Blues Bytes

What's New

August 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Stan Hirsch

Dennis Jones

Chicago Blues

Eddie C. Campbell

Hill Country Revue

Watermelon Slim

Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt

Ana Popovic

Izzy and Chris

Missy Andersen

Seth Walker


Stan HirschAt last, a long awaited new album, Compelled To Play (Blue Falcon Music), from Albuquerque’s guitar master Stan Hirsch. Unusually, Stan Hirsch includes some good cover versions of blues standards, done in his own inimitable style, whereas most of his earlier albums were all original work. He still includes some songs of his own, but he covers “Got My Mojo Working,” Walking Blues,” Baby Please Don’t Go,” Mystery Train” and “On The Road Again.”

I have to admit that I had to play this CD a few times to get a handle on what it is that Stan Hirsch is doing here – his previous CDs have been pure enjoyment based on their simplicity of good blues. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t give up, and after a few plays it came through to me – this is a musician who is his own man – he can take an old standard and completely change it to his own style, without losing the flavour of the original – a bit akin to what Eric Clapton did with Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” It might take a while to get a the idea of what Stan Hirsch is trying to do, but persistence is worthwhile and you’ll get a lot of pleasure from listening to this album.

I’ve never heard “Got My Mojo Working” done as slow as this before, and the first time I played it, I thought, “What is this?” After a couple of plays I found that the song had a whole new slant on it, and that is the same for the other covers, too – not one of them is a direct copy of the original – refreshing!

Of the original numbers, I would buy this CD for “Guilty Of Boogie” alone – I’m fearful that I might wear out this portion of the CD.

If you haven’t heard this man before, then you’ll probably get the point a lot quicker – I had preconceptions from listening to earlier albums and from seeing him play live. But if you haven’t heard him, then take this opportunity because here is a guitar master at work!

--- Terry Clear

Point BlankPoint Blank Blues Band seems to go from strength to strength, and each CD is a little better than the one before. It makes me wonder how long they can keep improving! If you haven’t heard any of their previous CDs, or read reviews of them, this is a band from the former Yugoslavia, based in Belgrade in what is now Serbia. These are extremely competent musicians, who very obviously know and love the blues. How easy can it be composing and singing the blues in a language that isn’t the one that you were brought up speaking? That the blues the band produces is high on the scale of excellence is even more amazing.

Here then is the band’s latest offering, A Whiter Shade Of Blue (PGP Records_ --- 12 tracks of original blues all written by the mainstay of the band, and man who calls himself Dr. (Dragoljub Crncevic).

The album opens with “The Devil, God & I,” a medium tempo track with some really well played keyboards from Darko Grujic laying down a base for the guitar work from Dr. Maybe I should mention at this stage, that the six-piece Pointblank Blues Band are joined by eight guest musicians playing a variety of instruments, including mandolin, dobro and gusle – no, I hadn’t heard of it either! (it’s a single, or sometimes two, stringed instrument quite popular in the Balkan region).

Track two, “Belgrade Blues,” slows down just a little, and is pure blues that could come from anywhere in the USA, if it wasn’t for the reference to Belgrade

The lyrics, and the vocals, on track three, “A Song For V,” are reminiscent of some of Leonard Cohen’s better material, slow and moody, and well put together, and maybe mixed with a hint of Chris Rea.
Track four, is a strange mix of sounds from a radio which just didn’t work for me at all, but it’s only just over a minute long, so I can’t criticize the band for this little indulgence, and it leads into “Golden Arrows” which is a rock-blues number built around the keyboards and haunting guitar.

“Last Pain,” which is track number six, is best described as Balkan blues, I guess, as it includes some east European violin playing – this adds an interesting flavour to the track, and I found it compulsive listening and a really refreshing look at the blues.

Track seven lifts the tempo to a shuffle beat on “Mama I Blew It,” and then “No Pride” takes you by complete surprise with a country flavour supplied by pedal steel guitar, courtesy of guest musician Mirko Tomic. A good track, but maybe a little out of place here amongst the really good blues material.

My favourite track on this album is a choice between “Belgrade Blues” and the largely instrumental “Roll On,” which almost had me out of the chair and dancing! However, I think “Belgrade Blues” just takes the place as my favourite.

Listen to this CD and hear from refreshing changes.

--- Terry Clear

Dennis JonesPleasure & Pain (Blue Rock Records) is the fourth album that Dennis Jones has produced, but it’s unfortunately it’s the first one that’s reached my ears. Pleasure & Pain follows Fallin' Up (2003), Passion For The Blues (2005), and Humdrum Virtue from 2007, so he must be doing something right if he’s producing a new album every two years.

Jones hails from Baltimore and started playing drums until the guitar took over as his passion at the age of 13. He honed his skills playing with bands in Germany during his military service, and then headed for Los Angeles in 1985 where he fronted a funkadelic band for a while, before deciding that the blues was his music of choice.

This CD has 11 tracks, all original and written by Jones, and it opens with “Brand New Day” with a big band feel to it, courtesy of guest artists on saxes, trombone and trumpet. Personally, I’m not a big fan of blues with a brass section in the band, but this track is good, and anyway track two, “Don’t Worry About Me,” is the trio of Jones, Michael Turner and Tony Ruiz, and much more to my liking. The brass section is only used on the opening track, and the rest of the album features the trio, with the exception of track seven, “Home Tonight,” which adds harmonica from guest artist Jimmy Z (who, incidentally, provide the saxes on track one).

Jones shows that he can write some good material and that he can also play some fine blues guitar. There’s a good selection of different tempos and styles here, a bit of something for everyone, whatever your particular taste in blues.

I think my favourite has to be the moody track four, “Kill The Pain” – this is the track that I’ve been playing the most on the CD, although the boogie beat “Try Not To Lie” (track eight) comes very close.

The album closes with the semi-humorous “Hot Sauce,” which had me grinning at the lyrics, tapping my feet, and wanting more! Not a bad way to close the album, is it?

Give this a listen.

--- Terry Clear

Baltimore native Dennis Jones first made noise in the music world when he led the L.A.-based hard rock & funk band, Blackhead, but he turned to the blues in the ’90s when he formed the Dennis Jones Band and started playing house-rocking blues with rock influences like the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Santana mixed in with the blues of B.B., Albert, and Freddie King and R&B in the tradition of Al Green and Motown. The results are summarized pretty clearly on Jones’ third release, Pleasure & Pain (Blue Rock Records).

Jones is backed by a sturdy rhythm section (Michael Turner – drums, Tony Ruiz – bass) and with Jones’ stinging, searing leads and fills, that’s all that’s needed. He doesn’t overplay on his solos…..there’s not an extra note or anything out of place. Jones’ vocals are smooth, yet forceful, with just the right amount of tension in the background. He also wrote all of the songs for the disc, putting an original and contemporary twist in his lyrics.

Highlights include the swinging opening track, “Brand New Day,” driven hard by a horn section, the only track on the disc to features horns. “Kill The Pain,” a slow blues with some of the best guitar on the disc, tackles substance abuse. “ “Blue Over You” is about a love that’s out of reach, and “Sunday Morning Rain” is a downhearted track that would be a seamless fit in either blues or country circles.

“Try Not To Lie” is a hard-rocking number about deception in a relationship, and “I Want It Yesterday” is a topical tune that perfectly captures today’s generation obsessed with instant gratification. The thundering closer, “Hot Sauce,” provides a perfect conclusion to an impressive set, with Jones quoting “3rd Stone From The Sun” as things wrap up.

Pleasure & Pain shows that Dennis Jones is not only a monster performer, but also an excellent composer as well. Check out this CD at CDBaby or visit Jones’ MySpace page to hear more.

--- Graham Clarke

Chicago BluesChicago blues fans, young and old, veterans and newcomers, will want to grab Chicago Blues: A Living History (Raisin’ Music), a superlative two-disc set of vintage tunes, ranging from 1940 to the ’90s, presented by a stellar cast of current Chicago blues artists, including Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, and Lurrie Bell. The set, produced by Larry Skoller, serves as a loving tribute to this music and its pioneers by their contemporaries.

Wisely, the album foregoes the familiar Chicago standards for the most part, so fans won’t be as familiar with most of these tracks. The songs are represented as faithfully as possible with only a few modern flourishes here and there, but sound as fresh and new as if they were recent compositions, thanks to the inspired performances.

The 21 songs are distributed pretty evenly, with Arnold taking on his hero Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “My Little Machine,” Tampa Red’s “She’s Love Crazy,” Big Bill Broonzy’s “Night Watchman’s Blues,” Memphis Slim’s “Memphis Slim U.S.A.,” and his own “I Wish You Would.” Primer does a couple of songs associated with his mentor, Muddy Waters (“Feel Like Going Home” and “Sugar Sweet”), along with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ at Midnight,” Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” and Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Your Imagination.”

Branch handles Little Walter’s “Hate To See You Go,” and offers funky versions of Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues,” and Muddy Waters’ “One More Mile,” and backs Primer on harmonica for “Sugar Sweet.” Bell does a fiery version of Elmore James’ “I Believe,” and his vocal on Otis Rush’s “My Love Will Never Die” will raise chill bumps. Singer Mike Avery does a fine job covering his cousin Magic Sam’s “Out of Bad Luck,” and B.B. King’s “Three O’clock Blues.”

The only quibbles on the set are the two closing tracks. John Lee Hooker’s connection to Chicago is somewhat tenuous (though he did record for Chess and VeeJay) and “The Healer,” sung by guitarist Carlos Johnson, is a fine effort, but maybe a song from his earlier catalog might have been more appropriate. Ditto the Buddy Guy selection (“Damn Right I Got The Blues,” well-presented by Lurrie Bell).

Piano man Johnny Iguana is one of the unsung stars of this set. He does an excellent job on piano and keyboards, and gets the spotlight to himself on Big Maceo’s “Chicago Breakdown.” The other unsung star is guitarist Billy Flynn, who does a great job on tracks like “She’s Love Crazy,” and is featured on the incredible Earl Hooker instrumental, “Hooking It.” The rhythm section (Felton Crews on bass and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums) along with harmonica player Matthew Skoller (brother to producer Larry Skoller) are top-of-the-line.

It’s somewhat disturbing to think that of the artists here, supposedly representing the contemporary Chicago blues scene, well over half of them are in their 50s, with Primer and Arnold in their 60s and 70s, respectively. Hopefully, there will be some younger guns emerging from the shadows in the near future.

Despite that sobering thought, blues fans should love Chicago Blues: A Living History. It will lead younger fans to seek out the original classic versions and even seasoned vets will want to play this one over and over. This is a fabulous set of songs with dynamite performances.

--- Graham Clarke

Eddie C. CampbellEddie C. Campbell has been a part of the blues scene for over 50 years, appearing onstage with Muddy Waters as a 12-year-old, and learning guitar firsthand from Water, Otis Rush, and his good friend Magic Sam. He served as a sideman for Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Mighty Joe Young, Jimmy Reed, and Koko Taylor before serving a stint in Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars. During his time with Dixon, he recorded the now-legendary King of the Jungle.

Campbell was known around the Windy City for his outrageous hair styles, his red guitar, and his purple motorcycle. He spent nearly a decade in Europe in the ’80s, still recording and performing while there, but returned to the U.S. in 1992. During his time overseas, he continued to improve as a highly original and unique guitarist and composer, but he’s seemingly disappeared from the scene from time to time.

Campbell’s latest release, for Delmark Records, is called Tear This World Up, and it plays like a typical Campbell set, with his sometimes humorous, sometimes surreal lyrics, his clever and distinctive guitar work, and a few well-done covers. Though Campbell’s roots run deep in the West Side style, his lyrics and guitar work are often done with a look toward modern sounds.

Campbell’s original compositions include “Makin’ Popcorn,” a funky John Lee Hooker-like boogie track, with some frenetic guitar work, “Big World,” a hilarious look at sexual doings (and non-doings), and the eerie “Voodoo.” The closer, “Bluesman” is an autobiographical acoustic outing, and “All Nite” is a bouncy instrumental. Campbell also covers two Magic Sam tracks, “Easy Baby,” and a “Love Me With a Feeling,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “My Last Affair,” and a breezy interpretation of the Gershwins’ “Summertime.”

In support of Campbell is Mojo Mark Cihlar, who blows a mean harp on several tracks, as well as a tight rhythm section (Dario Golliday – bass, Marty Binder – drums, Karl “Lil’ Daddy” Outten and Marty Sammon – keyboards) and four tracks are augmented by a horn section (Sam Burckhardt – tenor sax, Chuck Parrish – trumpet, Juli Wood – baritone sax). Dick Shurman’s production is excellent, providing the perfect backdrop for Campbell’s talents.

If you’re not familiar with Eddie C. Campbell, give this disc a listen. I can promise that you’ve never heard anyone quite like him and you’ll enjoy what’s offered on Tear This World Up.

--- Graham Clarke

M for Mississippi, volume 2As promised, the team of Broke and Hungry Records, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, and Mudpuppy Recordings has delivered a second volume of recordings from last year’s wonderful documentary, M for Mississippi. The good news is that there’s not a trace of filler material included on this set. It’s as strong a set of Mississippi Delta blues as the first volume was.

The same artists are featured on Volume 2 as on Volume 1, except for the late Wesley Jefferson, whose band backs a local Clarksdale singer, Miss Gladys, for a smoking rendition of “Walking the Back Streets.” Robert “Bilbo” Walker gets the chance to shine on his unique and highly personalized version of “Johnnie B. Goode” (Chuck Berry’s attorney’s banned the use of the song on the documentary, but the licensing rules for video don’t apply to audio). The mysterious Mississippi Marvel reappears (with support from Lightnin’ Malcolm) for a typically emotionally charged take on Muddy Waters’ “Evil.”

Pat Thomas gets two tracks this time around, the instrumental “Leland’s Burning Down,” and the idiosyncratic “What a Way It Used to Be.” T-Model Ford goes acoustic with “Hi Heel Sneakers” (check out his most recent release, Jack Daniel Time, for more of his acoustic guitar). R. L. Boyce tones things done a little bit from his boisterous selection on the initial volume with a relatively sedate “Over the Hill,” with Malcolm that features some entertaining banter with his house party audience.

“Cadillac” John Nolden teams with Bill Abel for “Hard-Headed Woman,” and the one-man-band Terry “Harmonica” Bean performs the lively “I’m Going Down South,” which was recorded at Ground Zero. Bentonia bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who has a new recording coming out soon on Broke & Hungry, covers John Lee Hooker’s “Mr. Lucky,” and L. C. Ulmer, an octogenarian guitarist who really deserves a recording of his own, offers more of his beautiful liquid tone and some haunting slide guitar on “When I Was In Trouble.” The disc closes with a “Front Porch Version” of the title cut, courtesy of its composer, Big George Brock.

M for Mississippi has already carted off a boatload of awards (including this year’s BMA for Best DVD). It looks like Volume 2 of the soundtrack will continue the hot streak. If you liked the first volume, you’ll love the second one. Both sets provide ample proof that the Mississippi Delta blues scene is alive and well, and worth making the trip to see and hear.

--- Graham Clarke

Hill Country RevueHill Country Revue consists of two members of the North Mississippi Allstars (drummer Cody Dickinson, stepping out front on guitar, and bass player Chris Chew), along with Kirk Smithhart (slide guitar), Daniel Robert Coburn (harmonica/vocals), and Edward “Hot” Cleveland (drums). Their sound puts some of the familiar Allstar trademarks (hip-hop, funk, etc.), if not off the page, at least on the backburner, replacing it with a harder edged sound.

The Revue got their start in 2004 as the moniker for the expanded Allstars lineup performing at that year’s Bonnaroo Festival, but Dickinson and Chew are also using the name for this side project (formed during Luther Dickinson’s leave of absence to join the Black Crowes), Make A Move (Razor & Tie), which features a powerful mix of Hill Country blues and Southern rock. Think R.L. Burnside meets Duane Allman and you have the idea.

The Revue leaves most of the songwriting to Burnside’s son, Garry. Burnside’s songs are pretty basic, but he has a way with a catchy hook, which is good because the emphasis here is on the music, with its dirty, ragged edge and primal rhythms. Songs like “Dirty Shirt,” “Ramblin’,” “Let Me Love You,” and “Growing Up In Mississippi,” hold up well with the actual R.L. Burnside tunes covered here (“Alice Mae” and “Georgia Woman”).

Garry Burnside also appears on guitar, bass, and vocals, along with brother Duwayne (guitar), Aaron Julison (vocals), and Luther Dickinson (electric and slide guitar). The Dickinson’s father, Jim Dickinson, is listed as “director,” and the disc has a real gritty, swampy feel. You can almost hear the crickets chirp on a few of the tracks.

Make A Move is a strong set, with a great mix of two high-energy musical styles. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a hot, humid Mississippi summer. Trust me…….I’ve lived through quite a few of them and although I’m a little old to be riding down the road with my windows down and the music cranked up, this disc is a perfect fit for that.

--- Graham Clarke

Watermelon SlimWatermelon Slim has always wanted to record a country album, and with his latest NorthernBlues release, Escape From The Chicken Coop, he’s recognized that goal. There’s always been a thin line between blues and country and, of course, if you’re a fan of Slim’s previous work, you realize that for him, that line has always been anorexically thin. He’s absorbed the sounds of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams as much as he has the music of John Lee Hooker over the years and his music has always incorporated both styles. This time around though, the emphasis leans more toward the country side, though it could hardly be considered a stretch for Slim, who makes the transition effortlessly.

For this new release, Slim works with producer Miles Wilkinson and composer/guitarist Gary Nicholson, who works a lot with Delbert McClinton. Nicholson brought in some outstanding Nashville musicians and split the sessions, one with a small acoustic group and the other with a large electric band. The constant is Watermelon Slim, with his craggy vocals, his incredible slide guitar, and his harmonica and he’s never sounded better.

The opening cut, “Caterpillar Whine,” should be featured on truck stop juke boxes all over. Slim drove a truck for years (writing and singing songs to himself to pass the time on the road) and the lyrics and performance capture the mood perfectly and his slide guitar is breathtaking. The whimsical “Skinny Women and Fat Cigars” will put a smile on your face, as will “It’s Never Too Hard To Be Humble.” “You See Me Like I See You” is a fairly mainstream duet with singer Jenny Littleton. Next up is a somber reading of Roy Acuff’s “Wreck On The Highway,” with Slim doing lead and harmony vocals, followed by a spoken-word original composition, “Friends On The Porch.”

“Should Have Done More” is a moving track about helping people in need, and “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life” is a tribute to one of America’s greatest songwriters and performers. “America’s Wives” shows Slim’s admiration for those women who have the thankless job of keeping families going. More traditional country fare follows with “The Way I Am,” a statement of independence, and “300 Miles” is another trucker tune that features one of Slim’s best vocal performances and some stunning slide guitar work as well. The final two cuts, “Truck Driving Songs” and "18, 18 Wheeler,” are also trucker tunes. Fittingly, the disc is dedicated to Dave Dudley, of “Six Days On The Road” fame.

Slim recorded 21 songs in this session and reportedly had a hard time culling the set to 13 tracks. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear the remainder one day. I think Watermelon Slim fans will enjoy this disc as much as they did his previous discs. In fact, some might like it more. Just think of it as a new variation of “country blues” and enjoy listening.

--- Graham Clarke

Doug Cox and Salil BhattDoug Cox and Salil Bhatt released Slide To Freedom in 2007, a highly original and entertaining set teaming one of Canada’s foremost guitarist with a member of one of India’s foremost guitarists. Bhatt’s father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, has recorded with Ry Cooder, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Taj Mahal, and received a Grammy Award. He also invented the Mohan Veena, a 19-string instrument that takes music to an amazing new level. Salil Bhatt is the tenth generation of the Bhatt lineage who has been playing music for over 500 years. He plays the Satvik Veena, which has 20 strings.

The combination of Eastern and Western music made for some compelling music, so much so that Cox and Bhatt decided to record a follow-up, also for NorthernBlues Music, called Slide To Freedom 2- Make A Better World. Percussionist Ramkumar Mishra rejoins the duo for this set and does an outstanding job as the glue that holds things together. Bassist Dinah D is a new face this time around, as is the featured vocalist, New Orleans jazz vocalist John Boutte. The vocals were probably the weakest link in the first release and Boutte’s presence really lifts things up a notch.

Slide To Freedom 2 features eight tracks, three original instrumentals (“A Letter Home,” “Blessings,” and “The Moods of Madhuvanti.”) and one vocal track (“Freedom Raga”) that lean strongly toward the Eastern side, and five wide-ranging cover selections that blend the two genres more effectively. Earl King’s “Make A Better World” gets an excellent treatment with a wonderful vocal from Boutte, who also presents a sublime reading of “Amazing Grace.” The elder Bhatt joins the duo for a smart version of George Harrison’s “For You Blue,” with a playful vocal by Boutte.

While this may not be every blues fan’s cup of tea, Slide To Freedom will certainly please those blues fans who also enjoy world music. Guitar fans looking for creative innovation will also enjoy this release.

--- Graham Clarke

Ana PopovicSerbian-born Ana Popovic has captured much attention within the blues circuit in recent years with her superb, multi-faceted guitar work and a solid set of recordings, a pair for Ruf Records and her previous release on her current label, Eclecto Groove. Though her primary focus is on the blues, her guitar work also features rock, jazz, and funk influences, which reflects her time spent with her father, guitarist/bassist Milutin Popovic (who often held jam sessions at home and exposed his daughter to his robust blues and soul record collection), and has also garnered her some recognition from the non-blues crowd.

Popovic’s latest release, Blind For Love, should continue the favorable trends for her. It features 12 tracks, mixing blues, soul, rock, funk, and jazz in equal measures. Among the highlights is the kinetic opening track, “Nothing Personal,” which should receive some radio play in the U.S. if there’s any justice in the world. The acoustic slide track, “Steal Me Away,” the sultry title track, “More Real” and “The Only Reason,” a pair of moody jazz number, the soul rocker, “Putting Out The APB,” featuring some sizzling slide guitar from Popovic and a gospel-influenced vocal, and the funk workout, “Lives That Don’t Exist,” are also standouts.

Popovic wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks on the disc. Her guitar is extraordinary throughout the disc and her singing is also first-rate. Blind For Love was produced by Popovic and Mark Dearnley (AC/DC, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty), and features members of her touring band (Ronald Jonker – Bass, Andrew “Blaze” Thomas – Drums), plus a couple of members of the Phantom Blues Band (Tony Braunagel – drums, Mike Finnigan (Hammond B3), along with Lenny Castro (percussion), Joe Sublett (sax), and Darrell Leonard (trumpet).

For those unfamiliar with Ana Popovic, Blind For Love is a great place to start. She’s truly multi-talented; one of the most skillful and versatile guitarists currently performing and she’s quickly developing into the real deal as a vocalist and composer. You’ll be hearing a lot from Popovic, and Blind For Love, over the next few months.

--- Graham Clarke

JP SoarsJ. P. Soars and his band, the Red Hots, took home top honors at the 2009 IBC Challenge, and he won the Albert King Blues Guitar award. Soars was born in California, but raised in Arkansas and ended up in south Florida, where he not only plays with the Red Hots, but also with the Gypsy Blues Acoustic Revue, which focuses on the classic jazz material of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, so you might say that he’s pretty well-rounded in his musical tastes.

His debut release, Back of My Mind, focuses on the blues though, and it’s a keeper.

Soars’ guitar work is dynamite and his gravelly vocals suit his material well. The track list consists of four original tunes by Soars and eight covers. The original tunes include the autobiographical opening track, “Born In California, Raised In Arkansas,” which recounts Soars’ formative years and gives him a good opportunity to show his guitar chops. The other originals include the soulful “Will I Ever,” “Call My Baby,” a funky track featuring Soars’ growling vocals, some sweet fretwork, and Jon Epstein’s Hammond B3.

The cover tunes include Guitar Slim’s “Letter To My Girlfriend,” a buoyant Willie Dixon’s “29 Ways,” Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman,” given a bit of a jazzy feel thanks to former Elvin Bishop saxman Terry Hanck, a hard-swinging version of T-Bone Walker’s “Low Dirty Deal,” an acoustic reading of Rev. Gary Davis’ “Cocaine,” Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster of Love,” and J. B. Lenoir’s “Been Down So Long.”

The final two tracks, Soars’ “Baby I Used To Love You,” and Josef Myrow’s “Blue Drag,” are solid representations of the Django Reinhart style that Soars is so fond of and provide a nice change of pace to close the disc out.

From the sound of things, Soars has a bright future that might not necessarily be limited to the blues side of things. He’s a very versatile guitarist who is well-versed in several different genres. Hopefully, he will focus on the blues for a while longer. Back of My Mind is a remarkable first release that blues fans need to check out. Visit Soars’ website or his MySpace page for more information.

--- Graham Clarke

Izzy and ChrisIzzy & Chris won the Appalachian Blues competition in 2007 and made a respectable showing at the IBC in Memphis in 2008. They’ve played on the main stage at many blues festivals and have opened for acts like Keb’ Mo’, Watermelon Slim, Buckwheat Zydeco, Robert Cray, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter, and Buddy Guy.

Izzy is Israel Stetar (guitar, Dobro, and vocals) and Chris is Chris Nacy (harmonica). Their debut recording, Preachin’ The Blues Vol. 1 (80/20 Entertainment), offers an earthy, but melodic take on acoustic blues.

Stetar wrote 10 of the 11 songs on the disc, all dealing with familiar blues subjects. Among the highlights are “Steady Rollin’ Daddy,” which sounds like early Muddy Waters, the autobiographical “Shame, Shame, Shame,” about a sour relationship, “Back To Memphis,” the timely “Flat Broke and Busted,” “If You Hear Me Cryin’,” and the spirited title track, which closes the disc. Nacy’s harmonica work is first-rate and serves as a perfect backdrop to the songs and guitar.

Izzy & Chris capture the atmosphere and sound of country blues perfectly. It’s impressive to find a debut release of country blues with all original tunes recorded with such confidence and passion. We’ll be hearing more from this duo.

--- Graham Clarke

Missy AndersenMissy Andersen grew up in Queens, New York listening to her parents’ extensive music collection, which included selections by Soul & R&B singers like Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, James Brown, and the Staples Singers. In time, she moved to Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn, then to O.V. Wright, James Carr, Little Milton, Ray Charles, Irma Thomas, and Ann Peebles.

Andersen broke into the music business as a rapper (Denyce “Flip” Isaac), but eventually went back to singing and worked several years as one of the Juke Joint Jezebelles, a gospel, soul, and blues quartet that also did background vocals for San Diego bluesman Earl Thomas. Recently, she decided to step out on her own and her self-titled debut recording, on Main Squeeze Records, is a spellbinding retro mix of blues and soul.

The disc features eight songs, two originals and six very satisfying cover tunes, including a dynamic reading of the O.V. Wright standard, “Ace of Spades,” an atmospheric take on Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” and a reading of Don Nix’s “Same Old Blues” that has Memphis Soul written all over it. She also handles the straight blues of Junior Wells’ “Little By Little” with ease. The two originals are “New Feet,” a peppy R&B track, and the funky “Stand Up And Dance,” which also features Nathan James on dobro.

Also lending Ms. Andersen a hand are her husband, guitarist Heine Andersen, drummer Asmus Jensen, organist Jeppe Juul, and bassist Søren Bøjgaard. The Andersens also produced the disc, capturing the vintage Memphis blues/soul sound to perfection. Fans of deep Southern Soul, particularly the Memphis variety, will want to give Missy Andersen a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Michaela RaeMichaela Rae is a 14-year-old guitarist who has been playing for 10 years. She has played with musicians like Kenny Neal, Bob Margolin, Billy Branch, and Colorado guitarist Dave Beegle, and even got to play at this year’s IBC in Memphis. She recently released her first CD, called Blues With A Backbone (Hapi Skratch Entertainment).

Her guitar work is pretty impressive. She’s obviously influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, judging by some of the tunes covered (“The Phonebook Song,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” and “SRV Shuffle”), but she’s not just a SRV imitator. On tunes like “Green Onions” and Robert Berry’s “Never Too Young,” she shows she is developing her own style as well. She also wrote a couple of songs as well (with Beegle, who also produced the disc, played guitar and Hammond B3), the blistering instrumental title track, “Sin Nombre,” a Latin-flavored instrumental, and “Big Easy Blues.”

Vocally, she’s still a work in progress, but the main thing she seems to lack is confidence. That will come with experience. When it does, watch out! There’s no lack of confidence involved with the guitar however, so blues guitar fans will find plenty to enjoy here. Check Micheala Rae out at her MySpace page and visit Mile High Music Store to pick up this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Seth WalkerI have to admit that Seth Walker’s publicist wrote a pretty ambitious description of Seth’s music. To wit, “with a sound that sits comfortably between James Hunter on one side and Keb Mo’ on the other…” Seth’s new record, Leap of Faith, is a very soulful Blues record and will stand on its own without the expectations heaped upon Seth by his own publicist. Let’s see what it sounds like.

“Can’t Come With You” finds Seth in a dilemma. His doctor wants him to rest and stay off his feet while his spirit finds him drawn to going out dancing with his baby. What’s a man to do? “Can’t come with you…baby when you go…but here I come again…knocking at your door.” Needless to say, Seth headed out for another night of dancing with his baby. Moving on, Jim Hoke’s saxophone sets the tone in “Rewind” as Seth finds himself wishing he could go back in time to correct a wrong. “Loving in rewind…trying to get back to where we were before…loving in rewind.” We’ve all made mistakes we wish we could go back and change. Sometimes the opportunity presents itself and other times you just move on. It doesn’t sound like Seth is going to get that second chance.

The title track, “Leap of Faith,” is up next and Seth’s guitar is at the forefront as he laments the end of his relationship. Moving on is tough and you have to be willing to risk love again. “I had no way of knowing…what would come from our first kiss…scares me now to just think about…all the good love I might have missed!” All it really took for Seth to be happy was to take that step, “a leap of faith.”

Our next tune, “I Got a Song,” has an orchestral feel to it with a lazy piano solo by Kevin McKendree in the background. Seth fell in love despite his better judgment and it ended the way he thought it would, “How I loved and I lost and paid the cost…I knew all along it was going to go wrong…but at least I got a song.” Seth’s take on the Percy Mayfield song “Memory Pain” is up next. “When I come in the evening…that woman would be gone…and when I get up in the morning…Lord, she’d just be coming home.” Seth’s woman treated him badly and she had to go. Now all that’s left is the painful memories that Seth is dealing with.

For whatever reason, Seth continues to dwell on the inner workings of relationships and he continues this thought process in “Dig a Little Deeper.” “I’ve got to dig a little further into the man I have been…I got to dig a little deeper…to get out of this hole I’m in.” Self-examination takes time and at least Seth appears willing to do the work.

A sweet acoustic guitar intro leads us into our next number, “Lay Down (River of Faith)." “Lay down my soul for thee…my soul for thee…got to lay down…” “Lay Down” has a spiritual feel to it as Seth goes through the steps necessary to cleanse his soul and renew his faith. The tempo picks up as we head into our next cut, “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide.” Seth’s been having a rough go of it lately and just hasn’t been up to par with living. “The evidence is clear…piled high and wide…about how lately…I’ve let things slide”.

Seth’s fear of dancing is threatening the success of his relationship in our next tune, “I Don’t Dance.” “I do the bush…the mash potato…tried the shag alligator…two-step….jitterbug…I never did know to cut a rug…there’s only one way I’m going to get a chance…she’s making me dance…and I don’t dance!” Tough it out, Seth, it will work out.

“I need you to run…to give me something fast to chase…give you a good head start…and I’ll catch you just to let you get away!” Seems it’s all about the chase in “Something Fast” and Seth is eager to pursue the object of his affection hoping she’ll make the chase interesting. A heavy bass beat leads us into the next tune, “In the Dark.” Here we find that Seth is lost and confused, and can’t find his way. “If you’ll shed a little light on me…how grateful I will be…been in the dark so long….I can hardly see.” Love has left Seth confused and unfortunately, figuring it out is a journey he’s going to have to make by himself.

Leap of Faith closes with a sweet ballad, “Falling Out of Love.” “I know all too well…that you’ve moved on…the best thing for me to do…is leave you alone…falling out of love with you…is way too far to fall…can’t believe you’re gone…” Here we find that Seth truly loved this woman and moving on is just way too hard, but at least he’s trying and eventually the pain will go away.

Leap of Faith has been a refreshing listen for me. Seth Walker definitely has soulful roots and they’re on display all over this record. Given what I’ve heard today, Seth is definitely an artist on the rise and one I hope to see in the near future. More information about this soulful Texas bluesman can be found on his website, He’s worth the look.

--- Kyle Deibler


[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]



The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: July 31, 2009 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2009, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.