Blues Bytes

What's New

July 2015

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Charles Wilson

Leo Welch

Omar Coleman

Beth McKee

Travis Haddix

Rick Vito

Mississippi Fever

Lazer Lloyd

Soul Suga & Diane Durrett

Mitch Mann

Jim Singleton

Amanda Fish



Charles WilsonThe Crown Prince of Soul, Charles Wilson, has been performing since the tender age of seven, but the nephew of blues/soul legend Little Milton Campbell has maintained a pretty busy recording schedule since the early ’90s, recording for Ichiban, Ecko, CDS, Traction, Delmark, and Severn Records over that time span. Recently, Wilson teamed up with another soul blues notable, Travis Haddix, a collaboration that should have happened years ago. On Sweet & Sour Blues (Blues Critic Records), Wilson covers 11 Haddix originals, with the man himself providing guitar throughout and co-producing with Wilson.

Most of the songs are from Haddix’s most recent releases, and they include favorites such as the up-tempo “Good Ole Monday,” the slow burners “Sweet & Sour Loving” and “Dinner With the Devil,” “2 Steps From A Lie,” “Six Women In My Life,” and saves his best for last on the disc closer, “Love Coupons.” Wilson’s version of these tunes is smoother than Haddix’s growling delivery, but is just as edgy in their own way. He actually brings a whole new dimension to several of the tunes with his more vulnerable presentation.

It doesn’t hurt to have Haddix backing him on guitar for sure. His crisp leads and fills are an added bonus for listeners. Having listened to both artists for a long time, I tend to think that both artists are underrated in their own way. Haddix has maintained an amazing level of consistently fine recordings for nearly 30 years and is an excellent live performer, while Wilson is clearly one of the finest soul/blues artists currently recording. For years, he offered great performances on his albums, with his vocals making even the most mediocre material stand out. This time around, he got a great set of tunes to work with and great support from a soul/blues legend (not to mention a powerhouse band), resulting in quite possibly his best release yet.

--- Graham Clarke

Leo WelchPart of Leo “Bud” Welch’s deal with Big Legal Mess Records was that if he got to record a gospel album, 2014’s Sabougla Voices, he would then do a blues album. The 83-year-old Welch grew up playing music (guitar, harmonica, and fiddle) at picnics, parties, and eventually juke joints and clubs, but he never quit his regular job, working on a logging crew for many years. He eventually began playing in church, retaining the blues sound similar to his contemporaries R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, but with the gospel message. His debut release won praise from blues fans for its rawness and urgency, who eagerly anticipated his follow-up release.

The follow-up, I Don’t Prefer No Blues (Big Legal Mess Records), is as raw and urgent as its predecessor, only on the secular side. There are a couple of exceptions, one being the opening track, “Poor Boy,” a haunting, drum-driven track in the North Mississippi tradition that forms a bridge of sorts between Welch’s previous release and this one. Welch’s world-weary vocals are strongly backed by Sharde’ Thomas’, and it makes for a haunting effect. “Girl in the Holler” changes the pace considerably, however, with its buzzing electric guitars (courtesy of Welch and Jimbo Mathus) and swampy rhythm. The raw and ragged rocker “I Don’t Know Her Name” continues along the same lines.

Though “Goin’ Down Slow” eases the pace a bit, it’s no less intense, with that grungy guitar and Welch’s desperate vocal seemingly working in unison. The loose-limbed “Cadillac Baby” has plenty of swing and swagger, and “Too Much Wine,” with its wah wah guitar, organ, and ragged background choir, is almost psychedelic in feel. “I Woke Up” is more of a Chicago-styled romp at the beginning, but turns into a rollicking jam by the time it approaches the end of its nearly five-minute run, though it sounds like it was still going strong at the fade.

“So Many Turnrows” starts out stripped-down, with just Welch, his guitar, and his footstomp, but slowly builds in instrumentation and intensity. “Pray On” returns to the theme of Sabougla Voices, but it’s the rockingest call to prayer you’ll ever encounter, with Welch’s growling vocal, his cranked-up electric guitar, and Mathus’ special-effects-laden guitar in the background. The album closes with one of the best tracks, a spot-on reading of Robert Nighthawk’s “Sweet Black Angel.”

The only issue with I Don’t Prefer No Blues is that there’s not enough of it… clocks in at 35 minutes. However, it’s the best 35 minutes a fan of the down-home, rough-and-tumble, ragged-but-right Mississippi Blues will ever spend. We should be grateful that Big Legal Mess (a subsidiary of Fat Possum Records) was able to track him down. Hopefully, he has a few of these left in him.

--- Graham Clarke

Omar ColemanIn recent years, you’ve probably heard Omar Coleman’ s harmonica, either as a guest on an album (Mike Wheeler, Toronzo Cannon, to name a couple, plus Severn’s 2005 collection Chicago Blues Harmonica Project and the Louisiana Swamp Stomp benefit album) or performing around the country at festivals or clubs. Born in Chicago in 1973, Coleman was exposed to the music of many Windy City blues artists like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Junior Wells as well as soulful singers like Bobby Rush, Sam Cooke, O.V. Wright, and James Brown.

Taking a bit from each of those artists and constructing his own unique band of blues, Coleman began playing harmonica in public in 2003, eventually becoming lead vocalist and harmonica player for the Sean Carney Band, with whom he toured Europe. He’s also headlined the Chicago Blues Festival, performed on the European Blues Cruise, and worked as a studio musician and songwriter.

Recently, Coleman signed with Delmark Records and released Born & Raised, his debut for the label, and second overall. With a rock-solid Chicago blues band (Pete Galanis – guitar, Neal O’Hara – keyboards, Ari Seder – bass, Marty Binder – drums/percussion) and guest appearances by Cannon, Wheeler, and guitarist Dave Herrero, Coleman shows that he will be a force to be reckoned with on the blues scene for a long time to come.

Coleman wrote or co-wrote all but a couple of the 14 tracks on Born & Raised, and these tunes show roots in not only the traditional blues sounds of Chicago but also southern soul and funky R&B. Tracks like “Sit Down Baby,” “I Don’t Want No Trouble,” and “Lucky Man,” are seeded with Bobby Rush’s “Folk-Funk” style, and Coleman shows that he’s also well-versed in R&B ballads with a strong vocal performance on “I Was A Fool” and “One Request.”

There’s plenty of straight and solid blues, too, with tracks like “Tryin’ To Do Right,” “Wishing Well,” “I Know You Been Cheating,” “Raspberry Wine,” and the slow burner “Tell Me What You Want,” while “Man Like Me,” “You Got A Hold On Me,” and the title track groove relentlessly.

Coleman is an ace on the harp, but his vocals are just as strong, if not stronger. He moves effortlessly from the down-home gritty blues to the smooth soul ballads to the funky rockers. Trust me when I say that you will be hearing much more from Omar Coleman soon. Born & Raised provides ample evidence of this and is as good a release as you will hear this year.

--- Graham Clarke

Beth McKeeBeth McKee’s latest release, Sugarcane Revival (Swampgirl Music), is her best and most personal disc to date. The singer/songwriter goes back to her musical roots of Louisiana, Texas, and her native Mississippi with 13 compelling original compositions, the common theme of many of them being restlessness or discovery, and she sounds marvelous doing it, securing her place in the process as one of the finest, most naturally gifted vocalists currently performing.

The opening track, “Long Road Back,” kicks things off with a Louisiana flair, while the funky and defiant “Break Me Down” sizzles and percolates with a nice dose of Memphis grease. “Promised Land” is a standout tune and it’s topic is one we can all relate to…..searching for our place in the world only to find out that we were there all along…..but her vivid lyrical imagery raises it far above standard fare. The meditative “Right At The Gate” finds McKee at a crossroads, but determined to find her own way on her own terms.

A Latin rhythm (complements of McKee’s husband, drummer Juan Perez) propels “Nobody Knows Like Me,” which also provides a wonderful showcase for one of McKee’s most potent vocal performances. On “A Place For Me,” the sense of loneliness is almost palpable in her singing. To paraphrase the late Bum Phillips, Beth McKee may not be in a class by herself as a vocalist, but based on just these two tracks, it sure wouldn’t take long to call roll.

That theme of loneliness and longing for a place continues in “Abraham and Alice,” a powerful song about looking for a place to belong, with a great line asking whether we’re wandering like Abraham or seeking Wonderland like Alice. Great stuff. “And Everything Changed” is a rollicking journey through Biblical times, with more great Latin-styled percussion as a backdrop. “Trouble the Waters” continues on a spiritual theme, encouraging us to make a difference in other’s lives where we can.

McKee, who shines on piano and accordion, is backed by an outstanding group of musicians, including Perez, guitarists Tony Battaglia, Tommy Malone of the subdudes, and Tim Lee, fiddler Jason Thomas, and Rhonda Lohmeyer of Evangeline on mandolin. McKee went the Kickstarter route on Sugarcane Revival, and as a result was able to do things the way she wanted them. Her fans and contributors will be pleased because the result is her best album to date and one of the best releases of the year.

--- Graham Clarke

Travis HaddixGuitarist Travis Haddix has been playing the blues since the ’70s, but only began recording in the late ’80s. The Ohio resident has been prolific since then, releasing around 20 albums for a variety of labels, all of which feature his fine guitar playing and his songwriting, which is always inventive and entertaining. Most recently, Haddix issued a collection of some of his finest songs on It’s My Time Now: The Best of, an 18-track set that mixes four newly recorded tunes with 14 of his best-known songs.

The previously released material goes all the way back to the early ’90s with a pair of tracks from his 1991 Ichiban Records release Winners Never Quit (the humorous “Bag Lady” and the encouraging title track). While it would have been nice to have a couple more tracks from Haddix’ Ichiban days (the label is no longer in print), these tracks are a very good representation of his style of blues and his songwriting.

From there, things fast forward to the late ’90s/early 2000s with tracks from Haddix’s own Wann-Sonn label (“You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” from 1998’s Signs Of The Times, “The Dip” from his live 1999 disc, Shootum Up, “Job Close To Home” from 2000's Old & Easy, “Catch You In The Truth” from 2001’s Milk & Bread, the title track from 2002’s Company Is Coming, “Acute Blues Syndrome” from 2004’s Blues From Staghorn Street, and “Dick For Dinner” from 2007’s Mean Old Yesterday).

After a brief stop at Earwig Records (represented by “Good Buddy Blues” from his lone Earwig release, 2008’a Daylight At Midnight), Haddix settled in with Benevolent Blues. That tenure is represented by four outstanding tracks (“Don’t Get Too Comfortable” from 2009’s If I’m One, You’re One Too, “First Thing Tuesday Morning” from 2010’s live A Dozen Times, “Cialis Before I See Alice” from 2011’s Old Man In Love, and “Doctor Doctor” from 2013’s Ring On Her Finger, Rope Around My Neck).

The four new tunes are the salacious entries “Two Heads Are Better Than One” and “Put Your Finger In It,” the slow blues title track, and the inspirational “Go On From There With Prayer.” What’s remarkable about this collection is the amazing consistency Haddix has maintained over this 25-year period. His songs continue to be interesting and entertaining, he sounds just as good on guitar and vocally as he ever has……even better, and he moves effortlessly from urban blues to downhome blues to soul/blues.

Travis Haddix is one of the unsung heroes of the modern blues era… artist who had built a big and loyal group of fans despite never recording for a major label, depending on word of mouth, the body of his work, and his live performances. If you’ve not experienced his music, It’s My Time Now is a fantastic place to get started.

--- Graham Clarke

Rick VitoYou may not know who Rick Vito is, but if you’ve watched TV or listened to the radio over the past four or five decades, you’ve heard his splendid guitar work. He served as lead guitarist for Fleetwood Mac in the late ’80s/early ’90s, replacing Lindsey Buckingham. He’s also played with Bob Seger since the mid ’80s……that’s his distinctive slide guitar on “Like a Rock.” He also backed Bonnie Raitt in her touring band through the ’90s, and has numerous other rock and blues artists such as John Mayall, John Fogerty, Jackson Browne, Rita Coolidge, and Maria Muldaur. His 2010 CD/DVD collaboration with Mick Fleetwood, Blue Again!, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues category.

Based on the above credentials (I didn’t even mention the many TV shows and films that have featured his music), you might say that Rick Vito knows his way around a guitar, right? Well, if there are any remaining doubters, they are strongly encouraged to check out his latest solo release, Mojo On My Side (Delta Groove Music) for some of the finest lead and slide guitar playing they will likely encounter. Vito offers up 14 marvelous blues and roots tracks, 11 originals and three covers, with stalwart backing from Jim Hoke (sax), Dan Serafini (HammondB3), and Charles “Mojo” Johnson or Rick Reed (drums).

Highlights include the moody title track, which percolates and simmers with swampy funk and some cool slide, the old-school romper “Pretty Woman,” “Missy Brown,” which combines Delta boogie with an irresistible rhythm, “Femme Fatale,” which showcases Vito’s slide over a gritty Memphis backbeat, the Windy City-based “Who Were You Thinking Of” and the rowdy “House Party,” with some positively smoking slide.

Also noteworthy are “She’s Got It All,” which ventures toward the jazzy side of blues, “Help Me Lord” is a gospel-flavored acoustic blues, and the toe tapper “You Can Run.” The closing instrumental, “River of Blues,” has an Eastern Indian feel. Vito easily handles the cover tunes, from a swinging version of Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby,” to the New Orleans R&B classic “Life Was Just a Struggle” (penned by Chris Kenner), to the dead-on-the-heavy-funk reading of the Dyke & the Blazers’ classic “Let A Woman Be A Woman.”

Though he’s best known for backing other musicians, Mojo On My Side proves without a doubt that Rick Vito could definitely fill the front man position at any opportunity. This dics is a must-buy for guitar fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Mississiippi Fever300 Miles To Memphis, the latest release from the rocking blues trio Mississippi Fever, alternates between smoking, smoldering, and burning. Singer/guitarist Brent Barker, bassist Ted May, and his brother, drummer Tom May, offer up ten masterful tracks of blues and rock with eight original tunes and a pair of interesting covers. The trio has been playing since the ’70s, but joined forces as Mississippi Fever in 2009.

The trio’s original songs range from the funky opener “I Feel Like Superman” to the steamy shuffle “Steal Away Your Love” to the hard chargers “Downtown Train” and “Till the Sunrise.” “Black Dress” pumps up the funk again, with some tasty wah-wah effects from Barker, who also fills “Out All Night,” a splendid slow blues, with excellent lead work.

The restless rocking title track features Memphis harp ace Brandon Santini and “The Devil’s Got You Now” is a churning rocker with some nice work by the rhythm section. The two covers are Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues,” transformed into a rousing shuffle, and an impressive take on ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” that closes the disc.

I really like the interplay between the trio, Barker’s weathered voice and versatile guitar work, and the rock solid rhythm section. Mississippi Fever knows how to deliver the goods and 300 Miles To Memphis will provide blues fans with a lot of enjoyable listening.

--- Graham Clarke

Lazer LloydLazer Lloyd is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who’s considered to be Israel’s blues-rock king. Growing up in Connecticut, Lloyd (a.k.a. Lloyd Paul Blumen……his nickname is a combination of his Hebrew name, Eliezer, and his English name) began playing in night clubs at age 15, studying music at Skidmore College, and eventually joining the psychedelic jam band Reva L’Sheva and later forming the roots rock band Yood. His music is influenced by blues, gospel, and southern rock and by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Wes Montgomery, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Buddy Guy, and Santana.

His latest self-titled disc (on Lots of Love Records) offers a dozen songs….11 originals and one cover. The guitarist shows a lot of versatility, obviously he’s played a lot of styles over his career. The opener, “Burning Thunder,” has a droning Hill Country feel to it. On “Suffering,” he draws the listener in as he gives/raps a harrowing account of life on the road and the incessant loneliness that sometimes goes with it. “Rockin’ In The Holy Land” is an interesting twist, his account of how he ended up in Israel, on old time rock & roll, and “Never Give Up” is an inspiring and honest message of determination. “Out of Time” is a blistering blues rocker, and “Broken Dreams” is a searing slow blues with some great guitar.

“Set My Soul Free” combines the best of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The lyrical structure brings to mind a Hendrix tune and the guitar work brings it together. The quirky “Moroccan Woman” has a funky, spicy, swampy quality with its funky rhythm and busy guitar. The closing three tracks, as indicated by the titles, “Love Yourself,” “TimeTo Love,” and “Whole Heart” focus on love and togetherness, presented with honest and powerful words, and some muscular blues rock fret work. The album’s lone cover is Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay,” presented as a spare, slow and vulnerable ballad with a heartfelt vocal.

Recorded in Tel Aviv, Lazer Lloyd is joined by Moshe Davidson (bass), Elimelech Grundman (drums) and Kfir Tsairi (keys). Blues rockers will savor every note of Lazer Lloyd’s guitar playing, but will be drawn in closer by his highly personal and honest songwriting and gritty vocals. Lazer Lloyd is an excellent showcase for this gifted performer’s talents.

--- Graham Clarke

Lucky LosersThe Lucky Losers, Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, appear to have struck gold with their brand new, appropriately-titled release A Winning Hand (West Tone Records). Produced by guitarist Kid Andersen at his Greaseland Studios, the new release features a dozen outstanding tracks of blues and R&B, evenly split between originals and cover, with appearances by guitarists Andersen, Steve Freund, and Ben Rice.
Lemons has been a blues-singing legend in the Bay Area for the last 25 years, with three albums to her credit (including the acclaimed Black Crow from 2014), and a resume’ that includes performances with Anson Funderburgh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Tommy Castro, and Ron Thompson. Singer/harmonica ace Berkowitz has been dazzling Bay Area audiences for nearly 20 years with his energetic shows and recordings, and has previously collaborated with Billy Branch and guitarists Danny Caron, Duke Robillard, and Sean Carney.

Lemons and Berkowitz contributed three songs apiece. Lemons’ tunes include the soulful title track (nice guitar work from Freund), “Suicide By Love,” which leans toward the jazz side of blues, and the solid boogie rocker “Detroit City Man.” Berkowitz’s compositions (co-written by Caron) are the funky opener, “Change In The Weather,” “Long Hard Road,” a smooth R&B burner, and the ballad, “Don’t You Lose It,” which benefits from the Wurlitzer piano from Chris Burns.

The covers include a raucous take on the Sam & Dave classic “I Take What I Want,” a swinging remake of Jimmy Rogers’ “I Take What I Want,” and a funkified reworking of Bob Dylan’s “What Was It You Wanted.” Allen Toussaint’s “What Is Success” combines Crescent City swagger with some fine slide guitar from Rice, and their interpretation of Brook Benton/Dinah Washington hit “You Got What It Takes” is a winner, too.

In addition to Andersen, Freund, Rice, and Burns, the band includes guitarist Marvin Greene, keyboardist Keith Zuffi, bassists Steve Hazleood and Steve Evans, drummers Robi Bean and Jay Hansen, and a horn section that includes Tom Poole (trumpet) and Michael Peloquin (tenor/baritone sax).

Lemons and Berkowitz’s vocal styles match up nicely and they are equally comfortable in the wide variety of blues styles represented. They are respectful of the traditional sounds, but they also have an eye (or ear, if you will) to modern blues as well. A Winning Hand is an impressive debut for The Lucky Losers. Hopefully, we will hear more from them in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Sugarcane CollinsAustralian blues man Sugarcane Collins traveled between Cairns, in Queensland, Australia, Clarksdale, Mississippi, and New Orleans to record his latest release, Going Back To Clarksdale. Collins’ previous U.S. release, Way Down The River, still gets regular play on the Satellite Radio channel Blueville nearly nine years after it’s release, and the guitarist/singer (a 35-year music vet who was selected 2014 Australian Male Blues Singer of the Year) has played many U.S. festivals over the past decade, and has built an impressive base of fans here as well as Down Under.

Going Back To Clarksdale offers 11 tracks, eight covers of some of Collins’ favorite blues standards and three original tunes. Stylistically, there is a mix of traditional urban blues tunes that employ horns and Delta-styled acoustic fare that includes some interesting instrumentation at times, too. Of course, Collins writes and sings just like he’s a lifelong resident of the southern part of the U.S., which was one of the selling points of his previous release for me……he “gets” this music more so than many native to the region.

The first track, Big Joe Turner’s “Flip Flop Fly,” has an easy, almost jazzlike, swing with horns and Bill Malchow’s percolating keyboards serving as a backdrop. The standard “Trouble In Mind” teams Collins’ acoustic guitar with Paul Green’s electric and Ruedl Hornberger’s saxophone. Next is a gentle reading of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Creole Belle,” featuring Collins’ acoustic guitar and Kirk Steel’s accordion, followed by a ghostly, atmospheric reading of “St. James Infirmary.”

The title track, written by Collins, was recorded in Clarksdale and describes the journey from New Orleans with a nod to the late Frank Ratliff, owner of the Riverside Hotel (which is pictured on the album cover). Clarksdale regulars Stan Street (harmonica) and Lee Williams (drums) chip in on this enjoyable romp. Collins stays in Clarksdale with Street for a dandy take on the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sitting On Top Of The World.” For the rollicking Blind Willie McTell rag tune, “Baby It Must Be Love,” Collins teams up with mandolinist Peter Ella and Hornberger on clarinet.

The next two songs are both Collins originals: “Hungry, Broke and Blue” is a tranquil swinger and “Blind Willie” is a nice solo tribute to Georgia blues man McTell. Son House’s mournful classic “Walking Blues” gets an impressive modern reconstruction with Street on harmonica, Williams on drums, Ella’s mandolin, and Green adding some tasty slide, and the Leroy Carr number, “Memphis Town,” closes things out on an upbeat note.

Collins’ easygoing vocals and his acoustic guitar are always right on time, and I really like the combination of instruments on these songs. It puts a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, on these tunes, some of which have been covered numerous times by others. Going Back To Clarksdale is a first-rate and imaginative set that will please blues and roots fans.

--- Graham Clarke

JC SmithThe JC Smith Band is one of the West Coast’s finest, winning the Bay Area Blues Society West Coast Blues Band of the Year in 2006 and the 2012 Metro Newspapers’ Best of Silicon Valley “Best Original/Local Band.” One listen to their fourth and latest CD, Love Mechanic (Cozmik Records), and it’s easy to understand. The new disc offers up a dozen potent tracks that mix West Coast Swing with the urban sounds of Chicago blues and the downhome sounds of the South with additional dashes of R&B and funk thrown in for good measure.

The 12 tracks include five Smith originals. The energetic “Jump for Joy” kicks off the disc and challenges you to stand still. “Come On Home To Me” is a smooth Memphis-styled soul ballad, and the title track is a solid and spicy blues rocker. The other original tunes are “Bad, Bad Feeling,” a country romper, and the funky “Ring Around The Tub.”

The seven covers include a version of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” that transforms the funky soul original into a slick blues shuffle. Smith covers two Elmore James songs, which is never a bad thing in itself, but neither are routine remakes. “Yonder Wall” gets a rocking blues remodel and his “Talk To Me Baby” swings hard. Little Walter’s “Last Night” is recreated as a sultry slow burner, as is Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years.” The band also covers Colin James’ swinging “Rocket To The Moon” and closes with a rocking take on Toronzo Cannon’s “Ain’t No Stranger.”

The band (Smith, Robert Green – bass, Abraham Vasquez and David Sandez – sax, Donnie Green – drums, Tommy Maitland – trumpet, Todd Reid – keys, and Gene Reynolds – trombone) is joined by guest Chris Cain (guitar), Richard Palmer (keys), Jeannine O’Neal (guitar), and Sid Morris (keys) on various tracks, and they provide first-rate backing to Smith, who proves to be a fine and versatile guitarist and vocalist.

With smartly-crafted original tunes, cleverly refurbished cover tunes, and overall excellent performances, Love Mechanic should be a real crowd pleaser for blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Diane DurrettSinger/songwriter Diane Durrett has performed with Sting, The Indigo Girls, Gregg Allman, and others, and contributed vocals on multiple recording sessions. She’s opened shows for Tina Turner, Faith Hill, Little Feat, Delbert McClinton, and Derek Trucks, and she’s as highly regarded as a composer as she is for her soulful vocals. Since the early ’90s, she’s released seven of her own albums, including her most recent release, Soul Suga’ & Diane Durrett (Blooming Tunes Music), an outstanding 11-song set of blues and soul that mixes sweet and spicy in equal portions.

Durrett wrote or co-wrote ten of the tunes. They range from the steamy opening soul blues of “Show Up Sexy” and “Butter in the Skillet” to the poignant ballads “All Is Well” and “I Know Your Nothings” to the upbeat R&B of “Be Somebody’s Angel” and “Bright Side” to the funky dance tracks “Push the Push Back” and “Let Go & Let Groove.” The blues is well-represented by the swinging tale of “Sassy Larue,” and the risque “Woohoo,” which features guitar from Tinsley Ellis. The album’s lone cover is Lennon & McCartney’s “Let It Be,” which is given a gospel polish, complements of Randall Bramblett’s piano and sax solo and Durrett’s heartfelt interpretation.

In addition to Ellis and Bramblett, Durrett is assisted by a huge cast of Georgia’s best musicians, including drummers Yonrico Scott and Melissa “Junebug” Massey, bassists Charlie Wooton, Ted Pecchio, Gregg Shapiro, and Chris Price, guitarist Markham White, Oliver Wood, and Critter Critendin, keyboardists Yoel B’nai Yehuda, Eric Frampton, Brandon Bush, and Ike Stubblefield, Morris Baxter (DJ), and Jon Maret and Daryl Dunn (sax), Jonathan Lloyd and Joe Burton (trombone), Kathie Holmes (flute), Miko Bowles (trumpet), Dub Hudson (clarinet) and backing vocals from Adam McKnight, Caroline Allen, Deborah Reese, Peggy Still Johnson, and Sassy Singers.

Based on the evidence presented by her latest release, Diane Durrett’s voice is one that deserves to heard by many. Soul Suga’ & Diane Durrett is a sweet and sultry mix of blues and soul.

--- Graham Clarke

Mitch MannIt’s rare to see a new blues recording feature acoustic guitar work exclusively, but that’s just what singer/guitarist/songwriter Mitch Mann does with his new release. A resident of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Mann has contributed guitar and vocals to music from The Fiddleworms, Yellowhammer, Blackwater Toad, The Mojo Mixers, Donnie Fritts, and others. For this release, Blackwater Creek (Crazy Chester Records), Mann presents 11 tracks, seven original tunes and four covers that move from the blues to Americana and back.

The opener is the old blues classic, “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” and it features a hearty vocal from Mann with support from Andreas Werner on resophonic Tele. “Baby Don’t Forget” is a catchy toe-tapper, and “Crows” is a countrified blues with harmonica from former Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall. There’s also a splendid reworking of “St. Louis Blues,” with Charles Rose on trombone. “Make This Minute Last” is a sweet ballad with Mann really shining on vocals and guitar, and “More Than I Could Ever Show” continues that theme.

“Sometimes a Rock” picks up the tempo with tenor sax from Harvey Thompson, deftly mixes R&B with country, and is a nice lead-in to the title track, a lovely, upbeat instrumental. “Detour You” is a bluesy original from Mann, a song about moving on to the next town and relationship, and “Hold Her While You Got Her” is another “leaving” song, but from the opposite point of view. “Tom Clark” is a story song about an evil local character, which is a smooth fit with “It’s Time,” a gloomy song about death. The set closes on a more optimistic note, however, with the hopeful “Good Things.”

I really liked Mann’s nimble fretwork throughout this disc, but I think his down-to-earth vocals are as big a selling point for Blackwater Creek as his guitar. In addition to Werner, Hall, Rose, and Thompson, he gets some standout support from Donna Jean Godchaux, Buzz Cason, Russell Melford, and Scott Boyers (harmony vocals), and Mickey Buckins (percussion). This is a low-key, understated release that will appeal to blues, folk, and Americana fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Jim Singleton8 O’Clock In The Afternoon is a tribute to British and American blues and rock guitarists who influenced musicians on both sides of the globe. The album was a labor of love for Pennsylvania singer/guitarist Jim Singleton. An army brat who grew up all over the world, Singleton grew up digging the work of artists like John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd, but discovered during his travels in England that the folks over there were listening to Muddy and the Wolf and the old blues guitarists like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson.

The festivities begin with a scorching cover of Peter Green’s “Rattlesnake Shake,” and moves to a slower, more sedate pace with “Nothing to Do with Love,” usually associated with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The ballad “Don’t Take” was written by guitarist Gary Vincent, who guests on the tune, a heart-breaker that blends acoustic and electric guitars. Vincent also contributes “Heart With A Mind of Its Own,” a simmering country rocker. Singleton also covers a pair of Rory Gallagher tunes, the rocker “What’s Going On” and the power ballad “A Million Miles Away,” which features some pretty impressive string bending and vocalizing.

Speaking of power ballads, Singleton also covers the ’80s Whitesnake hit, “Here I Go Again,” reinterpreting it into a kinder, gentler acoustic version, with original co-writer Bernie Marsden helping out on guitar. Another Marsden composition, “Place In My Heart,” features the harmonica of blues legend Charlie Musselwhite. The last two covers are particularly noteworthy, as Singleton hits all the right notes on Gary Clark, Jr.’s rowdy “Don’t Owe You A Thing,” and turns in a marvelous performance on Chris Isaak’s haunting “Wicked Game.”

Recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the album also features an impressive array of musicians in addition to Musselwhite, Vincent, and Marsden, including Jack Thurman, Nicky Moroch, and Fiona Boyes (guitars), Joe Osborn (bass), Mark Yacovone (keyboards, accordion), Michael “The Professor” Hensley (Hammond B3), Lee Williams and John Martin (drums), Daddy Rich (bass, harmonica), and Lauren C. Mitchell (vocals).

8 O’Clock In The Afternoon focuses primarily on rock and country-styled rock music, but the session has a solid blues feel to it, probably due to location and some of the musicians present. Singleton has the spirit of the blues in his guitar playing and his soulful vocals, and his covers of the Gallagher and Clark tunes are first-rate, making this a nice tribute to the blues and the influence it has had on other genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Amanda FishI’ve been aware of Amanda Fish since her early days, performing under the name Amanda Wish, and looked forward to getting a chance to hear some of her music. So I was happy when her debut release for Vizztone, Down In the Dirt, came in the mail. I expected it to be raw, perhaps a bit wild, but in the end her collaboration with Stone Cutters Union frontman Sean McDonnell is a breath of fresh air and certainly indicative of an artist with a bright future. Let’s hit the “Play” button and give it a spin.

Amanda and the band start out with “I’mma Make You Love Me” and already she’s in my ears, demanding attention. “I’m going to whisper sweet things…until I make you my own.” Amanda is nothing if not determined, and the man in her sights will acquiesce soon. Brody Buster is playing some sweet harp on this cut and I hear the steady backbeat of Kris Schnebelen on the drum kit with Derek Tucker playing bass on this cut. The band segues on to “Player Blues” and this tune has a bit of a vaudevillian feel to it. Here, Amanda is the other woman, enjoying a few stolen moments with her lover before he returns home to his wife. “And everything I am…is in the palm of his hand…and he’s never going to love me back.” Amanda’s clear in regards to her bedroom politics but letting this one go is tough. Sean McDonnell lays down a sweet guitar riff indicative of the pain Amanda is experiencing as she’s close to reaching her breaking point. No matter what you do, Amanda, this is one you’re better off letting go of. “Wait” is our next cut and Matt Peters has my attention with his fretwork on the tune as Amanda sings another tune of love lost & gone. “Well, if you think it’s going well…you can’t see that far down the range…oh, wait…wait…wait…that’ll change.” There’s always another woman in the picture and this one is well aware of the stakes in play.

Jacob Hiser plays some sweet fiddle on the next track, “Guess I’ll Lay Down,” a tune with a decidedly country waltz feel as Sean McDonnell sings a duet with Amanda all about the love they have for each other. “I guess I’ll lay down…and try…not to dream of you.” The romance is killing both of them as it begins to fall apart and that’s all they can do, “Lay down…and try not to dream of you.” Liam Goodrick lends his keyboard magic to the mix of the next tune Amanda tackles, “Prisoner of Your Touch.” Sean echoes her feelings as well, “When you give me everything…you know it’s not enough…cause I’m a prisoner of your touch.” Like moths drawn to a flame, their love for each other creates a deadly set of conditions that could lead to both of them getting burned.

“Boots on the Ground” finds Amanda coming to grips with a relationship ending and finding the strength to proudly move on. “I begged and lied…and stopped and stole…just to escape from your control…not one to do what I’ve been told…I’ll take my chances in the cold…no telling where my feet are bound…once I get my boots on the ground.” Good for you, Amanda. Cole Dillingham’s bass is the central focus as Amanda and the band tackle “I Don’t Need It,” and here we find Amanda seeing her relationship for what it is, and more importantly, what she intends to do about it. “Been waiting for your call…only silence on my phone…tell me that you love me…but you leave me all alone…you know you’re going to lose me…you won’t put up a fight…I don’t need that kind of bullshit in my life.” Her man doesn’t want her help and Amanda’s best to kick him to the curb and just move on. Brody is again blowing some killer harp to compliment Amanda’s defiant attitude and it all works for me.

Another heavy bass intro leads the band to “Hard Walkin’ Blues” and here we find Amanda wandering aimlessly in the world. “You took my money…I took the bread…ain’t got a dollar…left to my name…but I’ve been happy…since you put me out…now I’ve got nothing…to talk about.” All that’s left to do is some “Hard walking” and Amanda is more than up for that to move on with her life. Cole’s bass continues to impress as Amanda discusses the attraction that men have for her as a “Lady of the Night.” “I can bring you some comfort…when your day can’t get any worse…I’m a lady of the night…I’m the one you’re going to call….I’m a woman of beauty and grace…and we’re going to have a ball.” Amanda’s got a 45 in her purse so you’re best not to mess with her, but if you’re in need of some real company she definitely is a “Lady of the Night.”

“Breaking Me Down” is the first real ballad on the record and Amanda is vulnerable here to the man that she loves and a relationship she wants to work. “Hold me close…while you warn me once more…in a sea of you…I can not find the shore.” Amanda’s definitely all in and “every beat of your heart…is breaking me down.” Tyson Leslie’s organ makes an appearance in the intro for our next cut, “Watch It All Burn,” and Amanda is still standing strong in the face of a toxic relationship coming to an end. “Well…I was made to fall…on my knees I crawl…you stood strong and tall…I watched it all…burn away.” Amanda trusted this man and others tried to warn her that not all was as it seems. Sean’s incendiary fretwork echoes the intensity of this breakup and whether we like it or not, sometimes it just happens.

The final cut on the disc is the title track, “Down in the Dirt,” and a solo guitar intro starts the tune off before Kris comes in with a heavy kick drum. “Dirty old man…don’t care what I have to say…he don’t want to hear…the songs I have to play…he judges my worth…by the length and width of my skirt…I keep them down in the dirt.” While I don’t know the complete depth of Amanda’s back story, there’s enough information in the accompanying notes to her disc to tell me this is the tune that’s her anthem, her voice of defiance at all the world has thrown at her and her song of survival. No matter what her life may bring her or what she’s been through, Amanda has enough of herself safe, “down in the dirt” to handle whatever comes.

Down in the Dirt is definitely raw and I’m impressed by the quality of this debut recording from Amanda Fish. She’s paying her dues, winning fans one gig at a time and this disc will do nothing but help her accomplish that. The band launched a new website,, and you can learn more about Amanda and her band there. They play a lot in the Kansas City area and the time will come when we’ll start to see her more and more on the blues highway we all love to travel.

--- Kyle Deibler

Three ShotsI’ve been a fan of local Fort Collins band, Three Shots, since the first time I judged them in the Colorado Blues Challenge. And while I’ve given them a ton of grief over the years, at the end of the day they are a very tight band with a high ceiling as they hone their craft.

Their first disc is entitled I Shoulda Listened and it’s an upbeat disc that showcases the songwriting talents of lead vocalist and guitarist Andrew Tatro as well as the instrumental expertise of fellow band mates Collin Sitgreaves on vocals and drums, Tom Surace on bass and Jordan Coulter on keyboards and harmonica. There isn’t any truth to the rumor I spread that the band wrote the songs for I Shoulda Listened around a still somewhere in the wilds of Red Feather Lakes, but it makes for good copy so let’s give their disc a spin.

Jordan’s keys and a bit of harp provide the intro for our first tune, “Ol’ Scratch,” and here we have Andrew reflecting on one of many mistakes he’s made in his life. An encounter with a fellow named Scratch is the equivalent of Robert Johnson’s deal with the Devil at the Crossroads and Andy’s having second thoughts. Jordan’s blowing a mean harp as Andrew realizes the error of his ways, “I should have read that fine print…cause the Hell Hounds have my scent.” Andrew survives and hopefully he’s learned his lesson. It’s Andrew’s guitar the leads us to our next cut, “Wanna Know Your Name”, and here we find a woman has caught his eye and he’s trying to be real about it. “I’m not the kind…to use a cheesy pick-up line…I just wanna know your name….and how long have you been around?” He’s not looking for a one-night stand or a long-term relationship though it does seem here that he’s shooting for a happy middle ground as he pursues the girl that caught his eye. A heavy backbeat from Tom on bass and Collin’s drum work complete the picture as Andy tries to keep it cool.

This theme of physical attraction continues in “Skinny Women” and here Andrew is at least defining what his ideal woman would look like. “I like women…yes, I do…but if I have my pick…I like my women thick.” The winters aren’t that cold here in Colorado but Andrew still likes a woman with a little meat on her bones. Jordan’s playing some wicked organ in the background and I like the beat of this tune. Some frenetic fretwork from Andrew leads to our next cut, “Riled Up,” and here we find Andrew recognizing the inherent risks of pursing the next woman to come along. “You’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen…and I ain’t just saying that…you got a pretty little body…and a shy, little smile…but there’s some things I would add…you need caution tape wrapped around your hips…and a warning light taped to your lips…cause when light turns to dusk…you got me riled up.” Needless to say, she’s definitely got Andrew’s attention and that’s all we need to know.

“To Whom It May Concern” is our next tune and features a beautiful piano intro from Jordan as Andrew tackles the first ballad on their disc. “Yeah, them blues…it’s a feeling that comes from deep in your soul…them blues…it’s a feeling…and it ain’t no dog and pony show…yeah, I got the blues, man…just listen to me.” Andrew’s pretty clear, regardless of who it may concern, that he’s a Bluesman through and through, and that’s just the way it is. More fretwork from Andrew finds him telling us about the new girl in his life and the “Happiness” he’s found. “I found happiness…down in Lousiville…she could stop your heart with a smile…or speed it up…with a wink of her eye…I found happiness…down in Louisville.” This one ended badly as Andrew realized he was out of the girl’s league and it just wasn’t meant to be. Oh well, at least for a moment, Andrew found some “Happiness” down in Louisville.

Unrequited love continues to be the theme of the day and Andrew addresses it again in “Hard Luck Woman.” “You’re a good looking woman…though, the truth be told…love you give…is just way too cold…Lord, have mercy…on your hard luck soul.”

The final cut on I Shoulda Listened is the guitar-driven “Blues in My Veins,” and here Andrew addresses the music that inspires him to play. “Grew up on the legends…of six string soul…like Jimmy, the Kings…and T-Bone…yeah, they all paved the way…but I got to make it on my own.” Jordan’s blowing some wicked harp in the background and it’s refreshing to hear Andrew acknowledge that he’s got to bring his own vision of Blues to the table to really have an impact.

Three Shots have put out a nice debut album with I Shoulda Listened and I look forward to seeing what the future holds in terms of Andrew’s songwriting, expanded Blues themes in his lyrics and the continued expansion of the band’s catalog. The four of them --- Andrew, Collin, Tom and Jordan --- have been together for awhile now and we’re probably due for another visit to that still out in Red Feather Lakes here very soon. The band’s Facebook page is probably the best place to find out what they’re up to and I’m looking forward to catching a live performance here in Colorado soon.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mojo MamaOver the last couple of years here on the Front Range, Mojomama has evolved into one of the premier bands in Colorado. Their new self-titled release showcases just how tight the band has become with the addition of Paul Christiansen on the drums to go with lead singer Jessica Rogalski, her husband Paul on bass and Bob Murnahan on guitar. Their talent is undeniable and their new recording is outstanding.

Paul lends a greasy bass intro to our first cut, “Lying in the Dark,” and here we find Jessica contemplating the effect of a relationship ending on her heart. “You’ve got me lying here in the dark, baby….all I can feel is my broken heart.” A sweet solo from the magic fingers of Bob Murnahan and we’re off to a great start. Our next cut, “Eternity,” finds Jessica again contemplating the love in her life with a much better outcome. “Promise me that you’ll never leave…without the flame that burns for me…cause the only light you’ll see…we’ll love into eternity.”

Ann Harris lends a delicate touch on her violin to “Eternity” and I appreciate the tastefulness of her performance. Love continues on to our next cut, “Dig Deeper,” with the advice being to be present in the moment. “But, you’re going to be the one on top…you might just be the one that lasts…dig deeper next time.” Sage advice if he wants to stay in the game. “Tell It Like It Is” finds Jessica asking for complete honesty. “Don’t sugarcoat the words…oh, no…you’ve got to tell it like it is…cause when you get the final word…you’ve got to tell it like it is.”

We move on to Mojomama’s homage to the Blues heroes and heroines that have come before them with the tune, “Be a Legend.” Janiva Magness makes a guest appearance here and the vocal interaction between her and Jessica work to make the song come alive. “Be a legend…be a legend…oh, Janiva Magness…got her mojo working all the time…be a legend.” We segue into “Fool For Your Love” and Bob lends some intricate fretwork to the intro as Jessica contemplates her luck with Love. “The odds were in our favor…started off red hot...but that love couldn’t last…it’s just a shot in the dark.” Jessica normally has her ducks in a row but this time “I’m just a fool…a fool for your love. Baby.” Anguished tones from Bob’s guitar augment Jessica’s tormented journey down this particular path and you can’t help but root for her success.

Intricate fretwork from Bob and a solid bass line by Paul take us to our next cut, “Liberation.” “So go tell your friends…to come along…stepping to…my beating drum…there ain’t nowhere…you can hide…I feel it grooving…right down my spine…that’s liberation.” All you have to do is follow Jessica and she will lead you to the groove that liberates your soul. “Forbidden Love” is the next tune in the mix and here we find Jessica being very clear in what she needs, “you’ve got forbidden love under your skin…oh come on, let me in…baby, give me one kiss…I’ll seal it…oooh, baby…just one kiss.” “Complicated Love” finds Jessica dealing with a difficult man in her life and this love isn’t easy. “The dreams we have…they’ve become a nightmare…and we never seem to get anywhere…it’s a complicated love…running through these veins…all we need is a little harmony…before we go insane.” Ain’t that the truth!

The next cut on the disc is “Love Hangover” and here we find Jessica contemplating the difficulties of a love she cherishes. “Now give me a reason to put up with you…you never do a thing I want you to…but the way you love me, I can’t complain…you’ve given me something I just can’t explain…. no matter how hard I try…you’re still a sweet thorn in my side…love hangover.” Jessica is hoping a heartfelt conversation will solve most of the issues she’s feeling but you just can’t be sure that will cure her “love hangover.”

Sweet notes from Bob’s guitar provide the intro for the final cut on our disc, “Night After Night,” and here we again find Jessica reflecting on the love in her life. “Now, those clouds above us are heavy…. night after night.” You can hear the confliction Jessica is experiencing in her voice and one hopes she’ll be able to work through the issues and come out the other side.

Mojomama, the disc, is very well done and more than accurately reflects the vocal talents of Jessica Rogalski as well as the amazing musicianship of the three boys in the band: Paul Rogalski on bass, Paul Christiansen on drums and the guitar wizardry of Bob Murnahan. Fans of Mojomama will love this disc and I strongly encourage music fans here in Colorado to catch a live performance by the band soon. Folks outside of Colorado can visit Mojomama’s website at to learn more about the band and their music.

Mojomama is at the top of their game right now and it doesn’t get much better than this.

--- Kyle Deiber


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