Blues Bytes

What's New

June/July 2010

an associate Order these featured CDs today:


Grady Champion

Les Copeland

Rob Stone

Andy Cohen

Magic Slim and his Teardrops

Elvin Bishop

Watermelon Slim

Michael Packer

Julius Pittman

Teeny Tucker

Vincent Hayes Project

Randy Jackson


HarperThere are days when I think a Harper album and a bottle of tequila are all I’d need on a desert island to get by. Then I realize I’d need a couple of more things that are better off not being mentioned at this point. Harper’s new album on Blind Pig Records, Stand Together, is probably his most eclectic set yet…and that’s a good thing. So let’s get to it.

Our first tune out of the box is “I Never Want” and we find Harper a contented man. He’s got everything he needs --- the sun, the wind, the stars above his head --- and he’s happy with that. We should all be that lucky. “I never want anymore…I never want anymore…I never want anymore!” “Looking at You” finds Harper emphasizing with a friend of his. “I just don’t seem to understand the fascination…you take the money that they all give…it’s in the rapture…it’s the way to live…your hair is perfect…you’re looking fine…do you believe yourself all the time? Seems she’s taking life for granted when it really is right there in front of her.

“We Stand Together” is a call for unity. Collectively we can all accomplish more together than apart, so why not try? “I can’t believe you don’t understand…we’re all united with the dust and the sand…all it take me is not my choice…we stand together as one great voice!” Harper’s happiness is in the here and now, he’d much rather stand together than leave.

Our next cut, “Love=Peace=Freedom,” espouses the good that could be accomplished if we all worked together. “Wouldn’t it be something…if we could all get along…there would be no hunger…and the world be so strong…no need for an army…there’d be no one to fear!” Definitely an optimistic view of the world…don’t know if we’ll see it in our lifetime, but the world could definitely be a better place than it is now. “You Know What You Got” finds Harper trying to enlighten a friend of his. “You’ve got to try and change the things that you do…you know it’s going to be good for you…you’re going to lose everything you got…and I don’t know if you’re ready or not. Sounds like his friend is in for a tough lesson that Harper’s trying to help him avoid.

Gregg Leonard’s guitar lays the groundwork for Peter’s harp in our next cut, “No Problem.” “Don’t even try to understand…don’t even think they could be your brother, man…it’s all too easy…fade away…believe me…everything they say is true…don’t listen to them…can’t you see…it’s not your problem!” Harper is trying to save his friend from some serious problems by encouraging him to at least be cautious. He’ll stay out of a lot of trouble if he’ll listen and realize, “it’s not your problem, just walk away!”

Harper’s harmonica provides the intro to our next song, “Weaker Man.” “You sure did have a real nice trip…but you were sailing on a sinking ship…well, you’re a weaker man.” Harper’s friend doesn’t have the strength to realize he’s being played in several situations and being taken advantage of. His lack of internal strength will be his downfall. “Not My Brother” finds bad influences trying to affect the work ethic and life that Harper is building. “I can tell you’re not my brother…tell your story to another…please understand as I walk away…it doesn’t make a difference all the things you say…don’t want to tell you to get up and drive…I guess we just lead different lives!” Harper’s theme of doubt and mistrust continues in his rendition of “Chill Out.” “Why don’t you leave me alone? Can’t you see I can’t stand being around you…got to chill out now…got to chill out now…you never meant that much to me.”

“Take These Arms” finds Harper extending the gifts of friendship and shelter to a friend who needs it. “When you have a problem…I’m there at your door…no need to worry…cause that’s what friends are for…take these hands…no need to worry…take these hands.” Definitely my favorite tune on the disc, we all should be so lucky to have a friend like that to see us through the very tough times. Peter’s counsel continues in “What Are You Gonna Do?” Decisions have to be made, they all have consequences and faced with tough choices, “What are you gonna do?”

The final cut on Stand Together is “Damn Shame,” another tune dealing with tough choices and tough situations. “You know you really threw me…you said you’d get back to me…I thought that you were trying…but now I see you’re lying…I don’t know how you’re sleeping…with all the lies you’re keeping….damn shame!”

Stand Together is Harper’s third disc on Blind Pig and this one took some time to get my arms around. Peter’s focus has always been on building relationships; his themes of distrust and a general lack of human kindness are darker muses than he’s tackled before. But it makes for interesting listening and I can vouch from experience that a Harper show is not to be missed if he and the band are in your area.

Check our Harper’s website at and grab a copy of Stand Together while you’re there, it will keep Harper out on the road touring and that’s a good thing.

--- Kyle Deibler

Grady ChampionThe full title of Grady Champion's 2008 Earwig Records CD is Back In Mississippi Live At The 930 Blues Café, and it features guest artist Eddie Cotton Jr. This is the first Grady Champion album that I’ve heard, and it makes me wonder what I’ve been missing! Champion, the youngest of 28 children, started his musical career as a rapper, but quickly realized that his musical love lay in a different direction.

His debut album, Goin’ Back Home, came out in 1998, and he was picked up by Shanachie Records before transferring to Earwig Records. In January 2010 he won the 26th International Blues Challenge in Memphis. So it’s pretty certain that he knows his stuff from that background – what about the CD?

I’m a bit of a sucker for live recordings, especially when they are well recorded and catch the flavour of the performance – this recording fits both categories. The album contains five covers and eight original tracks, written or co-written by Champion, and they are all good – although some are better than others.

The CD opens with Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready,” before launching into a mix of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and “Bright Lights, Big City.” The first original track, “You Got Some Explaining To Do,” follows, written by Grady Champion and Dennis Walker, and it’s equally as good as the previous tracks. It's also slightly better than the next track, “1-800-Blu-Love,” a Champion original. Next up is “Policeman Blues,” to my ears more soul than blues but a good song nonetheless slightly marred by a bit of rap near the end.

Then it’s back to the covers with Howlin' Wolf’s “Spoonful.” Champion makes a good job of covering this old standard, with some very tasteful harmonica playing thrown in for good measure. From then on it’s a mixture of a couple of covers, an excellent version of “Lonesome Bedroom Blues” and B.B.King’s “Why I Sing The Blues,” both very well performed, and five more original tracks, the best of which has to be “Wine and Women,” a bouncy up-tempo number with lovely guitar work, backed up with feeling by piano and keyboards.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the CD, and I’m looking for Grady Champion’s earlier albums right now!

--- Terry Clear

Les CopelandI put this CD into the machine and immediately thought , “Wow!” Don't Let The Devil In is the debut album on Earwig records for Canadian musician Les Copeland, and it features Dave “Honeyboy” Edwards on a couple of tracks, so you just know that Copeland has some respect from other musicians.

Don't Let The Devil In opens with “That Needing Time,” a track that puts me in mind of Blind Willie McTell --- absolutely fantastic, with great guitar work. The album has 14 original tracks and one cover, “Anna Lee,” a Robert McCullum (aka Robert Nighhawk) song. Track two is an instrumental titled “Ry Cooder” and it’s easy to see why – lots of Ry Cooder influence, and I guess he’d be proud to be associated with it. The track showcases Copeland guitar playing ability, especially with the slide. It’s followed by “What’s Your Name,” a folk/blues track full of atmosphere thanks to some great harmonica playing by Michael Frank.

Track four, “Distant Train,” is a gentle blues, a little reminiscent of John Hurt, as is the guitar playing on “Riding The Sky Train,” a catchy mainly instrumental slide guitar number. The Cover of “Anna Lee” follows and it is a delight to listen to, with guest Honeyboy Edwards contributing lots of additional flavour of his own. This just has to be the best track on the album (and that’s not just because Honeyboy is a big favourite of mine).

“Long Lost Love” is another track with a John Hurt feel to it, gentle, good lyrics, and nice guitar picking, and then Copeland launches into a Wes Montgomery style jazz number – very well played, but a little out of place for a blues CD.

He reclaims the blues, however, with “How’s That Drummer,” another track with Honeyboy Edwards helping out before he seemingly loses direction totally with “I’m The Little One.” I’m totally unable to work out in my mind what this track is doing here. It’s about “feeling his mummy’s tummy,” “buying a first puppy,” a bit like a nursery rhyme.

Maybe he realized the error of his ways, as he slowly eases his way back into what the CD is about with “Everyday People,” sounding like Steve Payne, both with the voice and with the lyrics. Then it’s on to “Wet Paper Bag,” a throwback to early 1920s blues, the title track “Don’t Let The Devil In,” which sounds to me as though it has early Rolling Stones influence with the phrasing, and then the final track, “Crying For An Angel,” which is a beautiful instrumental ballad.

All in all, a very good CD, if you can forget about track 11!

--- Terry Clear

Rob StoneRob Stone features on the new Chris James/Patrick Rynn CD, and the two of them return the compliment by backing him on his own CD, the newly released Back Around Here (Earwig Records), and all 12 tracks on the album were written by these three guys. Chicago-based Stone plays some great harmonica, as well as providing the vocals on top of the song writing collaboration with James & Rynn. There are also some special guest artists featuring on the CD – Sam Lay, Willie Hayes, David Maxwell and Rodney Brown, the latter who plays sax on three of the tracks.

It’s taken seven years for Stone to follow up his last Earwig release, Just My Luck, mainly because he’s been too busy working to get into the studio. This gap isn’t totally a bad thing, it’s given Stone the time to add flavour and fullness to his music, and these 12 tracks reflect that with a nice mix of tempos and influences.

“You’re No Good For Me” is the opener, and when you listen to this track you just know this is going to be a good CD. David Maxwell provides the well above average piano work here, and on track three, “Love You For Myself,” which shows how good Stone’s harmonica playing is as well as on two more tracks later in the album.

The tracks change tempo and influence all the way through the album, keeping the listener interested and alert to the next change – from the Jimmy Reed-influenced harmonica on “I Need To Plant A Money Tree” to the big band feel of “Chicago All Night” to the New Orleans boogie woogie feeling of “Sloppy Drunk Blues.” But there isn’t a bad track on the CD as far as I’m concerned.

Track 10, “Dragon Killers,” is an instrumental full of good blues and it turns out to be my favourite on the album, but it’s a close run thing with a few others! It’s followed by a jump blues, “Can’t Turn Back The Clock,” and then into the last track of the CD, “No Strings Attached.”

What a good album!!

--- Terry Clear

Andy CohenAs far as I know, Built Right On The Ground (Earwig) is Andy Cohen’s debut album, and he’s taken a whole load of old blues songs and worked them in his own particular way. His style is very much that of Mississippi John Hurt and the other old blues guys of that era, and his music has a nice gentle feel to it.
This man has obviously researched his genre pretty thoroughly, as he’s pulled some real old gems out of the bag here – this is the type of blues that you don’t hear much anymore, and it’s a great thing that Cohen has chosen to resurrect it.

The CD opens with the title track, “Built Right On The Ground,” very much in the style of the original by Teddy Darby, who recorded it in 1931. The opening track is followed up by Sam McGhee’s “Railroad Blues,” which Andy Cohen has updated with some references to voting for Obama (rhyming with Mama!).
The album has some real gems, and a mixture of tempos and styles, even a couple of piano rags played as guitar numbers, some piano boogies – amongst tracks by Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Meade Lux Lewis, Woody Guthrie and others.

For me, the favourite track has to be “Honky Tonk Train” with some magical honky tonk piano, which just goes to show that Andy Cohen can play the piano at least as well as he can play the guitar.

The blues world could do with more CDs like this to keep these old songs in touch.

--- Terry Clear

Raising the Bar marks the 20-year anniversary of Magic Slim and the Teardrops’ association with Blind Pig Records. Like the band’s previous seven releases for the label, their latest is another no-frills, uncompromising batch of Chicago blues. For Magic Slim, playing this brand of blues is as natural as breathing.

This time around, Slim offers up 11 tracks, three originals and eight diverse covers. After all, Magic Slim is known as “The Human Juke Box,” boasting a repertoire of over 1,000 songs. Tracks like Clay Hammond’s “Part Time Love” and the Memphis standard, “Breaking Up Somebody Home,” take things as close to a soul direction as possible, but Slim makes them his own, as usual.

Other tracks focus more on the early Chicago blues of Elmore James (“I Can’t Hold Out”), Robert Nighthawk (“Gonna Move To Kansas City”), and J. B. Lenoir (a rousing “Mama Talk To Your Daughter”), and the blues of the Mississippi Delta are conjured up on tracks like “Cummins Prison Farm,” a lively reading of Little Milton’s “4:59 A.M.,” and the disc’s best track, Slim’s incredible take on Roosevelt Sykes’ “Sunny Road Blues,” a slow, smoldering blues that you hope never ends.

Slim’s own three compositions blend well, and stick to the basics. “Do You Mean It” has that familiar churning guitar rhythm, “Shame” is a reworking of a longtime favorite (“Gotta Love Somebody”), and the closing track, “Treat Me The Way You Do,” is a keeper as well.

This edition of the Teardrops (Jon McDonald – guitar, Andre Howard – bass, B. J. Jones – drums) is a typically strong edition, well-versed in Slim’s style of music. There’s nothing new here…..if you’re a Magic Slim fan, you know exactly what you’re getting before you unwrap it. It’s the Chicago blues that Magic Slim does best and has been doing for over half of his life. To borrow a quote from a co-worker, sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it that stands out. That certainly applies to Magic Slim, and may he never change.

--- Graham Clarke

Elvin BishopElvin Bishop has been playing the blues for over 45 years. For most of that time, he’s played the blues on a cherry-red 1959 Gibson ES-345 guitar that he dubbed Red Dog, which serves as inspiration for the title of Bishop’s second release on Delta Groove Records, Red Dog Speaks. In fact, the title track opens the disc and Bishop introduces Red Dog, who gets plenty of opportunity to speak his peace.

The set list includes familiar tunes from a variety of sources, all done in the inimitable Elvin Bishop manner. On the swampy “Neighbor, Neighbor,” John Nemeth contributes soulful vocals and Bishop rips loose on some scorching slide guitar. Jimmy Cliff’s reggae anthem, “Many Rivers To Cross,” gets a sensitive reading with vocals from Nemeth and some understated slide work from Bishop, and the instrumental “Doo-Wop Medley” is just that with Bishop being joined by guitarist Kid Andersen, who also team up for a lovely instrumental version of the gospel tune “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”

Bishop’s own tunes are all enjoyable, full of his usual good humor. Tracks like “Fat And Sassy” and “Clean Livin’” will put a smile on your face. “Blues Cruise” is a fun track that was recorded off the coast of Mexico during the 2009 Rhythm & Blues Cruise, and features a stellar lineup of guitarists (Ronnie Baker Brooks, Tommy Castro, Roy Gaines) along with Buckwheat Zydeco, Nemeth, and Sir Reginald Master Dural.

It’s hard to go wrong with an Elvin Bishop disc. You always get plenty of good songs, lots of fun, and great guitar… you’re always a little disappointed when it ends. Just hit “replay” and raise a glass of your favorite beverage in tribute to Bishop (and Red Dog) for giving us another fantastic release.

--- Graham Clarke

Watermelon SlimWatermelon Slim is at it again, twisting, shaping, and reshaping musical genres into one cohesive unit. Not that he hasn’t been doing that for years already…’s just that he’s been making you hip to his actions over the past few releases. His latest release, Ringers (NorthernBlues), is a worthy successor to his previous country/blues effort, Escape From The Chicken Coop, as Slim teams with some of Nashville’s finest players for a disc of electric and acoustic numbers.

As stated previously, Slim owes as big a debt to Merle Haggard as he does to Willie Dixon. That has been apparent from the get-go. His own compositions have offered the blues from the perspective of a truck driving man and also provided narratives about everyday people and their trials and travails. That’s basically the case here with Ringers, with tracks like “Good Old Boys Never Change,” which sounds for all the world like a old Nashville chestnut, but is actually a Watermelon Slim original, and “End of the Line.”

Slim also tackles a few country standards, ranging from fun recreations of “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” and “Truck Drivin’ Buddy,” to a wrenching version of Jimmy Buffett’s “He Went To Paris.” He hits the honky tonk scene with “Cowboys Are Common As Sin” and “Soft Lights and Hard Country Music.”

Listening to Slim’s craggy vocals and his sweet slide guitar, it’s easy to picture him as part of the Grand Old Opry scene of maybe 20 to 30 years ago. Unfortunately, things have probably homogenized a bit too much on the Nashville scene for someone as unconventional as he is. Thankfully, he’s got a place in the blues world for as long as he wants it. May he continue to bless the blues world with his talent.

--- Graham Clarke

Michael Packer is a longtime vet of the New York City blues and folk music scene. In fact, he got his start playing in Greenwich Village as a 15 year old. He also led a band during the early ’70s called Free Beer, a name that could have caused potential headaches for club owners. Free Beer recorded three albums that all charted on Billboard’s Top 100. Since then, Packer has returned to his blues and folk roots and has released a new disc named in honor of his former band, Free Beer (Blue Skunk Music).

Free Beer offers an eclectic mix of styles. The opening track is an updating of the late ’60s Barry McGuire hit, “Eve of Destruction.” The new “Eve of Destruction 2008” is chilling in the parallels to its 40-year-old predecessor. Next is the Jimmie Rogers country classic, “Jail House Now.” There’s also some great downhome blues with Tampa Red’s “Don’t You Lie,” and Riley Fitzsimmon’s “Come On Honey” (with Dave “Snakeman” Runyan on harmonica). “Back In Albany” is an acoustic song about a lost love from years ago.

“E-Blues” is a smooth slice of modern blues featuring the Michael Packer Band (Ed Jackson – Bongos, King Bear – Bass, Eddie Souzzo – Drums). “The Letdown” is a track from Packer’s Free Beer days with a jazzy NYC swing, courtesy of Ric Frank’s tenor sax. The closing track, “Salvation,” is a free-wheeling instrumental which is performed by the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band.

Free Beer is an enjoyable ride from start to finish. It’s a seamless mix of the traditional and modern blues by an artist who knows both styles inside and out.

--- Graham Clarke

Julius PittmanThere’s been a steady stream of releases over the past year or two spotlighting soul music. To most blues fans, that’s a good thing, since many blues fans (yours truly among them) actually moved toward the blues from soul music. In my case, the sounds of ’60s soul from Stax, Atlantic, Fame, Motown, and others provided a springboard to the blues. That’s why it’s always a pleasure when a new soul disc hits the racks.

Julius Pittman & the Revival is one of those groups keeping the soul sound alive. Based in Virginia, where most of the members were involved in the local show band and beach music scene, the group’s debut release, Bucket List, is a refreshing walk down memory lane with a great set of ’60s southern soul and ’70s rock and soul.

The disc is a mix of originals and covers. The covers include a smoking version of Al Green’s “Tired Of Being Alone,” a pair of tunes (“Don’t Need No Reason” and “Willing To Learn”) from Jack Mack & the Heart Attack, a big influence on the band, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers’ “Does Your Mama Know About Me” (written by Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame), and Albert Collins’ “A Good Fool Is Hard To Find.”

The originals range from “Sideshow,” which has a strong horn section reminiscent of Chicago and Tower of Power, to “Part Time Lover,” which mixes a bit of New Orleans second line with the horns and some tasty Hammond B3 to a pair of soul ballads (“Love Came Out of Nowhere” and “Love Changes Like The Weather”).

Pittman does a wonderful job on vocals and plays a mean Hammond B3. The Revival is a tight six-man unit (Randy Moss – guitar, Audie Stanley – bass, Chris McIntyre – drums, John Stanley – tenor sax, Howard Smith – baritone and tenor sax, Dave Triplett – trumpet, flugelhorn) and they augmented on several tracks by more horns (Lee Quisenberry – trombone, trumpet, Hugh “Chuck” Williams – tenor sax), keyboards (J. W. Belden – grand piano, synths), percussion (Alejandro Diequez) and backing vocals (Sharon Dennis, Curtis Swisher).

Fans of old school soul from the late ’60s and the great horn bands of the ’70s (Tower of Power, Chicago, etc.) will want to get their hands on Bucket List. If you reside in the southeastern part of the U.S., look for Julius Pittman & the Revival this summer. Visit the band’s website at

--- Graham Clarke

Teeny TuckerTeeny Tucker was born and raised on the blues. Her father was Tommy Tucker, whose “Hi-Heel Sneakers” is a blues standard, and she got her start singing in the choir at her church. After a well-received appearance at the Apollo Theatre, Tucker decided to embark on a professional singing career in the mid ’90s. She has performed at many of the major blues festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Her latest release, Keep The Blues Alive (TeBo Records) is her fourth album and it artfully blends her gospel and soul roots with the blues.

Tucker wrote eight of the 11 tracks here, mostly with producer/guitarist Robert Hughes. Her songs touch on a number of blues-related topics, whether it’s growing up the hard way (“Ain’t That The Blues”), affairs of the heart (“I Wish We Could Go Back”), or paying tribute to those who helped and influenced her along the way (“John Cephas” and “Daughter to the Blues”).

The more traditional fare is also strong as well. “I Live Alone” is a sparkling female version of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Ain’t Got You,” and the tongue-in-cheek “Old Man Magnet” is also a highlight. The title track is a vocal tour de force for Tucker as she makes known her mission statement as a performer.

Other tracks include “Make Room For Teeny,” which was not penned by Tucker, but would serve perfectly as her theme song. “Heartbreak” is a bouncy remake of the very cool 1960 R&B hit by Jon Thomas, and Tucker injects new life into the tired warhorse, “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

Miss Tucker has a four-octave range, so naturally she gets some flak about focusing on the blues from well-meaning critics. The closing tune, “Respect Me and The Blues,” lets them and her fans know that she’s going to continue singing the blues, which is great news for blues fans everywhere. Keep your eyes on Teeny Tucker, folks…..she’s just getting started.

--- Graham Clarke

Vincent HayesThe Vincent Hayes Project made it to the semi-finals in 2006 and 2007 at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Since that time, the band has worked with The Steve Miller Band, Joe Bonamassa, Peter “Mudcat” Ruth, and others. Traditionally a trio (Hayes – guitar/vocals, David Alves – bass, Donnie Hugley – percussion), the band expanded to a five-piece (Christian VanAntwerpen – keyboards, Steve “Doc” Yankee – piano) for their newest release, Reclamation (North 61 Records).

The band has a sound that mixes the traditional sounds of the blues with a shot of soul here, some rock and roll there, with jazz and funk thrown in for good measure. The songs, all written by Hayes, include some standouts like the fierce opener, “Hit Me High, Hit Me Low,” the rowdy “I Just Want To Get You High Tonight,” the kiss-off track, “Thank You,” “Double Talk,” and the slow T-Bone Walker-influenced, “I’ve Got A Right To Change My Mind,” one of two magnificent slow blues tracks that clock in at around ten minutes (the other being “Some Kind of Fool”).

These two marathon tracks allow Hayes and the band to strut their stuff. Hayes is an excellent guitarist and vocalist and the band is equally impressive in support. The set was produced by Hayes and Grammy winning producer/engineer Glenn Brown, who has also worked with Greg Nagy and Root Doctor). Brown owns the “Muscle Shoals 1978 8098 Neve mixing board, which was used on recordings by Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and many others.

Looks like the Vincent Hayes Project is continuing the tradition of fine recordings made using this board. Reclamation is an exceptional set of modern blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim Lothar and Peter NandeI’ve sung the praises of Danish guitarist Tim Lothar for several years now, about how he picked up the guitar in an extraordinarily brief amount of time after playing drums for several Danish blues bands including Lightnin’ Moe. He’s previously released two stunning solo guitar discs, most recently In It For The Ride, which was one of my favorite releases of 2009. Currently, Lothar serves as drummer for fellow countryman Peter Nande in The Peter Nande Band. Nande is a top notch harmonica player and singer in his own right.

The pair have released a disc of country blues standards and originals called Two For The Road (Straight Shooter) and, frankly, whoever had this idea deserves a medal, pure and simple. The duo rips through a dozen songs, mostly originals that sound for all the world as authentic as the old tunes they cover, like “Baby Blue,” “Done Left You,” and “Rough Ride.” The cover tunes include the wonderful Tampa Red classic, “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More,” Al Simmons’ “Ain’t Too Old,” and the traditional “Poor Boy.”

Lothar’s guitar work is breathtakingly diverse, highly percussive, and rhythmic. Vocally, he captures the sense of Delta blues incredibly well. Nande’s harmonica playing is also excellent and he, too, is a strong vocalist. On selected tracks, Lothar and Nande are joined by James Harman, who produced the disc and contributes vocals to songs like Tampa Red’s “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More,” “You Got To Choose,” and the hilarious “Pa-Ta-Nin’ Ta’ Jook-Jernts.”

Fans of acoustic blues guitar and harmonica will really want to get their hands on this recording. Two For The Road shows that Tim Lothar and Peter Nande can more than hold their own with their American counterparts.

--- Graham Clarke

Rocky JacksonRocky Jackson started playing guitar in the 1960s. Over time, he played rock and roll music in Detroit, worked as a roadie for the Austin-based country band, Freda and the Firedogs (Freda being Marcia Ball), and moved to Los Angeles and became a part of the Southern California blues scene. For nearly a decade, he was a part of the Magic Blues Band in L.A., backing many area artists (Johnny Dyer, George “Harmonica” Smith, Paul Butterfield, Coco Montoya). After the Magic Blues Band broke up, Jackson started his own group. His second disc, on High Life Records, is a scorching set of modern blues called Testify!

The opening cut, a lusty version of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” features Jackson’s stinging leads over a hypnotic beat. “Big Legs Don’t Mean Fat” is a lively shuffle, while “Voodoo Spell” is a strong dose of swampy funk. Jackson approaches Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down” in a traditional delta fashion, with some smooth slide guitar accompanied by Michael Fell’s harmonica. “Like Magic” takes us to the West Side of Chicago with a nice instrumental tribute to Magic Sam.

Other standout tracks include the upbeat “I Wanna Testify (About My Baby),” Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “Early In The Morning,” which features some more stellar interplay between Jackson and Fell, and “Never Should Have Left Texas,” a marathon slow blues that is easily the best track on the disc, and serves as a blues guitar clinic. “Chicken-Legged Woman” changes the pace a bit….a country blues track with Jackson overdubbing two guitar parts. The closing track is “LA to Austin” and serves both as an autobiographical piece and as a tribute to Hound Dog Taylor, who inspired Jackson to pick up slide guitar in the '60s.

With fine support from Fell, Eliot Witherspoon (drums), Joel T. Johnson (bass), and Hans Van Sickle (bass), Rocky Jackson has released a first-rate set of blues with Testify! A terrific guitar player and an excellent vocalist, Jackson’s sophomore release will please any discerning blues fan. Visit CDBaby and give this new disc a trial run.

--- Graham Clarke
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