Jimmy “Duck” Holmes continues his single-handed resurrection of the
fabled Bentonia country blues tradition with his second release for
Broke & Hungry Records, Done Got Tired of Tryin’, as thrilling a set of
country blues as you’ll hear this year. Holmes’ debut release, Back To Bentonia, was also the label’s first and was a pleasant surprise, making
several Top Ten Best CD lists for 2006.
For his sophomore effort, Holmes shows that the Bentonia style is alive
and well and still has much to offer listeners, writing several new
compositions that hold up very well next to much-loved classics
performed by purveyors Skip James and Jack Owens. “Pencil and Paper,”
“Could’ve Been Married,” and “Wake Up Woman” are welcome additions to
the Bentonia catalog of songs. Holmes adds a little twist to the style
by integrating percussion on several tracks (provided by Lightnin’
Malcolm), which proves to be a refreshing ingredient, particularly on
the instrumental workout “Blue Front Breakdown!”
Holmes also offers his own interpretation of several blues standards,
including James’ “Cherry Ball,” Junior Parker’s “Train I Ride,” and the
Delta classic, “Catfish Blues,” which features Bud Spires on harmonica.
The latter two tracks show that Holmes is very capable of stretching
beyond the limits of Bentonia blues.
Vocally, while Holmes doesn’t quite possess the upper register of James
or Owens (reminiscent of Honeyboy Edwards at times), his deeper and
huskier vocals distinguish him from his predecessors and enable to put
his own distinctive stamp on the style. His guitar work is in the
Bentonia tradition with the intricate fingerpicking, but he can also
pick it up a notch quite well on the more upbeat tracks here.
It’s extraordinary that Jimmy “Duck” Holmes has revived this wonderful
style and, with a few fine touches here and there, is revitalizing it in
the process. Done Got Tired of Tryin’ is another exceptional effort, and
will delight traditional country blues fans.
--- Graham Clarke
One of the most surprising releases you’ll likely hear this year is by
the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are giving new life to a brand of
music long believed to be an anachronism. Banjo and fiddle music, in the
past mistakenly attributed only to white musicians in the Appalachian
regions, was a longtime part of the Carolina Piedmont scene and largely
played by black musicians in that region.
The music was close to extinction, limited to a few festivals in the
Carolinas. It was at one of these festivals (the Black Banjo Gathering
in Boone, NC) that the Carolina Chocolate Drops first came together.
Under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be one of the last of the
African-American string band players, the trio has resurrected the
old-time string band sound with their Music Maker release, Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops consist of Rhiannon Giddens (fiddle,
banjo), Justin Robinson (fiddle), both Carolina natives, and Arizona
native Dom Flemons (guitar, jug, harmonica, percussion, banjo).
Amazingly, none of the three are over 30 years of age. In their
enthusiastic and capable hands, this archaic music is reborn.
Consisting entirely of traditional tunes, this lively set will get you
on your feet with dazzling numbers like “Starry Crown,” “Rickett’s
Hornpipe,” “Ol’ Corn Likker,” “Little Sadie,” “Georgie Buck,” and a
rousing version of “Dixie,” which takes the much maligned song back to
its humble beginnings. Other highlights include Giddens’ hauntingly
beautiful a capella version of “Little Margaret” and “Tom Dula,” a song
that has been passed down in both black and white traditions (mostly
remembered by the more sanitized Kingston Trio version from the '60’s).
Some listeners will be surprised at how closely connected the two
traditions actually are, as most of these songs can be traced back to
Best of all is the sheer passion that the trio pours into this music.
It’s obvious that they are not merely interpreting this music for
historical purposes. To them, this music is as alive and vital as it was
a half century ago. Music fans of all genres will enjoy this release.
In addition, a portion of the money made from sales of Music Maker CDs
goes toward the Music Maker Relief Foundation, organized by Music Maker
founders Tim and Denise Duffy. The foundation provides aid for blues
musicians living in extreme poverty and in need of shelter, food, and
medical care, including musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina. This is
a great opportunity to hear some fantastic music and give back to the
musicians we enjoyed so much over the years.
--- Graham Clarke
John Dee Holeman is a North Carolina-based bluesman who learned to play
guitar in the Piedmont style, but also blends in some Texas sensibilities
(from the Lightnin’ Hopkins school) as well. He recorded a disc for
Music Maker in 1999 (Bull Durham Blues) that was well-received, and has
toured worldwide since then. The Waifs are an Australian folk rock band
who supported Bob Dylan on one of his Australian tours. They impressed
Dylan so much that they ended up supporting him on his 2003 North
American tour as well.
During a recent stopover at Music Maker studios, the Waifs planned a
rehearsal session. Music Maker founder Tim Duffy suggested inviting some
of the label’s artists over to play some music. Holeman turned up, the
group started playing, and Duffy started recording. Music Maker’s latest
release, John Dee Holeman & The Waifs Band, is the result of the
The 78-year-old Holeman specializes in nice and smooth back porch blues,
whether it consists of covers of old traditional tunes like “John
Henry,” “I’m A Pilgrim,” and “Give Me Back My Wig,” or remakes of more
“modern” songs like Otis Spann’s “Country Gal,” which is stretched out
into a wonderful seven-minute jam, a leisurely version of Chuck Berry’s
“Little Queenie,” and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mojo Hand.” His guitar work is
first-rate as is his singing. It sort of makes you wonder how musicians
this good slip through the cracks.
The Waifs provide sympathetic backing to Holeman. Josh Cunningham’s
fretwork is excellent in support of Holeman and when he steps out front
as well. Vikki Thorn adds harp on several tracks as well as vocals. Her
sister, Donna Simpson, plays drums on one track (Dave McDonald plays on
the remaining tracks), and Ben Franz rounds out the group on bass.
Acoustic blues fans will love this one and will find themselves
listening to it over and over again. It’s a joy from start to finish.
--- Graham Clarke
2005 was a year best forgotten by The Twisters. Recognized as Canada’s
premier jump/blues band, the group suffered a devastating setback in
October of 2005 when, while traveling to a gig, a semi-truck slammed
into their vehicles, killing bass player James Taylor and seriously
injuring drummer Matt Pease. After considering dissolution, the band was
encouraged by the outpouring of support from their fans and the Canadian
blues community and decided to carry on. After The Storm (NorthernBlues
Music) is their first post-J. T. release.
The Twisters consist of Dave “Hurricane” Hoerl (harmonica and vocals),
Brandon Isaak (guitar, dobro, banjo and vocals), Keith Picot (upright
bass), and Pease on drums. These guys swing hard and sound very
reminiscent of the jump blues bands of the 50’s. Hoerl blows some
muscular harp and Isaak is an impressive guitarist. Both take a turn at
vocals, and are equally effective. The rhythm section of Pease and Picot
is rock solid. Adding keyboards to the album is special guest Kenny
“Blues Boss” Wayne.
Most impressive is the strong set of original songs the band brings to
the table, 11 original tracks out of 12 (the lone cover being
Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Bye Bye Bird”). The catchy “I’m Your Man”
opens the set. Other highlights include “She’s Krazy,” Hoerl’s
autobiographical “Harp Player,” the T-Bone-esque “Button Up,” and the
jazzy instrumental “Second Wind.” Isaak and Hoerl display some arresting
harmony vocals on tracks like “When Your Memory Goes Away” and “Going,
After The Storm is a solid, inspiring set that shows the band is in
excellent shape despite all their recent trials and tribulations. Jump
blues fans will love it, but there’s plenty here for all blues fans to
enjoy as well.
--- Graham Clarke
The Mississippi Mudsharks developed a huge following in the 1990s among
West Coast and European fans for their intense mix of blues, punk, rock,
and roots. Releasing several popular CDs during the decade and touring
incessantly, the band won the San Diego Music Award for Best Blues Band.
Exhaustion and the ever-popular “creative differences” sent the members
in different directions in 1999, but the members remained active (frontman
Scottie “Mad Dog” Blinn formed the Tiki Torchers and eventually
Mississippi Mud). Two years ago, Blinn regrouped with another original
Mudshark, drummer Tom Essa and The Mississippi Mudsharks were reborn,
and now have a new release on Double Barrel Records, Train Rolls On.
The Mudsharks have an aggressively gritty sound rooted as much in punk
as it is in the blues. Blinn’s grungy guitar leads and fills, along with
his blistering slide, is the key to their sound as are his vocals, which
can best be described as a guttural snarl The rest of the Mudsharks
consist of the rhythm section, drummer Essa and “Big” Mike Lars on bass,
do yeoman’s work and keep things tight in the pocket.
Johnny Smokes also appears on pedal steel guitar on the country/punkabilly
numbers “Devil’s Road” and on “Lakeside Redneck Shindig,” a high-speed
stepper where you might lose your hat if you don’t hang on to it.
Actually, the songwriting is consistently strong throughout Train Rolls
On, whether it’s the hard rockers (“Train Rolls On,” “30 Weight
Shuffle,” “Zombie Whip,” and “Down The Line”) or the slow burners (“Hangin’
Tree,” the mid-tempo numbers (“Throw It In The Hole,” “Can’t Put Down
The Drink,” and “Slow Rollin’”).
Blinn likes to describe the band’s music as “Greasy, primitive, and
raw.” If you like your blues rough and nasty and slightly chaotic, I
can’t think of a better place to start than with the Mississippi
--- Graham Clarke
Looking for something a little different and refreshing in your blues?
The Matt Schofield Trio has what you need. Schofield, a 29-year-old
British guitarist, fronts one of the funkiest organ trios you’ll find
these days. Their new release, Ear To The Ground (Nugene Records), is a
potent set of jazzy blues.
Self-taught as a guitarist, Schofield was drawn to the blues after
seeing a video of B. B. King, Albert Collins, and Stevie Ray Vaughan as
a teen, and he plays with SRV-like intensity. However, it was the music
of Robben Ford that really inspired his musical direction, which takes
Ford’s approach to a higher level. There are also healthy traces of jazz
guitarists John Scofield and Larry Carlton present in his guitar work as
well. Rounding out the trio is Jonny Henderson on Hammond C3 and Evan
Jenkins on drums. Henderson also plays left-hand bass and his keyboards
make an extraordinary disc even more exceptional.
Ear To The Ground consists of 11 tracks, nine originals book-ended
by two choice covers (Freddie King’s “Pack It Up” and “When It All Comes
Down,” from B. B. King’s association with the Crusaders). “Troublemaker”
sounds like a lost track from Albert Collins’ ’80s recordings with Jimmy McGriff,
Cold Snap, while “Once In A While” is a classic slow burner
that is a highlight of the disc, and really gives Schofield a chance to
The funky instrumental, “Room At The Back,” captures the
vibe of the Meters at their best. “Someone” is probably the
straight-ahead blues track on the disc, with fiery harmonica by “Big
Pete” van der Pluym, while “Cookie Jar” is a clever take on infidelity.
The title cut is a blues/rock number that grooves hard, and “Searchin’
(Give Me A Sign)” is another slow burner with a wonderful extended solo
Schofield is truly an original, mixing his blues with jazz, funk, and
rock, as well as mixing in remarkable guitar chops and a great voice.
There aren’t many trios playing the blues in this style right now, but
if anyone decides to start, the Matt Schofield Trio has set the bar
pretty much out of reach with this outstanding release.
--- Graham Clarke
Malkum Gibson and The Mighty Juke’s latest release, It’s Gonna Be
Alright (Handlebar Productions), features a dozen of the tightest blues
tracks you’re likely to hear this year played by a talented group of
seasoned professionals who have been around the music for years.
Harmonica player Gibson is a longtime vet of the music scene, having
recorded an album in the ’70s with Chris Kleeman, Just The Blues, which
was produced by B. B. King, who was impressed when he heard them and
took the youngsters under his wing. He was also a member of the ’80s
band Stronghold. Most recently, he’s been a part of the music and dance
company Rhythm & Shoes and has also embraced zydeco to the point that he
learned to play accordion in his spare time (when he’s not playing with
the Mighty Juke or with Kleeman as an acoustic duo). The Mighty Juke
consists of Rob Cole (guitar), John Hack (bass), and Jake “The Snake”
The 12 tracks on It’s Gonna Be Alright are a mix of five originals
and seven covers. The covers are well selected and well done, including
“Cross Eyed Cat,” with some smoking harp by Gibson, a slowed down, funked-up version of the Meters’ “Cissy Strut,” and a spirited take on
“Crosscut Saw.” The originals are a solid group as well, the highlights
being the energetic “Bowlegged Woman,” the jazzy, rhythmic “Just One
Roll”, and the optimistic title track.
Gibson does an excellent job on harp and accordion, and his vocals are
both playful and soulful. Cole’s a standout guitarist and his vocals
(particularly on the up-tempo numbers) reminded me of Paul McCartney on
a couple of tunes, particularly “Bowlegged Woman.” Hack is a rock on the
bass and even takes the vocal on his own composition, “Victim of Fate.”
Shumaker holds it all together on drums, and is the band’s secret
There’s nothing fancy here, just a well crafted set that will satisfy
any blues fan. Go to
www.handlebarproductions.com and check this one
out, as well as Gibson’s other numerous projects.
--- Graham Clarke
The first piece of information that attracted me to Hard Luck, an
independent release from young North Carolina via Kansas guitarist/singer, Matt
Walsh, was a testimonial from former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob
Margolin. Bob knows what he's talking about when it comes to the blues
and he's always been very supportive of younger musicians, especially if
they play the old school blues.
With his perfectly coifed hairstyle and long sideburns, Walsh looks more
like a rockabilly cat than a bluesman. In fact, the novelty vocal group
Sha Na Na was one of Walsh's very, very early influences, and he's got
the hairstyle to match. But the groove he puts out on
Hard Luck is, without a doubt, deep Chicago blues. What's most
impressive is that each of the dozen songs on the CD were written by
Walsh. If this guy rode a time machine back to the early 1950s, he could
probably line up a gig as a house songwriter at Chess Records.
Walsh is not the greatest singer around but he's certainly competent,
and his guitar playing shows great potential. He's got a very good feel
for the material that he's doing. It's raw, primitive blues recorded
appropriately to give it a raw, primitive sound. The music is
infectious, especially the more you listen to it.
I hesitate to compare
the sound on Hard Luck to the work of Margolin since Walsh has
his own thing going on here, but it's a fair comparison for the purpose
of setting an expectation level. In fact, Margolin appears as guest
guitarist on two of the cuts, the uptempo shuffle "Leaving My Baby" and
the title cut, "Hard Luck." He also helped with most of the
CD's final mix.
Highlights on Hard Luck include the sparse "Breakin' Up Over You," with
Walsh's acoustic guitar accompanied by Rene Aaron's fine harmonica
playing. In addition, Walsh shows that he's got a slide and knows how to
use it on the exciting "20 More Miles."
Walsh shows his versatility on two of the later cuts, doing more of a
late night, T-Bone Walker style blues, "Sit and Wonder," with exquisite
guitar playing. Very nice! The closing cut, "Woody's Rag," is a
foot-tapping ragtime number, featuring guitar, upright bass and
There's much more to like about this disc; there's not a weak but among
the dozen songs on Hard Luck. For more info on Walsh, check out
his site at
www.mattwalshblues.com or order the CD from
--- Bill Mitchell
It’s been four years since Dave Hole has released a record and I was
more than happy to see his new Blind Pig release, Rough Diamond, in the
mail. This is his first studio release in six years and it was well
worth the wait to hear more from this slide guitar master.
A rocky, funky backbeat introduces us to the first cut on the record,
“Rough Diamond Child.” Everyone has a chance to shine in their lifetimes
and that’s the theme of this cut, “you are a rough diamond in the
mind…some day you will have a chance to shine!” Hole gets monster tone
out of his slide guitar and you can’t help but appreciate his efforts.
“No matter what they say…not matter what you do…I can’t stop loving
you”, sings Dave on “Can’t Stop Loving You”. It’s interesting to hear
his slide guitar in a song with a swing beat and he plays it
“Vintage Wine” opens up with a piercing slide solo by Dave. “our love’s
an open door…but it could be much more…it could be so sublime…it could
improve with time…just like fine, vintage wine!” The band is tight
behind him and I appreciate the time they’ve obviously spent together
and Hole’s slide work is impeccable. Everything slows way down for the
ballad, “Yours For A Song.” The haunting, melodic tone of his guitar
supports Dave’s passion for this woman. “So please be mine…and I’ll be
yours…yours for a song.” Love has not been kind to Dave and he’s hoping
this time he’s found a woman who truly loves and appreciates him. “Yours
For A Song” is definitely one of my favorite cuts on this CD.
A fast backbeat by bassist Roy Daniel and drummer Ric Eastman sets an
entirely different tone on “White Trash Girl.” Dave’s slide playing on
“White Trash Girl” is just filthy and we know this woman is not a girl
you take home to your parents. She’s definitely from the wrong
neighborhood and the wrong side of the tracks. “Never been around the
world…has no education…she’s my white trash girl!” The next cut on the
CD, “Since I Met You Baby,” is a refreshing take on this Ivory Joe
Hunter classic and provides a nice transition to another original tune
by Dave, “I’ll Get To You.” “I’ll get to you…won’t be happy 'til I do…and
then I’ll keep you satisfied…way down inside…I’ll get to you!” The
keyboard work by Bob Patient provides a nice undercurrent to Dave’s
slide and balances out his guitar nicely.
“Something inside of me…just won’t let me be…my baby’s gone and left
me…and my heart’s in misery!” I find Dave’s take on this Elmore James
tune, “Something’s Inside of Me,” refreshing and his song choices for
his new record are proving to be very astute ones. He decides to tackle
another master, Robert Johnson, with his version of “Rambling on My
Mind.” Patient’s keyboards can be heard clearly in the background and
compliment Dave’s slide work in a manner that would make Robert proud.
Hole’s choice of Buddy Holly’s song, “Think It Over,” is perhaps the
song that confounds me the most. He does it justice, it just feels oddly
out of place for some reason although Dave’s slide guitar brings it in
line with his other song choices and from that perspective it works just
fine. Dave and the band chose to close out what has been a great listen
with another timeless classic, “I’m A King Bee,” by Slim Harpo.
“Together we’re going to make honey…more than the world has ever seen…”
I have no doubt that Dave is indeed “A King Bee.”
Rough Diamond has been a great record to listen to. Dave’s band is very
tight and his slide work on this record has been impeccable. Great
original songwriting, some astute choices of the classics and great
playing by all involved highlight this new release by Dave Hole. I’m
sure you can find it at fine retailers everywhere and to learn more
about this great slide guitarist, check out his website at
www.davehole.com I have a feeling that
Rough Diamond is another CD that
will make my top ten list at the end of the year, and deservedly so.
--- Kyle Deibler
Harper’s Down to the Rhythm was one of my top CDs for 2005 and I’ve
anxiously awaited a new recording from him for awhile now. Fortunately,
the wait is over; Day by Day is out now on Blind Pig Records and it’s a
worthy follow-up to what was an outstanding debut CD.
“Do What Is Right” opens up with Al Hill providing the organ intro and
manning the keyboards as well. Seems Harper has a friend who he’s
defended to everyone only to find out they were right and he was
wrong…”What you said was a lie…there’s no need for you to defend…I was
wrong to defend…I thought you could be a friend.” We’re never really
sure what the transgression is but Harper’s clear that this friendship
is over and he’s moving on. A strong didgeridoo opening to “One Day”
reminds me of what I like about Harper’s work, his ability to integrate
uniquely native Australian instrumentation in a blues context. “One Day”
implies that a friend of Harper’s has built a wall of cards around
herself that ultimately is going to cost her Harper. The pain involved
in loving her is not worth the effort to maintain this failing
“Sure There’s a Place” finds Harper searching for place to call home,
somewhere and someone to call his very own. “Well I sure could use some
help…can’t do this all alone…well I want to find a home…someplace I can
call my own.” The road continues on and Harper has yet to really find a
place to truly call his own. A friend in need would be wise to heed
Harper’s advice in “Watch Your Back.” “Don’t sign the papers…you got to
really take your time…just get yourself a lawyer…and everything’s going
to work out fine.” Everything will get resolved as long as she takes the
time to “watch your back.”
“Just What You’re Looking For” finds Harper back in the solutions
business. Whatever’s wrong, he’s got a way to help you out. “We’re here
to help…make no mistake…we’ll find you something…you need to take.” I’m
not convinced that Harper’s way of escaping is the right thing to do.
“I’ll Go Home” utilizes Harper’s didgeridoo to convey his sense of
despair at a relationship that’s run its course. “I never…ever…thought
that it would end this way…it doesn’t seem to make a difference…what we
say.” The only logical thing to do at the end of this day is to pack up
and go. Harper’s on his way.
Optimism abounds in the new love Harper’s found in “Feels Like Sunday
Morning.” “Well I could stay forever and watch the sun go down…you make me
feel just like my whole world had just begun…you make it feel like
Sunday morning.” His new love is bringing him much happiness and Harper
is content to stay with this woman awhile. “Get Out Of This Mess” finds
Harper in trouble and we’re not sure why. His significant other can play
an important role in resolving everything but so far has chosen not to.
“Just keep playing the game…don’t you want to get out of this mess…we
just got to get out of this mess!”
I love the sophisticated keyboard/guitar intro to “Face The Truth.”
“Hold on…hold on…you know together we can make it through…” Harper’s
willing to stand by his woman through whatever trouble they’re facing
now. As long as she believes, it will all work out fine. The next cut,
“I Must Be Dreaming,” is probably my favorite song on Harper’s new CD.
We’ve all been in situations where we’re the last to know what our
significant other is thinking…and sometimes we find out much too late.
“I never thought that I would lose you…now I know you’ve made up your
mind.” Harper’s woman has made the decision to leave and it’s left him
in a fog of confusion as she moves on.
Another very strong cut is “You Can’t Hide.” The roar of the didgeridoo
lends its power to Harper’s discourse that evidently the truth will
catch up to everyone. “You can keep on laughing…hide behind your
lies…one day they will find you…behind your fake disguise.” There really
is nowhere to run and the truth will make itself known. Harper closes
his CD with an instrumental, “The Comfort Zone.” I find that to be an
apt description of this entire CD, the comfort zone.
Day By Day will indeed leave previous listeners of Harper’s music in a
comfort zone, it surely did me. While there aren’t standout signature
tunes like “Big Brown Land” and “Last Cup of Coffee” from his last
record, Day By Day represents the reflections of an artist who is at
home in his own skin. He’s examined the pitfalls and turns that life on
the road has brought to him, lived through painful relationships and
emerged with a sense of pride that keeps him moving forward. Harper’s
definitely maturing as an artist and I’ll be curious to hear what his
next record brings to the table.
--- Kyle Deibler
The crazy boys from Delta Highway just spent three days in North
Carolina terrorizing my friend Michele while they worked hard in the
studio, laying down tracks for a new album due out in the fall. I’ve
probably never met a crazier, Jack Daniels-swilling bunch of bluesmen
like Brandon, Justin, Slim and Carlton, but the fact remains that they
are a very talented blues band and I would be remiss if I did not bring
their current CD, Westbound Blues, to your attention.
“Westbound Blues” is the first cut and opens with a stirring Hill
Country guitar line by Justin before Brandon brings his Mississippi
saxophone into play. Brandon and Justin hail from North Carolina and
“Westbound Blues” examines their journey to the Mecca of the Blues,
Memphis. “When that train pulls into that station….around 6:45…you know
I can’t wait to see my baby…and look her straight in the eye.” Brandon’s
love resides in Memphis and he can’t wait to get to the Bluff City to
see her. Slim lays down a strong bass line as Brandon confesses to her
girl that “I Love You (But I Really Love the Blues).” “I said I work
Lord, I work child…try to bring everything home to you…you know I love
you baby, but I really love those blues!” It’s hard to please two
mistresses and ultimately Brandon’s love for the music will win out over
the love for his girl.
“Early In The Morning” is a song I’ve recently heard covered by Billy
Gibson, but Delta Highway’s version slows down this traditional in a very
appealing fashion. A tale of a young girl transitioning to womanhood, at
18 she’s hard to keep up with. “One drink of wine…way too many drinks of
gin…you know that pretty young girl….she done got me in the shape I’m
in!” Alone and despondent is the shape he’s in but you know he’s spent
time with an angel. The tempo picks up on “Miss Annalise” in the guise
of a shuffle. Turns out she’s been mean to Brandon. “I’m going to leave
this city, Lord…got to leave this town…I’m going to leave this city,
Lord…leave this old Memphis town…to find a place where Miss Annalise
ain’t around!” Brandon’s solution is to hop the 219 heading south and go
where the rail leads him. One thing for sure, “I ain’t ever coming
Brandon’s situation has improved with “My Sugar Calls Me Honey.” “Said
my sugar called me honey…I’m here to tell you that’s so sweet…and when
she starts to loving people…things get sticky round me!” Definitely an
improvement over Miss Annalise. Up next is an R.L. Burnside classic,
“Jumper On The Line / Snake Drive.” “Won’t you let my baby ride…won’t
you let my baby ride…love is a devil but it won’t get me!” The backbeat
of Slim and Carlton keeps everything moving and Delta Highway pays great
respect to R.L. with this version. He’d be proud to hear it.
“Done Told You Once” finds Brandon laying down the law to his woman
who’s been mistreating him. “I done told you once, babe…you know I ain’t
going to say it twice…well if you don’t quit mistreating me
darling…you’re sure going to pay the price.” I’ve seen the shotgun that
Brandon owns and moving on is a far better solution than being shot,
that’s for sure. A stark guitar intro by Justin sets the mood on “My
Weary Mind.” The melancholy harp of Brandon echoes the sentiment as he
struggles to share his pain, “Ain’t going to lie baby…ain’t going to lie
no more…give me your pillow baby….I want to rest my weary mind.” Its
time to move on as Brandon finds that the pain of it all just isn’t
worth trying to save the relationship.
“Cold As Ice” finds Brandon admitting he’s met his match. “I got me a
woman, Lord, she’s sweet and nice…but when I make her mad…she’s as cold
as ice.” And this time Brandon’s in the wrong, staying out late with all
his friends. “Well…I love her with all my might…but she don’t
know….there’s some things even I just can’t control…but you know…that’s
just cold as ice”. Everything slows way down on the next cut, “All The
Water In The Ocean”. Brandon’s harp again comes to the forefront as he
sings about the pain his woman has caused by leaving him. “Said…all the
water in the ocean, babe…honey you know can’t compare to the tears I’ve
cried for you…I’ve been looking everywhere baby…honey, I’ve been looking
all over Memphis, Tennessee for you!” Sadly enough, this is one good
woman who’s gone for good.
Delta Highway closes out their CD with the final cut, “On The Highway,”
celebrating life on the road. These guys are paying their dues, one club
at a time, one fan at a time. “Said, I’m a highway man, people…please
don’t block my road…I’m going to keep on driving, Lord….just as far as I
I’ve personally had the opportunity to watch Delta Highway tear it up at
Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall before IBC, and I’ve shared a shot of Jack with
them at the Rum Boogie during the Blues Music Awards. Brandon and Justin
are wicked, wicked players and Slim and Carlton keep everything tight on
the back end. Westbound Blues is an impressive debut album and I hear
through the grapevine that the tracks laid down in Wilmington, North
Carolina were smokin’…so there’s more great music from Delta Highway to
look forward to. Check them out on their website,
or their Myspace page,
www.myspace.com/deltahighway. This is one hard
working band that we’ll all be hearing from for a long time to come.
--- Kyle Deibler
The Myspace phenomenon is all around us, and one of its redeeming
qualities is the way in which it allows musicians and blues societies
alike the opportunity to have a web presence that otherwise might be
beyond their reach. I’ve tried to create a one stop blues destination
for our Phoenix Blues Society Myspace page and over the past year or so
it’s served as an introduction to numerous artists from around the
country who have become “friends” of PBS. One good friend is Kelly Dees
of Tampa, Florida. Kelly is a champion of the organization, Saving
Little Hearts, a group devoted to supporting children born with CHD
(congenital heart defects) in part because her daughter, Hope, was born
with multiple heart defects. It turns out that Hope’s mother is a
talented blues singer as well, and she’s released a CD of all original
tunes entitled Bettin’ Woman.
Harp work by T.C. Carr provides the introduction to “Jet Plane,” a song
about shaking up life and making new choices. “Yea, I’m tired of the
same day in and day out….got to find something new…and no one else can
make it happen for me…I know that much is true.” Kelly’s solution is
taking a jet plane to someplace new, experience a new adventure, and
find a new story to tell. Her vocal is confident and her supporting band
mates: Kevin Wilder on keyboards; Richy Kicklighter on guitars; Dale
Horton on bass; Mike Conway on drums and Dean German on B3 let me know
early that they are a tight group. “I Wanna Rock” finds Kelly in a party
mood…”I wanna rock…I wanna roll…I wanna feel it way down deep inside my
soul!” Kelly’s living in the moment and enjoying the party.
Up next, the title cut, “Bettin Woman,” finds Kelly convinced that her
man will find a new love while she’s gone and then act like nothing
happened when she returns. “Boy, I ain’t no fool…and I know you’re going
to find it hard to believe…but I know just what to do…if I was a bettin’
lady…I’d first take out the trash…then I’d run to the bank…take out my
funds and start spending all my cash!” Sounds like a sensible plan to
me. A beautiful guitar intro by Kicklighter introduces us to the first
ballad on Kelly’s record, “Blues on a Tuesday.” Hauntingly familiar, he
carefully underscores Kelly’s sense of desperation. “No one really knows
just what I’m feeling…no one really seems to care…sometimes I have to
wonder…if anyone really knows…if I’m there…I’ve got these blues on a
Tuesday!” “Blues on a Tuesday” is my favorite song on Kelly’s record and
I truly appreciate the intricacy of Richy’s fret board work.
“Slow” features sax work by guest Gene Cannon as Kelly gives advice to
her new man. “You know I like it like it is…every time we go to kiss…you
know I like it like it is…come here baby…slow it down and do it just
like this….take it nice and slow.” I love great sax and it’s good to
hear some on Kelly’s record. “There’ll Be A Day” is the next ballad we
hear and it points to the silver lining behind every cloud. “There’ll be
a day you’re going to look back and smile….you’ll know all the sorrow
and the hard times were worth all the while…you’ll feel that everything
is as it should be.” There are times where a great broken heart leads us
to the next great love, and “There’ll Be A Day” celebrates the truth in
A funky groove gets us moving in “On My Way.” “And there’s no way to
travel but up from here…no place to take away all my fear…my future
suddenly seems so very clear…and I’m on my way!” A song of optimism, “On
My Way,” is a celebratory look at Kelly’s future and it appears to be
bright. Another beautiful ballad, “I Will Be Happy,” features the
delicate keyboard work of Kevin Wilder. The end of a relationship is
always painful and it takes courage to move forward. “And I see the
picture on the wall of the two of us….oh how we’ve changed…and I know
that I’ll be happy…and this is the way it has to be…and darling I know
it’s going to be such a sad scene to see…but you’ll be happier without
me.” This is one good woman who never should have been set free.
“Blues Sister” chronicles Kelly’s travels as she explores her passion
for the Blues. “My one concern was to hear and sing all things to do
with the blues…and if you give me the chance…I’ll bring it all right
here to you!” The objective here is longevity and Kelly is planning on
being around for a long time to come. “I’m Alright” is Kelly’s anthem
for today. “Things might could be better…but sure enough could be
worse…I’m alright…and who knows…things might be looking up for me if I
decide to make you mine.” Whether the relationship works or not is not
important, Kelly has the confidence to handle the situation either way.
The final cut on Bettin’ Woman, “Rewarded," finds Kelly letting us know
that she’s worth the effort to pursue. “No one said it was going to be
easy….no said it wouldn’t be very hard…if you open up the door for
me…you’ll be rewarded!” Patience and perseverance definitely has its
I find this record grows on me. At times Kelly’s voice has a
definite edge that takes getting used to and then she softens everything
up on her ballads to show you the full range of her vocals. So a patient
listener will definitely be “rewarded.” This project was 2 ½ years in
the making between writing and recording. It’s a record that Kelly
should definitely be proud of. You can find out more about this blues
woman from Tampa at
--- she’s definitely worth
--- Kyle Deibler
I’ve got to admit it took awhile for me to wrap my senses around
Hamilton Loomis’ latest release on Blind Pig Records, Ain’t Just
Temporary. You definitely hear a number of Hamilton’s early influences
like Albert Collins, Gatemouth Brown and Bo Diddley, who joins Hamilton
on “You’ve Got to Wait” on the CD. I appreciated Hamilton’s
contributions to Trudy Lynn’s latest record, I’m Still Here, and I’ve
got to give him credit for thinking outside the box. The new CD is
definitely part funk, part jazz with blues sensibilities and the result
is a very interesting record.
One of the things that’s readily apparent from the get go is that
Hamilton is a very talented musician who is capable of playing multiple
instruments ranging from guitar, bass and keyboards to drums and
harmonica. The first cut, “Best Worst Day,” features him on guitar, bass
and keyboards. Vince Palumbo’s saxophone punctuates the misery that
Hamilton’s girl is causing him, “she makes me crazy…she hurts my
mind…but it feels so good…I come back every time.” She’s definitely got
a hold on Hamilton and he’s going to have to figure out that the pain
isn’t worth the good loving he’s been getting. “Legendary” finds
Hamilton in a similar predicament. He’s found the girl of his dreams but
we’re not clear that she’s going to stay. “Before you go…I got to
know…are you going to give that legendary love to me?”
“We’re going around and around….up and down…getting back to where we
started” aptly describes the conundrum facing Hamilton in “Where We
Started.” This relationship is a roller coaster with no clearly defined
end and the mixed signals he’s receiving aren’t making the picture any
clearer. “I’m a slow lover…baby just give me a shout…and I’ll be your
slow cooker…girl I’m going to make it hot!” Hamilton’s harp makes an
appearance as he woos this girl by promising to be her “Slow Lover.”
Scott Free handles lead guitar on “Slow Lover” and keeps things moving
behind Hamilton’s harp work.
Things are definitely getting funky in “Good Enough” as Hamilton opens
up with the B3 to appeal to his new woman. “I didn’t mean to
offend…baby, baby, I hope its not the end…are you keeping the score…are
you still wanting more…I’m not shifting the blame but is this good
enough…good enough for me? “ Things are definitely rocky but there may
still be hope for this relationship. Bo Diddley joins Hamilton on “You
Got to Wait” and offers him some sage advice. “Look here…don’t push
me…because when you do anything too fast…it don’t last, take your time
baby.” It appears to be advice that Hamilton is listening to, “you can’t
win me over in just one night…you got to take care cause I like to get
it right….have some patience…you got to wait!” Perhaps this relationship
will work as long as his woman approaches it in the same fashion that
“My Pen” reflects Hamilton’s efforts to sit down to write a new song.
For some reason inspiration just isn’t forthcoming, “running into
complications….surely there’s nothing wrong with me…the problem’s clear
to see…I think there’s something wrong with my pen!” Unfortunately
that’s not the way it works, the brain has to click in before the pen
can put it to paper. He’ll get it figured out. Things slow down for the
first true ballad of the CD, “Love Again”. “No more sorrow…no more
pain….cause you came back around baby…and taught me how to love again!”
His work on the keyboards sparkles as Hamilton appreciates this new
woman that’s come to him and the love that she’s taught him.
“I said I’m getter off being alone…I was wrong…but now I got you back in
my life….I won’t let you out off my site…you won’t get away this time!”
“Won’t Get Away” finds Hamilton facing his realities, this woman
mattered….I screwed up…thank God I got her back! Hopefully he’ll treat
her better now that she’s back. We’re treated to some more of Hamilton’s
fine harmonica playing in the intro to “That Thang.” Despite all of his
woman’s faults, Hamilton finds that he can’t let go, “she ain’t got much
for looks…she burns everything she cooks…she ain’t real statuesque…she
got not taste for dress…but that don’t mean a thing…cause she got that
thang!” Seems our man has simple needs and this girl is good at the one
thing that truly matters to him.
I’ve not heard a dog barking on a record in a long time but sure enough,
we hear it now on “Bow Wow.” “Some say bow is man’s best friend…stick on
by him through thick and thin…if that’s the case…call me your pup…because
pleasing you…I can’t do enough.” Hamilton’s definitely lost control in
this relationship and we’re very clear on who the master is in this
Ain’t Just Temporary is definitely a different record than the majority
of music I hear, and that’s not a bad thing. In the vein of Gatemouth,
Hamilton is definitely one talented player. He displays a propensity for
several different instruments and plays them all here with great
precision. This is a record that requires several listens to really
appreciate it. And for that reason it probably won’t appeal to everyone.
But the boundaries of blues do need to be stretched, and I appreciate
Hamilton’s view on how it should be done.
--- Kyle Deibler
Europe has long been the saving grace for a number of blues artists and
it’s not out of the ordinary to see a record released in Europe that
never sees the light of day in the states. Fortunately for us, Randy
Chortkoff of Delta Groove was inspired to pursue releasing Frank (aka.
Paris Slim) Goldwasser’s record, Bluju, on his label. Randy originally
produced Bluju and he was the one who arranged for its release on
Crosscut Records. The new version is sequenced differently from the
original and features a couple of bonus cuts that pay homage to Frank’s
major blues influence, Hound Dog Taylor.
Anyone who has seen Frank play knows he’s a very talented guitarist. The
opening riffs on “Feels Like Home” remind us of the fact that Frank
knows his way around the frets of his guitar. “I wish I had a place that
feels like home…I’m so tired of walking out in the cold.” Frank longs
for a woman and place that feels like home. Life on the road has been a
rough one and he needs a place to call his own. An inspired guitar intro
leads us into the next cut, “Back Door Key.” “Don’t forget what you
promised me….all I want from you baby is your back door key!” Frank
sounds content to be the second man in this woman’s life and all will be
fine as long as he has the key to the back door. Dave Woodrow’s inspired
sax work and John Hanes on the drums help keep everything tight in the
next song, Frank’s rendition of “Twelve Year Old Boy,” a classic by
Elmore James. “I feel bad…I feel terrible…I’m just as sad a man can be…I
let a boy twelve years old take my baby away from me!” Must be one hell
of a twelve year old player to make this happen!
The next two songs pay their respects to Frank’s cats, Josephine and
Melba. “Well, well, Josephine…you stay gone all through the night…you
know it ain't right.” “Well, Well Josephine” echoes Frank’s sadness at
having the woman in his life be unfaithful to him. Somehow she’s just
not treating him right. “Melba’s Bump” is an impassioned instrumental
that lets Frank and the band go where they want to. It’s an instrumental
marked by a number of rhythm changes and Frank’s guitar leads the way
“I Can’t Stand It” finds Frank wallowing in the pain of being all alone,
dealing with the fact that his woman has left him. “Come Monday
morning…you’ll be gone…never even said goodbye!” She’s moved on and
Frank’s pain will take time to heal. Next up is the Jimmy Reed classic,
“I’m A Love You.” “Can’t get you out of my mind…I got to love you…got to
love you baby….you know I’m a fool about you!” The harp work on this
version is well done;evidently it’s Frank who is playing the
Mississippi saxophone, although it’s not listed in the credits.
The congas add a nice touch to the next cut, “Homesick Blues.” “Feel bad
this morning…can’t shake them if I tried…the homesick blues about to
drive me wild.” “Homesick Blues” is followed by the distinctive guitar
tones of Phillip Walker as he and Frank go toe to toe on the
instrumental “Playing In The Park.” Phillip has recently come to the
forefront with his own release on Delta Groove and both guitarists are
inspired by the chance to record this cut together.
A very funky backbeat and some inspired slide work by Frank form the
backbone of “Don’t Take My Baby Away.” An ode to a companion who Frank
lost to cancer, “Don’t Take My Baby Away,” lets us know just how much
Frank cared for her. “Called your name all through the day…called your
name through all the night…I prayed to the heavens…and I began to cry.”
Fortunately for us, the depression we feel at Frank’s loss is tempered
by the instrumental, “Three Sisters.” “Three Sisters” evokes Frank’s
memories of late nights in the Bay Area playing at clubs like the Cozy
Den, the Deluxe Inn and Eli’s Mile High Club. The Three Sisters was the
last club of the night, where all the players gathered to play after
they’d finished their gigs for the night. J.J. Malone accompanies Frank
on the piano and this instrumental features some of his most impassioned
playing of the entire CD. It reminds me of the old days here in Phoenix,
at a club called the Old Bombay Bicycle Club, when Francine Reed used to
hit the stage. There aren’t many nights like that anymore, so it’s a
treat when you can catch one.
The tempo picks back up on the next cut, “Petit A Petit.” Frank does
this song in French and I’m left to the liner notes to understand that
the song is about a man who realizes that his relationship has changed
and its not what it used to be. The title cut, “Bluju,” follows and is
an instrumental featuring Frank and Alex Schultz. The playing is
impassioned and I can tell they enjoyed trading licks as they build to a
crescendo in their playing that ends all too soon. “You don’t love me
baby…and I know the reason why…well you take all my money…and you treat
me like a child!” In this first of two cuts that pay tribute to Hound
Dog Taylor, it’s easy to understand that this relationship has gone bad
and it’s no mystery that “She’s Gone.” A loud whoop sets us off on the
final cut, “55th Street Boogie,” and Frank and the boys just let it rip. A
fitting end to what has been a great record, one can’t help but want to
get up and dance to the “55th Street Boogie!”
This is definitely one record that was deserving of being re-released in
the states, and I’m glad that Randy stirred his memory enough to put it
out in front of us. I’ve seen Frank play live and he’s a very
accomplished guitarist. A friend of mine who saw Frank play at the Delta
Groove Revue in Memphis went so far to say on her Myspace page, “I’m in
love with a new man!” Can’t argue with her choice in guitarists although
she already has a really fine man in Pops, Amanda, you know you do.
--- Kyle Deibler
Hot ’n Spicy is the fourth CD release by Monterey Peninsula group
Red Beans & Rice, currently receiving widespread critical acclaim within its
California borders and also breaking onto the national festival circuit.
They have utilized recent every-day life for inspiration into their
music for this album.
Out of the 13 offerings, four are original. There are two by Taj Mahal,
a hit cover, and three others we’ll also discuss.
“Strut” is a straight rock beat blues, with organ light in the mix. New
lead vocalist Bishop Mayfield introduces his voice quite confidently
singing about being led on, fueled by drink. Riffs give the tune its
hook. Though the organ comes up considerably in dynamics, followed by
pretty clean guitar, then tenor sax, the solos feel held back. A
swinging and more lyrical line provides the head for “She’s too young,”
not for what you think, but rather to know blues history! This one is
sung by keyboardist Tom Lawson, here playing piano. There are good
harmonies from backup voices.
By tack three we hear more of what Red Beans & Rice should taste
like. Mardi Gras rhythms are punctuated by organ fill. There is
call-and-response between the lead and backup vocals, the “Djembe” drum,
played by Mayfield, is a welcome ingredient. Or is it Gil Rubio’s conga?
The saxes are not overdubbed during short, repeated horn section
passages, Tamas Marius plays two at once. The group is sounding more
warmed-up. “Getting’ Old” is a clean shuffle full of examples, tied up
in a succinct package.
The cover “Unchain My Heart” starts with slow, churchy piano and lead
vocal over suspended time, giving way to the customary tempo. “Hopin’
For The Best” is the first slow tune of the set, featuring guest lead
vocalist Jon German. It’s a commentary of the shape of things timeless,
without resolve. This track achieves some soul.
We’re definitely under the influence of New Orleans, à la Smiley Lewis
or one of the city’s piano masters, for “She Caught The Katy,” leaving
us behind, but we’ll still be crazy about that hard-headed woman. She
also wants “Both Sides Of The Fence,” jazzy at a bright tempo, but
lacking in spark. Lead guitar solos are sparse on the CD but on this
track a little more fluid, the tentativeness over the meter actually
welcome. “Red Gumbo” is at a similar tempo but the rhythm is flavored
with notable accordion and percussion. Is it washboard? Bring it up!
This ain’t no “to-go” place. Tom Lawson is back on vocal. The funky
Neville Brothers “Voodoo” casts a bit of a spell and finally the tenor
sax is loosened up.
A Sonny Landreth entry (for whom the group has opened), “Conga Square,”
uses percussion well to loosen the whole ensemble up more. Dr. John’s
straight blues “(She’s) Only In It For The Money,” has Lawson imitating
the Doctor’s vocals convincingly enough that lead vocalist Mayfield has
to keep up. It is also organ-heavy. The closing track is a Tom Lawson
original, rather Gospel and Randy Newman in feel.
If anything, the album comes across too clean perhaps due to controlled
studio conditions and overall lack of inspiration, particularly on the
first few tracks. Grade of B.
--- Tom Coulson
The Shuttle Music label commits itself to “100% Blues Rock Boogie.” We
are grateful for that “disclaimer” right on the package, as it is fairly
accurate. Elsewhere in the graphics are photos of the musicians that
further clarify attitudes: kick ass as well as conformity.
Jay Gordon is a guitarist, mainly slide, who wrote and sang all
selections on the disc. Three people total are pictured inside the CD as
The Penetrators, but three drummers share tracks. Gordon was born in
North Carolina and after settling in Chicago as a teen met, and was
influenced by, many of the late great blues men who were still active
there. He has since been based out of LA.
The music is pretty over-the-top and raw. Vocals, all done by the leader
are forced and raspy. He sings of blues and plays plenty of slide but
there’s not a lot of seasoning or applied experience evident. It starts
out slow and at first not straight rock, but it’s irritating. Same thing
continues on track two, just in a different key at a different tempo.
And by track three, well, it’s John Lee Hooker-type words, but sounding
like a Bob Seger wanna-be singing while Ted Nugent attempts slide.
Unless you’re drunk at a biker bar, it’s really not a comfortable place
I didn’t want to stereotype earlier, but by the time you get to “Six
String Outlaw,” it says everything. He’s ready to rock and even rap, too.
One searches in vein for some lyrical meaning, to go only as deep as “We
Got A Thing Goin’ On.” We’re only at track five, and there are 11 more
Credit must go to the leader for enthusiasm and persistence, the album
was not just thrown together. In fact, it’s his ninth. The group has
spent time together and Gordon really wants to be a blues man when you
read the liner notes. They bring up a “countless number of so-called
blues bands…the same unimaginative repertoire…” and Gordon has done
something about that. I disagree that “there is nothing predictable
about his music” when three tracks say more than enough, but agree that
“His playing does not sound like anyone else’s.” Being influenced by
true blues artists does not make you one. This very album even states in
print: “One has to live the blues to really be able to play the blues.”
That sounds like something one of his influences probably would have
His final comment in the notes is: “My goal is to take it as far as I
can.” Keep on taking it. Grade of D.
--- Tom Coulson
I love the tiny north side Chicago club,
Live at B.L.U.E.S, but it’s not the best place to
film a performance. Patrons innocently get in the way of some of the
views, yet this may make you feel as if you are among the crowd. Band
members have to squish on to the miniature band stand. On Jimmy Burns'
DVD, Live at B.L.U.E.S. (Delmark), Greg McDaniel
(bass) wedges in between Sunnyland Slim’s old piano and the drum riser.
Four cameramen get so close to the performers, you can see their finger
placements on the frets. An overhead camera captures James Carter on
drums. Recorded August 13, 2006, the live on stage footage is
interspersed with bartenders making drinks, the club’s walls and the
photos that adorn, outside shots of the club, and club’s backyard BBQ
With a gentle approach, Burns, who was born in Dublin, Mississippi
and sings about the town in "Leaving Here Walking," is the least Chicago
blues-sounding artist of the last remaining Chicago blues greats.
Perhaps that’s because Burns feels he never left the Delta although he’s
now been living in Chicago for 51 years.
There is nothing flashy here; it’s just great down home music. The 12
songs, including four which do not appear on his three previous Delmark
releases, are consistently sharp. Some are more memorable than others.
Second guitarist Tony Palmer rocks out during "Can’t Hold Out Much
Longer." In general, Palmer tends to crank a bit too much. "Better Know
What You’re Doing," a tribute to John Lee Hooker, is full of Johnny B.
Moore pushes and pulls. The blues influence on blues/rock and hard rock
can be heard on this rapidly repetitive rumble. Jesse Fortune’s
extremely frail vocals do not restrict him from belting out the lyrics
of "Three O’Clock Blues." Dressed in a light brown shirt and sporting a
straw hat, Burns’ smooth and soulful vocals match his majestic guitar
style throughout the 75-minute DVD.
The video and audio are both crystal clear. As an added bonus, there is
an audio commentary which reveals a lot about Burns and his music, e.g.,
he has two children and creates his own bottlenecks, which he uses to
play slide guitar. Disturbingly some of the songs on the commentary have
un-synchronized audio and video. Also available is a 68-minute CD (with
two less songs).
94-year-old acclaimed pianist Pinetop Perkins has made a
living playing blues since 1926 when he was 13. Through enticing
narration by Chuck Dodson and more than 15 artist interviews on Born
In The Honey: The Pinetop Perkins Story (Vizztone) –
interspersed with live performance clips – you are taken on an
entertaining 60-minute overview of Pinetop’s life and his musical
achievements. You also learn the significance of the Mississippi River
port towns and the great migration. Plenty is revealed about this
preacher’s son who was born Willie Perkins on the Honey Island
Plantation in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1913. For example, as depicted in
a hilarious drive thru scene, his restaurant of choice is McDonald’s.
You also experience Perkins surviving a series of hardships including
abandonment, plantation life, a near music career ending incident,
hearing impairment, and alcoholism.
Throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, Perkins mainly performed with Sonny Boy
Williamson II and Earl Hooker. In 1960, he moved to Chicago. Pinetop is
best known as Muddy Waters’ piano player. He held that position from
1969 through 1980, and continued as a sideman until going solo several
Though he is idolized, he remains humble and down to earth. This may be
his greatest trait. “He doesn’t know the impact he has had on the
world,” states Kim Wilson. Before the DVD finishes, you’ll conclude
Pinetop – a former moonshiner – is a southern gentleman who is a real
sweetheart and is proud of his Mississippi roots. He is to be cherished
for all that has done for American music.
Pinetop Perkins On The 88’s: Live In Chicago is the accompanying bonus
live CD. Its songs still encompass his live repertoire to this day. The
49-minute CD was recorded in 2001 just prior to his 88th birthday,
whereas the DVD contains recent footage. The credits do not indicate
what venue the recordings come from, but they do reflect an all-star
Chicago blues band was used as support. Perkins’ trademark boogie and
rumbling piano is prominent on the swinging "Down In Mississippi." He does
not possess a powerful voice. In fact, it is very frail on "Grinder Man
Blues," yet it sounds and feels like home. With a dominate right hand, he
tickles the upper register. This is mandatory material for blues fans.