Blues Bytes

June 2002

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What's New

George Bowman - Feel Sorry For The Next Man For the club attendees here in the Phoenix area, we have had the pleasure of hearing George Bowman for many years now. He has performed at the Phoenix Blues Society's Blues Blast festival and has always been at the top of the talent list for local performers. Now it is time for the rest of the world to hear George. Feel Sorry For The Next Man (Nu Vision Records) consists of eight original songs, each well written and sung with that special touch that only George can provide. Many of Phoenix's finest musicians are on hand to add to the quality of this fine release. We have the Parr Brothers, Lucius and Lamar on guitar and keyboards, the incredible Lady J singing lead/backup vocals, the wonderful Jerry Denard on sax and Jay Usher providing much of the lead guitar. The songs can best be described as upbeat and bluesy, with only one approaching ballad status, the lovely "Sweet Moment," a tender love song. The opening track, "Ain't Mad At You," with its catchy hook, will grab you right away. Two tracks later we are at the title track, the ambiguous "Feel Sorry For The Next Man," a song that could very well have macho implications. But George let's us know that his baby left him after doing all he could for her, so it's feel sorry for the next man (that gets stuck with her). Right on, George! The CD ends with the Latin-influenced "Lay It Down," a fine dance number to brighten up your party. So catch George live, enjoy his show, and tell him, "Badd Boy, I wanna buy your CD." 

Floyd TaylorPeople called me and asked, "Have you heard Floyd Taylor yet? He sounds exactly like his father, the late Johnnie Taylor." Needless to say, I was quite anxious to hear this new release, Legacy (Malaco Records). The booklet showed an amazing likeness to his illustrious father. But since it is his voice that we were alerted to, I put the CD in the player and in the back of my mind I expected a weaker sound alike. Wow! The first track, "I'm Crazy 'Bout That Woman In Red," just blew me away. That IS Johnnie Taylor singing. The similarity is uncanny, almost scary. I have listened to lots of singers who have famous parents, and they never sounded like a mirror image the way Floyd Taylor does. Malaco used six songwriters to supply the 11 songs on this excellent CD, and the choice of songs are a perfect fit for Floyd's soulful vocals. Most of these writers had also written for Johnnie. The second track, "When We Touch," had me shaking my head in disbelief. Johnnie Taylor has always been one of my favorite singers, as so many of my reviews in these pages will attest to, so this release will hold a special place in my heart. It's almost like having a new J.T. release, but that wouldn't really be fair to Floyd Taylor. He's the one singing here and we have to appreciate him for his talent. The smooth rolling "Old School Style" and "I Love Being In Love With You," both Rich Cason songs, will get lots of airplay, as will Cason's "Part Time Lover." My own favorite is Larry Addison's "Fantasy Lady," with its very cool spoken intro. There really isn't a weak track on this release, and Malaco has added it's wonderful full sound to this highly enjoyable release. Most tracks have real musicians, the icing on the cake. In closing, I would like to quote from producer Wolf Stevenson's liner notes ... "Johnnie Taylor fans will not doubt the well from which this voice is drawn. Floyd Taylor does not deny he sounds like his father when he sings. He sounds like him when he talks, laughs, sings, shouts, whispers and cries. Never think for even a moment that this is an affection. It is real, inherited; an in-the genes legitimate gift..." All I can add is "Amen!"

Luther Lackey, looking very cool in his bowler hat and double-breasted suit, has produced a CD just as cool. Reading the credits to Down South Funk (Lulack Records), you realize that Luther has written all the songs, plays all the instruments and does all the vocals including backup. He was definitely up to the task, as this is a well-written and extremely well-produced effort. In this age of computers and self-produced albums, it is a pleasure to hear one done just right. Having said that, let's get to the music. The opening track, "I Smell Funk," is a flashback to the grand old days of funk. It has a catchy hook and will have you going back to this track many times. It sure spiced up our party and had everyone dancing. "Your Love" is a slow burner with its old school grooves, and shows that a well-written song is timeless. The funky "Big Daddy" lives up to the down south funk referred to on the booklet cover and will have you singing along after a few listens. Skipping down a few tracks (all fine by the way), you get to the heart of this album. The back to back "She Only Wants To See Me On Friday" and "I'm Going Home" are both tracks worthy of repeated airplay, and immediately conjured up memories of 1970s Bobby Womack, (that is meant as a huge compliment), and reflects on what a fine singer Luther Lackey is. The gospel track "I'm So Glad He Was Born" once again focuses on his fine songwriting and vocals and leaves the listener feeling good. This CD can be ordered from Lulac Records, 1306 Springdale Dr., Jackson, Ms. 39211. To our readers in Mississippi , check out Luther in the clubs in and around the Jackson area. You'll thank us. A real talent here.

James & Bobby Purify I reviewed two releases from the Sundazed label in the September 2000 Blues Bytes issue, the excellent Solomon Burke and Mighty Sam. The newest release covering the Bell label is a 28 track stunner by James & Bobby Purify. With no less than 10 Billboard top R&B charted hits, the best known and highest charting being "I'm Your Puppet," a mega hit in 1966. The title track of this CD, Shake A Tail Feather, had been a hit for the Five DuTones back in 1963 reaching the #28 spot on the Billboard R&B charts. The Purify's cover release made it to #15 on Billboard's R&B charts, a testament to their growing popularity and the growing popularity of duo groups such as Sam & Dave, who had seven top Billboard R&B hits during the years of 1966 and 1967. The sound created at the Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama was the choice of many performers of the day, including Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, just to name a couple, and a sound that almost guaranteed airplay and a positive reaction from the record buying public. A quote from the excellent liner note by Bill Dahl states --- "...The R&B circuit was ablaze with pure gospel permeated passion, Sam & Dave providing the gold standard. Only one incendiary duo really challenged their preeminence: James & Bobby Purify...". There are five unreleased tracks which are always fun to hear, and I'd like to touch on three of these. The first is "Keep Pushing Me," a song given to the Purify's by none other than Otis Redding. A cover of Joe Simon's "My Adorable One" and "She Ain't Gonna Do Right," recorded a couple of years earlier by Wilson Pickett, fail to top the originals but are worthy of inclusion in this release. The rest of this release has all their great 45s, including "Wish You Didn't Have to Go," "I Take What I Want," "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down" and "Let Love Come Between Us," all great and able to withstand the test of time. They sound as fresh today as they did back then.  If you are a fan of Sam & Dave and enjoy that exhilarating type of singing, then this release is a must purchase. It leaves me a bit melancholy that music of this quality and style are no longer produced, and those acts that did record it are relegated to the "old school" or "oldies" category. Check them out and see if you don't agree that this music is timeless.

 --- Alan Shutro

Guy Davis is a blues storyteller and a captivating live performer. His CD, Give in Kind (Red House Records), is in the traditional modern style, blending acoustic based songs with modern ideas. There are 15 tracks on this CD, and they are a blend of four covers of traditional blues songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr, Sleepy John Estes and Mississippi Fred McDowell and 11 originals. Davis plays Piedmont finger style acoustic blues well. "Lonliest Road I Know," by Fred McDowell, is a slow blues with an almost early John Lee Hooker feel to it. "Lay Down By My Side" is an original that includes some mandolin blues reminiscent of Yank Rachell’s Blue Goose sessions. "I Will Be Your Friend" sounds almost like a song you could have heard at a tent revival in another time. On the next song, "Layla Layla," Davis steps out of line by using Star Wars light saber noises mixed with an updated version on the classic "Walkin’ Blues" lick. Call me a traditionalist, but I don’t like no Star Wars noises in my blues. "Honeydew Melon Rag" is an instrumental solo ragtime guitar that showcases Davis' guitar talent. On "Grandma is Dancing," his storytelling is spellbinding; this song listens like an old movie with sad visions of grandma’s childhood. "Watch Over Me" is a little folk, a little religion and a little like the classic "You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond." The song "I Don’t Know" has the line “...Livin’s hard but it sure beats the hell out of dyin...” and some whoopin' harp. "Joppatown" is another good storytelling blues. I liked all of the cuts except "Layla Layla," and it would have been good if the engineer had been instructed to remove the “light saber noises” from the track. If you like acoustic blues, this CD belong in your collection. 

--- Big Mike Simpson

Big Nick & the Gila MonstersA double shot of blues pleasure comes out of the Phoenix area with one of the coolest bands in town, Big Nick & the Gila Monsters. This group of middle-aged hepcats have more fun playing blues than just about any group I've ever seen, and it shows both on their studio recordings and in their live performances. The listener gets a taste of each with the new double CD, Shakin' ... Not Stirred! / Working Without A Net (Monstertone Records). This package consists of two very distinct CDs. The former is a studio set with 11 cuts, 10 of which are band originals. The latter disc is a live recording that shows the band doing what they like to do several times a month around Arizona, playing in front of an enthusiastic audience, but this time in front of fans who ventured into the studio to watch the band celebrate the conclusion of their fourth CD. I actually prefer the Shakin' ... Not Stirred! set, as it does a better job of showcasing the band's songwriting talents and is a tighter set. As on their previous CDs, the player who really stands out is guitarist Mike Lewis, who gets a big fat tone out of his axe on the opening instrumental number "Catalina Cruise." Front man Big Nick Riviera blows some strong harp on this one. Lewis also provides a smokin' intro to the original novelty tune, "The Rib," a blues shuffle telling the story of Adam & Eve in call and response fashion. Another favorite, with strong vocals from front man Big Nick, is the retro number "'68 Plymouth Sattelite" (sic); there's a mention of using the car to haul around a bowling team, very appropriate since this band always looks good in bowling shirts. Showing that the Gila Monsters do not confine themselves to the blues genre is the rockabilly scorcher "A-Bomb Baby," with hot Scotty Moore-style guitar licks from Moore. Then they close out the studio disc with a couple of country songs, "Walkin' Around Midnight," the only cover here, and "Horn And Headlights." Moving over to the "live" half of this set, the rhythm section of James Mason (bass) and Bobby Whiteshoes (drums) stand out on the jump blues "She's Dynamite," with Mason handling vocals over a drivin' shuffle beat being laid down by the drummer, while Big Nick adds nice harp work. Riviera demonstrates his improving harmonica skills on the stop-time novelty number "Framed." The band reprises a version of the aforementioned "Horn & Headlights," this time giving it a snakier beat with a nice fat guitar sound from Lewis. Do yourself a favor and start searching for this CD. The best place to look, other than at a Gila Monster gig, is at their record company web site,

There are few artists in the blues world as consistently good as New Orleans-based guitarist John Mooney. This guy has morphed himself through a number of different styles in the past 20+ years, and always comes out with a very satisfying sound. Mooney's latest, All I Want (Blind Pig Records), is an eclectic blend of deep Mississippi blues and funky New Orleans second line rhythms. It all comes together to form what may be one of the best albums of the year. All I Want kicks off with the title cut, a frantic, yet deep blues which has Mooney sounding a lot like Howlin' Wolf. The New Orleans sound comes out on "She Ain't No Good," made even more authentic by the accompaniment of "Uganda" Roberts, who was best known as Professor Longhair's percussionist during the 1970s. Mooney brings together two styles on both "Feel Like Hollerin'" and "Hey Little Girl," throwing down strong Delta-style slide over a New Orleans rhythm. He also pays tribute to his main mentor, the late Son House, on "Son's Blues," playing a heavy acoustic guitar with lots of echo and a foot stomping beat. All I Want closes with "If You Love Me," an acoustic solo number given a real spiritual feeling by Mooney's fervent vocals and slide guitar. John Mooney fans will be running out to pick up this new CD ... other blues fans should be following close behind.

--- Bill Mitchell

The mention of Long John Baldry may bring a glimmer of recognition to those old enough to remember his first "comeback" in the early 70s, when he hit with "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll." But as good as that tune is, it does not, by any means, sum up his career, which goes back at least 40 years when he started out as the lead vocalist for Alexis Koerner's Blues, Incorporated in England. This was the legendary unit from whence sprang Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and many other now-famous personalities in rock, blues and jazz. Indeed, this band is generally regarded as the very first non-African/American blues band. But Long John (he's 6-foot-7, hence the nickname) was there before any of the other, more well-known, aforementioned names. With all due respect to Messrs. Jagger, Burdon, Winwood, Cocker, and Stewart (who got his start in show biz with Baldry as his mentor), Baldry is considered by many to have been the best British blues vocalist of 'em all. He has made Canada his home for about the past two decades or so, and has continued to record. Remembering Leadbelly (Stony Plain) is his latest, and it is a heartfelt tribute to the man, the myth, the legend and the music. There are 16 cuts, all drawn from the considerable body of blues, work songs, ballads, gospel and folk tunes previously recorded and performed by Huddie Ledbetter, and they are all given very strong acoustic treatment by Long John and his compatriots. Many of the songs are given the "skiffle" treatment, skiffle being the jugband-cum-rockabilly musical form that kicked off in England in the early 50s with Lonnie Donegan's cover of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line," a version of which Long John performs here. You know, what with Van Morrison uniting with Donegan himself not long ago for a skiffle-revival disc, and now with this similar-sounding project from another pioneer of the genre, there just might be a skiffle revival in our future (which would be a sound for these sore ears in this age of mass-produced, corporate rock masquerading as blues --- but I won't get started on that!). In addition to Baldry's own powerful 12-string guitar work, there are effective accompaniments on clarinet, harmonica, tuba, keyboards, clarinet and other instruments, all of which are judiciously utilized to produce a recording that harks back to an earlier era, without merely being an exercise in historical recreation. This music is as timeless as ever, so check it out. A special bonus are two interview tracks at the end of the CD, one with Alan Lomax (whose father discovered Leadbelly) and with Baldry himself.

--- Lee Poole

One of the great problems that a blues collector will face in the course of his "career" will be to find a way to acquire old and not-so-well-known titles cut by his favorite artists without burdening himself with too many "overlaps" in his collection. For example, with so many B.B. King compilations out there, the task of finding everything he recorded in the 50s without ending up with 23 discs boasting the same "Three O'Clock Blues," as cheaply as possible, with the best sound as technology permits, is quite probably never-ending. The same could be said of other artists, of course, but BB is special; the man recorded a lot, and his current status is such that all sorts of "repackages" can be found in record stores. Here is one more: Got the Blues, a 20-song collection from British budget-priced reissue specialists, Catfish Records. Although absolutely no information whatsoever is provided regarding session dates and musicians, this compilation is a good way to acquire King's early sides.The 20 cuts are, in order, the first 20 sides of his career (the first four for Bullet in Memphis, the rest for RPM/Modern in Los Angeles). Sound quality is not top notch; if you compare "Miss Martha King" (his first single) with the same song as offered on the four-CD box set King of the Blues, you'll find a considerable difference in the amount of hissing, the obvious advantage going to the MCA set. (There is no master tape of this song --- the difference lies in the quality of the 78-rpm record that was used as the source for the CD.) Similarly, "She's Dynamite" sounds muddier on the new Catfish compilation than it did on the box set. Another problem: the song listed as "That Ain't the Way to Do It" on the Catfish sounds nothing like the proto-Chuck Berry rocker included on the compilation Singing the Blues/The Blues (Flair/Virgin). Since the actual words "That ain't the way to do it" are not uttered on the version included on the new Catfish compilation, I suppose some mistake was made in the process of putting the record together. Still, as a whole, Got the Blues is nice introduction to the early works of a future master. 

Sonny Boy Williamson Similarly, Eyesight to the Blind, another Catfish release (this time including the first 16 sides released by Sonny Boy Williamson for Trumpet), offers no information on sessions or personnel, and also tends to suffer from somewhat thin sound. The major difference between the King and Williamson releases, though, is that the latter isn't a collection of the early works of a still-growing young musician. Rice Miller (a.k.a. Sonny Boy Williamson) was already past 50 when he first had a chance to wax some records, with already a lifetime playing the blues. If you haven't got these Trumpet sides already, you're missing some of the best post-war harmonica blues. 

Anyone who,s read a little about rock's greatest icons knows who Buddy Miles is. Yep, that's Jimi Hendrix's drummer in Band of Gypsies. His newest weapon on guitar is called Rocky Athas, who's definitely not as well known as Mr. Miles. Together they lead a blues-rock outfit with more that a touch of soul and funk called Blues Berries. The group's latest effort is somewhat clumsily called Blues Berries, featuring Rocky Athas, and credited to Buddy Miles (on Ruf Records). The disc features guests Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, known collectively as Double Trouble (although it's not clear on which tracks they contributed), but the Buddy Miles and Double Trouble track from the Jimi Hendrix tribute that came out on Ruf two years ago (the disc was called Blue Haze, the track was "The Wind Cries Mary") is not reprised herein. In fact, nine of the 10 songs are band compositions, the sole exception being the opening hard blues-rock rendition of John D Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road." Miles and Athas are the stars of the show; the former is a surprisingly good singer, able to sound like a white blues imitator, a black soulster or even, gasp, a disco falsetto-voiced singer. Meanwhile, Athas is very active on guitar, his histrionics recalling Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King and even the vaunted former employer of his current singer. What makes this disc stand out from among the largely anonymous contemporary blues-rock records is its quite large input of soul and funk rhythms and stylings. What prevents it from being a great record is its failure to come-up with great songs, lyrics-wise, and Mr. Miles' tendency to repeat himself. Typically, he'll start with a spoken intro, recalling his stints in his previous bands (he also drummed for Wilson Pickett and jammed with all sorts of luminaries) and then proceed to kind of ad lib lyrics from there. Songs three to eight on the CD all follow this same pattern of spoken intro to-give-it-a-more-personal-touch before the actual song starts, and the trick wears thin pretty fast. Still, the man deserves kudos simply for trying to breathe fresh life into the trite blues-rock formula. Which makes it all the more frustrating that he didn't achieve better results.

Let Me Drive is a 2000 independent release by Georgette Fry & the B-Side Blues Band that is being given a new promotional push in Canada (see or for details). While not exactly a blues record, it has blues accents and rootsy qualities to please most fans of the type of pop-blues'n'roots associated with Bonnie Raitt, to take an obvious point of comparison. While (apparently, as far as I can deduce from the record info) she doesn't play guitar herself, Ms. Fry has this type of warm part-nasal, part fully-throated soulfulness in her voice, a combination that makes Ms. Raitt so appealing to country and blues fans alike. Not content with being a powerful and expressive singer, Ms. Fry is also an better-than-average writer --- "One of Us Is Crazy" (follow-up to the title line: "The other one is a fool…") might be her wittiest song --- able to write rootsy pop-rock numbers and straight 12-bar shuffles, but also slow ballads and romantic jazzy numbers of the type favored by Maria Muldaur. Her backing band is efficient and professional, though it might be a bit too clean and well mannered to tackle a funk-inspired number such as the title track. (It does feature a very good slide guitar solo, courtesy of Jim Preston). Covers include "She Just Wants to Dance," from Keb' Mo', "It hasn't Happened Yet," from John Hiatt, and Bill Carter's "The Richest One," a slow gospel-flavored love song last heard on Ruth Brown's A Good Day for the Blues. All in all, a record that sounds good but that somehow fails to make a profound impression. 

Also not exactly a blues record, but standing a good chance to appeal to blues fans (especially if your favorite type of blues is of the early electric type, à la T-Bone Walker) is Montreal quartet Susie Arioli Swing Band's second release, Pennies from Heaven (Justin Time Records). With Ms. Arioli brushing snare drums and singing with her sweet and sexy voice, her partner in life Jordan Officer providing the tasty lead guitar, plus a stand-up bassist and a rhythm guitarist, this group specializes in minimalist swing music. If you can imagine how early R&B jazz combos like Louis Jordan's would have sounded without horns, you get an idea of what to expect here. Although the majority of the tracks fall in the slow jazzy ballads category, both instrumental tracks (the only original compositions) are boogie-woogie fast, while "Having Fun" and "Sit Down, Baby" are relatively unknown blues tunes (composed, respectively, by Memphis Slim and Otis Rush). Then again, if you recall the era of jump blues, you know how fine the line can be between jazz and blues. This group chooses to walk that line, and never loses its balance. Very chic.

--- Benoît Brière 

Originally recorded in 2000 under the name Rhythm Meets The Blues, former Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte uses the material for his elegant Severn debut, Bullet Proof. Conte, a West Coast native, honed his skills playing the local San Francisco clubs. In the early 70s, his band landed the opener for hometown heroes, Tower of Power. Soon after, he was recruited by ToP and stayed for seven years. During that time, he released eight albums with the band. His signature licks can be found on ToP hits like "What Is Hip." After an 80s stint in Las Vegas and a brief jazz retreat in the 90s, Bruce is back on familiar ground, flexing his soul and funk-drenched skills. For this 12-song, 55-minute disc, Conte assembled an all star cast of L.A. musicians. Guest vocalists include Bobby Kimball (Toto), former ToP bandmate Lenny Williams, and Windy Barnes, whose singing is spectacular. Gavin Christopher (Rufus) and his Stevie Wonder-sounding voice (circa Songs In The Key Of Life) get chilling on "Too Much Cool." On the track, Conte lays out an emotionally-felt solo. It sets the mood for the song deeper than the tune’s lyrics! "Nowhere To Go" is R&B driven primarily due to the adult contemporary keyboarding of Larry Williams. Super funky vocals are provided by Ellis Hall on this disco-era flashback track. Don’t let the title of "Chasin’ The Blues" fool you. The song is smooth jazz and features the big city nightclub sounding sax of Andre Roberson. Here, Conte’s guitar more than hints at jazz fusion. Listeners will be anything but motionless during "Just Won’t Act Right." Bruce plays relentlessly while Tim Scott sings feverishly on this bluesy boogie. "It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn" is a real bluestime of the slower persuasion, where Conte exercises his vocal chops. The instrumental "Snatch It Back And Hold It" is nothing like the original version. However, Hans Zermuelhen’s keys are fascinating. Ed Reddick proves he is as gifted an entertainer as singer on "I Met A Girl." He elicits Conte to be as fulfilling and sexy. The song has a blues pattern and welcomed pumping/driving horns of Michael Acosta/John Fumo. On the title track, the horns are forceful. Here, Fumo drives his trumpet with the impact of a speeding bullet. "There’s Room At The Top" is further loaded with driving force and brazen brass. Its as close to sounding like ToP as the CD gets. This self-produced disc is a nice, tasty break from the sometimes monotonous 12 bar blues. However, the production was evasive in capturing a full, rich sound and the pop-funk tunes will not make you emote like the blues does. The songs are average yet they bump, grind, and sure are hip. Although he is understated, Bruce Conte shows he is a disciplined and professional guitar player. His solos are slick and polished. Fans of electric guitar will crave more. Even though it is his CD, you will admire the fact that he does not showboat. It is obvious this disc was a group effort. For CDs, booking and information, contact: Severn Records Inc., PO Box 1450, Millersville, MD 21108 website:, artist website:

Tinsley EllisTinsley Ellis is not a blues purist and he never intended to be one. He is a life-long disciple of fiery old masters like Elmore James and consummate blues rockers like Johnny Winter. Ellis effortlessly blends gritty urban blues with edgy rock and roll. Born in Atlanta and raised in South Florida, Tinsley picked up the guitar as a youngster. Despite attaining regional success with the Heartfixers in the Southeast, he abandoned the group in 1987 with the goal to achieve national prosperity. His Telarc debut (and tenth career album), Hell Or High Water, is full of hard, Southern rock that is laced with blues-related lead guitar. All 12 original songs carry a kick, but not with the knock-you-on-your-butt style that you would expect. Tinsley’s approach is far more seasoned and refined. Producer Eddy Offord has done a fantastic job of capturing this artist’s mastery. That includes more than the guitar. There is plenty of range in Ellis’ ever fluctuating voice. Sure there are some all-out rockers like "All I Can Do" and "Ten Year Day." However; they have a style that you will not find in mainstream rock bands. The latter is in the vein of fellow blues/rock contemporary Coco Montoya. Here, Tinsley’s lead guitar leaps away from the boundaries of gravity, while his rhythm section (Phillip Skipper - bass, Scott Callison - drums, Kenny Kilgore - guitar) follows him into the atmosphere. Ellis is well known for his ballads. He delivers a couple here, namely, "Stuck In Love" and "Feelin’ No Pain." On the former, lyrics such as ‘ a gambler bound to lose...’ match the pain expressed in the lead guitar riffs. As most of us have been in the position of loving someone who cannot/will not return it, listeners will easily connect with the melancholic drama of the song. Ellis’ musical telepathy shines through when he leaves the comfort zone of blues/rock. "Hooked" contains a taste of Texas and it’s finger-pickin’ good. "Mystery To Me" has an element of romance and a touching beat that reaches deep. On it, Tinsley’s guitar pedal effects put the listener into a trance and the organ’s hypnotic grooves intensifies the spell. On "Love Comes Knockin’," he strips things back and proves he can still command your attention in an unplugged environment. The approach continues to the point where it's simply Tinsley playing acoustic guitar and singing on "Set Love Free." Throughout, Kevin McKendree’s ivories jingle while Donna Hopkins exhibits supreme backing vocals worthy of leading a gospel choir. This top-notch rockin’ blues record lasts for just under an hour. Quite simply, this is what blues-based rock should sound like. It remains a mystery why this artist is not a huge commercial success. He is every bit as good as his crossover contemporaries. His highly professional songwriting and well-balanced guitar playing will appeal to many. For additional information, contact: and

--- Tim Holek

Nick Vigarino Nick Vigarino has been a fixture in the thriving Northwest scene for a number of years, and for his inventive approach to blues, has taken home a handful of Washington Blues Society awards. Nick has accompanied Long John Baldry with the “Flying Blues Circus” tour. In addition to fronting his own band, Vigarino plays with Meantown Blues who fuse Chicago and Delta styles. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Nick Vigarino plays in the time-honored tradition of the Delta Blues. His rough and gritty style could easily be compared to Elmore James or Skip James. His mastery of the guitar, dobro and harmonica, combined with smoky vocals, give Vigarino the ability to perform as a solo artist as well as with a band. It was with this ingenuity that sent him to compete at the 2002 International Blues Competition in Memphis Tennessee. 
Victims of Cool (Merrimack) captures the essence of Nick’s versatility as a player and songwriter. Vigarino showcases his finger pickin’ brilliance on the commencing track with the instrumental "Barefoot Annie." Adding a bit of rockabilly flavoring to the mix, Nick and company pay homage to blues great Robert Johnson with a rendition of "32/20 Blues." The guitarist plugs in and gets loose on "Blacktop Road," where a killer sax solo by Jon Goforth is unleashed along with Nick’s funky slide work. "Daddy Rolls It Home" is a straight-ahead mid-tempo shuffle featuring Jay Thomas on trumpet as the bridge experiments a bit with jazz. The slide player wraps things up with the help of Seattle Blues diva, Kathi McDonald, lending her sumptuous vocals to this acoustic heartrending ballad, "If it Wasn’t For Love." Produced by drummer Chris Leighton, who plays all percussion on this CD and also recently joined Nick’s band as a full-time member, the recording has a live ambiance. Nick Vigarino’s Victims of Cool combines various musical styles, but the underlying spirit of this recording comes from the Mississippi Delta, where it all started. 

Combining shades of Jazz, Latin, and Funk, singer/songwriter Malcolm Clark and his band delivers a top-notch debut of stripped down and totally exposed blues. Less than three years old, The Malcolm Clark Band are already gaining regional acclaim in their hometown of Tacoma, Washington as well as sister city, Seattle, and have become a essential element on the Northwest festival circuit. Playing a traditional and acoustic style of blues, which is clean and unadulterated, is what sets this band apart from many others in the area. Comprised of all-original material, Stories For The Blue kicks off with the laid back shuffle, "Lucille," which immediately showcases two essential ingredients of the Malcolm Clarks Band’s sound. The tasty harmonica playing of Smokin’ Joe Straight and the flowing saxophone of Ernie Perea are both featured throughout this recording. Dipping their toes into the Caribbean on two tunes, "Nevy’s Song" and "Gunslinger Jim," include Ernie on flute amongst Latin beats, indigenous percussion and Clark’s inventive story-telling lyrics. Malcolm’s meticulous finger picking style is introduced on "Baby Walks With Me" and continues throughout the entire disc. “Not Your Ordinary Blues” is The Malcolm Clark Band's self-proclaimed motto, and this recording is evidence of that. Being rooted in a smooth Chicago Blues style but employing traditional instrumentation to create a distinctive sound is what gives this record merit. Available at  

--- Tony Engelhart

In the 1980's, a pair of music-loving brothers, Hammond and Nauman Scott, founded Black Top Records, a label that, for the next two decades, consistently produced top quality releases from many talented, but under-recorded, blues and soul musicians who mainly hailed from the Louisiana and Texas areas. Over the years, they helped boost the careers of several artists, including the Neville Brothers, Earl King, Robert Ward, Lynn August, Hubert Sumlin, Mighty Sam McClain, Rod Piazza, Ronnie Earl, and a local New Orleans guitar legend, Snooks Eaglin. Snooks, blind since his early childhood, first recorded for Folkways in the late 50s. He also recorded for Dave Bartholomew in the early 60s on the Imperial label, and later accompanied Professor Longhair during his comeback (that's Snooks backing Fess on Rounder's New Orleans House Party and Rhino's Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge). In 1987, the Scotts were able to record Snooks for Black Top on the excellent Baby, You Can Get Your Gun, which was a very effective vehicle for Snooks' uncanny guitar, his eccentric but catchy vocals, and, most of all, his incredible knowledge of tunes (he has long been known as "The Human Jukebox" around New Orleans). Snooks later recorded four other albums for Black Top that were as good as or better than his debut disc (the cream of these recordings can be found on the 2001 Varese compilation, The Crescent City Collection), but hasn't released any new material (other than a live disc in 1997) since 1995. Snooks' new disc, The Way It Is, was recorded in the summer of 2000, during the last days of Black Top. According to New Orleans music writer Jeff Hannusch (whose new book, The Soul of New Orleans, A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues, featuring profiles on numerous N.O. musicians of the past 50 years, is definitely worth finding), this session was not included in the deal when Emusic took over the Black Top label. This year, Hammond Scott decided to manufacture about a thousand copies of the CD in time for them to be available for sale at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Money Pit Records (5500 Prytania Street, PMB 326, New Orleans, LA 70115). The format is similar to Eaglin's Black Top releases, as the 13 tracks range from blues to R&B to funk, with a healthy dose of fun mixed in. Some of my favorites were the funky opener, "Can You Hear Me," which could have come from a Meters album, a neat cover of Gatemouth Brown's "Boogie Rambler," Joe Simon's "The Chokin' Kind," the instrumental "Cubano Mambo," and the autobiographical "I've Been Around The World." In it, Snooks lists the famous places he's played and the famous people he's played with, but somehow forgets to mention both Professor Longhair and longtime bassist George Porter, Jr., who played on most of his Black Top recordings. His accompaniment is nothing short of outstanding, with keyboardist Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen providing support for the bulk of the disc. Sadly, this will serve as the last hurrah for the Scott brothers, as older brother Nauman passed away January 8, 2002. But The Way It Is is a fine swan song. It may be hard to find, but it is available at outlets like

James Blood Ulmer is best known as a jazz fusion guitarist, having played with such jazz legends as Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman, and Ronald Shannon Jackson. He is probably best known for his aggressive guitar forays into the free jazz movement originated by Coleman in the 60s. For most listeners, especially blues fans, free jazz may be something of an acquired taste, but Ulmer has always based his guitar firmly in the blues (though he is strongly influenced by Jimi Hendrix as well) and his music has become more structured over the last decade. Ulmer fans have always wondered how he might sound in a totally blues setting. Well, worry no more, because Ulmer has finally taken the plunge and made a blues album, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M), which is one of the freshest blues recordings in the last couple of years. The songs are all blues standards, mainly from the 1950s, that you've heard a million times, but you've never heard them like this. Ulmer's guitar and his vocals are funky and loose (highlights include "Dimples," the nine minute funky workout of Son House's "Death Letter," and the opener, "Spoonful," which grabs you and never lets go) and he is firmly in control of the proceedings. The band is nothing short of incredible, with former Living Colour lead man Vernon Reid turning in some marvelous performances (notably Otis Rush's "Double Trouble"), as well as some great work by Ulmer's violinist, Charles Burnham (that's him on "Little Red Rooster"), and harp man David Barnes, who shines throughout the disc. Reportedly, Vernon Reid, who also produced the album, had to really twist Ulmer's arm to make this disc. Fortunately, Reid was able to persuade him to do it. This is the way the blues is supposed to be played. It's sweaty, greasy, lowdown and dirty, and I can't recommend this disc highly enough. 

--- Graham Clarke

A new album from Gary Moore is always an important event, and so fans have been eagerly awaiting Dark Days In Paradise (Virgin Records), released on May 26th. Unfortunately, the CD as a whole is a bit of a disappointment to me --- but then I'm not a committed Gary Moore fan. I like a lot of his earlier music, but I've found some of his more recent recordings to be a bit pretentious and over-produced, and this is the case with some (but not all) of this album. The ten tracks are all written by Gary Moore, and there are a couple of real gems amongst them, with some guitar work that takes you back to "Still Got The Blues For You." Track two, "Cold Wind Blows," and track four, "One Fine Day," stand out as being a cut above the rest, but I found it hard to listen to the rest of the album. Sorry, one for hardcore Gary Moore fans only.

The first and long-awaited recording by Jay Owens, The Blues Soul Of Jay Owens (Indigo Records), is out on CD at last. Although the recording was made in 1992, this was only ever available on vinyl before (Editor's Note: the album was released on CD in the U.S., but apparently not in Europe). Jay picked a useful line-up of musicians to back him up here, including the well known Pete Wingfield on piano and clavinet and Bob Jenkins Jr. on drums. The 13 tracks featured manage to mix a good range of different tempos and styles, and every track is written by Jay Owens, who proves his worth not only as a superb musician, but also as a very accomplished songwriter too. The CD opens with "Come On To My House," a medium tempo blues number, with some B.B. King influenced guitar, which makes for a nice introduction to the album and leads into the funky soul "Stepping Stone." Track four, "Chasing My Dreams," is a superb slow ballad, just perfect for some late night listening, full of atmosphere and showcasing some lovely piano from Pete Wingfield. Halfway through the album, track seven, "Back Row," is a real uptempo foot tapper that crosses from blues to soul and back again. This is the sort of track that will wake up any party and get people dancing, and for me it's this track that makes the whole CD worth having. If you like blues or soul then this CD is well worth a listen, and if you like blues you'll probably end up liking soul and vice versa.

---Terry Clear


Blues baritone Nap "Don't Forget the Blues" Turner turns his rich, resonant voice to song stylism on Live at Cada Vez (Right On Rhythm), recorded live with the Gary Jenkins Quartet. In performing the songs of Percy Mayfield, Jay McShann, Bing Crosby and more on this live album, Turner enunciates his words surely and carefully but without squeezing out the swing in this calculating technique. In this measured delivery, Turner is savoring each word and considering its proper intonation. As he appreciates the lyrics of Mayfield (a featured artist in the Turner repertoire), so Turner upholds the writings of Langston Hughes. Here he includes readings of two of Hughes' Jess B. Simple stories in the set. CD info,


--- Thomas Schulte

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