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May 2022

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Order these featured albums today:

Gina Sicilia

Anthony Geraci

Altered Five Blues Band

Ann Peebles

Luther Guitar Jr Johnson

Tim Gartland

Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

Albert Castiglia

Eliza Neals

Mississippi Heat

The Boogie Beasts - Love Me Some

The Boogie Beasts -Grinnin' In Your Face

Fred Hostetler

Bobby BlackHat



Gina SiciliaGina Sicilia has always been a solid soulful blues singer with a touch of country in her music. She's now gone in a totally different direction with the outstanding Unchange (Vizz Tone), produced by Colin Linden who also handles the guitar accompaniment on this selection of 10 cuts that mix traditional gospel blues with a few understated love songs.

Among the four songs that really stand out is the album opener, "Healing Time," a slow gospel-style number with resonant guitar from Linden. He also contributes a killer slide solo. To go with Sicilia's echo-y vocals, the McCrary Sisters join in on background vocals to help take "Healing Time" into the church. "Unchange" has a real backwoods gospel feel with plenty of power in Sicilia's voice and really nice acoustic slide work from Linden and piano from Kevin McKendree. Both of these numbers sound like they came from many decades ago, but instead are recent compositions that Linden had a hand in crafting.

Shirley Caesar's gospel classic, "How Far Am I From Canaan," really brings out the power and range in Sicilia's voice, while backing vocals raise the temperature of the church as the song proceeds. "Don't Be Afraid To Be Wrong," a ragtime number co-written by Linden and Janice Powers, departs from the gospel sound into a different blues style from decades ago, with this one having a country influence to it.

I said there were four highlights, but I omitted the equally outstanding "Death Don't Have No Mercy," done originally by Rev. Gary Davis. It moves along slowly, giving Linden plenty of time to insert lots of snaky blues guitar, and Sicilia's voice soars while singing lines like "...death never takes a vacation in this land ...," picking up power as the song progresses.

"Let's Set The World On Fire," another Linden / Powers collaboration, is a gentle soulful song that deals with a struggling relationship, fitting in quite well with the rest of the material here and highlighted by Linden's slide guitar solo and Ms. Powers' organ accompaniment.

The McCrary Sisters return with backing vocals on a pleasant version of the traditional "Make Me A Pallet On the Floor," giving the number more of a gospel feel, while Linden continues his outstanding slide accompaniment. Sicilia may be the star of this show, but Linden deserves co-headline billing based on his contributions.

Unchange closes with another traditional gospel number, "There's A Bright Side Somewhere," a call for optimism in troubled times. The resonant tone in Linden's guitar carries this number, especially when he picks up his slide.

Sicilia's deep, foreboding voice is perfect for the material here, making one think that this is an album that should have been made long ago. Regardless, we've got Unchange to enjoy for now and can look forward to what she's got planned next.

--- Bill Mitchell

Anthony GeraciAnthony Geraci is a long-time keyboard player well-known in the Northeastern U.S. hotbed of blues activity, most notably with the Boston Blues All-Stars. He's also earned a reputation internationally through recent albums on Delta Groove and Shining Stone. Geraci's latest, Blues Called My Name (Blue Heart Records), is another essential keeper in this man's discography, with special guests like Sugar Ray Norcia, Walter Trout, Monster Mike Welch, and more joining the Boston Blues All-Stars throughout this collection of 10 recordings, split evenly between vocal numbers and instrumentals.

The absolute slow blues killer here, "Corner Of Heartache And Pain," features Erika Van Pelt on vocals, and she rips every possible emotion out of the listener. Geraci shines on the Hammond organ on this one, as he also does on the Latin jazzy instrumental, "About Last Nigh," with Charlie O'Neal tearing it up on guitar.

Geraci prefers to let others handle the vocal work, but he proves that he's not a bad singer on the up-tempo boogie woogie number, "I Go Ooh." Sugar Ray Norcia, who has teamed with Geraci in the past, handles vocals on three numbers --- the up-tempo opener, "That Old Pine Box," the 12-bar blues "I Ain't Going To Ask," and the slow blues ballad "The Blues Called My Name." Norcia is very fine, as usual. Trout gets the guitar solos on a jazzy slow blues instrumental, "Into The Night," while Welch appears on the aforementioned "The Blues Called My Name."

Every cut on Blues Called My Name is solid, with Geraci showcasing his outstanding keyboard work throughout. It's just one more piece of evidence that Geraci is one of the better instrumentalists in the blues world today.

--- Bill Mitchell

Altered FiveAltered Five Blues Band's 2021 album, Holler If You Hear Me, was one of my favorites of the year, so obviously I'm excited to hear that a follow-up album is planned for later this year. In the meantime, we are treated to a single, "Great Minds Drink Alike," produced by Tom Hambridge and featuring the customary booming vocals of lead singer Jeff Taylor. To give the band a bigger sound, plenty of horns from The Mavericks are added for the session. Another highlight of this number is a smokin' organ solo from Raymond Tevich, while Taylor sings about what he and his woman are going to do on a Saturday night when they don't have enough money to hit the club scene.

"Great Minds Drink Alike" was awarded first place in the blues category in the 2020 International Songwriting Competition, and one listen is all it takes to convince that the judges got it right. I can't wait to hear the rest of the album when it's released by Blind Pig.

--- Bill Mitchell

Ann PeeblesIt’s hard to believe, but Live in Memphis (Memphis International Records) is the only live recording of Ann Peebles & the Hi Rhythm Section. It was part of a show at The Peabody Hotel in February of 1992, called "An Evening of Classic Soul" that featured Pebbles and the Hi Rhythm Section on a bill with Otis Clay.

Man! I wish I’d known about this show. I would have made the four-hour drive in a heartbeat! At the time, I was really into Hi Records, having recently heard all of their artists on a couple of retrospectives, but I was especially taken with Clay, Peebles and the Hi Rhythm Section (Leroy Hodges – bass, Charles Hodges – keyboards, Howard Grimes – drums, and Thomas Bingham – guitar), who played on so many songs in the Hi Records catalog.

Peebles took a ten-year hiatus that spanned most of the ’80s, but returned with a vengeance a couple of years before this live date. Her robust vocals were just as powerful as during her heyday in the ’70s. She sounds fabulous on this selection of some of her finest songs, including “Part Time Love,” “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down,” “I Didn’t Take Your Man,” “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On,” and, of course, “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” which closes the set in glorious fashion.

There are also several other songs that might be less familiar: “If I Can’t See You,” “Let Your Love Light Shine,” (both co-written by Don Bryant, Peebles’ husband, which appeared on her last Hi album), and “Didn’t We Do It.” (which appeared on a later ’90s album). She sounds great and has a warm rapport with her audience, which was small but enthusiastic according to the liner notes. The Hi Rhythm Section is superlative (could they be any other way?), backed by a three-piece horn section (John Sangster – sax, Anthony Royal – trumpet, Dennis Bates – sax), with David J. Hudson and Tina Crawford providing excellent vocal support.

David Less, who produced the album, also organized the show, his one-and-only foray into self-promoted music as he writes in the liner notes. Michael Bolton was performing at the Pyramid at the same time, drawing a much larger crowd. I wonder if anyone who attended that show even remembers it, because I know the attendees of "An Evening of Classic Soul" are still talking about hearing Ms. Peebles and her band (and Otis Clay, too). I know I would, because I got to see her a few weeks after this show and it’s still a highlight of my concert experiences.

Ms. Peebles suffered a stroke in 2012 and no longer performs, but she proudly supports her husband, Don Bryant, who re-launched his music career a couple of years ago. Fans of Ann Peebles and Hi Records, and soul music in general, will absolutely love Live In Memphis. I plan to be spinning it for a long time.

--- Graham Clarke

Luther Guitar Jr JohnsonLuther “Guitar Junior” Johnson served as guitarist in Muddy Waters’ band for most of the 1970s, but he’d been in Chicago since the main ’50s, spending a couple of years in Magic Sam’s band where the West Side legend proved to be a major influence. Johnson has recorded as a front man since the mid ’70s, including a block on Alligator’s Living Chicago Blues anthology, and well-received albums for Rooster Blues and Bullseye Blues in the ’80s and ’90s, along with several albums for Telarc from 1996 to 2001. Though he’s recorded infrequently since then (most recently, a 2020 acoustic set), he has continued maintain a busy schedule at 83.

Johnson’s most recent release, Once In A Blue Moon (Crossroads Blues Media), captures the guitarist live at The Hideaway Café in St. Petersburg, Florida on Halloween night in 2020. Johnson sounds great on vocals, and his West Side-based guitar fretwork is as tough as ever. He’s backed by the Magic Rockers, which include Chris “Kid” Royal (guitar), Mickey Maguire (bass), Magic Drunski (drums, really), Paul Nadeau (keyboards), Otis Doncaster (harmonica), and Pat Herlehy (sax). The eight-song set is relatively laid-back, evenly split between covers and originals.

Johnson opens with the Chick Willis standard, “C.C. Rider,” a swinging, nearly 13-minute cover that provides ample space for solos from Johnson, Royal, Nadeau, and Doncaster. Luther’s original “Flippin’ & Floppin’,” an upbeat shuffle, is next and is followed by Johnson’s reading of Peggy Lee’s classic “Fever,” and a slow burning medley of two tracks from Johnson’s former boss, “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Mannish Boy/I’m A Man.” Throughout the set, Johnson maintains a steady conversation with his audience.

Johnson mixes in three of his originals, beginning with “Thank You Sugar,” a shuffle with a crisp bass line from Maguire, stinging fretwork from Royal, and sax from Herlehy. The double entendre-laced “Stealin’ Chickens” is a 20-minute slow blues crowd pleaser with plenty of soloing space for the guitarists, Herlehy, and Nadeau. “You Got Me Wonderin’” is another tasty slow burner with great guitar work from Royal and Johnson. The album closes with “Mean Old World,” which features Doncaster prominently on harp along with a scorching solo from Herhely, and more excellent work from Nadeau and Royal complementing Johnson’s fretwork nicely.

All in all, Once In A Blue Moon is a fine set of classic Chicago blues from one of the genre’s living legends. Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson may be 83 years old, but he plays and sings as well as he did 40 to 50 years ago, and it’s good to see him still performing and recording.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim GartlandTim Gartland was inspired to play the blues after seeing Muddy Waters in concert in Ohio when he was 13. When he graduated college, he moved to Chicago and studied harmonica with Waters alum Jerry Portnoy,  eventually playing with Carey Bell, Bo Diddley, Big Jack Johnson, and Pinetop Perkins. He moved to Boston in the late ’80s and became a prominent figure on the blues scene, recording his first solo album in 2011. Recently, the harp master released his fifth album, Truth (Taste Good Music), which features a dozen songs written or co-written by Gartland.

Gartland’s songs range from blues to soul to Americana. He’s a good songwriter with a keen sense of humor, and the songs suit his gruff vocals well. “Don’t Mess With My Heart,” the opener is a rumbling rocker where he warns his lady to be upfront about her feelings. “Leave Well Enough Alone” has a funky New Orleans feel. “The Thing About The Truth” moves in a Latin direction with Gartland singing about the importance of honesty in all things, while “Cloudy With A Chance Of The Blues” is a cleverly-written R&B track. The jazz-flavored “Outta Sight Outta Mind” pairs Gartland nicely with Wendy Moten’s backing vocals (her vocals are an added bonus throughout the disc).

The encouraging soul number, “One Love Away,” offers hope for those still looking for love in their lives, and the sparkling “Love Knocks Once” deftly mixes soul and pop, while the “Pause” leans more toward the pop side. The playful “Probably Something” is a lot of fun, and “Wish I Could Go Back” is a reflective downhome blues with nice work on piano from Kevin McKendree (who also produced the album).

The album closes with the rousing rocker “Mind Your Own Business,” and “Save Sammy Some,” a fairly straight-forward blues instrumental that gives Gartland room to stretch out on harp.

Gartland is joined on these tracks by Moten and McKendree (keyboards and rhythm guitar), Kenneth Blevins (drums), Steve Mackey (bass), Robert Frahm (guitar), Ray DeSilvis (acoustic/slide guitar, backing vocals), and Bryan Brock (percussion). Gartland’s weathered vocals are a good fit for the blues and his harmonica playing is, as always, first rate. Truth is a fine addition to Tim Gartland’s catalog.

--- Graham Clarke

Maria MuldaurSince it was recently New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival time, I decided to give Maria Muldaur’s recent collaboration with the band Tuba Skinny a spin. Ms. Muldaur doesn’t need an introduction to most blues fans, Let’s Get Happy Together (Stony Plain Records) is her 43rd album, but Tuba Skinny is one of the main purveyors of vintage blues, jazz, and jug band music of the 1920s and ’30s. After Muldaur heard their music in a clothing store, she was able to get their CDs and she met them in New Orleans, where the band is based, later collaborating with them on a short set at the Folk Alliance Conference in the Crescent City in February, 2020. That meet-up led to this album.

If you enjoy these genres of music, you simply must get this disc. Tuba Skinny (Shaye Cohn – cornet, Todd Burdick – tuba, Barnabus Jones – trombone, Jason Lawrence – banjo, Craig Flory – clarinet, Greg Sherman – guitar, Max Bien-Kahn – guitar, and Robin Rapuzzi – washboard) play this music with reverence, exuberance, and joy. The title of the album is really appropriate, and Muldaur has been singing this brand of music since her career began 58 years ago. Singer and band work together seamlessly on these 12 blues classics originally recorded in the ’20s and ’30s.

Tuba Skinny locks into a swinging groove and never lets go. The music is just uplifting and the band’s interplay is fantastic. The energy level never wavers, and Muldaur’s warm, seductive voice is as powerful as ever, maybe a little deeper over time (which adds to its allure), but still a wonderful instrument of its own.
The set list includes “I Like You Best of All,” a ’20s hit originally recorded by the Goofus Five, the title track from Lil Hardin Armstrong (Louis Armstrong’s second wife), “Be Your Natural Self” and “Some Sweet Day” from Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon, “Delta Bound” from Ivy Anderson and Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin’s clever “He Ain’t Got Rhythm,” two tracks from Valaida Snow (“Swing You Sinners” and “Patience and Fortitude”), and “Road Of Stone,” from Victoria Spivey’s sister Addie “Sweet Peas” Spivey. More than likely, most blues fans haven’t heard any of these tunes before, but these spirited performances might have you tracking the originals down on the internet.

Anything Maria Muldaur records is a genuine pleasure to listen to, and her collaboration with Tuba Skinny is a swinging good time. Let’s Get Happy Together is a marvelous addition to her catalog and should encourage blues fans to check out more of Tuba Skinny’s music as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Lowell FulsonLowell Fulson had a lengthy career, beginning in 1940 playing with Texas Alexander before hitting the charts with “Three O’Clock Blues” in 1948 and subsequently “Every Day I Have The Blues.” He recorded frequently, with hits such as “Reconsider Baby,” Black Nights,” “Tramp,” and “Blue Shadows.” Fulson recorded regularly with multiple labels, including Chess, Kent, Jewel, Rounder, and Bullseye Blues, remaining active until a couple of years before his death in 1999.

During the pandemic in 2020, blues guitarist Jeff Dale discovered a box of tapes in his basement, one of which was a live show of Fulson, backed by Dale and the Blue Wave Band, which Dale recorded on November 5, 1983 at Club 88 in Los Angeles. Lowell Fulson Live! With Jeff Dale & the Blue Wave Band (Pro Sho Bidness) includes ten tracks with seven Fulson originals. Fulson is in good voice and plays guitar well, backed by guitarists Dale and Lightnin’ Dan Sonenfeld, drummer Phil Munsey, bassist Ron Maldonado, and three saxophonists – Pete Zilchak – alto, Steve Primo – tenor, and Marshall Crayton – tenor (guitarist Pee Wee Crayton’s grandson).

Sound quality is a bit tinny, but really good considering it was recorded from a four-track onto a cassette tape nearly 40 years ago. Fulson and the band work through an entertaining set, which includes “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” “Too Many Drivers,” and “Blue Shadows” to begin the set. There’s also a funky cover of Chick Willis’ “Stoop Down Baby,” before the band launches into “Reconsider Baby,” and “Do You Feel It,” which also opened the set via an instrumental version. The slow burner “Blues Pain” is a highlight and a vocal showcase for Fulson. The set wraps up with a swinging “Lowell’s Lollipop” and a tasty cover of the Count Basie tune, “Going To Chicago.”

The rawness of the recording adds a bit to the show, and Fulson gives an inspired performance with enthusiastic support from Dale and the Blue Wave Band. Lowell Fulson fans will certainly want to hear Lowell Fulson Live! With Jeff Dale & the Blue Wave Band, but any fan of traditional blues will enjoy it as well. We are fortunate that Dale tracked this one down, and hopefully he found a few more choice nuggets in that box in his basement.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny Blues Boss WayneBlues legends Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon joined forces in the late ’50s/early ’60s to tour the world. Their musical talents complemented each other very well, but sadly it only lasted a couple of years before Slim decided to settle in Paris, where he benefitted both musically and financially, and Dixon returned to the Windy City, where he was kind of a big deal already. Though their collaboration is rarely discussed these days, Boogie Woogie Hall of Famer Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne decided to pay tribute to the two talents with his latest Stony Plain release, Blues From Chicago To Paris, which focuses on 17 of the duo’s tunes from that era.

For this sterling effort, Wayne opted to make the piano the centerpiece of the album, and his handpicked rhythm section --- B.B. King Band vet Russell Jackson on bass and Joey DiMarco on drums --- provide a potent backdrop, as the instrumentation captures both the aggressiveness and playfulness of the Slim/Dixon combo during that period. Wayne selects several tunes from those collaborative years, including the rousing “Rock and Rolling This House,” which opens the disc, “The Way She Loves A Man,” the ballad “New Way To Love,” the energetic “Just You And I,” and the playful “Pigalle Love.”

Wayne also pays tribute to Dixon’s early days with The Big Three Trio with several selections from that era: “Going Back To Reno,” with Jackson joining Wayne on vocals for this track, and the gritty “Somebody Tell That Woman,” “After While,” the lively “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man,” and the upbeat “Don’t Let The Music Die.”

Other Dixon selections include the stirring boogie “African Hunch,” the stop-time “One More Time,” the delightfully mellow “Got You On My Mind” (with more harmony vocals from Wayne and Jackson), and the talking blues “I Got A Razor.” Additional Memphis Slim tunes include a great interpretation of his classic “Messin’ Around (With The Blues),” “Stewball,” a nimble tune about a racehorse, and the closer, “Wish Me Well.”

This may be my favorite Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne release because of his obvious love for the music and his exuberant performance. The musical rapport with Jackson and DiMarco is also strong, and I like the simple, spare piano / bass / drums musical backdrop. Well, it doesn’t hurt that he’s paying tribute to two of the genre’s most legendary artists; you can’t miss with good material.

For any blues fans who love traditional blues, and need a break from the standard guitar-driven fare of the current day, Blues From Chicago To Paris is a great choice that you’ll return to again and again.

--- Graham Clarke

Albert CastigliaAlbert Castiglia calls his latest release, I Got Love (Gulf Coast Records), “a musical essay documenting the last two years of my life, two years of many highs and lows.” All of his listeners should be able to relate, given the fear and uncertainty of the past couple of years. For Castiglia, that meant illness, loss, depression, and a definite financial hit, given the lack of work he and other artists had to endure. I Got Love features 11 tracks, ten originals written by Castiglia and associates and one strong, most descriptive cover selection.

The title track opens the disc, a rough and ready roadhouse rocker with a positive vibe for those in need of a lift. “Don’t Play With The Devil” adds a taste of funk as Castiglia warns listeners to steer clear of the dark side, and “Burning Bridges,” a feisty break-up song, keeps that same funky feel going strong. The ballad “Sanctuary” slows things down a bit, as Castiglia praises his significant other for offering him sanctuary, while the upbeat, buoyant “Double Down” describes people lying on top of lies. The guitarist opens the certain crowd-pleasing rocker “Long Haul Daddy” with a ripping slide guitar run, continuing the awesome fretwork from start to finish.

The mid-tempo blues “What’s Wrong With You” finds Castiglia trying to pin down what’s exactly eating his lady. Next is a particularly tasty cover of Melvin Taylor’s “Depression Blues,” on which Castiglia keeps the funky backdrop of the original and lays into some jaw-dropping guitar work that rivals Taylor’s original version (please check out this underrated Chicago bluesman at your earliest convenience --- hats off to Castiglia for giving him some props here).

The cynical “Freedomland” describes the current struggles that most are dealing with in current times. Despite the current trials, things are better now than many years ago, as he states in “You Don’t Know Hell.” The slow blues “Take My Name Out Of Your Mouth” wraps up the disc most effectively.

I Got Love is another winner from Albert Castiglia, who receives superlative backing from his band (Justine Tompkins – bass/vocals, Ephraim Lowell – drums/vocals, and Lewis Stephens – B3/piano) and producer Mike Zito. This is a strong set designed to lift folks up from the recent struggles, and it’s extremely successful in carrying out its mission.

--- Graham Clarke

Eliza NealsEliza Neals’ latest release, Badder To The Bone (E-H Records), is her best yet, with ten outstanding tracks, nine originals and one cover. Neals positively rips through this muscular set of stellar blues rockers, backed by a powerhouse band in support (including guitarists Michael Puwal, Lance Lopez, and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Billy “JC” Davis, Peter Keys and John Galvin on B3 and piano, bassists Jason Kott and Paul Randolph, drummers Tim Grogan, Skeeto Valdez, Brian Clune, and Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowlkes, and backing vocalist Kimberli Wright).

The red hot rocker “United We Stand,” launches the proceedings with the famous Bo Diddley beat and slippery slide guitar from Puwal. Neals slows things down on the second track with the stunning slow blues “Queen of the Nile,” featuring standout work from Lopez on guitar and Keys on B3, before picking the pace up slightly with “Lockdown Love,” an amusing tune about coping during the pandemic. “King Kong” is an interesting tune, too, a fun, hard-rocking love song where Neals positively compares her lover to the famed simian.She really nails the vocal on the soulful “Bucket of Tears.”

Davis, who earned his spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, guests on the catchy retro soul-rocker “Got A Gun,” which will have you clapping your hands and tapping your feet. “Fueling Me Up” is a steamy rocking blues with slide guitar from Puwal adding to the intensity, and “Heathen” is a subtle slow soul-blues tune about a cheating lover that has a touch of Muscle Shoals mixed in, thanks to Galvin’s B3 and piano and Wright’s sweet backing vocals.

The album’s lone cover, Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” is excellent, with Neals delivering a perfect rendition backed by Lopez’s soaring fretwork. The album closes with a second version, actually more of a continuation of “Queen of the Nile,” which is perfectly fine, since the first half was so good.

Eliza Neals just keeps getting better and better. She’s a gifted singer, keyboardist, and songwriter. It has been great to watch her continue to grow as a performer, songwriter, producer, and arranger. Badder To The Bone will leave listeners hungry for more.

--- Graham Clarke

Mississippi HeatIt’s always good to see a new album from Mississippi Heat hit the airwaves. Madeleine (Van der Linden Recordings) is the 13th effort from harp master Pierre Lacocque and associates. The associates this time around include Inetta Visor and Daneshia Hamilton (vocals), Michael Dotson (vocals/guitar), Giles Corey (guitar), Brian Quinn (bass), Terrence Williams (drums), and Chris “Hambone” Cameron (keyboards), with guests Lurrie Bell (vocals/guitar), Carl Weathersby (vocals/guitar), Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith (drums), Johnny Iguana (keyboards), Marc Franklin (trumpet/horn arrangements), Kirk Smothers (sax), Ruben Alvarez (percussion) and NADIMA (backing vocals).

Weathersby sings the scorching opening track, “Silent Too Long,” which also showcases Corey on guitar, Lacocque on harp, and Cameron on keyboards. Although he leaves the fretwork to Corey on this track, Weathersby returns on three other tracks to bend the strings himself.

Hamilton takes the first of her four vocals on the mid-tempo shuffle “Batty Crazy,” also with lead guitar from Corey, before Visor takes the mic for the Latin-flavored “Havana En Mi Alma,” backed by Weathersby’s muscular lead guitar. Bell sings and plays guitar on the haunting “Uninvited Guest,” then backs Hamilton on the jaunty “Nothing I Can Do.”

Visor sings of the “Empty Nest Blues,” a different take on that syndrome, with Weathersby backing on guitar, and “Ridin’ On A Hit” features Hamilton (with an assist from Iguana on the piano) relaying the band’s adventures as they travel across the world.

Guitarist Dotson ably handles vocals (and tasty slide guitar) on the rumbling blues “Everybody Do Somethin’,” before Lacocque pays tribute to his grandmother, Emma Magdalena Van Der Linden, who survived two World Wars and the loss of her son, on the title track, a poignant instrumental. Lacocque’s harp and Bell and Corey’s guitar interplay are superb.

Hamilton takes her final vocal on the lively “At The Lucky Star,” before Dotson returns on vocals for the splendid slow burner “Truth Like Rain.” Visor sings the closer, “Trouble,” a most timely reflection on the constant issue of too many bills, not enough money.

As always with Mississippi Heat, the original songs are top notch. Lacocque penned nine of the 12 songs, while Dotson wrote the two songs on which he contributed vocals, and Visor wrote the closer. This band never disappoints with songs and performances, and Madeleine is no exception to the rule.

--- Graham Clarke

Bert DeivertBert Deivert recorded his latest album, I Ain’t Leavin’, in his home studio in Sweden during the recent pandemic. A veteran of the music scene for over 50 years, Deivert has lived in Sweden for nearly his entire career while touring all over the world. He’s played with Peter Case, Charlie Musselwhite, Eric Bibb, Libby Rae Watson, Memphis Gold, T-Model Ford, Sam Carr, and Bill Abel, among others. For this album, his 14th overall, Deivert penned all ten songs, played guitar, lap steel, dobro, mandolin, charango, bass, and sang all of the lead vocals, with his wife, Eva, adding fiddle on some songs, and their daughter, Emmy adding backing vocals.

Deivert is a master instrumentalist but also an excellent songwriter, and these tunes are all entertaining. The title track opens the disc with Deivert ready to move on to the next stop, but eventually talking himself out of it. “Yank and Sleepy John” is a gentle tribute to the two Tennessee-based blues masters and the joy Deivert finds when singing and playing their songs. On the amusing “Vintage Scents” he has to deal with a lover who doesn’t understand his attraction to vintage guitars, and the haunting “Stand By Me” is one of several tracks that include Eva Deivert’s lovely fiddle.

“Badge 623” tells the tragic story of Deivert’s grandfather, a Boston policeman who was murdered while on duty in 1930, and how paths chosen by some can change the lives of others. “Orient Express” describes Deivert’s trip to Afghanistan in the mid ’70s and somewhat de-romanticizes the famed train route. The lively “When Summer Rolls” finds Deivert anticipating better times ahead, while on “I Heard The Dark Roads Call” he sings of the fear of being drafted for the Vietnam War in the late ’60s and of his journey to Quebec to explore the prospects of moving north if his number came up in the draft lottery.

The final two songs address mortality, with Deivert really baring his soul on these two tracks. On “The Rocky Shore” he reflects on the passage of time and the prospects of what lies ahead, and the closer, “I Can’t Feel At Home,” finds him optimistically looking to the world beyond this one.

I Ain’t Leavin’ is packed with great songs, beautifully played, and should make for rewarding listening time and time again. Bert Deivert never fails to disappoint, and hopefully he ain’t leavin’ anytime soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Boogie BeastsThe Belgium-based Boogie Beasts' latest release, Love Me Some (Naked Records), is a powerhouse set of blues, raw and raucous with a definite hill country bent. The band consists of Jan Jaspers (guitar/vocals), Patrick Louis (guitar/vocals), Fabian Bennardo (harmonica), and Gert Servaes (drums). Their current album features 12 original tunes that will grab you from the get-go.

The title track kicks off the disc in rollicking fashion, and the hard-charging “I Don’t Care” maintains the pace. The seductive “Favorite Scene” slows things down a bit, adding a taste of slippery funk to the mix, before the energetic, pop-flavored “Get Away” picks things back up. Meanwhile, the next two tracks, “The One” and “Run You Down,” venture into hill country territory with their hypnotic grooves, and the frenetic “Get Me Out Of Here” bristles with reckless energy.

The upbeat, catchy “Like A Snake,” also released as a single, rocks hard with a pop sensibility, and “In Your Hands” leans more toward the rock side of blues with satisfying results. “A Girl Like You” is a standout, revisiting the hill country side of the blues. The album wraps up with two tracks that were also released as singles, the swampy blues “Howl” and the driving blues rocker “Mine All Mine.”

Love Me Some captures the Boogie Beasts at their best. Their rough-and-ready, take-no-prisoners approach to the blues is completely engaging and will satisfy a lot of blues rock fans on an international scale. Check these guys out!!

--- Graham Clarke

Fred HostetlerFred Hostetler co-founded the L.A.-based blues rock band Blue By Nature in the ’90s, and has played with a host of blues and rock artists over his career. He moved to India in the early 2000s, but returned in 2018 and has since released three solo albums, including Fortuna Redux (Mukthiland Records), a compilation of six previously released singles which have been remixed or enhanced with additional recording and arrangements, plus one new song.

Fortuna Redux opens with the autobiographical “Taming The Wolf 2,” a haunting tune about Hostetler’s trials and efforts to rediscover his purpose in life. “Shelter From The Storm” mixes electric and acoustic with some ripping slide guitar carrying the tune as he addresses climate change, and “Rain on my Window Pane” is a stripped-down “living room blues,” just Hostetler’s mournful vocal and his splendid slide guitar, that works really well.

Hostetler released his cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” shortly after Bill Withers passed away, and his version of the ’70s soul classic does justice to the original. It's a memorable take retaining the charm of the original, but putting his own bluesy twist on the song. The ethereal “Lady Luck Fortuna Redux” is the album’s lone new offering, and is followed by “He’s Gone Rogue,” a humor-laced topical track with added effects from the original acoustic country-flavored version. The closer is “I’m A New Man,” a upbeat rocker inspired by Walter Trout and his health battles.

Hostelter is an excellent guitarist with a robust vocal style. His songwriting is first-rate, and Fortuna Redux is a great starting point to catch this artist’s compelling music.

--- Graham Clarke

Boogie BeastsThe Boogie Beasts, hot off their 2021 release Love Me Some (reviewed above), recently issued a tasty cover of Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face” (Naked Records). The Belgian blues rockers convert House’s haunting a capella track into a glowering, hypnotic hill country anthem driven by the soaring twin guitars attack of Jan Jaspers and Patrick Louis, Fabian Bennardo’s harmonica, and a relentless rhythm attack. This is an engaging cover of an endearing blues classic that builds on the original and sends it in a new direction.

--- Graham Clarke

UkraineVirginia’s Blues Ambassador, Bobby BlackHat, recently issued a single, “Blues For Ukraine,” in tribute to the unfortunate people caught in the middle of the ongoing conflict between their country and Russia. BlackHat’s moving song sums it all up --- no one really knows what the causes and reasons for the conflict are, but there are a lot of people involved who have no say-so in the battle but will suffer the consequences regardless. BlackHat (vocals/harp) is backed by Brian Eubanks (bass), Danny Lubertazzi (guitar), Lucy Kirkpatrick (keyboards) and Micheal Behlmar (drums). His tune is a simple, but powerful message that there have to be better ways to solve differences.

--- Graham Clarke



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