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June 2023

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Order these featured albums today:

Bob Corritore and Friends

Michael Jerome Browne

Lady J Huston

Deuce n a Quarter

Grainne Duffy

Jeau James

Lil Jimmy Reed


Larry Taylor



Bob Corritore
It always puts a hop in my step when I get a copy of one of Bob Corritore’s “From The Vaults” series in the mail, but I may have taken the biggest hop ever when I saw, and then heard High Rise Blues (VizzTone/SWMAF). This particular entry focuses on the Chicago brand of blues, with 14 tracks from as many sessions Corritore recorded between 1992 and 2022, featuring a truly all-star cast of Windy City legends. The inside cover of the CD lists 44 musicians contributing to these wonderful sessions, which absolutely must be heard by any fan of Chicago blues.

The disc opens with Jimmy Rogers joining Corritore for a stirring version of Rogers’ classic shuffle, “The Last Time,” before rumbling into Magic Slim’s “Buddy Buddy Friends,” with the Magic Man himself behind the mic and on guitar. The album title comes from drummer Chico Chism’s track, a slow burner which also features great guitar work from Luther Tucker, and Koko Taylor is featured with Corritore on Willie Dixon’s “Twenty-Nine Ways,” while Manuel Arrington narrates the amusing, slightly salacious “Candy Bars.”

Eddie Taylor Jr. tackles Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Short Haired Woman,” and drummer Sammy Lay is quite effective on Jimmy Reed’s “Honey Where You Going.” John Primer has collaborated with Corritore frequently and “Why Are You So Mean To Me” is another superb effort from the pair. It’s always good to hear from Pinetop Perkins, with the late piano man shining on Memphis Slim’s “Grinder Man.” Bo Diddley offers up his own funky shuffle, “Little Girl,” and John Brim teams with Corritore and another piano legend, Henry Gray, on “Hard Pill to Swallow.”

Wrapping up the disc are tracks from Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, former Muddy Waters drummer, ably handling his former boss’s jaunty shuffle “She’s Alright,” Eddy Clearwater revisiting his “Sail A Ship” with Bob Riedy on piano, and Lil’ Ed Williams, who closes out the set with “Caught In The Act,” an excellent slow blues.

High Rise Blues is another outstanding set taken from Bob Corritore’s incredible archive of recordings. It was really great to hear music from some of the legendary figures who are no longer with us. Thankfully, their legacies live on in the Windy City and the rest of the blues world.

--- Graham Clarke

Michael Jerome BrowneIn more than one write-up devoted to Michael Jerome Browne, I’ve seen the phrase “a musician’s musician.” I think I first heard him on Eric Bibb’s Migration Blues, on which he co-produced, played and sang,. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, a songwriter, and he knows American Roots music back to front, having been exposed to it by his parents since he was nine years old via trips with them to a number of Montreal jazz, blues, and folk clubs. By the time he was 14 he was playing many of those same clubs.

Like most musicians over the last three years, Browne has been itching to get back to work performing and playing with fellow musicians. His latest release, Gettin’ Together (Borealis Records), finds him doing just that, traveling around Canada and the U.S. to record with some of his friends: Harrison Kennedy, Mary Flower, Eric Bibb, John Sebastian, Colin Linden, J.J. Milteau, and Teilhard Frost, among others. The 14 tracks consist of mostly covers of vintage blues and roots music, with one song written by Browne and one from Flower.

Mississippi John Hurt’s “Monday Morning Blues” (a lost 1928 track that Hurt recorded again in the ’60s) kicks the album off, an enjoyable collaboration between Browne (vocals/12-string guitar) and Kennedy (vocals/harmonica). Bibb adds 9-string guitar and Milteau adds harmonica to Browne’s read of Bukka White’s classic “Shake ‘Em On Down.” White and Hurt were both early influences on Browne, and two songs from each are covered, the second songs for each being Hurt’s “Coffee Blues” (featuring Flower on vocals and guitar and John Sebastian on harmonica) and a stirring read of White’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues” (with Browne on gourd banjo and Frost on fiddle).

Flower guests on multiple tracks, playing lap steel on a lovely version of the Delmore Brothers’ “I’ve Got The Big River Blues” and the obscure “Married Man Blues” (a 1936 side recorded by Houston-based pianist Harold Holiday, a.k.a. Black Boy Shine). She adds vocals and guitars on the late ’20s rag “Black Dog Blues,” and she and Brown collaborate on a fine, new Flower original instrumental, “Wisecrack.”

Kennedy rejoins Browne for Peetie Wheatstraw’s “Six Weeks Old Blues,” and Frost plays fiddle on “Diamond Joe,” with Browne on gourd banjo.

Browne and Linden’s lively version of Rube Lacy’s “Ham Hound Crave” is a standout, and Browne takes J.B. Hutto’s “Please Help” in an interesting and effective acoustic direction with bassist Stephen Barry and drummer John McColgan, who plays washboard behind Browne (12-string guitar), Sebastian (harmonica), and Happy Traum (lead guitar) on a dazzling cover of Brownie McGhee’s “Living With The Blues.”

Browne also offers up his own “Reverend Strut,” playing the banjo the Rev. Gary Davis used on The Guitar and Banjo of Rev. Gary Davis, one of Browne’s favorite instrumental albums.

Gettin’ Together is a wonderfully rich set of acoustic blues and roots songs that you’ll listen to over and over again. Like any great blues album, it will certainly lead you to dig deeper into the original versions of these songs, but it should also lead you to dig deeper into the music of Michael Jerome Browne and his friends.

--- Graham Clarke

Lady J HustonJoyce Huston (dubbed Lady J Huston) came from a musical family, her mother being a noted blues and jazz singer in St. Louis. She got her start as a teenaged vocalist in Johnnie Johnson’s band and eventually joined Albert King’s band, eventually becoming lead trumpeter and later his musical director. She’s lived and performed in Las Vegas for 25 years, leading Lady J Huston & the Fireballs, and has performed The Lady J Huston Show throughout the Midwest for the past five years. With that background, it’s a bit surprising that Groove Me Baby (Earwig/Unison Productions) is her debut recording.

Groove Me Baby features 12 songs, nine written or co-written by Lady J (who also produced the album), and backing from over 30 musicians, including the 18-piece Jazz Edge Orchestra from St. Louis. Lady J herself provides trumpet, flugelhorn, and vocals.

The opener, “Your Call,” is a gritty, brassy down home blues, which leads into the steamy, swinging “Mean Stud Lover Blues” (also offered later on the disc in an instrumental version). Lady J’s mother, Loyce Pickens (Huston) recorded “I Want A Man Like That” in the early ’60s with the Chick Finney combo, and she pays tribute to her mom with this tasty cover.

Lady J recorded “Tearing Me Apart,” based on a true story, initially in the mid-’80s, but has remixed and revised the tune over the past decades, re-recording the vocals this year. The finished product is a standout. Next, Lady J pays tribute to another musical mentor, Albert King, with a funky, soul-infused take on “Born Under A Bad Sign” that works extremely well, and takes a pointed look at the scourge of the past few years on “Corona, You Make Me Sick!”

Meanwhile, the Jazz Edge Orchestra backs her on “Hide-Away,” a ballad that mixes jazz and R&B with the blues, while the title track is a smooth soul and R&B. “Messin’ ‘Round On Da Bayou” is a second line groover inspired by Lady J’s late drummer Jimmy Prima (nephew of jazz legend Louis Prima), and the ribald blues “500 Pounds Good Gizzay” was originally written by her mother, but slightly modified by the daughter.

The final two tracks, bonus tracks, included the aforementioned instrumental version of “Mean Stud Lover Blues” and a live recording of Etta James’ “At Last,” which really puts Lady J’s vocal versatility on full display.

Groove Me Baby is a superb mix of blues, jazz, and soul. Hopefully, Lady J Huston won’t take as long between her first and second albums and we’ll be hearing more from her in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Duece n a quarterDeuce ‘n a Quarter (Brian Peters – vocals/harmonica, Keith Colbert – rhythm and lead guitar, Andre Scott – drums, Martin O. Brown – bass, Tim Dvorkin – keys) advanced to the I.B.C. finals this year in Memphis, with Peters taking home the coveted Lee Oskar Best Harmonica Player Award in the process. The Ohio-based band recorded their latest album, Keep Moving On, at Kenny Neal’s Baton Rouge studio, with Neal providing guitar on six of the album’s 11 tracks and two of his songs. Peters wrote the other nine tracks and the band is assisted on several tracks by Brandon Adams (keyboards) and Dwight Carter (bass).

The opener, “Swing at the Blues,” is, well, a swinging blues shuffle that really pops and sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. “I’m Not Alone” is a funky, mid-tempo soul-blues, and “Same Old Blues” is a modern take on the blues. The issues may be a little different from years past, but the blues we have are basically the same.

The title track is a fairly low-key blues ballad that features some splendid harp from Peters and encourages folks to hang in there and endure through the tough times. “Doing Wrong” is a slow burner about a fading relationship with outstanding contributions from Dvorkin on piano, Adams on keyboard, and Colbert on guitar.

The band really locks in on the fast-paced shuffle, “All She Wrote,” before heading down to the Delta for the laid-back, acoustic “Sun Kissed Wheat,” featuring Peter’s harp and voice with Colbert and Neal’s guitars. The lively “Blues Mobile” is one of Neal’s two tracks, originally on his 2016 release Bloodline, and “Moment With You” is a soft, acoustic ballad that will please listeners of several genres. Neal’s second contribution, “Blues Leave Me Alone” from his 2008 album Let Life Flow, is a perfect fit for the band with its easy-rolling rhythm.

The album closes with a piano-driven ballad, “Why,” written by Peters after the tragic death of his 28-year-old daughter, Amber Evans. It’s a tender, emotional track, with Peters’ heartfelt vocal expressing the pain and loss he experienced, but also the hope that they will meet again.

Listening to Keep Moving On, it’s pretty obvious that Deuce ‘n a Quarter deserved their spot in the I.B.C. Finals this year. Their musical rapport is very strong and Peters is a highly effective front-man as a vocalist and harp man. Blues fans will appreciate this well-crafted effort from a band who deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Grainne DuffyIrish blues and roots guitarist Gráinne Duffy ventured to California to work on her fifth album, Dirt Woman Blues (Blue Heart Records), teaming with her husband and guitarist Paul Sherry and former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford. The resulting collaboration generates a sound combining Celtic storytelling, the blues of the Mississippi Delta, Memphis soul, and classic rock of the Southern California variety. The trio used Gary Clark, Jr.’s rhythm section --- drummer JJ Johnson and bassist/keyboardist Elijah Ford (Marc’ son), as well as keyboardists John Ginty, Peter Levin, and Sam Goldsmith.

Duffy opens with the tough rocker “Well, Well, Well,” a crisp guitar-driven celebration, before rolling into the title track, which is a moody blues with a gritty Delta feel both musically and lyrically. The mood shifts somewhat with the freewheeling “What’s It Gonna Be?,” which reflects on the joys of love and romance, and “Running Back To You,” a cool, soulful track that really allows Duffy to put her full vocal talents on display. Meanwhile, the rhythmic “Rise Above” is a tribute to Duffy’s Celtic roots.

The memorable “Sweet Liberation” has a Southern rock groove, moving to a spirited guitar-driven jam at its conclusion, while “Hold On To You” is a gentle ballad that seeps deep into your soul. “Yes I Am” rocks fiercely, and Duffy’s guitar and vocals are most intense. The acoustic closer, “Killycrum,” pays tribute to her home in County Monaghan.

Dirt Woman Blues is a fine mix of influences from blues to soul to the music of Gráinne Duffy’s homeland. It’s a genuine pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

--- Graham Clarke

Jeau JamesJeau James got his first guitar when he was nine years old, gravitating to the bass in college. Influenced by Jaco Pastorius, Louis Johnson, Larry Graham, and Stanley Clarke, he began playing with various funk, gospel, soul, and rock ensembles. He eventually made it to New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas before returning to L.A. to begin working on his debut album, Fated (LordVinyl/Forty Below Records), a powerful eight-song set that combines blues with rock and soul. James plays guitar and bass, and is backed by Forty Below label head Eric Corne on guitar and vocals, Kenny Aronoff on drums, and Carl Byron on keyboards.

The scorching title track opens the disc, a hard-driving rocker propelled by Aronoff’s drumming and James’ searing guitar. A cover of The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” follows, James’ version hewing closely to the original but taking a funkier approach with more high-energy fretwork. The reflective “Another Night” takes a look at James’ perspective when moving out on his own as a teenager, while the torrid “Rock Hard and Roll” will remind listeners of Lenny Kravitz’s heyday.

James co-wrote “Human Condition” with Corne, a soulful look at jealousy and its effects, and the hard rocker “Pray” ask for peace and understanding in the world. The propulsive “River” is a fine mid-tempo rocker, and the closer “Is This History” meditates on our place in the world past, present, and future.

Jeau James’ music is influenced by the aforementioned Kravitz, as well as Hendrix, and listeners will hear a bit of Eric Gales and Gary Clark, Jr. in his sound as well.

However, James is no imitator. He brings his own talents to the forefront. His songwriting is first-rate and he’s a gifted vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Fans of several genres will find a lot to enjoy on Fated, and it will be interesting to see what direction his next release takes.

--- Graham Clarke

Lil Jimmy ReedNo, Lil' Jimmy Reed is not the son of Jimmy Reed, but it's a common misconception. He was born Leon Atkins in Hardwood, Louisiana in 1938, picking up his stage persona one night when he had to fill in for the original Jimmy at a club in Baton Rouge during the mid-1950s. Lil' Jimmy even fronted Jimmy Reed's band that night.

Fast forward to 2023, with the 85-year-old Reed teaming up with 23-year-old piano player Ben Levin, with the result being this very fine album, Back To Baton Rouge (Nola Blue Records). He sounds so much like the original Reed, especially on that man's covers, that you'll swear he must have been kin. Lil' Jimmy spends most of his time playing guitar with his harmonica on a rack.

Reed opens with "Down in Virginia," the first of three Jimmy Reed covers, also including "I'm the Man Down There" and "A String to Your Heart." Lil' Jimmy doesn't stray far from the originals, and that's alright because he nails each song.

Lil' Jimmy and Levin co-wrote the autobiographical slow blues, "They Call Me Lil' Jimmy," with Levin joining in on piano while Lil' Jimmy sings, "... If you're looking for some good lovin', I got everything you need ..." Lil' Jimmy then turns it around to pay tribute to Levin's hometown, Cincinnati, on the up-tempo 12-bar blues, "Cincinnati's the Place to Be." But he shows that he prefers his hometown of Baton Rouge on the slow blues, "Back To Baton Rouge."

One of my favorites is the up-tempo cover of Slim Harpo's blues shuffle, "Mailbox Blue." Levin's piano playing stands out on "Wish You Wouldn't," written by him and his dad, Aron. Another solid number is the Joe Liggins blues classic, "In The Wee Hours," an up-tempo stomper that Levin drives along with his propulsive piano playing.

Back To Baton Rouge is a very nice showcase for Lil' Jimmy Reed's talents. He sounds much younger than his age, so hopefully there will be more to come from the combo of Lil' Jimmy Reed and Ben Levin.

--- Bill Mitchell

JW-JonesCanadian blues guitarist/singer/songwriter JW-Jones still has a fresh-faced look when glancing at his album covers, but Everything Now (Solid Blues Records) is the 12th album in his name, not to mention the album, Set The Record, he did last year with the HOROJO Trio. Okay, the last few albums showed him relatively unshaven on the covers, so maybe we can't call him fresh-faced. But he's just 42, young by blues standards, so the number of albums to his name is pretty impressive, at least by my standards.

The mood on Everything Now continually bounces back and forth between Jones expressing his love to his partner and then lamenting lost relationships, with Jones' angst coming out best on the latter.

Opening the album is the title cut, with Jones laying down some nice B.B.-style guitar, tasteful but not over the top, while he sings about how he needs to stop looking online for dates and instead trying to find his true love. He sings, "... need a lover that's a friend ..." as he expresses his desire for a soul mate. Eventually he gets "everything now" with a heaven-sent lover.

The opposite sentiment shows up on the next number, "Keeping Me Up," a snaky blues about how he stays up late into the night listening to his girl talking in her sleep to find out her hidden secrets and the faults in their relationship. "Papa's In The Pen" starts out slow with resonant guitar mixed down, before Gordie Johnson's organ provides a spooky background while Jones sings about the lack of quality parenting, with mama being off the rails again and papa being in the pen.

Jones' advice on the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Take Your Time," is to do exactly that with his burgeoning relationship, as Jimmie Vaughan contributes guitar accompaniment. He then confesses to plenty of mistruths and exaggerations on the slow, snaky blues, "To Tell You The Truth (I Lied)," with the dark mood being painted with his effective guitar solos, but he justifies the lies because he's trying to impress that woman.

Jones changes the mood completely on "My Luck," a feelgood number in which he's looking forward to his luck changing. Jesse Whiteley comes in with organ accompaniment.

"It's Not Raining In L.A." is an up-tempo blues with smokin' guitar licks from Jones as he looks to change his location in order to change his luck, admitting that he's California dreaming. "When You Left" opens with a soulful horn intro from The Texas Horns before Jones starts his lament about everything that was left behind when his woman departed from his life, with the pain in his voice coming out strong with more range than usual. It's one of the best cuts here, especially since he's able to show such pain in his voice and then in the corresponding guitar notes.

Jones gets funky on the up-tempo blues, "Works Every Time," as he details his customary pick-up method, singing, "... I just feed them my lines, it works every time ..." Johnson drives the song along with a steady, propulsive drum beat, providing the foundation for Jones' blues guitar. Changing emotions again, Jones makes us feel good on "I Choose You," telling his woman that he chooses her every day to light up his way. Of course, he also gives us a strong blues guitar solo.

Closing the album is an up-tempo bouncer, "Good To Be True," with more of a heavy guitar sound, as he sings, "... It's good to be true to the devil you know, damn if I do, damn if I don't, stick with you, it's good to be true ,,,"

With Everything Now, JW-Jones continues his run of high quality blues. He's one of the best younger blues artists on the scene with a bright future ahead.

--- Bill Mitchell

Larry TaylorLarry Taylor is one of the many offspring of Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor who have been playing the blues around Chicago for the last several decades. Generations Of Blues - West Side Legacy (Nola Blue Records) features recordings done in three different sessions covering the years 2105, 2017, and 2023, spotlighting six different Taylor offspring --- Larry on vocals and drums, the late Eddie Jr. on vocals and guitar, Brenda on vocals, Demetria on vocals, Tim on drums, and Larry's son Liljet2x (aka Abdullah Al Shabazz) on vocals. At times these recordings sound more like a jam session than a tightly-organized recording session, but that's okay because the spontaneity on each song works quite fine.

I'm a big fan of Demetria Taylor, thanks to her recent albums on Delmark Records. Oviously, her two cuts --- a remake of her dad's "Bad Boy," done here as "Bad Girl," and Magic Sam's "You Belong To Me" --- are my highlights. The latter of Demetria's two numbers has a bigger, fuller sound than the version on her recent Delmark album. "Bad Girl" is taken to another level by the wonderful piano solo from Duke Harris.

Brenda Taylor tears up on her two cuts --- "I Found Out," a slower, jazzy number written by her mother, Vera, that features Duke Harris on organ and hot sax from Ronnie G., and J.B. Lenoir's "Talk To Your Daughter," revised here to be "Talk To Your Son." On the latter cut, B.J Emery comes in with strong trombone accompaniment.

While Matthew Skoller isn't part of the Taylor family, he should at least get an invitation to their Christmas party based on his contributions on harmonica throughout the album. He takes the four cuts on which he blows superb Chicago harp to another level, including the mid-tempo shuffle Take Your Hand Down," the rollicking blues "I Feel So Bad," the blues shuffle "Big Town Playboy," and the slow blues instrumental, "Larry & Eddie Jr. Groove (Blues in the Rain)," that closes the album. Larry handled vocals and Eddie Jr. played guitar on the first three cuts, all written by father Eddie, and Larry switched over to drums for the closer, while Tim drove "I Feel So Bad" along with his steady drum beat.

The progression of music from the Taylor family shows on two of the cuts, with Liljet2x doing a rap, "No Shine."  Larry steps to the mic for his own composition, the James Brown-sounding soul number, "Jump Down American Queen," with Emery and Ronnie G. both giving this raucous song the appropriate horn sound.

Generations Of Blues - West Side Legacy is a loving tribute to Eddie Taylor from his family members, while showcasing each descendant's own musical styles. The title says it all, as the Taylors show the rich history of West Side Chicago blues, both past and present.

--- Bill Mitchell


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