Blues Bytes

June 2003

line.jpg (778 bytes)

What's New

Joe Louis WalkerThe last time I reviewed a Joe Louis Walker album I stated that, if 2003 had been proclaimed the Year of the Blues, then 2002 was the year of Joe Louis Walker because of his three very diverse releases within the year. It looks like 2003 is also the year of Joe Louis Walker with the release of $he’s My Money Maker -The Slide Guitar Album (JSP Records), a stunning collection that will please Walker fans to no end, along with all slide junkies like myself. Ten tracks, nine of which are originals, of some of the tastiest molten slide I have heard in years are what’s in store on this delicious biscuit. Now this is not the same ole “Dust My Broom” slide riff played continuously with different lyrics as you will find on most slide albums, so banish that thought right away. The way Joe approaches slide, if I may quote the liner notes, “ like another voice. I can extend the note, I can have it answer me like another voice, or I can play in harmony with it...” One listen to this gut buster of a recording is all it will take the listener to understand the metaphor implied. Walker takes the art of slide places it has never been before, and then some. Usually I like to review a recording's highlights in chronological order, but this time out it’s only appropriate to start with the cuts that stand head and shoulders above the rest. “Slide Her Up And Down” is a shuffling masterpiece that doubles as a humorous ode to his guitar, and finds Joe expertly playing call and responses with himself with a landslide solo at the tail end that hits you hard enough to put you in a coma. The instrumental “Hooker’s Blues” is a tribute to two of the masters of the genre that greatly influenced Walker, John Lee and Earl Hooker, and has pretty much the same effect only with a slightly more subdued tempo and some gorgeous B3 work from Geno Blacknel Jr. Both of these numbers have Walker bending the living hell out of every note, evoking pyrotechnic tones that many believe are not possible in the slide realm. The album’s opening “Slow Down GTO” puts the pedal to the metal with some screeching intricate twang overlaid against a chugging beat and Joe’s booming vocals, saluting one of the grandest of muscle cars. “Poor Man’s Blues” is one of the most poignant blues tunes written in recent years, bringing to light some of today's social-economic struggles, set to a grinding upbeat boogie. This number pairs nicely with the following R&B-laced song, “Ghetto Life,” which further explores a few subjects a lot of people don’t care to acknowledge, but won’t be able to ignore due to this number's high impact lyrics. The swinging bop of “Borrowed Time” is dazzlingly highlighted by a searing solo planted right in the middle of this reminder of man's mortality. Pulling things back a bit is “No Easy Kind Of Loving,” a slow to mid tempo bluesy lament that touches on the age old cheating woman subject that smolders under Joe’s impassioned vocals before boiling over explosively in a hail of scorching licks. The Butterfield Blues Band’s “Born in Chicago” pays musical homage to Joe’s one time roommate, Paul Butterfield, with a stunning treatment that has high commercial radio and dance floor potential. As he does on all of his recordings, Walker taps into his gospel roots with the almost acoustic sounding “My Judgment Day.” Notice I said “almost” acoustic sounding, because the guitar work here is electric, but toned down to sound acoustic as the backdrop to Walker’s soulful testifying lyrics. Wrapping up things is “Eight Years Of Lovin',” a classic Chicago sounding number on which we get to hear Joe trade in his guitar for his ‘other’ two instruments, the harmonica and his incredibly colorful voice, for the mellowest number of this set. Since completing a long-term recording contract, Joe Louis Walker has become a musical free agent, allowing his creativity to endlessly flow in whatever direction it has taken him, and then finding the right label to fit the results. The result has been four magnificent albums in a little over a year, with each being significantly different than the last, and packed with superb music. Some would say this is gross over-exposure, but personally I surely wouldn’t mind another two albums before year's end from this brilliantly innovative artist who has undoubtedly taken his well deserved place with the legends. I can’t wait to hear what’s next. Way to go Joe!

I can’t help but smile whenever I see Debbie Davies releases a new record, because her voice and playing possess an upbeat joy to them that simply makes you feel good. Key To Love (Shanachie), her latest endeavor, made me grin from ear to ear before I ever heard it because of its subtitle --- A Celebration of The Music of John Mayall. A celebration is precisely what you will find contained within the 12 tunes that comprise this “feel good” album. Two numbers are Davies originals, and the rest are covers of ten Mayall classics. So let’s get those out of the way first. The bouncy “Takin’ It All To Vegas” is the hilarious story of one person’s disgust with the state of Wall Street. This individual cashes out and takes his chances in Vegas, because at least the dealers, unlike executives, are watched by the eye in sky, and if you lose everything, you still get a free drink! Sort of makes you think twice before investing, doesn’t it? “I Just Came To Play” is the other original number, sporting a funky beat and some very hot soloing complimenting Debbie's throaty vocals. The remaining numbers pay tribute to to the man that kept the blues in the American public’s eye in the late '60s and '70s, and also was one of Ms. Davies mentors. The rolling shuffle of “Light My Fuse” starts things off nicely with a compact but concise solo from Debbie and the rag-ish piano and organ stylings of Bruce Katz. When having a celebration, it’s always fun to have some friends over to help you celebrate. Who better than harp legend James Cotton to help you with his stunning riffs, highlighting a wicked version of both “Chicago Line” and “Room To Move,” both of which should be familiar to even the most novice of blues listeners. Blues Breaker alumni Mick Taylor stops by to add his guitar expertise to “Hard Road,” a tune he originally played on way back when, but outshines himself with some hauntingly beautiful licks here. Another Blues Breakers alumnus, the very gifted Peter Green, sits in for a version of the ecologically conscious “Natures Disappearing,” for which Mayall himself updated the lyrics especially for this project. Debbie cuts loose on the slow blues of “Dream About The Blues,” with a few exotic runs up and down the fretboard and a couple of squealing twists and turns along the way reaffirming just how damned good of a player she is. Her instrumental skill is also evident on “I Should Know Better,” where she elegantly weaves both acoustic and electric melodies. A pair of rollicking shuffles, the title tune and “Sucker For Love,” are high energy, danceable fun, as is the frantic pace of “Steppin' Out,” which was not written by Mayall but has for years been the definitive version of this tune. This labor of love was co-produced by Debbie and Paul Opalach, and is gorgeously mixed to perfection without sounding over produced. Davies herself is in as fine a form as I have come to expect from this artist who continues to turn out one great recording after another, and growing with each successive undertaking. What has always intrigued me about her work is her ability to see beyond the tried and true, and expand her musical horizons, such as her album with Double Trouble and the two trio collaborations with Anson Funderburgh, Otis Grand, Tab Benoit and Kenny Neal in recent years. Debbie Davies is not just another female guitarist with a great smile and a few chops; this lady delivers the goods BIG TIME ... and every time. Key To Love is a delightful album that deserves a home in your collection.

Fans of acoustic country blues are going to lose their collective minds when they hear this stunning recording from a young man hailing from Southern California named Nathan James, entitled This Road Is Mine (Pacific Blues Recording Co.). Fans of The James Harman Band may recognize this guy’s name as he held the guitar slot in this band on and off for roughly the last five years. His first solo effort is a gleaming collection of mostly originals either penned by himself, musical cohort Ben Hernandez or co-producer James Harman, both of whom guest throughout, and mixed together with a couple of familiar covers to create a very back to basics gut bucket listening experience. James’ vocal, guitar and harmonica talents all ignite from the opening bars of the album’s first tune, “Don’tcha Feel So Good,” a boogying foot tapping number that get things off to an energetic start. Following up is the classic “Sugar Mama Blues,” which shows off just how fine this gentleman can pick a resonator guitar before segueing into lush, two-part harmony with Ben Hernandez on the Terry/McGee staple “Sweet Lovin' Kind,” with Hernandez adding some silky harp fills. The witty “Hip Shakin' Mama” will put a smile on your face with its playfulness and kazoo solos, while another of Nathan’s originals, “Please Slow Down,” tones things back a bit with its back porch harmonica stylings from James Harman. Harman is also brilliant at the forefront, featured on vocals and harp, on two of his own numbers, “Promenade Breakdown" and “Ain’t This A Comeback.” Both of these numbers feature striking guitar rhythms from Nathan that make you do a double take as to how many players to whom you are really listening. ”Woke Up With These Blues In My Fingers” finds James on his lonesome, picking his heart out on the album’s one instrumental. Ben Hernandez steps up to the mic for his own “Took My Saviors Hand,” a gospel-drenched testament that would surely fit into any revival tent meeting; it is completely mesmerizing. Wrapping things up is a cover of Tampa Red’s funny “If I Let You Get Away With It Once,” with all three trading verses and joining together for the choruses. Nathan James is one of those multi-faceted artists that is becoming rarer to find these days; he does everything well, whether it be song writing, guitar playing or singing. By the way, did I mention that Mr. James is only 24 years old? To listen to him, you would think he has been in the business 30+ years. What makes this record so very endearing is the relaxed feel you hear coming from all three participants, which is sort of like three friends sitting around one evening, sharing a bottle and deciding to make music together just for the fun of it. Co-produced by James Harman and Jerry Hall, who also lends his engineering genius to this project, this album flows flawlessly through all 12 cuts, leaving you wanting more. If you are a true lover of acoustic blues, you owe it to yourself to acquire this highly polished gem of a record. If you can’t find it in your local music store, it can be ordered directly from This is a thoroughly entertaining record from a young man who is wise in musical knowledge way beyond his years.

--- Steve Hinrichsen

Tab BenoitAin’t technology grand? Recording an album used to be such an ordeal, with substantial costs and logistics that kept output limited in both quantity and breadth. Not any more, Bubba. These days, you can’t swing a Cajun accordion without hitting a recording studio adequately equipped for most album projects, though many have tried. This fortuitous circumstance is allowing Tab Benoit to take us on a tour of Louisiana with him. Over the past couple of years, he’s shown us the small, bayou-fronting town sounds of the Evangeline (Cajun) Country (on the Wetlands record), the red clay soul of the Louisiana/Texas border (on Whiskey Store, recorded in partnership with Jimmy Thackery and Charlie Musselwhite with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s former rhythm section, backing) and even that Alexandria – Baton Rouge – Monroe securely Deep South blues-rock-blues sound (on These Blues Are All Mine). Now the Pelican State tour bus he has us on is stopping in New Orleans for The Sea Saint Sessions (Telarc). This is a challenge, because New Orleans has never been a guitar-oriented town. New Orleans is about piano, with horns following closely in second place. It’s a good thing for listeners that Tab Benoit has never limited himself to guitar licks, or this record would never have been possible. It’s another good thing for us that the “Cajun Hendrix,” as he’s sometimes billed, has been playing Cajun accordion licks on his guitar for many years and is flexible and talented enough to tackle Professor Longhair piano rumba chops for this project. He is quite possibly the best guitarist to try a project like this, because of his habitual versatility and broad view of his instrument. He also has an intuition about big city blues that stands him in god stead here. He knows that big city music requires big characters, like the “Plateen Man," who ranks with Stack O’Lee and the Hootchie Cootchie Man of previous generations as a mythic, superlatively slick figure. This album will appear in “Ten Records for a Desert Island Sojourn” lists for years to come.

Let’s say you’ve had the Binford 24000 backyard cooker under a cover on the porch, and all the steaks, charcoal, beer, sauces, seasonings. mosquito repellant and lawn furniture you could possibly need for the ideal grilling event. Let’s say that cooker has been sitting under that tarp all winter, the steaks have been stacked in a deep freezer out in your garage, etc., and that you haven’t thought about the ideal grilling event at all this year. Now let’s say you take a casual evening stroll, and some kids down the street are roasting wienies over an eight-dollar K-Mart Hibachi-Q. When you see and smell that, memories and ideas will start flooding into your head, and you’re likely to go home and fire up that Binford 24000. Kemp Harris' Sometimes in Bad Weather (Almost Famous Music) is going to make you want to listen to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.

The Story of the Blues (Columbia / Legacy) is an anthology consisting of two CDs covering an important label’s blues recordings (with subsidiary and licensed works included) from the ‘20s to 2001. Opening with “Yarum Praise Songs,” a traditional cut recorded in Ghana in ’64, then jumping right into Mississippi John Hurt’s classic “Stack O’ Lee,” the collection comes out punching hard on blues as a centerpiece of American culture and feeling. Containing, as it does, cuts by Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Bertha “Chippie” Hill and other names heard but not experienced by most blues listeners, the set is a tool which can take you over the line from listener to aficionado in one easy purchase. It’s also a litmus test – If you don’t like this set, which is designed to be representative rather than “best of,” then you really don’t like blues. It’s largely gutbucket, primitive material, and there are few rhythm sections there to make it sound more like comfortable, familiar rock. Bonus tracks by Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other more contemporary acts provide a sort of bridge to the present and the present’s music, but only a dozen of the total 42 cuts on the set are in this category, so they hardly account for the collection’s main theme and message. Indeed, hearing modern artists in the context of this anthology allows one to compare them, not to the next cut on a rock radio station, but to the artists who influenced them, and this perspective alone is worth the purchase price. One can really hear American blues replacing African drums, forbidden for slaves in most ante bellum States, with subtle guitar and vocal phrases, with implied beat carrying messages ranging from Depression Era woes (“W.P.A. Blues”) to simple lust (“I Want Some of Your Pie”) to the search for an ideal, permanent love (“Me And My Chauffeur”). It is a magnificent set for those ready to listen to it.

More blues-rock. Allman Brothers to bar band covers of Dylan to something very closely related to Neil Young’s best minor key work is the aural pocket for Corey Stevens on Bring on the Blues (Fuel 2000). His sound is that of a Son Seals level guitarist and solid, broad ranged singer. His look is that of a man who’s just awakened in a motel near the Louisiana race track where he’s enjoyed a two-day winning streak and three-day drunk, celebratory shopping spree in neighborhood western wear shops and is now wondering, with a splitting head, what the hell he’s going to do with all those sequined shirts and turquoise doodads now. One thing is certain --- If you see Corey Stevens on a bandstand, you will look at him. He’s flashy in a Cadillac with a big ol’ steer horn hood ornament way. Man, he is hammering that guitar a hundred miles an hour, and the boys behind him are keeping up, going beyond supportive rhythm into rubbery funk the whole time. There’s nothing new here, but there’s a lot that hasn’t happened much in the past couple of years that is very good. He reminds us that guitars can growl, that organs and harmonicas can warn, and that rhythm sections can menace. This record will elicit satisfaction and energy from just about anyone for whom you play it.

Remember Canned Heat? Nice set at the ’67 Monterey Pop Festival. Still get some classic rock radio attention with “On the Road Again,” “Going Up the Country” and “Let’s Work Together.” Formed 1966, Los Angeles. Many membership changes. Of present members, drummer Fito de la Parra joined in ’68. The rest of the quintet coalesced in ’99, since which time they’ve been archiving and polishing the Canned Heat legacy in rehearsal rooms, recording studios, clubs and festivals. Now it’s time to remind the world of what classic blues-rock royalty sounds like. They’ve retained the band’s original knack for extracting mainstream palatability from deep blues on Friends in the Can (Fuel 2000). They’re still easily strong enough to function on their own, but adaptable enough to accommodate guests, including, on this release, Roy Rogers, Corey Stevens, Walter Trout, Taj Mahal, the late John Lee Hooker, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor and others. The Hooker tracks, of course, are reissues, which one might consider “cheating” as inclusions on a new release, but which actually provide listeners a handy comparison between the current line-up and the band’s classic period. Largely, the current line-up holds its own. Also rerun on this release is “Let’s Work Together,” from an original take featuring the inimitable guitar work of Harvey Mandel, who really should have been picked instead of Ron Wood to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones. Today’s Canned Heat does not match the classic version. Taj Mahal, a longtime friend and almost member of the band, contributes vocals to “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” and, while his timing is good and effort sincere as always, he is just a little less than convincing on a John Lee Hooker tribute, as one would expect a New Yorker whose real name is Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, who delved into ethnomusicology while attending the University of Massachusetts, to be. This is a good record, a reassuring record and a 'must buy' record for collectors. It is a translation guide for rock-based visitors to Bluesland. If it is not a great record, it is in part because the world of hit singles, in which Canned Heat somehow flourished, is extinct. The current line-up draws on its heritage as a band and the inherent power of the blues for fuel. We can only hope that these inspirational sources suffice, for today’s culture will not reward them as that of the ‘60s and ‘70s did.

--- Arthur Shuey

Bohemian Life (Blue Beet) is the long awaited new CD from Richard Ray Farrell.
This man has been playing the blues for more than 25 years, and he's played with some big names, including R.L.Burnside, Louisiana Red, Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, etc, etc. He's currently opening for Carey Bell and Junior Watson, so he's certainly paid his dues. Farrell spent a lot of time in Europe, mainly Germany and Spain, and for that reason he's very popular over here; you won't find it easy to get into a Farrell gig if you come late! During his time in Germany, Farrell had a band with Jimmy Carl Black, one of the original members of Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention, and they produced some excellent blues, mainly cover versions, of songs by Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, Elmore James, Big Bill Broonzy, etc., with a few originals mixed in to spice things up. This latest CD sees Richard Ray Farrell with a new band and a CD of 16 original tracks. The band comprises Farrell on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Steve Gomes (bass), Robb Stupka (drums), Bill Heid (piano), and Benjie Porecki (Hammond Organ). They're joined on three of the tracks by the great Jerry Portnoy.The album opens with "Fine Little Number" (with Portnoy blowing harmonica), a good example of jump blues that sounds like it came straight out of the 1950s; it sets the scene for some fine music to come, with the band drawing from just about every blues influence and style that you can think of. This CD really does have something for everyone, whatever your favourite blues style or preferred tempo. If you like your electric blues to have a good traditional feel to them, then just listen to "Bad Intentions," a superb track with a late 1950s Muddy Waters flavour to it (I've played this track to death!), or "Jealous Man," which puts me in mind of some of Lazy Lester's music. Jerry Portnoy really shines here on the three tracks that include him --- "Fine Little Number," "Blues All In My Home" and "Mean Case Of The Blues." He shows that he's still up there amongst the greats. His playing on "Blues All In My Home" is some of the best harp playing I've heard for a long time. No wonder Muddy Waters rated him so highly! Listen hard to this music and you'll hear Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, B.B.King, Blind Willie McTell and probably others that I haven't put a name to. There is a such a diverse mixture here that it's virtually impossible to find something that you don't like. Farrell saves the title track until last. It's a great way to finish off a fine album, and sounds a bit biographical to me!! Have a look at Richard Ray Farrell's web site ( and you can find out what he's doing and where he's playing (he's got a bunch of dates in Europe this summer).

Baseado Em BluesBaseado Em Blues' Um Acustico (BTR) is a live recording from a Brazilian band that I haven't heard before, and although it's not strictly blues all the way through, there are some good blues tracks included. There are only limited sleeve notes, so I'm guessing that most of the tracks are written by the band. But there are a couple of old standards, "Sitting On Top Of The World" and "I Got My Mojo Working," included. The album opens with "Something To Tell You," a sort of Bosa Nova blues, which includes some good harmonica playing, and follows into the Howling Wolf number "Sitting On Top Of The World." Although I don't understand Portuguese very well, I found that I enjoyed listening to the tracks that are sung in that language more than the tracks sung in English. The band seemed to be more relaxed singing in their own language (natural, I guess). Certainly, the best blues on this CD are found amongst the tracks sung in Portuguese; "Engano" and "Madrugada Blues" are excellent and you don't need to know the language to enjoy them.

Blues Etc (BTR), from Jefferson Goncalves & Big Joe Manfra is another CD of Brazilian blues by two accomplished musicians, one of whom, Jefferson Goncalves, appears on the CD from Baseado Em Blues. There are a few good original blues here, written by both Goncalves and Manfra, and some covers of old standards such as Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" and "I'm Ready," and the old Ida Cox number "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." There are some interesting twists hidden amongst the music, like the riff from "Low Rider" included at the end of "I'm Ready," which is a very well executed number. I think "Spoonful" and "I'm Ready" are my favourite tracks here, and they both serve to show that these are good musicians indeed. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to themselves, they also included Otis Redding's "Dock Of The Bay," and it is totally out of place amongst the other tracks.

Mama Paula Blues BandLive In Spain from Mama Paula Blues Band is a great CD from a multi-national band that's been around, in different guises, for a long time. The current version of the band is English, Spanish and American, but in the past has included Argentinian, Italian and Dutch members, amongst others! One unusual facet of this band is that they all take a turn on the vocals, with the exception of the drummer, Miguel Morales; this gives a great flavour to the music, and changes things around just enough to make it really interesting. Band leader Mama Paula is normally at home on her Stratocaster, but doubles here on keyboards too as sometime member Chick Churchill (Ten Years After) was away touring when the recording was made. The album was recorded live, and has loads of atmosphere from a well-behaved audience of blues lovers. There is only one original track out of the nine on the CD, but the cover versions are varied and well executed; apparently, there are more originals scheduled to be on the next album. The CD opens with Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," with Paula taking vocals, and then moves into "Help Me" (Willie Dixon) with bass player Terry Roberts showing his vocal talents. I have to say that this is one of the best versions of this particular track that I've heard for a long, long time. The band all get together for the vocals on "Some Kind Of Wonderful," before slowing down with a moody version of Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad" --- a really nice version lasting almost seven minutes with vocals again by Mama Paula. Guitarist & harmonica player Paul Brimm gets his chance on vocals with a version of "Spoonful," and guitarist Big Jim Greene (a native of Chicago) sings "The Hurricane" (ppropriate really, as he wrote it!). Finishing off the album, and bringing in some variation, is a Gershwin number and a Jimi Hendrix number --- "Summertime" and "Little Wing" --- with "Summertime" featuring some lovely, haunting harmonica playing by Paul Brimm. Mama Paula takes vocal on both of these tracks, as well as playing some incredible guitar riffs. What have I left out? Oh yes, did I tell you about the nine and a half minute version of "Ramblin' On My Mind"? This is one of those tracks that seems to finish way too soon, leaving you begging for more; I would have guessed that it was only about four minutes long, and I was really surprised when I looked on the sleeve notes and found out how long it was. Guitar from Paul Brimm and keyboards from Mama Paula merge just about perfectly, sounding almost hypnotic (maybe that's why it seems to go past so quickly!). This is a band that deserves greater recognition, they're working hard with gigs four nights a week in their local area and should be reaching a wider audience. Maybe this CD will help!

--- Terry Clear

USA Records StoryIt was a label known mostly for the 1966 pop hit “Kind of a Drag” by The Buckinghams. But USA Records had a formidable roster of blues artists during their run in the 1960s, including Junior Wells, Lonnie Brooks, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, J.B. Lenoir, Willie Mabon, Jesse Fortune, and Fenton Robinson. Though most only stayed at USA for a couple of singles (the exception being Mabon, who had nine), they all did quality work while there. Fuel 2000 Records has compiled a great single disc collection of some of USA’s finest in The USA Records Blues Story. The aforementioned artists (except for Wells and Lenoir) are all represented by a couple of cuts apiece, including Mabon’s “Sometimes I Wonder,” a retake on his big hit for Chess, “I Don’t Know,” which effectively captures his terse vocals and chunky piano. Brooks later re-recorded “Figure Head” on his first Alligator album, but the version here is actually the better of the two. Clearwater has two songs that reflect the Chuck Berry influence on his work, the better of the two being “The Duck Walk.” Taylor does a rough and ready cover of Webb Pierce’s “Honky Tonky,” and Fortune’s “Too Many Cooks” is here, as well. There are other artists here who bear mention as well, such as Homesick James, who does a scorching version of “Crossroads,” Detroit Junior (with his classic “Call My Job”), Jimmy Burns (with two fine soul/blues numbers), and Mighty Joe Young with the socially aware “Hard Times (Follow Me).” A couple of others whose '60s work is currently difficult to locate are Ricky Allen (“Going or Coming,” “I Have Made a Change”) and the late Andrew Brown (who does the smoldering “You Better Stop”). Capping off the package is a great essay by blues historian Bill Dahl. This is a solid compilation of some excellent, underrated Chicago Blues, and is highly recommended.

Although he’s been around since the beginning of the blues revival in the 1960s, Chris Smither has only recently received the accolades he deserves as one of the best acoustic blues artists on the scene. His exquisite finger-picking guitar style, insightful, sometimes wry lyrics, and gravelly, emotion-laden vocals have remained a constant for nearly 40 years. Though he’s been around since the mid '60s, it’s only been in the last ten years that he’s recorded on a consistent basis, putting out one high-quality album after another for the Hightone label since 1995 (Hightone returned the favor by subsequently reissuing two of Smither’s excellent early '90s releases for Flying Fish). Smither’s latest release for Hightone, Train Home, is no exception to the rule. If what you’re looking for is beautifully played blues, then look no further. The added bonus is that you also get seven well-crafted original compositions from Smither. The highlights of the originals include the excellent title track, the playful “Confirmation,” “Lola,” an elegy to a woman he falls for that he knows he shouldn’t, and “Call Time,” which includes the lyric “...big time plans are like a pistol in your hand with a long, slow pull on the trigger...” (definitely not for the recent high school graduate). There are also four well-chosen covers, which include a moving reconstruction of Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” featuring a guest appearance by Smither’s longtime friend Bonnie Raitt (who has recorded several of his songs over the years) on background vocals and slide guitar, and a snappy cover of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man.“ Throughout the disc, Smither’s stunning guitar work and weather-beaten vocals are spectacular. Kudos to David “Goody” Goodrich for his crisp, clear, and masterful production, which makes it sound like Smither and the band are in your living room. This gem of a recording continues to impress with repeated listens, and will surely end up on a few Top Ten lists at the end of the year.

In 2002, Eddie Cotton released one of the better blues albums, Extra, in recent years. Sadly, Cotton was only able to release it by himself and it was next to impossible to track down (I had to drive to a record store near his hometown of Clinton, MS to purchase it last year). Fortunately, Cotton was able to benefit from some rave reviews in several blues publications last fall. Now he’s been able to re-release Extra with the assistance of Grady Champion’s Undadawg Records in Canton, MS, so it should be easier to pick up this time around. Tony Englehart reviewed this CD last summer for Blues Bytes, and there’s very little I can add to what he said. Cotton mixes several tough originals with some well-known covers. The originals include “Feelin’ Kinda Good,” whose melody is a second cousin to “Bottle It Up & Go,” the emotional title cut, “I’ve Got A Right,” which will remind you a little bit of an Al Green cut from his Hi days, and the funky “Cool With Me.” The covers include Latimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out,” which has gotten some airplay locally, Green’s “Take Me To The River,” which closes the album with a bang, a tasty remake of “Killing Floor,” and two versions of McKinley Mitchell’s “End Of The Rainbow.” The first version is a moving acoustic version, which is immediately followed by a version with Cotton’s outstanding band, The Mississippi Cotton Club. Throughout, Cotton’s soulful, confident vocals bring to mind Al Green at times and his guitar work will sometimes remind you of Albert King --- not a bad combination, for sure. Eddie Cotton is a future star, able to appeal to the soul/blues crowd, as well as those who like their blues a little rougher. Hopefully, one of the bigger blues labels will see what they’re missing and make it a little easier for him to be heard, because he certainly deserves to be. Go to and pick up your copy of Extra today.

--- Graham Clarke

Ron LevyIn blues circles, Ron Levy’s name is highly respected. In his capacity as in-house producer at Bullseye Blues and then Cannonball Records, labels he co-founded, Levy has been nominated many times for Grammies; his keyboard playing (mostly Hammond B-3) can be heard on countless albums, he was also part of BB King’s band for six years in the '70s, and a member of Roomful of Blues for four years in the '80s. As a leader of Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom, he’s recorded for Black Top, Bullseye Blues and Cannonball, his music keeping the tradition of '60s soul-jazz music alive, but he’s been laying relatively low in the last five years or so. His combo’s latest, Green Eyed Soul, has just been released on his own label ( It is a momentous release; soul-jazz is enjoying a resurgence of sorts, with young bands such as The Sugarman Three, The Slip and Soulive, following in the footsteps of the hugely popular Medeski, Martin & Wood and updating the sound of Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff for a younger, jam band crowd. Like all these other artists, Levy’s music is first and foremost a matter of groove. You start by establishing a groove (in Wild Kingdom’s case, there is a guitarist and two percussionists but no bassist to assist in doing so), and then, when every head within earshot is bobbing along, you start to improvise over it, all the while keeping the groove on. The process is akin to that of older styles of jazz, where you start by establishing a theme before improvising on it, except that in soul-jazz the beat, the rhythmic pulse, is much stronger, comparable to that of electric blues. In a way, soul-jazz acts a sort of bridge; jazz fans who dig this style can acquire a feel for the blues, and vice versa. Now, all this long presentation doesn’t tell you much about the quality of the music on Green Eyed Soul, now, does it? I’m not the best judge to tell you: you see, I’m totally partial to soul-jazz, and I could play that all day long, all the while never stopping to shake my legs, to move my shoulders, to bob my head, looking like an utter fool in the public transportation system with this music in my earphones. This record is so good it puts me in danger of not being able to work anymore. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the CD’s just starting over, and I just gggottt ttto mmmovvve alllonggg.

I’m the first to lament the rarity of piano blues players. I like a good electric guitar solo, and a great guitarist can bring people to tears or to their feet in a manner of minutes, but there is a festive, carefree quality that a good blues piano player can bring to a show or a recording that is hard to match. Plus, a piano just plain sounds good. Jack Strobel is a piano playing man who, under the nom de blues Jumpin’ Jack, performs in the New Jersey area. His debut album, Rhumba Lee (Backbender Records), features his singing and songwriting (he penned seven of the 12 tracks), and piano playing of course, backed by a trio of solid musicians (Ron Rauso on West Coast-style guitar, DeWitt Nelson on upright bass and Jimmy L Coleman on drums) augmented either by harmonica player Dennis Gruenling or by saxist/flautist Ralph Liberto. The music, particularly for the first half of the CD, has a late night, jazzy feel. The title track, which (like “Satisfy Me Right”) features a light rhumba beat, has Liberto playing flute; even though the idea may strike you as odd, it actually works pretty well. Strobel is very much part of the band. Though he takes a few solos and liberally spices up the tunes with nice, delicate fills, he leaves plenty of soloing space to Rauso, Gruenling and Liberto, or to guest guitarist Sweet Willie Hunt on “Mother-in-Law Blues,” a typical 12-bar shuffle. Highlights include the R&B-ish “Another Fool,” with Liberto on sax and Jumpin’ Jack on organ; the ballad “There I Was,” in Charles Brown territory; and “That’s a Pretty Good Love,” taken at a lower pitch (Liberto playing bari sax?). I had never heard of Jumpin’ Jack before, but his CD proved a pleasant surprise – in fact, this is my choice for best blues debut so far in 2003. (Check out for more info.)

Though it’s not perfect, Montreal guitar slinger Steve Rowe’s second album, No Refund No Return (on his own Howlin’ Blue Productions), is generally a success, thanks to above average songwriting (mostly from Rowe and bassist Alec McElcheran) and to an excellent rhythm section (with Dave Neil on drums). While Rowe’s voice is serviceable, he is not a particularly distinctive singer, which is a point off, but is an excellent rhythm guitarist and an energetic soloist who sometimes tries a little too hard. Otherwise, his CD has a lot to offer to modern electric blues fans, with many memorable riffs and contagious melodies. Even if I am a little wary of the “song as a showcase for the electric guitar solo” syndrome, I admit that in most cases here, the solos actually add to the songs, in terms of dramatic build-up or as a means to introduce a twist in the song. A noticeable plus is the tongue-in-cheek humor of many tracks, such as “Caviar Blues” or the title track (but “If My Cat Could Talk” falls flat in that area, though it probably sounded like a good joke at the time). I used to think, based on Rowe’s first release, that he was just an average blues-rocker impossible to distinguish from a sea of SRV wannabes; today, I admit I was wrong. The man has something interesting to say, and he deserves my attention. I think he deserves yours too. (See for info.)

Nanette Workman is a native Mississippian who started in show business at an early age; she was not yet 20 and singing in a Broadway musical when she was “discovered” by a Montreal singer/impresario, and she moved to Montreal in the late '60s, making a successful pop music career (singing in French, mostly), from bubblegum to disco, from funk to heavy rock, from rock operas to slick pop. She even sang backup for the Rolling Stones at the turn of the '70s! In addition to her singing career, she is also a TV presenter and she had acting roles in movies and television series. Two years ago, she went back to her southern roots with the release of the appropriately titled Roots ‘n Blues, which received universal praise in the province. Now she’s back with a sort of follow-up, titled Vanilla Blues Café (Les Disques Bros; see for info). Whereas Roots ‘n Blues was truly a rootsy, organic record, Workman’s latest is more of a “classic rock” album, full of “bloozy” electric guitars (with so many layers that you can’t really pick up any note clearly) that recall the worst excesses of mid '70s blues-based hard rock bands. Which is really all a matter of taste; Nanette has always loved macho guitar sounds, she’s never once said she was a blues woman, and this CD truly reflects what she likes. She’s got every right to cut it, but who still listens to this nowadays? Me, I’ll go for “Your Love for My Tears,” the sole acoustic number, or the beautiful piano playing of Bob Stagg on the Penn-Moman classic “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” I’ll keep believing that, at more than 55 years old, Nanette is still one of the most powerful (and drop-dead beautiful) singers around, and I’ll keep listening to her previous CD.

How many tribute records have there been made honoring Bob Dylan and his music? Just a couple of months ago, there was one entirely devoted to his gospel songs. Now comes Telarc’s Blues on Blonde on Blonde, which is, as you’ve guessed it, a re-reading by blues artists of the classic 1966 Blonde on Blonde double LP. Yes, I know, Telarc has been criticized before for its seemingly endless so-so tribute records, and I’m not sure this one is exactly essential either, but with this material, it’s a sure success. It helps that, with the help of the “house band” on most of these tracks (Brian Stoltz, known for his work with the Neville Brothers and The Funky Meters, on guitar, and Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton laying the rhythm), Telarc has mostly managed to stay away from the overly glossy, too-cleanly produced sound that mars many of its recent releases. This is rough and thriving blues-rock with an edge (for the few curve balls thrown at us, keep reading). Oh, I do have a few quibbles to make. Only 12 of the original 14 tracks have been redone, and not in the original running order, the liner notes are skimpy (but then again, they beat the original notes by a mile), and the last third of the disc shows a marked drop in the urgency/energy/involvement department. Some details? Well, as you’d expect when approaching Dylan songs, it seems that the worse the singer (in technical terms), the better the song; therefore we’re not surprised to see that “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” done by the very talented Joe Louis Walker, and “Temporary Like Achilles,” sung by the sweet Deborah Coleman, fall a little flat, while the Duke Robillard and Sean Costello tracks (“Pledging my Time” and “Obviously 5 Believers,” respectively) succeed in spite (or because) of the singers’ limits. The same can be said about the opening track, the Brian Stoltz-sung “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” even though Stoltz comes close to doing an impersonation instead of an interpretation, or about the slightly too-long “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” sung by Walter Trout. Stoltz and Trout are simply masterful on the guitar, and that helps too. In fact, this is a guitar album, most tracks being done in a one-or-two guitar plus bass and drums format. But there are exceptions. Eric Bibb slows down “Just Like a Woman” and plays it almost as a lullaby, with banjo, 12-string guitar and bass, plus muted harmonica, and sings it out of his range, which somehow makes it more poignant. The unknown (to me) Clarence Bucaro does a jazzy version, with guitar and bass, plus Ted Witt’s clarinet, of “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” that is truly a revelation. Zydeco man C.J. Chenier does what he does to “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” with somewhat mixed results. New Orleans whiz David Torkanowsky is featured on piano and B3 on two tracks, both of which are unfortunately a little mundane (the last third of the CD I mentioned before). And I didn’t mention “Visions of Johanna,” a notoriously difficult song to cover, here masterfully redone by Anders Osborne, to my mind the best track of this latest Dylan tribute. It might not be an essential CD, but fans of Dylan will find much to savor here. And then they’ll pop the original Blonde on Blonde in the CD player, because this is one of the merits of a good tribute record --- to make you rediscover the original material.

Only the Strong Survive is the name of a new full-length documentary (from legendary D.A. Pennebaker, of Don’t Look Back! fame) playing in a few select cities (it didn’t reach Montreal yet), and it’s also the name of the accompanying soundtrack CD on Koch Records. At the start of the project is Roger Friedman, a soul fan who for years wanted to document the classic '60s and '70s soul stars still touring and bringing the word out to their fans, the “soul survivors,” to take a cue from a Wilson Pickett song. The idea was to show them now, close to 40 years after their peak, in their natural habitat --- the stage, working the crowds. So the soundtrack is entirely live, tracks recorded in various locations in 1999 and 2000. And yes, Carla Thomas still owns “Gee Whiz,” Sam Moore still has a fun time (and so do we) with “Soul Man” and “When Something is Wrong with my Baby,” and the late Rufus Thomas was still the consummate showman at 82, if we’re to believe the crowd reaction during his “Walking the Dog.” And Wilson Pickett (whose recent “Soul Survivor” opens the album) still has the vitality of a man half his age. Some tracks (notably “Have you Seen Her” by The Chi-Lites and Mary Wilson’s “Someday We’ll Be Together”) sound a little too much like the performances of an oldies act --- or maybe they’re just too sweet for my taste --- but all performers featured here are still very much on top of their singing skills. Check out Jerry Butler when he starts “For your Precious Love,” but don’t try this at home! (A quibble --- was it necessary to copy the old Motown habit and fail to credit the musicians playing behind these great singers?).

It took a long time for Carl Weathersby to strike out on his own. After 14 years with the Sons of Blues, Weathersby made his debut solo record in 1996, Don’t Lay Your Blues On Me (Evidence). Three more records followed on Evidence, at the pace of roughly one CD a year: Looking Out my Window, Restless Feeling and Come to Papa. The release of Best of Carl Weathersby on Evidence, which covers these first four albums issued under his name, is therefore truly what its name implies, and not simply a “best of, but only at this record company” type of record. Blessed with a warm, affecting voice and a mastery of the medium-smooth groove, Weathersby was made to sing soul-blues. This is the emphasis of this compilation, with a smattering of harder electric solos or more modern R&B beats. The compilers have decided to choose evenly between the first three records (four songs apiece), with only “My Baby” and the title track, a duet with Ann Peebles, from the more recent Come to Papa making the cut. (A 15th selection, a solo acoustic version of “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues,” might be previously unreleased, though nothing confirms or invalidates this). As such, this is a very good introduction to the work of a very talented, if somewhat under-recognized, singer and guitarist.

In his lifetime, save for the last year of his life, following the release of his major label debut, Ted Hawkins never really enjoyed any popularity in his native country, but he was pretty big in Great Britain, thanks to Andy Kershaw, radio host of The Kershaw Sessions on the BBC. In fact, Hawkins relocated to Britain from 1986 till 1990, and his shows were well attended. Disc one of the two-CD Ladder of Success (Recall/Snapper Music, a UK label) documents one of these late '80s shows in Great Britain (probably London, judging from some ad-libbed lyrics). No information is given concerning location or date; Hawkins is performing solo, as usual, with his own guitar accompaniment. The focus is clearly on Hawkins the interpreter, with only five of the 17 songs in the set being originals (four of the songs covered come from the pen of Sam Cooke), and Hawkins the interpreter was one of the top; listen to how he makes even the silly “Zip Pe Dee Doo Dah” sound like something profound. Based on the description I found in the All Music Guide to Blues, this disc seems to be a reissue of The Unstoppable Ted Hawkins (on Catfish, 2001). Disc two is a studio affair, this time with a full band (except the title track), again with no info regarding location or date of recording, and neither concerning the musicians helping out. All I can say is that, judging by the thick accent of the female backup singer who duets with Hawkins during the extremely long outro to the final track, “Ding Dong Ding,” the record was probably done in the UK. (A note says that all tracks were licensed from Catfish Records, which leads me to guess that Disc two is a reissue of Nowhere to Run, another 2001 Catfish release, seeing as there is a track called “Nowhere to Run” here). This time, all 10 songs are Hawkins originals, given upbeat, almost ska or reggae arrangements, sometimes sounding like a weird offshoot between ska and country-soul. Together, these two discs present a relatively fair picture of Hawkins, though in truth there doesn’t seem to be an ideal Ted Hawkins record. But these tracks, in addition to The Kershaw Sessions (issued on Fuel 2000 a couple of years ago) and to The Next Hundred Years (Hawkins’ sole major label release, on Geffen), will help you form a better, global picture of this wonderful performer. Too bad for this almost scandalous lack of all sorts of info.

In the “not blues, but you never know” category, Canadian Chris Whiteley (not to be confused with rootsy Chris Whitley) has been playing blues, solo or as part of the Whiteley Brothers, for more than 25 years. His trumpet playing has won him awards and recording sessions aplenty, but he’s also a skilled (and award-winning) songwriter and singer. On his recent indie release, While I’m Here, though, he’s exploring the world of late-night, supper club jazz, a la Chet Baker, I guess, with nine originals that sound just like standards (he blows harmonica on the two bluesiest tracks). Here’s the trick: I have no idea how to obtain this CD. Check out his marketing agent’s web site ( to try and obtain more info.

Guitarist Chris Flory is relatively well known in the world of jazz, having taken part in many recording sessions for the renowned Concord label. His style is related to that of veteran Herb Ellis, and he’s from Providence, Rhode Island, Duke Robillard’s home town. His latest, Blues in my Heart (Stony Plain), credited to Chris Flory with Duke Robillard and Friends and produced by Robillard, is a tasteful, easy swinging jazz guitar album in the style of the two recent Robillard-Ellis collaborations. Sugar Ray Norcia is on board to croon two standards, including “Please Send Me Somebody to Love,” and the Duke sings the title track.

--- Benoît Brière

This 1993 German concert from Long John Baldry, Live in Concert (Inakiustrik/MVD), comes between the two Stony Plain albums It Still Ain't Easy (1991) and On Stage Tonight: Baldry's Out (1993). It makes a nice companion to these two CDs, because of the similar arrangements and some of the same material, like "Shake that Thing," "Everyday I Have the Blues," "Insane Asylum" and "Do You Wanna Dance?" The powerful rendition of Dixon's "Insane Asylum" is the first song in the set featuring Kathi McDonald. She really belts out this song with feeling and power, recalling how her long collaboration with Baldry has made her integral to some of his best material. She shows her softer side on "I'd Rather Go Blind." Baldry and McDonald duet excellently on "A Thrill's A Thrill" and the folk-blues styled "Black Girl."

One could call donuts the "missing centers" to describe them by what they are lacking. So the garage and blues guitars/drums duo Bassholes is named after the typical rock combo instrument it lacks. On Out in the Treetops (Dead Canary Records), Bassholes reaches back to the primitive blues duo combination used by such artists as Lightning Hopkins in the personnel arrangement. Bassholes take us back to the juke joint days with its take on "Stack O Lee" on this set of two 33 RPM 7" records. The group spans the distance between Hopkins' generation and today's electric alt-blues powerhouses, like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. This recording set also resonates with the early days of '60s power blues rock, and Bassholes shows its affinity for that style with clamorous covers of "Tattoo" (The Who) and "Raw Power" (The Stooges). Two additional musicians flesh out the punk-styled rendition of "Raw Power."

More Conversations in Swing Guitar (Stony Plain) picks up where 1999's Conversations in Swing Guitar left off. This matches two master blues guitarists, Duke Robillard and Herb Ellis, from different generations. Herb Ellis gigged around with Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and more. Duke Robillard can point to Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bob Dylan and more on his résumé. The instrumental album is relaxed and fluid as the guitarists engage in melodic, not flashy, interplay. The easy, back-and-forth manner gives the album its warm, personal conversational style, and hence the title.

--- Tom Schulte

Clay HammondThe name Clay Hammond should not be new to the record buying public. He is the writer of the huge hit "Part Time Love," a tune made famous by Little Johnny Taylor and recorded by many artists over the years. Since his excellent Evejim release of 1988, Streets Will Love You, the only other new release I was aware of was a 1993 release on White Enterprises titled Hard To Explain. So then I cannot pass up the pun and say that in light of the excellent new release, I Kissed Her Gone (Desert Sounds Records), it's hard to explain why ten years has passed since that prior release. I gave a glowing review to his reissue release on Ace in the October 2000 Blues Bytes, a CD he shared with Z.Z. Hill, but that release covered recordings he made for Kent many years earlier. With a large following overseas it is now time to make his mark in the U.S.A. This CD opens with the classy title song "I Kissed Her Gone," a song written by William Bell and Lou Ragland, a track that should be getting a lot of airplay. It's a catchy tune that sort of finds a place in your head for days after first hearing it. I don't know if William Bell recorded it on one of his many releases, but I think this is the first time I have heard it. Billy Ray Charles lends his songwriting abilities to five tunes, most in the mid to upbeat dance vein. One track, "Viagra," stands out for it's unusual twist. He meets a 21-year-old woman at a bar and gets her to go home with him, not before he orders a few glasses of scotch for her and Viagra for him. A pretty good catch for a 55-year-old man, but alas she falls asleep and the Viagra kicks in and Clay is hot to trot. "...Wake up baby, wake up, this night turned into a disaster. I should have drank the Chivas and given her the Viagra..." As the liner notes state, "Clay, like his mentor Sam Cooke, has the ability to take words and bend them into sweet musical notes that are pleasing and leave the listener poised for more." This is true, and with this enjoyable new release Hammond moves forward towards that great album he has in him. Perhaps a few killer ballads next time, but we are grateful for any release by Clay Hammond.

I have been a fan of Rue Davis since I first heard his popular hit "Honey Poo" back in 1995 and enjoyed his two releases on Johnny Vincent's Avanti label in the late '90s. With those releases you realized what a fine songwriter he is. I began to notice his songs on many other artist's recordings, the latest being the title song on Bobby Bland's Blues At Midnight. This new release, Candy Sweet (Off The Hook Records), not only showcase's Davis' fine songwriting, but also focuses on his expressive and diversified vocals. Davis sings in different styles, as the excellent track, "You Set Me Up," sounding like a demo for another Bobby Bland album, will reveal. "Candy Sweet" sounds like a demo for Johnnie Taylor, as does the fabulous "Precious," both sung exactly in the style of J.T. Perhaps Floyd Taylor should check these out for his next release. "You Ought To Stand Up" sounds like a track from an undiscovered Al Green album, and "I Want More Of Your Love" made me think of Smokey Robinson. "Tippitaboo" is an attempt to recreate another "Honey Poo," and is a lot of fun. This certainly is an enjoyable album with every track having merit. All the tracks are programmed, and I must say that real musicians throughout would have made this even a stronger album. If you are interested in learning about Rue Davis the songwriter and also Rue Davis the singer, pick up a copy of Candy Sweet. This one will get a lot of plays around here.

--- Alan Shutro

Johnny's BluesI normally despise these theme collections of blues artists performing non-blues songs from renowned musicians or bands, especially the various tribute CDs issued by Telarc over the past few years. Johnny's Blues - A Tribute To Johnny Cash (NorthernBlues Music) is different ... it's tasteful and well-done, and none of the artists sound like they're going through the motions merely to collect their paychecks. The CD contains 13 songs from the Man in Black's repertoire, done by both famous and more obscure artists, with nary a weak song to be found. Among my personal favorites is the excellent and underrated Canadian mulit-instrumentalist Harry Manx covering the country weeper "Long Black Veil," given a dark spiritual feel with the inclusion of backing vocalists who really DO sound like they just came from the graveyard. One of the more unique interpretations of a Cash standard is offered by bluesman Corey Harris on "Redemption," as he performs it with a heavy African beat, using traditional percussion instruments, and backed by several female singers. The disc keeps getting better when we get to Kevin Breit's bluesy mariachi version of "Send A Picture Of Mother." The value of this CD is justified by the appearance of elusive rocker Garland Jeffreys, who does a Cajun-ish version of "I Walk The Line," which is closer to the original than one would have expected from Jeffreys. Maria Muldaur takes "Walking The Blues" to the back porch, accompanied only by Del Rey's acoustic guitar. Rounding out the album are Paul Redddick (a spirited "Train of Love"), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown ("Get Rhythm"), Chris Thomas King ("Rock Island Line"), Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (an alt-country version of "Folsom Prison Blues" that continually threatens to get out of control), Alvin Youngblood Hart ("Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"), Sleepy LaBeef ("Frankie's Man Johnny"), Colin Linden ("Big River"), and Mavis Staples ("Will The Circle Be Unbroken"). The disc includes a nice booklet, with each artist penning heartfelt words of tribute to Cash. Now THIS is what a 'tribute' album should be all about.

A good indie release from Arizona is That's D Blues, from Big Daddy D and the Dynamites. The eight cuts here have a real 'live in the studio' feel to them, although a minor quibble is that the sound sometimes comes across as a little cold. All songs are original compositions, with the best being the funky head shaker "I Gotta' Girl," with good vocals from bandleader Darryl Porras and nice sax work from Anton Teschner. Guitarist Drew Hall is featured on three standouts: the mid-tempo blues "Stuck In a Rut," the scorching instrumental "Keep'n Score," and the closing cut "Story of the Blues," on which Hall contributes tasty dobro work.

I've been an unabashed fan of guitarist / singer / songwriter Geoff Muldaur dating back to his days with The Kweskin Jug Band. Everything he does is generally topnotch quality. That's why I wish I could like Beautiful Isle of Somewhere (T&M). There's nothing wrong with Muldaur's playing on this live 1999 concert recorded in Germany. The sound quality is so pristine that the performance just comes across as much too sterile, while the audience is so polite and laid back that there's just no energy being transmitted. Despite Muldaur's good presentation, the boredom for the listener starts to mount early in the disc, making it nearly impossible to get through the CD's 16 cuts. There are much better recordings available from Muldaur than this one ... look for those instead of buying this one. Past Muldaur CDs were reviewed in Blues Bytes in November 1998, December 2000 and June 2001.

--- Bill Mitchell

[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]

The Blues Bytes Web Site has been developed by Blue Night Productions.  For more info, send an e-mail.

The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: May 31, 2003 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2003, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.