Blues Bytes

What's New

July 2008

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Janiva Magness

Bonnie Bramlett

Danny Brooks

Davis Coen

Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

Homemade Jamz Blues Band

Pinetop Perkins

Dave Specter CD
Dave Specter DVD

Watermelon Slim

Janiva MagnessJaniva Magness is one busy woman these days. She’s currently the spokeswoman for Casey Family Programs, championing the cause of family foster care everywhere. She was part of the inaugural Bluzapalooza tour to Iraq with Bobby Rush and Billy Gibson in support of our troops overseas. Somewhere in the middle of all of this she managed to switch record labels. The aforementioned switch brings us to the current day and the release of her brand new record on Alligator, What Love Will Do. She was recently here in Phoenix for a CD release party and I told her then that I truly believed she will win the BMA’s BB King Entertainer of the Year award within the next three years. She’s worked that hard, she cares that much and her music is that good. So let’s get to this new record.

“That’s What Love Will Do” underscores Janiva’s devotion to her man. No matter what the world brings in terms of challenges, Janiva will do what needs to be done. Its part of what being in love means to her. “I don’t want to brag about you too much…give others ideas…but I’m trying hard to express myself…baby that’s the way I feel.” Janiva’s found a love that stands the litmus test and she’s hanging in there. “I Want A Love” finds Janiva contemplating her search for a new love and what she’s looking for. “I want a love…make me stutter when I talk….weak in the knees…make me stumble when I walk….that’s the kind of love I want!” Here’s hoping she finds it.

Next up is Janiva’s version of the Al Green classic, “I’m Glad Your Mine!” “Baby…I’m not going to leave you alone…baby…on top of that…mama give you what you want…I’m so glad your mine!” Arlan Schierbaum’s in the background on the B3 and I’m appreciative of his organ work for this tune by Al Green. Next up is Janiva’s take on the Annie Lennox song, “Bitter Pill.” Sometimes life just dishes nothing but bad news and here we find Janiva’s coping what everything coming at her. “Well…I’m feeling low…and there’s no place to go…and I’m on my knees…falling back…down on the floor…and I’ve had enough…I won’t fail…Lord…don’t let me fail!” Janiva’s husband, Jeff Turmes, blows a mean baritone sax line on this song that comes through loud and clear as Janiva shows her determination to succeed, no matte what.

“Fool Me Again” is a wonderful ballad about a man every woman is dying to fall in love with. “You know…you got me on that string…but just one touch…I’d do about anything…Fool me again!” Unfortunately this is one man who just can’t stay in one place…no matter who loves him or how much. Just a wonderful, wonderful song, and Janiva’s heartfelt rendition underscores the love she would have felt for this man. This is one of my favorite songs on the record. Janiva’s attitude changes with the next song, “Get It. Get It.” Here we find that Janiva’s had enough and she’s gone. “Well…if I can’t be first…don’t want to be no part at all…I ain’t just sitting on the sideline….watching you and your women have a ball….if you’re still thinking I’m that kind…you’d better get it…get it out of your mind!”

“One Heartache Too Late” is the next ballad on the record and here Janiva’s letting her man know what he could have had, if he had half a brain. “You could have had a good thing…you could have had it all…through the pain and the hurt, babe…I hung in there with you…the day you walked out on me, boy…that was the final abuse… Now that he’s at the door, wanting back in, he’s definitely “one heartache too late!” “You Sound Pretty Good” is an original song by Jeff Turmes. There’s a player at the door…he’s working his game…but he’s not quite there yet. “You sound pretty good…but you don’t look right….might be your clothes…your pose…something that shows in the light….you sound pretty good…but you’re just too old!” “I Don’t Want You on My Mind” finds Janiva in a gray area. This man’s love is tempting…but he doesn’t always treat her right. “I don’t want you on my mind all the time…I believe that it shows a sign of weakness…I don’t want a memory that keeps me crying…I found out I don’t get nowhere with weakness…I just wake up knowing I’ve got to do without you!”

“I go down to the river…there I’ll be…I’m going to jump in babe…you’re going to see about me…my biggest mistake was loving you too much!” Janiva is pleading with her man on “Don’t Do It.” She’s asking him to not break her heart. Unfortunately, this seems to be one relationship that has seen its better days. “I Won’t Be Around” is the third ballad on what continues to be a wonderful record to review. “You’re going to want to love me from the bottom of your heart…and you’re going to say, baby….why did we ever have to part?” You’re going to think about those good times…yeah…but I won’t be around.” “Freedom is Just Beyond the Door” finds Janiva gathering up the courage to leave a relationship gone bad. “I’ve been your prisoner for too long…freedom is just beyond the door…I’m going to be free!”

Janiva closes out What Love Will Do with another song by her husband, Jeff Turmes, “Sometimes You’ve Got To Gamble.” There are times in all of our lives where we have to make hard choices that ultimately could lead to great reward or failure. “Everybody’s dreaming…about something they can’t touch…everybody gets a little bad luck…but some folks get too much.” “Sometimes you’ve got to gamble…gamble everything you got…every body needs a little good luck…when bad luck is all you got!”

What Love Will Do is definitely a heartfelt collection of songs put forth by Janiva for our listening pleasure. She’s one of a handful of artists who have shown tremendous growth over her last three records, and this one may very well be the best of the lot. As she grows into her stature as the predominant contemporary female blues artist of our generation, Janiva continues to be appreciative of the opportunities that come her way and she works hard to contribute her talents to the betterment of others as well. This is a record that will be in my top ten at the end of the year and it may very well be the one that puts her over the top in the BMA voting for Entertainer of the Year. A great ear for song selection and her amazing vocal talents have enabled Janiva to record one of this year’s finest records.

Well done, J!

--- Kyle Deibler

Bonnie BramlettBonnie Bramlett started her music career as a teenager in the early ’60s singing backup for blues performers like Fontella Bass, Little Milton, and Albert King. Later, she became the first and only white Ikette in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Later on, she met Delaney Bramlett (who she would later marry) and formed Delaney & Bonnie, whose electrifying shows prompted Eric Clapton to shed his guitar god status and get back to the basics. The group recorded a few more times before Delaney and Bonnie divorced and she formed the Bonnie Bramlett Band. She released several well-received albums in the ’70s before becoming a born-again Christian and turning to gospel music. In the late ’80s, she re-emerged as an actress, most notably appearing on Roseanne as co-worker Bonnie for a couple of seasons. After a 20-year absence from the studio, Bramlett returned to the music scene in 2002 with I’m Still the Same, followed by Roots, Blues, & Jazz, showing nary a trace of rust from the layoff.

Bramlett’s latest release, on Rockin’ Camel Music, is appropriately entitled Beautiful and reunites her with legendary producer Johnny Sandlin, who produced two of Bramlett’s best ’70s releases (It’s Time and Lady’s Choice). She’s also joined by daughter Bekka, and a veritable Who’s Who of southern rock including Bill Stewart on drums, David Hood on bass, Scott Boyer on guitar, Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Randall Bramblett on vocals, keyboards, and sax, Kevin Holly on guitar, James Pennebaker on guitars, dobro, and mandolin, and Kevin McKendree on piano, along with the Muscle Shoals Horn Section.

Bramlett’s smoky vocals, along with able support from the band, transform the country tune “Sure Got Away With My Heart” (a hit for country artist John Anderson) into a soulful Stax-like soul nugget. The next cut pairs Bramlett with Randall Bramblett on his slow burner, “Witness For Love.” Bramblett also contributes the rowdy “Shake Somethin’ Loose,” which features harmony vocals from Bramlett’s daughter, Bekka, who also joins her for the sinewy rocker, “Strongest Weakness.” Bramlett gets jazzy on the after-hours torcher, “It’s Gonna Rain All Night,” and she delivers a stunning performance of hopelessness and desperation on the title track.

In a first for Bramlett, she blends politics with the music for a couple of tunes, most notably a funky reworking of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” She tackles intolerance on Gary Cotton’s “Some Of My Best Friends,” a song she wanted to record for several years, but was unable to until he crossed paths with Sandlin again. She also ventures into gospel territory with a thoughtful cover of Waylon Jennings’ “I Do Believe,” Gary Nicholson’s “Bless ‘em All,” and a gorgeous version of Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, and Nicholson’s “He’ll Take Care Of You,” which closes the disc.

Beautiful is a release you’ll return to again and again, from an artist who certainly deserves more accolades than she’s gotten over the years. Here’s hoping we hear more from Bonnie Bramlett soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Danny BrooksSinger/songwriter/guitarist Danny Brooks may be from Canada, but his musical roots run all the way down to the Deep South. His gravelly vocals bring to mind the late Eddie Hinton. Brooks has lived a tough life, hitting rock-bottom during a long period of alcohol and drug addiction, but turned his life over to Jesus Christ in the late ’80s after a stint in rehab. His catalog of releases over the past few years features his enticing mix of blues, soul, and gospel influences.

No Easy Way Out (Rockin’ Camel Music) provides Brooks a generous foundation for his message. It’s produced by Johnny Sandlin, the legendary southern rock producer who had a hand in many of the great releases of the ’70s by the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Bramlett, and more recently with Widespread Panic), and features many of southern soul’s best musicians, including Bill Stewart on drums, Kevin Holly on guitar, David Hood on bass, Spooner Oldham on keyboards, James Pennebaker on guitars, dobro, and mandolin, and Kevin McKendree on piano.

No Easy Way Out is quite possibly one of the most personal discs you’ll hear from an artist. “Ain’t That The Truth,” is a biographical track about the music that began gripping Brooks as a 15-year-old. “Keys To My Heart” is a song written by Brooks after he was reunited with his daughter from his first marriage. “Lonesome Road” is a chilling song about Brooks’ past which ends up turning into a revival meeting. “Bama Bound” and “Memphis, Tennessee” are basically anthems to the southern region of the U.S., and Bonnie Bramlett joins Brooks on the edgy title cut.

Permeating throughout all these tunes is a message of hope and optimism. There’s always a chance at redemption, even with the desperate young woman in the song, “All God’s Children,” the addict and prisoner in “Miracles For Breakfast,” and on “Where Sinners And Saints Collide.” “I Believe In Love” is a timely message about affairs of the heart (written by Brooks for his young daughter, who just reached dating age). The stirring closing track, “Carry Me Jesus,” written by Sandlin, his wife, and Carla Russell, closes out the disc appropriately.

No Easy Way Out is a powerful and personal statement that blends the best elements of blues, soul, and gospel. Believers and non-believers alike will be moved.

--- Graham Clarke

Jay Geils et alGuitarists Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, and Gerry Beaudoin, AKA New Guitar Summit, recently reunited for the jazz/blues workout, Shivers on Stony Plain Records. The trio began performing together in 1997, which culminated in an appearance with the Woody Herman Orchestra at City Hall Plaza in Boston. They recorded a CD and DVD in 2004, also on Stony Plain, both critically acclaimed at the time.

Robillard should be familiar to most blues fans from his tenure with Roomful of Blues, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and his own successful solo career, and the J. Geils Band made its mark on the rock scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s with Geils serving as lead guitarist. Beaudoin’s background is in the jazz field as a performer and educator, and he has played with artists like Cleanhead Vinson, David Grisman, and Bucky Pizzarelli in addition to recording an album with Geils and violin prodigy Aaron Weinstein in 2006.

Shivers features 11 elegant tracks of jazz/blues guitar, nine of which are instrumentals. The trio of Geils, Robillard, and Beaudoin complement each other perfectly on these tunes, which include breathtaking covers of “Little Bitty Pretty One,” Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home,” Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton’s title track, and Fats Waller’s “Honey Suckle Rose.” Mixed in are four tasty instrumentals by the trio that fit seamlessly with the classics, notably Beaudoin’s “Wellspring Blues” and Robillard’s “Jim Jam.”

Great as these guitarists are, their rhythm section (John Turner and Bob Nieske – acoustic bass, Les Harris, Jr. and Gordon Grottenthaler – drums) raise their performances another notch. Randy Bachman, of Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive fame, makes a guest appearance on guitar and surprisingly serene vocals (at least to fans who recall his BTO days), emulating Mose Allison on a couple of old Allison tunes, “Your Mind Is On Vacation” and “Everybody’s Crying Mercy.”

Shivers shows three guitarists in outstanding form. Fans of the jazz/blues guitar genre will absolutely have to make this one part of their collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Son Jack JrSon Jack Jr. was raised in London, and recorded and performed extensively in the UK during the ’70s and ’80s. After a 20-year hiatus, he restarted his musical career in the U.S. He’s a singer/songwriter that specializes in country blues, mainly of the Mississippi Delta variety. Over the past couple of years, he’s released an impressive pair of CDs on his own label, 2006’s Introducing… and the just-released follow-up, When The Devil Calls.

Introducing… features 12 tracks, nine of which are original compositions by Jack, highlighted by the moody opening cut, “Peace of Mind Blues,” and the meditative instrumental, “Dearly Departed Blues.” The plugged-in “All To You” is also a keeper, as is “Thousand Miles Blues.” Also included are three excellent covers, “Dust My Broom,” Charlie Musselwhite’s “Stingaree,” and R L Burnside’s “Black Mattie.” Jack’s vocals are solid, but his guitar playing is superior. Kim Field adds harmonica to three tracks. This is an outstanding set of Delta blues that you might have missed the first time out.

Even better is Jack’s second release, When The Devil Calls. He wrote 10 of the 13 tracks, ranging from the fiery “Dance of the Living Dead” to “The Lynching Tree,” which sounds like a track from a Ry Cooder movie score. “If I Should Fall” is a beautiful, gentle track with one of Jack’s best vocals, and “It Could Be Worse” has a Hill Country feel to it. The three covers are well-chosen and well-done, and include Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s “Cleanhead Blues,” Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man,” and Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman.”

Son Jack Jr. has plenty to offer guitar fans. He combines great fretwork, solid vocals, and highly original songwriting. Visit his website at and check out both of these CDs at

--- Graham Clarke

Davis CoenDavis Coen has previously released four CDs featuring his unique interpretations of country and traditional blues standards as well as his own praiseworthy compositions. Having performed both as a solo and as a trio (guitar, bass, and drum), Coen has had ample opportunity in the past to show his proficiency on electric and acoustic guitar. With his most recent release, Blues Lights For Yours And Mine (Soundview Records), Coen adds a touch of Memphis and New Orleans to selected tracks by incorporating piano and organ.

The opening cut, “Basement With The Blue Light,” is pure Memphis soul that would be a hit single in a perfect world, while “Mambo Jumbo” sounds like a Meters session for Excello Records with its bubbly organ and swampy feel. Coen also does an outstanding tribute to John Lee Hooker on “Accelerated Woman.”

A wide range of cover tunes is highlighted by Bob Willis’ “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” reworked from its bluegrass origins into an old-timey rag, and Professor Longhair’s timeless “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand.” “Lordy Lord” settles into a busy groove and refuses to let up. Coen also channels Mississippi John Hurt on the traditional “Since I Laid My Burden Down.” “Jack of Diamonds,” the old number widely associated with Blind Lemon Jefferson, gives Coen an opportunity to demonstrate his dazzling bottleneck guitar chops, and the closing track, “C.C. Rider,” features Coen in a solo setting as he adds a few twists to this classic.

Blues Lights For Yours And Mine is a wonderful CD, mixing traditional country blues with sounds of southern soul. It’s an intoxicating combination, and one that blues fans will surely savor.

--- Graham Clarke

Jack de KeyzerJack de Keyzer – a master of many musical styles – is the pride and joy of the Canadian blues music scene. His latest CD, Blues Thing (Blue Star), came out towards the end of last year and it is so good that it made it on to my top ten list of 2007.

de Keyzer is a good songwriter – he wrote all of the CD’s 14 songs – but his songwriting isn’t as consistently strong as his guitar playing which is always distinguished. The other noteworthy contributions includes a Stax Records-sounding horn section and Michael Fonfara’s magnificent keyboards. Largely, the song’s lyrics are about the complications involved with love and de Keyzer sings them with affection.

On the title track, which sounds influenced by Albert King’s "Pretty Woman," Jack’s ambient guitar surrounds you like close friends supporting you when the chips are down. The guitar becomes mournful on "Cry The Blues" where the outstanding band emotes despair. The smooth and easy "Music Is The Food Of Love" is a ’30s and ’40s big band swing. Gentle yet abrasive BB King- style guitar materializes on "That’s The Only Time," while both James Brown and Chuck Berry are saluted on "Bills" and "We Go Together," respectively.

"If I Had Your Love" is a radio-friendly pop soul song that sounds similar to "Soul Lover" from a few years ago. "Good Life" is a highlight because it brilliantly illustrates the dichotomy of money and happiness. The aristocratic melody contrasts with the blue-collar lyrics which preach the advantages of living a simple existence. Via innocence and seduction, "Miss America" also delivers a valid message regarding what happened to the America that we all once knew.

This isn’t a straight up blues album and the sweaty energy from his live performances are absent on Blues Thing, yet de Keyzer emits a multitude of emotion via poignant lyrics, graceful guitar, and suave arrangements.

--- Tim Holek

Kenny WayneAward-winning keyboardist/singer/songwriter Kenny Blues Boss Wayne is a triple threat. He has the voice, the talent to play in an exciting way, and the look. Though nicknamed the Blues Boss (after the title of an Amos Milburn album), Wayne’s piano style is more deeply rooted in ’50s rock ‘n’ roll than blues. Born in Spokane, Washington in 1944, Kenneth Wayne Spruell spent his early years in New Orleans before relocating, at age ten, with his family to Los Angeles. Piano playing came easy for him and his preacher father wanted him to play gospel music. But Kenny had boogie-woogie in mind.

Can’t Stop Now (Electro-Fi) was recorded at five different studios in five different cities with more than 20 different musicians and, to Wayne’s credit, it isn’t disjointed. Wayne’s music shadows the past as much as it transcends the future. From the start of the lead-off song "Boogie Woogie Mama," the boogie woogie begins instantly and it is an ivory tickling party for close to 50 minutes. Throughout, Wayne exercises the upper register until it shrieks from pure enjoyment. The piano’s keys are pounded with so much punch, you can feel the wood and strings shaking on the 1954 Fats Domino hit song "You Can Pack Your Suitcase."

"Judge By The Look" states how mixed up and shallow our society is to have an obsession with beauty and a flashy image. Here, Wayne’s full-sounding organ gives way to a cheery piano that sounds both beautiful and intellectual. The song’s inspiration comes from the salary paid to a TV anchorwoman based solely on her appearance. A funky ’70s clavinet appears on "My Sweet Little Peach" where the rapping of Wayne’s son Cory brings the song into the 21st Century.

The late Johnnie Johnson is honored on a couple songs. The melody of "Johnnie J. Was Good" is more reminiscent of Johnson’s muscular intensity than the cover of "Tangueray." The most moving song – aided by its placement immediately following the contrasting "Let’s Have Some Fun" – is "Ragin’ Storm" whose motivational message is to “bring those folks back to New Orleans”. The heartfelt lyrics, interspersed with the sounds of torrential rain and thunder, illustrates the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, a government that failed its course, and hope for tomorrow (“did not destroy the spirit of New Orleans”).

Throughout, the party-style music has a life is good and let’s celebrate it feeling. The happy disposition produced by the Blues Boss’ piano playing can make the sun shine on the cloudiest day. It isn’t all focused on the 88s. There is the occasional guitar solo and the most stirring guitarist is Rich McDonough. This is one of Electro-Fi’s best releases in their 11 year history. The stomping keyboards and smooth almost silky vocals on this excellent mix of blues-based New Orleans R&B are glorious. On Can’t Stop Now, Kenny Wayne easily fills the immense void in boogie woogie piano since Johnnie Johnson departed in 2005.

--- Tim Holek

Homemade Jamz Blues BandThe Homemade Jamz Blues Band's disc, Pay Me No Mind (NorthernBlues), is a sure bet for best debut album and it comes from the youngest blues band in America. Their combined age is less than 40. Homemade Jamz is comprised of three siblings. Two are in their teen years and one is a pre-teen. Ryan Perry performs lead guitar (on homemade instruments made from car mufflers) and vocals while Kyle Perry handles bass guitar and Taya tackles the drums. The 11 songs – all recorded at their home in Tupelo – ooze with the repetitive boogie blues of Mississippi. A prime example can be heard on "Blues Concerto."

Being a trio, the guitar is naturally the main featured instrument. At this point, Ryan’s guitar solos emulate those of his heroes Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. However, to his credit, he resists playing the notes at the pace of a lightning flash. Ryan displays a great potential to blossom into a blues star. He is impressive on "Penny Waiting On Change" where the guitar crescendos from a leisurely pace and then explodes into fiery passion. The band’s baby, Taya, delivers skimpy beats and some disorderly cymbal crashes.

If you can look past them as being a novelty act, you’ll experience some real blues and will hear true natural talent. The instrumental "Shake Rag" is assumed to be about dirt-poor, mostly black Shake Rag, Tennessee, which supposedly was a significant influence on a young Elvis Presley. The title track blends a 1950s John Lee Hooker boogie with a trance-like north Mississippi hill drone. Ironically, the least enjoyable track is a cover of Hooker’s "Boom Boom."

The best of the ten original songs is the gritty minor key Mississippi blues "Right Thang Wrong Woman." Here, the sound is so raw you’ll think these kids are being schooled in a smoky juke joint. You wouldn’t think a teen could have experienced the tortured love that is described in the lyrics. Regardless, Ryan sings the song with a deep and serious conviction. Another highlight is "Time For Change" which lays the foundation for the sound of tomorrow’s blues style.

There is only so much sound that a trio can make. Wisely, harmonica and rhythm guitar – courtesy of Renaud Perry (the band’s proud father) and Miles Wilkinson – have been added to seven songs. This helps with the fills and makes the sound seem larger. Everything about this developing band will improve as their age and experience both increase. Still, this is one of the better releases made by teenagers. Make no mistake. Homemade Jamz are not snotty-nosed rock ‘n’ roll school kids from the playground. These blues siblings play some of the most real deal blues you’ll hear. They need time to further develop but you’ll be blown away by their credibility. In the meantime, they are giving the experienced artists a run for their money and the world an awareness that blues is still alive in Mississippi.
NOTE: This CD was also reviewed as the Surprise hit in the June 2008 Blues Bytes.

--- Tim Holek

Pinetop PerkinsAt 95 years of age, Pinetop Perkins defies mortality. Like many from his generation, the independent Perkins learned early on that life is a game of survival of the fittest. Born a preacher’s son in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1913, Perkins first instrument was the guitar. He barnstormed the South juke joints with other various musicians throughout the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. The self-taught piano player was well into his 50s when he joined the Muddy Waters Band in 1969. In 1980, Pinetop and other Waters alumni formed the Legendary Blues Band.

Perkins has concentrated on his solo career since 1985 and is one of the few remaining direct ties to the golden age of post-World War II American blues. Though he is idolized – Perkins has a Blues Music Award named after him and recently received his own Mississippi Blues Trail Marker – he remains humble. This may be his greatest trait and it shines forth on the new album, Pinetop Perkins and Friends (Telarc).

Pinetop is joined by a dozen desirable musicians and a star-studded guest list. Despite them, this recording comes across as being a bit disjointed. It was recorded over two and a half years at numerous studios. Perkins’ vocals and piano receive the greatest volume in the mix. This and the fact some guests were absent from the studio has resulted in a loss of cohesion among the ten songs. Many of them, including the two originals, "Take It Easy Baby" and "Down In Mississippi," are staples of Perkins’ live show. The songs are mostly covers but Mr. Perkins has earned the right to play them.

There is still plenty of vitality in his piano solos and his brittle voice is incredibly strong for his age. He delivers the vocals very excitedly, and his high-pitched cries sound like a frail old man on "Look On Yonders Wall." Willie Kent’s bass guitar rumbles like a freight train and Eric Sardinas’ acoustic slide guitar is a Johnny Winter reminiscence on "Got My Mojo Working." Too bad this was one of Kent’s last recordings and Sardinas’ co-lead vocals are less than desirable. Also thumping on bass is Bob Stroger, whose left hand plays notes in concert with Perkins’ dominate right hand.

You’ll love the way Perkins and B.B. King customize the lyrics to "Down In Mississippi" where they sing about the tiny Mississippi towns where they were born. You’ve heard Perkins play all the piano riffs before but on this track, in particular, they seem legendary, bigger than life, and vivacious. On "How Long Blues/Come Back Baby," brawny vocalist Nora Jean Bruso delivers one of those spellbinding performances while Eric Clapton’s guitar sounds full and rich. Bill Willis’ B3 organ and Jimmie Vaughan’s finger plucked guitar strings give new life to the over recorded "Hoochie Coochie Man." Throughout, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith contributes to the Chicago blues sound with his well slapped drums.

The success of this album can be equally attributed to Perkins and his guests. You’ve heard these songs hundreds of times before, but this CD is worthy of being nominated for the blues album of the year. Pinetop Perkins And Friends is a fitting addition to the legacy of the world’s finest surviving blues piano man.

--- Tim Holek

Dave SpecterDave Specter is a former Delmark Records shipping clerk and employee of the Jazz Record Mart. Sound familiar? It should as that was the very foundation that spawned the careers of Charlie Musselwhite, Bruce Iglauer, and Michael Frank. Specter finely developed his Chicago blues guitar technique by performing with Barkin’ Bill and Son Seals for many years. The 20-year veteran of the Chicago scene admits to having a preference to record and play live.

Live In Chicago (Delmark) was recorded live in August 2007 at Legends and Rosa’s. The core band is comprised of Chicago’s prominent blues musicians who, like Specter, cut their teeth playing with legends such as Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Junior Wells, and Lonnie Brooks. Brother John Kattke (keyboards), Harlan Terson (bass), and Marty Binder (drums) are so supportive they could aid a blind man to win a dance contest.

Specter is an improvising guitar player. His groovy instrumentals such as "Boss Funk/Riverside Ride" are not your standard 12 bar blues. Specter’s music is more complex than that. His guitar playing isn’t as exciting as usual on "Texas Top" due to emulating too many Texas blues masters. "Is What It Is" is a classy instrumental that pairs blues and jazz as perfectly as peanut butter and jam. Tad Robinson is a great white soul crooner who has been performing with Dave since the early ’90s. Here, Specter’s band and Robinson perform the sweet country soul ballad "How I Got To Memphis" live for the first time.

They also play songs from Specter’s Blueplicity album which featured Robinson on vocals. Jimmy Johnson is one of the all-time unique vocalists and guitarists in blues. He is practically 80-years-old and yet he sounds as vibrant as he did on Johnson’s Whacks. On the bluesy "Out On The Road," Specter holds his smooth notes much longer while Johnson lacerates his sharp notes quickly. Johnson sings an octave higher than most men, but that’s part of what makes his so likeable. Vocalist Sharon Lewis got her start at Lee’s Unleaded on the South Side. On "In Too Deep," she is driven by Binder’s galloping beat, Specter’s bouncy guitar, and Kattke’s fingers, which dance all over the keyboard.

What has the DVD got over the CD? It offers seeing the ageless Jimmy Johnson, three bonus tracks, and a very extensive commentary by Specter. In it, plenty is revealed about him and his music, such as his instrumentals were inspired by Booker T. and the MGs and The Meters. You wouldn’t learn more about Specter if you had a personal interview with him. Some of the views from the five different cameras make you feel like a member of the audience. The cinematography is some of the best that the Delmark production crew has made since that started making live music videos.

This recording is a Chicago blues showcase that features a consummate band, a stylish guitar player, and three expressive vocalists. Hearing and watching Live In Chicago leads you to conclude Dave Specter is a rare artist who openly embraces music of varying styles, crosses the border into many genres, and plays them all equally well. You’ll walk away with an abundance of admiration for Specter. If you thought Chicago talent had dried up years ago, this release will set the record straight.

--- Tim Holek

The DetonatorsThe Detonators are a band based in Melbourne, Australia that first got together in 1997. Live At the East (BlackMarket Music) is their 5th CD, this time recorded live in a hotel in Victoria, Australia in December 2007. They have a reputation as one of the hardest working blues bands in Australia, and their music is certainly high octane stuff. Their style is rocking blues, jump blues and rockabilly all mixed together and produced in pure Australian style.

The CD contains 16 tracks, nearly all originals from the band members – the two exceptions being Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, a big hit for Jackie Brenston, and Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love.” You’ll surely have tapping feet while you listen to this album – recording quality isn’t 100%, but the atmosphere content is – this band put everything into their act, and I’m guessing that the audience (and the band) must come away from a gig totally exhausted!

The album opens with “Second In Charge,” a track written by the band. It’s a mid-tempo, bass heavy rocker with some hard harmonica from James Moloney – the bass, incidentally is the traditional double bass (played by Dave Philpotts) – none of your Fender electric for these boys – and it shows in the music, with a lovely rich sound. The band is very tight, and their love of the music shines through on this live session.

Track two, is one of my favourites, and I found myself playing over and over – another one written by the band, entitled “All Of Me (All Over You).” This one has a driving, pulsing beat that makes it impossible to sit still. You can bet that this song is a big hit at their live gigs.

All in all another excellent CD from these Australian blues-rockers.

--- Terry Clear

The latest Watermelon Slim CD has arrived, and guess what? ……… He’s kept up the great standard that his fans have grown used to over the years. This is the man who first recorded an album as a Vietnam Vet during the war. He went on to play as sideman with a lot of big names before going out on his own, and has since received twelve Blues Music Award nominations.

14 tracks on the new CD, No Paid Holidays (NorthernBlues) and not a bad one amongst them – a mix of originals and covers, but the covers all have the Watermelon Slim stamp on them.

The album opens with a Slim original “Blues For Howard,” a good up-tempo rocking blues with some excellent slide dobro work and lovely acoustic piano from guest David Maxwell (who also plays on track 6, together with another guest, Lee Roy Parnell, on electric slide guitar). Things don’t slow down much on track two “Archetypal Blues No.2,” and the slide gets hotter! Slim’s distinctive voice shining through on the vocals.

Track three is the first of the covers, a distinctive version of “Call My Job,” (Detroit Junior & Al Perkins), and it’s a fabulous track, full of the flavour of the original, but different in a Watermelon Slim kind of way and with some distinctive harmonica playing by the slim man. Things slow down with track four, “Dad In The Distance,” a moody track with lots of atmosphere, and then pick up very slightly with “You’re The One I Need” with some more great harmonica.

An unusual inclusion is a Laura Nyro track, “And When I Die,” a little bit of country folk – I wondered at first why it’s on the CD, but I kept going back to it!

I’ve got two favourite tracks on this CD, a Watermelon Slim original, “I’ve Got A Toothache” (maybe written from experience?), and Fred McDowell’s “Everybody’s Down On Me,” as good a version of this track as I’ve ever heard.

The CD is dedicated to Craig Lawler, who was a harmonica student of Slim’s.

--- Terry Clear

Philipp FankhauserI have to admit to never having heard of Philipp Fankhauser until this CD, Love Man Riding (Crosscut Records), came in the mail. However, it’s his 11th CD!! Having said that, he lives and works in Switzerland mainly, so maybe I have an excuse. His first album came out way back in 1989, with Margie Evans as guest artist, and he’s just grown and grown from there on obviously. In 1994 he joined the great Johnny Copeland on tour in the USA, getting some good experience along the way.

This man has a lot of talent, and this latest CD is very well-produced and full of good music. It’s “late night” blues, very mellow and laid-back, and perfect for a quiet evening with a bottle of good wine. He obviously is an accomplished songwriter, too, as he was involved in a lot of the 12 tracks on this album, some of them with the legendary Dennis Walker (Robert Cray, B.B.King, Lowell Fulson have all had songs written and/or produced by this man). Dennis Walker had previously produced Fankhauser’s 1995 album, On Broadway, so the two of them must have developed a pretty good working relationship. Walker can spot talent!

This CD is well worth adding to any blues collection, and if you like late night blues, then you’ll definitely love this one.

--- Terry Clear


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



The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: June 30, 2008 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2008, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.