Blues Bytes

What's New

May 2014

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Dave Keller

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

Ray Fuller

Brent Johnson

Johnny Cox

Terry Hanck

Shane Dwight

Josh Hoyer

Li'l Ronnie

Bad Brad

Christy Rossiter

Walter Trout

Mick Kolassa


Dave KellerSoul singer / guitarist Dave Keller's fourth CD, Soul Changes (Tastee-Tone Records), is his best yet. Keller and producer Bob Perry raised the bar this time by traveling to Willie Mitchell's Royal Recording studio in Memphis to record a portion of this disk.

The first six cuts feature the Hi Rhythm Section (brothers Teenie, Leroy and Charles Hodges) along with other notable musicians from the Stax era. Arguably, this backing band represents the greatest collection of soul musicians alive today. The remaining five numbers, equally strong, were recorded in Brooklyn and backed by local legends The Revelations. The accompaniment and arrangements on all 11 cuts are top-notch --- actually, as good as it gets in soul music.

The standout song from the Memphis sessions is a Keller original and one that is already in contention for my personal favorite song of the year. "17 Years" is tormented, tortured soul at its best, autobiographical in nature as Keller sings about the end of his own marriage. I've been somewhat lukewarm about Keller as a vocalist in the past, thinking that he's more in the "B" level of contemporary soul singers, but the lament in his voice on this number is the sign of an accomplished vocalist.

Another original, "I Wish We'd Kissed," continues the same theme as "17 Years," as the anguish over a lost love pours out of Keller's heart through his vocal chords. He starts to show some signs of recovering from the heartache on the next cut, "Lonely And I," as he sings " ... Lonely and I get along just fine ..." Rell Gattis and Halley Hiatt provide sympathetic background vocals on both of these tunes.

Keller's back expressing his sorrows on the last of the six Memphis cuts, "One More Time," as he's begging his woman for the chance to love her once more. While they are part of the top-shelf accompaniment on all cuts, I especially like the work of The Royal Horns (Marc Franklin, Lannie McMillan, Jr. and Kirk Smothers) here.

"Searchin' For A Sign," which is more of an up-tempo number again with strong work from the horn section. It's a song of hope that is an effective opener to the CD. Keller also gives us the ballad "Old Man's Lullaby," as he talks about the time of night when the pain of his lost love affects him the most.

Moving eastward to Brooklyn for the last five numbers, Keller forgoes his original compositions in order to cover more obscure soul classics done earlier by The O'Jays, The Temptations, Bobby Womack, Candi Staton, Otis Clay, and The Patterson Twins, among others.

The O'Jays song, "It's Too Strong," kicks off this portion of the disc by showcasing equally capable horn work from The Brooklyn Horns (Geoff Countryman, Joe Ancowitz and Rick Parker). "Back In Love Again," written by George Jackson, has Keller feeling better after the anguish he showed on the Memphis recordings, and his voice produces more power and range in order to express this newfound joy.

I really like the Smokey Robinson original, "Don't Look Back," another song that gives the horn section more opportunities to stand out. Also covered by The Temptations, I was more familiar with the version done together by Peter Tosh & Mick Jagger, but I like Keller's rendition equally well. Candi Staton's "Heart On A String" is another up-tempo number with strong work from the horns and Keller's best guitar solo on the disc.

"Is It Over?," another heart-tugger done earlier by Otis Clay, closes the album in fine form as Keller begs for one more chance from his lover. He ends the song with the unanswered question "... Is it over?..."  We know we are at the end of this fine album, but we're left with Keller not having closure to the tortured relationship that obviously influenced these recordings.

There's a lot of powerful music on Soul Changes, as I suspect that Keller has opened up his heart and soul so that all of us can feel his pain. The strength of this CD will have me re-visiting past Keller albums to see what I've been missing. But if you are just catching on to the music of Dave Keller, then Soul Changes is an excellent starting point.

--- Bill Mitchell

Jimmy Duck Holmes & Terry BeanJimmy “Duck” Holmes and Terry “Harmonica” Bean are just two of the recent crop of exciting solo Mississippi blues artists who have emerged over the past decade. Holmes has almost single-handedly rejuvenated the classic Bentonia brand of blues while interspersing his own personal touches, and Bean has also made a name for himself as a solo artist, after starting in support of artists like Asie Payton and T-Model Ford.

Both artists have also appeared in a couple of recent documentaries, M for Mississippi and We Juke Up In Here, actually appearing together in that film, where they proved to have a very strong rapport. Having also turned in well-received performances at the Chicago Blues Festival and also in Switzerland at the Geneva Art Festival, it made perfect sense for the duo to make a recording, which is just what they did, having just released Twice As Hard on Broke & Hungry Records.

Holmes and Bean sat down for this session in late 2012, and the ten tracks show them in a variety of settings, each getting a few solo tracks along with several with them working together along with drummer Frank Vick. Holmes carries on the traditional Bentonia blues sounds on haunting tracks like “Hear Me Howlin’,” “Lonesome Church Bell” (with Bean in support), and “Raise That Window,” but on tracks like “Wake Up Woman,” and “Broke and Hungry,” both of which feature Bean’s exuberant harp playing, he takes on a more traditional Delta sound.

Bean shines on his selections as well, the upbeat “Boogie With Me” which he wrote, John Weston’s “Park Your Car,” the Muddy Waters’ classic, “She Moves Me,” and Doc Clayton’s “Cheating and Lying Blues.” On the loose opener, “She Moved Across The Water,” the pair trade off vocals. Bean’s harmonica playing complements Holmes style very well. On the more Bentonia-based tracks, it’s reminscent of Bud Spires, who played with Bentonia bluesman Jack Owens (and Holmes on his first album).

Twice As Hard is a great collaboration between Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and Terry “Harmonica” Bean, two of the Magnolia State’s premier solo artists. It will bring a smile to the face of traditional blues fans everywhere. Hopefully, we will hear more from this partnership in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny WayneKenny “Blues Boss” Wayne won accolades aplenty with his 2011 release, An Old Rock On a Roll, winning a pair of 2012 Living Blues Awards (Best New Contemporary Blues Recording and Most Outstanding Musician – Keyboard), and earning a Blues Foundation nomination for the Pinetop Perkins Award. The Vancouver resident’s latest Stony Plain release, Rollin’ With the Blues Boss, should continue his hot streak unabated.

Wayne kicks off the disc with “Leavin’ In The Mornin’,” a funky blues that’s reminiscent of ’70s B.B. King, complete with King-styled guitar fills, courtesy of producer Tom Lavin, who also contributes fretwork on several other tracks. The jumping “You Bring Out The Jungle In Me,” comes complete with miscellaneous animal sounds and a tight horn section, “Hootenanny Boogie-Woogie” is a nice old school track that will get you on your feet, and “Roadrunner” is a hard-driving R&B track.

Wayne duets with Diunna Greenleaf on the soul-blues ballad, “Baby, It Ain’t You,” and keeps the soul-blues vibe going with the next track, the catchy “I Can’t Believe It.” Another guest star, singer/guitarist Eric Bibb, teams with Wayne on the entertaining acoustic tune, “Two Sides,” then Wayne goes to the country for “Slow Down,” which slows the pace just long enough for Wayne to blow the doors off the disc with the three closing tracks, the Crescent City boogie rocker, “Ogopopo Boogie,” “Keep On Rockin’,” which continues the New Orleans vibe with an irresistible Fess-like rhythm, and the appropriately titled closer, “Out Like A Bullet.”

Fans of blues, R&B, and boogie-woogie piano will love this disc. Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne handles all three styles with ease.

--- Graham Clarke

Ray FullerLike many guitarists of his generation, Ray Fuller was inspired by many of the British Invation bands --- the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Animals. Like many of his contemporaries did, Fuller traced the music back to his inspirations’ original inspirations --- John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elmore James. He formed The Ray Fuller Band in 1974, which eventually became Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers. The band became a mainstay of the Ohio blues scene, opening for many of the legendary blues acts that came through, and eventually releasing several recordings for Rounder and other labels in the ’80s and ’90s.

Today, 40 years after their beginnings, Fuller and the Bluesrockers headline at Buddy Guy’s Legends on Saturday nights. As you can imagine, 40 years of honing your musical craft on a regular basis pays dividends in a big way. For proof positive, just check out Fuller and the band’s most recent release, Live at Buddy Guy’s Legends Chicago (Azuretone Records), recorded in April of 2013 before a very receptive home audience, which included the venerable Mr. Guy himself.

Fuller’s specialty is his electrifying slide guitar and its on full display from the very first tune, a scorching cover of Elmore James’ “Wild About You, Baby,” and the intensity continues full-blast with an rowdy original track, “Rock N’ Roll Cowboy” and a relentless seven-minute-plus take on John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” The original composition, “Love and Alcohol,” has that ominous delta droning backdrop, and “Bayou Blue,” another original, has a nice CCR-flavored swampy vibe. The churning “Walkin’ Shoes,” which Fuller says is the first tune he ever wrote, is a showcase for Fuller’s wild slide work and some masterful keyboards from Keith Blair.

Fuller follows the three original songs with three outstanding covers ---.a splendid remake of Otis Rush’s “So Many Roads,” a raw and ragged reading of Jimmy Reed’s “Take Out Some Insurance Baby,” and Billy Boy Arnold’s “Rockinitus,” that smolders and burns with intensity. Fuller works through two more originals, the slow Delta burner, “Feelin’ Evil,” and “Sallie Mae,” which has that thumping Bo Diddley beat, before closing with Eddie Clearwater’s rollicking anthem, “I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down.”

Fuller’s slide guitar and gritty vocals are worth the price of admission, and the Bluesrockers (Blair – keyboards, Glen “Manny” Manuel – bass, Mark Ward – drums, with guest Richard “Doc” Malone on harmonica) more than earn their name with some impressive high-energy fireworks. This is what a live album is supposed to sound like.

--- Graham Clarke

Brent JohnsonBorn in South Texas, blues/rock guitarist Brent Johnson has been playing the guitar since he was four, taking in blues, jazz, rock, punk, country, and world music. After moving with his family to New Orleans in his teens, he formed several bands that played rock and the blues before beginning a lengthy tenure with Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band that continues today. Johnson recently released his debut recording as a front man, Set The World On Fire (Justin Time), and you won’t find a more appropriately titled disc --- it’s a scorcher!

Johnson recorded the disc with his regular working band (Bill Blok – bass, backing vocals, John Perkins – drums), adding Wayne Lohr on keyboards for the album, plus guest star Alvin Youngblood Hart, who contributes some fierce guitar on three tracks – a splendid cover of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning,” the hard-driving original rocker “The Ticket,” and a sweaty version of the Howlin’ Wolf classic, “Meet Me In The Bottom.” Another guest star, slide guitar legend Sonny Landreth, battles it out with Johnson, no slouch on the slide himself, on “Long Way Back To New Orleans.”

Of the 11 tracks on Set The World On Fire, seven are Johnson originals, including the opener, “Don’t Make A Sound,” a funky track with some slashing fretwork from Johnson and smooth keyboards from Lohr, the churning rocker “Don’t Take It With You,” the soulful ballad “So Glad You’re Mine,” and a pair of highly personal compositions (“Glass Ceiling” and the title track) that find the guitarist looking inward.

I really like Johnson’s choice of covers, which includes the aforementioned Dylan and Howlin’ Wolf tracks. However, the 13-minute version of “As The Years Go Passing By” is extraordinary. Johnson basically takes over this song and makes it his own with a masterful performance both vocally and on guitar. Most blues fans have heard this song interpreted by dozens of artists over the years, but it’s clear that this is no interpretation …. Johnson has lived these lyrics. The other cover is a really cool version of one of my favorite Earl Hooker instrumentals, “The Hucklebuck” (originally a hit in the late ’40s by R&B sax man Paul Williams) that rocks and swings almost as hard as Hooker’s version.

Brent Johnson has done his homework on this release, painstakingly rewriting, reworking, and redoing songs until he had what he wanted, settling for nothing less. The results speak for themselves. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better debut recording than Set The World On Fire this year….or many others for that matter.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny CoxYou might be surprised to find out that Thin Blue Line is Johnny Cox’s debut release. The Scottish singer/songwriter/guitarist moved to Canada back in the ’80s and was bitten by the Blues bug, embracing the music of artists like Clapton, SRV, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and others. Starting out as a guitarist, he started singing and writing his own music. This first release shows his blues influences, but also shows an original and unique style as well.

The opening track, “Your Love,” is a nice laidback tune reminiscent of ’70s pop-rock, while “High Price To Pay” is a lively blues-rocker. “Runaway Train” is in the same vein, but at a slower pace and featuring some sharp wah-wah guitar work from Cox. “New Way” is an intense track with Latin rhythms, and “Something For Me” is an inspirational tune that has an Allman Brothers feel, with it’s jazzy backdrop (courtesy of some nice keyboard work from Marty Sammon) and a rhythm track similar to their “Trouble No More.”

The title track is an easygoing number, encouraging everyone to overcome their differences and get along with each other, and “My Destination” is a funky blues track with standout work from bass player Kenny Neal, Jr. “I’m Fine” is a strong boogie rocker and “All These Tears” moves toward reggae territory. The ballad “Long Day” features a heartfelt, lonely vocal from Cox, along with some expressive guitar, and the amusing closer, “Didn’t Commit The Crime,” offers up some of Cox’s best fret work of the disc.

In additon to Sammon (keyboards) and Neal (bass), Cox is assisted by Richard Greenspoon (drums, producer), Ian DeSouza, Malcolm McCuaig, and Jerome Tucker (bass), Ansgar Schoer and Robbie Bellmore (harmonica), and great backing vocals from Shelly Zubot and Brad Roth. Thin Blue Line is an excellent introduction to the music of Johnny Cox and sets the bar pretty high for his next release.

--- Graham Clarke

Terry HanckThe Terry Hanck Band’s latest release on Delta Groove Music, Gotta Bring It On Home To You, ain’t nothin’ but a party. The former Elvin Bishop tenor sax man has fronted his own band for over a quarter of a century and has picked up several Blues Music Awards and Living Blues Awards for Best Horn over the past few years, and he’s got another wall-to-wall winner with this release.

If you’ll notice, the album covers mentions “And Friends,” and what a storied group of friends it is. The list includes guitarist Debbie Davies, keyboardists Jim Pugh and Lorenzo Farrell, baritone sax monster Doug James, piano man Bob Welsh, background vocalists Lisa Leu Andersen and Dennis Dove, and guitarist/producer Chris “Kid” Andersen. They perfectly complement Hanck and his band mates (Johnny “Cat” Soubrand – guitar, Tim Wagar – bass, Butch Cousins – drums).

Appropriately, Hanck opens with an Elvin Bishop tune, “Right Now Is The Hour,” a soulful rocker with lots of room for Hanck, Soubrand, and Welsh to stretch out on their respective instruments. “Pins and Needles” is a cool retro R&B tune, with some nifty Farfisa organ from Pugh, and “My Last Teardrop” sounds like an old lost Cookie and the Cupcakes track with Hanck and James playing off each other very nicely.

“No Gettin’ Over Me,” originally a hit by Ronnie Milsap in the ’80s, gets a soul/blues reworking here, with a nice vocal turn from Hanck, and Davies and Hanck join forces vocally on the relaxed title track. There are also two instrumentals --- ”T’s Groove” is a jazzy number with some nice interplay between Hanck, Pugh, Farrell, and Andersen, and the rollicking “Jam Up,” showcases Hanck and James and Welsh.

Though the focus of the disc is mostly on R&B, the blues side is well represented with a solid cover of B.B. King’s “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” Hanck’s own “Peace of Mind,” which has a strong West Side bent, and the closer, a tasty remake of the Bobby “Blue” Bland vehicle, “One Horse Town.”

If you’re in the market for a new party record, you can stop your search right now and pick up Gotta Bring It Home To You. Terry Hanck and friends have assembled the gold standard with this release. It’s just a joy to hear from start to finish.

--- Graham Clarke

Shane DwightThis House (Eclecto Groove Records) finds Nashville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Shane Dwight expanding on his previous release, 2011’s excellent A Hundred White Lies. A lot of the creative team from the previous release is present, including producer Kevin McKendree, who also plays all the keyboards, backup singer Bekka Bramlett, who takes the lead on a couple of tracks on the new disc, and rhythm section Steve Mackey (bass) and Lynn Williams (drums). The key returnee is, of course, Dwight, who brings another powerful, personal set of tunes.

Dwight’s music has always walked a thin line between country and the blues, since he took inspiration from both genres in his formative years. With This House, he’s leaning more toward blues and R&B than before, as can be heard on tracks like the title track, which opens the disc and features a heartfelt vocal from Dwight, supported by McKendree’s keyboards, and Bramlett’s sweet backing vocals, and “We Can Do This,” which has a springy, funky vibe and a great guitar solo.

“Sing For Me (Search for Sierra)” is a blues ballad with a droning, swampy atmosphere, and the swinging shuffle “Devil’s Noose” is also a standout. “Stepping Stone” and “Never Before are both raucous blues rockers, and “I’m A Bad Man” gives Dwight plenty of room to show his blues guitar chops. He doesn’t forego his country background though, with tracks like “Losing Ground,” and the gospel-flavored closer, “Crazy Today.”

Dwight shares lead vocals with Bramlett on the gritty rocker, “Bad For You,” and gives the lady the spotlight completely on the lovely country-pop confection, “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful.” Other contributing musicians include Kenneth Blevens (drums/percussion), Doug Lancio (rhythm guitar), and Paul Ossola (upright bass).

With A Hundred White Lies, Shane Dwight set the bar pretty high. On This House, it’s safe to say that he’s set the bar even higher. This is must-listening for not only blues fans, but also country and rock fans as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Josh HoyerJosh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers was originally conceived in 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hoyer, who’s a solo artist and session musician, is already a pretty big deal in the Lincoln area, in much demand as a singer, musician, and arranger, and he and his soulful nine-piece band are highly regarded in their region. Their self-titled debut release should expand their opportunities considerably.

The band’s debut is a dynamite mix of soul and R&B, with eight original compositions, including the funky opener, “Shadowboxer,” which opens with a lengthy vamp by the band before Hoyer dives in with a strong vocal. “Close Your Eyes” is a smooth taste of ’70s-era Memphis soul and “Illusion” is a catchy southern funk rocker reminscent of Wet Willie. The sparkling horn section kicks off “Everyday and Everynight” with a vibe similar to James Brown, but it settles back into a midtempo groove with some smooth interplay between Hoyer and the backing vocalists (Hanna Bendler, Kim Moser, and Megan Spain).

“Just Call Me (I’ll Be Sure To Let You Down Again)” is a slick soul ballad with more great work from the horn section (Hoyer – baritone sax, Tommy Van Den Berg – trombone, Michael Dee – tenor sax, flute, and Russell Zimmer – trumpet), and “Til She’s Lovin’ Someone Else” has a rock feel with some tasty guitar from Benny Kushner. “Make Time For Love” mixes Memphis-styled horns, nicely percolating keyboards froM Hoyer, and a greasy guitar riff from Kushner. The closer, “Dirty World,” is a seven-minute-plus funk workout that gives all the musicians ample space to stretch.

Hoyer is the real deal on vocals, and the band really rocks the house (thanks in no small part to the tight rhythm section of Brian Morrow – bass, and Justin G. Jones – drums, percussion). A good soul record is hard to find these days, at least much harder than it used to be when soul music was in its heyday. This release will bring a smile to the faces of those who recall those glorious days, and hopefully it will help usher in a resurgence.

--- Graham Clarke

Bad BradBrad Stivers learned to play guitar at the age of 10, learning to play the blues from listening to B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Rory Gallagher, and Jonny Lang. Now in his early 20s, he fronts the band Bad Brad & the Fat Cats and they play many of Colorado’s blues festivals. The band just released their second album, Take A Walk With Me, which was recorded live in the studio and is high-energy rocking blues at its finest.

The title track opens the disc, and it’s a roaring slidefest in the tradition of Elmore James. Hard to imagine a disc getting off to a better start. “Leghound” is a more sedate shuffle tune with some nice accompaniment from Nic Clark on harmonica. “Ego Trip” is an old fashioned John Lee Hooker-styled boogie with guest Greg MacKenzie providing stellar backing on harmonica. It’s so good that you hate for it to end. The Texas shuffle “Take It Easy” is next, followed by the breakneck blues-rocker “Going To The Country,” and “Headin’ Out,” another blues-rocker which has more of a hypnotic swampy feel.

“Lucky Man” is a nice change of pace, a slow blues that features a strong vocal and some standout guitar work from Stivers. “Other Side” has a funky Crescent City rhythm and some slick slide guitar, and “Runnin’ Me Down” moves back north to the Windy City. “See My Way” features Dwight Carrier on accordion, giving the track a touch of the Zydeco. “Man On The Move” is a blues-rock shuffle with some fiery lead work and a ragged but right vocal. If you’re driving when the definitely uptempo “Train Down South” playing, you might end up with a speeding ticket. The closer, “UMA,” is a surf-rocker that really shows Stivers’ versatility.

Vocally, Stivers reminds me of a cross between Omar Dykes and John Fogerty, just the right amount of grit and soul. He’s an amazingly diverse guitarist who certainly learned a lot from those old records he listened to as a kid, but he also throws a ton of originality into the mix as well. The Fat Cats (Clark – harmonica, Alec Stivers – drums) provide some powerhouse backing on these 13 cuts. Fans of modern blues with a rock edge really need to track down Bad Brad & the Fat Cat’s Take A Walk With Me. You can thank me later.

--- Graham Clarke

Lil RonnieHere’s an interesting story. Back in 1991, Li’l Ronnie & the Blue Beats began recording their second album, which featured the vocals of Claudia Carawan. At the time, they had written all of the songs and had even recorded eight of them, but for one reason or another, the album was never completed and later shelved as the band members went their separate ways. 23 years later, they reconvened and decided to finish what they had started years ago, and have released the completed project on the EllerSoul Records label as unfinished business.

If you’re familiar with Li’l Ronnie Owens (of Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes) modus operandi, swinging blues, jazz, and rock n’ roll, you will not be disappointed with this release. The only difference is with the soulful, gospel-influenced vocals of Carawan, who ably handles everything pitched her way, ranging from the gritty R&B of “Get Tough,” “Thick and Thin,” and “Too Fast For Conditions,” swing tracks like “Bring Your Fine Self Home,” “Jump, Jimve, Then You Wail,” and “You Don’t Have To Go Home,” and jazzy blues like “Hard Times,” “That’s What A Girl Wants To Hear,” and “I Feel a Heartache Coming On.”

However, the blues is front and center on tunes like “Stop Cheatin’ Me Blind,” “Cold Hard Cash,” and the Jimmy Reed-esque title track. Owens also sings lead on a couple of the latter two tracks, sharing the mic with Carawan on “Unfinished Business.” He also tears into the raucous closing track, “I Had A Warden for A Woman,” both vocally and on harmonica.

Joining Owens and Carawan are the rest of the original Blue Beats (Jim Wark – guitar, Stu Grimes – drums/percussion, Mike Moore – acoustic and electric bass, and Ericson Holt – keyboards), and they sound like they’ve never been apart.

So after 23 years, the question may be asked “was unfinished business worth the wait?” From my viewpoint, I think it was because it’s a strong, well-balanced set of blues, swing, and R&B. Hopefully, they will reward their listeners with even more good music in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Christy RossiterChristy Rossiter & 112 North Duck’s latest release, the band’s third, is called Stand Up & Raise Some Hell (Applecopter), and if you liked their previous effort, Gone Fishin’, you will find much to enjoy with their latest. Singer Rossiter can bring it with the best of them, with plenty of earthy sass and brass, and guitarist Michael Beebe really raises things up a notch with his fretwork. Of course, the rock-solid backing of the rhythm section (Billy Talacko – guitar, sax, David Beasley – bass, and J. E. Van Horne) doesn’t hurt things one bit.

This band can certainly play the blues, as heard on tracks like “Shades of Gray,” “Take A Walk With Me,” “Saddle Up And Ride,” the humorous “Smart Phone Junkies,” and the sizzling album closer, “The Westboro Blues.” However, they’re more than carry their own on funky rockers like the title track and “I’m Not Gonna Tell You,” or a tender ballad like “Amy’s Song,” or the pop-flavored “The Way You Are” and “Humuhumunukunukuapus’a.”

Stand Up And Raise Some Hell is a fun release that showcases the considerable talents of Rossiter and Beebe, both of whom will really impress listeners once again. It will be interesting to see where the band goes from here.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny ParkerGuitarist extraordinaire Kenny Parker is joined on Yes Indeed! (Blue Angel Recordings) by a front line of Detroit area bluesers (Garfield Angove - vocals and harp, Tim Brockett or Chris Codish - keyboards, Bob Conner or Mike Marshall - standup and electric basses, Renell Gonsalves at the drums, Larry Lamb - saxes, and Andy Wickstrom - trumpet) offering driving horns, vocals on one tune by The Reverend Lowdown, and swinging backing vocals by Fred “Slye” Foley, Harry Kuehler and Bob Payne on a program of originals and well-chosen covers.

The result is one of the most enjoyable and finger snapping blues albums to emerge in the past year. Parker is dazzling. He swings, he cajoles, he coaxes, he mesmerizes. From the opening title track with it's 50s flare and gospellish backing vocals of “Yes Indeed” to the original "Black Sweater" with that hot harp and Stax backbeat (“man is she tall/and those curves... I've got to have that girl in the tight black sweater”) to his sizzling take on "Okie Doke Stomp," this is evidence of a veteran guitarist on top of his game.

That he brought along a killer band is frosting. His version of Ike Turner's "Cuban Getaway" is as good as you'll hear. His command of the instrument is exceptional. Ditto the instrumental "You'll Never Walk Alone."

In a five-star world this is a five-star effort.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Walter TroutNo offense to Joe Bonamassa or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, but when I need a good dose of blues/rock the man I turn to is Walter Trout, hands down. 2014 was shaping up to be Walter’s year, a year in which he celebrated an amazing 25 year career as a solo artist. But fate comes a calling and my friend is in Nebraska with his lovely wife, Marie, first in line to receive a new liver as soon as a match becomes available.

Over the past year Walter has fought the odds, gaining spiritual sustenance by being on the road, playing for friends and family, recording his new record, The Blues Came Callin’, and overseeing a litany of projects with Provogue Records to mark this historic milestone. At this point there isn’t much more to do than hit play, so let’s hit it.

A heavy rhythm backbeat supports Walter as he opens with “Wastin’ Away.” Faced with his own mortality, Walter’s looking in the mirror and doesn’t recognize the man he sees. “And that’s a price I’ve got to pay…cause I feel like…I’m wastin’ away.” Walter’s life is chronicled in a new book coming out, Rescued from Reality, and while it’s apparent that Walter’s past life is catching up with him he’s also not letting a moment go by unappreciated.

We segue into our next tune, with a heavy bass line and soaring guitar intro from Walter, “The World is Goin’ Crazy (And so am I).” Here we find Walter reflecting on the current state of the world and he doesn’t like what he sees. “Don’t believe our leaders…all they do is lie…I feel the world is goin’ crazy…and baby, so am.” I can’t argue Walter’s position at this point. The world is indeed a crazy place and I’m sure there are many of us joining Walter in his feelings of goin’ crazy.

A more somber tone is revealed on the next tune, a ballad called “The Bottom of the River.” “I went out on the river…way outside of town…I fell into the water….the current pulled me down…it held me on the bottom…and I could not hear a sound…I was lost in muddy water…and I thought that I would drown.” His fall into the river is a source of re-awakening for Walter and the voice that called him into the light was right, “this ain’t your time to die.”

“Take a Little Time” finds Sasha Smith on the keyboards front and center with Walter in a playful mood. “You got to take a little time baby…take a little time for love.” Walter is advising all of us rushing through this very hectic world to take that “little time for love.” We only get one life on this earth so it’s very important to fill it with as much love as we can. One of two covers on the disc, J.B. Lenoir’s “The Whale,” is up next and Walter tackles it with gusto. “They say the whale swallowed Jonah…out on the deep, blue sea…Sometime, I get the feeling…that same old whale…done swallowed me.” Walter has the feeling that someday he will finally cross over the hill to the other side, but not now and definitely not soon.

Up next is “Willie” and Walter himself is blowing some incredible harp on this tune. Willie is a bandit, stealing when he can. “Willie keeps on laughing…grabbing at that cash…he got a bank account in Mexico…that’s where he hides his stash.” Willie’s running a very tight game and it’s only a matter of time before “his due is called.”

John Mayall contributed a tune to Walter’s record, the instrumental “Mayall’s Piano Boogie.” It’s a nice, slow shuffle with his piano at the forefront and Walter’s Strat providing the perfect foil to John’s piano. I’m enjoying the interplay between John and Walter, and appreciate John’s appearance on Walter’s record. “Born in the City” finds Walter’s guitar back at the forefront, where it should be, as Walter tells us his tale. “I was born in the city…lonely city is my home…but when I’m out there…in the country….I feel so all alone.” Walter appreciates the beauty and solitude of the country but the city, with its hard edges, is the place that Walter feels most at home.

Walter and the band move onto another instrumental, “Tight Shoes,” and the band’s at full force with Walter’s Strat doing the talking and it reminds me why I’m drawn to his guitar playing in the first place. A perfect example of what happens when Walter and the band let their hair down for us to enjoy.

The title cut, “The Blues Came Callin’,” is our next cut and John Mayall again joins Walter and the band for some intricate keyboard frenetics on the B3 while Walter does what he does best. “Last night, the blues came calling…I heard it call me by my name…He told me everything is different now…you won’t ever be the same.” The blues has indeed come a calling for Walter and there’s no doubt in my mind that his current illness will change the man he is into the man that he will become. Facing our own mortality is never easy but Walter has looked it in the eye and will be stronger for the journey.

The band segues into “Hard Time,” Walter’s tale of been done wrong. “You thought you found a true love….but the love didn’t last too long…all alone…feel like you’re locked up in a cage…and now you’re facing solitary…your pain turns into rage.” Walter’s blistering lead perfectly illustrates the pain of a break up and that point in the relationship where one has to deal with those “hard times.”

Walter and the band close out the disc with another ballad, “Nobody Moves Me Like You Do.” I would have to think this is a song that Walter wrote for his lovely wife, Marie, and his love for her is there for all of us to see. “You showed me what love is…and woman, don’t you know that is true…when I look in your eyes, Baby…nobody moves me like you do.”

Walter’s life has definitely been a journey from the hard living early days to these present moments he shares with Marie and their children. The Blues community has collectively gathered together to support Walter’s quest for a new life, one I hope he’s able to enjoy very soon. But he’s worked hard to live in the here and, now and the proof is in The Blues Came Callin’.

Other projects are in the works: his book; a documentary and the re-release of the majority of Walter’s recordings on vinyl for all to enjoy. You can read more about Walter’s quest on his website,, and appreciate Walter’s 25 year career as a solo Blues artist. And grab a copy of The Blues Came Callin’ while you’re there, Walter wanted all of us to hear this record and it’s easy for me to hear why. I hope it is for you as well.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mick KolassaMy enlightened buddy Mick Kolassa is a man with a big heart and a very generous nature. His self-produced project, Michissippi Mick, was conceived as a fundraiser to benefit two of his favorite Blues Foundation programs: the Hart Fund and Generation Blues. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the disc go to these programs. To accomplish his goal, Mick assembled a team of some of Memphis’s finest to aid in the effort. The resulting disc shows that Mick is a Bluesman through and through, and a pretty fair songwriter to boot. Let’s give it a listen.

Up first is a re-worked version of W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues,” aptly entitled “New Beale Street Blues.” The song is indeed new, with Eric Hughes lending his expertise on the harmonica; Mick enthralls us with Beale Street as it really is today. “If Beale Street could talk…oh, if Beale Street could talk…married men would have to pack up their bags and walk…except one or two…who kinda like booze…like me…Vince Johnson…and Eric Hughes.” I know the principals involved too well to not attest to the accuracy of this comment and we’ll leave it at that.

Chris Stephenson’s organ work and Jeff Jensen’s wicked guitar lead bring us to the next tune, an original by Mick, “Blues Are All Around You.” As Mick says, “The blues are all around you…they’re everywhere you go…do what you can to try and lose them…life is bound to give you more.." That’s a Blues truism if there ever was one. The rhythm section of Bill Ruffino on bass and Doug McMinn on drums is present front and center as well and the band really gives this tune a work-out.

Another well-chosen cover, “The Letter,” follows and here we find Mick in an awful hurry to get back to his woman. Reba Russell lends her voice to this tune and it works well as a slow, burning, blues tune. “Lonely days are gone…I’m going home…my baby wrote me a letter.” Fortunately for Mick the letter contained good news and he’s hot on the trail to getting home as soon as possible for that woman’s good loving. The organ is really sweet in the background and I like Mick’s version a great deal.

Another old tune, “Reefer Man,” is next and Mick proudly states he’s been singing the tune for over 40 years himself.. Victor Wainwright is on the piano and the band knocks this one out of the park. “Have you met this crazy reefer man?...Oh, baby, baby…reefer man…trading dimes and nickels…called it watermelon pickles….oh, that’s the reefer man.” There’s not much more I can add to this tune, but the band is definitely having a good time playing this one.

Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” is up next and this is another tune the band gives a nice twist to. Brandon Santini brings his harp to this tune as Mick tells us his tale of woe. “My mama done told me…when I was in knee pants…my mama done told me, son…a woman will sweet talk…she’ll give you the big eye…oh but when that sweet talking’s done…a woman’s two-faced…she’s a worrisome thing that will lead you to sing the blues…in the night.” Oh yes, she will. The tempo picks up on another tune by Mick, “Burned that Bridge.” “I gave you all my money…and you only asked for more…when I got home last night…you were loving my best friend…I can’t take it no more, woman…your time is at an end…you done burned that bridge.” Victor’s twinkling the ivories again and I’m enjoying the brief fills by Jeff, Bill and Doug as well. Throw in Brandon’s harp and this is probably my favorite tune on the disc.

Jeff’s guitar is back at the forefront with Brandon’s harp as Mick conveys to us another of his tunes, “Land of the Crossroads.” Mick’s lived in Mississippi for over 20 years now so this is a natural fit. “Standing in the land of the crossroads…I can see both old and new…I see history…history all around me…and I can see tomorrow shining through.” The Delta is indeed a juxtaposition of old and new, Mick’s tune captures this feeling beautifully. Jeff’s amazing guitar tone sets the stage for Mick’s next tune, “Baby’s Got Another Lover.” Slow, mournful tunes emanate from his guitar as Mick comes to the realization there’s another man in his woman’s life. “Baby’s got another lover…something, I don’t understand…you see, she still loves me with all her heart…this other lover ain’t no natural man.” Mick’s definitely got a problem on his hands and there really isn’t an easy answer to it.

The band picks the tempo back up and Redd Velvet lends her vocal prowess to another one of Mick’s tunes, “Blowtorch Love.” “Her love is like a blowtorch…ain’t no little Bic lighter…ain’t no roadside flare...step into the same room…you’ll feel warmer…get too close, she’ll singe your hair.” Brandon is blowing an amazing harp on this tune and the intensity is definitely there. Redd’s position is that “if you’ll bring the fuel, baby…I can certainly start the fire.” I don’t doubt that for a minute.

The tongue-in-cheek “W.P.D.” is next and Mick is extolling his opinion on a particular human condition. “It’s pretty hard to get through my day…sometimes, things just don’t go my way…I try to make it easy…every time I get the chance…but the hardest thing for me to do…is watch white people dance.” At least Mick is truthful enough to reveal he’s not the best of dancers either. Brandon’s harp is back to provide the lead for the last of Mick’s tunes, “Time Ain’t on My Side”. Mick’s facing his own mortality and the view through the looking glass is sobering. “Worked all my life to get here…got money to burn…ain’t got the energy to spend it…look like I missed my turn…I get up in the morning…I can’t bend down to tie my shoes….my mind says ‘let’s boogie’…my body just flat out refused.” We’re all growing older and, I for one appreciate Mick’s look into the mirror.

The train whistle’s blowing and Mick starts out yodeling on the final cut on the record, Jimmie Rodgers’s “Mississippi River Blues.” The Mississippi River calls all of us to the Delta and if you’re not there, you definitely have the Blues. The only cure is the muddy waters of the Mississippi. I appreciate Mick’s homage to the river, and this disc has been chockful of surprises and amazing performances.

I’ve enjoyed the disc tremendously. Jeff Jensen did an outstanding job of producing Michissippi Mick and surrounding Mick Kolassa with some of Memphis’s finest to aid in the cause. The fact that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this record go to help generate revenue for the Hart Fund and Generations Blues is just icing on the cake. Fortunately for us, finding this disc is relatively easy, so grab a copy from iTunes, CDBaby or Amazon as soon as possible. You’ll enjoy great tunes from Mick Kolassa and contribute to a very worthwhile cause.

--- Kyle Deibler


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