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May 2017

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Order these featured CDs today:

Big Bill Morganfield

Eric Bibb

Professor Louie and the Crowmatix

The Soul of John Black

Geoff Achison

Nina Massara

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion

Billy T Band

Larry Griffith


Vin Mott

Vanessa Collier

Thorbjorn Risager

Bob Gardner

Eliza Neals

Vaneese Thomas

Sean Chambers

John Nemeth

Adrianna Marie

Corey Ledet

Big Bill MorganfieldBig Bill Morganfield has built a nice career since the mid-90s, releasing several fine albums since that time and continuing to develop as a performer and songwriter. Over time, his voice is sometimes a dead ringer for that of his dad, Muddy Waters, and he has become a formidable slide guitarist as well. On his latest release, Bloodstains On The Wall (Black Shuck Records), Morganfield branches out a bit, still offering plenty of traditional blues in the Windy City vein, but mixing in a few slight variations, at least geographically, plus one definite move out of his comfort zone. More on that later.

Morganfield includes the requisite covers of Chicago blues favorites --- Otis Rush’s “Keep On Loving Me,” Willie Dixon’s “I Am The Blues” and “I Don’t Know Why,” while mixing in the Jimmy Reed obscurity “Too Much,” a tasty cover of Lonesome Sundown’s swamp classic “Lost Without Love,” the title track from Alabama country blues artist Frank “Honeyboy” Patt, and a swinging read of Jimmy McCracklin’s “Help The Bear.”

His own songs include “When You Lose Someone You Love,” which is a second cousin to his dad’s “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” in melody, but is actually a tribute to his late mother, the manic old-school rocker “Help Someone,” and the Windy City shuffle “Can’t Call Her Name.” Morganfield’s own tunes hold up well with the covers and he continues to improve and impress with his compositions.

The outlier for this release is the closing track, “Hold Me Baby,” a track that Morganfield wrote for the new Fox TV series, Shots Fired. Produced by C-Maven, the song mixes Morganfield’s guitar and vocal with hip hop beats and electronics, and may not be your basic blues nut’s cup of tea, but it is noteworthy that Morganfield seems to have an eye toward the future of the music and hopes to attract newer fans. Morganfield will appear on the series and has written several other tunes for the show.

For most of the disc, Morganfield performs with the Mofo Party Band (John Clifton – harp, guitar, backing vocals, Bill Clifton – guitar, Grant Clifton – bass, Brian Bischel – drums), but also includes a world class group of guest artists on other tracks (guitarists Colin Linden, Bob Margolin, Eddie Taylor, Jr., and Chuck Cotton; harp blowers Doc Malone and Steve Guyger, Mookie Brill on bass, Augie Meyers on piano, and Jim Horn on sax).

To these ears, Bloodstains On The Wall is Big Bill Morganfield’s most forward-looking release to date. While he’s long been associated with, and pretty much mastered, the classic sounds that his father helped develop nearly 70 years ago, he continues to expand his own mastery of traditional blues and is working to help bring the blues to the ears of the next generation.

--- Graham Clarke

Eric BibbEric Bibb surely must be one of the busiest artists in the music business. Migration Blues (Stony Plain Records) is his third release in 18 months. As the title indicates, Bibb takes on one of the more controversial topics currently on the minds of most of the world’s population: The plight of people of various races and cultures who are fleeing oppression, violence, and poverty in their homelands. Bibb has never been one to shy away from a particular subject and on his new release, he presents 15 songs, most of which he wrote or co-wrote.

Songs like “Delta Getaway” and “With a Dolla In My Pocket” cover the plight of African-Americans who migrated north in the early part of the 20th century, while “Diego’s Blues” concerns the related arrival of Mexicans into the Mississippi Delta to fill the vocational void left by the African Americans. The harrowing “Praying For Shore” and “Four Years, No Rain” will bring to mind the current migration of those who are being persecuted and oppressed in foreign lands, and “We Had To Move” shows migration of a different sort (those forced to relocate due to eminent domain action taken by the government).

Bibb wrote the opener, “Refugee Blues,” which really sets the tone of the album, a prayer for safety due to the uncertainty and fear that has to be on the minds of those migrating. He also penned “Brotherly Love,” a call for everyone to put their differences to the side and find a way to solve this current dilemma.

There are also several instrumental tracks included that really showcase Bibb and his collaborators on the album, JJ Milteau and Michael Jerome Browne; the gentle title track, the lively “La Vie C’est Comme Un Oignon,” which is dedicated to the French Acadians forced away from Nova Scotia by the British during the French and Indian War (most resettled in Louisiana and became known as Cajuns), and “Postcard From Booker,” a short tune played by Bibb on Bukka White’s old guitar.

Bibb covers Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” but actually presents it in a calmer manner than the scathing original, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” and a lovely reading of the traditional spiritual, “Mornin’ Train,” which closes the disc.

Whatever your own views about the subject, and there are many different views from many different perspectives, Bibb’s approach covers the subject from a variety of angles, always from the perspective of those migrating, a viewpoint which is not always taken into consideration by everyone. Although the primary focus of today’s world events is on the people of Syria, Bibb points out that nearly every group of people in the world are where they are today because they migrated there from somewhere else for one reason or another.

Migration Blues is a mature and sobering look at a topic that affects all of us. Eric Bibb does as good a job as anyone I’ve heard in presenting the subject in a manner that goes beyond what you hear on the nightly news about it --- a method that’s both thought-provoking and entertaining.

--- Graham Clarke

Professor LouieCrowin’ The Blues (Woodstock Records) is the 13th, and latest, release from the the New York-based ensemble Professor Louie and the Crowmatix. The band began as the studio band backing Professor Louie (a.k.a. Aaron Hurwitz) on his musical productions for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and their repertoire consists of blues, rock ‘n roll, gospel, and roots music. Their latest album focuses heavily on the blues aspect, but their other influences slip in here and there as well on the 13 tracks, four originals and nine interesting interpretations of blues classics.

The disc kicks off with a rollicking reading of Marie Adams’ “I’m Gonna Play The Honky Tonks” that really captures the loose and limber feel of the song with some great keyboard action from the Professor. The band also covers Tommy Tucker’s “High Heel Sneakers,” Elmore James’ “Fine Little Mama” (a hot one with some fine slide guitar from John Platania), and Jimmy McCracklin’s “I Finally Got You.” There’s also a rousing venture into gospel with the traditional spiritual “I’m On My Way.”

Big Bill Broonzy’s “Why Did You Do That To Me” gets a splendid old timey presentation, with the Professor doubling up on the accordion and piano, and Miss Marie takes the mic on a pair of tunes, a piano-driven take on B.B. King’s “Confessin’ The Blues” and a downhome version of Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right.” Probably the most fascinating of the cover tunes is the band’s after-hours spin on Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” taking the song at an even slower pace than the Reed original and combining it with the the melody of the Coasters’ R&B classic “On Broadway.”

The originals include “Prisoner of Your Sound,” which has a bit of a New Orleans groove, joined by the Professor’s Hammond and Paltania’s stinging slide guitar, the superlative ballad “Love Is Killing Me,” and a pair of instrumentals --- the freewheeling ”Blues and Good News” and “Blues for Buckwheat,” a fine tribute to the late Buckwheat Zydeco that features the Professor on the accordion.

The band consists of Professor Louie (vocals, piano, accordion, Hammond organ), Miss Marie Spinoza (vocals, percussion, piano, whistling), Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass, backing vocals), John Platania (guitars). Guitarists Josh Colow and Michael Falzerano contribute on “Love Is Killing Me.”
Crowin’ The Blues is a great listen for blues fans who like a mix of the traditional and modern styles of blues (plus a few other styles mixed in), and Professor Louie and the Crowmatix are a group that deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

The Soul of John BlackYou can call what The Soul Of John Black plays blues. You can call it soul. You can call it R&B. You can call it funk or jazz or hip hop. Doesn’t matter what you call it …… it’s always worth hearing for any fans of these genres. John Bigham, the man behind the music who has played with Miles Davis, Fishbone, and Everlast, calls Early In The Moanin’ (Cadabra Records) his “love letter to the blues,” and truthfully, even though all those above-listed genres figure prominently on the album’s ten tracks, the blues influences are the most prominent.

The disc opens with the sweaty, swampy funk workout, “Can’t Be Helped,” segues into the slippery blues of the title track and “Chicago Blues,” which despite its title, sounds more like steady rolling, old school Chicago soul, but listeners won’t mind a bit. The gritty “Crooked Leg” grabs you with some nasty bass and puts a hop in your step right away, and “Cher” sounds like a long-lost Prince side.

Thursday Morning,” with its slide guitar, gives listeners a touch of the Delta with a slice of soul, and the funky “Daggers” introduces a bit of hip hop beat into the soul mix. “I Wish I Was Makin’ Love” is a splendid, sexy slow burner, and one of the pure blues highlights on the album. The interesting “Early Riser” is a gentle rocker that combines acoustic guitar with a few electronic bells and whistles, and “Sunset Drive,” is a smooth instrumental that eases the album to a close.

Early In The Moanin’ is the best release yet to these ears for The Soul Of John Black, certainly the most blues-centric. If you’ve not experienced the musical vision of John Bigham, this is a great place to get on board, but you’ll definitely want to hear the rest when you’re done with this one.

--- Graham Clarke

Geoff AchisonThere’s something for everybody on Geoff Achison’s new release, Another Mile, Another Minute (Landslide Records). The Australian singer / songwriter / guitarist’s 14th release features not only the blues, but also ventures into rock, country, folk, and funk territory. Backed by his core band (Roger McLachlan – bass, Gerry Pantazis – drums/percussion, Richard Tankard – keyboards), plus some of Australia’s finest musicians (including Mal Logan – piano/synth, Chris Wilson – harmonica, Lloyd Spiegel – vocals, Shannon Bourne – guitar), Achison positively rips through 14 original tunes that rank with his best work to date.

It’s been nearly a decade since an Achison studio release, but this was worth the wait. He jumps right into it with the smooth, jazzy opener “High Wire,” moving into the acoustic/electric narrative “Delta Dave,” then the soulful “Working My Way Back Home,” which blends funk, jazz, and R&B, and the bluesy shuffle “I’m Gonna Ride.” The catchy “A New Bad Habit” is a standout, too, with horns and keyboards evoking the sounds of Memphis.

The southern rocker “I Wish You Were Mine” features a strong lead vocal from Spiegel, while the title track and “Make No Mistake” (which showcases guitarist Bourne on the sizzling outro) lean toward the soul side of the blues. “Dreaming I’m Awake” is a spectacular slow blues ballad with some of Achison’s best guitar work on the disc. “Sum People Got All Da Funk” should get feet stomping and toes tapping with its funky backdrop, greasy horns, and Achison’s playful vocal, and the stylish and upbeat “Baby Come Back” will remind listeners of '70s pop/rock with grooving horns, harmony vocals and a crisp guitar solo from Achison.
“I Need Help” and “Make My Stand” are both up-tempo rockers with tasty guitar runs, and the closer, “Front Porch Farewell,” is a beautiful acoustic instrumental that ends the album on a lovely note. As great as Achison’s guitar work is throughout, his rough and ready vocals are equally strong and fit easily into the varied styles presented here.

Another Mile, Another Minute is an excellent all-around release that will not only please blues fans, but also fans of most other genres as well. Hopefully, Achison won’t wait so long between releases next time.

--- Graham Clarke

Nina MassaraDanish-American singer Nina Massara has a distinctive sweet, but sassy vocal style …. one that manages to convey innocence and worldliness at the same time. Add her retro movie star visage to that voice and it should be a can’t-miss combination, especially if that talent is backed by an imaginative set of songs and a savvy backing band. All those pieces are in place for Watch Me (CSP Records), Massara’s U.S. debut release.

The nine tracks were penned by producer Morten Wittrock and Ray Weaver and they’re a fine set of tunes. The title track opens the set with a funky New Orleans swagger, but the second tune, “Big Easy,” is a jazzy tribute to the Crescent City, punctuated by snaky slide guitar work. The aptly-titled “Impossible To Resist” is an irresistible duet with Colin Brooks former Band of Heathens, the slow burner “All That I’ll Ever Need” is a standout, and “Something New” cranks up the funk nicely.

In the feisty “You Ain’t Up To It,” Massara puts her man in his place, and “Crazy” is a jaunty little rocker that dabbles in the blues. The energetic shuffle “Drive Drive Drive” has a country tilt to it, and the closer, “Full Grown Woman,” may be the best track of all, with its wonderful old school feel and its subject matter, a topic most ladies can probably relate to.

Nina Massara’s Watch Me was a pleasant surprise and a genuine pleasure to take in. This disc will appeal to blues, soul, and jazz fans, but should cross several other musical aisles as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Zoe ScharzThis Is The Life I Choose (33 Records) is the fourth studio release from the British band Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion. Schwarz (vocals) is a gifted singer in a variety of settings and she’s backed by guitarist Rob Koral, a veteran of the British blues and jazz scene, organist Pete Whittaker, whose deft keyboard mastery combines blues, soul, and jazz in the finest Jimmy Smith tradition, and drummer Paul Robinson, a 40-year vet who’s an in-demand touring and session drummer for genres across the board.

Though the band has only been together for a few years, their musical chemistry is so sound that their picture can probably be found on Google if you happened to search for “well-oiled machine.” Koral and Schwarz wrote seven of the 13 tracks and his songs take the blues into familiar territory, though through a perspective that’s not always familiar. The autobiographical title track is excellent, about the good and bad of a career in music. The jazzy “My Baby Told Me So” bounces optimistically, despite the somewhat downbeat lyrics, and “People” is a catchy blues shuffle calling for love and harmony.

Broken” is a powerful, topical ballad, featuring a bravura vocal turn from Schwarz, which the band released as a single, with proceeds from sales going to the “Crisis” charity. The peppy “I Wanna Get Something Started With You” blends jazz and blues seamlessly with nice work on the Hammond from Whittaker and Koral on guitar, and “I Can’t Live Like That” leans toward R&B and is one of several tracks complemented by saxophone (Ian Ellis) and trumpet (Andy Urquhart).

There are a couple of tracks co-written with Phil Cotes, the funky rocker “Hold On” and the catchy “Exit,” and two from Pete Feenstra, the punkish “No Money In My Pocket” and the gentle “Call Of The Night.” Also included are a pair of bonus cuts that wrap up the album. The first tune is a moving cover of Jack Bruce’s “We’re Going Wrong” and the second is a dynamite reading of “Feeling Good,” originally done by Nina Simone, which Schwarz comes really close to making her own.

This Is The Life I Choose is a masterful collection of tunes that will appeal to a broad base of music fans who dig blues, jazz, soul, and pop. Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion is a superlative band that deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Billy TThe Billy T Band (William Troiani – bass/lead vocals, Ian Fredrick Johannessen – guitar, Haakon Hoeye – guitar, Robert Alexander Pettersen – drums) served as house band for Oslo’s Muddy Waters Blues Club, and has backed a score of blues legends who passed through: Nappy Brown, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Homesick James, Gary Primich, Junior Watson, and Louisiana Red, even playing on Red’s Back to the Black Bayou CD several years ago. Troiani was born and raised in New York City and played with Eddie Kirkland for a number of years, also working with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tom Russell, and Nancy Griffith before moving to Norway in the late '90s.

Reckoning (Big H Records) is the band’s fourth release and it showcases their unique sound, which combines the blues with classic soul and R&B. The title track opens the disc and it has a classic '70s soul feel with string backing giving it a smooth retro touch. The R&B tune “Shame Shame” features background horns and brings to mind the Stax Records heyday, “On Your Own” is a tight blues rocker punctuated by some fine slide guitar from Johannessen, and “Sad Man” recalls the glory days of Philly Soul with strings and sweet backing vocals.

One of These Days” is another standout, a blues/pop/country concoction which builds from solo vocals and acoustic guitar, moves to a guitar-backed chorus, before going electric about mid-song. The understated “Gone” takes listeners back in time, mixing funk and R&B, again with the strings plus wah wah guitar, while “It Ain’t Right” is a socially conscious backed by a dandy Second Line rhythm that the Meters would be proud to play. “Love Is Gonna Get You” would have been a smash in the early '70s, with its splendid blend of pop and soul, and the catchy rocking “Trouble” wouldn’t be far behind. The closer, “I’ve Been A Fool,” is right out of Stax Records with its churchy organ and stinging guitar and brings this superlative release to a fine conclusion.

The Billy T Band’s brand of blues, with healthy doses of soul, R&B, and rock, should appeal to a broad range of music fans. This is just like the music I grew up with and the band makes it sounds as vital and fresh as it was back in the day. Reckoning is well worth tracking down.

--- Graham Clarke

Larry GriffithBorn in Cincinnati, Larry Griffith began writing songs at the age of 9, inspired by the songs he heard on the radio and on records in the tenement where he, his mother, and his nine siblings lived. His family later moved to the Walnut Hills section of the city, where King Records was also located. Griffith was exposed to many of the label’s artists in the neighborhood --- Hank Ballard, Freddie King, James Brown, and Ivory Joe Hunter --- and was soon working as a session drummer. He relocated to Atlanta in the '90s, and dove deep into the city’s blues scene, eventually picking up guitar in the early 2000s.

Griffith recently released Shake It Loose, a sterling set of smooth urban blues and R&B that show he learned his lessons well over the years. He has a good solid vocal style that works well in both genres and he wrote all six songs, which show him to be a pretty clever tunesmith. Though he doesn’t play any lead guitar, settling in comfortably on rhythm guitar, he enlists stalwart Atlanta guitarist Mike Lowry in the lead slot, as well as a tight backing band that includes Dana McCarthy (bass), Rashaan Griffith (keys, drums), Steven Milsap (drums), Michael Milsap (keys), Tom Regeski (horns), with backing vocals from Sanctuary (Darshana Gettle, Tyra Tomlinson Beatty, Sharon Hill, Lavaida Monique).

The funky opener “Keep Ridin’” is a cousin to Chick Willis’s “Stoop Down.” Griffith’s vocal is sufficiently salacious for the subject matter and the keyboards, baritone sax, and backing vocals are a plus as well. “”Every King Needs A Queen” is a velvety soul ballad and the mid-tempo “All I Really Wanna Do” features some nice vocal interplay between Griffith and Sanctuary. “Our Love Is In Good Hands” is a slow gospel blues that touches broadly on topics from today’s headlines. “Ain’t Puttin’ Up” includes a sharp opening guitar solo from Lowry, a tight horn chart, and a fed-up vocal from Griffith to his woman who won’t do him right. The title track closes out the disc on an upbeat, energetic note.

Shake It Loose is a rock-solid set of blues with equal doses of soul and R&B mixed in. The only thing that would make it better would be to have more of it (only six songs and about 35 minutes). Hopefully, Griffith will give us more to enjoy in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

StrongmanStrongman is Canadian blues-rock guitarist Steve Strongman, one of the country’s most talented blues performers, a three-time Maple Blues Award winner and two-time Juno Award winner. The guitarist / singer / songwriter recently issued No Time Like Now (Sonic Unyon Records), a pulverizing ten-track set of blues rockers that includes nine originals written by Strongman, plus a cover of the '70s rock classic, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” that features the original creator, Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive fame, on guitar.

The title track opens the disc and pretty much sets the pace with its upbeat, loose vibe. The brawny rocker “Bring The Hammer Down” follows, then “Money In The Bank,” a swampy, sweaty ride with an irresistible guitar riff. The BTO cover is next, taken at a slower pace, but with guitar work (from Strongman and Bachman) just as nasty as the original. Strongman explores the soul side of the blues with the upbeat “Love Love Love,” which has a gospel backdrop with backing choir vocals, handclaps, and tambourine.

The soulful feeling continues with “I’m A Man,” a funky nod to “Mannish Boy,” one of Strongman’s favorite tunes. The grungy rocker “Old School” is a standout, with some of Strongman’s meatiest guitar work, and “Good Times” is a great slow burner that gradually builds in intensity. The disc closes with a pair of ballads, the moody “Sometimes” and “The Day They Carry Me Away,” a reflective ballad on which that Strongman really pours his heart out, both vocally and with his guitar.

No Time Like Now is a powerful set of blues-rock that mixes the old and new seamlessly. Steve Strongman has assembled a potent set of tunes accompanied by some of the freshest and most vibrant fretwork that these ears have heard in a while.

--- Graham Clarke

Vin MottOnly 27-years-old, New Jersey-based harmonica ace Vin Mott sounds like he might have recorded his debut release, Quit The Women For The Blues, in the early '50s with all the Chess legends. A Berklee College of Music graduate, Mott has been electrifying New Jersey audiences with his dynamite performances backed by some of the most talented musicians in the area. For his debut, Mott is joined by guitarist Sean Ronan, bassist Dean Shot, drummer Andrei Koribanics, and keyboardist Phil Silverberg.
Mott graduated from Berklee with a degree in Songwriting, and he puts his talents to good use with these ten originals.

Though he draws from his influences in Memphis and Chicago, Mott’s very much his own man with his lyrics, and his songs avoid the routine and cliché, putting a fresh spin on familiar blues topics. The title track borrows Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” melody, and the band sounds great, and the shuffle “Make Up Your Minds” and the fiery rocker “Don’t Make Me Laugh” are winners, too. On “I’m A Filthy Man,” Ronan gets a great old school Elmore James-like groove going on slide guitar.

The Factory” is a sobering slow blues that really touches on modern times, but would have been a good fit back in the day as well, and “Freight Train” is not one of those “Train” songs that the blues is famous for, but then again it is, at least metaphorically. Ronan takes a really nice guitar break on this one about midway. “I Wanna Get Ruff With You” is a playful blues rhumba, and “Ol’ Greasy Blues” is a loose-limbed shuffle. “Living The Blues” is a soulful blues ballad with an excellent vocal turn by Mott, and the closer, “Hott Mott’s Theme,” is an energetic instrumental that gives the band a few moments in the spotlight.

I really liked the old school blues feel of this disc. Mott writes really good songs and he can blow the back off a harmonica. Ronan is a formidable guitarist and the rhythm section is first rate. Quit The Women For The Blues is a very enjoyable listen and one that will leave blues fans wanting to hear more from Vin Mott.

--- Graham Clarke

Vanessa CollierMaryland singer/songwriter/saxophonist Vanessa Collier packs a pretty impressive musical résumé. A graduate of Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, Collier spent a couple of years touring with Joe Louis Walker before taking off on her own and releasing her debut, Heart Soul & Saxophone, in 2014 to rave reviews. She also competed in the 2016 International Blues Challenge, placing in the Top Three at the John Lennon Songwriting Competition. She also recently released her second album, Meeting My Shadow (Ruf Records), which includes 11 tracks, eight written by Collier, who also produced the disc with Kevin Houston and Thomas Ruf.

In addition to songwriting and production duties, Collier sings, plays alto, tenor, and soprano sax, flute, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, organ, percussion, and shuitar. She’s joined on most of the tracks by guitarist extraordinaire Laura Chavez, bassist Daniel McKee, legendary Memphis keyboardist Charles Hodges, trumpet/flugelhorn player Mark Franklin, and drummer/organist T.K. Jackson, plus guests Josh Robert s (slide guitar), Brenda Jackson (organ), Lenny Bradford (bass), and Nicholas Stevens (drums).

Collier’s originals include “Poisoned The Well,” a haunting number about betrayal, “Dig A Little Deeper” and “When It Don’t Come Easy,” a pair of tunes about determining to overcome obstacles, the former given an upbeat R&B treatment and the latter taking on more of a downhome blues feel, the boisterous “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime,” the New Orleans-styled “Meet Me Where I’m At,” the rowdy blues rocker “Whiskey and Women,” the feisty “Cry Out,” and the soulful closer, “Devil’s On The Downside.” She pulls out a far-ranging trio of covers, U2 and B.B. King’s “When Love Comes To Town,” the O.V. Wright classic “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” and the gospel raver “Up Above My Head.”

In addition to being a talented musician (see above), Collier also possesses a first-rate set of pipes. She can handle the rocking blues numbers, the soulful slow burners, and everything in-between. Her songwriting, mostly taken from personal experiences, is also very effective. The instrumental support from Chavez, Hodges, and the rest of the band is pitch-perfect. Meeting My Shadow is an excellent showcase for Vanessa Collier’s talents.

--- Graham Clarke

RisagerThørbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado’s previous studio release, 2014’s Too Many Roads, garnered global recognition for the group. Based in Denmark since the early 2000s, the band (Risager – vocals, guitar, Peter Skjerning – guitar, Emil Balsgaard – keys, Søren Bøjaard – bass, Martin Seidelin – drums, Hans Nybo – tenor sax, Kasper Wagner – saxophones, Peter Kehl – trumpet) has steadily built a following all over Europe and Canada previously, playing over 800 shows in 21 countries. Amazingly, all but two of the original members are still in the band’s lineup.

Despite the title of their new disc, Change My Game (Ruf Recrods), the band actually comes closer to raising their game on these eleven original tracks, which as on previously releases, focus on the blues from a soul or rock perspective --- not that there’s a thing wrong with that. Risager owns one of the most powerful voices in the blues and he uses it to great effect on this 11 original tunes. On the opening ballad, “I Used To Love You,” listeners will feel the ache conveyed in his measured vocal. He tears into the spirited blues rocker, “Dreamland” (penned by Skjerning) and the funky title track with gusto.

The Delta-based “Holler n’ Moan” features Risager’s weary and ragged vocal accompanied only by Skjerning’s droning instrument work (canjo?) and haunting harmony backing vocals. The free-wheeling “Hard Time” has an Americana feel to it, and “Long Gone” has a jazzy late night vibe. The fierce “Hold My Lover Tight” cranks things back up to ten with a soaring guitar run from Skjerning and Risager’s roaring vocal, and the radio-ready “Maybe It’s Alright” slowly builds on the same theme.

The rhythmic “Train” revisits the blues side, going basically acoustic for the beginning two-thirds of the song before the full band cranks up for the close. The mournful ballad “Lay My Burden Down” allows Risager to take his time and pour out his heart in one of the vocal highlights of the disc, and the gritty rocker “City of Love” brings the disc to a fitting conclusion.

Change My Game has all the pieces in place to potentially change the game for Thørbjorn Risager & the Black Tornado, hopefully allowing them to gain even more recognition and popularity.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob GardnerLucky Man (Bob Gardner Music) has an interesting backstory. Originally conceived as a project for Texas guitarist/singer Buddy Whittington, guitarist Eric Walters wrote a number of songs and actually recorded 19 songs in Dallas for New Tex Records. Unfortunately, the project was shelved, so Walters headed to Vegas and emlisted a new band to back a new singer, Bob Gardner.

Walters wrote or co-wrote (with keyboardist Jack Myers) all ten songs, and Gardner’s brawny, but soulful vocals are up to the challenge. So is the rest of the band, with Walters contributing lead and rhythm guitar, Aziz Bucater on drums/percussion, Rich Champion manning the bass, Bill Hollomon providing horns, and Brett Hansen and Myers on keyboards.

Walters gives listeners a pretty diverse set of tunes to enjoy and Gardner brings his A-game to tracks like the opening shuffle, “Ain’t Gonna Worry No More,” the strong mid-tempo rocker, “Dallas,” the blistering “Shotgun Shack” (complete with a scorching saxophone break from Hollomon), and the lively “What’s Your Name,” which has a pop feel and some fine slidework from Walters.

There’s also an excellent pair of ballads, ”Not Gonna Let You Go” and “Johnny’s Door,” that give listeners an opportunity to check out Gardner’s versatility. “Part Time Lover Man” is a funky tune that is well-complemented by the horn section and Hansen’s keyboards, and the southern rocker “Devil’s Blues” is a standout as well. The sharp title track and the New Orleans-flavored closer “Ain’t Dead Yet” close the disc on a positive note.

Though the original session for Lucky Man didn’t work out so well, Walters struck gold with his back-up plan. Bob Gardner is a powerful vocalist who turns in a superlative performance on these ten tracks. Hopefully, we will hear more from these guys in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny IJohnny I. All Star Blues Revival is the latest project by blues-rock guitarist Johnny Ingrassia, a young guitarist who has previously shared the stage with a prestigious line-up of blues and rock legends such as Johnny Winter, John Hammond, Jimi Hendrix bassist Billy Cox, former Double Trouble members Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Reese Wynans, Bruce Katz, Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe, Tinsley Ellis, and many others.

Ingrassia enlisted several of these musicians to contribute to his project, a 2-song EP that includes “Life Is Better (2nd Time Around),” a funky rocker with Cox, Layton, and Wynans providing stellar backing, and “Late Night,” a great guitar workout for Ingrassia with Katz, Shannon, and Jaimoe in support. This is a tantalyzing EP that will have listeners eagerly awaiting Johnny I.’s next move.

--- Graham Clarke

Eliza NealsThe fire are barely extinguished from musical force of nature Eliza Neal’s debut release, 2015’s Breaking and Entering, but the Detroit-based blues-rock vocalist has returned with her follow-up, 10,000 Feet Below (E-H Records, LLC), a pile-driving album that’s guaranteed to set off a few more smoke alarms if there’s any justice in the world. One of the most distinctive, and powerful, singers currently practicing in the blues-rock vein, Neals offers up ten pulse-pounding original tunes, plus one most surprising cover, supported by a fantastic set of musicians, including her musical partner, the legendary guitarist Howard Glazer.

Glazer and Neals collaborated on Neals’ previous release, so there’s obviously musical chemistry between them, with the pair co-writing four of the ten originals, including “Another Lifetime” a smoldering slow blues with a passionate vocal turn from Neals and an electrifying solo from Glazer, the searing rocker “Burn The Tent Down,” “Call Me Moonshine,” another slow burner with Glazer really taking the spotlight on guitar, and “Merle Dixon,” a soulful southern rocker with a country flair.

Neals’ own compositions are as strong as her previous offerings. “Cleotus” is a chilling country blues with Glazer on Resonator, and the title track sizzles both musically and lyrically. “You Ain’t My Dog No More” is a fun Chicago blues romp, and the ballad “Cold Cold Night,” which teams Neals with guitarist Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter), is a nice change of pace midway through. The blues rocker “Down Hill On A Rocket” is a fine track that leans a bit toward pop, and the moody closer, “At The Crossroads,” features the legendary R&B guitarist (and former Hendrix mentor) Billy Davis.

The album’s lone cover is “Hard Killing Floor,” the Skip James classic. Neals’ version is stunning; a haunting, piano-driven reading that includes a guitar run from Glazer that will pierce your soul.

A superb effort from Eliza Neals, 10,000 Feet Below is the real deal --- great songs and performances from a talented artist who’s got a bright musical future ahead of her.

--- Graham Clarke

Eliza Neal’s newest, 10,000 Feet Below (E-H Records), follows through on the promise of her debut. The variety is impressive, opening with Howard Glazer’s National Steel-propelled “Cleotus.” Backed by handclaps this semi-acapella reading by Neals is hypnotic. Ten of the 11 tunes are originals. A sublime take on Skip James’ “Hard Killing Floor” is given a powerful interpretation with vocals, piano and Glazer’s sizzling guitar.

Everything else is from Eliza’s pen, often in conjunction with Glazer. “Another Lifetime” is a fiery rock ballad that demands attention from both Neals and Glazer. “Burn the Tent Down” is about rockin’ and truckin’ and partyin’ and barbecues. Covers all the bases. Neals is a force, to be sure, but keep an ear on Glazer, too. Skeeto Valdez’s drumming and Paul Randolph’s bass keep them from lifting off.

On the title cut Demarcus Sumpter and John Abraham move into the rhythm section, though the results are equally torrid. Eliza’s vocals are elastic and Glazer mirrors that energy. “Cold Cold,” with a gorgeous guitar via Paul Nelson, is a stunner that reminds of Fleetwood Mac. “Call Me Moonshine” is a heavy song made for volume. Eliza’s vocals are echoey and Glazer is all over that wah wah. “Downhill On A Rocket” is a more subdued number than the title suggests. Subdued and intense at the same time. “Merle Dixon” (“I don’t like what you’re saying/shut your mouth”) is a swampy and lethal sounding piece. More sizzling guitar from Glazer.

The final tune on the disc, “At the Crossroads,” features legendary guitarist Billy Davis, who traces his history back to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Again, Ms. Neals sings in a hypnotic, dreamy and powerful way that captivates. This is highly recommended.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Vaneese ThomasVaneese Thomas has an irrefutable pedigree. Her dad was Rufus Thomas and her sis is Carla Thomas. One would logically conclude that she has some pretty impressive vocal chops. The proof is in the musical puddin’.

As was the case with last year’s Blues For My Father, The Long Journey Home (Segue Records) delivers. Blessed with a powerful and gritty voice and armed with a dozen well-crafted songs, all but one from her pen, this is an enjoyable program. With a gospel background, she grew her reputation as backup singer to Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Sting and others. Her delivery indicates that she learned her lessons well. This is at least her seventh album and it promises to be the breakout.

Themes run from relationships, good and bad, to partying, and each one makes its mark. “Sweet Talk Me,” “Lonely No More” and “Prince of Fools” are relationship-themed, and “Sat’Day Night On the River” is a 'roll back the rug and party down by the river cut.' “Country Funk” is about the appeal of that infectious groove and “I Got a Man in TN” has enjoyed some radio exposure.

Ms. Thomas has an enormous voice, writes compelling music, and surrounds herself with a killer band. What’s not to like?

--- Mark E. Gallo

Sean ChambersI can appreciate Sean Chamber’s artistry by virtue of his work as the bandleader for Hubert Sumlin for five years, and we would have fun talking about Hubert and the legacy he left us. Beyond that, Sean’s new record, Trouble & Whiskey, on the American Showplace label, is my first introduction to him and his music. It shows Sean’s world class skills as a blues/rock guitarist and let’s his killer band, Kris Schnebelen on drums, Todd Cook on bass, and Michael Hensley on the B3 and piano perform admirably behind him. It’s full throttle all the time!

A heavy bass line from Todd and Kris’s kick drum set the pocket for “I Need Your Lovin,            ” and Sean isn’t bashful about telling the woman he loves what he needs. “Early in the morning…before the break of day…I hold you closer…can’t let you get away.” She means the world to Sean and he will do anything he can to keep her. Sean’s guitar leads the way as the band segues into “Bottle Keeps Staring at Me,” and that’s a problem we’ve all had at one time or another. “Sitting in my kitchen, Lord…bottle keeps staring at me…take out my shot glass y’all…going to keep this bottle company.” It keeps staring back at me, baby…ain’t never going to let me be.” Some beautiful slide work from Sean completes the picture and I guess we’re destined to grab a shot from the bottle that keeps staring back at us.

The title track, “Trouble & Whiskey,” is next and it continues to echo the themes found in Sean’s life. “Trouble used to be my lover…and the bottle was my only friend…but now that I’ve found you girl…my hard luck has come to an end.” Fortunately for Sean, the love of a good woman rescued him from the bottle and gave his life some meaning it never had. Sean’s fretwork provides the intro for “Travelin North,” and it’s an instrumental track that features the band at its best. B3 fills are complimented by Kris’ intense drum work, bass fills from Todd Cook and Sean’s guitar, back at the forefront where it belongs. You can hear the band’s cohesiveness in this track and I appreciate the opportunity to gain a sense of what the band must be like to see live.

Up next is Sean’s cover of a Johnny Copeland tune, “Cut Off My Right Arm,” and it slides seamlessly into the mix. “Would I take a knife, baby…cut off my right arm…would I take a knife, baby…cut off my right arm…if I let you walk off and leave me…that’s what I’d be doing.” No other woman will do and the loss Sean would feel if she left is real and palpable in the effect it would have on his psyche. You can hear Sean’s desperation in his fretwork and that alone tells you how much he loves the woman in question. “Bullfrog Blues,” a tune by Rory Gallagher is next and the aural onslaught continues. “I woke up this morning…my grandmother got them too…what about that…I got them bullfrog blues.”

“Sweeter Than a Honey Bee” is the next track on Sean’s disc, and he’s professing his love for his woman in the tune. “You lift me…I’ve got my feet on the ground…when you hold me tight…I never want to turn around.” Kris is driving the back end hard and Michael’s keyboard work is spot on. Our next track, “Handyman,” is another hard driving tune in the mode I’m rapidly becoming accustomed to and Sean is proudly proclaiming his skills in this area. “I’ll be your woodchopper, baby…I’ll chop all your wood….if I’m your wood chopper little girl, now…I’ll chop it slow and make it good.” You get the drift here, Sean is a man of many talents and he will tackle any job you need doing around the house.

Sean’s fretwork provides the intro to his take on a B.B. King tune, “Be Careful With a Fool,” and his guitar artistry does B.B. proud. “You know I hate to remember…oh, the fool I used to be…man, I hate to remember...just how foolish I used to be…the way I used to love you, baby…and how bad it’s going to be.” Sean and the band close out his record with an original tune, “Gonna Groove,” and I hear Michael’s B3 in the background. “Got a secret, I wanna share with you…got a secret, Mama…I want to share with you…cause our love is strong…we’re going to carry on…we’re gonna groove.”

I’ve enjoyed the no-nonsense, straight-ahead way that Sean and his band tackle his material on this disc. Trouble & Whiskey showcases a tight band as well as Sean’s brilliant fretwork and it’s obvious to me why he’s a fan favorite along the coast of Florida. I’m looking forward to the day I can catch a set live from Sean and we can talk a minute about our friend Hubert. You can find his touring schedule at seanchambers.com, and if you’re looking for straight ahead, no-frills blues Sean and his band will deliver that and more, in spades.

--- Kyle Deibler

John NemethEvery now and then I get a chance to really sit and talk with John Nemeth. and I’ve enjoyed those conversations immensely. John’s a very strategic thinker in all that he does and he’s quick to act on his convictions when he feels he’s right. His move to Memphis, his embracing the Bluff City’s musical roots, the creation of his label, Memphis Grease, all represent considerations that John carefully evaluated before he acted on them and brought them to fruition. His first release for Memphis Grease, Feelin’ Freaky, finds John covering a wide range of topics from hard work, life, love, the wonderful medicinal benefits of marijuana and so much more.

John chose to use his traveling band, the Blue Dreamers, for this recording, with Danny Banks on drums, Matthew Wilson on bass and guitar, and Johnny Rhodes on guitar, and they quickly helped him hone his vision for the material on his new disc. With Luther Dickinson at the board as his producer, the resulting record is all John Nemeth through and through ... and that’s a good thing! He opens with “Under the Gun,” his take on the rough conditions we all face living in the world today. “I can’t take this heat anymore…stick a fork in me….for I am done…I’ve got the blues like never before…and this is a war that can’t be won….real hard living…under the gun.”

John’s next cut, “S.T.O.N.E.D.” is his ode to the euphoria he feels while under the influence. “Give me a D…for the dream I have that we can right the wrong.” There are times when the world is indeed a better place,when folks are calmed down and open to change. It doesn’t necessarily take being stoned to get there but it’s definitely becoming an option for many folks in our country and will continue to do so. The title cut, “Feelin’ Freaky,” is next, with John in rare form. “I’m fealing freaky…come on and freak with me…it’s in your nature baby…come on and freak with me.” John’s blowing some incredible harp fills to go with his tune, and Danny and Matthew are doing their best to hold the back end down and keep everything in the pocket.

Charles Hodges is on the organ as John segues into the next cut, “Rainy Day.” “It’s a pouring day…coming down on me…I can’t stand this rain…I can’t shake it free…I should have saved my love…thought I couldn’t miss.” John had it all but took it for granted, losing the one thing that mattered to him most ---- the love of the woman in his life. The pursuit of one you love is the topic that John covers next in “You Really Do Want That Woman.” “Listening well…talking all night…flattery fishing…hope she don’t bite…you really do want that woman.” Being in love brings with it a responsibility and John wants to make sure that his friend understands the challenges and responsibilities of making a good relationship work.

The shoe’s on the other foot as we listen to John’s feelings for the woman he loves in “My Sweet Love.” A beautiful harp intro from John lends just the right romantic feel to this tune as he sings, “You’re on my mind…and you’re in my heart…my one true love, baby…honey, right from the start…my sweet love.” But love, of course, has its challenges and John would be the first to admit it in “Gave Up On You.” “I cut all the strings…you had on my heart, baby…you had me doing wrong for you…you had me lying to my kid…stone cold, baby…I found out a long time ago…there was no beauty below your skin.” This woman from John’s past is trying to come back into his life but he’s moved on. “Don’t you know I got two little kids…and a loving wife….I waited for you baby, but there was no damn way in this world, woman.” Sometimes it’s best to just move on and John’s clear that he’s better off by having done just that.

“Get Offa Dat Butt” finds John in a much better mood and ready to party. “Go ahead and dance…who cares who’s watchin….shake that meat right off your frame…get offa data butt…come on and boogie.” John’s great mood continues and he’s not shy about telling us he’s up for a good time in “I’m Funkin Out,” and the horns of Marc Franklin and Art Edmaiston are killer additions to the mix. “I’m funkin’ out….with you, girl…ha…I like it hot…hot and greasy…ha,ha…greasy…I’m funkin’ out. John’s matching the horns note for note, and it’s apparent he’s having a great time making this record.

John’s next track, “Kool-Aid Pickle,” finds him dealing with a dilemma of his own making. “I’m in a kool-aid pickle…life has gone from sweet to sour to wrong…I’m in a kool-aid pickle…ha, that shit is wrong.” Complacency has set in and it’s up to John to right the ship. Relationships take work and she knows it just as well as he does. “The girl knows the score and she’ll play till the end…lovey, dovey kissin’ on my cheek…I’m a hoping and prayin for a little this week…I’m in a kool-aid pickle.”

,John and the Blue Dreamers close with “Long, Black Cadillac” and it’s Danny Bank’s snare intro that sets the pace as the horns chime in and John laments the loss of his love. “We were young…and our song had just been sung…all I had…was my girl…she was my world…temptation came along, hey and her love was gone…yes, that long, black Cadillac…took my baby away.”

Kudos to John Nemth for bringing his musical vision together on Fealin’ Freaky. John’s not bashful about the topics he covers or the emotions he shares with his audience, and we’re better off because of it. Luther Dickinson managed to keep John’s nose to the grindstone and I find that this is a very intimate record for the first release on Memphis Grease. John and the band are on the road all summer and you can track them down via his website at johnnemeth.com.

If John and the band come anywhere near you, please go see them. John’s at the top of his game as one of the most soulful performers in our industry today, and the Blue Dreamers are one of the tightest supporting bands around.

--- Kyle Deibler

Adrianna MarieThe summer of 2016 was a magical time for Adrianna Marie. I eagerly followed her Facebook posts documenting the recording of her new record, Kingdom of Swing, and it was hard not to given the wonderful photographs taken by staff photographer, Joseph Rosen. Literally surrounded by a roomful of all-stars, Adrianna recorded the record of her dreams and topped it all off by marrying her long-time companion, L.A. Jones. I’m not sure what she can do for an encore, but Adrianna and the fellows proceeded to put together a mighty fine disc.

Brian Fahey’s snare intro leads to Al Copley on the piano and Adrianna puts the vocal touches on the title cut, an original, “Kingdom of Swing.” An ode to her heroes, “Kingdom of Swing” is literally a primer on the origins of this music Adrianna loves so well. Part of the mix is the Roomful of Blues horns and they help to authenticate that ’50s feel with their stellar arrangements. “Cats jumping all night…still going strong...more fun than you’ve ever seen…beating it out at the Kingdom of Swing…I am…Adrianna Marie.” Our next track, “Better Beware,” finds Adrianna on the prowl and after the man who’s caught her eye. “One of these days…you’re going to stumble and fall…and I’ll get my chance…got my eye…on…you…you’d better beware.” Rich Lataille is killing it on the tenor sax and it’s apparent that Adrianna is out for the kill.

“Sidecar Mama” is next and it’s another jumping original tune from Adrianna Marie. “Pick me up Daddy…and take me for a ride…I’m sidecar mama and I’ll give you all your jive…we’ll go cruising…up and down the avenue…if you open up wide…I’ll fall in love with you.” Adrianna’s not going to take any stuff but she loves the wind in her hair and might be yours if the cards are played right. Our tempo slows way down as Adrianna and the fellas tackle a Duke Ellington classic, “Mood Indigo.” Al Copley’s keyboard work is divine and L.A. Jones’s fretwork is sublime. “I always get that mood indigo…since my baby said goodbye…and in the evening…when the lights are low…I am so lonesome…I could cry.” Adrianna’s loneliness is heart wrenching and her longing is palpable. The Roomful Horns fill in the blank spots with alternating sax and trumpet fills that have to be heard to be believed. All I can say is Duke would approve, and move on from there.

The band segues into “3 AM Blues,” another Adrianna original, and the horns are front and center as Adrianna lets her man know it’s time to be home with her. “Well, come on, daddy…come on home to me…say, come on, daddy…come on home to me…I’ve been up all night pacing…don’t you know….it’s quarter to three.” Adrianna fell in love with her man at first sight and, “why don’t you cut all your jiving…and try me one more time.” I’d say that’s a pretty good indication he ought to be home right away.

 Producer Duke Robillard assumes the guitar responsibilities for the next track, “Gimme a Roomful” and I hear Kedar Roy on the upright bass just killing it behind Duke’s fretwork. “So grab your coats…and get your hats…let’s hear those shimmering sharps and flats…so make it cool…and make it hot…baby’s giving it…all he’s got…jump back jive…playing it for me.” There’s definitely a roomful of musicians playing on this tune and you just don’t hear big band swing very often anymore. “Memphis Boogie” is another Adrianna tune, and the band is jumping here. “I boogie through the night…boogie up and down…I love to boogie through Memphis town.” Kedar’s working overtime, and the horns are simply amazing as Al Copley chimes in with a killer keyboard fill.

At this point I’m happy for the slightly slower tempo of “Drive Me Daddy,” and Adrianna’s intentions are clear here. “I’m a high test mama…with plenty of power to burn…all I need is real good driving…just ignite me with your key…just ease down on your clutch…let my motor run free…now keep me going baby…cause we’re never out of gas…just as long as you can drive me…that’s as long as I can last…drive me Daddy…just keep on going…please, please…don’t reduce your speed.” I love Adrianna’s sultriness, so I’m ready for her segue to “Baby, I Got You.” “Used to wake up in the morning…feeling lonely and so blue…now I glance across my pillow and smile….cause, baby…I got you.” There’s contentment in Adrianna’s voice at having her man to love, and you can’t help but be happy for her.

L.A.’s blistering guitar solo sets the tone for “Jump With You Baby,” with the band falling right in step behind him. “I want to jump with you, baby…baby, I’ll leave tonight.” Adrianna’s got a car to drive, money to burn and she’s more than happy to hit the road with the one who makes her jump. “The Blues Are Brewin” is another cover with outstanding horn arrangements, and I can hear Al Copley delicately coaxing wondrous notes from his piano as well. “If love goes a thirsting…til you feel like bursting….then nothing but the blues are brewing…then the Lord up above you…he sends someone to love you…the blues are something you’re going to lose.” All will be well if you open up your heart to the possibilities of love, if you don’t give it the time necessary to allow it to grow, well, then…the blues will be brewing and you’ll be back where it all began. “Write me one sweet letter…baby, I’m in love with you…write me one sweet letter…seal it with a kiss…your sweet intended kisses…the ones I really miss.” “One Sweet Letter,” proving your love for her, is all that Adrianna is truly asking to confirm that your feelings are real. Take a minute my friend --- write that “one sweet letter” and her love will be there for you in the end.

Adrianna and the fellas continue on with “T-Bone Boogie. The lack of communication is a continuing topic here, with neither party really wanting to express their true feelings for each other. The resulting break-up is predictable, and as a result the frenetic pace of the “T-Bone Boogie” echoes their frustration with one another.

Closing out this disc is a wonderfully poignant “Blues After Hours,” the kind of tune you might hear at last call when the club is ready to close down for the night. It’s a beautifully emotive instrumental, bringing the listener back to an era when Big Band music was the standard, not the exception, making this record by Adrianna Marie all the more poignant and memorable.

Big band-based records like Kingdom of Swing aren't often made anymore, so we’re lucky that this is the era and type of music that moves Adrianna Marie and provides the muse for her vision and music. Duke Robillard does an excellent job of keeping the eye on the prize, coaxing memorable performances from the musicians in the band and the Roomful horns. I would love to see a full band performance of this material by Adrianna Marie, and hopefully at some point that will come to pass. In the meantime, look for her at a venue near you. Kudos to VizzTone Records for supporting this project and bringing it to light.

--- Kyle Deibler

Corey LedetI've always been a big, big fan of zydeco music, but haven't had the chance to listen to much new stuff lately. In fact, the new self-issued CD from Houston-based Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band, Standing On Faith, is the first zydeco disc to hit my mailbox for quite a few years. It's aimed at a more contemporary audience, although still with some traditional zydeco sounds throughout the seven songs here. Yeah, you heard it --- seven songs, plus an unnecessary intro cut with an emcee introducing the band through a voice box over electronica accompaniment. That's well less than 30 minutes of music, making it a very short album by today's standards.

The songs on Standing On Faith that come closest to my interpretation of traditional zydeco the two-step "Push Me Away," albeit with moog synthesizer coming in later in the tune, another two-step in "Standing On Faith," on which Ledet launches into a prayer of thanks, and the uptempo call-and-response number "New York City."

The mid-tempo tune "A Good Day" has more of a Caribbean feel with a reggae backbeat and synthesized steel drum sound in the background. Ledet's voice sounds a bit strained on this number, so I'm not sure if this was the right choice to include on the album. I also wasn't really into the R&B love ballad "Take Me There," which doesn't showcase the band's zydeco skills and gets too schamaltzy for my tastes.

I'd really like to see this band in person, because I think there's more than what I'm hearing on Standing On Faith. While there are some high points here, with only seven cuts and not all of them up to par it feels like an incomplete work.

--- Bill Mitchell



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