BooBoo Davis was born and raised in Drew,
Mississippi in the heart of Delta. Charley Patton
stayed in the area for many years and several
legendary performers spent time there, so there are
plenty of influences to be absorbed by musicians
growing up there.
Boo Boo's father, Sylvester Davis played with John
Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Robert Pete Williams,
and these and other musicians rehearsed at their
house. At the age of five Boo Boo was playing the
harmonica and singing in church with his mother. By
13 he was playing guitar, and by 18 he
was playing out with his father and older brothers
under the name of The Lard Can Band and travelling all
throughout the Delta. In the early 60s he moved
to St Louis but he remained a southerner at heart.
He never learned to read and write, but he found
ways to deal with modern society enough that he has
toured Europe playing his blues.
Name Of The Game
(Black & Tan Records)
is BooBoo’s fifth CD, and his previous one, Drew,
Mississippi, was listed with the 10 best blues
records of 2006 by MOJO Magazine.
This is one of those albums that grabs hold of you
the minute you start to listen – all sorts of
influences percolate through (either intentionally
or otherwise), like Hendrix, R.L.Burnside, Buddy
Guy, but the music remains strictly BooBoo Davis.
The line-up is unusual in that there is no bass!
Just BooBoo on vocals and harmonica, with a guitarist
and drummer – Jan Mittendorp and John Gerritse. It
takes a while, though, to realise that there isn’t a
bass in the band as the guitarist plays some nice
bass riffs on his baritone guitar.
The CD has
13 tracks in all, 12 of them
written by BooBoo Davis with a combination of other
members of the band, the odd one out is a fantastic
version of “St. Louis Woman,” the origins of which
seem to be lost in time, but I can remember a
version by Memphis Slim back in the 1950s. The
opening track, “Dirty Dog,” is a good medium-tempo,
foot tapper with wa-wa guitar, and it lays the
groundwork for the rest of the album, which just
gets better and better as it sails through the
different tempos and influences.
Track two, “I’m
Coming Home” slows things way down, and features
some good, moody, harp playing, before track three,
“Stay From The Casino,” lifts the tempo up again to
the level of track one. The songs move back and forth
between slow and medium tempo until you reach a lovely
boogie shuffle at track seven – “Who Stole The
Booty,” a compulsive, driving rhythm that really
makes you move, and one of the best tracks (for me)
on the CD.
I really can’t make my mind up between “Who Stole
The Booty” and “St. Louis Woman,” but one of them is
the best track on the album, and either of them are
reason enough to buy this CD.
Well, Dallas-based Top Cat Records have been busy
searching out some classic old material again, and
they’ve come up with another fine album. Bocce
Boogie features Big Walter Horton, Ronnie Earl,
Johnny Nicholas, Sugar Ray, Ted Harvey, Mudcat Ward
and Anthony Giarossi, recorded at a concert for a
wedding reception in 1978. The CD is actually
released as a Johnny Nicholas album and it was
recorded in the renowned Bocce Club in Rhode Island
at the wedding reception for Joan and George Nicholas
– the club holds 75 people, and the fact that there
were in the region of 150 people there for the
reception will give you an idea of the atmosphere!
The audience are vocal, and get into the music with
a lot of support for the band, but they aren’t
obtrusive, they just add to the flavour! Live
recordings have to have an audience, after all.
What a good thing that the lost tapes of this gig
turned up, and what a good thing that Top Cat
Records had the foresight to release it on CD so we
can all share the music.
Four of the
15 tracks are credited to big
Walter Horton, together with some classics from
Memphis Slim (“Every Day I Have The Blues”), Willie
Dixon (“My Babe”), Robert Nighthawk (“Sweet Black
Angel”) and Big Joe Williams (“Baby Please Don’t Go”),
and some Johnny Nicholas originals, including the
fantastic instrumental Bocce Boogie.
Fifteen tracks altogether, with Walter Horton,
Johnny Nicholas, Ronnie Earl and Sugar Ray all taking
the lead at one time or another – and every track
full of atmosphere and good blues.
For me, the two boogie tracks on the album stand out
above the rest, although it’s close run thing – I
just couldn’t sit still when I was listening to
“Walter’s Boogie” or “Bocce Boogie” – close your
eyes and you could be at the reception, especially
if you listen through headphones!
This is great live blues, full of flavour, full of
atmosphere – give it a listen!!
It’s taken 23 years to surface, but Top
Cat Records has just released the fabulous live
recording, Live 1985 by Hollywood Fats &
The Paladins, from the famed Greenville Avenue Bar &
Grill in Dallas, recorded in December of 1985.
Hollywood Fats sadly died the following year aged
just 32, so there won’t be many, if any, later
recordings around of this talented guitarist.
During his brief time on this Earth he managed to
play with many of the greats of the blues world:
John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Buddy
Guy, Junior Wells and lots of others, so you just
know he had to be good.
This CD is a mix of Texas Houserockin’ Blues & Jump
Blues, with a few other influences thrown in for
good measure, and it’s one of those albums that
starts your foot tapping from the first chord of
track one - which is, incidentally, an extremely
good cover of Freddie King’s “Hideaway.”
The guitars of Hollywood Fats and Dave Gonzalez of the
Paladins merge together really well, and the music
just makes you wish that you’d been at the gig to
see these musicians in action.
There’s another Freddie King track, “Sidetracked,”
as well as covers of tracks by Jimmy Reed, Chuck
Willis, Jerry West and others, and also a couple of
Hollywood Fats (Michael Mann) originals.
The recording quality of the vocals isn’t 100% (it
was 23 years ago, remember), but it adds
to the flavour, rather than spoiling the effect –
and the music itself is just great.
Of the two Fats originals, “The Groove” (track 6),
is possibly the best track on the CD, closely
followed by the other Fats track, “Tear It Up,” a
There are two Freddie King tracks, a brace of Jimmy
Reeds, and a fine cover of Little Milton’s “That
Will Never Do,” as well as a good selection of
It may be 23 years old, but this is a must
for any blues collection – especially if you like
something to tap your feet to, or to dance to!!
Starting off here with an admission – I hadn’t heard
of Rick Moore & Jimmy Nalls before I got my hands on this CD,
Slow Burnin' Fire (Blues Boulevard). I
don’t know why, because they are very good.
This is another release by Blues Boulevard – oh boy,
are these guys busy bringing some good blues to
Europe!! This CD is a mix of various styles of
music, centred around the blues, but taking in some
soul as well. They have a good sound, these guys,
and the CD is well worth a listen.
Rick Moore hails
from Tennessee, near Memphis, and so he was exposed
to a lot of good music early in his life – later on
he toured with Willy Deville and added another
influence to his broad base of music. Jimmy Nalls
played with Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett, Percy
Sledge, and others, so there is a good music
background there too – add these two guys together
and you can’t really fail to get some good music
coming out! Jimmy Nalls was unfortunately diagnosed
with Parkinson’s disease in 1995, but continues
playing and making music.
The CD opens with a rocking blues, “Talk To Me Baby,”
written by Rick Moore, who was involved with the
writing of most of the tracks on the album – either
on his own or with help from others.
Track 5, “Let Me Down Easy,” is a soul-based track,
very obviously influenced by Percy Sledge, complete
For me, the track that got most of my attention is
“Muddy water fever,” a basic slow blues, with
harmonica from Bill Howse, a portion of slide guitar
from Noel Roy, and no fancy add-ons.
The last five tracks, out of the 18 on the CD, are live
– four of them live versions of other tracks on the
album – which gives a good idea of how good the band
are outside the studio.
Another great re-release from Blues Boulevard
This Belgium-based outfit are re-releasing into
Europe a series of great CDs from around 2000, and
they are certainly picking some beauties!
Vaughan's Do You Get The Blues? was always a fine album, but it didn’t do very
well in Europe. With a couple of European visits
under his belt, Vaughan should do well second
time around with this CD.
The album has guest stars, including Lou Ann Barton
(no surprise there), James Cotton, Double Trouble
and others, and they all make a good job of teaming
together for a great album of blues.
The CD opens with the instrumental “Dirty Girl,” and
in my view this was an inspired pick for the opening
track, as it is pure Jimmy Vaughan, with just
guitar, drums and Hammond B3, and really whets the
listener’s appetite for more. Track two, “Out Of The
Shadows,” adds bass and some backing vocals
(including Lou Ann Barton) for a slow pulsating
blues, that keeps your attention ready for the next
track “The Deep End.” Here is where guest artist
James Cotton blows his stuff on a haunting
harmonica, always in the background, but always
visible – what a shame it’s the only track that he
Things slow down with “The Power Of Love,” with Lou
Ann Barton taking the lead vocals, and Jimmy Vaughan
helping out – the guitar work here is inspired, and
Bill Willis provides all the help they need with his
A couple more slow songs follow up
before the beat starts to pick up with “Robbin Me
Blind” and nice medium shuffle beat with Billy
Horton changing the flavour with his upright bass.
The aptly named “Slow Blues” follows – pure late
night blues ecstasy! Jimmy on guitar and vocals,
supported by George Rains on drums, Bill Willis on
the Hammond again and Greg Piccolo on mellow tenor sax
in the background. This track is haunting and
atmospheric and should be listened to in the dark!!
The CD is worth buying for this track alone. And
then, just when you thought you’d listened to the
best the album has to offer, comes “In The Middle Of
The Night,” with Jimmy sharing vocals again with Lou
Ann Barton – her voice definitely at her absolute
best – and Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, better
known as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble
backers, lay down a great rhythm.
The album comes to an end with the strange “Planet
Bongo” with some flute addition, courtesy of Herman
Green, and a jazzy feel to it.
Woman (CDS Records), from Nellie "Tiger"
Travis, is an easy CD to review. I enjoyed it from
start to finish. Sure there were a few tunes I won't
be humming in the morning, but as a whole, and from
a new independent label, this is an exceptional
release. I'm sure there will be comparisons to the
successful Ecko Records since both labels aim at the
radio stations in the southern states, and both rely
heavily on programming and house song writers.
makes this one shine above the others is Nellie
Travis. She's the real deal as far as singing goes
and makes rather routine songs seem important. I had
the privilege of seeing her perform at the
Hayward-Russell City Blues Festival in 2007 and she
stole the show, so it's not surprising that with
quality songs and production, she can be a star.
Rather than go from track to track, the majority of
the songs were written by Floyd Hamberlin Jr. which
gives a sort of sameness to them. My favorite tracks
though were the ones written by Travis, "Amnesia,"
and the great duet with label mate Stan Mosley, "Who
Knows You," written by Robert Newsome and Bob Jones. I
hope that with Mosley and Travis both with CDS
Records there will be more duets coming since their
voices go together well.
In all fairness I do like
the ballad "Don't Talk To Me," written by Hamberlin
Jr. and he also gets credit for the song title of
the month "Slap Yo' Weave Off," obviously not a love
song, but two women fighting over the same man.
I sure hope he was worth getting your weave slapped
Check out Nellie's website at
www.nellietravis.com and you can listen to
sound bites and check out the great photos.
excited when I heard that Evidence was releasing a
new Howard Tate album and surprisingly a new Garnet Mimms
(also reviewed in this
issue) so I couldn't wait to get them into the old
Here's what I have to report.
starts with arguably the worst opening track I have
heard in a long time. "Miss Beehive" is a song about
Amy Winehouse with such ridiculous lyrics as" Miss
Beehive likes to misbehave." Why would anyone choose
to open an album, and especially a Howard Tate
album, with a song about Amy Winehouse is beyond me.
As I got further into the album the answer became
quite clear; all the songs were written by or
co-written by Jon Tiven and his wife Sally Tiven.
The strongest song, "Good And Blue," was co-written by
Dan Penn, and as you listen to this as compared to
some of the others, it makes this track sound like a
"hit" among many misses. The Mack Rice collaboration,
"Stalking My Woman," is a bluesy number that really
goes nowhere as does the Syl Johnson collaboration,
"If I Was White," a song obviously about racism, but
nowhere as potent as Johnson's "Is It Because I'm
The primary band is Jon Tiven
and his wife Sally, with
Chester Thompson on drums. They never really get a
groove going because the arrangements are so pallid.
To quote from Tiven's liner notes (yes, he wrote
them, too), "But every singer needs a great song and
this time the responsibility for my coming up with
these songs fell on me.
I know I did my best to come up with the goods...and
when it came to putting them across, Howard brought
the fire." Jon, I think the only fire Howard brought
was for the barbecue after the session was over.
The problem as I see this release is that this is a
Jon Tiven ego project and Howard and the additional
songwriters were just collaborators. When the
producer was deciding on Bettye LaVette's last CD
they listened to thousands of songs and narrowed it
down to a hundred or so for Bettye to decide the
final 10 or 12. I would think that took a bit
of work, but it paid off in a big way.
So Jon, I would say as far as this
criticism....."Get It While You Can."
If you want to see a current Howard Tate at his
finest, I would like to direct everyone to YouTube
and Howard doing "Louisiana 1927" at a recent
concert. A legend for sure.
I have listened
to Garnet Mimms' music since the emergence of soul
in the early '60s. His 1963 smash, "Cry Baby," made it
to #1 on the Billboard charts and is familiar to all
those who listened to pop music of that era. He
released several albums for United Artists during
that period and all of his albums and singles are
highly sought after by collectors. He left the music
business in the late '70s and kept busy with singing
gospel music and taking an active roll in his
church. The 74-year-old Mimms, a West Virginia native
and a long time resident of Philadelphia, is pastor
of the nondenominational Glory Land Ministries on
West Cheltenham Avenue in West Oak Lane, PA.
this new CD, Is Anybody Out There (Evidence), with great trepidation once I saw that
it too was produced by Jon Tiven, who I feel didn't
do much justice to Howard Tate's release that I
have also reviewed in this issue. Of course, Tiven
wrote or co-wrote 13 of the 15 songs, and was
responsible for being the band leader once again.
Where this release differs from the Tate release is
that none of the songs would be out of place at
Mimms' Sunday service. As with most of his secular
music, it is filled with a joyous gospel feeling. A
couple of the songs, such as "I Know The One" and
"Thirty Three," are overtly Christian, but most are
inspirational uplifting songs not unlike some of the
fine releases Aaron Neville has given us in recent
There are no
cheating songs or Amy Winehouse references here.
Mimms' voice may not
be what it was in 1963, but at 74 years young, he
hasn't lost much. By adding classic backing by the
Heart for Christ Choir and adding the incredible
Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns on trumpet and
trombone, this CD has a much fuller sound than does
the Tate release.
Mimms does a
credible version of Johnnie Taylor's "God Is
Standing By," Dan Penn lends his songwriting
talents to "You'll Lose What You Got," and a thanks
goes out to Pat Cambell for allowing them to use
Milton's lead guitar on "Let Your Love Rain On Me."
I enjoyed this
release much more than the Tate CD, and I guess we owe
a bit of gratitude to Jon Tiven for seeking out and
allowing us to visit once again with one of music's
true icons. Perhaps if there is another release to
follow, they should take the time to research and
pick songs from the vast and diverse repertoire of
--- Alan Shutro
I have to admit that I was rather cool on the last
few Solomon Burke releases, partly because they
never really got off the ground musically and partly
because my younger years were filled with all his
great releases on Atlantic. Who can forget his
killer Bell album with perhaps the best version of
"Proud Mary" ever, from his post Atlantic years. Now
those were "soul."
I can't really say that about
Like A Fire (Shout Factory) although his voice still is filled
with emotion and able to put over a song. He is
joined on this release by Eric Clapton who offers
two songs, Keb Mo' and Ben Harper with one each as
well as several other fairly well known writers and
performers. The Clapton tracks are "Thank You" and
also the title track. They sound like ballads you'd
find on a Clapton album, just substitute the voice
and you pretty much know what you have here.
"We Don't Need It," is perhaps my favorite on this
release, about a man who loses his job and whose
family stands behind him in his time of strife.
Quite a poignant song with a fine message. The Ben
Harper track, "A Minute To Rest and A Second To Pray,"
is a bit too rocky for my taste.
Another of the
better tracks, "What Makes Me Think I Was Right,"
written by guitarist Jesse Harris, takes a country
slant somewhat like the tracks on Nashville.
Harris also wrote the mid-paced "You And Me" and it
too is a bit country. The album ends with a cabaret
version of the 1950s chestnut "If I Give My Heart
To You," kind of a weird choice to end the album (or
just a weird choice in general), but one that allows
Burke to croon a bit over piano, celeste and drums.
This is in my opinion the best release of his last
few and one that has grown on me over repeated
listening. My one complaint is that it contains only
39 minutes of music. I guess 39 minutes by a master
is better than 79 by a pretender. I can recommend
this release, but it may take a few listens.
back from the Heritage Music Festival in Wheeling,
WV and watching Ana Popovic perform there perfectly
illustrates the mission of Eclecto Groove Records
--- to present the music of artists whose music
defies categorization. Mike Zito’s new
release on Eclecto Groove, Today, is a
perfect example of that. Part R & B, part Soul, part
Blues, its all good and a very impressive debut
Like This” is the first track up and it’s a
reflection of Mike’s memories of growing up and
being shown what true love is by his mother. “Don’t
you ever turn your back on love…or ever give up on a
friend…love is all that you need…and with a love
like this, you’ll breathe.” “When you got a love
like this my son…you’ve got to hold on tight…when
you’ve got a love like this…you’ve got to love it
'til the end!” Truly giving…truly living is the
lesson imparted to her son by Mike’s mother. The
groove takes a different turn on “Superman.” A funky
back beat finds Mike working to soothe the fears of
a new love. “I know you’ve seen me here before…girl
before you lock that door…I think you’ll know
exactly what you’ll find…this man of steel surely
understands…you need a Superman!” Mike’s vocals are
very soulful…very expressive…very soothing as he
works to win over the object of his desire.
cut, “Holding Out For Love,” finds Mike in pursuit
of a wounded woman. “So take me down to the bottom
level…make it hurt like I never know…still I look at
you and can’t deny…say how long…you’re going to need
to be strong...I’m holding out for love.” We’ve all
come across situations where one needs to heal
before they can move on to love again; hopefully
this love of Mike’s will be able to do that. Next up
is the cut that surprised me the most on this new
release, a soulful version of Prince’s “Little Red
Corvette.” “You’re the kind of person who believes
in making out once…love them and leave fast…but it
was Saturday night…what have I got to lose?” Fast
living leads to fast loving and more often than not,
a swift end to a fiery flame.
“Universe” finds Mike pondering his existence in the
world. “Why are we here…driving our cars…loving one
close…hating one far…no one really knows why.” Life
needs to have a sense of purpose…a reason why one
should carry on and it isn’t always apparent to any
of us why we’re here. Mike’s living a hard life in
“Blinded.” “Blinded…blinded by the life…but amazing
grace…it took away my knife!” Faith brings Mike out
of the depths of tough times and gives him the faith
to move forward…to live a better life. A soulful
guitar intro begins the process of reflection for
Mike in “Slow It Down.” “When I look back…on my
life…you know it’s hard to remember…anything I did
right!” Self-exploration can be a painful process
and Mike’s struggling to find meaning in a lot of
his past life experiences and the way he treated
others. “You know I pray to God…at least baptize the
ring!” But from the past comes the lessons for the
future and at least Mike is looking toward the
is the title cut, “Today,” and we find Mike trying
to do his best to live in the present. “I take my
time about…growing older…try to live like…I’m
getting younger.” He’s got a good woman, life so far
is being good to him and at least everything is
good. “I know life is going to bring a little bit of
pain…but with some help from above…I know its going
to be ok…just for today!” “No Big City” finds Mike
reflecting on how life in the city is no longer the
daunting proposition it used to be. Mike’s spent the
majority of his year’s growing up in East St. Louis
and the longer he lives in the city, the more of a
sense of the need for community he feels. We need to
stand up, persevere and fight the good fight to
preserve a healthy way of life for everyone.
ain’t no mystery…its all about you and me…you pay
your bills…you go to church…its making life easy to
serve…so tell me what you think you’re made of!”
“Deep Down in Love” finds Mike asking these
questions of his friend…no matter how he’s
professing to live…love ultimately is what will
bring him the most happiness. “Dirty Things” finds
Mike realizing that he’s the one on the other end of
the relationship this time. “Something inside is
telling me to walk away…but I see your body and my
mind starts to go astray…it’s all because of you and
the dirty things you do.” This evil woman definitely
has the charms to keep Mike at bay, no matter what
his brain is trying to tell him to do.
Hollywood is part of the LA mystique, charm and
ultimately home to all of the sins and temptations
that lure many an artist to its shores. “But
everybody is doing their thing…they’re keeping in
line…they’re keeping in swing…I want to live in
Hollywood!” Mike is determined to make it in this
city of temptation and his resolve will hopefully go
a long way toward keeping him out of trouble. The
ballad, “Time to Go Home,” closes out what has been
an enjoyable record from this new artist on Eclecto
Groove. “It’s about that time again…I pack my bags
full of where I’ve been…all the guitars and mics
have been loaded up…we’re ready to roll.” “It’s
time…time to go home.” The road can be a lonely
place for the traveling musician and there are good
reasons to return home from the road…to see a loved
one…to hold your little girl again…to feel the love
of the ones you miss. A nice way to end an
impressive debut by Mike Zito.
is a good record. Mike’s voice is an impressive
instrument that he uses to convey the emotions he
feels in his soul when singing. His songs reflect
heartfelt emotions and he lyrically tells an
impressive story. Mike is passing through Phoenix
soon and I’m looking forward to having the
opportunity to see his live performance match the
emotions he conveys in this soulful release.
venture down south to Decatur, GA, you might chance
upon a street musician that plays in and around the
square. His name is Billy Christian Walls, but he
goes by Guitar Red. Even though he’s lived a
tough life (losing his family in the span of a
decade, battling alcohol, drugs, and homelessness),
he has used music as his means of expression and as
a coping mechanism. He writes songs that mix humor
and pathos in equal blends and is a fiery guitarist
and passionate singer.
Backspace Records (www.backspacerecords.com)
has released a collection of Red’s songs. Entitled
Lightnin’ In A Bottle, the disc was recorded
live with only a couple of overdubs and presents an
artist playing his own idiosyncratic style of blues.
While there are songs that are derivative of other
blues styles (“Box Car No. 9,” “Chain Gang Blues,”
“Three Legged Dog Blues,” and the hilarious “Lips
Poked Out”), Red gives these a unique polish that
only he could offer.
songs, such as “Ain’t Got Nobody But Myself” and “I
Believe,” have more than an autobiographical edge to
them. The manic title cut features Red on clavinet,
and “Out My Mind” sounds like it has roots in the
Mississippi Delta. At the end of the disc, there’s a
three-minute snippet of Red rambling in the studio
that captures his eccentric personality perfectly.
street musicians aren’t nearly as widespread as they
were in the ’20s and ’30s, Lightnin’ In A Bottle
captures one of them in his element and gives you a
glimpse into the uniqueness and originality of his
style. Wonder what it was like in the days when
there was one on nearly every street corner in these
southern towns? However it was, I’ll imagine not
many of them could have held a candle to Guitar Red.
Justice was born in the Chicago area and toured
as a teen with various bluegrass and gospel groups.
The lure of those two musical genres led him to
relocate to Memphis, where he developed his own
unique musical vision mixing blues, gospel, and soul
with a touch of the swamp. His second release,
The Rebound (self-released), is an amazing ride
through these genres which results in some of the
best Southern rock heard in a while.
opening cut, “Nobody’s Bizness,” is a delicious
variation on the old blues classic “Ain’t Nobody’s
Business,” complete with Stax-like horns and groovy
backing chick vocals, all driven by Justice’s
gravelly vocal, his slide guitar, and funky Hammond
Organ provided by co-producer Phillip Wolfe. If this
was a fair world, you’d hear songs like this on your
radio on a regular basis. “Bad Bad Man” is a swampy
blues track with more fine fretwork and “Mean Old
World” is another upbeat number that’s bound to get
you on your feet.
title track features more tasty slide work from
Justice, as does the rocker, “Leavin’ To Stay.”
Coming at the disc’s midpoint, “You and Me” is a
nice change of pace, in more of a pop vein and
featuring Ben Walkenhauer on saxophone. The soulful
“Lose It All” features a strong vocal by Justice,
and “Get You Good” demonstrates Justice’s flair for
catchy lyrics and is one of the disc’s standout
Rebound is a strong effort by Jon Justice. His
gritty, powerful vocals, splendid guitar work, and
songwriting skills make this one a keeper for fans
of blues/rock with a touch of soul.
Barbara Blue’s second of three sets recorded at
her Memphis stomping grounds at Silky O’Sullivan’s
is appropriately entitled Live Volume 2 (Big
Blue Records). Recorded at the same time as Volume 1
(September and October of 2007) and featuring the
same band (Nat Kerr – piano, Lannie McMillan –
saxophone, Corey Osborn – guitar, and Kerr, Nancy
Apple, and Reba Russell on background vocals),
Volume 2 features Blue tackling a diverse set in
front of an enthusiastic crowd.
Highlights include a powerful take on Etta James’
“At Last,” featuring Kerr on the keys, a
sax-drenched soulful take on Henry Glover’s “What
Makes You So Tough” and Nancy Apple’s “Moonlight
Over Memphis.” Blue also does a nice version of
Dorothy LaBostrie’s “You Can Have My Husband,” a
sensitive reading of Paul Siebel’s “Louise,” and
Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel,” a favorite from
her Sell My Jewelry CD.
the setting is stripped-down and somewhat relaxed,
the band is pretty low-key, other than Kerr’s
wonderful support throughout and the occasional sax
break from McMillan. Blue’s performance is, as
always, first-rate, as she continues to prove
herself capable of handling any song style that
comes her way with relative ease.
liked Volume 1, you’ll love Volume 2. Barbara Blue
continues to stand out in a crowded field of female
blues vocalists. If you’re in Memphis, drop by
Silky’s one Saturday night and see for yourself what
all the fuss is about.
Lear is a Vermont native based in Binghamton,
New York who was captivated by the music of Buddy
Guy as a youngster. He also absorbed the music of
artists like John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and
Stevie Ray Vaughan. His music has been touted as
“High Octane Bob Dylan/Stevie Ray Vaughan fueled
blues.” His gravelly vocals do bring Dylan to mind,
but besides the SRV influence, he sometimes reminds
me of Mason Ruffner when he plays guitar.
debut release, Love and Charm (self-released)
combines his own blues/rock compositions with Elmore
James (“Sure Enough I Do”), Richard “Rabbit” Brown
(the gentle “James Alley Blues”), and the old
reliable rocker, “Dust My Broom.” Dylan’s “Lord
Protect My Child” demonstrates how much Lear’s vocal
style mirrors Dylan’s.
original tracks range from the scorchers, “Kiss Me”
and “Leave This Town,” to “Cry Cry Cry,” which has
more than a touch of the Mississippi Delta present,
to the Texas shuffle of the title track to the
hard-rocking “Breakdown Shakedown,” one of several
tracks featuring the searing harp work of Pete
Ruddle, who also shines on “North Mississippi
Bound.” “Ruth’s Boogie” brings out Lear’s SRV roots,
“Trouble In My Mind/Trouble In My Soul” has the
Ruffner influence going with the guitar work, while
“Early In The Morning” could pass for a lost Dylan
Providing stellar backing for Lear is a tight group
featuring Ruddle, Carlos Arias (bass), and Brad
Gordon (drums). Love and Charm is a
blues/rock treat that will reward fans of the genre.
Savannah, GA, Jimi Ray is a three-piece band
that, as the name indicates, plays high energy
Texas-style blues, boogie, and blues/rock. The trio
consists of New Yorker Chris Carusos (guitar and
vocals), Louisiana native Doc J. Black (bass and
vocals), and Georgian Calvin Williams (drums and
latest release is a self-released effort called
Just Passing Through and features eight tracks,
a mix of familiar covers and original tunes. The
covers include a funky take on Muddy Waters’
“Hoochie Coochie Man” and the Hendrix standard, “Hey
Joe.” There’s also a sharp acoustic version of
“Pallet on Your Floor.” The originals include “Day
Late Dollar Short,” which is driven by a familiar
SRV riff. The amusing “Please Don’t Take (My
Guitar)” and “Turning Gray” are also worth a listen.
is a strong guitarist in the Hendrix/SRV mode, but
he shows much more on several of the tracks featured
here. Black and Williams are a tight rhythm section
who can also spice things up as well.
Passing Through is a solid set of Texas
blues/rock via Georgia and will please fans of the
genre. Check the band out at
have been several attempts to write a biography of
blues legend Robert Johnson over the years, most
notably by Peter Guralnick and Elijah Wald. While
both efforts were well-done, they seemed incomplete
due to the fact that there are a ton of gaps in
Johnson’s story and the accurate information
available at the time was simply not enough to carry
an entire book (Guralnick’s book was actually more
of a dissertation and Wald incorporated Johnson’s
story into a general history of the blues).
Graves, former editor of the magazine Rock & Roll
Disc, and contributor to publications like Musician,
Rolling Stone, The New York Times Book Review, and
others, has taken a stab at separating fact and myth
from Johnson’s story with Crossroads: The Life
and Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson (Demars
Books). Like the other bios, Graves has
painstakingly researched his subject and presents
the facts as currently known, separates fact from
myth, and even addresses at length all the events of
the past couple of decades, including Johnson’s
renewed popularity based on the early ’90s release
of his complete recordings, the discovery of Claud
Johnson, who was determined to be Johnson’s son and
heir, and the controversy over the bit of film found
in 1998 that was rumored to contain footage of
Johnson playing on a street corner.
also discusses the “Crossroads” legend that has been
part of the Johnson legend for so many years and
it’s amazing to read how this story has thrived for
so many years given its humble beginnings. There’s
also a chapter devoted to the third photo of Johnson
(pictured with his nephew) that has only been seen
by a few people since coming into the possession of
researcher Mack McCormick. Graves also looks at the
sometimes contentious, and sometimes complicated,
war of wills between McCormick and Johnson archivist
Stephen LaVere (who wrote the foreword for this
by far, the most complete and accurate book so far
on Robert Johnson. Graves’ main goal, however, is to
entice readers to “connect the dots” between
Johnson’s legacy and modern blues, jazz, country,
and even hip-hop. Crossroads: The Life and
Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson is an
interesting and absorbing book that not only will be
of interest to new fans, but will fill in some gaps
for longtime fans.