Blues Bytes

What's New

April 2017

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Coco Montoya

Scott Ramminger

John Primer and Bob Corritore

Tas Cru

Bobby Messano

Thorbjorn Risager

Elvin Bishop

John Mayall

Dr Marie Trout - book

Lisa Biales

John Ginty

Michael Hornbuckle

Beth Garner

Kathy and the Kilowatts

Patty Reese

Dave Fields

David M'ore

John Latini

Tom Craig and Soul Patch


Coco MontoyaI was tuned in to blues guitarist Coco Montoya earlier in his recording career, but for some reason I haven't been listening to him in recent years. That's a big mistake on my part judging from how much I dig his newest release, Hard Truth (Alligator). It's a solid disc from start to finish.

Montoya comes out of the gate strong with "Before The Bullets Fly," with powerful vocals and stinging guitar work from our leader and excellent keyboard accompaniment from Mike Finnigan, the latter who is outstanding throughout the entire album.

Next up is a re-working of a Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters number, "I want To Shout About It." It's an uplifting song on which Coco proclaims how wonderful his woman is and that he wants the whole world to know. It's hard to match Darrell Nulisch's vocals from the original version of this song, but Montoya comes pretty close as well as throwing down a killer guitar solo. "I Want To Shout About It" is my favorite here, probably because of my affinity for the original.

The hard-driving "Lost In The Bottle" can best be labeled as a guitar extravaganza, with Lee Roy Parnell joining in on slide. This one really rocks, so it's good that Montoya gives the listener a chance to come down from that high with the slower tempo of "Old Habits Are Hard To Break," a Marshall Chapman / John Hiatt composition.

Montoya uses demanding vocals to convince his woman to stop running around and stay home with him on "I'll Find Someone Who Will," and then follows with the plodding, dirge-like "Devil Don't Sleep," with a stinging guitar solo from Montoya, strong slide guitar work from Johnny Lee Schell, and fine keyboard work from Finnigan.

Reminding us that he worked with Albert Collins and was heavily influenced by the Master of the Telecaster, Montoya pays tribute to his mentor with an excellent cover of the mid-tempo blues "The Moon Is Full," going deep into his soul for one of the better guitar solos. "Hard As Hell" slams right into the listener's face ---- like, big time ----- singing about how his woman never made it easy for him. Finnigan contributes good B-3 accompaniment here.

We finally get a good, slow blues from Montoya on "Where Can A Man Go From Here?," with his rich vocals handling it well and the requisite guitar licks needed for this kind of song. Good keyboard work, too, making "Where Can A Man Go From Here?" one of the highlights of the disc.

The closing number, "Truth Be Told," has a bit of a funky beat behind it as Montoya gives his woman still another ultimatum. A nice way to close out a very fine album.

With the Elvin Bishop CD reviewed elsewhere in this issue and next month's Selwyn Birchwood disc, Alligator is on quite a roll this year. They've been around as long as anyone else in the blues business and show no sign of slowing down. The same goes for Coco Montoya, so be sure to add Hard Truth to your CD shopping list.

--- Bill Mitchell

Scott RammingerScott Ramminger may not be the biggest name in the blues business, but the East Coast-based sax player sure knows how to surround himself with top-notch talent when he heads into the studio. Do What Your Heart Says To (Arbor Lane Music) includes backing musicians like the world's great bass player in George Porter, noted New Orleans keyboardist David Torkanowsky, and guest vocalists Tommy Malone, Bekka Bramlett, FRancine Reed, The McCrary Sisters, Janiva Magness and Roddie Romero.

Do What Your Heart Says To was recorded and mixed mostly in New Orleans, so not surprisingly the opening cut, "Living Fast," sounds like it's right off the streets of the Crescent City. Doug Belote provides the appropriate drum beat while Torkanowsky comes in on piano. Ramminger isn't a great vocalist, but his voice fits the material well and blends nicely with the superb instrumentation. The horn section also plays a big role in the wall-to-wall sound on this cut.

All of the songs here are original Ramminger compositions, with "Someone New To Disappoint" perhaps a little autobiographical. When he's not singing, our leader jumps in with a solid baritone sax solo and Ms. Bramlett contributes her pleasant vocals to the mix. Becca also shares harmony vocals with Remminger on the slow, gospel-ish number "Hoping That The Sun Won't Shine," a plea for Scott's woman to return home to brighten up his life. Again, Ramminger shows off his instrumental talents on both tenor and baritone sax.

The always-popular singer Francine Reed shares vocals on the title cut, adding a gospel sound to his number with a heavy New Orleans beat, and Torkanowsky comes in with good honky tonk piano. The McCrary Sisters make this disc's first appearance on the funky "Give A Pencil To A Fish," which is now in the running for one of the more unique song titles of the year. And then there's the line " ..... Give a flashlight to a jackass, and you'll still be in the dark ...." --- one of many scenarios that are as impossible as giving his love to this particular woman. Another funky tune, "Get Back Up," featuring the McCrary Sisters also includes a hot trumpet solo from Eric Lucero.

I'm a sucker for a good slow blues, with guitarist Shane Theriot taking the lead on "Winter Is Always Worse." Yeah, this one scratches my itch. I'm not familiar with the past work of Mr. Theriot, but I need to learn more about him. Ramminger's ethereal tenor sax solo is lovely here.

Janiva Magness joins the party on the blues shuffle "It's Hard To Be Me," another attempt at self-deprecating humor by Ramminger, although Janiva's vocals are pretty much way in the background until late in the song. The background vocals on the New Orleans second line number, "Mystery To Me," is credited to Tommy Malone and a cast of thousands. I'm not sure about whether there are THAT many singers behind him, but it sure sounds like a good party as Ramminger describes how that woman totally befuddles him. Lucero really shines on trumpet.

The horn intro to the slow, soulful "My Girl For Life" sounds just a little bit like the accompaniment at the beginning of "People Get Ready" until Ramminger turns it into a love song for the woman that he wants for the rest of his life. The horn accompaniment is spot on throughout this number along with Torkanowsky's subtle but tasteful electric piano.

And now for something completely different. The album closes with a Cajun stomper, "Stubborn Man," aided by Robbie Romero's accordion playing, Torkanowsky's hot tickling of the ivories, and Ramminger's Lee Allen-style baritone sax solo. This one just plain rocks, bringing to a close this very fine set of 14 diverse songs. "Stubborn Man" is my fave,  and I'll be hitting the replay button quite frequently when this one's one.

Scott Ramminger may not be a household name, but he sure can blow a mean sax, write creative songs and put together killer bands. What more can you ask for?Put Do What Your Heart Says To on your list of CDs to track down.

--- Bill Mitchell

John Primer and Bob CorritoreFew carry the torch for traditional Chicago blues better than John Primer does. He has a kindred spirit in Bob Corritore and when they two of them manage to get together, the result is usually something special. Such is the case on their new disc for Delta Groove, Ain’t Nothing You Can Do. With a little help from their friends: piano legends Henry Gray and Barrelhouse Chuck; Big Jon Atkinson and Chris James on guitars, Patrick Rynn sharing bass duties with Troy Sandow, and Brian Fahey on the drum kit, Primer and Corritore create their own flavor of Chicago’s best traditional blues.

John counts the band in and we’re off with the first track, “Poor Man Blues,” and here we find him down on his fortune and luck. “Well, I’m a poor man…live the best way I can…yes, I need me some money…so I can lend a helping hand.” John’s motives here are pure, if he had some extra money in his pockets, he would do what he could to ease the lives of his friends and family. Bob and Chris James trade licks and I love the ease at which these old friends play of each other in the tune.

Barrelhouse Chuck is on the keyboards as they tackle the next track, “Elevate Me Mama.” Here John is looking for Mama to elevate him and you can figure out the double entendre from there, “Everybody tells me…must be the elevatingest woman in town.” Chuck’s piano run is beautiful and I’m reminded of the fact that we’ve lost another great Chicago bluesman too soon. Big Jon picks the intro for “Hold Me in Your Arms,” and here John is definitely looking for love. “I want you to hold me…want you to hold me, baby…hold me in your arms.” Henry Gray kicks in with a keyboard solo here and the synchronicity of the band is just a delight to listen to.

“Big Leg Woman” finds John extolling the virtues of loving such a woman while Bob’s harp fills in the details in the background. “Roll your belly…like you roll your dough…people there are crying…they want some more.” And according to John, she shares her goods, “and if you don’t believe me…ask everybody in the neighborhood.” We go from loving to gambling as John explains his woes in “Gambling Blues.” “I done pawn my watch…even pawned my diamond ring…I went looking for my baby…I didn’t have a god darn thing.” John’s never going to get back to anywhere close to even so the gambling has got to go. Brian hits the intro to “Harmonica Boogaloo” and Bob’s got his opportunity to shine on this instrumental with the band. The intricacy of Chuck’s work on the keyboards is a welcomed voice in my ear and the band really nails this track on the disc.

Persistency is the game for the day as John explains his passion for the woman he loves in “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do.” “There ain’t nothing you can do little girl…to stop me from loving you…ain’t nothing you can say little girl…to drive me away.” No matter what tact she takes to try to get rid of John, he’s always going to wind his way back around and stay in her life. Our theme of love continues with “For the Love of a Woman,” and again we find John telling a universal truth. “For the love of a woman…man would do most anything…turn his back on his best buddy…make him spend his last dime.” It’s the natural order of things and John’s human like the rest of us.

“May I Have a Talk with You” finds John continuing to explore the mysteries of love in his life. “Tell me baby…may I have a talk with you…for it won’t be too long…and our true love will be through.” Communication is the key to any successful relationship and John would like to save the one he’s in if she’ll just take a minute and listen to what he has to say. All we can do is wish him the best and hope it works out here.

The last cut on the disc, “When I Leave Home,” finds John comforting the woman he loves before he has to leave the house. “Don’t cry, pretty baby…when I leave home…I’ll be right back…honey, hope it won’t take too long.” John’s woman is an inquisitive sort and she misses her man when he’s gone. Hopefully, John’s comforting words will quell her fears until he returns. Bob’s blowing a mean harp fill here and I’m again impressed by the ease and familiarity that all of the members of the band play with. It’s a testament to their history as friends and performers of traditional Chicago blues that has stood the test of time.

Ain’t Nothing You Can Do is another classic record from John Primer and Bob Corritore in true Chicago style. Surrounded by friends and performers they’ve played with for years, the duo captures the true essence of their musical vision with relative ease. Kudos to Delta Groove for bringing another great disc to fruition. Probably the easiest place to grab a copy is on their website at Well done, John and Bob, well done indeed.

--- Kyle Deibler

Tas CruI have a lot of respect for my friend, Tas Cru. A fellow KBA recipient, Tas spends a considerable amount of time each year sharing the Blues through his innovative Blues in the Schools programs, and he’s always ready to lend a hand on behalf of Blues Foundation’s key initiatives like Generation Blues and the Hart Fund. Where he finds time to write and record is at times a mystery to me. From that perspective, his latest disc, Simmered & Stewed, reflects a soup best served hot. Let’s give it a spin and check it out.

Tas opens with a tune called “Dat Maybe,” and that’s the exact thing he doesn’t want to hear from the woman he’s interested in. “Don’t say you will…if you think you won’t…don’t say you do when you know you don’t…don’t give me that hey…don’t give me dat maybe…when your heart says no.” Tas just wants it straight up and he can take it if he has to move on. Chip Lamson’s stellar piano intro leads us to “Grizzle N’ Bone,” and here Tas is bemoaning his fate that his luck with the ladies is changing from the way it used to be. “Used to be biscuits and gravy…all I get is grizzle n’ bone.” I’m not really sure of the reason for the change in Tas’s fortunes but I do wish my friend “more biscuits and gravy.”

Some intricate fretwork from Tas provides the intro to “Feel I’m Falling” and I like the spiritual feel of this tune. “Lord…hear me calling…Lord, come help me please…I feel I’m falling…to a life full of misery.” Hopefully, Tas’s prayers will be answered and he’ll be back on the road to redemption soon. “Time and Time” is the first ballad of the disc and we find Tas reflecting on passion he feels for the woman he loves. “So, I tilt my head…and close my eyes…try to hold you in my mind…where I keep you…always waiting…time and time”. Dick Earl Ericksen lends some wonderful harp fills to this tune and it’s a beautiful thing. Definitely my favorite song on the record, for sure.

Tas moves on to “Road to My Obsession,” and here he covers his desire to play the blues, anytime and anywhere. “Down the road…that’s my obsession…takes me just about everywhere.” Our next track, “Biscuit,” finds Tas lamenting the loss of the Delta woman he loves. “Baby, won’t you please come home…and baby; pass the biscuit til I can’t no more.”

Sonny Rock is on the pots and pans for the next track, “Cover My Love,” and Tas is ready to end the relationship he’s in and move on. “I’m going cover my love…and slide on out the door…I’m gone…gone…gone…won’t be stuck on you no more.” We don’t really know the reasons for Tas wanting to leave, but he’s “grown” as they say in the South and he can do what he pleases. Tas’s slide guitar paves the way, along with Dick’s harp, on the next track, “Woman Won’t You Love Me,” and here Tas is trying to salvage the relationship he’s in before he decides to move on. “Woman, won’t you love me…I know a gal, she says she will…been holding out so long…I need a reason to believe…you give me what I want…you give me what I need…woman won’t you love me…I know a gal, she says she will.” The ball’s in her court now and Tas is prepared to leave her to get the love he needs.

“Just Let It Happen” is our next cut and I love the upright bass from Mike Lawrence in the background. Tas is under the weather and it seems his relationship is the cause of what ails him. The Doctor’s advice makes sense to me, “says you worry too much…just got to let things be…let it happen…set your worries free…just let it happen…you can’t change a thing…it don’t much matter what you’re dealing with…just let life happen…cus it is what it is…just got to let things be.” And who said country medicine was dead? Sound advice and some I hope Tas intends to follows.Tas’s tone changes as he and the band tackle “Tired of Bluesmen Cryin’.” “I’m tired of bluesmen crying…just because some woman who left them cold…I’m tired about all of that crying…losing everything they own.” Of course, Tas’s perspective is different, “I’ve got nine or ten more women…lined up to take her place.” It’s easy to be cynical when the Gods are smiling on your own fortunes I guess.

Tas closes with another ballad, “Higher and Higher,” and it’s the perfect song to go out on. “You know your love…keeps lifting me higher…than I’ve ever been lifted before.” This is the one cover on Tas’s record and his version of this classic tune is just beautiful.

Simmered & Stewed is Tas’s first record on the Vizztone label and kudos to them for supporting the efforts of this bluesman from New York. You won’t find an artist with a kinder heart or greater desire to serve this blues community that we’re all a part of. Tas’s touring schedule can be found on his website at, and check out his unique Blues in the Schools program while you’re there. The Blues Music Awards are coming up soon and I’m sure Tas will be in Memphis supporting the cause with the rest of us. In the meantime, show him some love on the road and appreciate his ability to bend a note and tell a story.

--- Kyle Deibler

Bobby MessanoLife is full of challenges for us all. Dramatic life events, the loss of a job, a home, a significant other, etc. --- all have the ability to throw us for a loop. How we respond to life’s challenges is a measure of our resiliency and our ability to go on. In Bobby Messano’s case, he channeled all of the emotions he was feeling into an intense writing session with one of Nashville’s most gifted lyricists, Jon Tiven. Steve Weiss lent his writing talents to two of the songs, Steve Kalinich another and Brian May of Queen offered Bobby a tune he had co-written with Jon. All in all there are 15 tracks on his new disc. Bad Movie features Bobby’s most heartfelt songs to date. If there’s such a thing as a classic Bobby Messano record, Bad Movie is it.

Bobby opens with the title track, “Bad Movie,” and we’re off and running. An upbeat rocker, “Bad Movie” finds Bobby looking for answers to the pain he’s feeling. “Is this a bad movie…I’ve seen it before…things didn’t turn out so groovy.” Bobby’s feeling heat for a situation he didn’t cause and he’s at a loss as to how to respond, “If this was a short, it wouldn’t be so bad…but it’s an epic of major proportions…it’s a bad movie.” We move on to “Come to Your Senses,” and here Bobby’s hoping the woman he loves will appreciate the love he has for her. “Let me hear you, baby…say you love me…one more time…cause when the chips are down…you’ve got to come to your senses…you gotta be mine.” There’s no guarantee she’s going to see things Bobby’s way, but he’s very clear about the love he feels for her. Bobby’s fretwork is amazing and it’s some of the most passionate guitar playing I’ve ever heard from him.

At some point, enough is enough and you know a love has died. Bobby reaches that point and shares it with us in our next track, “Why Water a Dead Rose.” “Call me optimistic, I suppose…I had to see it…right in front of my nose…that endless place where nothing grows…why water a dead rose?” Being the invested person in a one-sided relationship is never easy and Bobby’s facing that stark truth here by baring his heart to the world. “Road to Oblivion” has a Hill Country feel to it and Bobby’s traded his Delaney axe in for a Dobro as he picks this tune. “I’m going down the road to oblivion…have you been this way before…I’m going down the road to oblivion…it has fields I can’t ignore…game over and no overtime, so I can’t make that one last score.” Bobby’s right in one regard, we don’t know how he’s feeling until we live it. Hopefully, this mood will pass and Bobby will head back on the road to the living.

Sonic tones are in full force as we move on to “Unconventional Wisdom,” and Bobby’s fed up with the world as he knows it. “Manipulation…stimulation…all I want is an explanation…give me unconventional wisdom…if you’re not too busy keeping score.” Definitely a political statement about the country as Jon and Bobby see it, hopefully things will turn around and it will all start to make sense. There’s a funky beat to our next track, “Too Good to be True,” and here Bobby realizes he might have known the truth a little bit sooner if he’d bothered to look beneath the surface. “If something’s too good to be true…time to wake up to reality…but I really liked the way you lied to me.” Bobby bought the stories and lies of the woman he loved and he might have woken up to reality a lot sooner if he’d honestly bothered to look a little deeper.

I like the hard driving tempo of our next track, “If the Phone Ain’t Ringin, It’s Me Not Callin’.” There are times in life where you just have to cut your ties with the one you loved and move on. “Not that I don’t care about what you’re doing…being around you would be my ruin…I could care less who you’re balling…if your phone ain’t ringin…it’s me not calling.” Bobby’s fretwork is front and center as the band hits the intro to the next cut, “Never Too Late to Break a Bad Habit”. “I should have known better…she couldn’t hide her user side…the way she took them for a ride…I just never thought she’d do that to me….dagnabbit…it’s never too late…to break a bad habit.” It sounds like Bobby found himself being taken for a ride and fortunately he was able to end things quickly before they got out of hand…it’s never too late…to break a bad habit.

Our tempo slows down a bit when Alecia Elliott joins Bobby for the first of two duets on “Water Under the Bridge.” Alecia has a beautiful voice and this tune is both hopeful and sad, all at the same time. Bobby breaks out the acoustic guitar for this tune as they sing, “you suddenly have to face…the finish line for the human race…are you willing to believe…that God has something up his sleeve…but that’s water under the bridge…that’s all that time will allow…that’s water under the bridge….and the bridge is under the water now.” Things are definitely tough now but hopefully the water will recede and the bridge to a better world will reappear.

“You Left Me No Choice” is another tune with a funky beat and Alecia’s back at the mic with Bobby for this tune as well. Bobby’s still dealing with the aftermath of his failed relationship and the difficulties he’s facing in ensuring it ends completely. “Didn’t want to set…the Sherriff on you…you didn’t leave me options…what else could I do…if living with me was your personal hell…tell, me…how’s the room service in your 6 x 6 cell…I’m sorry, left me no choice.” Despite all the pain his ex-lover cost him, Bobby still laments her departure and he shares his lingering feelings for her with us in “The Girl that Got Away.” “Now the closet’s half empty…so I got myself more room…but damn, it’s full of my favorite perfume…no way to chase it out…the lingering bouquet…of the girl that got away.” Bobby’s passionate fretwork echoes the love that he once had and now all he has left is the memories of another time and place, a much happier day.

“I Thought We Had This” finds Bobby continuing to reflect on his relationship and his confidence that they could work through their difficulties and keep their love intact. “I thought we had this…but I was wrong.” That pretty much sums it all up in a nutshell. “We Need a Blessing” finds Bobby reflecting on the current state of affairs in our country and the need for unity across all races, creeds and colors. “We are Americans…and we love living here…we have lost our way…and need a blessing to appear…we are Americans…we need a blessing to appear…to open up a way we know is clear.” It’s no secret that our country is currently on a path of troubled times and Bobby is definitely right…we need a blessing to appear.

Messano continues this thought process as he segues into “Is It Too Much to Hope For a Miracle.” “Is it too much to hope for a miracle…to pull us through…is it too much to hope for a miracle…don’t know what else to do.” Bobby’s a spiritual person by nature and the turmoil he knows the country is going through weighs heavily on his mind. It’s a point of reflection that we’re all going through at this point in our nation’s history. We need to stand strong for our rights and ensure the future for our children, their children and all of those who come after us. It’s definitely not too much of a stretch to hope for a miracle to show us the way.

Bobby closes with “American Spring” and a note of optimism for the future. “This old boy’s going to stick around and sing…of the American spring.” Whatever the future brings, Bobby’s going to stand tall with the rest of us as we face the future together.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition to me --- the way Bad Movie combines the personal tragedy of a love gone wrong and the world facing the challenges it does today. Bobby’s emotions in dealing with the various challenges of a relationship ending are poignant and deeply personal. His concern for our country and the turmoil many are experiencing is equally as personal, but in a different way. Knowing Bobby the way I do, I’m sure he’s hoping to wake up in the morning with a new take on life and the optimism to tackle the personal and national challenges head on. And in a way, I would wish that for everyone.

Bobby’s just beginning to ramp up his touring schedule and his performance dates, as well as the opportunity to grab a copy of Bad Movie, can be found on his website at This is by far Bobby’s most personal record to date and I appreciate the self-reflection he went through to write such intensely elegant tunes. I said it at the beginning and I’ll repeat it here, Bad Movie is a classic Bobby Messano record, right out of the gate.

--- Kyle Deibler

Thorbjorn RisagerI like the sense of urgency in the voice of Thorbjorn Risager, and his band, the Black Tornado, is a stellar group of musicians who’ve worked with Thorbjorn for a number of years, performing some of the most stellar blues you can find overseas. This Copenhagen-based band is the real deal and their new record, Change My Game, is just the latest of their releases on Ruf Records to show how really talented the group is. I’m more than happy to throw it in my CD player and give it another listen. Hang on for the ride; it’s coming your way.

Thorbjorn opens with a sentimental look at a woman he loved in, “I Used to Love You.” The relationship ended and Thorbjorn is heartbroken over the loss of his woman. “I used to love you…I used to give you everything…all of my love…all of my pride…I used to love you…now your love’s gone.” A mournful guitar solo accentuates the pain that Thorbjorn is feeling and hopefully it will go away in time. “Dreamland” is the next cut, and it’s definitely more of a rocker than our first track. Thorbjorn finds himself in the van, hitting the road and questioning his reasons for doing so. “Going to keep my eyes wide open…and my hands on the wheel…roll down the windows and let the sunshine in…I’ve got my eyes fixed…on the dreamland up ahead.” Whatever it is that Thorbjorn is looking for; hopefully time on the road will bring it to his door.

Moving on to the title track, “Change My Game,” this is a tune with a very funky beat and the musicianship of the Black Tornado shines throughout this tune. “Yes, I’ve been burning my candle at the both ends…I’ve never had nobody slow me down…well, I had my fun and be moving on…somebody help me get my feet back on the ground…I’ve got to change my game.” Hard living catches up to all of us eventually, and at least Thorbjorn is aware of its impact on his life and his need to change his ways.

Slide guitar comes into the play as the band segues to our next track, “Holler N Moan,” and we’re transported back to a simpler time and place. Thorbjorn assumes the role of a traveling vagabond, earning his keep, one venue at a time. “Hear me…holler n moan…trying to talk like a rolling stone…help me to unwind…going to go out on the night…it’s all right.” Our next cut, “Hard Time”, finds Thorbjorn anxious to get back home to the woman he loves. “But there ain’t nothing in the world…going to make me give up on our love…somehow we found the strength to carry on…in your loving arms…I disappear…I can’t hold back…hold back these tears…and you throw me a line…and pull me in…I regain my strength…by the touch of your skin…long, hard time coming.” No matter what the world throws at him, Thorbjorn knows that time spent in the arms of the one he loves will see him through.

Keyboards, along with a heavy bass line, provide the intro to our next cut, “Long Gone.” We find Thorbjorn contemplating the fact that it’s time to hit the road again to find what life has in store for him, “I’ll be long gone when the wolves start howling at the moon.” Leaving saddens him, but the time has come and he must move on. A busy guitar solo leads us into “Hold My Lover Tight,” with Thorbjorn aware of the love he needs to see him through the tough times. “And when I’m weary…when the blues come crawling in…that’s when I’m going to hold my lover tight.” The song has an interesting Euro-blues vibe for lack of a better way to say it, and it’s obvious this Danish bluesman is at the top of his game. “Fifteen years of trouble…fifteen years of dark...once there was a fire...and now’s there’s only smoke...but down below the ashes…there’s a spark that burns in my soul…maybe it’s alright….maybe if we hold on…save a little bit of my loving stuff.”

I love this verse from Thorbjorn’s next track, “Maybe It’s Alright,” and it’s very cool to hear that the first still burns deep within his soul, encouraging him to persevere and share his talents with the world. He segues to a simpler track, “Train,” and I appreciate the change to an acoustic-based intro from Thorbjorn. “In the morning….rain keeps falling…I’ve got 100 miles left to go…my restless soul keeps searching…hear that lonesome whistle blow…down the same old track I’ve been riding…this old train’s going to bring me back.” Whether he makes it to the promised land or not, Thorbjorn is hoping he’s on his way home.  Horns blow a mournful intro to our next track, “Lay My Burden Down,” and the intro is very solemn and proper. “Pour me a drink…let my dreamboat sink…my love…an illusion…just a broken old dream…so, let me down easy…find me a shelter…where I can lay my burden down.” Thorbjorn’s lost a love that meant the world to him and he needs to let it go and relieve himself of the guilt he’s carried for far too long.

“City of Love” is the closing track on this album from Thorbjorn and the Black Tornado, and it finds Thorbjorn ready to leave this earth and go home for good. “I’m going to lay down my worries…in a city of love…I’ve been holding on…but I can’t hold on too long…there’s a better place…in the city of love.”

Thorbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado have been together for over 14 years and it shows in every aspect of their new disc, Change My Game. Thorbjorn has one of the strongest singing voices I’ve ever heard (reminiscent of William Topley), and to have an arsenal of talent behind him, with everything from keys to saxophones, to horns, is just a dream combination. I’d love to see Thorbjorn and the band here in the States at some point, but Change My Game will have to hold me in check until then. The band’s website is, and I highly encourage you to grab a copy of Change My Game when you visit the site. Thorbjorn Risager is easily one of the finest contemporary blues artists we have in the world today, and his record will prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

--- Kyle Deibler

Elvin BishopYou’ve got to admire the enthusiastic way that Elvin Bishop embraces life. Noodling around in his home studio one day with Bob Welsh, guitarist/pianist extraordinaire from his band, and vocalist/percussionist Willy Jordan on the cajon, they developed a full band sound with the trio that appealed to everyone involved. Next thing you know, they’re recording Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio for Alligator Records, and it’s just a delightful disc to throw in the CD player.

The trio opens with “Keep on Rollin’” and Elvin’s got it down here. “People…we got a problem…it’s the politics…not enough Richards…and too many Dicks…you know damn well…the system isn’t working…when you can’t tell the difference…between your Congress…and a circus…don’t let the bastards get you down…keep on rollin’.” There’s absolutely nothing that I can add to Elvin’s logic here…he’s summed up the situation better than I ever will be able to. They move on to “Honey Babe” and Elvin and Willy are sharing the vocals here. “Honey, babe…what can I do for you…well, I’ll do anything that you want me to.” The object of Elvin’s affection has definitely caught his eye and he’s amicable to most anything she might suggest to win her affection.

Welsh’s piano provides the intro for “It’s You, Baby” and Kim Wilson adds harp to the mix as Willy proclaims his love for the woman in question. “Yes, it’s you…caused me to leave my happy home…honey, you know I love you baby…but I’m going to go and let you head on.” Willy had a change of heart and it was best to just walk away and let her go. “Ace in the Hole” is our next track and Elvin is espousing the wisdom of hanging on to a good woman. “You drank up the groceries…now you’re working on the rent…going to go home and try…to tell her about that money you spent…ee, oh…now don’t it make you wish you held on to that ace in the hole.” Keeping your woman happy and in your corner is a much preferred alternative to facing her wrath and getting kicked out the door for misbehaving.

“Let’s Go” finds Elvin and the boys out in the club, admiring all of the female beauty in the room. “Boys checking out the girls…girls checking out the boys….let’s go get us a drink and make some noise.” Elvin also offers this pearl of advice to his compatriots, “Picking chicks is kind of tricky…yeah, when it gets around closing time…you won’t be so picky.” There’s more truth in the comment than any of them care to admit but they’re old enough to live with the choices they make. Rick Estrin lends his harp to the trio’s next tune, “Delta Lowdown,” and I love the old school feel of this tune. It’s a contagious instrumental and I’m enjoying the brief respite from all of the debauchery that has ensued so far.

Up next is a cover of the Bobby Womack classic, “It’s All Over Now,” and Willy is back at the mic. “She put me was a pity how I cried…now I used to love her…but it’s all over now.” Charlie Musselwhite is the third guest on the record and he lends both harp & vocals to the mix on a tune he and Elvin wrote, “100 Years of Blues”. “We’ve been playing this music a long time…and I’ll tell you folks the truth…between the two of us…you’re looking at 100 years of Blues.” Elvin’s right, he & Charlie have 100 years of the Blues between them and despite all the hard living in the early days; they’re still here to share their songs and talents with us. “Let the Four Winds Blow” is our next track and Elvin plays some killer slide on this cut as Willy sings, “Yea, you pretty little girl…you’re rocking my world…you’re so fine baby…I wish you were mine, baby…don’t you be afraid, baby…listen to what I say…let the four winds blow…let them blow… them blow…from the east to the west…I love you best.” Willy is definitely more lover than fighter with a bit of silver tongue to boot.

The trio generates an interesting sound with Bob Welsh playing bass on his guitar and Willy’s cajon opening up all kinds of possibilities. “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About” finds them on the road; exploring all of the culinary delights available to them depending on the town they’re in. “Well, we could go over to Miss Helen’s restaurant…soul food’s good and that ain’t all…they got an autographed picture of B.B. King…up on the wall…Willy takes over the mic to tell us what Miss Helen serves…let me tell you what they got…ox tails…smoked steak…candied yams and greens…short ribs and cornbread…and a side of black-eyed peas…oooh wee.” Something tells me these three have a favorite restaurant in every town they happen to have a gig in.

Willy’s soulful voice fills my ears as he tackles the vocal on the next track, “Can’t Take No More.” “You know…I took enough from you to make a dog cry…can’t take no more…so baby, bye bye.” Willy loved this woman, but she treated him wrong and she has to go. “Southside Slide” is the last track on the disc and, of course, Elvin’s guitar is front and center. It’s another great instrumental and a fitting way to end this disc.

At a time when most artists stop learning and growing, Elvin Bishop manages to retain that endless wonderment of his youth and teach the old dog that he is some new tricks. Bob Welsh and Willy Jordan contribute their unique talents to the mix, and the way they manage to create a full band sound as a trio is a delight that has to be heard to be believed. Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio reflects the unique mix of abilities and personalities that kept me entertained throughout. The disc is available on Elvin’s website at, and the trio will be touring behind the record this summer. Wherever they’ll be playing this summer, one thing’s for sure --- it will be a party and we’re all invited.

--- Kyle Deibler

John MayallFor many years, John Mayall has been regarded as the Godfather of British Blues. His band has served as a launching pad for a Hall of Fame list of musicians, beginning with guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Walter Trout, Harvey Mandel, Coco Montoya, and Mick Taylor and continuing with musical legends John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Jack Bruce, just to name a few. Having recently turned 83, Mayall maintains a recording and touring schedule that would exhaust a man 30 years younger.

Talk About That (Forty Below Records) is Mayall’s third new album in four years, and in addition to his regular four-piece band (Mayall – vocals, keyboards, harmonica, guitar, Greg Rzab – bass, Jay Davenport – drums, Rocky Athas – guitar), the iconic blues man also incorporates a three-piece horn section (Ron Dziubla – tenor/baritone saxes, Mark Pender – trumpet, Nick Lane – trombone), plus another Hall of Famer, guitarist Joe Walsh.

Walsh provides his usually stellar guitar work on two tracks, both penned by Mayall: the topical “The Devil Must Be Laughing” and the sizzling “Cards On The Table.” Mayall wrote eight of the 11 tracks and they’re a particularly strong set, with the feisty title track serving as opening cut, the Crescent City-flavored “Give Me Some Of That Gumbo,” one of several tracks to feature horns, the moody and soulful “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You,” and the spirited romp “Across The County Line.”

Other originals include the funky “Blue Midnight” and the low-key and reflective “You Never Know,” the jazzy piano-driven number that closes the disc. Mayall also offers up three tasty covers, a faithful reading of Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby,” Bettye Crutcher’s sage “It’s Hard Going Up,” and a rollicking take on Jerry L. Williams’ “Don’t Deny Me.”

Talk About That marks the last recordings with Mayall and his quartet (Rocky Athas has decided to pursue his solo career), and Mayall is currently touring with Rzab and Davenport as a trio. Believe it or not, this is John Mayall’s 66th album release in a 50+year career, and this new release shows that the venerable blues man still has plenty to say and plenty left in the tank.

--- Graham Clarke

IBC albumSince 1984, the Blues Foundation has hosted the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, an opportunity for new or up-and-coming blues acts around the world to put their talents on display. Since its inception, it has become the world’s largest annual gathering of blues musicians and blues fans all united in their love and support of this great music.

Many winners have gone on to have success in the industry: Larry Garner (1988), John Weston (1989), Richard Johnston (2001), Delta Moon (2003), Zac Harmon (2004), Diunna Greenleaf (2005), Trampled Under Foot (2008), Grady Champion (2010), Mr. Sipp (2015), and Eddie Cotton (2015) have all taken home the top award in the Band Division, while winners in the Solo/Duo category have included Little Toby Walker (2002), Fiona Boyes (2003), Eden Brent (2006), Little G Weevil (2013), Tim Williams (2014), and Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons (2016).

In 2016, the IBC featured a whopping 257 acts, with The Delgado Brothers taking home the Band award and Hunter & Seamons winning the Solo/Duo honors. Recently, The Blues Foundation, in conjunction with Frank Roszak Productions, has issued a collection, International Blues Challenge #32, that captures the talents of nine of the acts featured. This is a fantastic opportunity for blues fans to check out some of the new talent that’s emerged on the blues scene in recent years.

The Paul Deslauriers Band finished second in the Band Division in 2016, and their rough and ready “I’m Your Man” kicks off this sampler. Innervision placed second in the Solo/Duo competition and their rocker “Hound Dog” is a sweet little rock n’ roller, while Sonny Moorman’s “You Make All My Blues Come True” is a solo acoustic track with some fine Delta-based slide guitar work.

The Norman Jackson Band’s “Norman’s Blues” mixes blues with funk and features a sizzling sax break. Trey Johnson & Jason Willmon offer “When The Money Runs Out,” an amusing acoustic guitar/harp romp, and the Hector Anchondo Band presents “Tall Glass of Whiskey” a steady rolling blues rocker. Next up is Bing Futch, the winner of the Best Solo Guitar award in 2016, whose offering, the splendid slow blues “Drinkin’ and Drivin’ Blues” puts his talents on full display.

Dave Muskett advanced to the finals in the Solo/Duo category in 2016, but he’s represented by the smoking-hot band track, “Can’t Move On,” which features superlative guitar. The album closes with the 2016 Solo/Duo winners, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, performing their marvelous “Black Sheep Moan.”

The nine acts featured offer a pretty far-reaching and diverse set of blues. Whatever brand of blues you prefer, you’ll get a taste of it here. Hopefully, this compilation is just the beginning and blues fans can expect to see one of these volumes on an annual basis. It’s a great opportunity to hear a wide variety of future stars in the blues world.

--- Graham Clarke

Marie Trout bookMarie Trout, PhD is the wife of blues rock guitarist Walter Trout. She’s lived the blues through and through, not only serving as Trout’s manager for many years, but also watching her husband narrowly escape death from liver failure by receiving a liver transplant at nearly the last possible minute. During her husband’s illness and recovery, Dr. Trout began a research project to try and gain an understanding about the role of blues music to its current audience, how it shapes their lives, and how it manages to construct such a strong and loyal community of fans.

Those findings have been collected in her book The Blues – Why It Still Hurts So Good. As part of her research, Dr. Trout surveyed over 1,000 blues fans and interviewed fans, musicians, and industry professionals. Their recollections, thoughts, and experiences are combined with Dr. Trout’s own experiences and research. As she and her husband struggled to deal with his illness, they both became profoundly aware of the blues community --- the network of fans, fellow artists, and industry people who offered their support, their prayers, their love and their compassion.

Any true blues fan can tell you about the network of blues fans throughout the world and the kinship that they feel with people of different races, from different countries, from different cultures via their love for this music. Many of them may not understand the reasons why such a bond would exist, but Dr. Trout goes a long way toward explaining the power of blues music in this book.

Dr. Trout’s study is divided into four parts.: The first part explores the modern blues, and how it serves as entertainment, an emotional release, and even a spiritual potion for listeners today. Part two explores why baby boomers (the largest portion of blues fans today) are so drawn to this music. The third and fourth parts examine the transformative nature and healing powers of the blues and how the music becomes such a vital part of blues fans’ existence.

As a fan of the blues for over 30 years, I’ve marveled many times at the bond between blues fans. At the beginning of my admiration for the music, I only knew a handful of people who also listened, but over the years, I’ve been amazed at the number of people I’ve known and the ones I’ve met who love the music as much, even more, than I do. It made me wonder what it was about the music that put such a wide variety of people under its spell.

Many of the things that I read in Dr. Trout’s book made me nod my head in agreement, but there were others that had never occurred to me, even considering the thought I had put into it over time. I really enjoyed how she combined the academic aspects of the study with the personal reflections from fans, artists, and even the Trouts’ own perspective. This is a very interesting and revealing book that will be of interest to any blues fan who has wondered why they’re drawn to this music.

--- Graham Clarke

Lisa BialesThe inspiration for Lisa Biales’ latest release, The Beat of My Heart (Big Song Music), came from the singer’s discovery of a 78 record that her late mother, Alberta Roberts, had recorded back in 1947. The song on the record was “Crying Over You,” and Biales, who had no idea that her mother had embarked on a short-lived recording career, knew that the song had to be on her next project.

Biales has a reputation as a gifted songwriter, but on this latest release, she focuses on interpreting the songs of several familiar composers, enlisting a talented group of musicians (Tony Braunagel – drums/producer, Johnny Lee Schell – guitar, Paul Brown – guitar, Chuck Berghofer, Larry Taylor, and Larry Fulcher – bass, Jim Pugh – keys, Joe Sublett – sax, Darrell Leonard – trumpet) providing first-rate backing.

Of course, “Crying Over You” is the centerpiece of the album and Biales used the original recording of her mother singing the first verse and the resulting collaboration between the two is simply marvelous. The remainder of the album finds Biales capably handling a variety of vocal styles, from a dazzling read of Mabel Scott’s “Disgusted,” to a spirited version of Linda Lyndell’s ’60s soul classic, “What A Man” to a funky take on the Betty Harris hit, “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” to Fats Waller’s slow burner “Messin’ Around With The Blues.”

Biales also includes a smoky cover of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband,” ventures toward the jazz side of the aisle with Henry Glover’s “Wild Stage of Life,” Lil Green’s “Romance In The Dark,” Brenda Burns’ “Brotherly Love,” and a wonderful calming take on Eric Bibb’s “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down.” Carrie Newcomer’s “I Should Have Known Better” blends jazz and Americana, and Biales’ inspired “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” will light your fire even if your wood is wet.

The Beat of My Heart finds Lisa Biales working her vocal magic with a variety of musical styles from blues to jazz to gospel to pop. The results prove that she is one of the finest vocalists currently practicing, whatever the genre.

--- Graham Clarke

Reverend FreakchildDuring his 2016 summer tour, the Reverend Freakchild had the misfortune of getting all of his guitars and gear stolen while in San Francisco. Undaunted, the tour continued toward the Pacific Northwest, and good fortune followed the bad fortune, as is usually the case, when the Reverend was able to bring back a collection of live-in-the-studio performances which were taped at radio station KBOO in Portland, Oregon.

Preachin’ Blues ( captures eight tunes, mostly covers of vintage spiritual blues tunes, along with snippets of his sermonizing and philosophizing mixed in-between. The set list will be familiar to most fans of old timey gospel blues, Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” Son House’s “Preachin’ Blues,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” and the traditionals “In My Time of Dyin’” and “Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down.”

Longtime listeners to the Freakchild will not be surprised at the inclusion of Prince’s “Kiss” to this set. The Reverend has proven over time to be able to rework classic tunes from other genres into his repertoire. He also performs his own, “All I Got Is Now,” the track that has served as his spiritual anthem over his past few releases (and was a huge part of his last release, Illogical Optimism). He opens the set with a gently rolling instrumental, “Breathing Blues,” that really sets the table well.

Between tracks, the Reverend shares much of his philosophy and gives advice on how to live life and his musings and banter actually works well between the songs. There’s also an accompanying pdf file on the disc, an essay that expands on his philosophy called “Transcendence through Music: Buddha and the Blues” that actually reads better than the title would indicate.

Closing the disc is what you might call a bonus track, an enthusiastic a cappella reading of Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” which was recorded during a Freakchild performance at the Yorckschloessch Blues and Jazz Club in Berlin in 2013.

I have to admit that when I first heard Reverend Freakchild a few years back, I wasn’t really sure what to make of him. Now, when I see a new release from him, I can’t wait to give it a spin. It’s always interesting, occasionally amusing, and endlessly entertaining fare --- every time out.

--- Graham Clarke

John GintyKeyboardist John Ginty has a pretty impressive musical résumé, having backed Jewel, the Dixie Chicks, Santana, Citizen Cope, and Robert Randolph either on tour or in the studio. He’s also released three solo albums, with his last album, No Filter, earing RMR Charts Top Blues Rock Album of the Year honors. Recently, Ginty’s band was performing at Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar. Opening that night was a local singer named Aster Pheonyx, who was so impressive that Ginty invited her to sing with the band, subsequently asking her to join the band as lead vocalist.

Ginty’s fourth disc, Rockers (American Showplace Music), includes ten songs co-written by Ginty and Pheonyx. The vocalist does seem to share an amazing chemistry with Ginty and the band, with her sultry, blues-soaked vocals. “Lucky 13” is the first vocal track out of the gate and she really tears it this steamy blues rocker with an urgent, barely harnessed power. The funky “Believe In Smoke” and “Target On The Ground,” which has a gospel/soul feel are keepers as well.

Speaking of soul, the standout “Mountains Have My Name” is where the pieces really fall into place. Pheonyx’s vocals are at their best on this track and Ginty’s soaring keyboards and piano lift this track to the next level. “Mr. Blues” is a dynamic rocker and “Priscilla” is a smoky story-ballad that proves Pheonyx can be as tender as she is tough, as does the seductive “Maybe If You Catch Me.”

The disc is bookended by a pair of sharp organ-driven instrumentals (“The Shark” and the title track) that showcase the band. The mainstays are Ginty (Hammond B3/ piano/ keyboards, Justine Gardner (bass), Maurice “Moe” Watson drums, background vocals), and Mike Buckman (guitar), with guests Jimmy Bennett (guitar), Paul Gerdts (background vocals), Josh Gannet (guitar, percussion, backwoods), Paul Kuzik (bass), and Reggie Noble (“DJ” on the skit “WKYA”).

Rockers is a fantastic look at one of the most underrated bands currently playing. In Aster Pheonyx, John Ginty has found the perfect, final piece to the puzzle, and hopefully, their musical partnership will continue to produce excellent albums such as this one.

--- Graham Clarke

Michael HornbuckleDenver-based blues rocker Michael Hornbuckle has been been entertaining Mile High City blues fans for over 20 years, beginning as a drummer in his father, the late Denver blues legend Bobby Hornbuckle’s band. After his father’s passing in 1996, the younger Hornbuckle took over the band, and his father’s guitar. Since then, he’s played with Vince Converse, released several albums of his own, won two awards at the 2015 Mile High Blues Society Awards, also representing the society in the 2016 I.B.C.

Soul Repo opens with “Sweat,” a slippery blues rocker that kicks things off in fine fashion, Hornbuckle hits home with the hypnotic and soulful “Baby Rock,” “Me & Melody,” a sharp uptempo track that flirts with pop, and the funky “One Night.” “Rising Sun” is a lovely slow dance ballad, and the somber “Candle For Mary” encourages those who have lost loved ones to carry on.

“Hit Me Up” is a delicious slice of country blues with guest Lionel Young on fiddle, and “Wishing Well” similarly veers toward the country side, although with more of a southern rock feel. “Angel” is a deep soul burner with a great Hornbuckle vocal and some splendid guitar work. The hard driving title track is one of two live tracks on the disc. the other being the fine blues shuffle, “Backseat,” which closes the disc.

Hornbuckle (guitar/bass) gets able assistance from an excellent assembly, including Young (fiddle), Andras (AC) Csapo (harmonica/keys), Alexander Baker (keys), Desmond Washington (drums/keys), brother Brian Hornbuckle (bass), Jeff Andrews (bass), Dave Fox (drums), Dusty Lee (lead guitar), and Sarah Snead (backing vocals).

Soul Repo is a standout set of blues, rock, and soul with memorable songs and performances from Hornbuckle, who is an artist that’s definitely deserving of more attention.

--- Graham Clarke

Beth GarnerTexas native Beth Garner was a regular on the Austin music scene for a few years before relocating to Tennessee about ten years ago. She began playing guitar at various locations in Nashville, mostly in country venues, and developing a fan base. She returned to her first love, the blues, in 2015, recording the seven songs that make up her latest album, Snake Farm (The Music of Nashville).

Garner is a first-rate guitarist, whether on standard or slide guitar, and a vocalist with a lot of soul. She wrote or co-wrote six of the seven tracks (Ray Wylie Hubbard’s title track is the lone cover) and gets steady and solid support from her backing band (Rory Hoffman – baritone sax/keys/rhythm guitar, Wes Little – drums/percussion, Steve Forrest – bass, Angela Primm and Gale Mayes – background vocals).

The opener, “Alright By Me,” is a funky R&B-styled blues with a nice pair of guitar runs from Garner. “Backroads Freddie” is a catchy blues rocker that displays Garner’s Texas blues roots, and the somber “Drop Down” is a Delta-flavored gospel blues with fine backing vocals. “Used To Be” is a slide-driven shuffle about times and lovers gone by.

“Ramblin’ Man” mixes R&B, funk, and southern rock and should get toes tapping, and “Wish I Was” is a modern-day blues with Chicago leanings with a really cool fast-paced rhythm. I really like Garner’s swampy interpretation of the title track, especially her slightly uncomfortable vocal.

Snake Farm is a very enjoyable and entertaining listen. The only problem is that there’s not enough of it at only 26 minutes. However, it will leave you eagerly awaiting Beth Garner’s next release.

--- Graham Clarke

Kathy and the KilowattsKathy & the Kilowatts are another reason why Austin, Texas is known as the Live Music Capital of the World. The charismatic Kathy Murray fronts the band and has been on the Austin music scene since the ’80s, playing with SRV, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, W.C. Clark, Doyle Bramhall, Sr., and others, taking her place among the amazing list of Austin blues women in the process.

Murray’s vocal style (described by one critic as “the love child of Jimmy Reed and Wanda Jackson”) combined with the instrumental might of guitarist/husband Bill “Monster” Jones and the Kilowatts, makes for a powerful mix, as heard on the band’s latest release, Let’s Do This Thing (Lectro Fine Records).

Loaded with 15 pulse-pounding tracks, Murray and the band run through the gamut of Texas blues and roots music. If you like any of the bands mentioned above, you will love this CD. Murray’s distinctive vocal style blends country and blues in a unique manner, and she’s comfortable in whatever style the band plays. The title track, “Talking Out My Head,” “Love Came Knocking,” and “Spell It Out” will sit well with T-Bird fans, thanks to some tasty fretwork from Jones, and “Read ‘Em & Weep,” “Call Me Mrs. Blues,” and “One Lie Leads To Another” lean more toward the classic Texas blues sound.

Tracks like “Your Barn Door’s Open,” “Loveaholic,” and “Exception To The Rule” effortlessly mix country with old school rock n’ roll, and “10 Most Wanted,” “Beautiful Moments,” and “Each Kiss” lean toward the Gulf Coast R&B side of the aisle. The quiet acoustic ballad, “I Want To,” is a change of pace on the album, and really allows Murray to show her vocal talents.

A powerful set of blues, Let’s Do This Thing should find a spot in any blues fan’s collection, especially those who dig blues from the Lone Star State.

--- Graham Clarke

Patty ReeseBased in the mid-Atlantic area, Patty Reese has won 17 Washington Area Music Association awards over her career (WAMMIES), including Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Root Rock Vocalist. She has a voice tailor-made for the blues, mixing power, grit, and passion with a whole lot of steamy soul. All of that is on full display on Reese’s newest album, Let In The Sun (Azalea City Recordings).

The new album features nine originals, written or co-written by Reese, plus two tasty covers of songs from Bob Dylan and Steve Earle that the singer makes her own. The songs run the gamut of blues and roots styles, and Reese proves quickly that she’s comfortable in a variety of settings. Backed by a rock-solid band (Jonathan Sloane – guitar, Sonny Petrosky – bass, Andy Hamburger – drums, Tommy Lepson – keys), Reese really gets a chance to strut her stuff.

The opener, “Is It Too Late For Me,” sets the pace with a swampy blues groove and a nice turn on slide guitar from Sloane, and “Your Love” settles into a mean Texas-style shuffle. The funky “Soul Satisfier” lives up to its title with a punchy horn section moving things along, “I Won’t Let You Down” is a sultry torch song that proves Reese can be tender as well as tough, and the swinging gospel flavor of the title track is guaranteed to put a hop in your step.

“Good Neighbor” is a rocking blues shuffle with some crisp guitar work from Sloane, and “Radio Song” has a retro feel to it with slide guitar that will remind listeners of Bonnie Raitt. The second line rhythms of “Awesome Sauce” dare listeners to sit still, and “I Hear A Lie” blends country with the blues effectively. Coverwise, Reese goes the soulful route with Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright," one of the best covers of this song I’ve heard, and a tender reading of Earle’s “Goodbye” appropriately closes the disc.
A savvy and versatile vocalist, Patty Reese certainly deserves to be heard, and Let In The Sun is just the place to get started.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave FieldsIf you’re not familiar with Dave Fields’ body of work, his latest release, Unleashed, is as complete a picture of this outstanding blues guitarist as you’ll find. This 14-track set is evenly divided between live and studio cuts, all designed to give new listeners an idea of Fields’ talents and to give his fans a great representative set of said talents. For newcomers, Fields is the total package --- a skilled songsmith, a fiery soulful singer, and a guitarist with few peers.

The live cuts are all impressive, beginning with the jazzy opening instrumental, “Anticipating You,” which finds Fields playing some stinging lead guitar over a smooth and steady groove. The guitarist also acknowledges his influences with an out-of-this-world interpretation of Freddie King’s “Going Down,” and a tip of the hat to Jimi Hendrix on the guitar legend’s “Hey Joe” and “Star Spangled Banner.” “Better Be Good” is a crunching rocker, and “Pocket Full of Dust” is a fine slow burner with a nice turn on vocals and guitar from Fields. The last live track is a bluegrass-on-steroids instrumental romp, “L.E.S. Hoedown.”

On the studio tracks, Fields wrote the poignant, but defiant “Child Of The World” soon after the Paris terrorist attacks. The humorous “My Mama’s Got The Blues” lightens things up a bit, and “The Boy Wants To Play” mixes blues with funk and rock. The two-part “Jagged Line” offers blues lyrics (from Fields’ own background) over a fierce rocking backdrop --- modern blues at its finest. “How Am I Doing” is a straight rocker, and “New York City Nights,” on which Fields plays every instrument except for violin (ably handled by Gary Oleyar), has a slick jazzy feel.

In addition to Oleyar, Fields is backed by Kenny Soule (drums), Buddy Allen (bass), Van Romaine (drums), Chris Tristrarn (bass), Vladimir Barsky (keys), Lisa Sherman (vocals), Sam Bryant (drums), Andy Huenerberg (bass), Juan Pertuz (percussion), Eric Boyd (bass), Dave Moore (drums), and J.T. Lauritsen (harmonica).

As stated, Unleashed serves as an excellent summary of Dave Fields’ musical vision and his talents as a musician, singer, and composer. If Fields is not already on your radar screen, this disc should put him there.

--- Graham Clarke

David M'orePassion, Soul & Fire is a meaty, rough and tumble blues rocker from Argentinian-born blues guitarist David M’ore. Rarely has an album title so appropriately fit the material included within: eleven powerhouse tracks that give M’ore and his band (Wade Olson – drums, David De Silva – bass) plenty of opportunity to acknowledge their musical influences, an impressive lot which range from Richie Blackmore to Johnny Winter to Jimi Hendrix to Albert King.

The opener, “The Devil’s Land,” is a fiery Texas-styled blues rocker that will remind listeners of SRV, at least on the guitar. M’ore’s vocals, on the other hand, are a gravelly, roof-rattling mix of Howlin’ Wolf and Charley Patton. “Love Again” is a power ballad (emphasis on “power”), and “Stronger Than I Realized” is a moody rocker that’s on the progressive side --- maybe a bit on the Robin Trower side. Next up is “Johann Sebastian Blues,” a strong instrumental that recalls classic late ’60s/early ’70s blues rock.

“You Said You Love Me” is an exquisite 10-minute-plus slow blues with M’ore laying down some of his finest fretwork on this track, and his world weary vocal is a plus here, too. “Sweet Little Baby” starts with a gentle country blues acoustic run, but quickly transforms into a driving rocker/guitar clinic. “The 12 Song” is a sizzling shuffle and “Cold Blooded” is an atmospheric Southern rocker. “Every Time I Think Of You” finds M’ore pulling out all the stops, both vocally and instrumentally.

“Funky It Up” is a fierce instrumental that lives up to its name, and “Liar” revisits the Texas shuffle style with more splendid guitar work. The closer is the album’s lone cover, and actually wasn’t intended intended for release. M’ore and the band recorded Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” live in the studio at the end of one of their recording sessions and the performance matches the album title so well that it had to be included in the final product.

Passion, Soul & Fire is definitely a release that blues rock fans shouldn’t let slip between their fingers. David M’ore’s guitar skills are out of this world and so are his vocals.

--- Graham Clarke

John LatiniJohn Latini has won the Detroit Blues Challenge three times as a solo act. He’s also an award-winning songwriter and film music composer. A native of Queens, he has made Michigan his home for many years and is highly regarded as a powerful singer, versatile guitarist, and talented songwriter, whether performing solo or with his band, the Flying Latini Brothers.

The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good (Smokin’ Sleddog Record) is his first full-length blues album, and all of the aforementioned talents are on full display. Latini has a rugged growl of a vocal style that has a warm quality. His guitar playing is smooth and bluesy, and he penned all but two of the 13 tracks, which range from slick urban blues to rural blues to jazzy blues and soul.

“Black Eyed Blues” is a slow grooving rocker that will work its way into your system and get your feet moving. “Lord Made Me A Weak Man” has a soul/R&B flair with Neil Donato’s B3 providing fine support, and “Three AM” has an urban feel and gives Latini some space for a couple of great slide guitar runs. The countrified “Woodchuck Blues” follows, then the southern fried “Pull Me Up,” and the swampy “Rutabaga Cheesecake,” surely a contender for Song Title of the Year, will remind listeners a bit of John Fogerty and Creedance Clearwater Revival.

The title track is autobiographical, as might be expected, and Latini does a fine job with this one, backed by a tight horn section and rhythmic backdrop that sounds a lot like the Crescent City. “Broken Man” oozes soul and the blues with its steady groove and Latini’s gravelly vocal, and the rootsy “My Town’s Got A River And A Train” is a tune about Latini’s adopted hometown of Ypsilanti. “Gotta Have My Babies” is a rocking blues shuffle and “Too Good To Be True” is a jazzy after-hours tune.

The sturdy “Hard Walkin’ Woman” has that Jimmy Reed beat going, with the horns adding an extra level of enjoyment, and the closer, “I Will Be Haunting You,” is a stripped down country blues that showcases Latini’s guitar and voice.

An excellent, well-crafted release, The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good will definitely make blues fans feel good. I have a feeling we will be hearing much more from the talented Mr. Latini.

--- Graham Clarke

Tom Craig and Soul PatchTom Craig and Soul Patch represented the Central Delaware Blues Society in this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Craig is a singer/songwriter/guitarist originally influenced by jazz vocalists like Torme, Sinatra, and Fitzgerald before moving to the classic soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s and the blues of Muddy Waters, SRV and the Three Kings (B.B., Albert, and Freddie). Craig is backed by Soul Patch (John O’Connell – drums, Rando Branning – bass, Eric Johnson – organ, Vince Gleason – tenor sax, and Skyler Hagner – baritone sax).

The band’s debut release, Get Ready For Me, was released about a month before this year’s IBC and it’s a solid set of 12 original tunes, all written by Craig, who proves to be a versatile vocalist whose savvy mix of jazz, soul, and the blues is very effective, and a guitarist with a firm grasp of traditional and contemporary blues guitar. Soul Patch provides potent backing, with additional musicians Mark Gallagher (baritone sax), Dave Gross (bass/backing vocals) and Mikey Jr. (harmonica/backing vocals) contributing as well.

There’s a cool, laidback vibe to these tracks, beginning with the funky opener, “Louita,” to the horn-fueled soul burner “How Did I Break The Rules” to the bluesy title track. “Can’t Stop Thinking About You” has a jazzy feel to it and “She Did It To Me (She’ll Do It To You)” is a smoky after-hours cautionary tale. “Ballroom Dancer” is a fun change of pace about a brief romantic encounter told over a cha-cha beat, and “Captain Funk” is, well, incredibly funky.

“Please Forgive Me Baby” is a blues ballad that features Craig’s soulful vocals and some of the best guitar work on the disc (with nice backing from Johnson on organ), and the up-tempo “Tornado” mixes rock and funk. The swinging “I Can’t Help Myself” is a keeper, too, as is “Nothing That A Man Can’t Do,” a high-speed R&B stepper. The disc closes with “Every Woman,” a deep soul ballad with another fine vocal turn from Craig.

Get Ready For Me is a great set of sophisticated blues and R&B. I really dig the interplay between Craig’s vocals and guitar with the band. Everything meshes very well together and should make for rewarding listening for any blues fans who like their blues on the cool, jazzy side.

--- Graham Clarke




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