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July 2020

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Order these featured albums today:

Dudley Harris

Ghost Town Blues Band

Biscuit Miller

Jeff Chaz

Sean Costello tribute

Buster Brody

Bob Margolin

Myles Goodwyn

Chris 'Bad News' Barnes

Teresa James

Blues Meets Girl

Gregg Martinez

Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne




Dudley HarrisDudley Harris has been a fixture on the West Tennessee blues scene for 45 years. So why in the world has it taken that long for him to release an album?!! Believe it or not, All The Money’s Gone (BBH Productions) is Harris’ debut release, and it took the combined efforts of Elam McKnight, The West Tennessee Blues Society, the Tennessee Arts Commissions, and contributions from fans and friends to make it happen. Blues fans should be grateful for the effort because this set is the pure, unvarnished blues at its finest.

The disc opens with ”Tired Baby,” a loping, mid-tempo blues where Harris is tired of being dogged around by his lady. Bob Bogdal guests on harmonica on this smoking track and others, including the driving blues, “Jack Rabbit,” which follows. The catchy “Love Me” picks up the pace a bit before Harris deals the the hard blues on a pair of tracks, the desperate “Nobody Knows” (nice guitar work from McKnight on this one) and the somber slow blues “Hard Times.”

“Cinnamon Roll” is a sweet (sorry), stripped-down acoustic blues where Harris sings the praises of his lady, and the boisterous “King Snake” is a slippery, funky track. “Feel So Bad (Tell Jody Riley)” is a slow burner about losing a lover to that ever-present rival Jody. Harris’ vocal on this track, providing just the right mix of sorrow, fatigue, and anger. “Go Get My Gun” packs a menacing tone backed by an irresistible groove, and the exuberant “Sweet Honey Bee” is a fine choice to close the album.

McKnight serves as executive producer and contributes guitar on several tracks, with producer Michael Saint-Leon adding guitar and bass as well as producing and recording the album at his Nashville studio (Switchyard Studios). Bogdal plays harmonica on multiple tracks.

This is the blues like they used to do ‘em --- raw, gritty, and down-and-dirty. Fans of the real deal will want to hear All The Money’s Gone.

--- Graham Clarke

Ghost Town Blues BandGhost Town Blues Band is one of the standout bands of the current blues/roots community. Celebrating their tenth year of existence, the band issued their fourth studio effort, fifth overall, late last year. Shine captures their sound as perfectly as their previous release, the awesome Backstage Pass, captured their live show. Matt Isbell (vocals, guitar, cigar box guitar, silverware chest guitar, harmonica) leads this superlative musical ensemble (Taylor Orr – guitar/vocals, Kevin Houston – sax/vocals, Suavo Jones – trombone/trumpet/vocals, Matt Karner – bass/vocals, Andrew McNeilll – drums/percussion/vocals, Cedric Taylor – B3/piano/vocals) through a powerhouse 12-song set.

The opener, “Running Out Of Time,” is a capsule summary of the band’s sound, beginning with a mellow rock vibe before turning into a sweet soul direction with Isbell’s slide guitar seamlessly weaving in and out. The wild and salacious “Soda Pop” follows, tearing into a driving, almost Hill Country groove, and the exuberant title track (previewed on Backstage Pass) features husband-and-wife team Paul DesLauriers and Annika Chambers on background vocals.

“Lyin’ To Yourself” is a splendid blues rocker with a touch of soul, “Givin’ It All Away” (also previewed on the live disc) is a southern rocker’s delight with the whole band getting ample space to do their thing, and “Dirty” is a atmospheric rocker that mixes in a rap from Suavo Jones.

The funky “High Again” features a typically strong Isbell vocal and excellent guitar and a supple B3 break from Taylor. “My Father’s Son” follows the same path with the Memphis vibe (via Stax Records) being strong with both of these tracks. The upbeat “Evangelie” keeps the funk going, but in more of a Crescent City mode, and the slow burner “Carry Me Home” has a smooth gospel/soul feel.

“Heading Nowhere Fast” mixes acoustic and electric guitar, containing the great line, “... I’m heading nowhere fast, but I’m making good time ...” “Hey There Lucinda” is a touching closer, as Isbell reflects on the much too quick passage of time and being separated from his daughter. Ilana Katz Katz adds fiddle to this sweet track.

Shine captures the energy and dynamic appeal of this band as well as their previous live release. If Ghost Town Blues Band hasn’t yet shown up on your musical radar, I suggest you do something to make that happen. Otherwise, you are missing some of the best blues and roots music being produced these days.

--- Graham Clarke

Biscuit MillerChicken Grease (American Showplace Music) is the fourth studio release from Biscuit Miller and the Mix. Bass player/vocalist Miller, who backed Mojo Buford, Lonnie Brooks, and Anthony Gomes before starting the Mix in 2000 as a side project, is joined by drummer Myron “Dr. Love” Robinson, rhythm guitarist Bobby B. Wilson and lead guitarist Alex “Southside” Smith on this ten-song set. Guests include keyboardist John Ginty and lap steel guitarist Marcus Randolph, who serves as drummer for Robert Randolph (his cousin) and the Family Band.

Chicken Grease mixes the blues with a heaping dose of funk and R&B, and the combination makes these tracks really pop. “Here Kitty Kitty” opens the disc superbly, sporting plenty of Memphis grease in the thumping backbeat. Randolph makes the first of his two appearances on the vigorous rocker “609,” his lap steel weaving in, out, and around the driving rhythm, and “Lonely Road” is a fine piece of deep southern soul with a poignant vocal from Miller and nice fretwork from Smith and Wilson. Meanwhile, the percolating “Two-Legged Dog” turns up the funk, and the band keeps things moving right along (with help from Randolph once again) on the jubilant title track.

The old school R&B ballad “Watching You” is a keeper, and would have been a radio staple back in the day, while “Take A Ride” is a scorching rocker with some ripping slide guitar from Smith. The lively “Southern Woman” moves along at a brisk, danceable pace. “Creeping” is a slow burner about being done wrong by one’s significant other, with splendid guitar work and moody keyboards from Ginty. The funky closer, “Get Ready,” wraps things up with an optimistic message that everyone should take to heart.

Chicken Grease is another fun release from Biscuit Miller and the Mix. Miller is a strong vocalist comfortable in a variety of styles, and the songwriting and musicianship are first-rate, making this album well worth a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Jeff ChazNew Orleans bluesman Jeff Chaz’s latest release, No Paint (JCP Records), is his first album in three years, but that’s okay because, 1) he released two outstanding CDs in 2016 (Sounds Like The Blues To Me and This Silence Is Killing Me), and, 2) this may be the best release in his catalog. Recording for the first time in a power trio format with bassist Augie Joachim and drummer Rick Jones, Chaz offers up ten tracks, nine original blues tunes that rank with his finest work plus one dynamite cover, along with his stellar guitar work and powerhouse vocals.

The album kicks off with the cover tune, Tyrone Davis’ “Turn Back The Hands Of Time.” Chaz rarely includes covers on his albums, but when he does, as in this case, he makes it his own. His crisp guitar replaces the gentle strings of the Davis version, giving it a totally different spin --- powerful stuff. “The Stars Are Out” is a nice slow blues with soulful vocals and shimmering guitar runs, the humorous “We Ain’t Shackin’ No More” is gritty blues and funk, and “You Gotta Show Me” is a hard-driving shuffle with a pair of distinctive yet equally effective guitar solos.

The superb “Lowdown, Dirty Blues” is another slow burner, with Chaz getting plenty of room to shine both vocally and instrumentally during the song’s eight-minute running time. Next is the profound “Life Is Like Coffee,” another fine example of Chaz’s songwriting skills, as is the amusing “Blues Buffet.” The blues rocker “Little Sips” continues the food and drink theme with the tale of a lady who only gives her love in small portions, and “She’s The Sweetest Thing” is another slower blues. Chaz really does an excellent job on these ballads, which are tailor-made for his passionate vocal delivery and guitar work. The album wraps up with the dazzling instrumental, “deet, deet, deet,” a driving boogie shuffle that you’ll want to hear on repeat quite often.

I’ve been listening to Jeff Chaz since the early 2000s and he never fails to impress me with his talent. There’s always something to enjoy on his albums, whether it’s his clever and creative songwriting or his strong vocals and guitar. I really enjoyed the power trio setup of No Paint, and I hope he explores this format for a while.

--- Graham Clarke

Tribute to Sean CostelloIt’s always a bad feeling when a blues artist passes away unexpectedly, but Sean Costello’s death in 2008 really hit blues fans hard because at 28  he was so young and seemed to have an unlimited future as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Costello released six albums for Landslide Records and one for Tone-Cool during his lifetime and built an impressive body of work. Friends Dave Gross and Jon Justice have devoted nearly a decade to putting together Don’t Pass Me By – A Tribute To Sean Costello (Landslide Records), an amazing 15-song set featuring a diverse group of artists paying tribute to Costello and his songs.

Albert Castiglia contributes “Same Old Game,” an inspired choice to kick off the disc, and Monkeyjunk frontman Steve Marriner’s reading of “How In The Devil” maintains the same intensity as Costello’s original. Watermelon Slim (with assistance from Dennis Gruenling on harp) rips through “Who’s Been Cheatin’ Who,” before Victor Wainwright slows the pace for a sweet cover of the soulful title track. The late Candye Kane (with Laura Chavez on guitar) dazzle on the old school rocker “I’ve Got To Ride,” Bob Margolin (with Gruenling) do a splendid job with “Low Life Blues” (Margolin also provides some wonderful slide guitar), and Seth Walker’s interpretation of the ballad “All I Can Do” is simply marvelous.

Georgia-based singer/songwriter Sonia Leigh ably handles “No Half Steppin’,” and The Nick Moss Band (with the late Michael Ledbetter on vocals) do a fine job with “Hard Luck Woman.” The North Mississippi Allstars’ version of “Father” captures the tone of Costello’s original perfectly and Luther Dickinson’s slide guitar is a perfect complement. Meanwhile, The Electromatics, out of Atlanta, maintain the good-time feel of “She Changed My Mind,” one of several tracks from Costello’s Tone-Cool release, and Debbie Davies’ tears into “Don’t Be Reckless With My Heart” with fervor.

New Orleans band, The Morning Life, give “You’re A Part Of Me” a mellow edge that fits the song well. The trio of Matt Wauchope, Melvin Zachary, and Terrance Prather (who were all members of Costello’s band at one time) keep the slower pace with “Can’t Let Go,” but in more of a Memphis vibe. Oliver Wood (with harmony vocals from Amy Helm) wraps up the tribute with a poignant “Feel Like I Ain’t Got A Home,” which will induce chill bumps, tears, or both.

It’s been 12 years since Sean Costello passed away on the day before his 29th birthday, and his loss is still being felt by fans and his fellow artists. Don’t Pass Me By is a wonderful tribute to his legacy, showing that he was an immensely talented songwriter as well as performer for whom the sky was the limit.

--- Graham Clarke

Brody BusterBrody Buster’s One Man Band took the blues world by storm in 2017, taking home 2nd place in the I.B.C.’s Solo/Duo competition and winning the Harmonica Player category. The Kansas City resident’s energetic performance fired up the Memphis crowd, including Kenny Neal, who was serving as one of the celebrity judges that year. Neal was able to get Buster into his Baton Rouge studio to record for his Booga Music label, and, like the musician who created it, Damn! I Spilled The Blues (VizzTone/Booga) is both inspired and exciting to hear.

The Delta-flavored “Old Dog Blues” opens the disc with Buster’s vocals gritty and charming, and his musicianship is most impressive. “Bad News” is a basic electric blues, but his harmonica and guitar work cut to the bone, and “2029” is a driving southern rocker that finds Buster predicting the end of the world on September 23rd, 2029 and working on his bucket list. “Reason” is a slow, somber blues about a man truly down on his luck, but managing to remain upbeat.

“The Wind” differs a bit from the other tracks, as it deftly mixes blues with Americana, but the wonderful harmonica is ever-present. The humorous tall tale “Alligator Blues” is next, a funky boogie that listeners won’t soon forget, and the rocker “Like ‘em Like That” sings the praises of women of all shapes and sizes.

“The Hustle” tells the tale of a musician living on the road, coming home and finding changes all around. “Week Long” is a rugged countrified stomper with drinking, lost jobs, broken hearts, and more drinking, and the closer, “This Time I Got The Blues,” is a straight-ahead blues rocker.

There’s enough variation and diversity in these ten tracks that it’s hard to believe that all of the sounds are coming from one man. He’s one of the finest harmonica players currently practicing, but he’s most effective on guitar and percussion as well. Damn! I Spilled The Blues is rewarding listening for blues fans, who will be wanting to hear more from Brody Buster soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob MargolinThis Guitar And Tonight (VizzTone) is Bob Margolin’s first all-acoustic album. The guitarist brings nine new songs to the set, playing unaccompanied except for guest appearances from guitarist Jimmy Vivino and harmonica master Bob Corritore on one track each. The production gives the listener the feeling that they’re sitting in Margolin’s living room. It’s a very warm approach, just the blues with no bells and whistles.

The title track kicks off things, a Delta-flavored rambler with Vivino sitting in. The scathing “Evil Walks In Our World” looks at the current state of affairs in the country, a topic that’s revisited in the reflective “Predator” that closes the disc. “Over Time” tells of a dream involving Margolin having a conversation with his younger self, backed by his slide guitar. The lively stomp “Dancers Boogie” will bring Django Reinhardt to mind, while “Blues Lover” teams the guitarist with Corritore with entertaining results.

The mid-tempo instrumental “Good Driving Song” is just that, and the poignant talking blues “I Can’t Take Those Blues Away” tells the story of a female police officer who’s had a horrible day. “Together” is a tender love ballad, with Margolin singing sweetly about the love of his life. The aforementioned politically charged “Predator” closes the disc.

Nearly 40 years after the passing of his mentor Muddy Waters, Bob Margolin is one of the last musicians connected with the great man, and he’s as sharp and vital today as he was back then. In the liner notes, Marolin describes This Guitar And Tonight as the blues “with no sugar added.” It is the pure blues, no doubt about it, and few do them as well as he does. I think Muddy would be proud.

--- Graham Clarke

Myles GoodwinMyles Goodwyn finally embraced his inner bluesman a couple of years ago, releasing Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues, earning the April Wine front man a JUNO nomination. It was a very enjoyable set from Goodwyn (who’s been a blues fan since the ’60s) and an impressive list of buddies. It was so much fun that Goodwyn decided to release an equally worthy follow-up appropriately entitled Friends of the Blues 2 (Linus Entertainment) with a long list of “friends” chipping in on the 14 tracks, including, among others, Jack De Keyser, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, David Gogo, John Campbelljohn, Jack Semple, and Angel Forrest.

The album consists of 13 tracks, plus a bonus cut, mostly written by Goodwyn. The easy-rolling “Hip Hip” opens the disc on an upbeat note, with sterling piano from Wayne. The mellow “Like A Dog Ain’t Had It’s Day” features Ross Billard on keys and Matt Andersen on acoustic guitar, while a smooth take on Bobby Womack’s “All Over Now” includes appearances from Billard along with Campbelljohn on slide guitar, Shrimp Daddy on harp, and John Main on piano. “You Got It Bad” is a nice country blues with Dewy Reeds on harmonica and Andersen on acoustic guitar.

Slide guitarist Will Van Hansolo guests on the impressive “Fish Tank Blues,” and “Speedo (Revisited),” a fun remake of the Cadillac’s 1957 hit features wacky sax from Jeff Mosher. The rollicking rocker “Daddy Needs New Shoes" includes guitar work from Jack Semple, a return appearance from Campbelljohn on slide and Shrimp Daddy on harp. Forrest duets with Goodwyn on “Being Good (Won’t Do Us Any Good Tonight),” a stunning ballad that blends rock and soul with the blues.

Goodwyn’s vocals are an enticing mix of soul and grit, and he plays guitar and keyboards throughout. “I Love My Guitar” is a clever tribute to Goodwyn’s instrument of choice, and the swinging “Help Me Baby,” with harp from Joe Murphy, piano from Bill C. Stevenson and guitiar from Steve Segal, will get listeners on their feet.

Guitarist De Keyser and harpist Sherman “Tank” Doucette appear on the acoustic blues “When Your Ship Came In (I Was At the Train Station Drinking), “Sick And Tired (Of Being Sick And Tired)” is an old school ballad with Eric Khayat on sax. Guitarist David Gogo makes the most of his appearance on the scorcher “I Saw Someone That Wasn’t There (And It Was You).”

The bonus track, “Even Singing Cowboy Gets The Blues,” is a country tune (complete with yodeling) that teams Goodwyn with Campbelljohn and De Keyser and wraps the disc up on an entertaining note.

Myles Goodwyn sings the blues like he’s been doing it all of his life. While he’s still touring and playing with April Wine it wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit if he continued to make regular forays into the blues if he maintains the high quality of these previous two releases. Blues fans are encouraged to check out Friends of the Blues 2 at their first opportunity.

--- Graham Clarke

Chris BarnesThere’s no question that Chris “Bad News” Barnes is a showman of the highest caliber. He was a writer and comic before moving to the blues, performing with Chicago’s Second City comedy team and later as the opening act at Tramps in Manhattan he improvised blues tunes based on suggestions from the audience. He’s gone from comedy to releasing three CDs of blues tunes, including his latest release, Live (VizzTone), which was recorded at the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise #32. Barnes is backed by a veritable “A-Team” of blues musicians, including guitarist Gary Hoey and harmonica master Steve Guyger, and the set was recorded and produced by Tony Braunagel and Johnny Lee Schell of the Phantom Blues Band who were on board backing Taj Mahal.

The 13-song set list consists of cover tunes, but Barnes brings a little something special to each number. “Back In A Cadillac,” first recorded by Coco Montoya, gets the performance off to a rousing start. The Bo Diddley classic, “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover,” gets the crowd into the show as Barnes implores them to get on the dance floor and Little Walter’s “Boom Boom” keeps them there, with Guyger and Hoey really getting room to cut loose. The next tune, “Hungry & Horny,” is an amusing variation of Earl King’s “Come On,” with ribald lyrics from Barnes (from his first album, 90 Proof Truth), before things slow down a bit for “Hoochie Coochie Man,” a particularly strong rendition with nice work from Barnes, Guyger, and Hoey.

Don Nix penned “Going Down,” made famous by Freddie King; Barnes and company give a blistering take with assistance from sax man Mark Earley and Doug Woolverton on trumpet. Paul DeLay’s slow burner “What’s Coming Next” follows, with Guyger’s superlative harp taking center stage. Thomas Dorsey’s “It’s Tight Like That” gets an interesting Bo Diddley backbeat, Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” gets a rocking treatment with splendid slide guitar from Hoey, and Big Bill Broonzy’s “Keep Your Mind On It” gets the Crescent City treatment.

“I Drink Alone” was a late ’80s hit for George Thorogood and Barnes has a ball with it. The Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post” gets a funky read that runs closer to Gregg Allman’s solo version from Searching For Simplicity. This song closes the show, but Barnes returns with Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” a tune that probably sent the audience away singing and dancing.

Live presents an energetic, enthusiastic performance by Chris “Bad News” Barnes (on his first Blues Cruise) with excellent support from his band mates and a most appreciative audience. Spin this one at your next party and I’m sure your audience will feel the same way.

--- Graham Clarke

Teresa JamesLive! collects 13 standout tracks from Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, recorded over four nights at one of their favorite venues, Bogie’s in Westlake Village, California. The Texas-born James has released several fine albums in recent years that highlight her tough but tender vocal style in a blues and soul setting. Her recent release, Here In Babylon, was nominated for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy. The live set features a mix of band originals and tasty covers.

The disc opens with the horn-driven “In The Pink,” written by James and her husband, bass player Terry Wilson, for one of their earlier albums. Next is a lively read of “I Like It Like That,” a mid ’60s jump R&B classic from the “5” Royales (nice turn on the keys from Ms. James, by the way), and a sexy read of the band’s “Put The Squeeze On Me.” “Easier Said Than Done,” has a funky R&B feel and a smoking sax solo from Rob Dzuibla, and James pulls out all the stops on the ballad “Forgetting You,” which received second-place in the 2019 Unsigned Only blues category.

I really like “She’s Got A Way With Men,” one of my favorites from her Come On Home album. It has a cool retro soul groove that reminds me of Motown and she obviously has a ball performing it. “Don’t Make A Habit Of It” is one of those sweet soulful ballads that is putty in James’ hands, and she and guitarist Billy Watts nail a duet version of the Etta James’ classic “If I Can’t Have You.” Meanwhile, the Allen Toussaint-penned “Shoorah Shoorah” is a funky New Orleans-flavored blast.

“The Day The Blues Came To Call” was one of the standout tracks on Here In Babylon and James’ tender version (a tribute to the late Gregg Allman) is spot on with sensation fretwork from Watts. William Bell’s “Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday” is the only track not previously recorded by James, who gives this one an extra boost with an emotional performance. Glen Clark’s rollicking “I Want It All” is a lot of fun, and the roadhouse rocker “Long Way From Texas” closes out the disc.

Teresa James has proven time and time again that she can deliver the goods in a variety of musical settings. Live! certainly does nothing to disprove what was already known, but it also demonstrates that she’s does it as well on stage as she does in the studio.

--- Graham Clarke

Blues Meets girlBritish blues artist Mr. Downchild and Texas-born singer/songwriter Kasimira have joined forces as Blues Meets Girl. Their eponymous debut release on Bad Inglish Records consists of 14 original tunes, 13 written or co-written by the duo with one written by guest guitarist Sean Carney. Mr. Downchild, who collaborated with Robert Lockwood, Jr. early in his career, sings and plays guitar, cigar box guitar, harmonica, and stomp box, and Kasimira sings and adds percussion. They are joined by Scott Flowers (drums), Ray DeForest (electric/upright bass), and Hank West, who plays bass on one track.

The opener, “Nightgown,” combines Chicago with Louisiana with an irresistible rhythm and harp from Mr. Downchild (he and Kasimira share lead vocals). Kasimira takes the mic for the sassy “Listen Up Boys,” Mr. Downchild picks it up for the vintage rocker “Didn’t See It Coming,” and the lady returns for the swampy “Grey Sky Blues.” On “Backstabber” Mr. Downchild adopts a downhome, country feel with his reedy harmonica and acoustic backing, while “Snapshot,” borrows liberally from the Wolf. “#87/Oh Baby” has a hard rock edge.

Mr. Downchild’s “Going Home To My Baby” is a strong blues track with a traditional feel, and the instrumental “Swinging With Hank” is a tasty shuffle with nice fretwork from Carney. Meanwhile, Kasamira sings the solid country blues “Fishing Blues,” backed by Carney on guitar and Mr. Downchild on harp, and the double-entendré-laced “I’m Your Handyman” sounds like a song out of Lockwood’s repertoire from years gone by. The funky R&B of “Shifting Gears” (sung by Kasimira) is a change of pace, and Downchild ably handles the rock n’ roller “What Did You Do.”

The album closes with Kasimira singing the lovely ballad, “Special Man.” There’s also a bonus version of “Going Home To My Baby” that packs a harder punch than the previous version with a driving Chicago/Jimmy Reed beat.

Mr. Downchild and Kasimira make a pretty good team, and Blues Meets Girl looks like the start of a promising collaboration with it’s entertaining mixture of traditional and contemporary blues sounds.

--- Graham Clarke

Kat RigginsSinger Kat Riggins has an album forthcoming on Gulf Coast Records, and Cry Out, produced by Mike Zito, promises to continue Ms. Riggins’ hot streak as one of the most talented active blues vocalists. The powerful title track was released as a single in late May. It’s a call to action for our country to work through our difference and find the common ground that is there within us in plain sight for all to see, if we just take the time to see them. It’s sound advice, some of the best you’ll hear these days, and Riggins has the vocal chops to make it stick. Zito’s production work is pristine and I’m assuming he’s playing guitar behind Riggins. All in all, it’s a great track and one that everyone should hear. Based on Riggins’ previous releases, the rest of the upcoming album should follow the same script.

--- Graham Clarke

Stevie JDuring the pandemic, one artist who hasn’t exactly been sitting on his hands is Stevie J Blues. The Jackson, Mississippi-based singer/songwriter/guitarist has been busy in the studio, recording singles for his upcoming release, Quarantined, and producing cuts for other area artists. This current body of work marks the first time that he’s served as engineer, producer, vocalist, and musician.

“Come To Daddy” is a tasty, catchy slice of funky soul blues inspired by Etta James' “Tell Mama” that will certainly please fans of that genre, who I’m sure will be chanting the lyrics along with him at his live shows. He’s proven time and again that he’s comfortable in either the soul blues or the contemporary blues vein, capable of providing the right mix of soul and grit for either genre.

Stevie J and Vick AllenNext up is a collaboration with Stevie J and his friend, singer Vick Allen, covering Little Milton Campbell’s classic “If Walls Could Talk.” Stevie J chips in a great Milton-esque guitar solo, and he and Allen sound marvelous together. The pair had discussed recording this song several years ago and, finally, opportunity knocked. Hopefully, this merger will lead to future efforts, maybe an album. I think Little Milton would certainly approve of this fine effort, as will fans of all three artists.

Stevie J also teams up with Hattiesburg, Mississippi singer LJ Echols for “My Ex,” an upbeat tune about the desire to patch things up with a former lover before it’s too late. Stevie J wrote the song pretty quickly and decided it was tailor-made for Echols, and it definitely is! Both singers convey strong feeling of regret and desire in their vocals and the funky arrangement is pitch-perfect, definitely destined to be a crowd pleaser.

Urban Ladder SocietyStevie J also recently produced an upcoming album, The Summit, for Urban Ladder Society. He plays guitar for the group, which includes victa nooman – vocals, Chris Gill – vocals, slide guitar, resonator, and Jonte Mayon and Tamera Tate – vocals. The ULS concept mixes blues, hip-hop, R&B, and classic rock. The group’s irresistible first single, “Same Ole Thang,” proclaims that the blues comes in many shapes and forms. The song combines the above-listed genre, but it is still very much the blues, looking back and forward at the same time. The follow-up, “All About You,” is a soulful ballad featuring local R&B singer Malcolm Shepherd and will hit soul-blues fans right where they live. The Summit will drop in January of 2021.

Another project from Stevie J Blues is an upcoming tribute to the late Jackie Neal, who passed away in 2005 due to domestic violence. This project features a host of southern soul talents paying tribute to Ms. Neal, and Blues Bytes will take a look at this release in the coming months.

--- Graham Clarke

Anthony GeraciBoston area pianist / songwriter Anthony Geraci had an award-winning album with his previous release, Why Did You Have To Go, and now he's back with one that may even be better. Daydreams In Blue (Shining Stone Records) balances on that ledge between jazz and blues, with Geraci's sublime piano work dominating this collection of ten originals and two covers. It also helps that he's lined up some of New England's best session cats to back him, including Monster Mike Welch (guitar), Walter Trout (guitar), Troy Gonyea (guitar), Peter Ward (rhythm guitar), Michael Mudcat Ward (acoustic bass), Jeff Armstrong (drums), Scott Arruda (trumpet) and Mark Early (sax). Dennis Brennan handles the vocals and contributes harmonica on most tracks. While I would like to hear more power in the vocals on this album, Brennan's smoky vocals are good enough to suit the material.

Geraci's very tasteful piano playing introduces the first number, the jazzy "Love Changes Everything," with Early coming in later with a heavy dose of saxophone, and towards the conclusion Welch contributes a stinging blues guitar solo. It's a tight band throughout the disk, but that cohesiveness really shows on the soul ballad, "Tomorrow May Never Come," with Brennan showing nice range with his pleading vocals.

Trout makes his lone appearance on "No One Hears My Prayers," demonstrating creative guitar effects on this slow blues, and then Geraci plays some of his finest piano on the slow jazz number, "Daydreams Of A Broken Fool," which gets a Latin infusion as it goes along. It's one of my favorite numbers songs on Daydreams In Blue. Brennan provides the harp intro to the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Mister," and Geraci's work on the 88s is again showcased.

Looking to have a rollicking good time, you say? Then don't miss the frantic boogie woogie pace of "Tutti Frutti Booty," the only number on which Geraci handles the vocals, and quite frankly I'd like to hear his voice more often. His piano pounding plays well off the horn section to give this one a big, big sound, with a heaping dose of friskiness to it. Giving the dancers a chance to rest, Geraci launches right into a slow, plodding version of the Earl Hines / Willie Eckstein composition, "Jelly, Jelly." It's your typical blues/jazz theme of singing about that jelly roll, adding another touch of the risqué after the previous booty number. Welch comes in with a real hot guitar solo that at first sounds like he's playing a steel guitar; I don't think he is but he's getting the right effects out of his axe.

Brennan uses his mournful harmonica to introduce the next number, his own composition, "Dead Man's Shoes," that he co-wrote with Gonyea and Peter Wolf. It's an eerie sound that makes it sound like we're listening to the theme of an old western movie. He's questioning what kind of man wears this particular footwear, singing, "...the heel is high but the sole is worn right through ...." before adding that it must have been, "...surely a man of wealth, taste of style ..." Regardless, they're his shoes now. Does this song fit in with the overall format of this album? Not really, but it works.

Geraci and the band maintain that same dark mood on another of the highlights of the album, the mid-tempo jazz tune, "Hard To Say I Love You," as the singer's woman is reminded that it's going to be hard to say that he loves her when she's six feet underground. Geraci's piano work is just plain wonderful on this one. Just outstanding! Adding to our potential film noir soundtrack is the slow, pleading shuffle number, "Living In The Shadow Of The Blues." Brennan affirms his love for that woman by singing, "...I like women that smoke cigars, I like women that stand up in a bar...," and more, but always sends his love with the warning that they are both living in the shadow of the blues.

Welch again stands out with his very fine slide guitar work on the slow blues shuffle, "Crazy Blues/Mississippi Woman," which leads into the abbreviated closing instrumental, "Ode to Todd, Ella and Mike Ledbetter," with Geraci's jazzy piano accompanied by subtle drums played with brushes wrapping it up in a concise one minute and 11 seconds.

I must confess that I haven't paid enough attention to Geraci's previous recordings, usually relying on other reviewers to cover them for Blues Bytes. But now that I've listened repeatedly to Daydreams In Blue, I'm convinced that I need to circle back to some of those other albums. Regardless, this one comes highly recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

Gregg MartinezWhere has Gregg Martinez been hiding for the bulk of my music listening career? I only recently became aware of this veteran Louisiana soul/blues singer, and if his previous stuff is as good as MacDaddy Mojeaux (Nola Blue Records) then I've got some catching up to do. This dude can sing. Yeah, he can really, really sing.

First, let's get the pronunciation right. The "i" in his last name is silent, so it's "Mart-NEZ," not "Mar-TEEN-ez." But no matter, what we're really calling him is one of the finest soul singers on the scene today. His voice has good range and outstanding tone, well-suited for the material on this album. Add the fact that Martinez is backed by a wide assortment of more than capable musicians, so many credited on the album that it's impossible for me to say who's playing what most of the time. No matter, let's just sit back and listen. Prepare to be entertained.

For my money Martinez is best on the soul classics, such as Dan Penn's "You Left The Water Running," giving this well-worn tune a fresh sound with a very nice sax solo from Ronnie Eades. The same goes for the Tyrone Davis standard, "Can I Change My Mind," Martinez stays pretty close to the original arrangement here but he's got the voice to make it his own, plus the guitarist and horn section raise the accompaniment to a higher level.

While we're on the subject of soul classics, it's risky for any singer to try to cover a Ray Charles number, but Martinez shows he's got the pipes to tackle "I Believe To My Soul," showing the range in his voice that would make Brother Ray smile. Equally strong is Martinez's version of the Mel & Tim soul classic from 1972, "Starting All Over Again," sharing the vocals here with Tony Goulas.

If we needed a reminder that Martinez is from Louisiana, he gives us one with one of his own compositions, "Eva Delle," an upbeat blues shuffle that gets a heavy infusion of swamp water. The sons of the late Zydeco legend Rockin Dopsie --- Anthony Dopsie on accordion and Rockin Dopsie Jr. on rubboard --- join in, as well as long-time Louisiana guitar hero Sonny Landreth. That woman Eva Delle makes his life a living hell because she's got him under her spell.

Martinez also covers a couple of songs that are a bit removed from the soul/blues genre, but he reins them in to fit his style. "Wildflower" was released in 1973 by the Canadian soft rock band Skylark, and Martinez injects a heavy dose of emotion and soul into this tribute to a special woman. I'm hearing a real Aaron Neville sound to his voice here, and there's some strong guitar playing to further juice this version. Another interesting choice has Martinez covering the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds gold record, "Don't Pull Your Love Out." Charlene Howard duets on his number, pumping mucho soul and gospel feeling into this version, while Martinez again goes all Aaron Neville on us.

How often does Martinez cross the line onto the pure blues sound, you may be wondering? Covered here is Don Nix's minor key "Same Old Blues," with Freddie King's version perhaps being the best known. Martinez shows that he's just as capable of singing the deep blues as he is in wailing away at a soul chestnut. One of our guitar players comes in with a killer blues-infused solo. Another very tasty slow blues is Goulas' original, "Just Stay Gone." No only did he write the song, but Goulas contributes the wonderful guitar work.

Martinez takes time to pay tribute to legendary soul singer Clarence Carter by performing one of CC's standard numbers, "Snatching It Back." Just when you think we've heard it all, Martinez covers a Randy Newman number, "Marie," to close the album, featuring piano work that I could swear was coming from a Southern Baptist church. The requisite strings are playing in the background, just like on Newman's version from his Good Old Boys album. That original had Newman packing plenty of emotion into his vocals, and Martinez does an excellent job of capturing this tale of lost love.

It's a great finish to an album that perhaps will finally put Martinez more firmly on the blues/soul map. MacDaddy Mojeaux will likely rank as one of the best albums we hear in this crazy, mixed up year.

--- Bill Mitchell

Kenny Blues Boss WayneKenny "Blues Boss" Wayne is one of those artists who has been more on my periphery and not someone that I've listened to a lot over the years. He's been out there grinding away for a lot of years and has produced plenty of decent blues recordings, but just nothing that has rocked my senses and compelled me to move him on to my own "A" list. That's kind of how I feel about his latest recording, Go, Just Do It! (Stony Plain). It's a perfectly acceptable set of 13 blues tunes with some fine music, but just nothing that is going to get regular play from me. It's entertaining but doesn't knock me out. With that said, I don't mean this as a putdown of the man's music and your results may vary. Let's dive in a little deeper.

Canadian singer Dawn Tyler Watson joins in on two cuts, Grammy award winner Diane Schuur duets on one number, and the always excellent bassist Russell Jackson is part of the core band behind Wayne. Other band members include Yuji Ihara (guitar), Joey "The Pocket" DiMarco (drums), Sherman "Tank" Doucette (harmonica) and Barry Sharbo (tambourine). Wayne plays piano throughout the album and handles most of the vocals with a voice that's pleasant but lacks power.

Shuur's appearance on the Percy Mayfield cover, "You're In For A Big Surprise," is the highlight of this slow jazzy blues, making it one of the best cuts on the album with the Blues Boss effectively alternating between piano and organ. His piano work here is especially inviting. Another Mayfield song, "I Don't Want To Be The President," Is very topical, making us wish that someone else would say that he doesn't want that particular job. Wayne and band modernize this version, making it funky and then inserting some rap lyrics courtesy of the Blues Boss' son, Cory Spruell (aka SeQuaL).

The title cut, which opens the album, is up-tempo, bold and brassy, with the horn section (Jerry Cook - saxes, Vince Mai - trumpet) blasting out a wall of sound and Watson shouting out the blues. That whirlwind of horns can also be heard on the closing number, the frantic instrumental "Let The Rock Roll," which has Wayne playing some of his best piano. His piano work also takes a pass through the church on another rollicking blues, "You Did A Number On Me," with Julie Masi providing background vocals.

Other than the two Percy Mayfield songs, the lone cover is the J.J. Cale blues, "They Call Me The Breeze," intro'd by some very nice harmonica from Doucette. One of Wayne's better originals is the up-tempo 12-bar blues, "Motor Mouth Woman," with the horn section a big part of this tune's success.

There's some good stuff, which I've highlighted above, on this album. Wayne is an artist who deserves the support of the blues community, so don't hesitate to check out Go, Just Do It!.

--- Bill Mitchell



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