Blues Bytes

August 2004

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What's New

Bobby RushIt started out innocently enough. Bobby Rush had always wanted to cut an album of traditional blues, an album that would remind him of the music he heard as a youngster in Louisiana and Arkansas. That’s what he set out to do with this recent session, along with his regular guitarist, the underrated Steve Johnson, on bass, former Stax session drummer Charlie Jenkins, and special guest Alvin Youngblood Hart on guitar. However, once the instruments were plugged in and the music started to flow, Rush ended up with an album that, while still traditional, gives a definite nod to the future as well. Folkfunk, Rush’s third release on his Deep Rush label, may be the disc that gives his career that push to the more widespread recognition that he’s been looking for. The songs are all familiar themes to most blues fans, but Rush adds his own distinct touches to each of the 11 tracks. The opener, “Feeling Good,“ also serves as the closer, and its incessant rhythm will permeate into every pore as you listen. Standout tracks include “Uncle Esau,” a tribute to a musical influence from Rush’s early years, a reworking of the Rice Miller classic, “Ninety-Nine” (with some great guitar from Mississippi living legend and former Rush band leader Jesse Robinson), and an unbelievably funky redo of one of Rush’s classic tunes, titled “Chicken Heads - Refried.” It was Hart’s guitar work on an impromptu jam on ”Chicken Heads” initially that led to the final results of this session, and if it was anything like the final product, I can understand what prompted the change in direction. Other tracks worth mentioning are the swampy “Voodoo Man,” “Ride In My Automobile,” which is steeped in Chicago Blues, and “Saints Gotta Move,” a funky medley of the gospel standards “When The Saints Go Marching In” and “You’ve Got To Move.“ Throughout the disc, bassist Johnson and drummer Jenkins lay down some of the funkiest rhythm this side of late '60s James Brown, and Hart has never sounded better on guitar. Meanwhile, Bobby Rush is his usual impeccable self. His vocals are right on the money and his guitar and harmonica work (unheralded but always a pleasure to hear) are great. Whatever your personal idea of the blues may be, this is a disc you need to hear, traditional and reverential at its roots, but definitely with a funky vision of what the blues may yet be. If that pitch doesn’t work, try this one: If you’re able to listen to this disc and not move something, whether it’s tapping your finger, your foot, or shaking your moneymaker, you’re ready for the undertaker.

Vassar Clements has long been recognized as one of bluegrass music’s most popular fiddlers, first coming to prominence as a member of Bill Monroe’s band and later playing with Faron Young, Earl Scruggs and John Hartford. Over the past 30 years, he has been in high demand as a session player, appearing on records by Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Buffett, J. J. Cale and the Grateful Dead, among others, but he probably achieved his greatest recognition for his appearance on the groundbreaking Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s Will The Circle Be Unbroken album from the early '70s. He’s also found time to record his own albums sporadically, all of which demonstrate his uncanny ability to mix jazz, country, and even blues into his bluegrass sound. For his latest efforts, Clements decided to record a straight blues album.The result, Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc) is a remarkably entertaining effort. Clements (along with producers David Grisman and Norton Buffalo) employs an impressive cast of supporting players, which include Bob Brozman, Elvin Bishop, Maria Muldaur, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers, Dave Mathews, Marc Silber, David Jacob-Strain and Bobby Cochran, and they tackle a wide-ranging group of songs, most of which are covers. Bishop contributes his usual wry lyrics and vocals on a couple of tracks (“Dirty Drawers” and “That’s My Thing”), and Muldaur is featured on Doc Watson’s “Honey Babe Blues” and the traditional “I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle.” Rogers teams with Clements on a remarkable cover of Robert Johnson’s “Phonograph Blues.” Brozman’s guitar is featured prominently on several tracks, including Tampa Red’s “Dead Cat On The Line,” a nifty cover of “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” (along with Buffalo on harmonica), and the impromptu “Fiddlin’ and Faddlin’.” Perhaps the most interesting cover is the Booker T. & the M.G.s’ “Green Onions” (with Clements, Brozman, Musselwhite, bassist Ruth Davies and Cochran on drums). Clements’ playing is incredibly diverse over the length of the disc, ranging from mournful to exuberant, whether he’s blending in with the others or taking a blistering solo of his own (as on “Fiddlin’ and Faddlin’). It’s obvious he had a blast during the session due to the relaxed interplay between him and the other musicians. If you didn’t think the fiddle would be a good fit on a blues record, pick up this one and prepare to be converted.

Jook Bourke is a Florida-based blues singer/songwriter whose lyrics reflect a witty look at life and love. His latest release, My Mojo’s Just Too Weak, features some clever songwriting and acoustic guitar work. Take “That Was It?,” for example. Bourke is on life support, reflecting over his life, what he did do, didn’t do, and should have done, and being disappointed in his overall body of work, if you will, only to be snatched from death’s door at the last moment. It’s a darkly humorous look into our own lives as well as Bourke’s, and there are a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas for all of us over the years. The real laugher is “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” an hilarious ode of sorts to, of all things, Bourke’s cat, featuring the lyric, “If I’d known you’d get this big or live this long/Fifteen years ago I woulda got a dog,” a line many cat owners can relate to. Another keeper is “I Must Be Gone,” about a night out with the girls where nobody notices poor Jook until it’s time to pay the tab and go fetch the car in the rain. “Stuck Being Me” is another song about dreams that didn’t work out, where Bourke sings about wanting to be an astronaut or a football player as a youth, but that he ended up “stuck being me.” “It’s Already Too Long” is another most guys can relate to, forever waiting for your date to get ready. My favorite is “You Could Just Be Ahead Of Your Time,” about being out of step from everyone else in life. According to Bourke, if this sounds familiar, maybe you’re just ahead of the curve. To go along with his knack for witty and insightful lyrics, Bourke is also a great acoustic guitarist and singer. This disc will put a big smile on your face if you give it a chance. It’s available at

Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts are back with a follow-up to their self-titled EP of a couple of years ago. Their new effort, All American Blues (Lightning Bolt Records), is more of the same high-energy blues with some strong rock elements included. Though they are only a three-piece band (Lightnin’ Rod Wilson on vocals and guitar, Peter Heydinger on bass and backing vocals, and Don Bush on drums and percussion), their sound is much bigger, though they are supplemented by guest musicians on some tracks, including former Bob Seger band member Bob Shultz on piano for selected tracks and Chef Chris, who contributes harmonica to two tracks, along with backup vocalist Danielle Gross. Most of the songs were written by Wilson (the lone exception being a cover of “Hoochie Coochie Man”) and several songs were previously heard on their EP (“Dreamful of Blues,” “They Call Me Lightnin’,” and “Why Are You So Cold“). All of these retain the fire of the previous versions, particularly “Dreamful of Blues.” The newer songs are also pretty good as well, including “Bad Memories,” “It’s Over Baby,” the rocking “Two Shoed Boogie,” “Sugar and Spice,” and “Movin’ On Down The Road.” There’s also a neat Allman-esque instrumental, “Free Spirit.” Wilson is a solid guitarist and is equally satisfying on vocals as well. The band is also first-rate. When this CD rocks, it rocks hard. This band is obviously a crowd-pleaser when heard live, and this CD won’t disappoint their fans or other fans of strong rock-based blues. For ordering information, contact the band at or at Lightning Bolt Records, 427 Pearl Street, Morenci, MI 49256.

--- Graham Clarke

David GogoOn his previous six discs, David Gogo has ranged from a wild banshee to a pop balladeer. The former Gogo was captured live at the 2002 Burnaby Blues Festival. This one hour release, Live At Deer Lake (Cordova Bay), contains nothing but screeching, hard rock guitar from the Nanaimo, British Columbia native. All 10 tracks are loaded with aggressive energy. The CD’s sound quality isn’t polished. It is raw and proudly depicts the audio you’d expect to experience at a rock concert. Some might say artists like Gogo give blues a bad name. He doesn’t do himself favours by rocking up traditional blues songs such as "Louisiana Blues" and "I Feel So Good." He removes all the soul from James Brown’s classic It’s A Man’s World. To it he adds, assertive and confidant vocals along with passionate yet explosive guitar. The great vocal harmonies and alternative rhythm patterns on Skeleton Key make Gogo stand out in the over-crowded blues-rock arena. On this cranking CD he twists, pushes and bends his strings until the frets are ablaze. Throughout, he maintains an energetic voice as electrified as his guitar. However, the six-stringed fireworks quickly become tiresome because they are on the rampage far too much.

At an early age, Tunica, Mississippi-born James Cotton fell under the trance of Sonny Boy Williamson and became his protégé. In 1954, James was appointed as Muddy Waters harpist. This gig lasted for the next 12 years. No longer content to play Little Walter riffs note for note, Cotton left Waters and struck out as a solo act in 1966. His previous Telarc release (35th Anniversary Jam) celebrated his long-standing success as a solo act. That CD contained a plethora of guests who all could be considered the best the blues has to offer. On his new release, Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes (Telarc), James is once again assisted by a crop of venerable field hands from his Cotton patch. This time around the musicians were pulled from a more diverse base as was the music. The focus remains on traditional blues but don’t expect the songs to be boring and to all contain 12 bars. The laid-back title track’s melody is so happy and cheerful, it will put a smile on your face, as will Bobby Rush’s expressive vocals. "Stealin’, Stealin’" contains amazing vocal harmonies thanks to Dave Alvin and Chris Gaffney. Odetta’s dignified voice has a dominion over the mellow and almost unplugged "Key To The Highway." Things are upbeat on "I Almost Lost My Mind." It’s performed as an instrumental which removes the depressing feeling usually emoted by the song’s lyrics. Jim Lauderdale tries to sound like the king of the roadhouse singers on "Bring It On Home To Me." Peter Rowan does his best Jimmie Rodgers yodel impersonation on "Muleskinner Blues." Current band-member David Maxwell is fantastic on the keys throughout the disc. Listen to them glisten on the mid-paced, opening instrumental "Coach’s Better Days." The rest of the extremely confidant core includes Derek O’Brien (guitar), Noel Neal (bass) and Per Hanson (drums) who are further joined by: Marcia Ball, C.J. Chenier, Doc and Merle Watson and Rory Block. James’ prominent harp is always noticeable on 13 (mostly cover) tune but Cotton doesn’t hog the limelight. His backing band and their guests all get a chance to display their celebrated talents. Since not many of the tunes feature super harp solos nor does Cotton sing (he no longer can), many wouldn’t tag this as a Cotton disc, but rather the makings from a great blues/roots band. Although his energy isn’t as kinetic as it once was, James still delivers plenty of steam on this 53-minute disc. It’s a totally relaxing and enjoyable mix of dinnertime blues. For his contributions to the genre, Cotton deserves a position in the blues hall of fame in addition to heaven’s house band. His previous CD won a Handy. This one just might win him another! For additional information, contact: and

Portsmouth, Virginia-born Deborah Coleman was raised in a music-loving, always-on-the-move, military family. She picked up her first guitar at age eight and has been recording for over ten years. Her debut on the Telarc label, What About Love?!, contains 11 songs which are mostly about the struggles that come with love. All songs are strong especially the covers written by Gary Nicholson, Ellis Hooks/Jon Tiven/Sally Tiven, and Colin Linden. Coleman’s precisely-played guitar is sharp and cutting especially when she power chords. At times, her voice is plain and sounds too much like Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith. The impressive backing band includes Hiromasa Suzuki guitar, Noel Neal bass and Per Hanson drums. The band recorded the CD in November, 2003, at The Centre for Performing Arts in Unity, Maine which also included their accommodations. Coleman is a hopeless romantic who pursues real love throughout the entire album. She twists, tortures and plays with her fret-board as if it is the very "Bad Boy" she sings about on the opening track. Ken Clark’s earthy organ inconspicuously adds a swampy presence to "Lie No Better." On "Undeniable," Clark pumps and pulses rousing energy to the fold. Deborah’s vocals are extremely sexy on the romantic "Can You Hear Me?" Here, her vocals are as expressive as her guitar. She performs a rock and boogie version of the Everly Brothers’, instantly recognizable, "When Will I Be Loved?" It is about searching for ideal love but never finding it. So, it perfectly fits this LP’s theme. You get the feeling, Coleman needs to visit the "Healing Grounds" regularly from too much bad love. On the title track, she adds fuzz tone to her guitar solo which gives a hard edge to a song that questions ethics and morals. Once she finally finds love, she concludes there ain’t no fury like "A Woman In Love." However, no fury exists in her voice or guitar on the track. The most unique song is the instrumental "The River Wild." It is mysterious and suspenseful and unlike anything she has previously recorded. On it, her guitar becomes a gun that rapidly fires. Her Jimi Hendrix influence can be heard here. Like her previous Blind Pig releases, this 50-minute disc combines elements of pop, rock, blues and soul. Primarily, What About Love? is a collection of roadhouse rock numbers that would fit nicely on mainstream pop/rock radio. However, this CD will not elevate her to the next level since there isn’t enough new arrangements that she hasn’t done already on previous discs. For CDs and further information, contact:

Paul OscherPaul Oscher
was Muddy Water’s harp player from 1967 to 1971. While in the band, Oscher learned piano from Otis Spann and slide from Waters. Paul’s Electro-Fi debut, Alone With The Blues, is his first new recording in five years. Eight of the 17 songs were recorded in Toronto in 2001 but due to a restructuring at the record label, sat on the shelf for years. This 68-minute disc has been augmented with recordings from the ‘90s. The traditional blues CD contains seven songs written by Oscher. The songs are similar yet different enough to keep your interest. Paul performs revered harp, dignified guitar, boogie-woogie piano, lively accordion, and strong vocals. He executes 12 tracks alone, and adds bass, drums, guitar, and piano (courtesy of Kurt Strange, Cam Robb, Ted Attoring, Jim McKaba, David Maxwell, Calvin Jones, and Willie Smith) on the remaining five numbers. The highlight of the solo performances is the slow-paced, regal title track. Here, Oscher’s foot can be heard stomping along to a plethora of harps. They range from gruff to shrill to everything in between. Somehow he impressively gets the sounds of an accordion and a cello out of his harmonicas. "Glory, Glory" is played to the traditional melody most people will recognize as "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." "Old Ship Of Zion" is gospel-ish where the guitar contains a ‘50s tone. At times, Oscher’s voice sounds like Rick Estrin as on "Work That Stuff." "Standing At The Crossroads" is played in the style of classic John Lee Hooker while Mississippi John Hurt’s working-in-the-field, song, "Louis Collins," is Cajun-spirited and is another highlight of the disc. Out of the songs performed with a full band, it is haunting how close "Walkin’" sounds to 1950s-era Muddy Waters. Waters is present throughout this disc. In addition to regularly hearing him in Oscher’s music, the back cover contains a quote from James Cotton who says Oscher "plays slide just like Muddy" and then Waters is quoted himself at the end of the album. But this CD is by no means a Muddy Waters tribute. On this real deal blues CD, Oscher is a celebrated talent of diverse styles with a voice that adapts itself to the atmosphere of each tune. Equally astonishing is how well the songs fit together into a single package even though they were recorded at different sessions over several years. Definitely in the running for acoustic blues album of the year. For CDs, booking and information, write to: Electro-Fi Records, PO Box 191, LaSalle Station, Niagara Falls, NY 14304 Tel (416) 251-3036. E-mail: Website: Artist website:

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist/Photographer

Up Close & Personal (Southern Records) is the latest offering from Watermelon Slim, and it’s unquestionably his best yet. Just published by Southern Records Group (CD SRG 1003, released on July 6th), this album contains 16 tracks for the main body, plus two bonus tracks. Of those 18, in total, only four are covers of old tracks. So, plenty of originality, but also plenty of obvious, and well used, influences from the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf etc. Bill Homans (Watermelon Slim) has paid his dues over the years, playing with blues legends like John Lee Hooker, Champion Jack Dupree, Bonnie Raitt and Robert Cray, and it shows here in his music. Most of that music is played solo – no rhythm section to help out – just the man, his guitar and his harmonica, so you get pure blues straight from the heart. Taking the cover versions first: Sonny Boy Williamson’s “I Don’t Care No More” is the first one up, and it is played in true Sonny Boy style. This is a slow and moody blues with some good harmonica playing interspersing with the vocals. “Smokestack Lightning” appears two tracks later, and I found it was slightly spoiled for me by the partially muffled vocals. However, it’s still a very good rendition of the old Howlin’ Wolf original, and Watermelon Slim has changed it around a bit to make it more personalized, without losing the flavour of the Chester Burnett version. Two tracks later is a lovely version of Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running.” Suffice it to say that Muddy would have given this the stamp of approval! The fourth, and last, of the covers is a Fred McDowell track, “Highway 61” – appearing as track 11 on the CD. True to the original, without being an exact copy, this track is superbly rendered and full of feeling. It covers just over four minutes, and every second is pure blues. Onto the originals: the regular tracks (excluding the two bonus ones) start and end with slightly differing versions of “Truck Holler,” a field holler which puts me in mind of some of the music recorded by Alan Lomax way back. It captures the spirit exactly of the old songs sung in fields with maybe a couple of sticks or spoons banged together to give the backing. Track two, “Blue Freightliner,” is pure Muddy Waters and absolutely superb --- there just isn’t enough music of this vein recorded any more and credit must go to Watermelon Slim for coming up with tracks like this. There are too many good tracks to mention all of them here, but there are some instances where the influence seems to shine through: “The Last Blues” certainly impresses me as coming from Taj Mahal, “Scalemaster Blues” has a certain Fred McDowell ring about it and each of the original songs reflects past masters of the blues --- a great way to pay homage to those who have gone before. This is a superb album for those who like traditional blues. It’s mostly original, but made in such a way that it seems old already.

--- Terry Clear

Here’s a lady guitarist/vocalist from Yugoslavia who started on guitar studying jazz. Still in her 20s, Ana Popovic is already distributed and promoted worldwide. Comfort To The Soul (Ruf Records) is from last year but is just now getting critical coverage. An attractive picture of her working up a sweat, hair down, axe-wielding, appears on the cover of Reno publication “2004 Blues Festival Guide,” with more info inside about her two Ruf Records releases, of which this is number two. (Album art on neither measures up to the magazine cover). The disc is overproduced, a lot of non-blues, and the vocals are mediocre. On the opening “Don’t Bear Down On Me (I’m Here To Steal The Show)," with processed wah-wah guitar, good luck. “Love Me Again” fares a bit better with a bluesier beat and song structure. But the vocals are buried. Next is the title cut, and Hammond B3 organ helps. There are limpid attempts at Gospel background vocals. “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” is very disguised but finally the blues! Young Ana heard this tune from her father’s record collection and his own home jam sessions. She also cut this album, as well as her first US release, in Memphis so there’s that connection to this historic tune. Unfortunately it sounds like a version heard during amateur hour or at a talent competition. The guitar solo relies highly on gimmickry. Smooth jazz and reggae meet, lubricated by electric piano for “Night By Night.” No wonder. It’s a Steely Dan tune. I almost gave up, and then cut seven, “Navajo Moon,” flowered out of the speakers, practically a “Little Wing.” An instrumental, it’s an original by this lady Hendrix disciple inspired by a sunset during her Grand Canyon visit. It too is overproduced but the mood saves it. When wimpy harmonica is added to something so far removed from country or Chicago blues, it can sound cheesy, which happens on “Need All The Help I Can Get.” Very true here, it doesn’t add authenticity. A strained, flat vocal is contained in the rock “Recall The Days.” If you’re gonna do rock, I’d rather go for the rhythm on “Fool Proof,” akin maybe to “Pink Cadillac” in grooving medium tempo. Not bad. The disc concludes with “Jaco,” not so much a tribute to the late bassist Jaco Pastorius but rather to any enthusiastic and artistic soul who’s muse is prematurely squelched. This is among only three of all the album’s tracks which in my opinion is “not bad.” There is a second guitar on many of the cuts. Not having access to personnel listing, it may very well be the same lady overdubbed. Otherwise bass and drums, both competent, and an occasional keyboard. This disc is produced in part by a studio legend to those in the know, Jim Gaines, famous for getting the best and most biting sound out of an electric guitar. I’ve really admired his crafting on CD’s by Studebaker John and Jimmy Thackery. But I’ve also heard a dud he produced for Lonnie Brooks. So, like lady Ana here, other influences could be at play resulting in hit-and-miss. Barely blues, a lot of rock. If you’re looking for good blues lady guitarists/vocalists, in the pure electric style I’d recommend Debbie Davies, or more on the rock side Joanna Connor. Maybe Austin’s Sue Foley (who has just switched to this same label, “Ruf”). As for Ana Popovic’s Comfort To The Soul, on some cuts I may as well have been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. But the lady is successful in that she stays busy. She’s on tour making a lot of festival and club dates in the US. As with just about anybody I’m certain she’d be better live. Anything is preferable to this over-processed album.

--- Tom Coulson
Broadcaster/musician, read my music column

30 Years Of Maria Muldaur: I'm A Woman (Shout! Factory/Rhino) celebrates the funk and jazzy blues spin Maria Muldaur gave to folk-pop as a premier song stylist. A human jukebox of peerless skill, Muldaur takes songs of Lieber/Stoller ("I'm a Woman"), Dolly Parton ("My Tennessee Mountain Home"), John Hiatt ("It Feels Like Rain") and more and makes them her own on this exquisite collection of songs. Some recordings features guests. This includes a song with Roy Rogers ("Me & My Chauffeur Blues"), Charles Brown ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You?"), Taj Mahal ("Soul of a Man") and one with Bonnie Raitt ("It's a Blessing"). This documents attests to Muldaur being a premier interpreter of all forms of American vocal songs styles.

The title of The Knight Brothers disc, Temptation (Shout!) , of course, refers to the potent soul single "Temptation 'Bout to Get Me" from the Washington D.C. duo of Richard Dunbar and James Leon Diggs. That powerful song alone would have kept the group renowned for time immemorial. But this collection of all singles from the group's Checker years gives the pleasure of a lifetime of collecting without the expense and hassle! This album also includes eight tracks from The Carltons, which included Diggs. Two of those selections feature Andy Mack. This is a smart collection of ballad soul with hip, upbeat brass arrangements.

--- Tom Schulte

W.C. ClarkFor those that were expecting a repeat of the deep soul flavor of W.C. Clark's last Alligator CD, From Austin With Soul, you are in for a surprise. This new release, Deep In The Heart, leans much more heavily towards Texas R&B than the soul leanings of that prior release which was reviewed so favorably here in our June 2002 issue of Blues Bytes. That release was a deep soul collector's treasure, with many references to Stax & Hi Records such as "How Long Is A Heartache Supposed To Last." Although this new release does cull some tunes from that era, the overall feeling is a bluesy, harder one on this release. A glance at some of the old school tunes like Dan Penn's "You Left The Water Running," originally recorded by James & Bobby Purify and available on their wonderful Shake a Tail Feather release (also reviewed in the June 2002 Blues Bytes), this time out is given an updated sound with Marcia Ball's excellent vocals adding a Texas feel to this duet classic. Another case in point is Joe Tex's "I Want To Do Everything For You," with Clark's lead guitar once again putting a Lone Star State tag on this version. He is joined on this track by the wonderful Ruthie Foster. The Fabulous Thunderbirds are covered here with a cool version of "Twist Of The Knife," as is John Hiatt's great "Tip Of My Tongue." The latter is given the good old deep soul treatment and would have fit just as well on From Austin With Soul. Once again I direct your attention to Clark's very emotional take on this track, making it one for the ages. Delbert McClinton's "Ain't Lost Nothing" is a great choice here and of course has it's roots in Texas. "Soul Kind of Loving" is another duet with Marcia Ball and it features Marcia's great piano in addition to her vocals. Clark's "My Texas Home" is a straight blues that works really well with the other tunes chosen. It's back to the Hi Records catalog with a great version of "I Didn't Know The Meaning of Pain," originally recorded by Otis Clay. It can be found on The Complete Otis Clay on Hi (another CD no one should be without). This release ends with a rousing version of the classic "Okie Dokee Stomp'" and will surely get you up on your feet and wishing for a dance floor. Many thanks to W.C. once again for another fine outing, and kudos to those responsible for the great song selection. It's a delight to hear some of these obscure tracks brought back to life. Another winner. What a great month this has been for new releases.

What have we here? Hmm, another incredible new release from our brothers across the pond in merry old England in Right Where I Belong (One On One Records), from Willie Walker & the Butanes. Once again they have taken a legendary southern soul singer into the studio and have come out with this great 2004 release that closely follows the style and heritage of the best of the '60s work of James Carr or O.V. Wright.Willie Walker was a label mate of both the aforementioned legends at the Memphis-based Goldwax Records in the 1960s, and to this day has not lost any of the strength or technique in his voice; anyone who cherishes those old Goldwax recordings will just love this release. All of the 14 songs were written by band member Curtis Obeda and all could have been written and arranged 40 years ago. My feeling upon hearing this CD for the first time, was it was like finding a great lost James Carr album from 1964. The vocals and arrangements are so true to its heritage that you are in a time warp. A guitar, organ and those glorious horns open the CD's first song, "I Don't Mind At All," and you are in soul nirvana. It is apparent from the first few bars that Walker remembers those glorious years, and we are about to relive them. A slow burner, "(We Gotta) Put Out The Fire," follows and it too has those great horn lines and female backing. "No Longer For Me" is a southern ballad written in 1995 and intended for James Carr. The fifth song "Right Where I Belong," sounds like it was stolen from the O.V. Wright songbook, the vocals paralleling that great master's classic phrasing. "Give As Good As It Gets" has one of those memorable hooks that you will surely be singing along with. The deep "Sometimes Love's Not Enough" opens with a Hammond organ and guitar and gives us a lesson in how to build intensity in even the slowest of ballads. "I Don't Know If I Can Make It Through" sounds like it could have appeared on one of those classic Stax/Volt Otis Redding LPs. The absolutely perfect ballad "Crying To Do" (my favorite track on this CD) is a close cousin to all those Goldwax singles. What a track. The 13th track, "Ain't It Funny," is six minutes of deep soul and not a minute too long. The final track, "I Feel It," ends the CD on an upbeat note with those excellent backing girls, some fine piano, and Obeda's guitar leaving us with the felling that we have just finished listening to a near perfect release. How often can we say that? Find this CD at any cost. You will listen to it for years to come. A gem.

--- Alan Shutro

Duke RobillardVeteran blues guitarist Duke Robillard has consistently been one of the finest practicioners of the West Coast / Texas jump blues style, with an extra emphasis on the music of T-Bone Walker. Except for a couple of ill-advised forays into other blues sounds in an apparent attempt to expand his audience, Robillard has consistently been one of the best in this genre, beginning way back when he took Roomful of Blues onto the national scene. No one does T-Bone Walker like Robillard. Thus, it was high time that he recorded an entire disc of tunes by the progenitor of Texas / California blues guitar. Blue Mood (Stony Plain) captures Robillard at his best on a dozen T-Bone songs. He avoids making this disc too clichéd by omitting some of Walker's better known numbers, such "Stormy Monday," which was already done by Robillard on previous recordings. But classics like "T-Bone Shuffle" and "T-Bone Boogie" are here. The mood gets jumping right away with "Lonesome Woman Blues," as band members Matt McCabe (piano) and sax players Doug James, Sax Gordon Beadle and Bill Novick are all featured prominently; behind the scenes, Jesse Williams puts down on steady thumping acoustic bass beat. Other strong numbers include the slow blues "Love Is A Gamble" and the mambo-ish "Hard Way," although there's really not a weak cut here. If you're a fan of either Duke Robillard or T-Bone Walker (and who isn't?), then you need to Blue Mood to your CD collection.

Love Jones (DG Records) comes from Arizona band Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, an up and coming group that's just starting to scratch the surface of the Southwest club scene. Their previous release, That's D Blues, received a favorable review in the June 2003 edition of Blues Bytes, and they are showing that they continue to mature as a band. Sax player Anton Teschner really shines on the first two cuts, the blues shuffle "Call Me" and the rockin' "Love Jones." Porras does his best vocal work on the funky Albert Collins-ish original "Can't Get Enough," that again gives Teschner significant solo time. Porras gets his chance in the spotlight as guitarist on the slow blues instrumental "Folini's Blues." The only covers are a pair of renditions of John Hiatt's "It Feels Like Rain," one done in the studio and the second version a redundant live cut. For more info on Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, check the band website at

Hound Dog Taylor"He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good!" This is the statement that Hound Dog Taylor wanted to leave with the blues world about himself. While it's not totally accurate (I, for one, believe that he played better than "shit"), Taylor was indeed a genius at taking a raucous, out of tune blues recorded on a cheap guitar and a fuzzy amp and making the music sound like pure blues heaven. Alligator owner Bruce Iglauer resisted releasing the live recordings found on Release The Hound (Alligator) due to what he considered to be sub-standard sound quality. He even apologizes for the "warts" in the liner notes. No apologies necessary, Bruce, as mastering engineer Dan Stout did some wonderful things to bring these 14 cuts up to near studio quality, making Release The Hound an essential purchase. The energy level is high throughout the disc (as if one would expect anything less from Taylor) and it's all great music. Backed by the regular Houserockers lineup (Brewer Phillips on guitar and either Ted Harvey or Levi Warren on drums), they slam through Taylor classics like "Sadie," "Gonna Send You Back To Georgia, "Sitting At Home Alone," and Taylor's quintessential cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say?" What can I say? Buy this disc. Play it often. Play it loud. Enjoy it.

Any new disc by blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins is always a treat. Ladies Man (M.C. Records) includes guest appearances by female blues singers Deborah Coleman, Susan Tedeschi, Madeleine Peyroux, Ruth Brown, Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli, Odetta and Saffire's Ann Rabson, plus one cut with guitarist Elvin Bishop. Pinetop also gets to handle the vocals on three cuts. Being selfish about it, I would rather have had a whole new album featuring just Pinetop. But that's not what this disc is all about, so I'll be satisfied with it as it is. OK, I like the four cuts ("Big Fat Mama," "Kansas City," "How Long" and "Chicken Shack") with Pinetop on vocals the best --- that goes without saying. These songs came from a live session in California when Pinetop actually couldn't play the piano due to a hand injury; filling in quite capably on the 88s was Tucson, Arizona artist Lisa Otey. The rest of the backing band for that session consisted of Willie "Big Eyes" Smith's regular touring group, including Smith himself on harp and Chicago stalwart Bob Stroger on bass. "How Long" adds Bishop on slide guitar; in my opinion, this one's the highlight of the CD. Smith's harp work is especially nice. Elsewhere on the disc, Pinetop and Marcia Ball team up at the piano for a revamped version of his instrumental classic, this time calling it "Pinetop's New Boogie Woogie." It smokes. A similar groove occurs when Rabson joins Perkins on a pleasant instrumental version of "Careless Love." Ladies Man gave a lot of artists a chance to show their love for this great and influential blues artist. For that reason, this one's a must have.

--- Bill Mitchell


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