Blues Bytes

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May 2015

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

 Steve Dawson

The Only Folk Collection You'll Ever Need

Jackie Payne

Ian Siegal

Sherwood Fleming

Hans Theessink - Terry Evans

Cash Box Kings

Cedric Burnside Project

Deb Ryder

Ghost Town Blues Band

Mr. Sipp

Robin McKelle


Amy BlackAmy Black has achieved acclaim as a fine singer/songwriter, mostly in the Americana / Country genres. But on The Muscle Shoals Sessions, Ms. Black stayed close to her north Alabama roots with a visit to the historically-significant FAME Recording Studios for this fine collection of soul classics and originals all given that iconic Muscle Shoals sound. Produced by the legendary Spooner Oldham (who also provides top-notch organ accompaniment), the session includes many of the FAME regulars backing Black on the dozen numbers found here.

The disc opens with a cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home, allowing Black to immediately show off her impressive vocal range. She follows by pouring out her heart on the soul chestnut "Uptight, Good Man," co-written by producer Oldham and the equally prolific songwriter Dan Penn. Here, Black provides sound advice for women looking for just the right man, with a crack horn section laying down a solid soundtrack.

With the snaky, bluesy "Get To Me," we get to hear the first of Black's three original numbers, highlighted by Oldham's tasteful organ work. Heading even further into the back country, Will Kimbrough's subtle slide guitar work on the traditional blues/gospel number "You Gotta Move" is one of the best songs on the disk, with the haunting, dirge-like tune being taken to the river with the backing vocals of the always wonderful McCrary sisters.

Black punches her soul card on another original number, the anthemic "Please Don't Give Up On Me," with the horn section of Charles Rose (trombone), Steve Herrman (trumpet) and Jim Hoke (sax) providing Black with the oomph to allow her vocals to really soar into the stratosphere. She then gets really sassy on the up-tempo version of Don Covay's "Watch Dog," before slowing it down for the Phillip Mitchell-penned song "Starting All Over Again." I really like her tender vocals on this one, and Kimbrough contributes a nice acoustic guitar solo midway through the cut.

An interesting inclusion is a version of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," with the McCrary sisters returning to give this number the appropriate gospel spirit. For the umpteenth time on this album, Kimbrough comes in at just the right moment with an amazingly tasteful guitar solo. This guy knows just how many notes to play without yielding to excess.

A soul session recorded in Muscle Shoals wouldn't be complete without a version of Dan Penn's classic "You Left the Water Running," and Black contributes her fine rendition. Kimbrough and the horn section all do their part of supporting Black's exquisite vocal work.

Closing out this fine disc is a mid-tempo version of Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On," with its slightly Latin beat providing the framework for Black's rich vocals. I know I'm repeating myself, but Kimbrough comes in at just the right time with just the right guitar chords; he's really the unsung hero of this disc.

There's always been a fine line between country music and soul music, especially when it comes to anything captured within the town limits of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Amy Black's The Muscle Shoals Sessions provides another good example of this happy marriage.

--- Bill Mitchell

Paul Miles may be the most positive thinking man on the planet. He’s a modern day troubadour who has called many cities home. Lately he’s been in Tempe, Arizona, but Detroit, San Diego, and Lucerne, Switzerland have been home bases in the past. With a sound that reminds of Richie Havens combined with the hoots and hollers of a joyful man, Miles is able to make anti-establishment songs sound fun. That’s not to say that that’s his main topic. He’s just got a bit of the Truth, Justice and the American Way (Paul Miles Music) in him.

No big S is visible on his chest, but he is known far and wide as a man steeped in those principals. The 14 songs here are testament to his talent and his passion. This is his 10fth album of original songs. To call him prolific is an understatement. On the timely "Justice, What You Gonna Do for Me?" he sings, “A while ago I took a ride with my friends/We had no idea that violence would be the way this would end/As we played our music real real real loud/Not guilty of anything/I’m the one with the biggest mouth …. Then I saw that man/He had a gun in his hand/pop pop pop went the shots … I told them ‘friends don’t worry/Just remember to get this truth in the hands of a jury’…”

By contrast, "Get Away" sings of a peaceful vacation (“Hey baby/You know that we had a long week/It’s time for us my sugar to get off our feet/What you say/ about a getaway?”) and "Are You?" Is a song about meeting someone new (“Are you a dreamer? /Are you a lover? /I’m asking this question can you tell me so/Are you a believer or a deceiver?”).

Paul Miles is an impressive singer and compelling lyricist, but that percussive guitar is an equal part of the charm. "Did You Rock With Me?" is rife with impressive acoustic guitar, as is the appropriately named instrumental, "Mr. Havens."

Truth, Justice and the American Way is a fun CD.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Steve DawsonThe standout acoustic blues disc of the year, Rattlesnake Cage (Black Hen) showcases Steve Dawson's brilliance. He wrote all of the songs, produced and mixed the disc, and plays gloriously on this all-instrumental collection. He employs a number of guitars: a Jumbo Larivee, a Weissenborn built by Michael Dunn, a National Tricone and a Taylor 12-string. He also notes that he used a Neumann M 49 microphone “that had been hanging from the rafters of a church in Detroit for 50 years.”

All of the above are expertly utilized on these 11 impressive songs. From the opening notes on "Blind Thomas at the Crime Scene," Dawson displays his complete control of the instrument. His playing is bright and jaw-droppingly precise.

"Flophouse Oratory" is played with more power, and the following "The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon" returns to beautifully played finger picking. As you might expect, this is reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt. Butterfly Stunt" is fleet fingered and "While The West Was Won the Earth Didn't Know It" has a deep and buttery feel to it.

Fans of amazing guitar playing don't want to let this one pass. To my ears the most impressive acoustic guitarist to come down the pike in years. Fans of Dan Crary will love this. Whew!

 --- Mark E. Gallo

Folk CollectionThe intersection of folk and blues was there at the beginning of both genres a century ago. The appropriately named two-disc set, The Only Folk Collection You’ll Ever Need (Shout Factory) represents classic folk music from the Carter Family’s 1935 "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye)" to Odetta’s 1973 version of "Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down." In between are gems from Woody Guthrie ("This Land Is Your Land"), the Stanley Brothers ("I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow"), Dave VanRonk ("He Was a Friend of Mine"), Bob Dylan ("The Times They Are A-Changing"), Rambling Jack Elliot ("Roving Gambler"), and the amazing Doc Watson ("Sitting On Top Of The World").

That’s just the first disc. The second features Phil Ochs, the Byrds, Pete Seeger, Donovan, Joan Baez, Tim Hardin, Fairport Convention, and John Prine. Of more interest to blues aficionados are classics from the likes of the great Mississippi John Hurt whose version of "I Shall Not Be Moved" showcases his amazing finger picking – which is comparable to Doc Watson’s.

Also of note is Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry’s great "John Henry" and Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter’s iconic "Rock Island Line."

Folk and Blues co-mingling? Indeed, it has intersected quite nicely over the years.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Jackie PayneBlues singer Jackie Payne began singing professionally in his early teens in his native Athens, Georgia. Relocating to Houston at age 17, he enjoyed a regional hit, “Go Go Train,” that led to his joining the Stax Revue tour with Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, and Rufus & Carla Thomas. After a 15-year stint with The Johnny Otis Orchestra, Payne teamed up with guitarist Steve Edmonson to form the Jackie Payne Steve Edmonson Band in the late ’90s, releasing three well-received discs between 2003 and 2008.

In early 2014, Payne recorded I Saw The Blues, his second solo album, and planned to release it later in the year, but unfortunately he suffered a major stroke in October before the album was finished. Guitarist Kid Andersen, who owns Greaseland Studios (where the album was recorded) and guitarist Anthony Paule teamed up to help Payne finish and release the album on Paule’s Blue Dot Records label. Blues fans should thank the two of them profusely, because Payne was in top form for these 12 tracks.

Payne wrote six of the 12 tracks and they include the autobiographical title track, “Kicking Back With The Blues” (highlighted by some great guitar by Paule), “Feel Like Doing My Thing,” “Six Million Dollar Man,” a hot track with some hot guitar from Andersen, the jazzy “Rock Me With A Steady Roll,” and “Full Moon Blues,” with some terrific slide guitar from Paule.

Payne’s originals mix well with his choice of covers. The opening track is a deep Southern Soul track written by Jonnie Barret, Carson Whitsett, and Dan Penn, and I really like Payne’s vocal and the horns, which are also a highlight of “When The Blues Comes Knockin’. Billy Ray Charles’ “Wife, Woman, Hoochie” is another standout with one of Payne’s best vocals.

Other covers include a really funky take on the Tony Joe White tune “I Get Off On It,” Little Johnny Taylor’s “Somewhere Down The Line,” and Ollie Nightingale’s “I’ll Drink Your Bathwater Baby,” which closes the disc.

With Payne’s outstanding vocal performance and the peerless accompaniment from Paule and Andersen, along with Derrick “D’Mar” Martin (drums), Endre Tarczy (bass), Lorenzo Farrell (organ), Bob Welsh (piano), and the horn section of Ed Early (trombone), Jeff Lewis (trumpet), Eric Spaulding and Frankie Ramos (sax), and Aki Kumar (harmonica) makes a great album even greater.

Though the initial prognosis was grim, Payne has made tremendous strides in his recovery, and a benefit show to help pay for his medical expenses and the release of I Saw The Blues will be held at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco on May 31st. If you’re nearby, go check out the music, buy this disc, and help one of the finest soul blues artist of this era get back on his feet again.

--- Graham Clarke

Arlen RothArlen Roth is regarded as one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He has toured and recorded with a huge number of artists, including Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Phoebe Snow, Sonny Landreth, David Lindley, Albert Lee, Duane Eddy, Danny Gatton, Ry Cooder, Michael Bloomfield, Dusty Springfield, and The Bee Gees. He’s an instructional guitarist who has released a series of educational series of instructional videos, and currently does online lessons on He was a big part of the ’80s blues film, Crossroads, where he created the guitar parts, and directed the scenes.

Roth’s latest album, Slide Guitar Summit (Aquinnah Records), features the legendary guitarist with an all-star cast of guitarists covering a wide variety of musical styles. Produced by Tom Hambridge, who also mans the drum kit throughout, the guests gutiarists include Landreth, Lindley, Cindy Cashdollar , Jimmy Vivino, Lee Roy Parnell, Greg Martin, Jack Pearson, Rick Vito, and the late Johnny Winter, whose collaboration with Roth, a sizzling take on “Rocket 88” would prove to be his final recording session (Roth dedicated the album to Winter).

Parnell, best known for his country radio hits in the ’90s, is as comfortable on the blues, rock, and soul side, and proves it with his two appearances, a strong version of “Dust My Broom,” and “Dixie Chicken,” a wonderful tribute to Little Feat’s Lowell George. Lap steel guitarist Cashdollar, who had stints with Livingston Taylor and Asleep at the Wheel, tackles the early ’60s instrumental hit, “Stranger On The Shore,” and the country-styled instrumental “Steel Guitar Rag” with Roth.

Kentucky Headhunters founding member Greg Martin also appears on two tracks, the Jimmie Rodgers classic “Peach Pickin’ Time In Georgia” and a lovely version of “Amazing Grace” that closes the album. Conan O’Brien house band leader Jimmy Vivino also gets two tracks with Roth, the acoustic “Poor Boy Blues” and “And When I Die,” the Laura Nyro song made famous by Blood, Sweat, & Tears, and former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito shines on “Paradise Blues” and the Motown standard, “You Really Got A Hold on Me.”

Nashville guitarist Jack Pearson, Landreth, and Lindley all get a track apiece. Pearson’s country rocker “Do What’s Right” opens the disc in fine fashion, Landreth and Roth team up on the jazzy “Sonny Skies,” and Lindley’s fun reading of Professor Longhair’s “Her Mind Is Gone” was recorded live with him and Roth showing off their skills on lap steel and seemingly having a blast doing so. Actually, the entire disc sounds like that……a group of buddies getting together to do what they love.

Simply put, if you’re a fan of slide guitar, you must own this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Ian SiegalIn 2013, Ian Siegal traveled to north Mississippi to attend the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic near Oxford. While there, the British blues rocker met up with his occasional musical partners, Luther and Cody Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart (all of whom had accompanied Siegal (under the name The Mississippi Mudbloods) on his 2012 release, Candy Store Kid, and another local artist, Jimbo Mathus. The group then headed over to the Dickinsons’ Zebra Ranch Studio to jam, and The Picnic Sessions (Nugene Records) was born.

Over two days, using vintage equipment, picking up and playing whatever instruments were in reach, and with a total sense of spontaneity, the group recorded ten songs, produced by Cody Dickinson (who has produced a couple of previous Siegal albums --- Candy Store Kid and The Skinny). The set list is a mix of a few old Siegal tunes, some new ones (some written in the studio), and a few traditional covers. This is raw and ragged stuff, just like the blues ought to be.

While the basic theme is blues, as heard on tracks like the rugged “Stone Cold Soul” and “Keen and Peachy,” there are also tunes like “How Come You’re Still Here,” which has a folksy feel to it. There’s a dreamy cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Heavenly Houseboat Blues,” and a Latin-styled reading of Tom Russell’s “Gallo Del Cielo.” “Talkin’ Overseas Pirate Blues” is a fun talking blues, and the country gospel “Beulah Land” is wonderful. “Hard Times (Come Again No More)” is a take on a 150+year old song from Stephen Foster with an outstanding vocal from Siegal.

Mixed in throughout the disc are bits and snippets of conversations, trial runs, and discussions that show what went into the performances and the making of the disc. Siegal’s lyrics are loads of fun, too. His clever way with lyrics and his dry wit will have listeners paying close attention to what is being said, almost as much as they will be paying attention to the impressive string-bending prowess of the involved parties.

If you’re not familiar with Ian Siegal, and you really should be, just based on his two previous albums mentioned earlier in this review, you missing a real treat. The Picnic Sessions is a fantastic look at how great music can come together in the gifted hands of a set of talented musicians. These five men are doing as much to keep the blues alive as anyone in the business right now and blues fans should definitely check this one out.

--- Graham Clarke

Sherwood FlemingSherwood Fleming was born in Mississippi in the mid 1930’s, the son of a sharecropper. From an early age, he wanted to be a singer, but when he heard B.B. King sing “3 O’Clock Blues,” he knew he wanted to sing the blues. He moved to Los Angeles when he was 20 and performed in a few clubs and in church, working at Modern Records as a custodian prior to the label’s shutdown. He recorded six tracks for Modern, including the sought-after single “Good Woman Blues,” and sporadically afterward for a few small labels, but he never got the break he wanted or deserved.

After giving up on music for many years, Fleming recently was tracked down by Dynaflow Records head Eddie Stout, who got him back on track with a few gigs and a brand new album, Blues Blues Blues, which teams Fleming up with some of Austin’s finest musicians including guitarist Johnny Moeller and drummer Jason Moeller, along with sax man Kaz Kazanoff, keyboardist Nick Connolly, guitarist Stevie Fulton, and bassist Burly Manor. The band rips through a dozen tracks of gritty blues that mixes several fine Fleming originals (blues singer Larry Davis recorded his “For Five Long Years”) with some interesting and seldom-heard covers.

Fleming’s robust vocals are a great match for these tunes, which range from the funky Ike Turner thumper, “Bold Soul Brother (Bold Soul Sister),” to the gritty down-home “Gotta Hold On” and “Non Support Blues,” to a slow burning take on Bob Geddins’ classic “My Time After Awhile,” to a moving acapella reading of Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World.” There’s also a fun remake of Andre Williams’ “Jailbait.”

Fleming proves to be a writer of considerable skill, too. He penned four tracks, which include the strong title track, the spoken-word “History,” the swinging R&B number “No Life For A Working Man,” and “Good Woman,” a slow blues with some standout fretwork from Moeller, whose versatility shines through on every track.

This is an impressive comeback effort from Sherwood Fleming, who retains a powerful singing style and a solid knack for songwriting. Hopefully, Dynatone can get him back into the studio soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Hans Theessink - Terry EvansOne of the more interesting, and successful, blues collaborations in recent years has been the pairing of European blues treasure Hans Theessink and native Mississippian Terry Evans. The duo has released two very successful studio albums (2008’s Visions and 2012’s Delta Time), and have now followed up with a live effort, True & Blue (Blue Groove), a 14-song acoustic set, six originals by Theessink and eight covers, recorded in Vienna.

The combination of Theessink’s warm baritone and Evans’ gospel-flavored soul is a winning one, and their guitar work also meshes well. They have a rapport that would indicate a friendship and musical partnership that extends far beyond their first recording in 2008. The pair work through a sterling set of covers (mostly from their studio releases) that includes Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth,” Leadbelly’s “Bourgeois Blues,” the Wilson Pickett classic “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline,” and the J.B. Lenoir classic, “Talk To Your Daughter.”

They also cover Evans’ mournful “Gotta Keep Moving” (from Live and Let Live, Evans’ excellent late ’80s recording with Bobby King). Theessink’s own tunes blend in perfectly, with “Demons,” “Vicksburg Is My Home,” and “I Need Money” from Visions and “Shelter From the Storm” and the title track from Delta Time. Theessink’s jaunty “Tears Are Falling” (from his 2008 release, Crazy Moon) is also included. He is as gifted a songwriter as he is a guitarist.

True & Blue is a very enjoyable live session. Obviously Theessink and Evans have a ball playing together and the audience senses this and they’re having a ball listening. This is as good a live set of roots and blues as you’ll hear this year.

--- Graham Clarke

Ben Rice - Lucy HammondTheir collaboration was the result of an unintentional double booking, but guitarist/singer/songwriter Ben Rice and singer/songwriter Lucy Hammond have made the most of their “accidental partnership,” drawing attention for their energetic live performances and their musical chemistry. Hammond used Rice as part of her roots project, NW Blues Uprising. As a duo, they even reached the finals of this year’s International Blues Challenge (Rice also reached the finals a year earlier with his band, The Illmatics).

The Portland, Oregon-based duo recently released their debut EP, Destination Clarksdale, a five-song collection of original tunes. Rice and Hammond share vocals backed only by Rice’s expressive guitar work. Their voices mesh seamlessly, with Rice’s fiery delivery perfectly matched by Hammond’s sultry, understated style. The sparse backing instrumentation really puts the focus on their vocal interplay.
I really like the playfulness of “Ida Mae” and the moodiness of the Delta-flavored “Oh Lord.” “Wants Me Back Again” features Rice’s best vocal, with driving fretwork and strong vocal support from Hammond. “Turn My Back On You” has a more modern flair, with a lilting melody reminiscent of the Subdudes, and the haunting closer, “Muddy Water,” provides a really nice showcase for Hammond’s vocals.

The only problem with this disc is that, at five songs and 20 minutes, there’s not enough of it. Blues fans will be dying to hear more from this talented duo.

--- Graham Clarke

Cash Box KingsOne of the more interesting bands to come across my horizon in the last couple of years has to be the Cash Box Kings out of Chicago. The core band, with Joe Nosek on harp & vocals, Oscar Wilson on vocals, Kenny Smith on drums, and Joel Paterson on guitar & vocals, is definitely one of my go to bands when I want to listen to a more traditional style of blues. Coupled with the “honorary Cash Box Kings” including Gerry Hundt, Billy Flynn, Brad Ber, Beau Sample, Mark Haines and Barrelhouse Chuck, the band is more than capable of playing just about any damn thing they want to. And they do. Let’s throw their latest Blind Pig release, Holding Court, into the CD player and give it a spin.

The band starts out with “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man” with Oscar on the lead vocal, paying their respects to Big Smokey Smothers. Joe’s playing a mean harp while Oscar tells the woman in question, “I’m going to love you right…and treat you square…if you do me wrong…I ain’t gonna be your monkey man no more.” We segue into “Download Blues” and here Oscar’s lamenting the current state of the recording industry and the lack of money there is for the artists out there paying their dues. “People think music…on the net should be free…it might as well be…cause they ain’t paying me…I’ve got the download blues.” Piracy is having a huge impact on the working artist and I can relate to the sentiments that Oscar is telling us about here.

Unfortunately technology isn’t the only thing having an impact on the working man. Rent prices in the city are soaring astronomically and Oscar feels it’s time for a change in our next tune, “Gotta Move out to the Suburbs.” “I can’t live where I grew up y’all…I gotta kiss my crib goodbye.” Both land and housing are cheaper out in the suburbs and it’s forcing many a Blues men to leave the neighborhoods of their youth. Joe takes a turn at the microphone and leads the band into our next cut, “Cash Box Boogie.” “Wash the window…close the door…grab that money…from outta the drawer…let’s do the cash box boogie…boogie til the money’s gone.” It’s time to play and Joe is more than happy to lead the way.

Oscar returns to the mic for the band’s take on a John Lee Hooker tune, “Hobo Blues,” and Joel Paterson is spot on with his fretwork to introduce this tune. “When I first started Hobi’n …I took a freight train to be my friend…you know I Hoboed the Hobo…a long, long way from home.” Beau Sample’s on his upright bass for this tune and I’m appreciating the way he’s laying down the back end with Mark Haines on the pots & pans. Joe’s harmonica helps to signal his presence back at the helm as the band picks up the tempo for one of his originals, “Baby Without You”. “Got a brand new do…man, looking cool…I’ve got some long-toed shoes…yeah, they’re really smooth…but, standing all alone…they only make me look like a fool….cause baby, without you…I’m only half a man.” Joe’s identity seems to be wrapped up in his baby’s approva, so I’m thinking he’d better hang on to this one for dear life.

Joe continues on with another tune he wrote, “JuJu”, and this tune has more of a jump feel to it. “When I saw JuJu walking down the street…I said that’s one girl I’d like to meet…well, my JuJu…what do you do…got me ho hoing and ha hahing.” JuJu’s got Joe wrapped around her little finger and he sounds like he’s in it for the long haul with this girl. Oscar’s back on the lead vocal as the band takes on a Willie Love tune, “Everybody’s Fishin’”. “You know everybody’s fishing…I believe I’ll fish some too.” Joel’s guitar is up front and center, and I’m appreciating this up tempo vibe from the Cash Box Kings. I hear some brushes on the snare as the tempo slows and the band performs our next cut, “Out on the Road”, a tune by James Lane. Life has been a bit tough for Oscar here as he tells us, “Well, my first wife quit me…you know she put me out on the road…you, know…I didn’t have no place to go.” Caught by surprise, without a safety net, Oscar’s left to pick up the pieces of his life and begin again.

Joe returns with another original tune, “Sugar Pea,” and I’m appreciating the light feel of this tune from him. “She’s like a bus chord…ringing true…my little woman…don’t tell me what to do…she’s my sweet little thing…yeah, she’s my sugar pea.” Joe’s got himself a good woman here and hopefully he’ll do right by her. Up next is another Nosek original, “I Miss You Miss Anne,” and here Joe’s dealing with the loss of a woman he definitely loved. “Loving you…wasn’t easy…but I loved you just the same…my only regret…is that you never took my name…Miss Anne…I miss you…more than you’ll ever know.”

Oscar’s back at the helm for our next cut, “I’m a Real Lover,” and he’s proclaiming his love to the woman he desires. “I’m a real lover baby…and I’ve got to have your love…well, I’m begging you little girl…to give me one more chance…I’m a real lover baby…got to have your love.”

The final cut on Holding Court is another original by Joe Nosek, “Quarter to Blue,” and here we find the band playing a slow blues instrumental with Joe’s mournful harp conveying the intended sadness with great conviction.

Listening to Holding Court was a refreshing change of pace from the other discs I’ve listened to recently, and I can always count on the Cash Box Kings to bring that old school flavor that we probably don’t hear enough of these days. The band itself is very talented and with all of the available honorary band members, more than capable of playing any form of blues they desire. I’ve yet to see the band live and that will be one of the items on my to do list of adventures for this summer. The band’s website is and once you’re there; you’ll appreciate their dedication to the music they love and the artists who’ve inspired them.

--- Kyle Deibler

Cedric BurnsideI recently had Cedric Burnside and Trenton Ayers out here with me in Colorado for a few days to perform in our 1st annual tribute concert to the memory of John-Alex Mason, and the event was a fantastic celebration of John-Alex’s memory. I know the event was extremely important to Cedric as a remembrance of Cody Burnside as well, and that made it all the more bittersweet for all of us. Cedric was excited about the release of their new record, Descendants of Hill Country, and I looked forward to giving it a listen. There’s something very seminal about Hill Country Blues, the music of R.L. Burnside and Jr. Kimbrough, and I’m thinking nobody does it better today than the Cedric Burnside Project. Let’s give this disc a listen.

The Cedric Burnside Project for this recording consists of Cedric, his uncle Garry Burnside and Trenton Ayers. The disc starts out with “Born With It” and we’re transported deep into the bowels of the Mississippi Hill Country as Cedric reflects on their roots. “Hill Country Blues…we were born with it.” Cedric and Garry’s side of the Hill Country ledger is well known and guitarist Trenton Ayer’s father, Joe Ayers, was the original bass player for Jr. Kimbrough. All three of them are indeed “born with it.”

Cedric’s kit is at the forefront of the mix as they move on to “Hard Time”. Everybody goes through hard times and as Cedric sings, “Just keep on living baby…you’re going to see them hard times again.” Both Trenton and Garry play guitar on this disc so I don’t know who’s playing the lead solo here, but it’s a good one. “Front Porch” features a light guitar solo with Cedric using his brushes on the snare as he and Garry tell us about their front porch. “There’s a lot of life...going on down there…just sitting on the front porch…yeah…yeah.”

I hear the dice shaking in the cup as the topic moves to gambling in “Don’t Shoot the Dice.” “Don’t shoot the dice…y’all…don’t the shoot the dice…one shooter…they could be crooked…or they could wrong…they can change the dice y’all…and you’ll never see it done…don’t shoot the dice.” Our next cut, “Going Away Baby,” finds Cedric leaving his woman. “Well…I ain’t never looked but four women in my life…that was my mother…my sister…my sweetheart…and my wife.” Cedric is worried about this one all the time and it’s best to let her go.

“Airport” is next and here it seems Cedric has found a new love to hang on to. “I met…this ole lady…she left me standing…in the airport…well, she gave me a little kiss…and it went straight to my heart…she ain’t nothing but four feet eleven…but I know she’s all mine…yes, she’s got a sweet old heart…but she left me there crying.” This one didn’t work out but Cedric lives to love another day and that’s not all bad. “You Just Wait and See” is the first real ballad on the disc, and it’s just Cedric’s kick drum and some intricate finger-picking from Trenton. “I know you think, baby…that I don’t really love you….but I’m here to tell you, I really do…you just wait and see, baby…you just wait and see.” I don’t think I’ve heard Cedric sing a song this tenderly and I’m appreciating the contrast to the deep sounds I normally experience with Hill Country blues.

The Hill Country sound returns on our next cut, “Tell Me What I’m Gonna Do,” and finds Cedric conflicted. “My baby told me…just the other day…she don’t want no other man…up in her face…I didn’t tell her…I saw you the other day…with another man…and holding hands too…tell me what I’m gonna do…with you.” What you’re gonna do Cedric is let her go. Plain and simple, my friend. Cedric’s a pretty deep thinker and I appreciate his sentiments expressed in our next cut, “This Is For the Soldiers.” “This is for our soldiers…we pray…to come on home…this is for our soldiers…I know it’s hard…to be from your families…no one can…feel the pain…that y’all see…don’t you worry…we rise…we’re America all the way.” It’s a crazy world we live in today, and we enjoy the freedom we have in our country because of the sacrifices these men and women make on behalf of our freedom everywhere.

Up next is “Skinny Woman” and its light tone is a welcome interlude after the intensity of “This Is For the Soldiers.” “Well…don’t want…skinny woman…well don’t want…skinny woman…meat don’t shake.” Just a simple tune with an intricately finger-picking guitar in the background, and that works well here. “That Changes Everything” finds Cedric reflecting on the evil that having too much money can have on one’s life. “You can be a millionaire…got your fortune and fame…got your fancy car…big house…and your gold chain…but if you don’t use it for good…that changes everything.” We’ve all seen too much money wreck the life of someone we know. It can happen to you…it can happen to me…just remember…”if you don’t use it for good…that changes everything.”

Another blazing guitar intro sets the tone for our next cut, “Down in the Delta.” Cedric enters banging on the pots and pans, and here we go. “I went down to the Delta…looked out at that cotton field…well my Dad said…”Thank God, you wasn’t here”…well, I always wondered…what did he mean by that.” What he meant is that he was grateful that his son didn’t experience the hardships bestowed upon his ancestors working those cotton fields.

The final cut on Descendants of Hill Country is another delicately picked ballad, “Love Her Til I Die.” “When I first saw her…she really caught my eye…I said…I’m going to love…love…love her 'til I die.”

Descendants of Hill Country brings me back to reflecting on the first song of the disc, “Born With It.” Hill Country Blues comes from an area of Mississippi that few folks know and even fewer are able to express. Cedric, Garry and Trenton are carrying on the legacy of their forefathers and doing it better than anyone else. Cedric’s website is --- check the Cedric Burnside Project’s schedule and see one of their appearances near you. A good dose of Hill Country Blues education is good for everyone --- you’ll thank me later.

--- Kyle Deibler

Deb RyderDeb Ryder appears intent on making a splash in the Blues world with her new disc, Let It Rain, engineered by Johnny Lee Scheel and produced by Tony Braunagel. Tony’s surrounded her with an amazing group of LA musicians from Kirk Fletcher to Kim Wilson to band mate Mike Finnigan, and really uses their musical talents to let Deb’s 11 original tunes shine on their own in the light of day. Let’s hit play and see what this Socal Blues woman has up her sleeve for her sophomore release.

Kirk Fletcher’s fretwork blazes the trail for our opening cut, “That’s Just How It Is,” and here we find Deb telling her man she’s not going anywhere. “It’s inevitable…all of the time…gonna be mine…that’s just how it is.” Deb’s like a snapping turtle when it comes to her man and she’s just not going to let him go. Johnny Lee’s guitar sets the tone for our next cut, “Can’t Go Back Again,” and here we find Deb reminiscing about a love in her life that’s ended. “All you left me was a broken heart…this is now….that was then…baby, can’t go back again.” She gave this man a child and he still chose to leave, Deb’s right in this case, “you can’t go back again.” Lee Thornburg adds some serious trombone to the mix and I’m appreciating the feistiness in Deb’s voice as she prepares herself to move on.

Deb segues on to “You Won’t Be True” and here we find Deb facing up to the fact that her man just isn’t treating her right. “I’ve given you everything…you still won’t be true.” It’s time for Deb to kick this cheating man to the curb and move on with her life. Kim Wilson’s on the harmonica for a sultry intro to our next cut, “Guilty as Sin.” Here we find Deb coming face to face with the other woman whose been cheating with her man. “Clearly…she was lying…I could see it in her eyes…did she really believe…I was falling for her lies…she was guilty as sin.” Deb’s a strong woman, she’s been through this dance before and she will handle her man the way she needs to. Kirk’s fretwork is scintillating and I’m enjoying the solo he adds to this tune.

Mike Finnigan’s on the B3 as part of the intro to Deb’s next tune, “Cry Another Tear.” Deb’s man has let her go but she’s a survivor and made it through. This tune has a gospel feel to it and I’m appreciating Deb’s word craft here, “well, I’m just fine…you’re the end of the line…I’ve found someone much better than you…it’ll be a cold day in hell…before I cry another tear over you.” “Hold Your Lamp High” is our next cut and Deb is appreciating all the struggles in the world today as many folks are searching for inspiration. “Hold your lamp high…so the light of the world can reach the darkness…hold your lamp high…so the light of the world can shine through.” We all need something to believe in and “Hold Your Lamp High” is another great tune from Deb. Lon Price lends a nice sax solo in this tune and it’s clear that the arrangements for Deb’s tunes have been well conceived to compliment her lyrics.

“Money Monsoon” is our next track and I’m appreciating the up-tempo jump swing tune as a nice change of pace at this point in the mix. “Need money…show me some green…universe bring me a money monsoon…dear Lord, make it rain.” I’d be happy if one of these shows up over my backyard here in Colorado as well and I’m sure it never hurts to ask. We all know the Lord works in mysterious ways. A stark piano intro from Mike brings us to our next tune, “Kiss and Dream,” the first ballad on Deb’s disc. Deb’s young, barely 23 and madly in love. “The light still shines…like it did that day…right here my baby…where it all began…so many years ago…when love was young…and you held me close”. Lon Price’s sax is back in my ear, blowing a lovely melody that serves to amplify the love that Deb still feels for her man today.

The title track, “Let It Rain,” is up next and a quick piano intro from Mike leads to more soulful fretwork from Kirk. “I hear a storm is coming our way…I’ll guess we’ll have to stay in…get tangled up and sink in bed….take your time baby, we got all day…let it rain…I’ve been waiting patiently.” The rain helps to keep Deb’s man at home and she’s truly appreciative of his time spent home with her because of the rain. “Let it rain…keep you here with me.” So of course while the imagery of a rainy day at home is still percolating in my brain, Deb and the band move on to an upbeat tune, “Ma Misere,” and here Deb’s ready to get rid of her no good man. “Let me send you on your way…get started on your new life today…find some damsel in distress…don’t make her life a total mess…the answer is plain to see…I’m going to put you out of my misery.” I like the New Orleans vibe of “Ma Misere” and the band is definitely enjoying the ride as well.

Kim Wilson is back with his harp for our final cut, “Round and Around,” and here we find Deb dealing with the complexities of the love in her life. “You need more from me…I need more from you…each one waiting for the other…to come through…ain’t getting nowhere…chasing our tail…stop going round and around.” At least Deb knows what the trouble is, finding the solution, of course, is an entirely different matter. Johnny Lee adds just the right touch of slide guitar on our final cut and I can appreciate Deb’s dilemma and the pain that it’s causing.

Kudos to Deb Ryder and Tony Braunagel, for constructing an intricate pattern of well-crafted arrangements to go with Deb’s lyrics. I really enjoyed the whimsy of “Kiss and Dream” while “Let It Rain” is a song that will stick with me for awhile this summer. Hopefully Deb will get the opportunity to tour quite a bit in support of her new record, and I would love an opportunity to see her new songs performed live for everyone’s listening pleasure. You can learn more about this Socal Blues woman on her website --- --- and you can listen to sound bites of her new record there as well. And order a copy of Let It Rain while you’re there, it features some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in awhile.

--- Kyle Deibler

Ghost Town Blues BandQuite literally a hand from a quick thinking photographer in the pit saved the Ghost Town Blues Band’s leader, Matt Isbell, from falling off the stage at the final of the IBC a couple of years back. Matt’s a “mile a minute” when you talk to him and I had a chance to catch up with him for a minute at the Rum Boogie while the band was waiting to take the stage after that evening’s IBC round wrapped up. Matt also served as a taxi driver for a number of us departing that Sunday from Memphis, and he handed me a copy of Hard Road to Hoe when he dropped us at the airport. Matt’s a very creative guy, from making cigar box guitars to slides from wine bottles, and I looked forward to giving the disc a spin. The time to do that is now, so here we go.

The Ghost Town Blues Band is a fan favorite in Memphis, in part because of the band’s inclusion of a trombone and saxophone player in the line-up, and they love to perform. They start out with the title cut, “Hard Road to Hoe,” and Matt’s playing one of his cigar box guitars while Preston McEwen is playing an electric-analog broom as part of the percussion. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of sounds, something the Ghost Town BB is known for. Life in the South is never easy and that’s the topic of discussion here. “Mama’s in the grave…her soul’s gone to heaven…yes, my Daddy’s on his way…and that’s a hard road to hoe.” Matt’s growing up, watching his parents die one by one, and before he knows it, he’s left to carry on by himself and it’s “a hard road to hoe.”

Jeremy Powell’s frantic keyboard work sets the mood for our next tune, “Big Shirley.” Big Shirley’s not an easy woman to satisfy and Matt tells us all about it, “Big Shirley…ah, Big Shirley…yes, she liked the kind of music make you enjoy…straight up Boogie Woogie…she’ll be singing for more.” Big Shirley’s a wild woman and even poor Rattlebone Jones couldn’t make her behave. The horns make their presence felt as the band moves on to “Tip of My Hat,” with Brandon Santini lending both his vocals and harp to the mix. “I don’t care what you think about that…I can get you, baby…with a tip of my hat.” Brandon’s blowing some mean harp and everyone involved is having a big old time.

I have no idea where our next tune, “My Doggy,” came from, but the band tackles it head on with piano, horns and Brandon’s harp blowing it up. “The animals…they go wild for that cat across the street…my doggy…passed out before the party ended….my doggy…well, he’s my best friend.” Matt’s dog is his best friend and the dog in question, Marry Dog Isbell, even lends a howl to the mix as Suavo Jone’s trombone plays in the background. Bassist Alex Piazza arranged our next cut, “Mr. Handy Man,” and I appreciate the old school cracks and pops that make it sound and feel like a vinyl disc. It’s a very short tune that leads us on to our next cut, “Hate to See Her Go.” Matt’s found himself a stubborn woman he loves very much but…”I hate to see you go…but I love it when you walk away.” That trombone of Suavo’s continues to dominate the background of this tune and I’m enjoying the laid back feel of the entire composition. Matt throws a tasty guitar solo into the mix, and this is the Ghost Town Blues Band at its very best.

Some intricate picking from Matt and the organ presence from Jeremy Powell set a somber tone for the next cut on the disc, “Tied My Worries to a Stone.” “Tied my worries to a stone…threw 'em in the Mississippi…want to be left all alone…see what the real will bring me…Ain’t no worry like before…I carry all my lightning with me…tied my worry to a stone…threw it in the Mississippi.” A very frenetic tune and something I’ve come to expect from the Ghost Town Blues Band. “Dead Sea” has a more traditional arrangement to it, and here we find Matt singing to the woman he loves. “I never broke your promise…or kept a promise to myself…had my share of money…but never knew a life of wealth…seems there ain’t no job…ever been fit for me…ain’t no woman…she gonna set me free…everyone’s now…at the bottom of the Dead Sea…the Dead Sea…probably be the death of me.” Matt’s life has been a hard one but he’s definitely carrying on.

“Nothin But Time” also has a fairly somber feel to it with Matt’s guitar and Jeremy’s organ continuing to set the tone. “I got nothing but time…it’s on my hands…I got nothing but time…it’s on my hands…when you knock on my door…said you want to be friends…I got nothing but time…cause you’re finally moving on”. The woman in Matt’s life decided to move on and the resulting loneliness finds Matt with “nothing but time…cause you found a new man.” We move on to “Dime in the Well” and Matt’s cigar box guitar is at the forefront of the mix as he tells us, “Tossed my life down in the well…keep tossing my life in that well…You don’t know what I see…I’m sick and tired of being set free…tossing my life in that well.”

Matt and the band move on to “Seventeen,” a song about being young in the world. “Slow down…you’re giving up on yourself…driving down on a one way street…she can’t even stand on her own two feet…can’t slow down…or she might have time…to figure out…why she loves on a dime…slow down.” The girl in question has all the time in the world to figure out how she wants to live, she just needs to slow down.

The final cut on Hard Road to Hoe finds Matt being reflective in “Road Still Drives the Same.” “The road still drives the same…without you…It was a matter of time…but I’m down to my last dime…the road still drives the same…without you.” The road can be a lonely place indeed but her memory stays strong in Matt’s heart and that memory is all he needs to continue on.

The Ghost Town Blues Band is definitely a fan favorite in the Bluff City, and we were fortunate to have them out here in Colorado for a gig at our beloved Boulder Outlook. Matt and the band have a unique sound and a party presence that is definitely all their own. I know they’re touring a lot this summer, so get out and see them if you can. It’s an amazing show from a crazy Memphis band, and that’s all good in my eyes. You can learn more about Matt and the band at and find out where the party will be. I definitely recommend you be there or be square.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mr. SippI was the venue coordinator at the Rum Boogie the year that Mr. Sipp, aka Castro Coleman and his band blew through the early rounds and went on to win the International Blues Challenge. It was nothing but a party in the Rum Boogie for the first three days, and I was confident that Mr. Sipp would do well in the finals. They proved me right.

Roughly a year and a half later, Castro’s first CD for Malaco Records, The Mississippi Blues Child, has managed to find its way into my CD player and I’m still fanning the poor thing, trying to put the fire out. Needless to say, Malaco has signed a great new artist to its roster and Castro’s new record is going to win him a whole new world of fans for Mr. Sipp. I think my CD player has finally cooled off, let’s see if we can coax another play out of it.

Mr. Sipp opens with the title track per se, “TMBC,” and we’re taking a trip down Interstate 55 to Jackson, Mississippi. Castro’s Epiphone is smoking and we’re off and running. Mr. Sipp is proud of his Mississippi roots and he’s not bashful about sharing them here, “I was born in Mississippi…right by the state line…bad as can be…with these blues on my mind…I kept telling everybody, what I wanted to be…now I playing my guitar all over the world…and I’m known by the name…the Mississippi Blues Child.” Castro’s a phenomenal guitar player and his fretwork is sizzling from the start. Our next cut, “Jump the Broom,” finds Mr. Sipp in love and the girl’s parents at odds over what she should do. “I said jump the broom, baby…please marry me…girl, you’re the prettiest little thing…that these eyes have ever seen.” Papa’s worrying but Mom’s happy, and Mr. Sipp is going to win over the girl of his dreams. All she has to do is, “pack up your bags…and run away with me…we going to leave ole Mississippi…stop somewhere down in Tennessee.”

I’m hearing some beautiful organ in the background from Damien Strauder as Castro slows things down a bit to sing us, “In the Fire.” “I can’t helping…thinking about…the troubles of this world…countries fighting against one another…killing all our boys and girls…can you tell me…what it’s going to be like…five years from now…it feels like I’m just…feeling my life…in the fire…and it’s burning my soul kinda bad…when will these trouble end?” No one knows when the troubles will end, but I appreciate Mr. Sipp’s view of the world we live in and his acknowledgement of all the problems that exist today. You can hear his anguish and trepidation in his fretwork and I’m reminded one again that Castro is a very talented guitarist.

A heavy back-end from Jeffrey Flanagan’s bass along with Stanley Dixon’s kick drum combine with Castro’s guitar as he sings about love in “Hole in My Heart.” “I’ve got a hole in my heart…and my love is leaking fast…if you don’t fix this leak…my love for you ain’t gonna last.” His woman is causing Mr. Sipp real pain and if she doesn’t address their problems soon, she’ll be out of Castro’s life for good. “Say the Word” finds Mr. Sipp displaying some intricate fretwork as he sets the tone for a classic ballad in the Malaco tradition. “If you don’t love me no more, girl…all you got to do is…say the word…and I’ll be gone…said, I can’t stand living like this…not knowing….what the hell is wrong.” Castro’s clear in his love for his woman but that doesn’t seem to be enough to keep her home and it won’t be long before she’s gone forever because of her cheating ways.

Mr. Sipp asks the question, “Y’all ready,” as he segues into the next cut, “Sipp Slide.” It’s a dance step and all you really need to do is just get up and shake your thang. We’ve come to Friday and Mr. Sipp has worked hard for his money and he’s not shy about telling his plans for it in “Nobody’s Bisness.” “I’m going to spend all money…don’t care what no one says…it’s the weekend, baby.” He’s obviously ready to party and the bill collectors will have to wait another week to collect their money.

This theme of money continues with Castro sharing a dream in “Jackpot.” “Y’all, I hit the jackpot, baby…I ain’t coming to work today…I’m going to get my handy bag…I’ve been thinking about quitting anyway.” Of course it’s all a dream and Castro will have to head back to work soon. “What is Love” is another ballad written by Mr. Sipp and he’s sharing his wisdom here about women with all the men in the world. “But what I found out…she wants somebody to listen…listen to her problems…just hear out…embrace her emotions…just wrap your arms around her…and hold her tight…somebody please tell me…what is love…if your heart ain’t in it?” All a good woman wants is her man’s attention and simple signs of appreciation for the woman she is. It isn’t all about diamond rings, watches and Gucci bags. Sounds like maybe Mr. Sipp has it all figured out and with a good woman and four daughters in his life, I would think so.

So now we move on to “V.I.P.” Castro thinks its good advice to also show us that if a man is a good talker, he might just get the woman he wants. But you have to be sincere. “See, that’s where you are wrong…I’m not trying to run no game…and neither am I trying to be a player…you see, your heart’s been through a lot…and I’m not the one to blame…oh, your heart deserves to be in love…and my heart deserves the same…so, what I gotta know…I’ve got to know…will you put me in your V.I.P.?” Mr. Sipp knows she’s probably been hurt before and it’s important to him that she knows his intentions are real.

Our theme of love continues with Castro serenading his love in “Tonight.” “Just sit back…and let the music…and let the melody of this song…heal your heart…oh, yea…I want to say…tonight…is a beautiful night…tonight.” I should mention that all of the songs on The Mississippi Blues Child are original tunes and I honestly had no idea that Castro was such a ladies’ man. His appreciation of the gentler half continues with our next song, “Hold It in The Road”. “I know this lady…she’s good to me…she must be the finest thing…that I’ve ever seen…she’s got a million dollar pick-up and so much class…and sometimes, I can’t but help look at her and with her apple bottom, oww.…so when she asks me what I’m doing…I tell her….I’m trying to hold it in the road.” Sounds like good advice to me, Mr. Sipp.

Up next is “Be Careful,” and again Castro’s fretwork is setting the tone. “2:30 in the morning and my eyes should be closed…instead we’re fussing & fighting…for what, only God knows…oh, you listen to your friends…and none of them have a man.” Her girlfriends are stirring up trouble and they’d love nothing more than to take Mr. Sipp away from her. She’d be well advised to tread lightly and “be careful” here.

Passionate fretwork from Castro provides the intro to the final tune on this disc, “Too Much Water,” and here we find Mr. Sipp happy to have moved on but she’s having second thoughts. “But I think we’re better off, baby…if we just be friends…but I still love you...and I guess that I always will…I swear…deep, down in my heart, baby…that’s the way that I feel…we’ll always be the best of friends…just can’t get over what you did…too much water under the bridge.”

The Mississippi Blues Child is an impressive debut on Malaco Records for Mr. Sipp, and I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve been waiting on this record for awhile now, and those of us who know Castro know he loves to say, “I’m going to knock a hole in it.” After I heard this record for the first time I told his manager, “Castro didn’t just knock a hole in it…he blew the effing roof off of the joint.” And I can honestly say that about covers it here.

This is a disc that is going to garner this Bluesman from Mississippi some serious consideration come Blues Music Award time, and I’m happy to know he’ll be coming to Colorado this summer. So, of course nothing Castro does is understated, and neither is his website, you can find out more information about Mr. Sipp and his goings on at, and be sure to catch Castro and his band this touring season. Their show will be one of the most entertaining you’ll see all summer long.

--- Kyle Deibler

Robin McKelleAny time an artist chooses to cross genres and sing something different, it represents a risk. Such is the choice Robin McKelle made when she went to Memphis to record Heart of Memphis. Her goal was to create a record in the vein of the great recordings from Al Green and Isaac Hayes, and tap into the Stax and Hi Records vibe from back in their heyday. To that end she enlisted the man at the control board for many of those discs, Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys, and proceeded to have at it. I’ve got Heart of Memphis in my CD player; let’s give this disc a spin.

Robin opens with “About to Be Your Baby” and it sounds like she’s having a change of heart. “I was about to be your baby…I was about to be your lady…then you went and started acting shady….” This man obviously let a good thing go when he probably should have stopped and taken a good look at the woman in front of him. As her band, the Flytones, charges ahead in the mix we move on to “Good Time.” “Don’t you want to get up…so we can get down…show me that you want to move your feet…to the funky sound…everybody…do you want to have a good time….tonight?”

“Good Time” definitely has a ’60s soul feel to it and I’m beginning to appreciate Robin’s songwriting talents for this disc, with Robin writing 11 of the 13 tunes on her record. We move on to one of her covers, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” I’ve always liked this tune and Robin adds just the right bit of sultriness to her vocal. “I’m just a soul…whose intentions are good…oh, Lord…please don’t let me be misunderstood.” Our next cut, “Control Yourself,” opens with strings in the background as Robin berates her man for not being faithful. “Trap’s set…stepped into it…all said…that you couldn’t do it…you saw the line…but you crossed it anyway.” His lack of “control” definitely has lost him Robin’s affections and he seems prone to making the same mistakes over and over again.

Robin confesses to be other end of the cheating game in our next song, the ballad “Forgetting You.” “Now that you’ve gone…I can’t go on living here without you…don’t let me live…the rest of my life…forgetting you.” Robin’s much too late in her appreciation of the love that she’s lost and she will live with that knowledge moving forward in her life. The title track, “Heart of Memphis,” is next, with Robin reflecting on her search for a new beginning. “After sunrise…I headed down toward the Mississippi River…rain falling had the streets filled with an afterglow…all the smiles on the faces of the people…made me feel so welcome…in a place where my heart…grew heavy and I got to know…way down in Memphis.” Memphis has a rich musical history and Robin’s managed to connect to the vibe that makes the Bluff City the magical place that it is.

More horns and a touch of B3 provide the intro to our next cut, “Like a River,” and here we find Robin reflecting on the heart that’s hers to give. “My heart is like a river…flowing deep inside…my heart is like a river…heavy, deep inside…nothing can stop this pain…how’d we ever get this way?” Her man dealt her a bad hand and it’s time for her to heal and move on. A lively guitar intro brings us to “Easier That Way,” where we find Robin reminiscing on a time when love was simpler and easier in her life. “Oh, oh…things were different…time didn’t matter…it was easier that way.” With age comes experiences and responsibilities that we don’t have when we’re young and Robin’s right, it was easier back in those days.

“What You Want” has a more somber feeling to it and here we find Robin down on her luck and lamenting the end of a relationship. “I’m through with you lying…can’t you see what you’re doing to me…if you don’t love me…than just let me be…now, I’ve had my share of crying…all the time I spent alone…tell me…what you want…from me.” Robin wouldn’t treat him this way, so he’d better figure it out soon. This theme of accountability continues as an impressive array of horns provides our intro for “Good & Plenty.” “I’ve got myself…good and plenty of nothing…when I found myself…in love with you…going to get myself…plenty of something…so pack your bags…cause we’re through.”

Robin seems to have finally found love as the horns continue their impressive performance on the intro to “Baby You’re the Best.” “With other guys…it was déjà vu…but you’re a real man I can hold onto…I hope you never think about leaving me…cause I don’t know where my life would be…without you next to me…cause, baby…you’re the best.” It’s good to see Robin finally happy and obviously deep in love with this good man in her life. Unfortunately the bliss is short lived as Robin segues into our next cut, “Down With the Ship.” “I’m not going down with the ship…I’m keeping my head above water…I’m trying to throw a lifeline to you…but you say you can do it alone…I’m not going down with the ship.” Robin was obviously willing to try but he wants to go it alone, so let him.

Our final cut on Robin’s disc, “Its Over This Time,” is another ballad,and again Robin’s the one letting go. “Through it you played your games…I’m done taking all of this pain…so it’s over this time….yes, it’s over this time.”

Heart of Memphis has been an interesting disc. The array of musicians backing Robin on this disc is impressive and I’m happy she was able to truly convey her pain on tunes such as “Like a River,” “What You Want” and “It’s Over This Time.” So much of good blues and soul to me is having the listener walk a mile in the singer’s shoes, and Robin does that for me with these songs. I still think she can go deeper and I’m looking forward to the next disc for this artist from the boroughs of New York. Robin’s definitely an emerging artist with a bright future, so check her website --- --- to learn more about her.

--- Kyle Deibler



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