Blues Bytes

What's New

June 2015

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

 Bey Paule Band

The Nighthawks

Anthony Gomes

Scott Ellison

Rusty Wright

Delta Moon

Josh Garrett

Michael Falzarano

Peter Novelli

Deb Ryder

Voo Davis

John Cocuzzi

Sugaray Rayford

Bo & the Bluesdrivers


Bey PauleThe Bey Paule Band, formerly the Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band, has a new release, Not Goin’ Away (Blue Dot Records). While the band’s name has changed, their music has not, with a fantastic mix of soul and blues, a rediscovered master soul man, a tremendously versatile guitarist, and one of the finest bands currently performing. This time around, the band features a dozen tracks with ten originals and two covers, recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio.

The opening track, “Black Bottom,” recounts Bey’s life from his humble beginnings to present time, with Bey telling his story to low-key accompaniment from Paule and the band. The band really kicks into gear on the second track, “Kiss Me Like You Mean It,” and locks into the groove with “Right In Front of You,” a song about missing the forest looking for the trees. “Next To My Heart” is a soul ballad with a heavy dose of the Stax sound. “This Party’s Done” has a country soul feel with some nice twangy guitar effects from Paule, and Bey really pours his heart into the somber ballad, “Nobody’s Angel.”

Bey and the band really rock the house on the title track, a sequel of sorts to the track, “I’m Leavin’ You Today,” from their previous release, Soul For Your Blues, and get downright funky on “Ballad of the Lover Man.” On the smoking hot instrumental “Noel’s Haze,” the band adapts the classic Booker T. & the MG’s sound with horns mixed in as a bonus. Bey does a blues-drenched turn on the slow blues “Don’t Ask Me How I Feel.”

The album also includes covers of Candi Staton’s “Someone You Use,” a great slice of southern soul ably handled by Bey, and George Jackson’s classic tune of hope, “If I Could Reach Out,” closes the disc on a positive note. On this tune, and several others, sweet background vocals are supplied by Loralee Christensen, Lisa Leuschner-Andersen, and Larry Batiste.

The partnership between Paule, Bey and the band (Tony Lufrano – keys, Paul Revelli – drums, Paul Olguin – bass, Mike Rinta – trombone/horn arrangements, Nancy Wright – tenor sax, and Tom Poole – trumpet) is truly a group effort, as most of the members collaborate on the songwriting with Bey, Paule, and Paule’s wife Christine Vitale. That team spirit is crucial to any band’s success, and is a big factor in what makes this band such a joy to hear.

If you’re a soul//blues fan and you’re not on board with the Bey Paule Band, what are you waiting for? Not Goin’ Away is the place to start. It’s 12 tracks of soul/blues heaven.

--- Graham Clarke

The NighthawksYou pretty much have an idea what you’re going to get with an album by The Nighthawks: great musicians, a mix of great original tunes and well-chosen covers, and a perfect mix of blues and roots music. These guys have been plying their craft since the early ’70s, with the present incarnation of the Nighthawks --- founder Mark Wenner (harmonica/vocals), Mark Stutso (drums/vocals), Johnny Castle (bass/vocals), and Paul Bell (guitars/vocals) --- having been together for a decade.

In 2011, their live-before-a-studio audience CD, Last Train To Bluesville, won a well-deserved BMA for Best Acoustic Recording. Their latest release, Back Porch Party (EllerSoul Records), is a follow-up to that fine effort, with the band performing a dozen tracks, mixing originals and covers, live-in-the-studio again in front of an appreciative audience.

The band covers Jimmy Rogers’ “Rock This House” and Ike Turner’s “Matchbox,” and of course, it wouldn’t be a Nighthawks album without a nod to Wenner’s musical mentor Muddy Waters, who is represented by two tracks: ”Tiger In Your Tank” and “Rollin’ Stone.” Lightnin’ Slim’s “Rooster Blues” is featured as well.

No one does those traditional blues tunes quite like The Nighthawks, but there are also a couple of surprising cover selections as well. “Walkin’ After Midnight” is usually associated with the late country singer Patsy Cline.The band also covers Tom Waits’ “Down In The Hole,” with both songs getting the full Nighthawks treatment.

The band’s own contributions are strong as well, with Castle’s jumping rockers “Jana Lea” and “Little Miss Hey,” Wenner’s funky “Guard My Heart,” Stutso’s country-flavored “Down To My Last Million Tears,” and the closer, “Back To The City,” which extols the virtues of urban life.

Back Porch Party is a well-chosen title for The Nighthawks’ latest release. From the sounds of the audience, the session was a lot of fun. Listening at home, you will get the same feeling.

--- Graham Clarke

Anthony GomesToronto blues rocker Anthony Gomes’ latest release, Electric Field Holler (Up 2 Zero Entertainment), is pure and unadulterated blues rock, as raw and visceral as blues rock gets. On this, his 12th release, Gomes is firing on all cylinders, not just as a guitarist but also as a singer and songwriter. Backed by a propulsive rhythm section (Theo Harden – bass, Chad Cromwell – drums, David Smith – keyboards, R. Scott Bryan and Glen Caruba – percussion), Gomes positively rips through a dozen tracks, all originals.

The aptly titled “Turn it Up” comes roaring out of the gate with Gomes fiercely proclaiming, with voice and guitar, that he’ll play the blues until the day he dies, “just like B.B. King and Buddy Guy.” “Back Door Scratching” is next, full of southern rock swagger, and is followed by the fiery “Whiskey Train,” a standout track among standouts.

The autobiographical rocker “Blueschild” is next, followed by “Nowhere is Home,” a mid-tempo track about the plight of homeless children in the U.S., one of several featuring backup vocals from Vicki Hampton, Wendy Moten, Minnie Murphy, and Kelly Wild. The crunching “Losing Game,” is one of the album’s best tracks --- a straight blues rocker with Gomes really standing out on guitar and vocals.

Gomes goes unplugged on “The Blues Ain’t The Blues No More,” a witty lament on the ever-changing face of the music, but the electricity is back on for the funky “Junk In The Trunk.” “Love Crazy” is the most pop-oriented track on the disc …. I could easily picture this one being a smash back in the day. The humorous story song “Red Handed Blues” features clever lyrics and some scorching guitar work from Gomes. After a brief interlude with Gomes on sitar (“Delta Raga”), the disc closes with the reflective “Listen To The Universe.”

If Anthony Gomes had released this album 40 or so years ago, several of these tunes would be blowing the doors off of the radio and would probably be on the cover of Rolling Stone or CREEM. Alas, times have changed, but this music remains as powerful and fresh as ever when in the right hands. Make no mistake; Gomes is the right man with the right hands. Electric Field Holler is killer stuff.

--- Graham Clarke

Scott EllisonScott Ellison is one of those blues artists who should be better known. The Tulsa-based guitarist has been performing since the ’70s, backing the Coasters, the Shirelles, the Box Tops, and Peaches & Herb. He’s released several uniformly excellent albums of his own (Ice Storm and Walkin’ Through The Fire, for starters) with several of his own songs being featured on TV and films. He’s also a work horse, doing 200 shows a year. His guitar work is versatile, mixing the traditional blues with contemporary rock-based blues, and he’s a first-rate vocalist with good range.

Ellison’s latest release, Elevator Man (Red Parlor Records), is another gem. It features Ellison performing 13 songs that he either wrote or co-wrote, with backing from Charles Tuberville (guitars, bass, backing vocals), Jon Parris or Gary Gilmore (bass), Jamie Oldaker (formerly with Eric Clapton) or Robbie Armstrong (drums), Jimmy Markham (harmonica), and backing vocals vet Marcy Levy, who provided background vocals for Clapton, Bob Seger, and Leon Russell.

Ellison mixes a number of blues styles into his music. The Wolf-styled “Holler For Help” opens the disc and is a standout with the gritty vocal and soaring slide guitar. His vocals pay tribute to Wolf again on the rocker “Arlene” and “Put You Down,” but he’s also pretty soulful on tracks like “Behind That Smile.” The title track is a irresistible blues with a funky backdrop, and “Fishsticks and Jelly” is an acoustic number that will make you smile.

“Jesus Loves Me (Baby Why Don’t You)” is a scorching blues shuffle with some fierce string bending going on, and “School Girl” has a Latin flair mixed in. One of my favorites is “I Thought I’d Be Gone,” with its creative lyrics, slide guitar, and a powerful vocal from Ellison. It’s a nice segue to the grungy Hill Country of “My Little Sheba” and the jet-fueled closer “She’s On My Trail.”

I’m not sure how Scott Ellison is not as well known as he should be, but if there’s any justice in the world, Elevator Man should be his ticket. The Oklahoma native can do it all, strong and inventive songs, icy hot guitar work, and great vocals. Do yourself a favor and check out this disc. You can thank me later.

--- Graham Clarke

Rusty WrightThe Rusty Wright Band may hail from Michigan, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t lay down some mean Southern-style blues rock. He plays some smoking hot guitar and his vocals are every bit a match for his fretwork. Wright is backed by a powerful foursome (guitarist/vocalist/wife Laurie LaCross-Wright, bassist/vocalist Dennis Bellinger, keyboard wizard Robert John Manzitti, and drummer Marc Friedman), and their newest CD, Wonder Man, is his fifth release for the Sadson Music label.

Wonder Man has ten impressive tracks, all written by Wright, that run the gamut from blues to Southern rock to blues rock. The snazzy title track opens the disc in jumping fashion, smoothly shuffles into “Ain’t That The Blues,” and soars over into blues rock with the slightly twisted “Black Hat Boogie.” “You Know I Know” is straight-forward blues with some nice guitar work from Wright.

“Love's Gonna Treat You Right” is a fine slice of southern rock that will bring to mind the genre’s ’70s heyday, and “Gonna Come A Day” is a slick blues ballad. “Corvette Summer” is a sizzling rock instrumental that lets the band stretch out a bit. The “Arms of Another” continues along the rock vein, and features Wright’s most soulful vocal on the disc. The hard-driving blues rocker “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” has some nasty, crunching guitar work, and “Chinfoot Ball” closes the disc on a rollicking note.

I really like the interplay between Wright’s guitar and Manzitti’s keyboards. They really go at it on several of these tracks. Wright’s lyrics are also pretty unique, offering a cool mix of traditional blues topics with a definite nod toward more modern fare, such as technology and social media. Of course, Wright’s guitar work and his gritty, soul-flavored vocals, along with the band’s great rapport are a huge selling point for Wonder Man. Fans of southern blues rock should have this disc in their collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Delta MoonDelta Moon consists of the slide guitar duo Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, along with bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Vic Stafford. Winner of the 2003 International Blues Challenge, the Atlanta-based band has expanded their audience over the years to include strong followings in the greater U.S., Canada, and Europe, due to their relentless touring. Apparently, they’re pretty busy recording when they’re not touring, because Low Down (Jumping Jack Records) is the Atlanta-based band’s tenth album, which features a dozen songs, ten originals and three covers.

If you’re not familiar with the band’s sound, the opening cut, “Wrong Side of Town,” should get you on board pretty quickly. It features Johnson’s slide work and he really burns it up on this funky rocker. “Afterglow,” the next tune, ventures into Second Line territory, and “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” has a swampy rhythm and more exquisite slide from Johnson (plus backing vocals from Francine Reed). “Mean Streak” is a gritty rocker with Gray adding keyboards to the mix, and the bluesy title track, a Tom Waits tune, benefits from a Gray’s gravelly vocal and Johnson’s slide.

You can almost feel the humidity of a Mississippi summer day in the band’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Down In the Flood,” which features Ms. Reed again on backing vocals, and Gray picks up the harmonica on “Open All Night,” then goes toe to toe with Johnson on slide. The twin slide guitars resurface on the catchy “Spark In The Dark,” then ease into a tasty version of Skip James’ classic “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” which has some amazing work from Gray and Johnson on Dobro and electric steel. “Mayfly” is a nice country rocker, and “Jelly Roll” is a swampy blues with an irresistible rhythm. The closer, “Jackie Ray,” is a funky blues rocker.

Gray’s warm vocal style is a perfect complement to his and Johnson’s fabulous slide guitar and the tight rhythm section Though it will definitely please fans of slide guitar, Low Down has a smooth laid back vibe that will appeal to blues and roots fans in general.

--- Graham Clarke

Josh GarrettJosh Garrett’s brand of blues is steeped in the music of his native Louisiana. The Houma, Louisiana resident’s latest release, Honey For My Queen, finds the young singer/songwriter/guitarist in good company with a guest list that includes Tab Benoit bass player Corey Duplechin, fiddle master Waylon Thibodeaux, and legendary guitarist James Johnson (lead guitarist on the Slim Harpo classic, “Baby Scratch My Back”).

The 11 tracks, all but one written by Garrett, have a downhome, relaxed, swampy feel that’s guaranteed to keep listeners coming back. This is exemplified by the gently loping rhythm of the title track, the easygoing “Memphis,” and the acoustic guitar/harmonica tune “Goodnight, Goodnight.” “Easy Chair” is along the same lines, but with more of an urban feel with Garrett’s guitar backed by a nice B3 backdrop.

“Same Boat” teams Garrett with guitarist Johnson and it has an upbeat, funky vibe with some nice interplay between the two. The instrumental “Slide in ‘G’” will definitely get toes tapping and heads bobbing, as will “Dat’s Alright With Me” and “Moonshine & Cigarettes.” The album’s lone cover is a stellar slow blues reading of the classic “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”

This is an excellent set of blues that combines and updates sound of the Delta and the swamp. The combination is one that blues fans will want to hear. Garrett is a strong vocalist and guitarist, and a creative songwriter. Hopefully, we will hear much more from him, and soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Michael FalzaranoMichael Falzarano has covered a lot of musical ground over his 45+ year career. He’s played with Hot Tuna, The Jorma Kaukonen Trio, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and his own bands, The Memphis Pilgrims and The Extended Family. He’s played and/or recorded with a huge list of musical legends, including John Lee Hooker, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Derek Trucks, Guy Davis, Paul Simon, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Gregg Allman, and Warren Zevon.

Falzarano’s latest release, I Got Blues For Ya (Hypnotation Records/Woodstock Records) offers a dozen excellent tracks of blues and roots, with ten originals from the singer/songwriter/guitarist and two compelling covers.

The originals include the opener, “The Night King Curtis Died,” a grinding rocker about the infamous day the R&B legend was killed that’s driven by Falzarano’s anguished vocals and Kane Daily’s screaming slide guitar. The title track has a crunching Diddley-esque guitar rhythm and an intense vocal from Falzarano. “I Never Think About You” changes tempos a bit, moving to a mellow feel with stinging lead work from guitarist Josh Colow, B3 and piano courtesy of Professor Louie and sweet backing vocals from the good Professor and Miss Marie.

The jumping “Snake Box Boogie” will get the party on their feet in a hurry, with more great work on the keys from Professor Louie and guitar from Colow. The country groover “Big Fish” showcases Kerry Kearney on slide guitar and the late Vassar Clements on fiddle, followed by the rollicking shuffle, “We Got A Party Going On,” and the southern rocker “Good Good Lovin’.” Falzarano takes on a familiar topic, dealing with the devil, on the next two tunes, the hypnotic boogie “Crossroads Avenue” and “The Devil’s Gone Fishin’,” which features some tasty fretwork from Kearney. “Trouble” also cites the devil, this time as a female with black hair, dressed in red.

The covers include a live version of Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” with Falzarano backed by Jam Stampede. His soulful vocal is backed powerfully by Jason Crosby’s fiddle and Barry Mitterhoff’s mandolin. Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” closes the disc on an optimistic, and rocking, note.

Falzarano’s warm vocals are ideally suited for his material, giving the tunes a comfortable lived-in feeling. You feel like you know these songs even though you’re hearing them for the first time. A tip of the hat also goes to the numerous backing musicians. The lead guitarists (Daily, Kearney, Colow, Mike Miz) really stand out, as do the keyboards from Professor Louie and Pete Sears.

Falzarano’s intention with I Got Blues For Ya was “to get back to his blues roots and make an album that sounded like a late ’60s/early ’70s blues rock record.” It’s safe to say that he succeeded on both counts, which is great because there’s not nearly enough of this music out there these days. This is an outstanding and diverse release of blues and roots music.

--- Graham Clarke

Peter NovelliFor his third release, singer/songwriter/guitarist Peter Novelli ventured to St. Amant, Louisiana with a host of stellar musicians, including slide guitarist extraordinaire Sonny Landreth, Nashville keyboardist Kevin McKendree, and zydeco star Chubby Carrier. The result, appropriately entitled St. Amant Sessions (Chalet Music, LLC), is a potent mix of swampy blues, roots, and zydeco that’s bound to put a hop in your step.

Novelli has performed with and written songs for a prestigious list of musicians….Dr. John, Landreth, Paul Barrere of Little Feat, Chris Thomas King, Greg “Fingers” Taylor, and others. He wrote 10 of the 11 tracks on his new release and shows a nice, earthy touch in his songwriting reminiscent of John Hiatt, some wide-ranging guitar skills, and a gruff, weathered vocal style. He covers a lot of musical ground with these tracks, beginning with the countrified opener, “Louisiana Sunrise,” which teams Novelli with Landreth on a song that Novelli wrote with Landreth in mind. Obviously, from Landreth’s slide work, he appreciated Novelli’s effort.

The rest of Novelli’s tunes range from “Je Ne Sais Quoi,” a Cajun rocker with Sammy Naquin on accordion, to “Bourbon Street Blue,” a “state of the union” tune about the famed New Orleans attraction, to “Woman In My Dreams,” a groovy shuffle very much in the J.J. Cale mode (to whom the song is dedicated) to the ballad “Story In Your Mind,” to the funny and funky R&B of “Thinkin’ or Drinkin’.”

“Boudin” is one of four instrumentals on the disc. It’s a smooth, jazzy track that gives Novelli plenty of room to show that he’s no slouch on the six string himself. The other instrumentals are “Shreveport Stomp,” a swampy boogie track that highlights Novelli and McKendree on piano, and “I-10 Boogie,” which kicks off with Novelli in an Elmore James vein before the tune shifts gears a couple of times, turning into a scorching southern rocker and then a zydeco rocker with Carrier joining in on accordion and frottior. After nearly five minutes of this genre-hopping fun, the group segues into a breathless reading of one of Carrier’s father Roy’s tunes, “Zydeco Ride.” It adds up to seven minutes of musical nirvana.

Actually, that describes the whole album. Novelli tries a lot of things on this disc and he succeeds in whatever direction he goes in. Sometimes artists spread themselves a bit too thin and end up trying to do too much, but that’s not the case on St. Amant Sessions. This is a fine effort that will surely satisfy fans of Louisiana-based blues, R&B, zydeco, and roots. Count on hearing much more from Peter Novelli in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Deb RyderDeb Ryder’s debut release in 2013 was a pretty diverse set of blues, R&B, and roots, which made perfect sense because she had spent many years plying her trade as a studio musician, singing jingles on TV commercials, backing vocals on several albums, appearing in Las Vegas, opening for many of the blues stars who performed at her dad’s Topanga Corral, and fronting the Bluesryders with her husband, bassist Rick Ryder, for over 20 years. Needless to say, she knew her way around the block.

Ryder’s follow-up release, Let It Rain (Bejeb Music), continues that trend with a remarkable set of original tunes that cover a lot of musical territory, moving from the powerful opener, “That’s Just How It Is,” to the Latin shuffle, “Can’t Go Back Again,” to the swinging “You Won’t Be True.” Ryder gets down in the alley for the slow blues burner “Guilty As Sin,” which also features Fabulous Thunderbird Kim Wilson’s harmonica and moves toward the church on the spiritual “Cry Another Tear” and “Hold Your Lamp High.”

The jumping “Money Monsoon” threatens to fly out of your speakers with the punchy horns, Kirk Fletcher’s nimble fretwork and Ryder’s playful vocal. “Kiss and Dream” is a lovely ballad with a jazz feel, while the smooth title track ventures toward R&B territory. The New Orleans-styled “Ma Misere finds Ryder joining up with guitarist Johnny Lee Schell and Albert Lee, along with David Fraser on accordion for a nice toe-tapper. The disc closes with a stripped down country blues track, “Round and Around,” featuring Ryder, Wilson, and Schell.

From what you’ve seen already, Ryder is backed by a pretty high-profile set of musicians. Also included in the mix are Tony Braunagel (drums), Mike Finnigan (piano, B3), Lee Thornberg (trumpet, trombone), Lon Price (saxophone), Ryder’s husband Ric (bass), and James Hutchinson (double bass). Ryder, Schell, and Finnigan provide backing vocals.

It all adds up to another high-quality release for Deb Ryder, who has passed the “up and coming” tag that I’ve seen accompanying her name. She has arrived and blues fans should be eager to hear more after listening to Let It Rain.

--- Graham Clarke

Voo DavisAmericana is definitely the best genre to describe Voo Davis’ music. The Alabama-born, Chicago-based guitarist/singer’s music is an amazing amalgamation of blues, jazz, rock, country, jam band, and roots music. He toured with Eddie King, who played guitar in Koko Taylor’s band for years, and he learned his lessons well, both as a seasoned vocalist and as a versatile and powerful guitarist. Davis’ latest release, Midnight Mist (Butter & Bacon Records), is both his most ambitious and his best to date.

Davis begins with the blues, of course. The opening track, “When I Get Back To You,” is a solid blues rocker featuring his slide guitar playing and his gravelly vocals. The title track begins gently with Davis playing mandolin and roars to a conclusion with him playing some blazing pedal steel. “My Love” is a scorching blues rocker with Davis’ roaring guitars and Calvin Conway’s harmonica battling it out. Conway doubles up on harmonica and fiddle on “Cajun Sun,” which features more fiery fretwork, and “Riverside Blues” is an intense mid-tempo blues with outstanding slide.

Davis unplugs for the country blues “Low Hangin’ Fruit,” backed by Conway’s harmonica, followed by the ominous “Howling Out Your Name,” a haunting track where he plays all the instruments. The Hill Country-styled “Find Me A Blackbone” is pretty fierce, with distorted guitar work and plenty of echo in the vocals. The wonderful “Nothing Changed At All” finds Davis mixing electric and acoustic slide guitar and Conway doubling on harp and fiddle again.

“Music In The Street” is a short, but funky blues rocker, followed by the loose and soulful “You Gotta Wait.” “Laughing Out Loud” is loaded with soul, too, with Davis playing Rhodes piano and offering one of his best vocals on the disc.

The bonus tracks are as good as the rest of the album. Davis plays all the instruments on the moody “Void,” and “You Wanna Know Why” closes the disc in rousing fashion with some stellar turns on guitar, piano, and fiddle.

There’s also a bonus video of “Riverside Blues” included, but in truth, blues fans shouldn’t really need any additional incentive to pick up Midnight Mist. This is one of the more compelling releases I’ve heard this year, thanks to Davis’ endlessly inventive guitar work, his blues-powered vocals, and his impressive songwriting skills.

--- Graham Clarke

John CocuzziJohn Cocuzzi is best known to blues fans as a member of Big Joe & the Dynaflows, but he’s entertained crowds in the Washington, D.C. area for over 25 years and has accompanied scores of blues and jazz musicians around the U.S. and Europe. He plays piano, vibraphone, and drums and is also a fine singer. His latest release, Ding Dong Daddy (EllerSoul Records), is a special one because he’s accompanied by his father, drummer Frank Cocuzzi, who was a percussionist in the U.S. Marine Band and worked as a professional jazz drummer.

Cocuzzi alternates on piano and vibraphone on these 13 tracks, with dynamite versions of “Swanee River Boogie,” “Ballin’ The Jack,” “Kambucha Boogie,” “You Do Something To Me,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and the title track. He also does covers of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby,” Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright,” and “The Boss.” The elder Cocuzzi, who passed away in 2013 even takes a vocal on the lovely ballad, “They Say It’s Wonderful,” which closes the disc.

Cocuzzi is a master of both instruments, tearing through these songs with joyful exuberance. He shows that the line between blues, jazz, and swing is a thin one indeed. He receives superlative support from Paul Keller on bass, Jerry Krahn on guitar, Dan Levinson on tenor sax and clarinet, and Kevin McKendree, who plays acoustic guitar on “Reconsider Me.”

If you’re a fan of blues, jazz, swing, or all of the above, you definitely need to get your hands on this entertaining collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Sugaray RayfordSugaray Rayford continues to forge ahead with a fine solo career in addition to serving as lead vocalist for the Mannish Boys in his spare time. For his third, and latest, solo release, Southside (NimoySue Records), the big man zeroes in on the Memphis side of the blues, backed the versatile guitarist Gino Matteo and a sturdy backing band that includes Ralph Carter (bass), Lavell Jones (drums), Allan Walker (tenor sax), Gary Bivona (trumpet), Leo Dombecki (keyboards).

Rayford wrote all nine of the tracks with Carter (who also co-produced the album with Rayford and Chuck Kavooras). The disc has a greasy Memphis feel with tracks like the funky title track that kicks off the disc, “Miss Thang,” and “Live To Love Again.” The horns, keyboards, and backing vocals (Jade Bennett, Zara Davis, Rachele Quiogue) are a plus, as are Matteo’s crisp guitar fills and leads.

“Texas Bluesman” takes things to the southwest for a bit, as Rayford tears into this raucous, self-penned track. He and Matteo really work well together on this one. “Take It To The Bank” is an acoustic track with Rayford, Matteo and guest harp master Bob Corritore having some fun. “Call Off The Mission” is R&B track lamenting the recent conflicts around the world and at home. I like the keyboards and horns on the funky “All I Think About,” which has a nice early ’70s R&B feel.

“Take Away These Blues” is a slick urban blues ballad with one of Rayford’s best vocal performances on the disc, but he tops it on the closer, “Slow Motion,” an intense slow burner that blends soul and jazz seamlessly. Again, the musical interplay between the keyboards, horns, and Matteo’s guitar work are top notch.

With each release, Sugaray Rayford not only showcases his vast vocal talent and range, but he also displays his versatility, moving easily between soul/R&B, jazz, and the blues. Southside is a must-hear for fans of all of those genres.

--- Graham Clarke

BoI wasn't too sure that I was going to like the new self-titled EP on GES Music from L.A. band Bo & the Bluesdrivers, suspecting that it would be a bit too rocked out and over the top for my musical tastes. But as I worked my way through the five original cuts on this disc, I began having flashbacks to the 1970s, taking me back to my days of when I sported mutton chop sideburns and wore flannel shirts and jeans, and sat around at house parties listening to rockin' blues from the period, passing around quart bottles of cheap beer (primarily because we just didn't know any better).

The disc opens with Bo (no last name --- he's just known as "Bo" --- although the band's Facebook page leaks the info that his real name is Shane McMillian) taking the guitar and vocal lead on "Out On The Streets," Bo shows that there' s no guitar effect that he won't use as he churns out his blues-rock solos in front of the solid rhythm section consisting of Brian James on bass and J.J. Garcia on drums. This is one of the bluesiest songs on the album, but one of my least favorite as Bo's voice gets stronger on subsequent cuts.

The band follows with the catchy, up-beat shuffle "Ass, Gas or Grass." I like Bo's guitar playing here as it's more restrained and doesn't overwhelm the listener. Again, Garcia's drumming is solid. This is just a fun tune with the title saying it all.

My remembrances of the '70s began with the third cut, "Sea Song," a more ethereal mid-tempo instrumental on which Bo's guitar playing brings to mind a more laid-back Duane Allman. The Allman vibe continues on the upbeat, feelgood number "Walkin' In The Park," which suits Bo's voice better as he sings about the memories of good times pulling all-nighters in the park, mixed in with some really tasteful guitar breaks. This is my favorite song from the session and ended too quickly after just three minutes.

The EP ends with another instrumental, the jazzy blues shuffle "Chillin'." I'm surprised by how the sound of Bo & the Bluesdrivers changes from the first cut to the fifth one --- it leaves me wondering what kind of diversity and depth of sound they will show on a full album. I'll wait patiently, perhaps giving me time to again grow out my mutton chop sideburns.

--- Bill Mitchell




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