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June 2000

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Order these featured CDs today:

Sista Monica

Fruteland Jackson

Larry Garner

Rooster Blues Records, 1980-2000

Sue Foley

Smokin' Joe Kubek

James Harman

The Big DooWopper

Brody Buster's Clearing The Smoke

Road Trip Blues






What's New

The Luckett BrothersAs readers of this site already know, my musical passion is Southern Soul and Soul/Blues. Occasionally a gospel CD is released that fits into that Southern Soul/Gospel category, one that isn't overproduced and synthesized to the point of sacrificing what this wonderful music should sound like. Such is the case with this new release by The Luckett Brothers, Fly Away To Be With Jesus, an uplifting joy from start to finish. The close harmonies and simple arrangements take us back to an era when The Swan Silvertones, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and The Soul Stirrers reigned supreme and gospel music was in it's purest form. On this release, The Luckett Brothers are joined by none other than Joe Ligon, the lead singer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy, who guests on several of the tracks. The Luckett Brothers have a long and illustrious career in gospel. One of my personal favorites, O.V. Wright, sang with the Lucketts many years ago. There has been an excellent CD released with O.V. Wright and The Luckett Brothers that is well worth searching out, as is this new release by them. All the songs are well-crafted and sung with the emotion that is often missing in secular music. Some of the standout tracks are "He's Real To Me," "God Is Getting Us Ready" (written by Johnny Rawls and sung by Pastor David Luckett), and the wonderfully rousing "Yes He Brought Me," with Joe Ligon sharing lead. Many thanks to The Luckett Brothers for keeping this wonderful music pure and accessible. The CD can be ordered through Reach Records at P.O. Box 100265, Milwaukee, WI 53210.

With this her third release, People Love The Blues (Mo' Muscle), Sista Monica has reached the pinnacle of her career. Her voice is strong and confident, her band is first class, and this her newest release, is of the highest professional level. This explains why she is one of the hottest contemporary female blues singers on the festival and club scene. On separate occasions she has been called to fill in at major festivals for Koko Taylor and Etta James when they were unable to perform. After listening to this new CD, you just know she was a worthy replacement. Sista Monica covers the Jackie Wilson evergreen "Baby Workout," and she just sizzles, making you want to do your own workout on the dance floor. Most performers wouldn't even attempt to cover a song that was given such a definitive version by it's originator, but hers can stand proudly alongside Wilson's version. Another favorite track is "Honey It's Your Fault," with its spoken storyline bringing to mind some of those classic Denise LaSalle songs of several years ago. The title track, "People Love The Blues," is the one that will get the most airplay, but there are many other tracks that are just as strong and memorable. The addition of such excellent guests as Jimmy Thackery and Larry McCray just add to the overall quality of this already strong release. Her duet with McCray on "Put Your Shoe On The Other Foot" is representative of the professionalism of this release. Her a capella version of "Walk Around Heaven All Day" just reinforces that position. If you cannot find this at your local shop or internet vendor, try And don't forget to check out her own wonderful site at Lots of great info and pictures.

--- Alan Shutro

Baton Rouge’s favorite son, Larry Garner, returns with a brand new CD, Once Upon The Blues (Ruf Records), which is chock full of his usual witty lyrics and solid swamp-based grooves. As always, Garner writes about the everyday world and everyday problems that we all experience. Listening to "Slower Traffic, Keep Right" makes me think that Garner has been riding in my backseat listening to me rant at all the other drivers, while anyone who owns a computer will understand where "Virus Blues" is coming from. There are several other songs that will have people nodding their heads knowingly such as "A Real Gambling Woman" (about a woman who can’t stay away from the casino), "That Was Her Dance" (about a woman with some unique moves), and "If She Tells You No" (about the guys who won’t take "no" for an answer). There’s also a remake of one of his best songs, "Kleptomaniac," where Garner sings, "... She could pick your pockets looking you in the face / To keep my belongings, we make love at her place ...". Garner gets a little more serious on a couple of tunes, such as "Edward Had A Shotgun," "Blues Turn To Black," which Garner describes as "…the gates of no turning back...," and "Nothing But Life," Garner’s view of the Blues (it’s "...nothing but Life’s long payback plan..."). The only real misstep is "I Ain’t The One," which is probably a show-stopper onstage, but at seven minutes is about four minutes too long for CD. Garner’s voice is warm and inviting, as always. His fretwork and his band are rock solid. Dick Shurman, who produced Magic Slim’s last few CDs for Blind Pig, is listed as co-producer (he also did the liner notes). He is a good fit with Garner’s style as this disc sounds less slick and a little more down home (and all the better for it) than his previous disc for Ruf, Standing Room Only. This is another solid effort from one of the new voices of the blues. Editor's Note: Please read further down on the page for another reviewer's perspective on the new Larry Garner album.

Last month, I reviewed Magic Slim’s Rooster Blues classic, Grand Slam. He is one of 20 artists featured on the Rooster Blues sampler, Rooster Blues Records, 1980-2000. Among the other artists featured here are Carey and Lurrie Bell, Eddy Clearwater (whose The Chief is considered one of the best Chicago blues albums of the 80s), and Eddie and Vaan Shaw. Other artists who did their first recording for Rooster are also featured, among them are Lonnie Shields, Johnny Rawls (with L. C. Luckett), and Mississippi John Hurt disciple "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks. Some of Mississippi’s finest are represented as well (Booba Barnes, Robert "Bilbo" Walker, Big Jack Johnson and his nephew, the one and only Super Chikan). There are several artists here who have since passed on (Barnes, Larry Davis, Valerie Wellington, Foree "Guitar" Wells, Good Rockin’ Charles, and Lonnie Pitchford). Among the highlights are Shields’ "Fistful of Dollars" (from his wonderful debut album, Portrait), Davis’ "Worried Dream," Carey and Lurrie Bell’s modernized take on "Rollin’ and Tumblin’," Rawls and Luckett’s "Can’t Sleep at Night" (one of the better soul/blues CDs of recent years). Also featured is Super Chikan’s "Down in the Delta," which won Living Blues’ Critics Award for Best Blues Song in 1998. One thing that jumps out at you is that even though Rooster Blues’ output has been somewhat limited over the last twenty years, it has been consistently excellent. Most of the material sampled here represents all of the various artists at their best. Founder Jim O’Neal’s main interest was in capturing the sounds of these artists to make it seem like you were actually listening to them live in their normal settings. He stayed out of the way as much as possible. Chances are that you have probably never even heard some of these songs before (Rooster has always scored better with the critics than with the record-buying public, mostly due to distribution problems in the past), but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this excellent, budget-priced sampler. It’s seventy-plus minutes of the best blues you’ve never heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Fruteland JacksonThe first CD that I have heard by Fruteland Jackson arrived recently, entitled I Claim Nothing But The Blues (Electro Fi Records). This totally acoustic album features mandolin, tenor banjo, harmonica, guitar, jug, washboard, piano, percussion and vocals, and it really brings home just what can be achieved without electricity. Fruteland has a curious vibrato to his voice at times, and it grows on you the more you listen to it. This man not only writes and sings the blues, he also conducts "blues in schools programs" at educational centres across the USA. Another great product of the State of Mississippi, Fruteland Jackson is someone to listen out for, and this CD is one that should be in any blues collection. My pick from this particular CD has to be "Titanic Blues," a story of the Titanic apparently inspired by the recent movie and featuring some lyrics that really capture the plight of the ship. There’s not a bad track on this CD, and I found it very difficult to pick out a favourite ... it’s that good!

The latest offering from Steve Arvey, It's A Fine Line, has been eagerly awaited by his fans, and they are not going to be disappointed. This is a great CD ... 13 tracks featuring great covers and some excellent originals ...  a mix of acoustic and electric, or “eclectric” as the CD cover has it. Track one, "It’s A Fine Line," gets the album under way with a great driving beat from Richard Klein as his Hammond  guitar, harmonica, bass and drums lay a great mix on top. It’s not easy to follow a track like that, and Arvey changes direction completely with “Blues Messiah,”  with acoustic guitar backed with violin from Ruby Harris. The sound is eerie at times, compulsively foot tapping at others, and it works. There is a great cover of  "44,"   allegedly an old Willie Dixon number, but described here as "traditional." Previously, the best version of this that I had heard was by the Rising Sons, but this version has something more.  I’m not quite sure what, but I like it. Steve Arvey has worked a lot with Kraig Kenning in the past, and he has included a track written by Kraig, "Coming Back To You,"  and it features some knockout harmonica by Mark Hoekstra and a bass beat that moves your feet. My favourite track on this CD is a rendition of the old Tommy Johnson number, "Canned Heat,"  one of three tracks on the album which feature Arvey solo on guitar and vocals. I think Tommy Johnson would have loved this version ... it’s totally true to the tradition of the blues as it was played way back then. If there is a low point on this CD, I haven’t managed to find it. Even though the Jimmy Smith number, "Big Fat Mama," isn’t my style of blues, I can’t find fault in the way that it is performed. If you want a good mix of blues, acoustic and "eclectric," then you’ve got to get this CD. Finally, anyone that isn’t moved by "Peace River" should get their ears examined.

--- Terry Clear

Sue FoleyAfter four albums with Antone's, recorded while she was based in Austin, Texas, Sue Foley decided to come back to her native Ottawa. Love Comin' Down is her second album for Shanachie, and it's a keeper. From the opening track, "Two Trains," with its triple guitar sound (Sue plays electric and acoustic, while producer Colin Linden lends the tone of his baritone guitar to the rhythm section), to the solo acoustic blues of "How Strong" that closes the CD, the prevailing theme is about love and the difficult choices it forces us to make. Some rock-based blues fans will find Ms. Foley's voice a little too nasal (she sounds country, although there is no straight country song here), till they hear her duet with Lucinda Williams on "Empty Cup" --- heaven is not far! This song and the title track that follows it were composed by Sue with Montreal's Ray Bonneville ... they are the two most radio-friendly cuts, somehow sounding pop while retaining their rootsy qualities. Other highlights include her cover of Muddy Waters' "Same Thing" (the first time this song was ever recorded by a woman?) and the very affirmative "Let Me Drive" (you better not mess with her). As is customary these days, this "blues" CD is not all blues. Among the decidedly non-blues tracks (but what is it exactly?) is "Mediterranean Breakfast," an instrumental piece inspired by Foley's love for the flamenco. At least it's a vehicle for her guitar playing, which is consistently well above par throughout the album. Recommended.

Anthony Gomes is a hot young blues guitarist making a name for himself on the tough and competitive Chicago scene. His first album (credited to The Anthony Gomes Band), Blues in Technicolor, was recorded after he won Best Unsigned Band honors at Buddy Guy's Legends. His second disk, Sweet Stringin' Soul (Urban Electric), is a departure, almost a side project, for this flashy electric player --- an acoustic gospel-based album! And it works! Though Gomes is a capable guitarist, and with his trusty sidekick Dan "King" Kahn weaving in and out, there is plenty of stuff going on guitar-wise (check out "When I Play the Blues" and especially "Trouble in our Land"), credit also has to be given to Roosevelt "Hatter" Purifoy, for some juicy organ spurts, and to Sugar Blue on harmonica, who stars on "Low Down Dirty Deal," one of the more down-and-dirty numbers. Among the strongest cuts are the relentless and urgent "Trouble in our Land" and the almost hokum-sounding "Hamhock Booty," for good clean fun. Gomes is the author of every track here, including a couple of ballads for which a smoother, sweeter voice might be more appropriate. But hey, that's a minor quibble. All in all, this is a strong effort that shows more of Gomes' enormous potential.

If there was such a thing as a Canadian blues super-group, it would have to be Fathead. This Toronto-based quintet (Al Lerman, harp and most of the writing; John Mays, superior singer; Teddy Leonard, guitars with great tone; Omar Tunnoch and Ed White, bass and drums respectively) has won Best Blues Album at the 1999 Junos (the Canadian Grammies) for Blues Weather, their previous effort. This time, the band comes back with Where's Your Head At? (Electro-Fi), a collection of 14 great tracks, full of wit and that little something that makes you (and your girlfriend) wanna dance. If blues was a hip kind of music (I mean, if it got played on the radio), then you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be a Top 10 song on this album. We're talking pros writing blues-based potential hits (a la Willie Dixon), not deep in-the-Delta vital songs. This means that some will find these tunes highly entertaining, funny and danceable, while their (so-called hardcore) neighbors will say this is too light, not authentic enough music. Whatever your stance, you've got to be impressed by the high musicianship of everyone involved. If you give them a chance, they'll win you over.

Montreal is a relatively large place (with two million people living in the city and its suburbs), so it stands to reason that there be more than one blues journalist in town. Dean Cottrill is a colleague of mine. He's also a singer-guitarist who writes (what else?) witty lyrics. A Moment with You (VV Records) includes hilarious tunes, like "Wiener Water Soup" (for those tough Canadian winter nights) and "Play 'Stairway to Heaven'" (about a particularly difficult experience with a heckler requesting that special song), and a "moving" declaration of love to his darling Oldsmobile, "Everybody Knows My Car." Dean is also somewhat of a jazz connoisseur. Here he covers (and adapts for guitar solo) Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist." What's missing is a finishing touch. Most of these songs are rough and not aimed at the audiophile market, which is normal, seeing as they were recorded live with (one guesses) very little means and money. Still, a moment with this CD is a moment well spent.

To produce and record your own CD is tough. Actually, it's getting easier and easier. The tough part is to sell it. You can sometimes sell a few hundred copies through the Internet, at gigs around town, and if you do, consider yourself lucky. Or you can have a record company pick up your CD and distribute it. Hey! They might even publicize it! Montreal-based Bros Records (at has recently done just that for three recent releases. The most polished of these (and the one with the highest blues content) has already been mentioned here at BluesBytes (January 2000): J.D. Slim's Slide Guitar Man. J.D. is also to be found producing and playing bass and guitar on Robert David's Chasing the Ghosts (info at, a great (but short) collection of folk music (cajun, bluegrass, even a waltz). R.D. (as he is known around Montreal) plays harmonica, accordion, kazoo, and his own invention, the wak-a-matic (basically, a washboard played with the feet). And in a return of favors, he also plays the saxophone on J.D.'s record. The third release, and the weirdest by far, is called Poussières bleues (that's "Blues Dust" in English), by one Robert "Dr. Bobus" Paquin, apparently a Ph.D. in Folk Music. The lyrics, in French, are in standard AAB form, except they are spoken, not sung, which takes away the feeling that's vital to the idiom. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Michael J. Browne (guitars a-plenty, fiddle, harp, bass) set everything to music. You can also hear him play banjo and mandolin on Robert David's album! Small world, indeed.

--- Benoît Brière

For fans of large road-show revues, have I got a CD for you! Beyond The Blues Horizon (self release) is the live debut offering from Larry "Fuzzy" Knight's Blowin' Smoke Rhythm & Blues Band, and is one of the most dynamic albums to come down the freeways of Los Angeles (where this band is based) in some time. The brainchild of Larry Knight, who has played and recorded with the likes of Albert King & Collins, Ike Turner, and Little Milton, and was a founding member of Spirit, Blowin' Smoke is an 11 piece outfit modeled much in the same vein after the old touring roadshows such as Johnny Otis or Bobby Bland, and features top drawer players and five different vocalists. From the opening number, "C.O.D.," to the closing "Bony Moronie," Blowin' Smoke takes you on a timeless journey through some truly great music. The 13 selections here are all covers of very recognizable blues and R&B numbers, with every one being given superior treatments. Knight handles all bass chores and contributes vocals on three numbers, with the remaining vocals being divided between "Count" Yates (former main vocalist of The Premiers), when he isn't blowing tenor sax with the horn section, and The Smokettes, three lovely ladies with equally lovely voices. Christina Vierra turns in a version of "Turtle Blues" that is eerily almost identical to Janis Joplin's original. Terri Brinegar adds her Austin-flavored roots and energies to "You Can Have My Husband" and "Shake Your Hips." Carolyn Basley's renditions of "I'm Blue" and "These Arms of Mine" are simply stunning. The rest of this extremely tight ensemble is Jimmy Delgado on guitar, Michael Murphy on B3 and electric piano, Lee Campbell on drums and the horn section of Johnny Vandenberg blowing trumpet along with Chris Jennings and "Count" Yates on baritone and tenor saxes. This CD is a package of sensational tunes, performed with high voltage energy by a group of musicians whose love of the material shines through on every note. To sum up this release --- it's one helluva good time!

Stupendous! Magnificent! Terrific! Excellent! Be my guest to pick any one of those and use it to describe Larry Garner’s Once Upon The Blues (Ruf). Garner is one of those artists that got his start in the blues a bit later in life than most, and has consistently provided the blues world with one great product after another. This album is no exception. Like a lot of artists Larry has spent the past few years toiling and touring overseas making a name for himself. With his last release Baton Rouge finally being released in the states and bringing him the recognition that he has always so richly deserved, Once Upon The Blues should put him over the top domestically speaking. This release is contemporary blues at its finest. Combining Larry’s smooth guitar riffs with his insightful songwriting, Garner proves himself once again to be a masterful storyteller embodying timeless values with an up to date vision of the world in which his songs are created, while expressing a wryness and wisdom that is refreshing. Whether the subject is traffic, "Slower Traffic Keep Right," or computers, "Virus Bug," or the pitfalls of gambling that are so colorfully described in "A Real Gambling Woman," Garner’s hipness and powers of observation are unmatched by most of today's blues songwriters. The other notable numbers here are "Klepto," "I Won’t Tell Your Mama," and the one acoustic number that is quickly becoming a personal favorite, "Nothing But Life," that answers the ALL important question "what are the blues?" Aside from the jazzyish guitar licks that have become his trademark, Larry’s vocals are not be taken lightly by any means. The sweet vocals that permeate this highly polished album, coupled with his delivery and timing, make Garner a voice in the blues that demands 100% of your attention. Self-produced with Dick Shurman, this CD is a joy to listen to. The tunes themselves are just the right length, as are the solos and fills contained within them. The supporting band of Ernest Williamson on keyboards, Seji Yuguchi on harmonica, and the very solid rhythm section of Joe Hunter and Lester Delmore on bass and drums are as tight as they come these days. Larry Garner is an ascending star whose time has arrived. His music and lyrics should be heard and heard often by anyone who has a love for the blues. Once Upon The Blues could very well become a modern blues classic that will prompt you to hit the repeat play button on your player more times than you would normally. This is one doesn’t that miss a trick.

Smokin’ Joe Kubek’s sinewy rough and tumble style of guitar playing is an acquired taste for most fans of Texas blues. Despite it’s in your face title, Bite Me (Bullseye Blues & Jazz) is a sturdy collection on a par that we’ve come to expect from Kubek and his partner singer/guitarist B'nois King. The 11 original numbers on Bite Me are not going to win any major awards for songwriting, but are well constructed and slyly executed by Kubek’s biting guitar chops and King’s low-key sincere vocal delivery. "That’s The Way" and "Player Got Played" are two prime examples of life lessons learned the hard way and feature searing hot guitar solos. Among the other notable numbers contained on this very upbeat CD is the shuffling "All About That Thang" (a rather suggestive title, I would say). "Ready To Learn" features some down and dirty harp notes from Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, who is aboard on tenor sax and harp as well as handling the horn arrangements. The album's closing piece, "I Know That’s Right," is sure to get your toes tapping. This is Kubek’s seventh album in nine years, which is somewhat amazing considering these guys are constantly on the road touring. Produced by Jim Gaines, Bite Me is not one of those albums that will knock you out when you first listen to it, but will have you realize by its conclusion that it’s quite good and warrants a closer look and is well worth your time.

--- Steve Hinrichsen

James Harman - Mo' Na'kins, PleaseThe title to James Harman's newest release, Mo' Na'kins, requires some explanation. In 1988, James released a disc on vinyl and cassette entitled Extra Napkins. With all due respect to the many fine recordings this veteran West Coast harpist/vocalist extraordinaire has made before and since, Extra Napkins will probably be the one that all others inevitably are compared to. It featured the cream of the California players, including Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, and the late, great Hollywood Fats on guitars, and emphasized the leader's talents from strictly a blues perspective. Its reputation has continued to grow since its original release, and Cannonball reissued it a few years back on CD. Mo' Na'kins (the "p" has been dropped now) are cuts that were taken from the same recording sessions, 1985-87, and Cannonball Records promises that there's even more where this came from. Roughly half of this disc's cuts are covers and the rest are Harman's own entertaining, traditional but contemporary originals. It's definitely hot stuff, although I didn't find it to be quite as uniformly excellent as everything on Extra Napkins. But then, Extra Napkins was one of that decade's best blues discs. If you enjoyed either Extra Napkins (or its follow-up, Strictly Live in '85, which featured the same core group of players), then you will definitely want this item. On the other hand, if you haven't already checked out Extra Napkins, then unless you enjoy an unlimited budget, I'd go for it first, and then pick up on this one. By the way, barbeque fans will appreciate the significance of all these napkins references, which make sense once you've seen the disc covers.

Freddie Brooks is one of the newer singer / songwriter / harpists on the California scene, and One Little Word (KingAce Records) is his first release on the new, Oregon-based KingAce label. Although I must confess I'd not heard of him before, he receives support from some of the hottest talents on the West Coast, including Mighty Flyer guitarist Rick Holmstrom (who also co-produced), and piano-ticklers Fred Kaplan and Rob Rio. Brooks wrote all of the tunes, many of which have a Rick Estrin-like sense of humor to them, although he also tackles subjects like poverty and death row along the way. With so many veteran harpist / singers now residing on the West Coast (Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, James Harman, Mark Hummel, Johnny Dyer, and Paul DeLay to name a few), Freddie certainly has his work cut out for him. Hopefully this auspicious debut will put him on the map, nationally as well as regionally.

--- Lee Poole

The Jubirt Sisters recorded for Memphis State's High Water Records at several sessions in the early 1980s. These tracks, originally released on both an album and several 45s, have now been re-issued on Sing! Sister! Sing! (HMG), and will interest fans of female harmony singing. Backing is provided to the real life sisters by a host of Memphis musicians, most notably members of the legendary band The Fieldstones. This album is not as strong as much of the other High Water material from this period. The Jubirt Sisters are all strong singers, but the arrangements and backing don't always jell. For example, the inclusion of the harmonica on "Wang Dang Doodle" doesn't add anything, and this song sounds a little out of control. The Hendrix-style guitar on "Steamroller Blues" doesn't fit the arrangement. But when everything comes together, there's some good stuff here. The Sisters' vocals are exceptionally strong on "C.C. Rider," and there's some great horn work from several ex-Memphis State students on "School Days, School Days." The disc ends with a nice, original arrangement of "Saints Go Marching In," with strong guitar from Oscar Smith.

Another album for which I have mixed feelings is Ready Or Not (Shanachie) from Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band. There's nothing wrong with the talent here. I've never seen this band live, but I'll bet they put on a great live show. It's just that some of the material on this CD is a little too contemporary for my tastes. I'm not a Zydeco purist by any means, but some of the songs just got too schmaltzy, such as "Shining Star" and "Got To Get You Into My Life." I should probably say the same thing about their version of "Walking On Sunshine," sung here by Frank's sister Jennifer, but the band gives this number a catchy, uptempo treatment ... I guess you could call my enjoyment of this one a guilty pleasure. But there's also some hot stuff on this album, like the mix of traditional Zydeco and contemporary R&B on "Buck Bayou." I also liked the funky, driving tune "What's My Extension," with its pulsating dance beat that undoubtedly pulls everyone out on the dance floor at clubs throughout Southwestern Louisiana.

The Big DooWopper - All In The JoyThe Big DooWopper has been playing piano and singing on the streets of Chicago for most of his life. His regular gig is in the subway tunnel between the Red and Blue lines near Washington and State. After decades of playing for Windy City commuters, The Big DooWopper (aka Cornell H. Williams) has now recorded his first album, All In The Joy, for Delmark Records. He's definitely an interesting character, with a decent talent on the piano and a very rough-hewn voice full of joy and emotion. One of my favorite numbers here is The Big DooWopper's version of "Drown In My Own Tears," with very pleasant gospel piano, emotional vocals, and a good doo wop background chorus. "My Very Joy Is You" is another standout, a feelgood number with a strong female chorus. Prince's "Purple Rain" is turned into a song which wouldn't sound out of place at a Baptist church service, with a hot, churchy organ solo and a testifyin' choir behind Williams' vocals. The album concludes with a very interesting five-minute interview with The Big DooWopper. His vocal style is something that not everyone will be able to handle for a full album, but All In The Joy is definitely an item worth picking up for those looking for raw, spirited blues.

The blues / rock world has had no shortage of teen-aged guitar players over the past decade. Significantly fewer young harmonica players have broken out during the same time period. But there's a young kid from Kansas City by the name of Brody Buster who has been making some noise around his area. The youngster has been performing in public since his pre-teen years. Now somewhere around the age of 16, Buster has two recent releases which should introduce him to a larger audience. Blue Devil (self-released) shows Buster's prodigious harmonica talents. He plays somewhat in the style of Chicago's Sugar Blue, working in as many notes as possible, sometimes needing to show a little more restraint. His vocals are decent, although his voice needs to mature a bit more. The sound quality on Blue Devil could be better, as the overall sound is usually too hollow and sterile. The best cut is the rumba-ish blues "Ill Wind Blowing," written by guitarist Billy Woods, who penned four of the 10 songs here. Buster has also released a four-song EP, Clearing The Smoke (Grand Emporium), benefiting Kansas City Firefighter's Thermal Imaging Camera Fund. This project is dedicated to the memory of Buster's uncle, a K.C. fireman who was killed last year in the line of duty. This disc was recorded under better conditions, and Buster sounds more confident and less stilted with both his singing and harmonica playing. His vocals are especially gritty on an excellent version of Johnny Watson's "Hot Little Mama." The mid-tempo blues, "One Ton Woman," was written by Buster's uncle, John Tvedten, the above-mentioned fireman. This song is highlighted by some exceptional country blues-style harmonica playing from Buster. After a respectable cover of War's "Low Rider," with an incendiary harp solo, the disc ends with "Amazing Grace." If you're curious about Brody Buster, then I recommend that you first track down the EP Clearing The Smoke, as I think that it's much better than Blue Devil.

House of Blues Records, which has taken the concept of "theme" records and beaten it into the ground, especially with their "tribute" albums, has recently released Road Trip Blues, a collection of travelling songs. As expected, there's a wide range of material here, from contemporary artists like Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Big Jack Johnson, and Mike Morgan and the Crawl, and old classics like Muddy Waters, Junior Parker, and Sonny Boy Williamson. The most interesting numbers are Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Every Woman I Know" (If you're only familiar with Ry Cooder's cover, then you need to check out this original version) and Otis Rush's Caribbean-flavored blues "Any Place I'm Going." There's also some strong guitar on Long John Hunter's Texas blues "Ride With Me." The album closes with one of rock's ultimate road songs, Canned Heat's 1967 "On The Road Again." Better than most of House of Blues' theme compilations, this one would make a good disc to pop in the car CD player on your next road trip.

--- Bill Mitchell

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