Blues Bytes

What's New

May 2007

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Jimmy Hall

Tad Robinson

Howard and the White Boys

Denise LaSalle

Ken Tucker

Eugene Smiley Sr.

Roscoe Shelton

Pinetop Perkins DVD

Magic Slim and the Teardrops


Jimmy HallFormer Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall's new CD, Build Your Own Fire (Zoho Roots) is a tribute to the late tortured soul singer Eddie Hinton. The disc, consisting of covers of 11 of Hinton's compositions, is so enjoyable that it had me scurrying to my blues room to dig through my CD shelves to reacquaint myself with the enigmatic Hinton.

Hall is backed on this disc by a group of stellar musicians referred to here as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Collective (Clayton Ivey - keyboards, Larry Byrom - guitars, David Hood - bass, Jonathan Dees - drums). Also participating on some cuts is Kentucky Head Hunters guitarist Greg Martin, and Delbert McClinton adds his vocals to the opening cut, "Still Want To Be Your Man."

For my money, this CD is a winner just on the strength of the two versions of "Salty," which was a hit for Bobby Womack. It's a strong soul number filled with catchy pop hooks and great vocals. Martin's guitar work is dubbed onto the second version to give it more of a contemporary sound, as well as including a few chords on the Indian stringed instrument, the sitar. Martin's contribution makes a wonderful song even better. Also adding to the mix is the nice background singing of Kira Small.

"Poor Old Me" is catchy, bluesy tune with good harmonica by Hall and driving Allman-style slide guitar. Hall is at his best vocally on the pleading soul tune "Cover Me," a song that Hinton wrote for Percy Sledge, and the gospel-tinged slow number "Watchdog."

For a complete change of pace, there's the sparse and hypnotic "Coming After You," which is the other song that shows up a second time after the overdubbing of Greg Martin's guitar.

Hinton's music wasn't all doom and gloom, as evidenced on the feelgood blues/soul shuffle of "I Found A True Love."

A final bonus track on Build Your Own Fire presents a portion of an interview with bassist David Hood on which he provides insight into the troubled career and life of Hinton.

Build Your Own Fire comes highly recommended. There's something here for every fan of soul, blues and/or Southern rock.

--- Bill Mitchell

Tad RobinsonBlues/soul singer Tad Robinson raised the bar for himself with his superb 2004 Severn disc, Did You Ever Wonder? (see Blues Bytes, March 2004). That previous effort topped my Top Ten list for the year and appeared as a favorite of several other Blues Bytes reviewers.

Could Robinson capture the magic of Did You Ever Wonder? on his new Severn release, A New Point Of View?

Not quite. It's a good CD and has some great moments. The horn accompaniment is especially good. But while Did You Ever Wonder? was in the "download to the mp3 player AND burn a couple of extra copies to play in the car" category, this new disc is classified more as "file away on the CD shelf and pull out occasionally." While it's enjoyable, the disc doesn't rise to greatness as often as its predecessor.

The always excellent Alex Schultz returns on guitar. This is a man whose guitar playing can make your knees buckle, and I admit that I swooned during Schultz's solo on the blues number "Broken-Hearted Man" and thoroughly enjoyed his jazzy playing on "Back For More."

I liked the Tyrone Davis-style upbeat soul song "You Get To Keep The Love," which was followed by the slow "He's Moving In (To Her Life)," on which Robinson's voice soars.

Perhaps my expectations for this disc were too high after Did You Ever Wonder? I've listened over and over to A New Point Of View and it's grown on me a little more each time. While it hasn't yet bowled me over, I've enjoyed it more each time. OK, I've changed my mind --- I'll burn a copy to carry in my car. By the end of the year, it'll likely have a spot on my Top Ten list.

--- Bill Mitchell

The late John Fahey probably would enjoy being remembered as misunderstood. John Fahey Tribute, for example, released in August 2006, would leave a first-time listener scratching his head. What’s with the vintage 78 RPM closing track? Are these all really different artists, they all sound the same. Is it folk, blues, punk or all combined?

I’m very grateful to be a recent Fahey subscriber. Until around the time of his death in early 2001, he was thought of only as an obscure acoustic guitarist. I got to him through his best-known protégé, Leo Kottke, who is conspicuously absent from this tribute disc. Again, something both men would probably appreciate. It was at a Kottke concert, listening to stories lasting longer than musical selections, that Fahey anecdotes kept coming up. The crowd was on the same crazy wavelength as the storyteller, and now it’s obvious all was traced back to the mindset and inspiration of John Fahey.

Blues fans can thank Fahey for being the one most responsible for bringing people like Skip James out of retirement in older age just in time for the early ‘60s blues revival spreading overseas. Guitarists especially can thank him for creating a style of hard-hitting irreverence on the acoustic. And he definitely had vision for the alternative and non-commercial potential of underground music as far back as the late ‘50s, beginning at the end of the 78 RPM era.

Then came reissues of various Fahey albums on CD, mostly for the Takoma label (which he practically founded, and on which this tribute appears, distributed by Fantasy). Another reissue appeared on the Vanguard label, home of Joan Baez and others. Updated liner notes were particularly helpful, walking us thru the decades of recordings, explaining John Fahey’s idiosyncrasies and speculating at his personality and musical motives from a posthumous angle.

This tribute disc arrived with no cover, just the selections and artists printed on the CD. Armed with adequate Fahey experience, it was welcome just to look at. And the sound from note one is as soul-satisfying as any Fahey recording. Each guitarist, mostly acoustic, attacks the guitar just as hard. There is a George Winston piece that sounds like a solo stereo harmonica with bagpipe drone effect and one of two band tracks, “Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Phillip XIV of Spain” by Canned Rish, is the epitome of folk, blues and punk combined.

Otherwise we have a lot of guitar, whether solo or duo. There is six- and twelve-string, with sufficient and satisfying slide. Very rarely is electricity used. Everything is instrumental. The various artists include Dale Miller, Michael Gulezian, Alex deGrassi, Charlie Schmidt, David Doucet, Country Joe McDonald, Peter Lang, Terry Robb, Sean Smith, Henry Kaiser & John Schott (sounding like a guitar and drummer). There’s Nick Schillace, Stefan Grossman , Rick Ruskin, Phil Kellogg, Andrew Stranglen, Nels Cline & Elliott Sharp, and Pat O’Connell, all before the concluding “vintage” track. It seems that most, if not all, of these remakes were performed and/or recorded by the man of tribute. Each one seems to restate the same recurring musical theme, as in a solitary walk down an unfamiliar country road. A Saturday at daybreak. And thru it all, an undercurrent of rebellion.

A web search is as mysterious as the disc’s nakedness. The submitted review CD lists only 14 tracks but what we have are the same 20 selections as on Revenge Of Blind Joe Death (the John Fahey Tribute album). This could be another catalogued tribute CD on-line with no album art available, but a very close issue number. Let’s call this the promo version of the “Revenge/Tribute” album.

Track 20 is by “Blind Joe Death.” Aware of Fahey’s first album ever, self-produced and under that title in the late ‘50s, it is safe to assume this is the man, the Fahey mystique. Let me further speculate that this “Blind Joe Death” track was actually from that first Fahey session, either a real 78 RPM or a convincing replica.

The statement this CD makes is seamless. All artists are channeling John Fahey and leaving the listener with the same message that any of the man’s albums would.

Which means it wouldn’t be a bad first impression of the artist himself, and he doesn’t appear, at least not listed by name, on the disc.

--- Tom Coulson

Howard and the White BoysHoward and the White Boys are making a name for themselves and spend a lot of time on the road and playing festivals. They recorded their last CD of mostly originals six years ago. With this new release, Made In Chicago, they tackle more standards and familiar popular blues.

The first impression from track one is not profound. It’s a good tempo for openers, slick, a little over-produced, perhaps slightly watered-down for popular consumption. The vocals aren’t exactly right-on, there is a featured fancy guitar slinger as the main soloist, the drummer doesn’t stick to a backbeat.

Allman Brothers rock and slide guitar permeate the slow track two within a blues base. Average inspiration so far.

By “Good Booty And BBQ” we finally have something. Maybe it’s the hook in the chorus, maybe the rhythm. Calypso and hot guitar continue the party. You can’t lose with the minor-key “Phone Booth,” associated with Robert Cray and Albert King, always fun. But “Yonder Wall” (used as a sample for the group’s website) has lost something along its journey from Mississippi. This really isn’t an over-done tune à la "Stormy Monday" or "Mustang Sally," so why does this version feel that way? Authentic shuffle is implied but mushy. “Cold Cold Feeling” is well-placed but is another that many are covering more and more.

“Black Cat Bone” is a stodgy funk, feeling as if the studio zapped some of its soul. But then there’s a wonderful summation of the whole program with a simple, repetitive instrumental to close the disc, “Coming Home.” This too utilizes the slightly-southern rock flavor but now to good advantage. And credit must go to the producer for keeping the album length reasonable. This is in good taste, you always want to leave ‘em wanting more.

This album was indeed made in Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends is the group’s home base. But the website also lists gigs in the suburbs when the band is home. After all they met at Northern Illinois University before moving as a group to Chicago, which should stand as a testament to their blues commitment. But Made in Chicago doesn’t necessarily sound grown in Chicago.

--- Tom Coulson

Denise LaSalleWell, it's hard to believe that it's been two years since I reviewed Denise LaSalle's last release in our April 2005 issue of Blues Bytes. I've been a fan of her's for so long now that I await each new release with the hope it delivers a new LaSalle classic.

Pay Before You Pump (Ecko Recods) does just that. The new single release is an excellent gender reversed remake of Floyd Hamberlin's "Mississippi Boy," obviously titled "Mississippi Woman." It was a Southern market hit for Charles Wilson, but I predict it will be a bigger hit for LaSalle. It appears here in a regular mix and also a Delta Blues mix with added harmonica and blues guitar that will make it on a lot of blues stations that do not normally play southern soul. I much prefer this mix to the regular one.

A few other memorable tracks are "Hell Sent Me You," with the classic lines, "I wanted a man, someone honest and true. So I prayed to heaven, and hell sent me you." Also the unforgettable "Walking On Beale Street and Crying," with Denise finding out her man just left B.B. King's with some woman on his arm, she wails "I'm just walking up and down Beale Street crying, better get the jail cell ready, I just might have to do me some time." Of course there's the double-entendre title song, "Pay Before you Pump," which is sure to get a lot of Southern soul radio time. The self penned ballad "Hold on Tight" is another standout, as is "You Don't Live Here Anymore," where she tells her man's female caller to call him on his cell phone cause as of today, he doesn't live here anymore.

I want to give accolades to Ecko Records for the great recorded sound and all those wonderful live musicians. Hats off to Harrison Callaway for his excellent horn arrangements. There's no one better than him, and of course thanks to the "Queen" for continuing her long line of great recordings. Pay Before You Pump ranks right up there among the best.

--- Alan Shutro

Ken TuckerWell, shades of the bluesy side of The Allman Brothers, was my first thought upon first listening to this extremely enjoyable CD, Looking For A Brighter Day (Jomar Records), from Ken Tucker. There is Tucker's driving guitar, Josh Hammond's soulful harmonica and 12 original well-written songs that run the gamut from rock to country to blues with a touch of spirituality thrown in. That's an awful lot to ask from one CD, but it all comes together so well here.

The opening title track, "Looking For A Brighter Day," has all the hooks, great guitar and vocals to give it "hit" possibility. The second cut, "Call Me Up," is the kind of club track that gets everyone up to dance. (You know what I mean, as soon as "Mustang Sally" starts, even the most decrepit get up to dance).

The third cut, "The Sun Also Shines," made me think of Stevie Ray Vaughn. The excellent "Walking Cane," with its rockabilly mentality swings, as does "Guitar Man" with its Bo Diddley beat. The soulful "Lord You're All I Need Tonight" and "The King Is Coming" take us in a different direction, as does the slow blues of "Tin Cup Blues." Another notable track is the upbeat "Why Do You Hurt Me," which starts of with a killer guitar and bass and sort of epitomizes what Southern rock is all about. This track reminded me that credit needs to go out to Sarah Sue Kelly and Hannah Bushong for their great background singing. They add to the full sound of this project.

In closing, the CD offers a fine version of the old folk chestnut "Wayfaring Stranger," done here with a guitar and harmonica, supporting a fine vocal and given a slow haunting arrangement. This track took me back to my youth where our household had this song on an old Eddy Arnold C&W album. I always thought his version was definitive, now I'm having second thoughts. All in all a strong release that has universal appeal. Let's hope this labor of love does well.

--- Alan Shutro

Eugene Smiley SrA true veteran on the music scene, Eugene Smiley Sr.'s career began in 1968 as a member of a group called the Visitors. They were label mates of Tyrone Davis back in the early days of soul. After that group folded, he was on the road for much of the following three decades. In Eugene's own words: "I've performed with artists such as Albert King, Johnny Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Little Milton, Bobby Womack and all Green. When I put this CD together, I was thinking of them. I can't give up on their style of music. This is my generation and remembering where I came from, this is my passion". You can see how the title of this CD, Legends (K. City Records), was chosen.

All the tracks are originals with real musicians. It would be so easy to cover songs by the artists he worked with, so the originality is appreciated. The tracks are mostly mid-paced and shuffles such as the excellent "Love Lifted Me Up," "Straighten Up Women," and the lamenting "You're Gonna Miss Me." The show stopper though is the slow ballad "The Dream," a heartbreaker about life, love and death. A great deep soul track.

This is the kind of CD I love to review. It's a heartfelt message from a senior musician who has learned his trade, has become a true professional, and now is sharing all those years with us. Three deep bows for Eugene Smiley Jr. We will look forward to following his career from this point on.

--- Alan Shutro

Roscoe SheltonI have been a fan of Roscoe Shelton since I heard my first Excello track by him. His 1961 Excello album "Roscoe Shelton Sings" was one of my prized possessions in the golden age of vinyl. I remember buying several of his early singles on John R's Sound Stage Seven label and then came that great LP on SS7 with "Easy Going Fellow." I think I wore out the first copy I had of that LP.

The years progressed but not without problems. As Fred James' liner notes read, "The late nights and long hours were taking their toll though. By 1967 Roscoe was tired. His marriage had broken up and he was drinking too much. After the death of his two close friends, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, Roscoe decided to take a few steps back and to get a handle on his life. By 1970, he was all but retired from the music business and took a job as a college dorm administrator in Nashville."

The '90s brought a resurgence in blues music and Fred James' Appaloosa Records began recording the Excello legends, namely Earl Gaines, Clifford Curry and Roscoe Shelton. They made several albums and they toured Europe where the Legends were a tremendous success at the Blues Estafette Festival in Holland. That was in 1995, and in 1998 Shelton signed with the Black Top label and it appeared his career had been resurrected. The resulting album Let It Shine although highly praised was soon forgotten when Black Top went out of business. He later toured with Earl Gaines and they recorded a duet album for Cannonball Records in 2000, but unfortunately Cannonball went out of business, too. Soon after Roscoe began having health problems. Always a heavy smoker, he succumbed to cancer in 2002.

Save Me (SPV - Germany) has three new tracks recorded before he got sick. That's all that remains since he could not complete the session. One of the three is a remake of "It's My Fault," an earlier hit, and "A Step in The Right Direction," a song he had hoped old friend Tina Turner would record.

The other tracks are are remakes or older tracks long out of print. A duet with Mary-Ann Brandon, "He's Cool, She's Hot," is from her 2002 R.O.A.D. and really smokes. The included duet with Earl Gaines, "Someday Things Are Gonna Change," is an alternate take from their Cannonball release. My personal favorite is Ivory Joe Hunter's "Blues At Midnight," a steamy slow blues that rivals the original, but every track is really a winner due to Shelton's impassioned singing.

Many thanks to Fred James for making this release available. I understand there's an Earl Gaines release to follow.

--- Alan Shutro

Mojo WatsonMojo Watson’s first release, 2002’s Inheritance, featured tracks written by his father (’50s R&B singer K.C. “Mojo” Watson). His second CD, 2004’s Black Beauty, featured his own compositions. His latest release on his Watashea label, 18th & Agnes, is a mixture of songs written by him and his father, along with several other choice tunes, some familiar and some not so familiar.

Watson’s reproductions of three of his father’s works, including the jumping “Big Fat Mary,” and the two slow blues numbers “I Can Tell By Your Actions,” which features some inspired string-bending by Watson, and “So Broken Hearted” show that Dad definitely had the goods as a composer as well as a performer.

As far as the other covers go, Watson takes on Buddy Guy (“Ten Years Ago”), Muddy Waters (“Long Distance Call”), and a couple from the Excello catalog (Lightnin’ Slim’s “I’m A Rollin’ Stone” and “You’re Old Enough To Understand”), pretty much a Murderer’s Row of legendary performers, with equally satisfying results. “Rollin’ Stone” features a jaw-dropping solo that combines Jimi Hendrix with Guitar Gable.

Watson’s own compositions include the R&B ballad, “From My Heart,” “Something In My Head,” which sounds not unlike a pop tune from the ’60s with its catchy rhythm, and the humorous closer, “Make Up Your Bed,” which features more Hendrixian licks.

Watson produced the disc, sings and plays guitar, and gets superlative support from his band (Brian Deckebach – bass, David Petry – drums, Paul Harrington – Harmonica, Paul Rebholz – saxophone, William “Fat Willie” Whittaker – Hammond organ, Tom Capek – piano/clavinet).

All in all, it looks like another winner from Mojo Watson, who continues to improve with each release. 18th& Agnes will be available in stores nationwide, or you can go to and check it out.

--- Graham Clarke

Ernie SouthernFlorida guitarist Ernie Southern has dazzled listeners for years with his impressive songwriting, his skills on National Resophonic, Delphi, and Tricone guitars, and his expressive vocals. Southern’s latest release, Prozac Blues, will certainly please acoustic blues guitar fans. A music veteran who played bass in various rock, jazz, and fusion bands over the years, Southern took up the blues in the early ’90s and competed in the International Blues Foundation’s competition in 2004, making the finals in the acoustic division.

Prozac Blues is a nicely mixed set of originals and classic tunes, which include a sharp reworking of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail.” Robin Trower’s “Whisky Train” (from his Procol Harum days) is also a highlight, as is Harmonica Frank Floyd’s “Rockin’ Chair Daddy,” which features some inspired harp work from Bruce Johnson.

The originals give us a look at Southern’s humorous side, including the clever title track, the potential middle-age male anthem, “Ain’t Goin’ Bald Jus’ Getting’ Mo’ Head,” and “Youth Is Wasted On the Young.” (ain’t it the truth). “Just The Way You Say Goodbye” is a pretty tune that shows Southern’s more serious side, and “Train Gone Dead” features some stellar guitar/harp interplay between Southern and Johnson.

Well-produced by Bobby Day, Prozac Blues is an impressive release. Southern is a highly original songwriter and a first-rate guitarist and singer. Acoustic blues guitar fans will find plenty to like here. To purchase this disc, and for more information about Ernie Southern, visit his website

--- Graham Clarke

Pinetop PerkinsIn 2006, we bid farewell to several musicians who had been a part of the blues practically since recording began. Within a period of a few months last year, Henry Townsend, Homesick James Williamson, Robert Lockwood, Jr., and Snooky Pryor all passed away, all of whom had been playing the blues since the 1930s or early ’40s. These losses make the surviving patriarchs, like Pinetop Perkins, all the more valuable. Now 93 years old, the revered pianist shows no signs of slowing down, still wowing blues fans at multiple festivals around the country.

Though Perkins had been on the scene for years, backing other musicians (most notably his lengthy stint with Muddy Waters, but also Earl Hooker and Robert Nighthawk) and recording four songs as a frontman for Alligator’s Living Chicago Blues series in the ’70s, he didn’t venture out on his own until the late ’80s, releasing his first solo effort on Blind Pig in 1988. Since then, he has been very prolific, releasing over a dozen albums of quality material. In fact, he’s been so good for so long that it’s sometimes easy to take him for granted.

Given his extensive career, it would be fairly obvious that Perkins would be a prime candidate for the documentary treatment, and the new Vizztone Label Group has rectified that with Born in the Honey: The Pinetop Perkins Story, a DVD/CD set that gives an excellent recitation of the legendary piano man’s career.

The DVD features a 60-minute documentary produced by Peter Carlson (who also produced the recent Junior Wells documentary, Don’t Start Me Talkin’) that mixes recollections from Perkins, snippets of performances, and tributes from many fellow musicians, including Bobby Rush, Bernard Allison, Kim Wilson, Hubert Sumlin, Ike Turner, Lonnie Brooks, Bob Margolin, Sam Carr, and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Perkins relates plenty of details about his life, such as how he started out as a guitar player (and the misunderstanding that ended his guitar playing days), how he lost nearly 50% of his hearing in an explosion during an Earl Hooker performance, and his replacing the great Otis Spann in Muddy Waters’ band for 12 years.

He also candidly discusses leaving Waters, along with the rest of the band, to form the Legendary Blues Band in 1980, a move Perkins says broke Waters’ heart and eventually contributed to his death. He also talks about his struggles with alcohol abuse, which spiraled out of control in the mid ’80s, and his reputation as a ladies’ man. The performance footage includes Perkins playing at various venues with Margolin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, Ann Rabson, and Curtis Salgado and, except for a couple of minor sound glitches, captures Perkins in top form.

The accompanying CD is a live performance from Chicago, and features Perkins with Smith manning the drum kit, Bob Stroger on bass and “Little” Frank Krokowski on guitar. The set is typical Pinetop, consistently entertaining. Apparently, Perkins was in his late 80s when this set was recorded, and this set shows that he hasn’t lost a step at all over the years. It’s even more incredible that, half a decade later, he’s still going strong. There’s also a previously unreleased studio track, “Rather Quit Her Than Hit Her,” that teams Perkins with Bob Corritore (harmonica), Chico Chism (drums), Johnny Rapp (guitar), and Paul Thomas (bass).

Born in the Honey: The Pinetop Perkins Story is a wonderful tribute to one of the unsung heroes of the blues. Pinetop Perkins has seen a lot of great musicians and played a lot of great music over the years, and it looks as if he’ll be doing it for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Randy McAllister first gained notice after releasing three well-received CDs for John Stedman’s JSP label. The Texas native has firmly established himself as a top-notch singer and harp player, but also has developed a knack for writing standout tunes as well. Having parted ways with JSP several years ago, McAllister has subsequently released three discs, including the Grammy-nominated Givers & Takers. His most recent release, Flying High While Staying Low Down, is a compilation of the best tracks from his last two releases (Temporary Fixes and A Little Left of Center), plus a few previously unreleased gems intended from an upcoming disc, Dope Slap Soup.

Flying High While Staying Low Down consists of 16 tracks, all composed by McAllister, who also supplies plenty of gritty vocals and harp. Joining him on this collection are a stellar group of musicians, including guitarists Mike Morgan, Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones, Jim Suhler, and Stephen Bruton.

Standout tracks include the opening cut, “The Girl Ain’t Right,” one of several songs that includes the soulful backing vocals of Benita Arterberry-Burns, “Take Me Out of New Orleans,” the funky “That Chicken You’re Fixin’,” and the zydeco number “Stronger Vice/Better Hobby.” McAllister also specializes in “story songs,” narratives such as “Drinkin’ To Prevent A Killin’,” and “Man Who Went For Cigarettes,” which features a strong guitar solo by Morgan. Other highlights include the intriguing “Baptist Church Van,” “What Moves You,” and the pop-rockish “Clear My Head,” which features strong vocal interplay by McAllister and Arterberry-Burns.

Chances are that you might have missed most of these songs the first time around because some of McAllister’s more recent work has seen limited distribution. That being said, you should most assuredly check out Flying High While Staying Low Down to see what you might have missed. A gifted songwriter and performer, Randy McAllister deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Magic Slim and the TeardropsWhat evolved into Wolf Records began in 1974, when 20 Austrian blues fans created the Vienna Blues Fan Club. It was transformed 25 years ago into what is now Wolf Records. The label was formed with two primary objectives in mind. Those were to re-release original country and blues recordings of the '30s and '40s, and to emphasize the blues style of Chicago. The first four years were difficult. Then in 1982 they released a recording by Chicago's Magic Slim and the Teardrops. It was an instant success. Now more than 20 years later, Wolf has released their sixth CD, Tin Pan Alley, from the genre’s greatest living proponent.

Originally born in Torrence, Mississippi, Morris Holt received his nickname from lifelong mentor, guitar great Magic Sam. Slim moved to Chicago in the ’60s and by 1972 he had replaced Hound Dog Taylor as the house band for a prominent South Side blues club. The country is still in Slim’s heart and soul, it just comes out in an urbanized electric manner. Slim’s instantly recognizable guitar solos are abrasive and his vocal chords have been scratched with sandpaper. He has a unique guitar sound, as can be heard on "Texas Flood," thanks in part to his picking hand having sustained damage in a cotton gin accident many years ago.

These aggressive 12 songs, including six originals written by Magic Slim, were recorded between 1992 and 1998. Half are studio cuts and half were recorded live. The latter tracks, which include alternating guitar solos from John Primer and Magic Slim, prove Slim sounds the same on stage as in the studio. The Teardrops were at their best when unheralded guitarist Primer was in the band. He features on nine of the tracks. Other band members include Nick Holt (bass), Earl Howell and Alan Kirk (drums), and Michael Dotson (guitar).

Bluesmen from Slim’s generation knew the music was all about the song and its rhythm. It wasn’t about a blistering and never-ending guitar solo. "She Was Walking Down Through The Park" is a prime example. The Teardrops instantly lock into a groove that you can dance to on "Tell Me What You Got On Your Mind." Here, Slim’s vocals are as gruff as his gritty guitar. On "Please Don’t Leave Me," the band maneuvers like a train clanging down a track. Like the shrill blast of a trumpet, the guitar’s notes are sharp and piercing on "Close To You." "Cold-Hearted Woman" is a brilliant slow blues as well as a defining moment for recorded blues in the late 20th century. Listen as Slim pulls the strings like a madman shooting at the world to remove all the evil. On "Goin’ To California," he makes his strings pulsate with a rattle while squeezing a bit of Jimmy Reed into his playing.

Ironically, the title track is the weakest on the album. The song’s well known melody and arrangement is replaced with a standard Slim shuffle. Thus the song sounds like any other ordinary blues song as opposed to the classic that it is. The slower songs, e.g., "Born In The Country," are more fulfilling because they deeply define what blues is, that Slim was born into them, and continues to live them.

Musically the songs, which are mainly about male and female relationship problems, do not feature much that Slim hasn’t done before. In fact, after the first few shuffles and basic boogies, you do not hear a lot more that’s new or different. That doesn’t matter because you’ll enjoy the feeling made by the unrefined music. It’s the straight up, pure, and rough blues that Magic Slim is well known for.

Along with Delmark, Wolf is recording more Chicago blues artists than any other current blues label. European fans may be able to find Wolf releases easier than their North American counterparts. As a result Canadians and Americans may find this CD hard to locate in their local CD store, but it is well worth seeking if you are a Magic Slim fan.

--- Tim Holek

It has been six years since Shawn Kellerman's last solo release and a year since his joint effort, Raw To The Bone, with Bobby Rush. Anyone who heard either of those CDs or has seen him perform with Michael Pickett, Paul Reddick, or Carlos del Junco, may think Shawn Kellerman is either an electric guitar sorcerer or a country blues purist. He tends to get classified as blues, but there is more that than in Kellerman’s arsenal. Fans of many music styles will enjoy this varied CD, Land of a 1000 Dreams Flaming Cheese). On it, Kellerman proves to be an accomplished guitarist, arranger, songwriter, and band leader. There are 11 offerings that contain rock, funk, hip hop, soul, gospel, and blues. Kellerman handles all guitars, lead vocals, as well as contributing bass on half of the mostly original CD.

The lead-off title track – co-written by Shawn’s Mississippi pal Mark Whittington – is a throw back to 1970s Allman Brothers southern rock. The song even features twin lead guitars. The vocals are mixed beyond the point of distortion, which inadvertently disguises their deficiencies. Brawny horns are prominent on the funky "Big Time," which reveals Shawn’s reverence for the southern U.S. The Canadian guitarist spent five years in Mississippi, where he lived, played, and toured with such notable blues artists as Bobby Rush.

The ultimate funk is delivered on "Whipsnap," which sounds like an updated version of "Heatin’ It Up" from Shawn’s debut disc, Take Note. The lyrics are minimal, so the entire focus is on the groove, and it’s intensified by stratospheric horns, rockin’ guitar, and hot-plucked bass. This song will become a living legacy to James Brown. "Wash My Back" is a slow blues with too much attention on unproven vocals. The song was written by Lucky Peterson, who traveled to Canada to perform with Shawn at a series of standing room only CD release parties. At those concerts, Kellerman performed these songs equally well live, proving that his magic is not a phenomenon of the recording studio. "Never Give Up" is the kind of blues they dig down south. On it, Kellerman’s guitar whips you into shape like the look your woman gives you when she disapproves your actions. Based loosely on "I’ll Play The Blues For You," "Bug and Shawn" is a merger of rap and blues, and it works real well. I was astounded the first time I heard Kellerman’s instrumental version of the old spiritual "Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior." If you have found salvation in sacred steel (the Campbell Brothers have been performing the song for years), you’ll hear the glory in this song.

Yes, there are some shrill and kickin’ guitar solos, but they aren’t cranked and wailed to excess. The debonair guitarist burns with control, and resists blasting off notes like a moon-bound rocket. Though it is aggressive, the guitar playing is urbane. Using an impressive array of guest musicians, such as Douglas Watson and John Lee, may have injected some inconsistencies among the songs.

Land of a 1000 Dreams displays all aspects of Kellerman’s many talents and musical styles. He is so much more than a hot shot, lightening fast blues/rock guitarist. Using a vocalist as good as this CD’s positive qualities could elevate Kellerman to the big time.

--- Tim Holek

Lady SunshineLady Sunshine and the X-Band took top honors at the Motor City Blues Challenge of 2004. They almost repeated the fete at the IBC in Memphis in spring ‘05, where they were judged to be the second best band in the land. A listen to Live At Last (LSX Records) makes clear that these were well-deserved honors. This band is simply fantastic.

Lady Sunshine and the fellas have been fixtures on the metro Detroit scene for a decade. This live set, recorded at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, with three cuts from Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak, is on fire from the bell. Behind Geno Leverett’s thick James Jamerson-style bass intro, Lady Sunshine sets the scene for her tale of “Man Trouble” in front of Slick Rick Humesky’s funky fat guitar and the great X-satiable Horns (Patrick Padilla, tenor; David G. Maki II, alto and bari; and Ken Ferry’s trumpet). Add propulsive drumming from Kito Pardo and killer keys from Tom Fosselman and the sum is a band as full of chops as fire.

Lady Sunshine’s original tunes fit her considerable vocal range to a tee. “Somebody’s Tippin’,” a classic southern soul tune out of the ZZ Hill tradition, the soulful “Losin’ Track of Time,” with greasy organ backing, the ultra funky horn driven “Mr. Man” (“I’m gonna tell your wife on you”), “My Husband Don’t Love Me,” (“he only wants what’s under my dress”) with call and response from the band, the pensive “I’m Just So Tired,” the flavorful (you’ll have to listen!) “Freaky Tonight” and her signature “Thang For You,” a tune that would have done Otis Redding proud, are superbly composed and performed, marking Lady Sunshine as far more than a local treasure.

This is the work of an artist and a first rate band of musicians that deserves to step up to the national stage. Somebody out there needs to pay attention and snatch this band up. This is one of the standout recordings of 2007.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Bob Seeley and Boogie Bob Baldori’s Boogie Stomp! (Spirit Records) is the second collaboration that Detroit-based Bob Seeley, the internationally-lauded boogie woogie maestro, has been part of in the past year. Unlike the earlier effort with Mr. B, which showcased the players taking turns at the piano, these are performances recorded on dueling pianos.

Boogie Bob, a Lansing-based attorney by day, has been rockin’ the pearls since the 1960s when he was a member of the rock and roll Woolies, who had a regional hit with a very cool cover of “Who Do You Love.” He also recorded with Chuck Berry and played alongside Muddy, Hooker and Luther Allison among others. Like Seeley, his resume is impressive. Bob Seeley tours the world on a regular basis and is considered by fans and scholars near and far as perhaps the finest boogie pianist performing today.

Put these two together and the results are as exciting as any piano recording to come down the pike in years. The opening title track sets the stage. Though both players contribute two unaccompanied tunes, the real magic happens when they share the mic. Highly recommended to fans of fiery piano.

--- Mark E. Gallo

The Volker Strifler Band’s The Dance Goes On (Blue Rock’It) should appeal to a large American audience. Though the German guitarist and vocalist is highly regarded in his homeland, it’s his connection to the Ford Brothers’ Butterfield/Bloomfield Project that is helping to spread his name far and wide.

One of my favorite releases of the year, it’s as impressive lyrically as it is musically. Check out “Somebody Help Me” --- “People pushing shoving me around and the taxman is a major pain/pencil pushing geeks like slimy little maggots eat their way from my wallet to my brain.” This is a major cat.

Outside of a pair of Willie Dixons, the songs are all his and all impressive. That he’s a killer guitarist with a superb voice adds to the overall appeal of this gem of a disc. Recorded in Germany and the US, this is the work of a master musician.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Purple Cat, a French band based out of Marseille, struggles with the language a bit, but turns in impressive instrumental work. Vocalist/harper Rene Perrier and his mates are fans of Walter Horton, with three covers on the seven cut program. Their version of Walter Jacobs’ bluesy “Blue Midnight” is impressive and their take on Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done” does its best to transcend the language barrier. All in all a fun recording.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Woodleg Odd have a great offering in Foot Fetish (Woodleg Music). One of the many great bands coming out of Norway, they’re among the most impressive new bands of the year from any country. Reminding at times of classic Savoy Brown, they have a slinky sound that wraps its way around the clever lyrics. Named for their drummer, who has a prosthetic leg, the band’s vocalist, Knut Eilefsen, has total command over the language and is a master at nuance. The standout number on the disc, “Packed My Stuff,” benefits from Frank Utgaard’s gorgeous guitar work. The disc is impressive front to back.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Dan Klarskov and his band have a superb CD/DVD combo in Blues At Dexter (Clearwood). The Danish band has the swing thing down pat. Opening with a finger-snapping version of Big Joe Turner’s “Wee Wee Baby,” tenor man Anders Gaardmand challenges guitarist/vocalist Klarskov for most impressive solo. The big horn section and strong rhythm section propel this band through ten swingin’ tunes, recorded in front of a live audience. Klarskov contributes originals that sound at home in the program equally mixed with classic from the genre from T-Bone Walker (three tunes), Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and a superb take on George Jackson’s “Last Two Dollars.” This is at turns greasy, rockin, and always swingin’ and one of the standouts of the year. Whew!

--- Mark E. Gallo

Louise Hoffsten’s From Linkoping to Memphis (Memphis International) is the second American release on this Swede. Recorded in Memphis, it’s more impressive than her extraordinary debut of a few years ago. Nine of the 11 compositions are from her pen this time out, from hard rockin’ to jazzy balladry, all imbued with her gritty soul. The opening “Good For You” (“I’ll never be a princess always treat you right/I’ll never be a mistress on a Tuesday night/never be amazing knock you off your feet/a pretty little angel to make your life complete”), is exemplary of what to expect. Less bluesy than the other discs reviewed here, it’s well worth searching out, nonetheless.

--- Mark E. Gallo


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