s “Wonderwall” is given a jazzy makeover. The Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit” and Chi Coltrane’s “Thunder and Lightnin’” also get successful transformations.

Another highlight of the disc is the seamless interplay between Davies and her band (Dave Hayes – guitar/vocals, Gary Roberts – bass/vocals, Chris Hazelton – keyboards/vocals, Joe Voye – drums/vocals, Pete Carroll – trumpet/vocals, Mick Rowland – sax/vocals, and Aaron Thomas – tambourine). Their support, both in songwriting and musicianship, makes a good album great.

Davies shows her vocal talent and versatility on Wanna Feel Somethin’. It’s an excellent debut release that shows tons of potential for this up-and-coming artist.

--- Graham Clarke

Microwave DaveMicrowave Dave & the Nukes have been playing their brand of hard-rocking, good time blues since 1989. Those years included a three-year stint backing Jerry “Boogie” McCain and various gigs with Bo Diddley mixed in. Both artists figure prominently into the band’s sound. Last Time I Saw You is the band’s seventh and latest release, and it features ten well-crafted originals with a couple of well-chosen covers (the track “Hydraulic Grind” is 13 seconds of a Dodge van winch that precedes the rousing “All Nite Boogie”).

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Microwave Dave Gallaher uses wit and humor on his compositions, including the funky opener, “Drinkin’ Wine Since Nine,” and the shuffle, “Jesus Was Smart” (definitely an approach never used on a blues song previously), and the double-entendre-laden “Tire Man,” which also features Gallaher on drums and cigar-box guitar.

The band explores other directions on tracks like “Goin’ Downtown,” a Hill Country romp, the rocking “Cadillac Ride,” and “Vagabundos,” a surf guitar workout. Billy C. Farlow’s “Alabama Saturday Night” chugs along with that famous Bo Diddley beat, and the title track ventures toward swamp pop territory. The closing instrumental, “Rafferty,” channels Jimi Hendrix.

The Nukes (Rick Godfrey – bass/harmonica, James Irwin (drums, percussions) are skin tight, and Gallaher is a force of nature when he picks up his guitar. Microwave Dave & the Nukes have been getting it right for over 20 years, and Last Time I Saw You is another fine addition to an already impressive body of work.

--- Graham Clarke

SuzanneTalk about coming up the hard way, Suzanne Thomas did just that, starting out as an abandoned biracial child in Seoul, South Korea and nearly being killed because of her mixed heritage. Fortunately, at the age of five, she was adopted by an African-American family and brought to the United States. At six, she began studying organ under a fairly talented musician, the legendary Jimmy Smith, but eventually became more interested in the music of Jimi Hendrix, a family favorite, and took up the guitar in her twenties. She was soon playing with several funk and R&B bands, including A Taste of Honey, before turning to the blues.

Now performing as Suzanne and the Blues Church, Thomas has released her debut effort on the Gorgeous Tone Music label. The Cost of Love is a dynamite set with ten tracks, eight enticing originals and two well-chosen covers. Backed by a superlative cast of musicians, including Ray Bailey (guitar, bass, drums, vocals), Jerry Jones-Haskins (drums), Frank W. Garrett (bass), Patrice (bass), Bruce Edwards (organ and Fender Rhodes), “Rev” Charles Jones (B-3). Tyree (organ), BR Millon (guitar), and Jimmy “Z” (harmonica), Thomas plays with unbridled verve and passion not ordinarily associated with a debut release.

She wrote or co-wrote seven of the ten tracks. They touch on topical themes, especially the eternal quest for more money. Highlights include the jazzy opener, “Cheatin’ on Me,” a smooth pair of shuffles (the title track and “Pay Day Loan”), and the funky “Poor Man’s Dream” is a standout among the standouts. “Dusty 6 String Box” is a spoken-word narrative with some excellent guitar work by Bailey and Millon. The aching slow blues, “Set Me Free,” is another winner, and the closer, “Mr. Bailey,” ends things on a high note.

The covers are Otis Rush’s “All Your Love (I Miss Lovin’),” pepped up and driven by Jimmy “Z”’s strong harmonica backing, and Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right (I Got The Blues),” which actually sounds better to me than the Guy original, thanks to Thomas’ strong vocal performance.

The Cost of Love is an impressive debut effort from Suzanne and the Blues Church. I have a feeling we will be hearing much more from Ms. Thomas in the future, so go ahead and join her congregation now.

--- Graham Clarke

Little G WeevilLittle G Weevil started out playing drums, but moved to guitar at age 17, influenced by legendary blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Albert Collins, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry. He started his own band in the late ’90s, touring in Europe and recording while there, but eventually settling in Memphis, where he became a mainstay on Beale Street until relocating to Kennesaw, Georgia a few years ago. The Teaser (Apic Records) is his second solo release and offers a great selection of Southern-based blues.

Throughout the album, there’s some stellar interplay between Weevil on guitar and harmonica player Maurice Nazzaro, especially on the opening cut, “Real Men Don’t Dance,” “Highway 78” and, most impressively, on “Liquor Store.” Other highlights include the funky “Big City Life,” which features more great guitar, plus a nice turn from Bob Page on organ.

“Front Porch” is a nice change of pace….a stark number featuring Weevil solo on guitar (another solo track is “Dad’s Story,” Weevil’s tribute to his father). He gets another chance to shine on guitar with the slow blues number, “Apple Picker.” “8:47,” a track lamenting low wages for lots of work, features a defiant vocal from Weevil and some of his best guitar work. “She Used To Call Me Sugar,” is a nice after-hours blues on the jazz side. The rousing autobiographical closer, “Which Way Shall I Go,” showcases the guitarists’ slide work.

Weevil gets excellent support from Nazzaro (harmonica), Page (piano and organ), Bill Burke (bass), and John V. McKnight (drums, percussion). He wrote all 12 tracks (McKnight co-wrote “Highway 78”) and they are a mix of the traditional blues subject, but most of them have a personal twist to them. The Teaser is a great set of no-frills blues that will please any traditional blues fan.

--- Graham Clarke

Eric Hughes BandFrom Memphis comes The Eric Hughes Band, a mainstay on the Beale Street Blues scene for over a decade. On his recent release for I55 Productions, Two in the Morning, Hughes plays lead and rhythm guitars, dobro, electric sitar (!), harmonica, percussion, and sings. We can probably safely assume he cooks BBQ and saves kittens stuck in trees in his spare time.

Hughes is backed by a strong set of the Bluff City’s finest musicians, including Laura Hughes on bass, Kevin Eddy on drums, Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms on keyboards, and Brad Webb and Larry Nobles playing lead guitar on selected tracks. Oh yeah, Hughes also penned all 14 tracks, and there are some memorable ones. Hughes has a great sense of humor, as witnessed on tracks like the opener, “Did You Have to Take the Dog, Too?” and a similar situation involving his beloved “Muddy Waters Records,” and the hilarious rockabilly track, “Teeth in a Glass.”

Some other standout tracks include “Along Came You,” “Chevy 2 Door,” the acoustic Delta-flavored “Volkswagen Blues” and “Furry’s Gravesite Blues,” and the countrified “Who’d Clean up the Mess?” There’s also a fine pair of instrumentals, “Breakdown in the Briar Patch” (which serves as a sign-off track, prior to the band’s “encore” for two more tracks) and “Wet Ribs,” which closes the disc.

As you can probably assume, Hughes is something special as a composer, giving each track a highly personal touch, but never taking himself too seriously in the process. Two in the Morning is a disc you’ll find yourself listening to over and over to see what you missed the last time you listened….then you’ll make a point to see these guys live. A band that is this much fun on disc has to be a blast to hear live.

--- Graham Clarke

WitchDoctorMost of the musicians that comprise The WitchDoctors have been a part of the Memphis music scene for many years. Don Cook (lead vocals/lead guitar) and Brad Webb (slide guitar) go back nearly 40 years with the band, TarBaby. The remainder of the group consists of Blind Mississippi Morris (harmonica), John Burgess and Pete Mendillo (drums), Suzanne Buel (lead/background vocals), Dan Cochran, Tom Mial, and Guy Venable (bass), Mark Crawley (keyboards), and Russell Wheeler (Hammond B3).\

The band’s latest CD for I55 Productions, Looking for a Bone, is a sizzling set of blues rockers, all written or co-written by Cook. The title track, a sharp Texas-styled blues, opens the disc. “Bad Luck” pairs Cook and Buel together effectively. “The Rib” is a hot Chicago blues instrumental with Morris out front on harmonica. “Next Little Town” is a great Delta blues number; “Distraction” has a taste of the Bo Diddley beat, and “Over and Done” sounds like late ’50s/early ’60s Chicago blues.

“Love Thang” is a blues rocker that will get you up on your feet. A pair of the closing tracks focus more on straight blues (“Warning Sign” and “Living the Blues”), but the closer, “Surf’s Up,” is a pure, unadulterated surf guitar workout, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Looking for a Bone is a great, fun set of well-done originals that will please any discriminating blues rocker, and also a few hardcore blues fans in the process.

--- Graham Clarke

Pinetop PerkinsThose of us who knew and loved Pinetop Perkins will be thrilled to know that Blind Pig Records had a studio performance from 1986 in the can and thought so much of it to release it in both CD and audiophile 180gm Vinyl versions. Heaven is a treasure and kudos to the good folks at Blind Pig for releasing it in such a loving fashion.

Pinetop opens with “44 Blues” and we find the master of the ivories in fine fashion. Pine’s playing is strong, his vocals clear and he’s happy to let us know that since he found his baby, “ain’t going to wear my 44 no more.” Our next cut, “4 O’Clock In the Morning,” finds Pinetop working to regain the affections of a woman that he cares about. “Tell my baby…what can I do to change your mind…now you can’t spoil me worrying…darling about that all the time.” Pinetop wants her to make up her mind and let him know where he stands. Sounds fair enough to me. The tempo picks up on our next cut, “Relaxin,” an instrumental with Pinetop just playing away. In my mind’s eye I can see him bent over the piano, concentrating on his playing and smiling back at everyone.

“Sitting on Top of the World” is an especially poignant track since Willie “Big Eyes” Smith recorded vocals that were overdubbed on top of Pinetop’s playing. This song is literally the last vocal recording of Willie’s before he passed away last September. His voice is strong and clear, a fitting compliment to Pine’s playing. Next up is a rousing version of “Just Keep On Drinking.” Here we find Pinetop worrying about his woman and whether she will continue to love him. His solution, “Just keep on drinking and drive my blues away!” Don’t think that will work but God bless Pinetop for trying. Otis Clay lends his vocal talents to our next cut, “Since I Fell for You.” Clearly at the top of his game, Otis’s vocals convey the sweet agony of the song and the associated misery that comes with loving this woman.

Blind Pig was thoughtful enough to include a very strong version of Pinetop’s classic, “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” and it’s a treat to hear such strong piano playing from Pinetop on this version. Definitely a gem and a wonderful inclusion. “Ida B” is up next and here we find Pinetop looking for this woman, Miss Ida B. Pine is clearly infatuated with this woman as he lets us know, “in my dreams….I can see Miss Ida B…now that’s the only time…only time…that little girl keeps my company.” Evidently it was not to be but Pinetop definitely has feelings for Miss Ida B. Another of Pinetop’s favorites, “Sweet Home Chicago”, is up next and Pinetop is clearly engaged in telling us all about his hometown, “sweet home Chicago!”

The next treat in store for us is another song written by Pinetop, “Pinetop’s Blues,” and here we find Pinetop all alone missing the good love of a woman. “Now if you be true baby…I will be the same to you…now always I’ll love you baby…so it won’t matter what you do.” It’s nice to hear Pinetop declare his love for this woman in his life and hopefully she’ll reconsider her stance toward Pinetop. Up next is Pinetop’s take on a jazz standard, “Willow Weep For Me,” and this rare gem is the only time that Pinetop recorded the song. Pinetop’s touch is light and airy, indicating to me his joy at tackling this tune.

The final cut on Heaven, “That’s All Right,” is another reminder of just how wonderful Pinetop was at the top of his game. A beautiful rendition and a fitting way to conclude this treasure of Pinetop’s work.

Blind Pig did an outstanding job of producing Heaven, and while this may not be the last hidden recording of Pinetop’s to make its way into the world, this one is indeed a gem. Order it today from Blind Pig Records on their website,, and join them in supporting the Pinetop Perkins Foundation as well at

--- Kyle Deibler

32nd BMAIt’s been my pleasure to work the Blues Music Awards the past several years and being on the floor all night prohibits my ability to just enjoy the show ,so it’s always a pleasure to sit down and watch the DVD of the show when it’s released. So I was very happy to throw in the DVD of the 32nd Blues Music Awards and just kick back.

The disc opens with the duo of Kirk Fletcher and Rick Estrin which is very entertaining. Rick has the ability to play harp without using his hands and it got me laughing early on. The appearance of Steve Miller was next and Steve was amazing to work with. The Blues Foundation worked hard over a period of a couple of years to bring Steve to town, and he was very appreciative of his time on stage.

It’s not my intent to go through the disc artist by artist, but there were some very poignant moments that I do want to convey. Reba Russell’s rendition of “Red Mississippi Clay” was stellar and very well done. It was hard not to appreciate the Nighthawks first BMA win for Acoustic Album of the Year. Janiva Magness’s thoughtful inclusion of Robin Rogers husband, Tony Rogers, on stage for her rendition of Robin’s “The Plan,” brought a tear to just about everyone’s eye. And we’ll all be grateful to voters for selecting Robin the Contemporary Female Artist of the Year. Big Head Todd’s salute to Robert Johnson, Tad Robinson’s to Solomon Burke and Delta Groove’s win for Historical Album of the Year were also personal highlights for me. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Willie “Big Eyes” Tribute to Pinetop Perkins in what would prove to be Willie’s last appearance on the BMA stage.

But the night belonged to Buddy Guy. His disc, Living Proof, was a much deserving winner for several awards, including Album of the Year. And we were all delighted to have Buddy there, playing his heart out on the BMA stage. The DVD for the 32nd Blues Music Awards is available on the Blues Foundation website at So head on over there and pick up all of the BMA DVDs while you’re shopping. And if you’ve never been to Memphis for the BMAs, there’s always the first time and tickets are still available for this year’s show in May. See you there!

--- Kyle Deibler

Big LlouI’ve had the pleasure of working with Big Llou Johnson over the past couple of years at the Blues Music Award’s where’s he’s served as a master of ceremonies for what is the highlight of the Blues year. You also know Llou as the voice behind B.B. King’s 10 commandments, and it was in that capacity that Llou helped me get through one of my darkest days when my sister passed away. Big Llou doesn’t know the story, but I want to thank you now, big man, for that. And I promise to share the story with you soon.

Fast forward to this year’s International Blues Challenge. Big Llou posted on Facebook that anyone with a Blues Society card should hit him up for a copy of his new CD, They Call Me Big Llou. I caught up with him on Beale Street and was pleasantly surprised when I threw the disc in for a spin. The big man can sing, and how.

The disc opens up with “They Call Me Big Llou”, an open admission that Llou is not a little man. “They call me Big Llou…cause I weigh 300 pounds…I can stick and I can move…and I can really throw it down!” Big Llou is definitely a gentleman, but make no mistake about his intentions, “I can turn you on…if you let me take you home…treat you like a queen…and never do you wrong!”

We contrast this gentlemanly behavior with our next cut, “Dogg.” Here we find Llou operating without any false pretenses, “You know a player going to play…run a game every day…what more can I say…I’m just your average hound!” Llou’s on the prowl and he’s just following his instincts. If you still have any doubts at all, the next cut, “Git Me Some,” will dispel any such foolish notions. “I don’t want you baby…for the rest of my life…ain’t trying to be your husband…ain’t trying to make you my wife…I ain’t going to stay here baby…I don’t want to spend the night…I’ll be gone by sun up and home…by the morning light…just want to be your plaything…don’t even need to be the one…and if the truth be told…I only want to get me some!” I am absolutely positive that the big man has more than gotten his share of “some.”

Russ Green’s soulful harmonica provides the sweet intro for “Rock Me Baby.” Llou has a sweet baritone voice that reminds me of another Lou --- Mr. Rawls --- and Big Llou’s voice is very seductive as he sings, “Rock me, baby…rock me all night long” in very fine fashion. I hear trumpet in the background as Llou moves onto “Flesh and Blood.” “Come sit beside me…that will do for now…the night has come and left me….just the light that you allow…come speak my name….fill my head with all such foolish dreams…my flesh and blood is no more real to me…than what it seems.” Big Llou is definitely in love and very appreciative of the woman who loves him so.

“Life is for the living…life comes hard for some…the rest of us…we’re flesh and blood…meek and hard on our own.” Both tempo and attitude pick up with our next cut, “Your Sweetness is my Weakness”. “The way you give me your sweet love…any place & time…when you look at me…I get weak in the knees…every time…your sweetness is my weakness!”

Llou’s playful attitude comes back out on “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy.” “Take me baby…as your loving toy…you’re getting 300 pounds of heavenly joy…this is it…this is what you get.” Llou is honest to the pound and he’s very happy to be this woman’s loving toy. “This is it…this is it…look what you get!”

Llou closes his disc with a rendition of “Help Me.” “Help me…I can’t do it all by myself…you gotta help me…I can’t do it all by myself…if you don’t help me baby….I’m going to find somebody else!” Llou is clear on what he needs and if his current woman won’t help him through, he will find someone else that will.

I’ve enjoyed They Call Me Big Llou. The whole disc reflects the playful side of Llou Johnson, front and center, and that isn’t a bad thing. A nice selection of tunes, a great band behind him and Llou’s soulful vocals all contribute to an excellent first effort by Big Llou and I’m looking forward to his next disc as he continues to find his stride in the Blues world. The disc was released on Goldenvoice Audio Records and can be purchased on their website, I strongly suggest that you look the site up and “Get Yourself Some!”

--- Kyle Deibler

Nick MossAs one who is a firm believer in the fact that Blues music needs to continually evolve in order to thrive, I really like what Jimmy Thackery had to say about Nick Moss’ latest effort on Blue Bella Records, Here I Am. “I’m really glad he’s sticking his finger in the eyes of the “blues police,” because the blues needs to evolve and grow and change; otherwise…it stays stagnant and dies.” Nick’s new disc pushes the boundaries for sure, so let’s give it a listen.

We start out with a hill country feel in “Why You So Mean?” Here Nick has taken up with a girl from the country and he’s finding that bringing her back to the city was a bad idea…too many thoughts are crawling through her mind. “Tell me momma…honey, why you so mean…took you from the country and bought you a wedding ring…You turned around and told your friends I didn’t give you a God damned thing!” This relationship went south in a hurry and Nick’s solution is simple--- “I’m going to send you right back…to that one room country shack.

Our next cut, “Blood Runs,” is about the working class and the work everyone is doing just to survive. “He’s earned the lines on his face; and the dirt on his shoes…the grease on his hands…it ain’t nothing new…Well now, blood runs, sweat drips…Someone else is getting rich.” In this day and age it takes two incomes to barely raise a family and things aren’t getting any better. Up next is “Here I Am,” and we find Nick being looked over by the object of his affection and his he’s letting her know she made a mistake. “Make no mistake, or place a wrong bet…You misjudged by looking at the cover…And it’s your own damn fault if you pass me over!”

Up next is “Candy Nation” and Nick examines the fact that there seems to be a pill for just about everything. “Candy nation – What kind of medication? Got all kinds of flavors…to make you feel fine…Written prescription, get it filled in no time.” Nick is right, its way too easy to have your doctor write a script for whatever ails you…we all need to work harder at our health and give the drugs a rest.

“It’ll Turn Around” was the single released from the disc and it’s a very sweet ballad, full of optimism with a look to the future. “And the only thing…that you need to know…it’ll turn around!” I first heard this tune at Nick’s show in Phoenix late last fall and it’s one that has definitely stuck with me. The rocking “Long Haul Jockey” is our next cut and one that finds Nick full of solutions. “I’m a long haul jockey, on a late night run…I do my best driving, all night long – yes all night long.” Definitely open to interpretation and I’ll leave that one to you.

I like Nik Skilnik’s driving bass line on “Here Comes Moses.” Nick’s a simple man just making his way through the world, but he has his own code to follow and does that well, “We all have a strength inside…it’s up to us to bring to light…I ain’t looking for no damn trouble…But I won’t lay down in a fight!” As long as you’re square with Nick, he’ll be the same to you. “Caught by Surprise” finds Nick in a quandary over a woman who definitely stole his heart away and did him wrong. “That girl didn’t give me no warning, nothin’ from the start…Didn’t care how it felt, wanna rip my poor heart apart.” This one appears to be a never ending source of trouble so Nick should follow his doctor’s advice, “Tell her…go and find some other fool….tear his heart apart!” An apple a day will hopefully make this one go away.

Up next is “Katie Ann,” a tribute to Nick’s wife and an accomplished musician in her own right. Nick is definitely not shy about telling Kate he loves her, “I’ll tell the world I know, Yea the whole wide world out to know…I’m gonna love you girl until the day I die…” Nick’s a smart man and Kate is definitely a keeper. I’m just saying.

Here I Am closes with an instrumental, “Sunday Get Together,” and a radio edited version of “It’ll Turn Around.” I applaud Nick for taking chances and stretching the boundaries of his music. I liked his last release, Privilege, and definitely like this one even more. You can grab a copy at any of his live shows, on the Blue Bella website or at Definitely a nice addition to my CD collection and a disc I’m sure you’ll enjoy as well.

--- Kyle Deibler


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