Blues Bytes

What's New

June 2006

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Otis Rush

New Guitar Summit

Alligator's 35x35

Smokin' Joe Kubek

Sue Foley

Popa Chubby

Sugar Pie DeSanto

Omar & the Howlers

Jay McShann


Otis Rush DVDWith innovative guitar playing, Mississippi-born Otis Rush led the pack in creating West Side Chicago Blues. Now, Eagle Vision’s Live at Montreux (Eagle Eye) DVD series brings you a consummate concert by this American marvel. As has come to be expected this Live At Montreux DVD is a high quality production with professional editing and film work. Some camera angles give you a photo pit view. Although the stage lights create an annoying glare, and the stage’s backdrop is busy, there are plenty of close-ups of Rush’s fingers molding his strings. Filmed July 9, 1986 at the Montreux Casino, Rush – dressed in a three-piece suit and cowboy hat – frequently smiles. That is as charismatic as he gets. He is not into stage flamboyance. With him it’s all about the music and making a connection between the musicians and the audience. Rush is backed by Professor Eddie Lusk’s band – all prized Chicago blues veterans.

As if beginning their second or third set of the night, the band ignites with the smoking instrumental "Tops." Keyboardist/bandleader Lusk gives his upper registry a workout on "Mean Old World," while guitarist Anthony Palmer takes a stinging solo. No matter how many times you’ve heard Otis Rush and his songs, each time you hear them is as awe striking as the first time. The tone expressed by Rush’s moaning strings on the instrumental "I Wonder Why" defines Chicago blues guitar. Here, Rush performs an extended guitar solo which is full of feeling. It isn’t one of those fast, long, and hard solos now too common in contemporary blues. Listen to and watch Rush intoxicate you into a trance on "Gambler’s Blues." "Natural Ball" is jazzed up via a synthesized and energized version.

For many, the main attraction will be the appearance of Eric Clapton, who cuts heads with Rush on four songs. This is an incomparable experience to see Clapton performing with Rush, since Clapton has been recording Rush’s songs since his days with John Mayall. During "Crosscut Saw," 'Slowhand' takes his fair share of lead breaks, but respectfully knows when to provide rhythm fills. They vocally perform "Double Trouble" as a duet. Ironically, neither this song or "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" are essential versions since both lack substance. That is not the case the moment Luther Allison takes the stage on "Every Day I Have The Blues." With dignity, Allison acknowledges Rush as a mentor and Clapton as someone he adores before delivering electrifying signature guitar. Seeing Allison creates delight. He is expressive and says as much with his eyes as his hands.

Otis Rush & Friends is also available on CD, but it only contains nine songs – including the four with Clapton. The DVD contains far more Otis Rush blues guitar. Rush’s guitar playing, and that of his friends, is spellbinding but, at times, the band barrels over the soothing by playing as a powerhouse rock band instead of a well oiled blues machine. The set list is not unlike other live recordings from the same era, e.g., Tops, and this recording isn’t as raw as the recently released live All Your Love I Miss Loving on Delmark. Still, this Montreaux concert is a timeless treasure for fans of Chicago Blues guitar.

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

New Guitar SummitRecorded live, this DVD from Jay Geils, Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin, New Guitar Summit Live at the Stoneham Theatre (Stony Plain), is a follow-up to the highly praised New Guitar Summit studio CD. Three-part stability is this guitar super group’s signature sound. Featuring guitarists from multiple disciplines, together they glorify the years when blues and jazz had not yet become individual silos. Having founded Roomful of Blues in 1967, Duke Robillard is no stranger to the blues. He’s known best for replacing Jimmie Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and leading his own bands. Since joining Stony Plain, Robillard has released close to a dozen CDs and has produced (and played on) almost as many for other artists. Jay Geils began his career as a trumpet player, but is known best as a member and founder of The J. Geils Band. After the popular group broke up in 1984, he spent time restoring classic sports cars and performing briefly with Bluestime. Jazz guitarist Gerry Beaudoin has had stints with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and David Grisman. Beaudoin is a jazz educator and has the strongest jazz credentials. His rhythm section – John Turner and Gordon Grottenthaler – can be seen and heard on bass and drums. Beaudoin contributes the sole original song among six covers of Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Charlie Christian.

Robillard is quoted as saying his favorite sound is “jazz-steeped musicians playing the blues.” Viewers with a similar musical interest will best enjoy this swinging crossbreed of nostalgic jazz, bop, and blues. The sounds of Bill Jennings, Herb Ellis, Freddie Green, and Kenny Burrell come to mind when you watch this elegant concert. To get a feel for the smooth music on this disc, picture an uptown wine bar where the guests are dressed to the nines. The seven posh songs are based in theory. Four of them appeared on the trio’s CD. Using vintage guitars (Gibson ES250, 1939 L5 cutaway), each guitarist solos on every song. Each is laid back with a focus on mellow guitar and three part harmony. This formula doesn’t diminish the improvisations. "Broadway," made famous by Count Basie, is a showcase for the band as everyone gets a chance to solo. Beaudoin adds apathetic vocals to "Ain’t Nobody’s Business," made famous by Billie Holliday, while picking and plucking his strings. Bonus material includes biographies, a retrospective photo gallery of each guitarist, and a 23-minute band interview that shows them relaxed and having fun talking. Here they practically look like they are dressed for the beach as opposed to the stuffy banker suits they wear onstage.

These guys aren’t your modern day guitar soloing madmen. They are classy, have mutual respect for each other, and play melodic solos with plenty of. For close to an hour these guitarist’s guitarists lay down sophisticated swings and rumbles. Due to the style of calm music played, artists who sit throughout the performance, and a well behaved audience, this concert is more like a recital. Yet, New Guitar Summit Live has the carefree mood of a vacation. This classy guitar DVD, recorded in stereo audio only, makes you feel good due to five lighthearted instrumentals. The music returns you to a bygone era. You’ll walk away with a finer appreciation of fabled American music.

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Phil GuyPhil Guy has not attained the same icon status as his older and well-known brother Buddy. Yet, Phil is every bit as talented. Naturally he has a different style because he is his own individual. Phil has been a resident of Chicago since 1969 and a fixture of the city’s blues scene. For many years he has fronted his own band, The Chicago Machine. He hasn’t released many recordings, and the ones that he has have not reflected his effervescent musicianship. However, beginning with 2000’s Say What You Mean (JSP) that began to change. He’s My Blues Brother (Black-Eyed Records) is the latest in a string of discs that have captured the actual Phil Guy that you experience on stage.

Phil serves up a heavy dose of his easily identifiable funk-induced blues and slashing guitar throughout ten songs – he co-wrote five with producer/saxophonist/keyboardist Bruce Feiner. Throughout 60 minutes, Phil – a leftie who plays right-handed – performs lead guitar and vocals. The latter contain the energy and intonation of Buddy combined with the sternness and soul of Willie Kent. The relaxed "On Our Front Porch" tells about the beginnings of blues – rural, acoustic, and southern – and its evolution to a worldwide music. The song pays homage to where blues began and where the Brothers Guy began to play it. The guitar solos of Osee Anderson and George Baker – who also add pleasant vocals – are not as crunching or in-your-face as the lead off title cut. Still, Anderson and Baker take no prisoners. While Jason Arnold’s drums crash around you, the rhythm of "Still Here" softly surrounds you and supports Anderson’s edgy guitar. "Too Young To Die" details the true gangland killing of another nephew. Behind a funky rhythm and comforting melody, Phil growls the lyrics out. Not surprisingly, it’s the CD’s overwhelming tune.

Phil is reunited with brother Buddy on the rousing title track where their differing styles – Phil combines multiple genres into a funky conglomeration while Buddy performs straight ahead Chicago blues – compliment each other favorably. Here, Buddy’s guitar is rough, raw, and hard-edged. His guitar solo shreds contemporary blues to pieces. It is a majestic return to the Buddy that pre-dated his highly produced top selling CDs. It is one of this CD’s highlights. The autobiographical lyrics don’t reveal new or inside info for anyone who is familiar with the Brothers Guy. Rhythmically, the simple song has a certain complexity. As a lead-off song, it pummels.

The remainder of the CD demonstrates Phil’s uncanny ability to combine genres. "Back To Louisiana" is an old-time rock ‘n’ roll groove where Jonathan Chathfield’s jangling piano rivals Johnnie Johnson. You’ll get down on the instrumental "Phil’s The Guy." Its one of those classic grooves that Phil gets locked into while tearing up on guitar. Here, The Nutmeg Horns add praiseful blasts of brass. Thanks to Mary Taylor’s stunning vocals, "Got My Mind On Lovin’ You" is a stirring modern R&B number, but it doesn’t mesh with the other songs. The greatest cross-pollination occurs on "I Feel Sexy," which is completely re-worked from an earlier JSP version. With kicking drums, thrusting horns, and funkadelic guitar, this adaptation staggers.

Since it emits devotion, there is a healing factor to Phil’s music as can be heard on the sorrowful "Too Young To Die" and the soulful "I Just Can’t Stop." On He’s My Blues Brother, Phil creates and plays his signature funk’n blues on a series of mid-tempo tunes. It pumps through his veins and fires out his fingertips. Phil Guy has recorded an album that proves him to be a serious contender as Chicago’s last blues singer/player. The CD deserves the same recognition that has eluded its creator for most of his undervalued career. Phil Guy’s CDs are available off the stage and at

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

Alligator 35x35You can’t call yourself a blues fan and not appreciate all that Alligator Records has meant to our favorite genre over the years. Arising out of Bruce Iglauer’s desire to record his favorite band, Hound Dog Taylor & the HouseRockers, Alligator has managed to constantly make strategic artist choices and provide us with some of the best in blues for what is now the past 35 years. In honor of its anniversary, Bruce and his staff at Alligator went back in the vaults and tried to give us significant song selections from the debut albums of many of its artists. The result, 35X35, is a treasure trove of artists gone by, artists still with us and artists who represent the future of the blues. A compilation like this, with the extensive liner notes that Bruce provided, takes the listener on literally a history of modern day blues for the last 35 years. Let’s up we learn our lessons well.

Disc one of course opens with Hound Dog Taylor. After an extensive recording session that included every song Bruce had ever heard him play, Hound Dog pulls out a gem in “She’s Gone.” This unknown song became the record of choice to open up 35X35. “Have a Good Time” by Big Walter Horton and “Your Love is Like a Cancer” by Son Seals brings me to my next favorite song on the record, “Texas Flood,” by Fenton Robinson. Sweet and soulful, Fenton’s version of “Texas Flood” immediately took my ear by surprise and I will spend more time exploring the collected works of this Alligator artist. Koko Taylor joined Alligator at a time when she didn’t have a band. “I Got What It Takes” lets you know that Koko was just getting warmed up. An Alligator artist for over 30 years now, touring got Koko back on the road to the top and she’s been the “Queen of the Blues” ever since. Albert Collin’s telecaster intro on “Honey Hush” lets you know why he’s truly missed. Ice Pickin’ was the first of six records he cut for Alligator and there’s never been another like him. “Voodoo Daddy” brings Lonnie Brooks to the fray. I’ve seen Lonnie live at Antone’s in Austin, Texas and his bayou-flavored guitar licks are always pleasing.

Other personal favorites on disc one include Johnny Winter on “Don’t Take Advantage of Me,” Buddy Guy’s version of “Are You Losin Your Mind?,” Lonnie Mack’s “Satisfy Suzie,” produced by Stevie Ray Vaughn with guitar solos from both Lonnie & Stevie, “When a Guitar Plays the Blues” by Roy Buchanan, and a rousing version of “Pride And Joy” by Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Cuts from Professor Longhair, James Cotton, Gatemouth Brown, Little Charlie & the Night Cats and Tinsley Ellis help to round out disc one and it’s time to see what’s next.

A pleasant surprise to open disc two is “Lord, I Wonder,” by Katie Webster. Bruce Iglauer’s notes indicate that Katie loved to close her touring sets with this homage to her gospel roots. Alone with her piano, Katie truly loved to play this song for her audience. “Don’t Lie to Me,” by Elvin Bishop, leads me to the amazing harp talents of William Clarke on “Lollipop Mama.” I was touched by the notes that Alligator has not signed another harp player since William Clark passed on, “simply because we just haven’t heard one as good as Bill!” That’s a huge tribute to the immense talents of Bill Clarke. Saffire of course is a personal favorite, but the next song to catch my ear is “River Hip Mama” by Charlie Musselwhite. He plays an inspired harmonica intro on “River Hip Mama” and you immediately know that Charlie was at the top of his game when he recorded Ace of Harps.

The piano playing of Lucky Peterson on Carey Bell’s, “Lonesome Stranger” brings this wonderful number by Carey to my attention. His son, Lurrie, and Carl Weathersby lend their considerable guitar talents to the project and tells me that Deep Down is another album I need to have. I honestly don’t know what I can contribute that would begin to touch on the soul and talent of the wonderful artist that Luther Allison was. “Bad Love” is from the album Soul Fixin’ Man that was produced by the legendary Jim Gaines and gives us Luther at his absolute best.

Songs by Dave Hole, C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band and Corey Harris bring me to one of our new leading ladies of the blues, Shemekia Copeland. The hurt and pain you hear her feel in “Salt In My Wounds” belies the spirit of a woman much older than her years. Shemekia’s father, Johnny Copeland, taught her well and she will be bringing us some of the best in contemporary blues for many years to come. “I Need Your Love in My Life” by Coco Montoya and “Mean Old Lady” by Michael Burks leads us on our journey to the Holmes Brothers. “Speaking In Tongues” brings us the best of their gospel harmonies and lets us appreciate the production talents of Joan Osborne and recording engineer, Trina Shoemaker.

My heartstrings start to tug with Marcia Ball’s rendition of “Let The Tears Roll Down.” I’ve seen Marcia perform live several times over the last 10 years and this is one of her best ballads ever. “That’s Right,” by Roomful of Blues, and Guitar Shorty’s “Old School” brings us to the album's final song, “A Dying Man’s Plea,” by Mavis Staples. Mavis’s record, Have a Little Faith, earned her many accolades and honors in the past year and this blend of soul and blues is a fitting end to a wonderful compilation.

I don’t envy the task that Bruce Iglauer and his amazing staff at Alligator had in putting this compilation together. I found that many of the song choices were very carefully thought out and the liner notes gave me a strong sense of the unique qualities that Bruce prized in each artist who became part of the Alligator Family. This record is an outstanding tribute to the legacy in blues that Alligator rightfully owns. Who knows what the future holds, but I for one am looking forward to the day that we observe the 50th anniversary of this legendary label.

--- Kyle Deibler

It seems only fitting that the latest release by Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, My Heart’s in Texas, is a live recording that was also filmed for DVD release at a true Texas roadhouse, the J & J Blues Bar, in Ft. Worth, Texas. Filmed during a New Year’s Eve performance, Smokin’ Joe and Bnois were definitely at their best for this latest release on Blind Pig Records.

The incendiary “Burnin’ To The Ground” opens the show with Bnois lamenting the fact that his latest love is not going to last. “Lost my mind over you and it couldn’t be found……hate to see you leave, but you had to go!” Things were just too hot for Bnois to handle and this was one girl who just had to go. The theme carries on with “I Saw It Coming.” “Watching you change before my eyes…..seeing you leave was no surprise.” His girl was out the door before she ever left.

“Where I Want to Be” opens with a slow burning guitar intro by Smokin’ Joe that reminds you that he is one of the latest in the proud tradition of Texas guitar slingers. The passion of his playing compliments Bnois’s assertion that with this woman he’s “right where I want to be.” Bnois doesn’t want much; just a little love will get him along just fine. “My Heart’s In Texas” pays tribute to the homeland. A fast pace, fiery guitar picking by Joe and we find Bnois asserting that “my heart’s in Texas….can’t stay away too long… heart’s in Texas….that’s my home!”

A dedication to “all the ladies in the house” surprises me in the intro to “Tell Me Why.” Another love gone badly, Bnois is beside himself over the fact that the girl even bothered to love him. “Tell me why….you did what you did to me…you left me under your spell….left me hurting don’t you see.” Somehow I think the ladies of Ft. Worth would have been more appreciative a love gone good in this instance. “Better Be Getting It On,” a fast paced shuffle, changes the focus from love to life. “It’s about time….I’d better be figuring it out….what this thing called life’s all about.” So…”whatever you’re going to do….you’d better be getting it on!” “Better Be Getting It On” features strong solo playing by Kubek and affirms for us all that the boys in this band know how to play guitar.

Bnois lets us know that he’s a simple man when it comes to love in “Make It Right.” “I don’t need soft music, candlelight; all I need is you to make it right!” I find myself clapping in time with Kubek’s guitar playing on “Make It Right.” It has a great hook and you can’t help but enjoy it. “She’s Too Busy” continues to showcase Kubek’s brilliant guitar work on this song about the latest woman in Bnois’s life, a businesswoman. “I took her out to dinner…she brought her damn cell phone…..she got so many calls….I may as well stayed home…..I need time to love her….she’s too busy for me!” Sad to say in this day and age the story rings true more than we care to admit. There’s just no way this relationship is going to end up right.

The band gets with it during “Boogie On Down.” This short instrumental really allows you to get a sense of just what a tight band should sound like. Joe and Bnois have been on the road now for 15 years and their band reflects their perfectionism as musicians. “Boogie On Down” rocks and is a welcome addition to the record. I have to admit that the cover of the classic James Lane (aka Jimmy Rogers) tune, “That’s Alright,” is one of my favorite songs on the record. Bnois sings passionately about the woman who loved him and left. “I know you love another….but that’s alright….I can’t help but wonder….who’s loving you tonight?”

A rousing rendition of “Healthy Mama” closes out this live recording. “She’s got long black hair….big wide hips….dimples in her jaw…full, red lips….she’s a healthy…healthy mama, means everything to me!” Any song that can get me to tap my desk while listening to it is fine by me and “Healthy Mama” definitely does that!

You’ve got to hand it to Joe and Bnois. I took a minute to research the J & J’s Blues Bar on the web and it is a true roadhouse in the classic Texas tradition. This live recording is high energy from beginning to end and I find myself hard pressed at times to distinguish between the guitar stylings of Kubek and King. One thing is for sure, the boys were home in Texas and they were definitely having fun. This is blues in the true Texas tradition and the boys did their home state proud. It’s my understanding that the DVD version of this wild and crazy evening features a slightly different set list, but I’m sure the good folks at Blind Pig got all that matters onto the DVD. Enjoy it at your own risk!!

--- Kyle Deibler

Sue FoleyI’ve not heard Sue Foley in several years, so it was a treat for me to receive her latest record, New Used Car, from the good folks at Ruf records for review. I had met Sue when she lived in Austin and she’s always been an outstanding guitar player. Her latest record indicates that she’s still capable of letting loose on her Telecaster and she’s always made the most out of the voice that God gave her.

Skillful use of reverb and some scorching Tele work introduce you to the title cut, “New Used Car.” “I wanna be your love mobile…come on baby tell me how good it feels” Sue wants to be your new used car and she’s guaranteed to drive you crazy! Things quiet down slightly on “Make It Real.” In search of some real meaning to her everyday existence Sue implores her lover to: “Prove to me that I aint’ here all by myself….baby make it real!” Early on its apparent that Sue’s band is very tight and they do a great job of backing her throughout the album.

“When I Come Back To Ya” finds Sue giving her last lover some advice. “You should have listened to what a young girl feels…screaming and crying in the night…boy what a dirty deal!” Even though he’s thrown her out…she feels that’s no reason to end the relationship completely…in the meantime he’s definitely in for an earful when “I get back to you!” The shoe’s on the other foot in “Absolution.” He wants forgiveness for his past transgressions so he can move on and Sue doesn’t want to let him go…”I can’t let go…if I should set you free…what becomes of me?” Absolution is a very stark and soulful cut, it’s probably my favorite song on Sue’s record.

“Sugar” is an interesting song as well. Sue’s boyfriend is on the fence about how he feels for her and she needs an indication of what’s up. “You got to give me some Sugar, baby….why are you saving the sweet things I’m cravin!” Here’s hoping she gets some sugar soon. ‘Do It Again” finds Sue in a relationship that’s ended and she’s wondering what would happen if they had it to do all over again. “Would you do it again….I would do it again!”

It’s interesting to hear Sue’s reflections on being a parent in the song, “Mother.” “Mother’s tears….fall down like the sun…they make no sound…she tells no one.” It’s a mother’s responsibility to provide sanctuary and a place of refuge for her child to feel safe. Throughout the ups and downs of her child’s life, it’s mother’s rules that must be followed. “Long Tomorrow” finds Sue depressed about the state of love in her life. Having boarded the train she has time to reflect about the hopes she had for the relationship she was in and how she fooled herself into believing it was more than it was.

“Little Things” finds Sue able to pick apart all of the things her lover does that sour the relationship for her. “If you had two cents baby…I swear you couldn’t rub them together!” He’s definitely on his way out. The intro to “Found My Love” finds Sue in a much happier mood but at a crossroads with her feelings. “I found my love but I lost myself!” Ultimately the new love is not worth the cost of self she’s experiencing by entering into the relationship.

“Deep Freeze” finds that winter is much too long a season when you’re living in Canada. “We’ve been held down by the weather….just can’t get together…it seems our love is in the deep freeze.” Cold weather and cold hearts are definitely having an impact on all that matters. Lost love continues with the closing cut, “Change Your Mind.” After all that has been promised, “baby, did you change your mind?” Another case where love has gone wrong…”sitting here…all alone…baby, will you come back home?”

I find that New Used Car is a very strong album by Sue Foley. Her band is tight, her guitar playing is outstanding and the record itself reflects the maturity that Sue has accumulated over the years. Her move back to Canada from Austin has served her well and this album features some of her best songwriting ever. Sue is a student of the genre and she’s learned her lessons well.

--- Kyle Deibler

Popa Chubby is not your every day bluesman. Hell, he’s not even your every yesterday bluesman. What he is though is an innovator in his own right….his brand of New York City blues is tough, at times angry, and always thought provoking. Such is the case with his new record on Blind Pig, Stealing the Devil’s Guitar. An urban blend of blues, hip hop, punk and rock n’ roll all lend their influences to one of the country’s most unique blues talents.

“Slide Devil Man Slide” opens up the record with a wicked rendition of Chubby’s best slide guitar. A story of awakening, “Slide Devil Man Slide” tells the story of Popa’s youth, sitting on his daddy’s knee in the bar where he had the opportunity to hear a master…”it made me feel so good inside to hear the devil man slide!” Slide guitar gives way to dangers of running drugs, the modern man’s version of moonshine, in “Smugglers Game.” “And if it all goes good…I’ll be set for life…playing the smugglers game!” Chubby’s blistering guitar lead reverberates throughout this story of fast cars, potent drugs and living on the edge. We’re never sure that Chubby survives but at least he knows the perils of the game he’s playing.

Things lighten up a bit with the tune “Back in My Baby’s Arms.” Popa’s been on the road and he’s dying to see his woman. “I’ve got 600 miles to go before I’m back in my baby’s arms!” He’s definitely been missing the love of his good woman and can’t wait to get home. “Right On” feels like a song of liberation. “What do you say to the sinner who don’t want to be saved…say right on…right on sinner, change your evil ways!” Whatever your wrong, whatever your sin…all you can you do is move forward. Chubby’s strat work on this song lifts your vision to the sky and encourages your redemption. Right on!

“In This World,” a song by Jessie Mae Hemphill, is the one non-original song on the disc. I’ve not heard Jessie’s version, but “In This World” is a song of hope. “If we all join together and face the rising sun…Lord, help the motherless child in this world!” Chubby’s version is stripped down to the bones and focuses on the primal urge to just have hope. Mike Lattrell adds his keyboard talents on the piano to compliment the rather stark notes of Chubby’s guitar. “Kinda Dicey” is an instrumental that gives the listener a mental break while enjoying the band rocking out for a brief interlude.

“Young Guns” feels like a modern day version of the Charlie Daniel classic, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." A young guitar slinger has come to town to show his father up and Chubby manages to come up with one of the real classic lines of this album…”I was tired of this junior punk whining in my ear…so I picked up my trusty 66 and turned it up to 12 and I summoned up Keith Richards from the very depths of hell!” Classic Popa Chubby. Needless to say, he dispatched the young gun back to where he came from. “Buffalo Chips” is another short instrumental that features some very intricate guitar work in a very fast shuffle.

Both the volume and the attitude pick up in the song, “Long Deep Hard and Wide.” This is Popa rocking at his hardest….”And if you cut me…I’m going to kill you…long deep hard and wide!” “Woke up this morning….I have no regrets….been thinking about my own death…and if you push me…I’m going to cut you; long deep hard and wide!” Everything turns 180 degrees in the love song, “Why I Can’t Have You.” “I’ve got 1,000 guitars and I’ll play them from the start….could not make the music that can mend my broken heart.” Popa’s got a love that can’t go away and he’s miserable without her. Despite everything he owns and all that he has….he’s nothing without her.

“Virgil and Smokey” is a song about a father and son on the prowl for whatever they can find. They end up in a fight over a woman that is over as soon as it starts. The next day they find that blood is thicker than water and all is forgotten. “Smokey said ‘Pa’ and Virgil said ‘Brother’…they couldn’t stay mad man…they run around sniffing for others!” “Virgil and Smokey” is easily the most graphic song of the album. “Preacher Man” finds Chubby waxing philosophically about his future. “When I die…let the devil take my soul…I’ve been living here in hell so long no difference would I know!” If you’re looking for absolution the best thing you can do is make a contribution to the “Preacher Man!”

What has been a distinctly enjoyable listening experience closes with another instrumental, “The Devil’s Guitar.” By far the longest instrumental on the record, “The Devil’s Guitar” actually feels a little restrained compared to some of the other songs on this record. The more I hear Popa Chubby, the more I like him. He’s true to his vision of a raw, urban, New York City brand of tough blues and it suits him. Fans of contemporary blues will enjoy this record. Traditional it’s not, visionary it may be, either way…you have to appreciate Popa Chubby’s willingness to let his music be his guide.

--- Kyle Deibler

Sugar Pie DeSantoI’d not listened to anything by Sugar Pie Desanto before, so I was impressed during my research to discover that she was the only female invited to participate in the 1964 American Folk Festival Tour of Europe. Archived film from the Folk Festival has made its way to DVD and the producers of the project were awarded a Keeping the Blues Alive award from the Blues Foundation for their efforts. So Sugar Pie’s participation in that tour puts her in some very impressive company. Her latest record, Refined Sugar (Jasman Records), reflects her maturity as an artist and includes a diverse array of material that is very satisfying.

Sugar Pie opens with “Matter of Time,” a song about love gone bad. In a matter of time her love has left her high and dry, alone to find her way in the resulting pain and emotions that go with a bad break-up. Her main goal: “need somebody to wipe my tears.” “Blues Hall of Fame” finds Sugar Pie extolling the virtues of her acceptance in the Blues Hall of Fame. “Once I’m in the Hall of Fame people will pay big money to hear me sing the blues and do my thing.” If only it were that easy. “Somebody Scream” is just a great party song. Sugar Pie is telling anyone who will listen…”if you feel it, ya’ll reveal it…somebody scream!”

Things slow way down on the lovely ballad, “Life Goes On.” For some reason her lover’s broken her heart and she doesn’t know why. She’s hoping that, “maybe someday you’ll tell me why, why you had to hurt me and make me cry.” Unfortunately she never finds the answer she’s searching for. “Nobody’s Home” is Sugar Pie’s answer to all of her friends and family who failed to stand by her when times were tough. Now that she’s doing well and making money they’re all coming to call and the result is “nobody’s home.” Another ballad, “How Many Times,” asks the question: “how many times in my life must I beg you to love me?” It seems that love is always a painful proposition for Sugar Pie and the pain of it all far out weighs the joy of love that she’s experienced. Beautiful ballad but a very sad song.

“Gimme a Penny” finds Sugar Pie all alone by herself in a new town. She has nine cents to her name and with one more penny she can call her man because, “when he left home he said he was close as the telephone.” “Black Rat” finds Sugar Pie hoping she comes across the trail of a man who has done her wrong, “I’m gonna hide my shoes somewhere close to your shirttail.” If she ever gets close enough at least he knows what is going to happen.

My favorite song on the album is “Darkness to the Light”, a song that focuses on the joys of living. Sugar Pie tells us that “if you follow what your mind dictates as being who you are, you will find your life much brighter; you will be a shining star.” Great advice to all of us. “Git Back” is her admonishment to a lover who has treated her wrong and has been seen in the company of another woman. “I don’t belong to you, Git back!” The theme continues in the song, “I Don’t Care,” her lover has cheated on her and this break up is final. “So don’t you try to make up…I assure you it’s a breakup…cause I don’t care.”

“I Need Help” offers a twist on the love gone bad theme of broken relationships. Sugar Pie is struggling with the ramifications of this affair to the extent that “I’m pulling out my hair by the strand. Cause he’s in there with a man.” I have to admit I didn’t see this one coming and it’s a modern twist on the age old theme of love gone bad. All of this pain leads us to the next cut, “I Need to Love Again.” Sugar Pie is capable of delivering great ballads and this is one of them. “Come out sunshine, you brighten up my life…cause I need, I need to live again.” You can feel her pain and accept the sincerity of her desire to live again. It seems that Sugar Pie is at her best singing the ballads on her record.

“Odds” is the closing cut on the disc. Her slick man is just not been good to her and the odds are that he’s not going to make it in her life. “And the odds are against you for trying to be slick; you better do something….you better do it quick.”

Refined Sugar is an interesting record. Her producer, James C. More, Sr. tells us in the liner notes that the goal of the record was to show us different sides of Sugar Pie and it does that. I find though that the end result is often uneven. As a listener you go from great ballads to songs with different twists and the flow seems to be out of sync at times. I for one would like to see an album with a more consistent flow and some subtle changes in material would accomplish that.

--- Kyle Deibler

Well, it took an Austin legend to take the boy back to Austin. I thoroughly enjoyed the latest release by Omar & the Howlers, Bamboozled, on Ruf records. It took me back to my running days in Austin --- back to when Antone’s was still on Guadalupe, when Doyle Bramhall Sr., Kim Wilson, Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli and others were ruling the roost. It was a time of great blues, a time of great fun and many thanks go out to Kent “Omar” Dykes and the Howlers for reminding me what great Texas blues sounds like.

“Shake For Me” opens up the record with Omar imploring his girl to “shake for me….shake everything you got….” She has what he like and he likes what she shakes. “Mississippi Hoo Doo Man” takes Omar back to the state of his birth, Mississippi. Omar’s Mississippi roots run deep and a lot of his inherent bluesman soul comes from growing up in the Delta. The steady drumbeat and syncopated guitar playing remind me of the Mississippi hill country musings of Junior Kimbrough and Othar Turner.

“Bamboozled,” the title song on this record was actually a song released on Omar’s previous record, Boogie Man. “Bamboozled” finds our guitar slinger in a state of confusion…”I’ve been hoodwinked….I’ve been bamboozled!” It seems no matter what changes he makes in his life, the end story is always the same: a day late and a dollar short. Things slow way down on “East Side Blues” and it’s here where Omar’s mastery of the guitar truly shines. This sad tale of love gone wrong finds Omar telling his woman it’s time to go….”got a man on the east side….everybody tell me so….I wasn’t man enough for you baby…why in the world wouldn’t you turn around and talk to me?” You feel Omar’s pain and you understand the reasons why it’s time for her to leave.

The Howlers --- Jon Hahn on drums and Barry Bihm on bass --- weave a strong, rhythmic backbeat on the next cut, “Magic Man.” Influenced by Bo Diddley, “Magic Man” finds Omar trying to weave a spell of love on his intended. “Her wish is my command…hold it for the Magic Man!” The next song, “South Congress Blues”, a slow blues named for one of Austin’s most famous streets simmers with a passion and intensity I’ve not heard in quite awhile. The perfect song to end a late night performance, I find that it stays with me long after I’ve put the CD away. “Boogie Man” is John Lee Hooker homage by Dykes. “Can’t stop the boogie man…can’t stop the boogie man….nothing going to stop the boogie man!”

“Muddy Springs Road” deserves special mention as a song dedicated to the memory of Lyn Dykes, Omar’s wife who passed away a year ago from her fight with pancreatic cancer. “Born and raised a Delta child….took off running and got real wild…used to spend my time down by the tracks….where the whiskey was white and the blues was black!” A haunting song, “Muddy Springs Road,” lets us know that Omar’s love of music is deeply rooted in the blues, the music that Lyn loved and appreciated with Kent. This theme continues in the song, “That’s Just My Life.” “If you can’t cut it…you’d better drop the knife….any fool can be the blues…..but that’s just my life!” “The road goes on forever and I’m just a highway man!” Kent “Omar” Dykes has been on the road now for nigh on 30 years and his blues roots run deep.

We’re back down in the swamp for “Snake Oil Doctor.” “Tell me what you want…I’ll give you what you need….now you’re down to deal with the snake oil doctor!” Desperation and despair continue in “Bad Seed.” “Now there’s no need to help me….I don’t try to help myself….bad seed…there’s a darkness I can’t hide.....bad seed…too much pain to keep inside!”

A ray of hope manifests itself in “Wall of Pride.” Money doesn’t make the man; his life is defined by how he lives it. “There’s a wall….wall of pride….10 feet tall and 20 feet wide!” We find that “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty” confirms the fact that life is not always fair. “Hard times in the land of plenty…..some got it all…and the rest ain’t got any!”

Dyke’s sense of humor shines through in “Monkey Land.” “I’m a man of evolution….I am the monkey man… just another monkey in monkey land!” Complete with intense guitar picking and monkey howls, “Monkey Land” is just one of those songs you have to hear to appreciate. Omar closes the album with all the zeal of a traveling preacher man in “Rock n’ Roll Ball.” “You believe rock n’ roll will free your soul….you believe rock n’ roll will make you shout….you believe rock n’ roll will make you happy when you’re sad….do you believe it?” At this point rock n’ roll is the answer to all of man’s ills and Omar is happy to let us know that’s the truth!!

Kent “Omar” Dykes and his band, the Howlers, have provided me with one of the wonderful surprise albums of the year so far. Filmed and recorded in Germany as a dual CD/DVD release, Bamboozled will warm your heart and get you up out of your rocking chair. This is just good blues in the great Texas tradition and you’ll find yourself coming back to this disc time after time. It won’t let you stay away for too long!

--- Kyle Deibler

Mark CookFrom Atlanta, guitarist/leader Mark Cook has several albums to his credit, the most recent is Blue Voodoo (Wendster Records), recorded in his own studio with high production quality. Also as a writer of extensive material, Cook now has a licensing agreement with LA-based Noma Music.

Musically though, the album doesn’t really draw one in, nor does it repel, it’s neither horrible nor excellent. It lacks the spontaneity and grease that blues pretty much begs for, but is high in musicianship. Therefore it’s C+, the elements bringing it above average are all-original tunes and excellent, clean guitar solos with feeling. This is clearly Cook’s forte, though he did everything else to bring the album to fruition.

There’s a lot of high energy, whether the mood is R&B or rock. Cook’s musicians have been associated with Francine Reed in Atlanta, the Gap Band, and Wet Willie, among others. The album has five vocalists, and none of them are Cook. Lead vocals are handled by Lola Gulley, Andrew Black or Larry Griffith, depending on the track. All do a fair job, and none take themselves too seriously. Sometimes the fronting is confident, as in the lead-off track “No One Likes A Good Woman (When She’s Down),” but elsewhere a bit tentative as in some of the male vocals. It’s a tight band and sequencing of the disc is tidy. Cook’s slide guitar slinging is particularly noticeable, but nothing has grabbed us yet. By track four we get a reprieve from studio sterility, the band finally loosens up and pulls back, a horn section decorates and overdubbed vocals harmonize. Little added production tricks like live-sounding applause on one track (liners boast a studio analog recording) and vinyl static mixed under an acoustic duet are catchy.

Then at mid-point, the album reaches a musical stalemate. In places it feels like the harmonica is trying too hard to authenticate the music as blues, instead deflecting attention from the acoustic guitar on one example. In another, the shuffle rhythm is stodgy and nervous while relationship-based lyrics hover overhead. Moving along, a mediocre rock feel underlies a story of one-way travel on “What Was, Will Never Be,” then “In A Funk” has a surprising contemporary jazz touch that starts to work again. The following selection, “Sunday Afternoon,” displays Cook’s acoustic guitar in bright warmth with close string pickup, affording it a kind of Chet Atkins quality, but it’s cut way too short! The album could have used a lot more of this (and a lot less of the middle tracks). “Living On the Outside” tells a story adequately in just the title (Cook wrote the all the words, too), but the rockin’ out just doesn’t work. Once again, by tracks 13 and 14, the band hooks it up again with a much more relaxed shuffle, words of a positive future, then more of the same while payin’ dues and “Feelin’ The Blues.” The rather lengthy album concludes with a track featuring rich rhythm guitar underneath, more of that close-stringed acoustic pickup sound, and both female and male vocal together singing a gloomy lyric, but a good closing number complete with musical bridge to tie things up.

Album graphics show the enthusiasm Mark Cook has for music and the recording proves he has fun. But there’s not really much voodoo here.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

Jay McShannOnly a handful of leaders have straddled the fence perfectly in between jazz and blues: Ray Charles to be sure, Mose Allison is that odd-ball blues voice with busy intellectual piano hands, and vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon was perhaps accepted in both categories during his lifetime. One could argue that Count Basie’s entire career was built on big band blues of the swing era, and it is true Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was a blues singer/saxophonist that also wrote and played some jazz. But at the top of this limited list has to be Jay McShann, who may be the least-known of these, despite at one time employing Witherspoon.

Hard-core fans will immediately know McShann as an historic Kansas City pianist/bandleader of the’30s and ‘40s, whose piano playing and orchestra almost mirrored Basie of the same era and region, and who was the first nationally touring band to employ and record then-unknown saxophonist Charlie Parker. Harder-core fans will know McShann has released perhaps 50 or 75 recordings over the years with jazz names ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to John Scofield, and blues people like “Gatemouth” Brown and T-Bone Walker. Between his best-known tunes “Confessin’ The Blues” and “Hootie Blues,” they have been recorded also by the Rolling Stones, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Dakota Staton and George Shearing. McShann has survived into this century, still playing and touring in his 90s.

Which brings us to this February 2001 live recording, Hootie Blues (Stony Plain Records), made in Toronto, “Hootie Blues.” First off, the album title seems too generic, “Hootie” being his nickname, plus the name of a tune he must still play a hundred times a year (I’d bet a search engine on his name would reveal “Hootie Blues” on almost every entry). Next, the selections have been recorded numerous times by McShann on other albums, many probably still available. But the best news is that any Jay McShann recording, from then ‘til now, is a good one. Suffice it to say, any of his albums, varied as they may be, could serve as an introduction to the man and could represent his musical character and identity. All killer, no filler.

Toronto is a great city for jazz and other artistic music. That McShann has appeared there often is as it should be. Originally recorded for a CBC radio show, this session now belongs on Canada’s Stony Plain label, which has been impressively spotlighting Canadian jazz and blues activity of recent years. Famous in Canada, tenor and soprano saxophonist Jim Galloway, who has backed McShann frequently during visits, plays beautifully. Also on this CD we have one Rosemary Galloway playing bass plus a supportive drummer, Don Vickery.

Unfortunately, into his 90s, McShann’s vocal chops have deteriorated. Not that he was ever considered a singer, years after having employed Walter Brown, Al Hibbler and Jimmy Witherspoon in his orchestra’s heyday, he took to singing their parts in later years. And in those years his vocal style came across as jovial and friendly. On this recording his voice struggles off-pitch but all is forgiven since his piano purity and technique is intact. The bass is also quite low in the mix, maybe due to a digitally pure recording, but can be heard with adjustment or headphone concentration. But even if playing solo piano, without vocal or other instruments, Jay McShann’s delightful piano style could stimulate a party all night. In other words, his left hand alone could be the bass.

“Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” is an instrumental, his voice warms up some as the evening progresses thru the title selection (later associated with others as “Hello Little Girl”). “My Chile” is a perfect instrumental boogie-woogie that’s followed by a non-blues vocal ballad. Two melodies of yesteryear conclude the musical portion of the disc, “All Of Me” and “Deed I Do.” One is a vocal, and both feature the soprano sax and bass solos from the Galloways. The absolute bonus of this disc is a 25-minute interview, done a couple years later by the CBC on-location in Holland, where “Hootie” answers questions about growing up in Oklahoma, spending time in Wichita, Charlie Christian, the Kansas City sound, Count Basie, Earl Hines, and of course Charlie Parker. His strongest verbal statement is “Blues is true happiness, it’s got a lot of life in it.”

This album needs no grade since thru the years McShann has received straight A's.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to


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



The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: May 31, 2006 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2006, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.