Blues Bytes

What's New

May 2010

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Jonny Moeller

Phil Gates

Shakura S'aida

Peter Parcek

Julien Kasper Band

Mannish Boys

Kirk Fletcher

Peter Karp & Sue Foley

Karen Lovely

Popa Chubby

Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas


Kati InginoKati Ingino (pronounced Kaa-tea) is an energetic presence on the southwest music scene, coming from Marbach near Stuttgart in the ‘90s to, of all things, “become a blues bassist.” Over the years she played bass in the bands of Midnite Blues, Hacksaw’s Blues, and Big Pete Pearson. She has always been a fashion trendsetter onstage, which lent itself well when she co-founded, played bass, and sang with Phoenix’s critically acclaimed all female band Sistah Blue. This last group enjoyed phenomenal success, popularity and awards, with a repertoire of tight, slick and almost theatrical, blues/funk/soul.

Through it all Kati’s bass style has been groove-based, whether laid-back Jimmy Reed or funky Bootsy Collins. But musical progress and evolution are important to Kati. So if you’re looking for a blues purist disc, you won’t find it here. This is Kati’s songwriting debut.

Break Out (Choice Productions) has her doing just that. The CD features many of her dearest friends, which is where she finds such good musicians, and in some cases co-writers. It’s music with commercial potential, but also strong on its own. It’s a statement of what she’s been doing in the 2000’s, since the Sistahs.

The first thing evident on this disc is Kati’s vocal style. When singing with other bands her voice only gets heard sporadically. But here she’s out front every time, leaving the bass duties mostly to the awesome Roger Dryer (a funk master). This allows Kati’s vocal glissandos and timbre edges a deliberate focus, revealing (for lack of a better term) a rather unpolished Gwen Stefani edge. It is certainly in that range.

The rest of the cast is Rich Reed on drums, Anthony Kinchion on guitar, and Ted Belledin on keyboards and saxophone. Guest appearances include Arthur “Buddy Strong” Jr. and Steve Kostakes on keys, former “Sistahs” Dejah and Nancy Dalessandro , Ervan Pugh and Ronnie Whitehead playing guitar (the latter instead of vocal)!

Next we witness Ms. Ingino’s personal musical philosophy. Disc sequencing starts strong, then the whole program slowly unwinds. The title track is first, and it’s funky (first released on a 2004 Sistah Blue EP). It contains too much synthesizer for my personal taste, but after that the music retains high production values proportionate to its style.

Background vocals are on-target, often including Kati’s overdubs. On the second track tension is released with the somewhat bluesy ballad “Only Glad You’re Gone” (primary mix). This title was once recorded by Sistah Blue with Lila Sherman’s vocal on 5 Pieces o' Sweet in ‘01. This newer version features a former Sistah Blue lead vocalist Dejah, plus Ted Belledin on saxophone.

Fairly early on, a folk feel takes over with “I Like You, Like You, Like You” and “She Hides Her Heart,” albeit mostly electric. This segues nicely into “Why Did You Tempt Me,” feeling like free-form rock radio of the ‘70s, or perhaps neo-soul. “Louise” is in a deep funk, anchored by blues chords and spread with almost rap phrasing. “Fragment in your Dreams” seems to borrow from Beatles chords, except the biting lead guitar is more out of ’80s or ’90s.

Next is “Love Doesn't Talk,” a minor medium rock, then a solid funk “Need Nobody” with swirling urban electric sax. The folk feel continues (every time Kati plays guitar) with “Would You Miss Me.” Tempo is maintained toward the end, overlaid with double-time brush drumming on “A Little More Time.” Effective is concluding the album with an alternate mix of “Only Glad You’re Gone” with Dejah remaining on backing vocals, then guitar and keyboard rather than sax.

Lyrics are not controversial or political, instead they deal with many moods and modes of life. Centered around various stages of relationships and emotions, verses lie well over good use of hooks and repetition, all simple secrets to grab listener attention. If a two-sided single were to be culled from the album, it would surely have to be “Break Out” backed by “Only Glad You’re Gone.” And three or four more could also become favorites.

The best thing about this appealing disc: the music stays in your head. For more info, check Kati's Myspace page.

--- Tom Coulson
Radio broadcaster/musician

Swamp CoolersThis Swamp Coolers disc was purposely reviewed while driving in southern California. A previous Swamp Coolers album was reviewed in the December 2006 edition of Blues Bytes.

The group’s latest disc, Califaction (Tiki Records), pictures the atom bomb on the cover, and inside contains groove and rebellion. The production is quite good and musical topics sound and feel urban: buildings, cars, Beatles and outdoors. The lead guitar is good, lead vocals purposely crude and untrained, mostly bassist Mike Kunes, but also keyboardist Nonie Bernard.

Background harmony balances well (Candi Hofmann’s voice is up front at one point) and additional audio sweetening is effective. There’s varied syncopation in the tempos and rhythms, for example “I Got You” is both poppy and catchy. Word on street before review was the disc’s version of “Route 66” is killer, and the word is right. Especially in a surf sense.

Manhattan Transfer voicings inspire “Big Wave” and the CD concludes nicely with a half-time instrumental blues variation. Above all the group creates, and has, fun.

Heard live and steady around their home base of Phoenix, the Swamp Coolers go way beyond surf, whether “Ain’t Gonna Study War” or “Moondance” or John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom Boom.” Often they gravitate to blues and pop patterns. On record they continue to evolve and grow, and are somehow retro and a little forward at once.

---Tom Coulson
Radio broadcaster/musician

Jonny MoellerEven though Johnny Moeller lists influences as diverse as Albert Collins, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, he actually doesn’t sound like any of them. Instead, the Austin guitarist incorporates them into what he plays, which is a conglomeration of rock n’ roll, jazz, funk, and soul, with blues as the glue that holds things together. That sound is summed up perfectly by Moeller’s latest release, BlooGaLoo (Severn Records).

BlooGaLoo was recorded over a four-year span, perfectly understandable given Moeller’s busy schedule. In addition to fronting his own band, he’s also served as Severn’s house guitarist for several years and toured with several of the label’s other artists (Darrell Nulisch, Lou Pride, and Tad Robinson), but his best-known gig may be as guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

T-Bird front man Kim Wilson contributes vocals and harmonica on two tracks (Jesse Anderson’s blues rocker “Got A Feelin’” and a fiery version of Frankie Lee Sims’ “Well Goodbye Baby”). Another Austin mainstay, Lou Ann Barton, adds her sassy vocals to Earl King’s “Everybody’s Got To Cry Sometimes,” and does a playful duet with Moeller on Slim Hill’s “I’m Stuck On You,” and Shawn Pittman sings the Moeller original, “I’m Movin’ On Up.”

Moeller actually takes a few lead vocals himself on BlooGaLoo and acquits himself very well, especially on an absolutely fierce version of Earl King’s “Trick Bag” and Earl Hooker’s “Tease Me Baby.” Fans of his guitar work will have plenty to shout about, too, with several strong instrumentals, including the soulful title cut featuring Moeller and keyboard wizard Matt Farrell, who features prominently on several tracks, and the funky “Theme From The One-Armed Swordsman.” Moeller’s fretwork work is excellent. There’s never a note out of place, but what he does play gets your attention and keeps it.

BlooGaLoo is Johnny Moeller’s best disc yet and will prove difficult to remove from your stereo.

--- Graham Clarke

Phil GatesPhil Gates has been around music all his life, coming from a musical family in Chicago and playing violin, clarinet, and drums by the time he was eight years old. He picked up the guitar at age 12 and never looked back, taking in the music of Buddy Guy, Albert King, Carlos Santana, and Jimi Hendrix. He played music on the side while working in the aerospace industry, producing and doing session work. His latest release is Addicted To The Blues (Setag Music), a powerful set of modern blues that should garner some attention.

“Get Around To Me,” a song about a man who can’t get his lady to pay him any attention, opens the disc on a funky note. “Sexy Little Cool” is a highlight and showcases Gates’ slide guitar playing. “Evening Train” delves into different territory with its driving country beat. “My Babe” has a neat little groove and some great guitar work from Gates, while “Everyday” lays the funk down heavy amid its inspirational message. The title cut is a fun track, with Gates using the vernacular of an addict to describe his burning desire to play the blues.

“You Should’ve Listened” is a slow blues about an ailment that hounds many people, male and female, and “I Never Knew” is a swinging tune with an original look at an ending relationship. “Used Me Up” features more slide guitar in an R&B vein. “Road Shufflin’” is an instrumental that grooves hard and features some first-rate guitar, and “End of Time” is a fiery Texas shuffle. The disc closes with “The Wisdom,” which blends a New Orleans Second Line beat with gospelly backing vocals, where Gates pays tribute to his family and friends who have passed on.

Addicted To The Blues is a masterful slice of modern blues by an artist who has the total package. Phil Gates is an excellent songwriter who views traditional themes in a modern manner. His guitar work is outstanding (he also plays bass, keyboards, and drums), as is his singing. You are strongly encouraged to check out this release at CDBaby and visit his website.

--- Graham Clarke

Shakura S'aidaShakura S’aida was born in Brooklyn, raised in Switzerland, and now lives in Canada. She speaks three languages. She has acted on stage and screen, and has even sung backup for Patti LaBelle. In 2008, she gave a mesmerizing performance at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis which resulted in a Second Place finish. Since that performance, she has toured Europe seven times, with two more to come this year. Oh, yeah……she just released an impressive CD for Ruf Records, called Brown Sugar, which should increase her profile even more.

Brown Sugar is produced by Jim Gaines (Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana). Ten of the 12 tracks were written by S’aida and guitarist Donna Grantis. The songs range from traditional blues themes (“Mr. Right,” “Gonna Tell My Baby”, “Outskirts of Memphis”) to sassy soul (“Walk Out That Door” and “This Is Not A Love Song”) to pop-oriented tracks like “Angels On High,” “(Did It) Break Your Heart,” and the title track. The covers are the upbeat “Sweet Spot” and the funky “Anti Love Song,” which was written by Betty Mabry (singer and former wife of Miles Davis).

Vocally, S’aida can handle anything she’s given with room to spare. Truly, she’s one of the more versatile blues vocalists on the scene right now. With her on-the-money guitar work, Grantis is truly S’aida’s soul mate, tough where she needs to be and tender when needed. She’s the X-factor on Brown Sugar. The excellent band supporting them consists of organist Lance Anderson, Rick Steff on keyboards, drummer Steve Potts, and Dave Smith on bass.

Brown Sugar will doubtless make some noise on the blues charts. It’s a taut mix of blues and soul, with a little pop mixed in. It’s sure to satisfy fans of all three genres. Visit Shakura S’aida’s website and download her song, “Angels On High.” It’s a worthy cause, with all proceeds going to Haitian relief funds.

--- Graham Clarke

Peter ParcekPeter Parcek goes back to the 1960s, where his bands were influenced by that era’s blues/rockers like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, the Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd. He previously served as sideman for bluesmen like Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins and the rock group The Singhs, before striking off on his own with the Peter Parcek Band and a duo project called Forty-Four. His latest release, The Mathematics Of Love (Redstar Entertainment/Vizztone), mixes the blues with rock, surf, country, jazz, and roots music. The result is an original and diverse set that will please guitar fans of any ilk.

Though Parcek incorporates many genres into his music, the blues is the source of it all. The opening track, Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues,” kicks things off in fiery fashion. I like the clever lyrics and vaporous feel of the title track, and the lively instrumental, “Rollin’ With Zah” is just pure fun. Next up is Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy,” which is recreated with a thoroughly modern sheen.

An incendiary instrumental version of Lucinda Williams’ “Get Right With God” is next, followed by Parcek’s moody “Tears Like Diamonds.” I really like his animated interpretation of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo Me Baby,” which contrasts well with the mellow Delta groove of the following track, “New Year’s Eve” (with Ronnie Earl). Parcek pulls out all the stops on the instrumental take of Ray Charles’ “Busted,” which features Al Kooper on organ. A sparkling acoustic version of Cousin Joe’s “Evolution” closes things out.

Parcek gets great support from Steve Scully (drums), Marc Hickox (bass), Jimmy Ryan (mandolin), Dan Kellar (violin), Marty Ballou (upright bass), Earl, and Kooper. Guitar fans will absolutely love The Mathematics Of Love.

--- Graham Clarke

Julien Kasper BandTrance Groove (Toulcat Records) is the latest release from The Julien Kasper Band. Kasper, like most guitarists of his generation, got into music after listening to the Beatles and learning to play solos from Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Duane Allman, and Freddy King. He’s played with Pat Ramsey (in the blues/rock band Crosscut Saw) as a teenager. Most recently, he worked with keyboardist Bruce Katz, with whom he appeared on two CDs and Mighty Sam McClain. Currently, Kasper is a professor at the Berklee College of Music, serving on the guitar faculty. Trance Groove is his third release.

Teaming with bassist Jesse Williams and drummer Zac Casher, Kasper has created a stunning and diverse album that draws on elements of blues, jazz, and rock in equal measures, similar to the guitar work so prevalent in the late 1960s that eventually led to the fusion movement of the ’70s.

Nowhere is the nod to fusion more obvious than on the title track, which opens the disc. “Chupacabra” leans more toward the rock side and benefits from the groove laid out by T Lavitz’s Hammond B3. “The Reverend” is the purest blues track here, a slow, moody number.

Kasper offers studies at Berklee on the styles of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, so it’s only fitting that tracks like “Trash Day” and “Riff 53” have Beck’s fingerprints on them. Other highlights are the hard rocker, “Milk Truck,” the classical-edged “Abyssinia,” and “Carolina Rosa.”

Trance Groove is an impressive mix of various guitar styles, with something for any guitar fan to enjoy.

--- Graham Clarke

Jimmy Warren BandOne of the better blues/rock discs of the year is from the Jimmy Warren Band. Entitled No More Promises (Electro Glide Records), it features twelve tracks of blues/rock written and arranged by guitarist Warren, who first picked up the guitar in his mid-twenties. He has more than made up for lost time, playing for a wide-ranging list of artists including Buddy Miles, Lonnie Mack, Pat Travers, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, REO Speedwagon, and Chris Duarte. In the late ’90s, he took an extended break from music to spend time with his family, but has returned with a vengeance, releasing a live disc in 2009 and this worthy follow-up.

Standout tracks include the opening cut, “Watermelon Money,” is a jazzy track with innovative lyrics, “Mean Mistreater,” a slow blues shuffle teaming Warren with guitarist Jimi Dill, “Darker Shade of Grey,” an instrumental that allows Warren to put his guitar chops on display. Bob Margolin adds some sensational slide guitar to “It Ain’t Fair.” “Standing In My Shoes” is a topical blues about a familiar theme --- unemployment during rough times.

“Love’s Gone Bad Again” is punctuated by some great guitar work from Warren and a heartfelt vocal, and “A Love That Hurts” is the purest rocker on the disc. “A Matter of Time” has a great soul feel with B3 organ played by Warren (who also plays drums, bass, and keyboards on selected tracks). The closing track, “Send Me On My Way,” may be the best track on the disc, another working man blues track with a tense vocal and piercing guitar leads from Warren.

No More Promises is a strong blues/rock disc featuring great performances and a powerful set of original tracks covering matters of the heart and everyday tribulations that we all face on a daily basis. Jimmy Warren made a wise choice returning to music. He’s an artist who deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Mannish BoysThere are several things you can count on any time you listen to a release by The Mannish Boys: a lineup of the best players on the current blues scene, a track list consisting of familiar and not-so-familiar blues tunes, excellent performances, and a guaranteed good time from the band and listeners alike. There is nothing to be found to disprove that statement on their latest release from Delta Groove, Shake For Me.

The present group consists of vocalists Finis Tasby and Bobby Jones, guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser, and harmonica player/producer Randy Chortkoff. This time around, they are joined by a new rhythm section (Jimi Bott –drums and Willie J. Campbell – bass) and another all-star cast of “guest stars,” including Rod Piazza, Johnny Dyer, Mitch Kashmar, Arthur Adams, Mike Zito, Kid Ramos, Lynwood Slim, and Nick Curran.

Of the 16 tracks, 12 are covers, ranging from the familiar (“Too Tired,” “Reconsider Baby,” “Last Night,” “Champagne & Reefer” and a Bo Diddley/Johnny Otis medley of “Mona” and “Willie And The Hand Jive,” with Bobby Jones and Mike Zito on vocals) to the somewhat obscure (the Howlin’ Wolf tune, “You Can’t Be Beat,” “Black Nights,” Ray Charles’ “Hey Now, and “Way Down South,” which features Dutch singer/harp man Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijm and Kid Ramos).

The new tracks include a pair of songs by Chortkoff (“Educated Ways,” featuring Goldwasser on slide guitar, and "Those Worries,” with Lynwood Slim and Chortkoff pairing up on harmonica), “The Bullet,” a scorching instrumental guitar fest with Fletcher and Nick Curran, and “Raunchy,” penned by Arthur Adams, who also sings and plays guitar.

You can’t go wrong with The Mannish Boys. Shake For Me is as good a time as you’ll have with any current releases. Simply put, its good blues done right.

--- Graham Clarke

Kirk FletcherIt’s been over five years since Kirk Fletcher released his last solo disc, Shades of Blue, and a lot has happened for the young man since that time. He teamed up with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Charlie Musselwhite on stage and in studio during that span, and has also played or recorded with The Hollywood Blue Flames, Lynwood Slim, and The Mannish Boys. He also started playing with guitarist Michael Landau around Los Angeles. After leaving the T-Birds recently, Fletcher decided to focus on producing his own material again, and the result is My Turn, his latest release for Eclecto Groove Records.

My Turn finds Fletcher playing with an impressive group of musicians, including Landau, bass player Travis Carlton (son of jazz guitarist Larry Carlton), Bobby Tsukamoto (former bass player for Jesse Ed Davis), and percussionist James Gadson (who has worked previously with Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack, and Bill Withers, among others). It also finds him incorporating other sounds into his blues, such as jazz, soul, and funk.

A couple of songs are examples of the different direction Fletcher is taking. The funky rhythms and blistering sax on the title cut reminded me of those old Tom Scott records my college roommate had even before I read in the liner notes that this was the sound Fletcher was going for on the song, mixing in some Hendrixian guitar work for good measure. The album closer, “Continent’s End” is also different from his previous work, sort of resembling Hendrix during his “Third Stone From the Sun” phase.

The opening track, “El Medio Stomp,” is a free-wheeling instrumental that will probably remind you of SRV. Fletcher also covers the Jesse Ed Davis track, “Natural Anthem,” and “Way Back Home,” a lovely number from the ’70s pop/jazz giants The Crusaders (featuring Travis Carlton on bass, whose father played guitar on the original version). “Blues For Antone” is a power-packed Texas blues instrumental in tribute of the late Clifford Antone.

Fletcher even steps behind the mic for the first time on four tracks…..a pair of Chicago blues tracks (the Jimmy Reed standard “Found Love” and Jimmy Johnson’s “Ain’t No Way”), a smoking version of “Congo Square,” and Sly Stone’s “Let Me Have It All.”

My Turn shows that Kirk Fletcher continues to grow and develop as a performer, stepping out into new directions. The guitar work has always been there and is better than ever. Now, the vocals are coming around very well. This is his most satisfying disc so far.

--- Graham Clarke

Peter Karp - Sue FoleyThe He Said She Said scenario between Peter Karp and Sue Foley has evolved from a series of letters between the two, to a full blown relationship, to a traveling literary event to the final Blind Pig recording that it is now. All along the way Peter and Sue share the intimate intricacies of a fragile beginning to the relationship they now share, with all of its twists and turns. It ends up being quite the adventure, let’s give it a listen.

The opening cut, “Treat Me Right,” finds both parties imploring the other to be respectful of each other, to treat each other right. We find Sue attracted to Peter, “He’s all man…not like those other guys” and Peter’s response to Sue’s treatment of him, “Honey, even a broke clock’s right twice a day.” From these fragile beginnings we find Sue admitting she’s fallen hard in our next cut, “So Far So Fast.” “Out of sight…I’m so afraid I won’t be all right…I pledged my soul to a thief in the night…I fell in love.”

“Wait” finds Peter confessing some of his faults as he comes to grip with the feelings he has for Sue. “I’ve been in the water with a sail full of fury ... I’ve been heart broke and happy with a bellyful of worry…cause everything changed when you left me here baby…everything followed you right out the door…all I do is sit around this old house and wait.” Peter’s fallen hard and he’s anxious for Sue to return.

“Rules of Engagement” find Peter and Sue trying to establish a framework for their relationship. “Rules of engagement…what are they for?...there ain’t nothing fair in love and war.” They’re experiencing the growing pains that all new couples go through and sometimes the struggles get the best of them. Peter moves on to “Hold on Baby,” imploring Sue to hang in there with him. “Yeah, you might be out on the road…rolling free and rough…you might be walking with a swagger…yeah, talking off the cuff…but baby you know I know that your tender as your tough…so hold on baby…hold on.” “Mm Hmmm” finds both Sue and Peter lamenting their time on the road away from one another and the dance they go through each time they reconnect. “Wouldn’t it be nice to once or twice or even thrice, pick up where we left off to resume…throwing each other around the room.”

In our next cut, “Danger Lurks,” Sue’s worrying about letting Peter into her heart and committing to her feelings, “I ought’n be dreaming about your kiss, your voice, your eyes and all of this…Danger lurks in the dark…in the shadows of my hear…I know if I let myself go…I’m doomed.” Peter’s answer to Sue is to tell her that he’s “Ready for Your Love.” “There’s a trail of tears behind each one of your steps…of lost souls and broken men…oh my God…what I am thinking of? Come on baby…I’m ready for your love.” Sue’s still worried and she shares her fears with us in “Scared.” “I don’t know where I stand…I don’t know who I am…All I can do is say I love you darling…and hope you understand…I’m scared.”

Finally, acceptance comes and their love for each other begins to grow as they share their first “Valentine’s Day.” “Remember me…should I go first...and all the years we were blessed and cursed…how through it all…love lit the way…remember it all again on this Valentine’s Day.” It’s no secret that both Peter and Sue are on the road a lot as traveling artists, so the time apart at times is hard. Peter shares a portion of his thoughts on this subject in “Dear Girl.” “Dear girl…dear girl…this is my life at the moment…dear girl…this how I live while you’re a thousand miles away…this is what I do to pass the time until I have the sense of mind to write it all down…dear girl.” Things aren’t any easier for Sue and she shares her thoughts in “Baby Don’t Go.” “Don’t walk away…leave me here…close the door….disappear…don’t be so scared…give me half a chance to relieve the doubt…If you loved me once…you’ll love me now…baby, don’t go.”

He Said She Said closes with two songs: “Regret,” a song by Peter lamenting his past and the thousands of things that Sue doesn’t know about his life before her (“there’s a water tower in the sky…there’s a lonely whistle crying…there’s broken lines out in the road in every town that I go…you don’t know what I’ve lost”), and “Lost in You,” Sue’s admission that her love for Peter is a major component of her life. “Your eyes are old but younger still…I wallow in your dark, deep pools…powerless beneath your will…you know I get so lost in you.”

He Said She Said is definitely a one of a kind recording. While other artists have definitely had the feelings and life experiences that Peter and Sue share, none of them have exposed their innermost details to the world that way that Peter and Sue have. An excellent disc, Peter and Sue are touring this summer behind their record and their live performance is something I’d love to see. You can order a copy of the disc from or More information on this project can be found at Enjoy!

--- Kyle Deibler

Karen LovelyKaren Lovely’s star is definitely on the rise. The second place finisher in this year’s International Blues Challenge, Karen’s back with a new record, Still the Rain, that will be a formidable competitor for Best New Artist Debut at next year’s Blues Music Awards. Karen’s backed by the Dawwg House Rhythm Section, and producer Dennis Walker clearly has brought out the best in this Blues woman from Oregon. My old friend from Houston, the Blues Hound, is definitely right --- Karen Lovely is “the single most impressive emerging female vocalist I’ve heard in quite some time.” Enough already, time to hit the play button and get on with it.

Karen opens with “Blues Ain’t Far Behind,” her man clearly has other things on his mind and Karen knows he’s lying to her. “The story made no sense at all, my heart started to break…staring out the window….looking up the road…some big heartache’s coming…and it won’t be long I know…I learned in my time…when the first lie’s told…the blues ain’t far behind.” Alan Mirikitani’s fretwork is impressive and Karen’s clearly in command of her feelings as she analyzes the problem in front of her. It’s clear this man is done and he’s definitely lost a good woman.

Up next is “Sunny Weather” and Karen’s in a loving mood. “Don’t ever rain…nights are warm…loving the time together…that’s how it goes in sunny weather!” Karen’s enjoying the quiet moment’s spent with her man, one of the benefits of “Sunny Weather”. The title track, “Still the Rain,” is up next and here we find a woman Karen knows contemplating leaving an abusive situation. “A shadow jumped…as the lights went dim…she found herself…standing over him…she heard the levee holding back the storm…soon the river…would be at her door…still the rain came down.” Her choice was clear, escape while she could…or stay to help her abuser…a smile crept over her face as she watched the house drift away from the top of the levee. “Still the rain…still the rain came down.”

Karen finds the shoe’s on the other foot in our next tune, “Cold Man Cold.” “No goodbye…no nothing…just hit the road…that’s cold, man cold.” He left Karen high and dry…took her TV, too. Sounds like a good man to let go and good riddance. “Other Plans” finds Karen contemplating the love she’s hoping for with the man in her life. “We’ll build a future and a home…share true love forever…if I have my way…we’d spend each and every day…hand in hand…but you have other plans.” I can never understand why a good man would let a good woman slip away, but here it happens again. He’s got “other plans” and they clearly don’t include Karen.

In our next tune, “Ask Your Heart,” we find more of the same. “You say it’s clearer…every day…you’d be better off without me…so you’re going to go…decision’s made…you’d be better off with me…so ok baby…your head says we should part…but ok baby…did you ask your heart?” It would be interesting to know what his heart really says.

In “Full Time Job,” we find Karen making excuses for the behavior of her man and realizing that loving him is indeed, “a full time job.” “Climbing the walls…pacing the floor…turn the porch light on….round half past four…day and night…it’s all I can do….it’s a full time job…loving you.” At least in “Glad Your Gone,” Karen can feel relieved that he’s finally gone. “Had a couple nights of rain…just a couple cold, grey dawns…then I woke up this morning…already glad you’re gone!” Michael Vannice’s tenor sax echoes mournful notes in the background as Karen appreciates the happiness that her man leaving has brought her.

Alan’s guitar is back at the forefront of our next tune, “Never Felt No Blues.” “I refuse to call him…it’s me that’s been done wrong…the way I’m feeling now…I can’t hold out too long…I have never felt no blues…like this before!” This one definitely hurts but Karen’s better off having let this bad man go. Still, she’s missing the loving touch of this man and it will be awhile before she’s over him.

Karen’s back in control of her feelings on our next cut, “I’ve Had Enough.” “Days drift by…with nothing to show…except this broken down pride…with nothing to show…I’ve had enough!” This relationship is over and Karen’s adamant she’s moving on. Jim Pugh’s keyboard skills on the piano set the tone for our next song, “Older Fool.” “Some folks grow older…they grow a little wiser too….seems to me…I’m just an older fool!” Karen’s compassionate heart gets her into trouble and here she’s repeating the same relationship mistakes over and over again. Wonder when the learning curve is going to kick in.

“Knock Knock” finds Karen at the door of her lover, trying to talk her way in. “Knock, Knock Baby…wish I had your key…this would be easier on me….if I just had your key…and no locked door…going to keep you away…away from me!” Sounds like Karen’s determined and she definitely wants this man. Hopefully he’ll let her in.

Still the Rain closes with a sweet ballad, “So Willing.” “So willing…baby…it’s so, so true…I am ready….ready and able…to do right by you!” “My love is for the taking…I won’t be holding back…anything you need…all you got to do is ask…so willing…I’m ready, willing and able…to do right by you!” Karen truly loves this man and he’d be crazy not to appreciate the woman standing in front of him.

I have to admit that I’ve rarely seen an artist move this far forward so fast. Karen’s last record, Lucky Girl, set the tone for her appearance at the IBC, and Still the Rain is setting the table for Karen’s first appearance at the Blues Music Awards. Karen is indeed an amazing vocalist, backed by an equally amazing band, all in Dennis Walker’s capable hands. The result is one of the most impressive debut records I’ve heard for an emerging artist ever.

You can find out more about Karen on her website at Both of her discs are available there, and catch a live performance by Karen if you can. Then let me know if the Blues Hound was right.

--- Kyle Deibler

Popa ChubbyYou have to admire the temerity of Popa Chubby. It says right on the disc for his latest release on Blind Pig Records, The Fight Is On, “play at full volume for maximum effect.” The Fight Is On is Popa’s tribute to classic rock music and it truly does function very well at full volume. Let’s give it a listen at a volume that works.

The title cut is up first and already we’re settling in for what is bound to be quite a ride. A solid drum intro gives way to Popa’s guitar and here we go. “The time for talk is over…and the lessons have been learned…so touch gloves and go to neutral corners…til you feel the bell…there ain’t no room in heaven…you’re already been in hell….the fight is on!” Survival is the battle of the fittest and the fight is on! Up next is “We’ve Got Some Rocking to Do” and the anthemic attack of Popa’s guitar rages on. “I’ve been working my fingers to the G-Damn bone and the boss man don’t want to leave me alone…now its 6:05 and I’ve got a whole lot of money…we’ve got some rocking to do.” Popa works hard and now it’s time to get out and play hard.

Our next cut, “Another Ten Years Gone,” reflects on the passing of musical influences in Popa’s life. From Hendrix to Lennon to Steve Ray Vaughn, they all influenced Popa’s music. “I was 30 years old when Stevie Ray died….stone cold sober and I stood there and cried…wind and mountain…steel death trap….Lord they came…took Steve Ray back…and the blues keeps moving on…Lord, I’m 10 years gone!”
“The Right Time” ends up being a shuffle and the mood definitely changes. “This time is going to be the right time….going to be the right time…wake up momma…do you hear the clock ticking….put your head on my heart…can you feel it ticking…I ain’t making up for lost time….this time…is going to be the right time!”

The classic rock theme returns in “Rock & Roll is My Religion” as Popa lets us know, “you can keep your justice…I don’t need your rules…I just roll among my soul…sing those low down blues!” He’s content with his place in the world and far be it from us to try to change him. Things keep moving with our next tune, “The Company of Thieves.” “The company of generals…sure to take your life…but the company of thieves…will put you to the knife!” Popa’s living fast and loose, definitely appreciates it being that way.

Our next song, “Switchblade Combs and Candy Cigarettes,” almost has a Jimmy Buffet feel to it. The song is about Popa’s encounter with a very gutsy 13 year old girl. “And you’re a wicked child…the kind that makes me smile…I have no regrets…and when you walk alone you have a switchblade comb and candy cigarettes.” This encounter reminds Popa of his childhood and the circumstances are eerily similar. Chubby’s fretwork is just amazing and he follows this tune with another rocker, “Noisemaking Love Machine.” “Finest style, expert skills…got that money…pay them bills…I’m a hard hitting daddy…sure enough to make you scream…when I come a calling….I’m a noisemaking love machine.” Popa’s been in jail and now that he’s back on the streets, he’s definitely back on the prowl. Up next is “Steelhorse Serenade,” a rocking instrumental. Pig’s work on both the bass and drums is amazing and the band is at their loudest volume, ear-drum breaking best. Wow!

The levels drop down to a tolerable level in our next tune, “It’s Over.” “I’m over the limit…I’m over the thrill…over and over…and over again…I tell you it’s over…it’s over my friend…over the limit…and now you must pay!” Popa’s woman’s been bad and now it’s time to rein her bad habits in. “Wicked Wanda” and her ability to play Popa are the subject of our next tune. “The fool that I was…didn’t matter none…til she slipped out the room…slipped back in with a gun…I know your type…three kids and a wife…and if you’re smart…you’re going to want to save your life…some girls are sweet…some girls are gay…but I’m the kind of woman…going to blow you away!” Popa got more than he bargained for this time. He won’t come around “Wicked Wanda” again anytime soon.

The Fight Is On closes out with “Ace of Spades” and here we find Popa is a gambling man. “Push enough to ante…I know you’re going to see me…read em’ and weep…the dead man’s hand again…I see it in your eyes…take one look and die…the only thing you’re going to see…the ace of spades!”

This definitely has been a rocking album from beginning to end. Popa’s first studio album in almost two years has definitely been worth that wait. And Popa’s right, “play at full volume for maximum effect!” You can find out more about Popa Chubby and grab a copy of this amazing disc at

--- Kyle Deibler

Chase The SunI have to admit a bit of a bias against Australian “Blues” bands, as most of what I’ve heard doesn’t usually fall into the generally accepted category of blues. However, I’ve recently heard some Australian bands that know what the blues is, and Chase The Sun is one of them. Having said that, they lean a little towards rock, although it is blues-rock and, in any case where did rock originate from?

This is a band that doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t, they play pure rocking blues, or blues rock if you prefer, and they play it well. If you want to try and define it, then it’s a bit like the music that “Government Mule” produce.

Rednecks & Gentlemen is the band’s second album, and the music has progressed. I liked the first CD, and I like this one more.

The CD opens with the title track, “Rednecks & Gentlemen,” which is written by the band members, as are all 11 tracks (track seven, “Living Free,” is written by the band plus two others). The track gives you a taste of what’s coming up in the album, it’s instrumental, full of flavour and excitement, and it makes you want more.

“Dream Maker” has a bit of Hendrix influenced guitar at the start, with some driving rhythm section pushing the guitar and vocals forward, while “Away On Business” slows things down a little. “Girl Can Talk” lifts the tempo just a little, before things slow way down with the beautiful “Live On,” which has some poignant lyrics about a man looking over his life – living on just to die. This is followed by the slow, slow, “Sweet Candy,” with a guitar riff that puts me in mind of “Spoonful” as performed by Cream.

And then….. Oh Boy!!! The listener gets smacked in the ears by the fast boogie blues-rocker “Living Free” – for me, the whole CD is worth having just for this track alone, and that’s not to say the rest of the album isn’t good, it’s just that this is something special. It obviously gave the band the boogie fever, because they’re off and running with the fast paced “6 Feet Under” – it exhausted me listening to it, so I don’t know what the band were like at the end of playing it – delicious! This reminds me why I love a good bit of blues boogie! The band comes up with another fast-paced number, “Princess,” before slowing down with the acoustic “Living Free Part 2.” The CD wraps up with the medium tempo “Long Gone” – a nice way to finish off a great album.

The CD can be ordered from the band’s website.

--- Terry Clear

Rocky JacksonTestify (High Life Records) is the long awaited follow-up to the 2006 album Squeeze Here from Texas bluesman Rocky Jackson – and I have to say that it was worth waiting for. Five of the 13 tracks are covers, which leaves eight songs written by Rocky Jackson – plenty to show that he can write the stuff as well as play it. The covers are by Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson, and a traditional blues in the shape of “Early In The Morning” – appearing here as track seven on the CD.

The CD opens with the Willie Dixon number “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” covered down through the years by just about every bluesman (and a few women, too) – Jackson makes a good job of it, too, bringing a little of his own Texas flavour to an already good song.

The album then moves into a Jackson original, “Big Legs Mean Fat,” a humorous discourse on the types of women’s legs that men prefer, before the medium tempo “Voodoo Spell” takes over. On track four, the old Robert Johnson song “Stop Breaking Down,” Rocky Jackson demonstrates his mastery of the slide guitar. This is a great updated version of an old song from one of the grandfathers of the blues, showing just how an old song can be brought up to date without losing it’s original flavour.

Showing that he in not just a one-dimensional bluesman, Jackson follows up with a slow, moody instrumental entitled “Like Magic.” This is really a really nice track, full of feeling, and it’s followed up by “I Wanna Testify,” another slow-paced number which flows nicely into the traditional “Early In The Morning.”
The following tracks are a mixture of tempos and styles, including the Jimmy Reed written “Don’t Say Nothin’ “ – this track is so rich in Jimmy Reed type vocals that it could be featuring the man himself. It just goes to prove that Rocky Jackson isn’t afraid of trying totally different styles of music, as does Jackson’s version of Muddy Waters’ “Long Distance Call.”

Jackson saves the best for last – track 13, “L.A. To Austin,” is pure Texas blues written and played to perfection – good driving blues, with classic road-trip lyrics.

This CD is a definite “must have.”

--- Terry Clear

Steve ArveyThis CD is named X (Roman numeral for 10) because it is Steve Arvey’s tenth recording, this one on Bittersweet Records, and because it feature ten tracks which Arvey describes as being ten of his most favourite tunes. Chicago musician (currently living in Florida) Arvey has moved away a little from recording just blues; this CD has so many styles and influences that it’s impossible to forecast what the next track will bring each time.

The album opens with the Charles Bury song “Bar Room Blues,” one of only two tracks on the CD that wasn’t written or co-written by Arvey. “Bar Room Blues” is one of the few completely blues track on the album, and it makes a good start to the CD.

“Venice Beach” comes up next, written by Scott Pollack from Dr 8; it features some inspired guitar work from Arvey, although it’s hard to pigeonhole the song – maybe country rock comes close. Things slow down then with a nice ballad, “Dreams We Left Behind,” before Steve does a couple Bob Dylan impressions on “Another Dream Is Broken” and then on “Love Is Earned.” This man can conjure up so many personas in his music!

Just when you start to settle into the music, Arvey slaps you in the head with a Bosa Nova influenced instrumental “Madrid” – where did that come from? And then it’s back into the blues rocker “Cows Come Home” – a curious title, but a great bluesy track – pure Steve Arvey! This is by a long way my favourite track on the album.

Things slow down with “Ft. Desoto” and stay slow with the lovely “Love Is A Painful Thing,” and this time Arvey sounds just like Albuquerque bluesman Stan Hirsch. This track contains some absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar work.

The last track on the album takes Arvey back to his Dylan-influenced music, this time sounding a little “country” on “Marry Me.”

Knowing what good blues Steve Arvey is capable of, it’s difficult at first to get your head around this CD, but persistence pays off and you start to get an idea of what he was about when he made this album.

--- Terry Clear

Mickey ThomasThe Bluesmasters Featuring Mickey Thomas were formed in 2007 by Tim Tucker and Sean Benjamin – Tim plays guitar on this album and Sean plays piano on two of the trucks. The line-up is impressive, featuring legendary English drummer Aynsley Dunbar, Doug Lynn on harmonica, bass player Danny Miranda, Ric Ulsky on Hammond B3, together with Mickey Thomas on vocals and Tim Tucker on guitar.

Their self-titled CD on Direct Music opens with a slow shuffle version of Joe Turner’s “Cherry Red,” with ex-Jefferson Starship vocalist Thomas belting out some familiar lyrics, leading into the up tempo boogie “Rock Me Baby” – this track is so good that I had trouble getting past it on the CD! Things slow right down for Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” with interesting rhythms making it different enough from the original, whilst retaining the flavour.

The tempos and flavours twist and turn thoughout the CD, with ballads (“I’d Rather Go Blind”), boogies (“Can’t Get No Grindin’ “), traditional blues (“Walkin’ Blues”), slow and mooody (“Third Degree”), rocking soul blues (“Get Your Business Straight”). “Over Yonder Wall”, the old James Clark number really stands out, with some excellent guitar work being driven along by the Hammond B3, for me the highlight of the album.

The CD winds up with the Clapton’esque “Long Time,” a track written by Tim Tucker and a fitting finish to a very well produced CD.

I’m already looking forward to more by this band!

--- Terry Clear


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