Blues Bytes

May 2002

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What's New

Jimmy DawkinsLet me be clear right from the start: Jimmy Dawkins' latest album, his first for the New York-based Fedora label, titled West Side Guitar Hero, is an excellent release and should be placed near the top of your "Must buy" list. Furthermore, I believe that my telling you so is worth something by virtue of the fact that I tend to prefer acoustic blues albums. No, that doesn't mean Dawkins has suddenly turned acoustic!  You see, tastes are a highly personal matter. For example, I believe that most modern electric blues albums have a much too high blues-rock content to be worth much blues-wise (although I can easily see why guitar freaks like them --- again, it's all personal tastes), and generally speaking, 80% of these "modern" blues records (I use "modern" in brackets because white rock musicians, notably English ones, were basically using the same recipe 30 years ago) would be vastly better (again, to my tastes) if I could edit out their usually too-long guitar solos. And yet, in spite of what I've just said, I believe that Dawkins, one of the founders of the West Side sound with Otis Rush and Magic Sam, has come up with a great release, certainly one of the best in his 30-plus year career. Dawkins has a very sharp (even slashing, machete-like) guitar style and he never backs away from a good manly guitar solo, but he's somehow remained impervious to the blues-rock influences of the last 10 or 15 years. This is 1970-75 electric blues guitar at its best, and yet it was recorded in late 2001. You know the recording is not vintage because of the crispness of the sound (the bass, for example, is clearly audible throughout) and because "So Wurrid" (one of the numerous "alternative spellings" favored by Dawkins), a gospel-like sermon on the aftermath of the September 11th events, betrays its creation date. And yet, this record comes as close to a time-travel capsule as any I've heard in many months. There is a small sprinkling of proto-funk here and there, the walking bass lines are entrancing, Dawkins sings from the heart and soul (all songs were basically improvised in the studio), rhythm guitarist Frank Goldwasser never tries to steal the spotlight, and the few solos taken by organist John Suhr elevate the proceedings to lofty heights. Yes, this is what electric Chicago blues should sound like. Expect to find this record in my best-of-the-year selections.

Fedora has also just posthumously released a second album by St. Louis guitarist Tommy Bankhead, titled Please Accept my Love. Recorded in September 2000, just three months before the artist's death from severe emphysema, this CD is a great illustration of a much older, pre-rockabilly style of blues, when electrification was used to make oneself heard above the din, the guitar basically being played exactly as an acoustic guitar would be. Think Lowell Fulson, or maybe Lightnin' Hopkins. Mr. Bankhead is not a free-form raconteur the way Hopkins was, but his guitar playing is just as spare. As is to be expected, Bankhead's singing voice is a little short-winded and not exactly overpowering, but the delicate accompaniment (notably by second guitarist Frank Goldwasser and pianist Bob Lohr) provided by the musicians gently swing yet never upstage the singer. The music's filigrees are pretty and elaborate, but they are just sturdy enough to support the spider (the singer) and its prey (the listener). The title song (one of two cuts recorded with only vocals and two guitars) is not the BB King classic. In fact, except three tracks (Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues," Little Walter's "Everything Gonna Be Alright" and Chick Willis' "Stoop Down"), the selections here are all original numbers, including a holiday season tune, "Santa's Blue Lover Blues." Of particular note are "Tommy's Story," which ends the disk, a three-minute monologue that helps us fill out the biography of this little known musician, and the atypical "Me & My Oxygen Tank," a circular Hooker-styled talking blues that is Bankhead's most personal statement. Tommy Bankhead has moved on, but this posthumous release is a befitting tribute.

Technically, Balling the Jack: The Birth of the Nu-Blues (from Ocho Records in Great Britain) is not a blues album; you should find it in the "Alternative rock" section of your favorite record retailer. This compilation is nonetheless fascinating and highly entertaining. Its compiler, journalist Joe Cushley (from Mojo magazine), is a big fan of raw, dirty bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker (and, one suspects, of Blind Willie Johnson). He's also in a position to predict a certain return of the blues in the popular tastes, having witnessed the rise of the Fat Possum-inspired groove-in-a-gutter blues experimentations of the 90s. What he set out to do with this record is to show what he means by Nu-Blues --- some trance blues (R.L. Burnside, The North Mississippi Allstars), some rap blues (Chris Thomas King), some bluesy individualists (Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Olu Dara), and all sorts of related artists (or maybe not-so-related at first glance), like the Cowboy Junkies or Diamanda Galas. Unless you're at the vanguard of new musical trends, you're bound to make some happy discoveries. The result is definitely not for blues purists, but should not be dismissed. After all, think of it, if a radio station programmed this type of Nu-Blues, you'd be the first to rave about the regular presence and strong influence of the blues on the waves. Additionally, if young listeners get to discover the blues after getting hooked on this, it would indeed be excellent news.

While we're on the topic of rock with more than a hint of blues, I should also mention that Gov't Mule has released a new album with the unwieldy title of Live Ö With a Little Help from our Friends - Volume 2 (on Evangeline Records, based in the U.K.). Everybody interested in the southern rock/jam band/blues-rock scene knows that the death of bassist Allen Woody dealt a cruel blow to this tightly knit trio. With the band's future still uncertain, this album is a reminder of the great interplay between Woody, guitarist/Duane Allman-reincarnate Warren Haynes and drummer Matt Abts that defined the group at its peak. The album was recorded for the New Year's show at the Roxy in Atlanta in 1998, and features four lengthy cuts (the longest being a 20-minute rendition of Little Feat's "Spanish Moon") that were left off the first volume, plus a fifth bonus track, a cover of Frank Zappa's "Pygmy Twylyte," an outtake from the band's Life Before Insanity album that was recorded live in the studio in only one take. While the solos (especially on slide) of Warren Haynes are the attention-grabber, the ensemble work is notably strong throughout.Guests include The Black Crowes' Marc Ford and Chuck Leavell (who used to play with the Allman Brothers long before Haynes and Woody joined that band) on a rockin' version of Albert King's "The Hunter," while saxophonist Randall Bramblett and funky keyboardist Bernie Worrell join Leavell on the Mule's above-mentioned mammoth take of "Spanish Moon." Must have been a great New Year's party.

Mister Mailman brought me a CD the other day. Measure of a Man is its name, by The Mike Rossi Band (independently released). Having heard nothing from the band and expecting nothing in particular, I played the CD and was very pleasantly surprised. Doing pleasing pop-rock or pop-blues songs in a style that should please fans of Eric Clapton or Bonnie Raitt, Rossi has all the ingredients necessary to make it to radio. He crafts impeccable songs (the sole cover being a rockabilly-tinged version of Jimmy Rogers' "Who's Lovin' You Tonight"), he has a pleasant voice that often recalls that of Stevie Winwood, he can obviously play very good guitar but limits his solos to when it's necessary, preferring to achieve a balanced instrumental approach, and his CD has excellent sound with nice production. In fact, there is only one misstep --- "It's Your Hair" tries too hard to be funny and ends up being annoying after two listens. So who is Mike Rossi? All I could find on the Internet is that he released two blues albums (one of them all covers) with his brother Angelo Rossi under the name of The Rossi Brothers, and the liner notes tell us that he is based in the San Francisco area. This seems to be his first "solo" release, produced by multi-instrumentalist Polo Jones. In other words, a mystery. Which shouldn't stop you. If you like your pop with a blues twist, you'll be satisfied by what Rossi has got to offer. In particular, "Big Hurt," with a touch of Santana to it, is hit material. E-mail to Rossibros@aol.com for more info.) 

--- BenoÓt BriŤre 

Johnny Rawls - Lucky ManJohnny Rawls has been singing for more than 30 years and has toured with the likes of O.V. Wright, Little Johnny Taylor and Z.Z. Hill. After many years and many successes on other people's labels as a singer, producer and writer, Johnny has moved forward and started his own label, Deep South Sound. My first introduction to Johnny Rawls was with the 1994 recording he did with L.C. Luckett for the Rooster Blues label. That release, Can't Sleep At Night, topped the list of my greatest soul/blues albums of the 90s and is still an often played favorite to this day. That album gave us many great tracks. The incredible deep soul track "Can We Talk It Over" has become a classic among deep soul aficionados. After parting company with Luckett and with Rooster Blues, Johnny had four highly-regarded releases on the JSP label, along with producing a handful of other releases. Each of his JSP releases ended up on many top ten lists the years they were released, and their songs formed the basis of his warmly-received live shows. Lucky Man, on his new Deep South Sounds Records, will further showcase his talents and introduce him to an even wider audience. This warm soulful release should find its way to many soul stations, not necessarily limiting him to a blues format. It showcases not only his fine songwriting and soulful vocals, but his hot touring band featuring Eddie Gillespie on drums, James Carson on bass, Paul Murphy on guitar and Tim Campbell on keyboards. Johnny's daughters, Destini and Deanka, sing backup on several of the tracks. Destini is a fine singer, with her own CD released a year or so ago and another on the way for her father's new label. The bulk of the tracks on this release are mid-tempo soul/blues with the noticeable exception of "Picture In A Frame," a deep soul slow burner destined to become a classic in its own right. The album ends with an unaccompanied acoustic country blues tune, "Going Home." What can I say except buy this CD. It really will make you smile, and "Picture" will win you over to the deep soul fan club. Good luck, Johnny, in your new venture.

With basically the same backing as the Johnny Rawls release, the second release on Deep South Sound, I Won't Give Up, gives us a fine new release by the veteran "Stoop Down Man," Chick Willis. His original classic album released in 1971 and the single from that release, "Stoop Down Baby, Let Your Daddy See," sold over three million copies and established Willis as a performer not only here in the U.S. but in Europe and Scandinavia as well. In 1987, Willis began recording for Ichiban Records, that now-defunct label that became a farm club for so many major league performers today. Willis recorded a handful of albums for them and, after their demise, recorded a few more for various labels. His previous release, From The Heart & Soul, appeared on many best of the year lists for 2001. On this release, Johnny Rawls wrote six of the ten tracks (his excellent songwriting is immediately noticeable) and Willis the remaining four. Willis' songs are bluesier than those written by Rawls, and are soulful in their own way. "Hurt Me So" is a good case in point, being quite different than the Rawls-penned tracks and more attuned to the blues purists. Destini Rawls duets with Chick on the excellent "Sweet Woman/Sweet Man." If you are a Chick Willis fan, as I am, this new release is an essential purchase. If you are not a fan, this excellent new release is your opportunity to become one. 

Blues Boy Willie - Back AgainRelease number three on Johnny Rawls' Deep South Sound Records brings us another Ichiban alumni in Blues Boy Willie (Willie McFalls), whose song "Be Who?" was on the Billboard charts for 21 weeks back in 1990. Willie recorded five albums for Ichiban and over the years developed an audience throughout the U.S. through which he travels on a Greyhound bus. He credits much of his songwriting to time spent riding the highway. "Be Who?" was created under these circumstances as was "Love" and "Greyhound Blues" for this latest release, Back Again. The songwriting and overall sound is quite similar to the first two releases on this new label, and the backing musicians are also the same. Destini Rawls duets with Willie on "Down in Texas" and Johnny Rawls joins him on "Tight Jeans." I was impressed with Willie's harmonica playing on the last track, "Blues Boy," a nice instrumental that ends this noteworthy new release. Welcome back Blues Boy Willie.

Mel Waiters has become Malaco/Waldoxy's biggest selling performer on the strength of the recent multi-million selling hit song "Hole In The Wall." It's been quite some time since a single song captured the chitlin' circuit music-buying public the way that one did. This new release, Let Me Show You How To Love, is undoubtedly his finest release to date and one that will most assuredly maintain his status at the top of the charts. The addition of more live musicians this go around is quite apparent even though the opening track, the up tempo "Ice Chest," relies on heavy programming. A fine remake of Johnny Guitar Watson's "A Real Mother For Ya" is modernized but still leans heavily on the original. "What I Had In You" is a Richard Cason-penned slow burner that shows the soulful ballad side of Waiters. "Big Mama" is a tribute to his grandmother and a tune many can relate to. "Show You How To Love Again" has country overtones and is quite palatable. Another fun track is "How Can I Get Next To You" with quotes from songs by Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, Clarence Carter, James Brown and Marvin Gaye. Great Stuff. "He Didn't Take Your Woman" is another slow burner with its eternal message, but alas the programmed percussion detracts from the overall feel. If we had real musicians throughout, this release would have been a killer. Still, it is a great new addition to our listening rotation here and one I do highly recommend.

 --- Alan Shutro

Northern Blues samplerNorthernBlues president Fred Litwin has every right to feel gratified. Since February 2001, his label has radiantly released nine CDs which have received numerous award nominations. Obviously his simple philosophy is being fulfilled. Itís a philosophy that he states in the liner notes ... "All of our CDs have to be outstanding. Thereís no room for anything mediocre." With 14 tracks (including material from upcoming releases) lasting 52 minutes, a 16 page full-color booklet and a list price youíd expect to find at Wal-Mart, this may be "the best damn blues sampler ever!" Its title (and theme) is The Future Of The Blues. The labelís roster consists of nine artists, yet two of them are single-handedly setting the standards for the destiny of the genre. Otis Taylorís haunting voice cuts right through societyís conscience. His sophisticated guitar picking gives acoustic blues a contemporary feel. At the helm of the electric front is Paul Reddick. He and his Sidemen play blazing harp and cutting, crunching guitar with an urban street toughness. Listeners will enjoy all four tunes featured by these forward-thinking artists. Also included is the sweet, silky guitar and super cool voice of Nashville legend Johnny Jones. Rita Chiarelliís three-octave voice oozes with passion and emotion. Harry Manx fuses eastern and western music/culture into his unique brand of country blues played in a pop vein. To picture it, just think what you would get if Cat Stevens ever met the blues. The long lost Toronto Session recordings of traditional icon Archie Edwards are as welcome as finding a treasure chest. At 18, David Jacobs-Strain is one of the best guitarists of his generation. But it's his mighty vocals that will knock you over on this sampler. Boogie-woogie rock and roll with humorous lyrics all too appropriate for our digital age is delivered by Brian Blain. He is backed by the incredible keyboard talent of Professor Piano Scott Cushnie. JW-Jones gets big, fat tone from his west coast jump guitar and extreme energy from his band. Just like shopping at Home Depot or Lowes, there is something here for everyone. If you canít find what you are looking for just wait as it will probably be on the next NorthernBlues offering.  For CDs, booking and information, contact NorthernBlues Music, 225 Sterling Road, Unit 19, Toronto, ON Canada M6R 2B2 or call (866) 540-0003. E-mail: info@northernblues.com, Website: www.northernblues.com.

--- Tim Holek

Muddy Waters. His name alone is prominent as he influenced, well, everyone who picked up a guitar in the mid 50's through the late 60's. From Chuck Berry to Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, Muddy inspired and continues to inspire guitar players all over the world. The Real Folk Blues (Chess/MCA) series features four imperative blues artists: Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. Originally released in 1966 and 1967 as two separate albums, The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, this re-issue catches Muddy Waters' early Chess studio recordings ranging from 1949 through 1954, which were his first electric sessions. With other blues greats contributing to these momentous gatherings such as Willie Dixon, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers and Pee Wee Madison (to name a few), these recordings are pure gold as they capture the unsuspecting legends loose and relaxed in the studio unaware they would leave such a valuable mark on contemporary music. While re-mastered from the original recordings, this is not a flawless album. It is gritty, scratchy and primitive, but that is part of the appeal of each track on this compilation.  The disc commences with the classic "Mannish Boy." Recorded in 1955 it is still unclear who played harmonica (Junior Wells or Little Walter). However, it does feature Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Willie Dixon on bass and Francis Clay on drums. Although Muddy is joined by what is now considered to be "all-star" bands on several cuts, the majority of the anthology features Muddy Waters along with accompaniment of only bass player Ernest "Big" Crawford. The duo perform mainly Muddy Water originals such as "Gypsy Woman," "Rollin' and Tumblin," "Early Morning Blues" and the Robert Johnson standard "Walkin' Blues." Despite the antiquated sound of this set, with all its imperfections, it captures an important period of time which would change music forever and is a must have for all serious blues collectors.

--- Tony Engelhart

If the opening salvo of "Avalanche" on Roy Rogers' latest, Slideways (Evidence), doesn't propel you out of your seat, nothing will. In the liners Rogers says "This sweats from start to finish," and he's not kidding. I caught myself air-guitaring in the kitchen (and man I was rockin'!) while this shook the walls.  Rogers has been the pre-eminent slide player on the scene since he first found an expanded audience with his 1985 Blind Pig debut, "Chops Not Chaps" (also the name of his publishing company). For my money, he really blasted out of the bag with "R&B," his 1991 set with Norton Buffalo. It's not like he was a stranger to appreciative audiences before that, though. He toured with John Lee Hooker for four years (1982-86) and won Grammies for producing Hooker's The Healer and Chill Out.  The 13-song, all-original and all-instrumental powder keg at hand offers the most powerful performances in the guitar maestro's impressive career. Muscular grooves abound. "Smoke & Mirrors," with longtime cohort Norton Buffalo on board, has a funky N'awlins backbeat courtesy of Meters drum-meister Zigaboo Modeliste, while "Razor's Edge," on which Roy shares space with lap steel player Freddie Roulette, has something of a stately Celtic underpinning. "Duckwalk," his tribute to Chuck Berry, threatens to tear up every blue suede shoe on the block, though it fails in the boast. Not the rocker that the title implies, it's the only piece here that fails to satisfy. By slide guitar standards it ain't too shabby, but by Rogers' standards it's a bit lukewarm.  "I'm With You," with Muddy's old drummer Francis Clay on board, is a medium lope 12-bar blues. "Talking Walls," on the other hand, is a long way from Maxwell Street. With a feel somewhere near Spaghetti Western and desert tundra, Rogers is almost modal at times, and Buffalo brings a chilling chromatic to the session.  "Crescent Steps" is Roy's struttin' tribute to the Crescent City. Like many of the grooves offered here, this washes over the soul. Background music for life should be so joyful! "No Destination" is one of the standouts here. With an opening riff that reminds of Steppenwolf's "The Pusher," this stretches like a wide-open Texas vista. It's dusty and low-keyed with beautifully framed vamps. "Swamp Dream" is a brief solo interlude, the only solo piece on the disc. More telling than anything else here, this is the number that explains why Rogers is held in such high regard. "There Is Only You" is a beautiful melody, as much a heartfelt love song as any instrumental that comes to mind. Think medium tempo "Sleep Walk." "Precious Moments" does it one-better. Norton Buffalo's bass harmonica is wonderful in tandem with Phil Aaberg's harmonium. Rogers' phrasing is transcendent. "Gumbo Funk" opens sort of like a Hawaiian "Topsy" before breaking into a funky jazzy r&b groove. Norton Buffalo offers perfect counterpart to Rogers' slide work, as he's able to match Rogers' broad stylistic range lick for lick.  The closing "For the Children" reminds me of the opening section of the Ry Cooder/Steve Vai "battle" in the movie Crossroads, just before it explodes. And every bit as surely, it's the kind of guitar work that sends accomplished fret-burners running.  Roy Rogers is a fine singer. This one's to remind us all that he's one of the best slide guitarists in history of this music. This man is a first-rate monster. This is the kind of calling card every musician wishes they could produce. Superb!  

--- Mark E. Gallo 

Chicago bassist Willie Kent has released some fine albums since the early 90s, mostly with the Delmark label. But he may have outdone himself with his initial Blue Chicago release, Comin' Alive. This is one of the best Chicago blues releases in the last couple of years. Kent is at his best vocally and also is rock solid on bass, as usual. He also penned ten of the 12 songs, including the autobiographical "Born In the Delta," which is just one of the highlights. Other standout tunes include Sterling Plumpp's "Lonely Streets," the soulful "Look Like It's Gonna Rain," "Sittin' Here Thinkin'," and a cover of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You." In addition, the closer, "Someone You Should Know," is a pleasant trip into gospel territory (with strong vocal backing from the Gospel Supremez). Kent's band, the Gents, provide excellent support, but the intense guitar work of Haguy F. King, whose guitar had to be smoking after this session, deserves special mention. His piercing, string bending attack is strongly reminiscent of Albert King. Recorded at Twist Turner's House of Sound, this CD marks Willie's debut as producer (along with Turner and King) as well as Blue Chicago's first solo performer CD after five anthology releases. It's obvious that Kent thrived by being at the controls, both as a performer and a composer. If you are a fan of Chicago Blues, you can't do without this one. 

Mighty Joe Young was one of the premier blues guitarist in Chicago from the late 50s until the early 80s. His effective blending of blues and soul styles enabled Young to stand out from a crowded field. Although he recorded several excellent 45s during the 60s ("Hard Times" for USA in 1967 being one notable standout) and one solid album for Delmark in 1971 (Blues With A Touch Of Soul), it was a pair of albums for the Ovation label in the mid 70s (1974's Chicken Heads and 1976's Mighty Joe Young) that best captured his stinging guitar and booming vocals. Blind Pig Records has compiled six selections from each of the Ovation albums into a single disc, titled Mighty Joe Young. The tracks from each album are alternated for the most part and it's hard to distinguish which ones came from which album except for the presence of a synthesizer on the 1976 tracks. As expected, there are no bad cuts present. The standouts include the funky "Chicken Heads," the Motown-ish "Green Light," "Need A Friend" (which shows Freddy King's influence), and "Take My Advice (She Likes Blues and Barbecue)." Sadly, due to complications from surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck during the mid 80s, Young was unable to play guitar and basically dropped out of the music scene for nearly a decade before his 1997 Blind Pig comeback CD, Mighty Man, reestablished him. Unfortunately, he was unable to fully capitalize on it as he died from complications from elective surgery in 1999. Blind Pig should be praised for finally seeing to it that these essential tracks made it to CD.  

Lou Rawls is primarily known for R&B hits like "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," "Lady Love," "Tobacco Road," and "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing." But his first album release was actually a collection of blues and jazz standards, Stormy Monday (Blue Note), in 1962, with support from pianist Les McCann's trio. Rawls was primarily a gospel singer until this release launched his secular career. Chances are that if you are a fan of the blues, you've heard more than one rendition of most of the songs featured here, but you've never heard them delivered quite like this. Rawls' smooth baritone makes these covers stand up despite their familiarity. Highlights include Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" (sounding like it came straight from the church), "Willow Weep For Me," "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town," and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water." McCann gets plenty of room for solos, and the rest of the trio (Leroy Vinnegar, bass; Ron Jefferson, drums) provides excellent backing. There are also three bonus tracks, including an alternate take of the title cut. While Rawls has had greater success since this release, and still has one of the most recognizable voices in R&B, this release captures him much closer to his roots than most of his subsequent albums and is well worth a listen. 

--- Graham Clarke

While the major blues labels have slowed productivity lately, my mailbox has been stuffed lately with strong independent releases. That's a good sign that there are still a lot of good blues acts out there and leaves hope that the slump in the recording industry will reverse soon. The best of the bunch comes from Bay Area pianist / singer S.E. Willis, with Luckiest Man Alive (Merrimack Records). This one goes beyond the expectations of most indy releases, as it includes several "name" guest stars in Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Mark Hummel. Willis is a hot boogie woogie piano player and an above-average vocalist. At times his singing style is reminiscent of Nite Cats' crooner Rick Estrin. The scorcher here is an original slow blues, "Four Years Gone By," with exquisite piano work from Willis and fine harp from Musselwhite. Another favorite number, "Cry To Me," blends country and gospel as Willis plays both organ and piano. Willis again tears up the 88s on a cover of the classic "Corrine Corrina" and on his own "My Baby's Sweet." Luckiest Man Alive is well worth searching out. For more info, go to www.globerecords.com/SEWillis.

A real unlikely gem comes from Tucson, Arizona band Buzzard Luck. Good Luck (Pay Phone Records) looks like a real homemade job. What it contains are a dozen cuts of solid blues made by a bunch of middle-aged cats who are having fun just doing their own thing. The CD opens with an excellent tune, "Haunted Room," that comes across better than it has a right to do. With its earthy lead vocals and great harmony from the rest of the band, this non-standard blues number sets the pace for the rest of the disc. There's some creative songwriting on the band's signature tune, "Buzzard Luck," along with hot Memphis-style horns from sax player John Strasser and guest trumpeter Dean Kent. Strasser switches to harmonica for the Chicago-style blues "Cry For Me." The Buzzards get funky on the 60s-ish sounding blues of "Get Out Of My Life Woman," again showing the ability to blend their voices together in harmony backing. The CD ends with a jazzy instrumental number named quite simply "Twelve"; not surprisingly, it's track 12 on the disc. Unless you live in Tucson, it's not likely you'll find this CD in your local record store. But you can order it, along with a variety of other interesting merchandise (like their "Karaoke Sucks" t-shirt), at www.buzzardluck.com.

Long Island guitarist Mike Manne leads the Tiger Blues Band on their new CD, Purveyor (Blues Artist Records), and he's definitely the star of this show. Manne shows a lot of potential as a guitarist on the 11 blues standards here. While there are no original numbers on Purveyor, the Tiger Blues versions are generally not note for note renditions. Take for example their send-up of Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing," a creative re-working that sounds nothing like the original. The highpoint on this song is Manne's guitar runs, and he ends the tune with some solid blues/rock licks. There's also a fine version of Freddie King's classic instrumental "Hide Away," although this one stays true to King's version, a song that's been done to death over the years. Manne's guitar again shines on "Kansas City." While he's a strong player, one gets the feeling that Manne isn't always going for the jugular. I'd like to hear him with a stronger backing band to see if he can raise his playing to another level. For more info, check out the band's web site at www.tigerblues.com.

Cubs Win The PennantHere's one out of Chicago for all long-suffering Cubs fans, still waiting for their beloved team to make it back to the World Series. A bunch of Chicago blues musicians, calling themselves The RBIs, got together to record various versions of a basic 12-bar blues shuffle written by Mark Ruzity. "When The Cubs Win The Pennant" tells of the glory that will come to the North side when the Cubs finally make it to the Series ... "...When the Cubs win the pennant, Chicago's gonna lose the blues..." Along the way it mentions famous announcers Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray, as well as probably the two greatest players in Cub history, Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa. Tad Robinson contributes his usual soulful vocals and plays harmonica on one version of the song. Mark Robinson's blistering slide guitar carries both the "official" and "karaoke" renditions, while Ruzity sings on an acoustic version, backed by guitar from Mark Menefee. The CD is available from the aptly-named web site www.cubswinthepennant.com. Ya gotta love their optimisim!

--- Bill Mitchell

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