Blues Bytes

What's New

May 2011

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Al Basile

Hadden Sayers

Tommy Lee Cook

Big Head Todd

Chris Bergson

Daddy Mack Blues Band

Steve Miller Band


Lloyd Jones

Dana Fuchs


Al BasileAl Basile’s latest release for Sweetspot Records, his eighth, is called The Goods. If you’ve been following the former Roomful of Blues member for a while, you know what to expect – smooth music and arrangements in the Roomful of Blues tradition (produced by fellow Roomful alumnus Duke Robillard), smooth vocals, and some of the most intelligent and savvy songwriting around. The Goods may be his most ambitious album so far, touching on elements of the blues, jazz, soul, gospel, and swing.

Basile was originally a poet and fiction writer, with a master’s degree from Brown in Creative Writing, so the 13 songs are all like little short stories. The opener, “The Price (I Got To Pay),” is a peppy soul number of the Memphis variety. “Along Come The Kid” is a song about expecting the unexpected, and features some rock-edged guitar from Robillard. There’s more deep soul on tracks like “Time Can Wait,” “She’s A Taker,” and the gospel-flavored “Distant Ships.”

“Lie Down In Darkness (Raise Up In Light)” ventures into gospel territory, featuring background vocals from the Blind Boys of Alabama, and is guaranteed to raise chill bumps. “1.843 Million” is a story song about a heist in the old film noir tradition, complete with car chases, sirens, and squealing tires. Basile also journeys to the Crescent City for three tracks, the double entendre-laden “I Want To Put It There,” the funky “The Itch,” and “Don’t Sleep On Santa,” which also incorporates some Latin rhythms.

The humorous “Mr. Graham Bell” is a lengthy minor-key blues lament about that best and worst of inventions, the telephone with some great piano work from Bruce Bears. “Reality Show” is also humorous, about a woman who can only find satisfaction when in front of a camera. “Pealing Bells” is another gospel number with a masterful vocal from Basile.

Lending Basile a hand is a first-rate band including Robillard (guitar), Bears (keyboards), Brad Hallen (bass), Mark Teixeira (drums), and fellow Roomful alum Doug James (saxes, clarinet, piccolo). The Goods takes the best of what Al Basile has done on his previous releases and gathers it all together to make one impressive album.

--- Graham Clarke

Hadden SayersTexas guitarist Hadden Sayers’ back story reads like a blues song. As recently as 2004, he seemed to have it all…..record labels fighting for his services, as many shows as he wanted to play, media attention for his albums….then, things went south. Record labels disappeared, shows dwindled down to a few a year, agents came and went, friends and fellow musicians died. Finally, Sayers stepped away from music, recharged his batteries, adjusted his priorities, forged a friendship and sometimes partnership with singer Ruthie Foster, and has now released a wonderful CD, Hard Dollar, on Blue Corn Records.

Sayers wrote all 13 songs on Hard Dollar and he moves effortlessly through tracks like the rocking opener, “Take Me Back To Texas,” the swamp rock ballad, “All I Want Is You,” the after-hours duet with Foster, “Back To The Blues,” and the catchy shuffle, “Inside Out Boogie.” Sayers is a first-rate guitarist and his laconic vocals are picture perfect.

“Flat Black Automobile” is a cool R&B-based number that cleverly discusses struggles with the almighty dollar, and “Sweet Texas Girls” is a tribute to the women of his home state. “Crush on You” is an old school rocker with some great guitar, and “Hippie Getaway” is a cool rapid-fire boogie shuffle. Sayers channels another Texas guitarist, the Master of the Telecaster, Albert Collins, on the funky instrumental closer, “Money Shot.”

Sayers plays like a musician reborn on these tracks. Judging by the enthusiasm and energy he and the band (Tony McClurg – drums, Mark Frye – bass, Fender Rhodes, Dave DeWitt – keyboards) exude throughout, it’s obvious the guys had a ball making this recording….probably just a little more fun than you will have listening to it. Hopefully, Sayers is well on the way to getting his career back on track and there will be plenty more great music where this came from.

--- Graham Clarke

Tommy Lee CookTommy Lee Cook picked up a guitar when the Beatles were hot, but he’s been putting out some great rocking blues in Florida, with his band, the Allstars, for years. On Cook’s latest release, Outside Looking In (Two Mules Music), he almost goes it alone with only Pat “Cleanhead” Hayes on harmonica and Danny Shepard on electric guitar and midi-programming. Cook does the rest (electric and acoustic guitars, Dobro, vocals and midi-programming). Cook was at a musical crossroads following the death of his good friend and musical partner, Hamp Walker (the disc is dedicated to him).

Cook and the band play blues styles ranging from Chicago to Delbert McClinton roadhouse to the Allman Brothers’ southern rock. He’s also a clever songwriter, with tunes like “Take A Breath,” a track about a talkative person that sounds like it’s straight out of Albert Collins’ songbook, “What You Gone Do,” punctuated with sound advice from his mama, and “God’s Little Acre,” a straight roadhouse rocker. “This Old Flame” is a soulful number that waxes philosophical, similar to the opening track.

“Grits and Groceries” is a fun song that pays tribute to Southern cuisine that makes you hungry just listening. “She’s Got The Look” is a slinky rocker about a woman who has it all and knows what to do with it. “The Truth About Lies” is another track loaded with unique philosophy…..some of which listeners will find themselves nodding their heads in agreement.

If you’re unfamiliar with Tommy Lee Cook, you will enjoy his songwriting, which puts a unique spin on everyday affairs. He’s also a fine guitarist and singer. I’m glad that he decided to continue making music. He’s got a gift that should be shared with blues fans. Hopefully, we will hear more from him before long. Stop by his website for more info and if you’re in the Fort Myers area, visit his Buckingham Blues Bar, where he and the Allstars play every Sunday and Wednesday.

--- Graham Clarke

Christopher DeanThe Christopher Dean Band’s latest release, What I Need (Lost World Music), is right up my alley. It’s a splendid mix of urban blues of the Chicago and Texas varieties and both Philly and Southern soul….a fun ride from start to finish. Guitarist/singer Dean is a veteran of Big Jack Johnson’s band, the Oilers, having appeared on two of Johnson’s late ’90s discs for M.C. Records, but he’s been recording since 2000. What I Need features 13 songs, ten cover tunes and three original compositions.

The band covers tunes as far ranging as Magic Sam (“All Of Your Love”), Bo Diddley (“Dearest Darlin’”), Albert King (“I Made Nights By Myself”), Junior Parker (“Mother-In-Law Blues”) on the blues side. On the soul side, there are tunes associated with or by Mel Waiters (“Hole In The Wall”), Omar Cunningham (“Check To Check”), Johnny Rawls (“Lucky Man”), Teddy Pendergrass (“The Love I Lost”) and David Ruffin (“Walk Away From Love”).

Dean’s original songs are an excellent fit with the covers. The title track is a deep soul tune with a fine vocal performance, while “I’m Through” is soul with a funky twist, and “All She’ll Ever Need” has a jazzy feel.

Vocally, Dean does a great job and shows a lot of versatility on a very diverse set of tunes, particularly on the opener, “Hole In The Wall,” and the Magic Sam and Johnny Rawls tracks. On some of the tracks, Dean’s guitar work takes a back seat, but when he does step up, he’s mighty impressive. I really liked his solos on the Junior Parker, Magic Sam, and Albert King songs.

The band deserves praise as well (Dean’s brother David Foti on bass, Chip Dixon on drums), along with a tight horn section (Jim Davis – sax, clarinet; Chris Lehman – trumpet). Iman Davis provides backing vocals. Guest musicians include Brad Vickers (bass), Colby Inzer (drums), Carl Snyder (keyboards), Dan McKinney (keyboards, percussion), and Mike Metallia (harmonica).

Simply put, if you dig urban soul and blues, What I Need is guaranteed to give you hours of listening pleasure. The Christopher Dean Band has hit a home run with this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Big Head ToddThe Colorado rock group, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, have recorded a few blues songs over the last two decades, notably a cover of “Boom Boom” that featured the tune’s originator, John Lee Hooker. So it’s not a total surprise when the group decided to record a tribute album to Robert Johnson on the centennial anniversary of his death. The final product, on Ryko/Big Records, is called Big Head Blues Club: 100 Years of Robert Johnson, and features ten tracks associated with the legendary blues man. Also involved is a first rate assemblage of blues artists (B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards, Charlie Musselwhite, Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside, and Lightnin’ Malcolm.

Singer/guitarist Todd Park Mohr does an fine job playing some solid blues guitar on most of the tracks, and also does a good job on vocals, not necessarily sounding like Johnson but highly effective on tracks like “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” which also employs Lightnin’ Malcolm’s piercing slide guitar. As is typical on most of Big Head Todd’s releases, the music is not just straight Delta blues….there’s some gently jazzy rhythms (“When You Got A Good Friend”), funk (“Preachin’ Blues” and “Come On In My Kitchen”), and droning Hill Country blues (“If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day,” with Burnside’s propulsive percussion and Malcolm’s searing slide). However, where the group plays it straight (“Kind Hearted Woman,” “Love In Vain,” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”), its clear that these guys know what they’re doing with the real stuff.

The centerpiece of the album, though, is probably Mohr’s duet with B.B. King on “Crossroads Blues.” King really does a fine job here and the rhythm section of Rob Squires on bass, Brian Nevin on drums, and Jeremy Lawton on keyboards, excellent throughout, really shines on this track. Foster also appears on a couple of tracks, as does Sumlin (both on “When You Got A Good Friend”). Musselwhite blows harp on three, and the irrepressible Honeyboy Edwards adds vocals to the album’s closer, “Sweet Home Chicago.”

In late January through March, the Big Head Blues Club gave a U.S. tour in support of the disc that I was fortunate enough to catch, featuring the group with Malcolm, Burnside, Edwards, and Sumlin (I wrote about it in detail on my blog). It was a masterful performance that also happened to be filmed, so maybe there will be a future DVD release in the works. Whether they do or not, this project stands up just fine on its own merits and should be required listening for blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Chris BergsonNew York guitarist Chris Bergson has backed jazz singers Annie Ross, Dena DeRose, Sasha Dobson, and Norah Jones over the past 15 years, but has also released his own recordings during that time, including the well-received Fall Changes in 2007. Blessed with an expressive vocal style, impressive guitar chops, and a talent for songwriting that encompasses blues, folk, and pop, Bergson is rightly considered to be an artist of the future in the blues. Based on his latest release for 2 Shirts Records, Imitate The Sun, all indications read that the future may be now.

Bergson has spent time playing in drummer Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble shows in Woodstock, NY, and it’s easy to see the influence of The Band on his latest release, especially on the opener, “Goin’ Home.” The title track is deep soul with a great sax solo from Jay Collins, keyboards from guest Bruce Katz, and Bergson’s spot-on guitar work. Bergson also shines with some shimmering slide guitar and a vulnerable vocal on the solo on “Shattered Avenue,” and “Hello Bertha” is a supple slice of Memphis soul. The funky “Mr. Jackson” is another original track that stands out. “Laying It Down In White” is a plaintive blues ballad with a heartfelt vocal and lovely guitar.

Bergson also does four covers…..for blues fans, a pair of familiar tunes (Howlin’ Wolf’s “Down In The Bottom” and a sharp version of “Dust My Broom,” minus slide guitar ) and a not-so-familiar pair (a cool take on Bessie Smith’s “You’ve Been A Good Wagon” and an emotionally-charged reading of Bob Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway”).

Hearing Imitate The Sun, it’s hard to figure why Chris Bergson isn’t better known in blues circles. Maybe that relative anonymity has allowed him to continue to develop his refreshing vision of the blues, mixed with soul, folk, rock and pop undisturbed. Whatever the reason may be, it’s hard to imagine him remaining anonymous for much longer. Seek this one out, by all means.

--- Graham Clarke

Nancy McKeenThe Nancy McKeen Bluz Machine has opened for acts like Johnny Winter, Eddie Money, Rory Block, Shannon Curfman, and the Blasters. Lead singer McKeen looks like she should be catching a ride home from cheerleader practice, but her powerful, world-weary vocals are influenced by artists as diverse as Curfman, Susan Tedeschi, Al Green, Grace Slick, Etta James, and Janis Joplin, and trust me, she learned her lessons well.

The Bluz Machine is Mark McFeely – guitar, Bob Giacometti – bass, and Pat Rush – drums. The band recently released a well-crafted EP, Three Jacks and a Jill, which will certainly leave you wanting to hear more than the five impressive tracks that are included here.

The Bluz Machine is a veteran group that is as comfortable rocking the house on urban blues tracks like “Part Time Woman,” “Blues For Christmas,” and “Third Rail,” as they are on the slower numbers (“Eleven,” which also features excellent harmonica from Dave Hixon). The closing tune, “Slow Burn,” is an interesting cut that features a standout vocal from McKeen with only percussive backing from the band.
McKeen sounds like a future star and the Bluz Machine musicianship is excellent.

I can’t wait to hear more from these guys. Stop by CDBaby and give this one a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Carlos del JuncoCarlos Del Junco originally wanted to record a live “Best of” collection as a follow-up to his recent release, Steady Movin’, but was never completely satisfied with the results. He then decided to do an “almost live” CD recorded in the studio, but played live to capture the energy, intensity, and creativity of his live performances. Mongrel Mash (Big Reed Records), like most other Del Junco recordings, covers a lot of ground, is always interesting and entertaining.

The opener, “The Crazy Bastard,” has an earthy feel behind its somewhat idiosyncratic rhythm. “My Favourite Uncle” combines island beats with the Crescent City and twangy Hawaiian guitar. A hyper reworking of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Workin’,” here simply titled “Mojo,” is a standout, and finds the band, and Del Junco, firing on all cylinders.

Del Junco also revives three songs from previous albums, the adventurous “Heddon Tadpolly Spook,” a moody recreation of “The Field,” and the Latin rocker, “Mariachi.” The lite-jazzy cover of Herb Alpert’s “Slick” features longtime Del Junco collaborator Kevin Breit on electric sitar. “A Fool’s Alibi” is a cool blues re-write of the T-Bone Walker tune. “Lil’ Laptop” is a 21st Century rewrite of the ’50s rocker, “Rocket 88,” substituting a computer for the hot rod.

The Blues Mongrels are simply superb. Kevin Breit is as virtuosic on stringed instruments as Del Junco, and the incredible rhythm section (Henry Hellig – bass, Jorn Anderson – drums, and Denis Keldie – organ) are truly the secret weapon on the disc. I’ve seen “mad skills” used in several publications to describe Del Junco’s talents on the harmonica, but even that phrase doesn’t do him justice. He’s taking the harmonica to a whole new level that was previously only dreamed of.

There’s never a dull moment on Mongrel Mash. In fact, you will find more to enjoy every time you plug it in.

--- Graham Clarke

Dana FuchsMovie goers may remember Dana Fuchs from the 2007 movie, Across the Universe, and her memorable interpretations of several Beatles tunes. She's also appeared as Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical, Love, Janis. However, the sultry singer has also released several albums of powerful rock and blues over the past few years. Her latest, Love To Beg, is her first for Ruf Records. While Fuchs certainly owes a debt to Joplin with her vocal stylings, Joplin is merely a piece to the puzzle. She takes in equal parts blues, rock, soul, and gospel in her approach and she seems to have barely scratched the surface so far.

The title track is a rocker that benefits from a supple vocal from Fuchs and some sizzling slide guitar and harmonica from producer/collaborator Jon Diamond. There are plenty of other highlights, too, mostly focusing on the rock side of the blues, such as "Keepsake," "Set It On Fire," "Pretty Girl," and "Faster Than We Can." "Keep On Rollin'" slows things down a bit, and "Summersong" is a nice change of pace, landing more on the pop and soul side of the fence......a really fun track that brings to mind the Memphis soul sound of Stax and Hi Records in the '60s and '70s. Fuchs mines from that vein on the album's' lone cover, a fine version of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long."

Overall, this is a very strong effort by Dana Fuchs that will definitely please her fans, and should open a few eyes and ears. It will be interesting to hear where she goes from here.

--- Graham Clarke

Lloyd JonesPortland bluesman Lloyd Jones has built a large fan base in the Northwest and has released several well-received albums over the past few decades. He's as comfortable playing R&B, funk, rock, or soul music as he is playing straight blues. Highway Bound is Jones' first "unplugged" disc and it features 16 stellar traditional blues tunes.

Jones is a first-rate guitarist, showing some particularly outstanding fingerpicking on his version of Elizabeth Cotton's "When I'm Gone" and Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine." He also tackles tunes by John Brim ("Ice Cream Man," with Charlie Musselwhite guesting on harmonica), Robert Johnson (a plugged-in rendition of "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"), and Leadbelly ("Good Night Irene"). Jones also does a pair of tunes from Big Bill Broonzy ("Southbound Train" and "Key To The Highway") and W.C. Handy ("Careless Love" and "Make Me A Pallet On The Floor") and even covers Hoagy Carmichael on the closer ("Lazybones," with Curtis Salgado on harmonica).

Jones also wrote three songs on Highway Bound, all three of which blend seamlessly with the included blues classics. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

--- Graham Clarke

Daddy MackFor the past decade, Mack Orr has been pounding out some of the greasiest, funkiest Memphis blues heard in years. A late bloomer (picking up the guitar in his 40s), Orr has been fronting the Daddy Mack Blues Band for the past couple of decades and has released three fantastic albums that should be in every discerning blues fan's collection. His latest release, Bluesfinger, should join the other three as essential listening.

The title track is a bluesy version of the Bar-Kays' classic soul instrumental, "Soul Finger," and it's so funky you can feel the grease dripping off of it. That vibe carries over to tracks like "Great Recession Blues," 'You Got My Money," the salacious "Soda Pop," and "Long Hard Road." "Can't Make It Without Your Love" leans more toward the soul side of Memphis with an impressive vocal turn from Orr, plus horns, churchy B3, and chick singers. Their gritty version of "Honky Tonk" will remind some longtime fans of Orr's album of rock covers from a few years ago, Slow Ride. Lending the band a hand is Memphis harmonica ace, Billy Gibson.

There's nothing new or even revelatory here, just the basic gutbucket blues played about as well as they can be played. As I stated a few weeks ago, the Daddy Mack Blues Band is one of my favorite bands currently playing. Pick up Bluesfinger and you will see what I'm talking about and you might even thank me later.

--- Graham Clarke

Terry Quiett BandThe Terry Quiett Band won the 2010 Ozark Blues Challenge and before that, they won the 2008 Wichita Blues Society Blues Challenge. The trio's versatility encompasses blues, rock, and jazz, with guitarist Quiett being particularly masterful in all three genres. He's also a powerful and emotive singer and wrote all 13 songs on their latest release, Just My Luck. The disc holds up well to repeat listening because you find something else each time that you missed the time before, especially with Quiett's guitar work.

Most of Quiett's songs deal with familiar blues themes (love, women, regrets), but his approach is anything but familiar. Standout tracks include the jazzy late-night feel of "Work For It," the Southern rocker, "Big Man Boogie," and "Getting Through To Me," which features some particular nasty guitar. A couple of tracks, like "Pound of Flesh" and "Fool's Gold," have an autobiographical hint to them. Quiett also goes acoustic on "Judgement Day," and dabbles in reggae on the politically-charged "Some People."

Blues/rock fans will love this release. It's a well-rounded, well-played set and Quiett has the makings of a future star with his formidable writing, playing, and singing skills.

--- Graham Clarke

Steve Miller BandThe Steve Miller Band’s latest CD, Let Your Hair Down (Roadrunner Records), is a sequel to last year’s Bingo!, which was the guitarist’s first studio recording in 17 years. In fact, the songs on this new album were recorded during the same sessions, so there’s a certain continuity to it all.

Many listeners may not realize it, but Miller actually got his start playing the blues in the ’60s and early ’70s, starting his first blues band with the help of friend Boz Scaggs at the age of 12. He adopted his “Space Cowboy” persona in the mid ’70s with much success, but has recently returned to exploring his blues roots.

One of the coolest things about Miller’s approach, which will appeal to both blues and rock fans, is his ability to seamlessly blend the blues with rock and pop. It was a quality that many enjoyed about his work in the ’70s and early ’80s, although they might not have realized it. That quality is present on Let Your Hair Down, as Miller tackles a solid set of familiar blues tunes….songs most blues fans are more than familiar with, and put his unique touch on them. In Miller’s hands, they’re almost like new songs. While he doesn’t sing on all of the tracks (leaving that to the more than capable Sonny Charles and a few others), Miller’s guitar work is a solid presence throughout.

Highlights include a funky take of Junior Wells’ “Snatch it Back and Hold It,” a smooth version of Rosco Gordon’s “Just A Little Bit,” a rowdy cut of Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing.” Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” is a standout and Miller even resuscitates the old chestnut, “Sweet Home Chicago,” with satisfying results. Another fine track is a scorching remake of Jimmy McCracken’s “The Walk.”

Let Your Hair Down comes in two versions. The first one contains only ten songs, but there’s also a “special edition” that includes four bonus tracks. The cream of the bonus quartet is a manic take on Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Ain’t Got You,” and a silky version of T-Bone Walker’s “Tell Me What’s The Reason.”

Like Bingo!, this disc was produced by Andy Johns. The band includes drummer Gordon Knudtson, guitarist Kenny Lee Lewis, bass player Billy Peterson, keyboardist Joseph Wooten, and percussionists Adrian Areas and Mike Carabello. Longtime collaborator Norton Buffalo contributes harmonica and vocals on Let Your Hair Down. These were his last recordings, as he succumbed to lung cancer not long after this session in the fall of 2009.

Let Your Hair Down is a great set of rocking blues that will please fans of the Space Cowboy, but it’s also a great listen to blues fans for Miller’s new take on some old favorites.

--- Graham Clarke

Shar BabyAt last, the long awaited new CD from Alabama-based Shar Baby11 O’Clock Blues (Blues DigitDoc Records). This CD is in Shar Baby’s familiar and unique style of country blues, but it’s different from her previous albums in so many ways. With 10 self-penned tracks and one track by Rosie Brittain, it’s at least as good as her last CD, if not better.

The CD was recorded in Birmingham, Alabama earlier this year, 2011, and it is published in the USA by Juke Blues Publishing and released in Europe by DigitDoc Records (who spotted Shar Baby at a blues festival in Spain a few years ago and signed her up straight away).

The opening track, “Slippin’,” is a nice laid-back song about the perils of leaving women at home on their own. Shar Baby always seems to be able to tell a tale through her songs, and this is no exception with a storyline laid over some great guitar work and a very professional rhythm section.

“Cause I Love You” is a soul blues ballad, which shows an entirely different side of this woman. She uses this song to prove that she isn’t just a blues singer, she can mix it with the best of them and switch styles totally. Track three, “The Stalker,” is the only track not written by Shar Baby, but it doesn’t make it any less than the other tracks – it’s a slow and moody cautionary tale about a woman taking care when she’s out on the street and not getting picked by a stalker. Some lovely guitar breaks in this track!

“Pick In My Pocket” picks up the tempo and changes the flavour of the music --- this is happy blues! And then “Busted” slows back down a little, with a song about a woman coming home and catching her trusted husband with another woman. This track has a great driving beat, pushed along by the rhythm section in fine style.

“Remember When” slows down even further, with Shar Baby singing about old memories from her childhood. This lady draws a lot of inspiration from her early years, and the songs give a good illustration of her childhood and teenage years.

Track seven, “I’m Ready,” picks up speed with a boogie shuffle featuring some really nice guitar from Tim Boykin, and it leads nicely into “Alabama Bound,” with a tale about a blues artist heading for Birmingham.
The tempo lifts up a little again with my favourite track on the album, “Red Eyed Snake.” This is pure Shar Baby blues, as witnessed on her earlier albums, and tells the tale of a woman telling her man to find another home. Tim Boykin again drives things along with some inspired guitar playing.

Getting towards the end of the CD, and the music just keeps growing – “Beer & Atmosphere” is a about taking care when you’re out on the town. The backing tips a nod to some Howlin' Wolf riffs, and it makes a nice refreshing change of beat before leading into the last track, “Keep Your Mind To Yourself.” This is a lovely ballad to finish on, and my only criticism is that it leaves the listener wanting more!!

Another great CD from a vastly underrated blues artist – let’s hope that the next CD isn’t too far away!!

---Terry Clear

Mike Eldred BandThis is my first encounter with the Mike Eldred Trio, although I doubt that it will be the last. Those clever guys at Blues Boulevard always seem to be able to pick good music, and they keep that habit going with this album, 61 and 49 – two famous highways, of course.

All 13 tracks on the album have been written by Mike Eldred and he has attracted a few guests to help the trio out her – you might recognise the names Ike Turner, Scotty Moore and Kid Ramos, amongst others. A sleeve note on the CD cover from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons also shows that this band is well-respected in the music business. There’s no recording date mentioned on the CD cover, but as Ike Turner sadly died in 2007, it’s obviously prior to that.

The CD opens with a '50s style rocker, “She’s A Rocket,” written about one of Eldred’s daughters. This track was an inspired choice for the opener, as it gets your feet tapping from the first note! The pace doesn’t slow down either for the following track, “Jake’s Boogie” – it’s just what it says on the tin, a boogie. And it’s a good driving tune inspired by guitarist Jake Berger. By the time I’d listened to these first two tracks my feet were ready for a rest, and I was thankful that track three, “Louise,” was at a slower pace. It’s still got a great driving, rocking, beat though together with memorable guitar work.

“Ms.Gayles Chicken House” is a nod in the direction of Scotty Moore’s wife Gayle, who allegedly makes the best chicken and used to host an annual event at the Moores’ house. A nice medium-paced boogie, giving my feet a little bit more rest, until “Jimmy Jimmy” comes in strong with a '50s flavour rock n roll number – a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis influence showing through here.

I’m not quite sure what to make of track six, “This Old Train.” It’s another track with a 1950s influence, but this time it’s more like the sort of thing that Pat Boone might have done. Not at all bluesey, but a good song nevertheless.

As the CD moves into “I Ain’t Coming Back,” the blues is back on line with a boogie shuffle number a little reminiscent of early Stevie Ray Vaughan – definitely my favourite track on the album, and it leads nicely into “Ruby’s Blues,” which is a slow and moody instrumental blues that ranks easily as my second favourite track – lovely late night blues, this one.

“For A Girl” puts me in mind of 1970s Rolling Stones, while “Mr.Newman” is in a similar vein and “Lookie Here” gets back to some Texas type blues with a little Stevie Ray Vaughan influence again, especially on the guitar work – this is the type of music that this band is best at, and my feet were tapping again listening to this one.

The title track, “61 & 49,” is a lovely slide guitar, slow, traditional blues and, while it’s totally different to the Texas blues style of the previous track, it’s equally as good and equally as well executed. And onto the final track. Just when I thought that I was getting a handle on this band, they go and knock me flat with an a capella spiritual with background harmonies.

I guess it goes to show that this band will try, and succeed, with whatever they come up with.

--- Terry Clear

Big Shot ReubSan Diego's Big Shot Reub and the Reloaders is the type of band that can be found in corner blues bars across the United States. They're not going to become big stars nor will they hit the worldwide festival circuit. But they're part of the neighborhood and everybody in the joint knows the names of the band members. They play some decent blues, but on many songs they stretch the limits of their collective skills. They sound best when accompanied by barroom chatter and the clinking of longneck beer bottles.

That pretty much describes what you'll hear on the Reloaders' self-released disc, Roundhouse Blues. The best cuts from this trio are the slow blues "I Don't Drink" and the mid-tempo shuffle "Big Shot Roll," perhaps because the material is better suited to lead singer Reuben Vigil's limited vocal range. A little variety is added when Glenn Laughlin joins the band to handle the vocals on the Los Lobos-ish "Viva Bracero"; Vigil does his best guitar work on this five-minute jam.

I've heard better blues than what's on Roundhouse Blues --- heck, we all have. But sometimes the best blues is what's being played at any given time in any given place. If Big Shot Reub and the Reloaders happens to be on the bandstand some evening when you walk into their place of employment, order a beer, break open a bag of beer nuts, and sit back and enjoy the music.

--- Bill Mitchell


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