Blues Bytes

What's New

July/August 2011

an associate Order these featured CDs today:


Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

LC Ulmer

Chicago Blues

Brad Vickers

Jackie Johnson

Bill Bourne

David LaFleur

Erick Hovey - Blues Farm

Erick Hovey - Recycled Souls

Mickey Thomas

Dicky James

Susan Wylde

Kirsten Thien

Richard Ray Farrell


Monkey JunkMonkeyJunk is a band from Ottawa, Canada. Their music is a combination of swamp R&B, soul, blues, and funk. Their name comes from a remark made by Son House years ago (“I’m talkin’ ‘bout the blues. I ain’t talkin’ about monkey junk”). They’re a three-band, with Steve Marriner on vocals, harmonica, keyboards, guitar, Tony D (lead guitar), and Matt Sobb (drums). After years of playing on the Ottawa blues circuit in different bands, the trio decided to get together a couple of years ago and things have happened pretty quickly since then. They were nominated for Best New Artist at Canada’s Maple Blues Awards, despite not having an album of any kind in print, and represented Ottawa at the 2009 IBC in Memphis, placing third overall. Their debut release, Tiger In Your Tank, won Best New Artist at the 2010 Blues Music Awards.

The band is now with Stony Plain Records and their second release, To Behold, should help explain what all the fuss is about. These guys may not have been together very long, but you’d never know it by listening. Their musical chemistry is certainly impressive. They rock hard on numbers like “Mother’s Crying” and “You Don’t Know,” but also shine on the slower tracks, too, like on “All About You,” “While You Are Mine,” and “Let Her Down.” “Right Now” is a funky rocker, and “With These Hands” dips into soul territory.

The buoyant “Running in the Rain” has a shuffling country feel and cool backing vocals. Marriner was once considered a teen prodigy on the harmonica and on the impressive instrumental closer, “The Marrinator,” he shows that he’s still got it. The album’s lone cover is a bluesy version of Hank Williams’ “You’re Gonna Change (or I’m Gonna Leave).”

MonkeyJunk shows that their debut release was no flash in the pan with To Behold. Based on this release, it’s safe to say that these guys are here to stay, which is good news for us blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny WayneKenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s debut release for Stony Plain Records, An Old Rock on a Roll, is his first in five years. Produced by Stony Plain mainstay Duke Robillard, who also plays guitar, the album is chock full of high-spiritied blues and R&B. Wayne has been making music since the late ’60s, starting out in Los Angeles on the soul/R&B scene with Billy Preston, Delaney and Bonnie, and the Doobie Brother. He eventually settled in Vancouver in the early 80’s, where he has built a solid reputation as a blues and boogie-woogie piano man, strongly influenced by Fats Domino, Johnnie Johnson, Amos Milburn, and Bill Doggett.

Fans of blues piano will find tons to love on this set, which opens with the rousing “Searching For My Baby.” From there, the pace rarely slows….witness the breakneck pace on “Fantasy Meets Reality.” Even on mid-tempo tracks like the title cut, “Howlin’,” and “Heaven, Send Me An Angel,” it’s hard to sit still. The straight blues cuts, like “Don’t Pretend” and “Bring Back The Love” give Wayne an opportunity to stretch out on the keys a bit.

“Run Little Joe” has a swampy Louisiana feel, and “Way Overdue” has roots in the Crescent City. “Wild Turkey 101 Proof” sounds like a vintage ’40s track on the evils of drink, with Robillard providing liquidy guitar in support. “Rocking Boogie Party” really needs no explanation. Just get up and get moving. The closing instrumental, “Give Thanks,” is an uplifting tunen that features Wayne on organ and closes things out on a high note.

Most of the usual Stony Plain suspects are present to lend Wayne and Robillard. They include Mark Teixeira (drums/percussion), Brad Halle (bass), Doug James (baritone sax), Sax Gordon (tenor sax), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), and Carl Querfurth (trombone). They specialize in this type of music and give Wayne plenty of room to do his thing.

Five years is a long time between releases, but if all of Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s future releases are this strong, they’ll be worth the wait.

--- Graham Clarke

LC UlmerI’ve sung the praises of the documentary M for Mississippi quite a bit here at Blues Bytes and at my blog. One of the real surprises of the film was the closing sequence with L. C. Ulmer. Ulmer almost missed filming due to some family issues, but fortunately for everyone Jeff Konkel and Roger Stolle went the extra mile and Ulmer ended up on the film, playing the lovely track, “Rosalie,” which sounded like a long-lost Mississippi John Hurt side.

The 82-year-old Ulmer has played music for decades in California, Chicago, and Mississippi, even appearing at the 2008 Chicago Blues Festival and releasing a live CD (recorded in Italy) a couple of years ago, Long Way From Home. His latest release, Blues Come Yonder (Hill Country Records) features nine original songs plus covers of “Trouble No More” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light.”

Ulmer’s guitar playing brings to mind the Hill Country sound with its trance-like groove, on songs like “Hard To Get Along,” “Peaches Falling,” and “Left Me Standing Behind.” “There Go All My Dough” and “Hip Shake” are more upbeat and lively. “Get Along Cindy” is a blend of a couple of folk songs (with lyrics from “Oh Susanna”). The title track percolates with Ulmer’s spacey picking backed by drummer Wallace Lester’s percussion resembling a train rolling down the tracks. He also plays mandolin and banjo on selected tracks.

In addition to Lester, the backing musicians include bass player Justin Showah (who also produced the disc) and Jimbo Mathus who adds drums on a few tracks. Sprinkled throughout are various comments by Ulmer before and after tracks, and there’s a bonus snippet at the end of the disc with Ulmer playing piano. This is just an enjoyable recording from a man who truly loves the music. Hopefully, we will get to hear more soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Chicago BluesChicago Blues: A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues (Raisin Music) is a sequel to the 2009 double-disc set, Chicago Blues: A Living History. Like its predecessor, the new disc provides neophytes with an introduction to this great music, and it offers longtime fans a fresh take on some familiar Chicago classics.

Many of the same artists return on the new disc --- Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson, Billy Flynn, Carlos Johnson, Johnny Iguana, and Felton Crews --- but there are some additional guest stars this time around. Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Zora Young, James Cotton, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Mike Avery all make guest appearances.

The songs selected are a broad representation of Chicago blues from the early '40s (Lonnie Johnson's "He's A Jelly Roll Baker," courtesy of Arnold) to the late '90s (Ronnie Baker Brooks doing his own "Make These Blues Survive"). Some of the tunes will be familiar (Jimmy Rogers' "Chicago Bound," by Primer, Magic Sam's "Easy Baby," from Sam's cousin Mike Avery, Elmore James' "Yonder Wall," from Branch), but there are some outstanding tunes here that may be unfamiliar to most blues fans, such as Floyd Jones' "Stockyard Blues" (by Lurrie Bell), Tampa Red's "I'll Be Up Again Someday (by Arnold), and a great cover of Robert Lockwood Jr.'s "My Daily Wish, featuring Arnold, with guitarist Flynn and piano man Iguana.

The guest stars also shine on their tunes. Buddy Guy reprises his hit, "First Time I Met The Blues," as only he can. Magic Slim is reunited with longtime bandmate Primer on Chuck Willis' "Keep A-Drivin'." James Cotton raises the roof on "Rocket 88," with Iguana and guitarists Flynn and Rico McFarland. There are several heartfelt tributes, with Zora Young pays tribute to her mentor, Sunnyland Slim, on "Be Careful How You Vote," Baker Brooks covering his father Lonnie's "Don't Take Advantage of Me," Carlos Johnson's nod to Otis Rush ("Ain't Enough Comin' In"), and Lurrie Bell honoring his dad, Carey, with "Got To Leave Chi-Town."

Closing out the disc is a rollicking version of Muddy Waters' "The Blues Had A Baby (And They Named it Rock and Roll)," with the four principals (Branch, Arnold, Bell, and Primer) each taking the mic and ending things in fine fashion. This is a great sequel, possibly even better than the original, due to the wide range of covers, many rarely heard. The presence of some rarely covered tunes on this collection will appeal to longtime listeners and hopefully will open the eyes (and ears) of some younger blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Brad VickersBrad Vickers & His Vestapolitans have taken their listeners on a fun-filled journey through American blues and roots music since his first CD, Le Blues Hot, was released in 2008. That release, coupled with 2010’s Stuck With The Blues, offered up a delightful mix of originals and covers that spanned the blues, ragtime, rock & roll, and country blues. Vickers’ third release, Traveling Fool (ManHatTone Records), offers up more of the same good times.

The title track, written by Vickers, opens the disc and it’s a great slice of ’50s blues/R&B with special guest Bobby Radcliff rocking the house on guitar, and Arne Englund channeling Johnnie Johnson on the ivories, punctuated by a tight horn section. Vickers wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 15 tracks, and they are a diverse set of memorable tunes, ranging from the old school rockers “Because I Love You That Way,” “Don’t Take My Cadillac,” and “Fourteen Women.” Tracks like “Leave Me Be” and “Without Moolah” swing more toward the blues side, and “Glad Rags,” “In My Dream,” and bass/fiddle player Margey Peters’ “Skeeter Song” lean toward ragtime. There’s also a dandy pair of instrumentals, the R&B flavored “Uh Oh!” and the appropriately titled “Rockabilly Rumble,” that closes the disc.

The four cover tunes are familiar, but are presented in slightly different formats. Sonny Terry’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes” is freshened up by the addition of fiddle and clarinet, which is also present on Tampa Red’s “No Baby, No.” There’s also a punchy remake of J. B. Lenoir’s “Low Down Dirty Shame,” and a fairly straight remake of Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues,” with Vickers on slide guitar.

In addition to Radcliffe, Peters, and Englund, a hat tip has to go to the outstanding horn section (Jim Davis – tenor sax, clarinet, Matt Cowan – baritone sax), drummer Bill Rankin, and guitarist V.D. King. Guitarist Dave Gross returned to produce Traveling Fool and also plays bass on a couple of tracks.

Brad Vickers & His Vestapolitans’ latest disc is easily their best so far. Each disc has improved upon its predecessor, but this one will be hard to top.

--- Graham Clarke

Jackie JohnsonYou may not be familiar with Jackie Johnson, but chances are that you’ve heard her if you follow soul music. She started a couple of decades ago backing singers Shirley Brown and Barbara Carr, and has recorded a couple of gospel albums. She’s performed for years overseas in Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland. Most recently, she’s been a member of Huey Lewis’ band, singing on his recent Soulsville tribute album. She’s also managed to release her debut soul recording, on Catfood Records, Memphis Jewel.

Johnson makes it sound mighty easy on tracks like the opener, a cover of the Gladys Knight and the Pips’ hit, “It Should Have Been Me.” She also effortlessly handles covers of tunes by Smokey Robinson (a neat rearrangement of “Tears of a Clown”) and Betty Wright (“Clean Up Woman”). There are also some fine originals here, including a pair that Johnson co-wrote with her husband, Van Johnson (the sensual “Do Ya” and “Will You Be Mine”).

Other standout tracks include the jazzy “Nothing Lasts Forever,” written by Catfood Records chief (and bass player) Bob Trenchard, the second-line strutter, “Brightside,” the lovely “Rain,” and “Wash Your Hands” (also written by Trenchard). Johnson shows that she can sing the blues, too, with her duet with labelmate Johnny Rawls, “Love You Still.” The gospel tune, “Keep The Faith,” another Trenchard tune, closes the disc in rousing fashion.

Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines, Memphis Jewel is an impressive debut release for Jackie Johnson, loaded with great songs and performances. She promises to be a major player in the ongoing Soul Music revival.

--- Graham Clarke

Bill BourneOver a 30 year career, Bill Bourne’s muse has taken him from folk to world beat to Cajun to funk to blues. He has worked solo and as part of acts such as Tannahill Weavers, Bourne & MacLeod, Tri-Continental, Elvor Palsdottir, Lester Quitzau, Madagascar Slim, and Bop Ensemble. He’s won awards in Denmark and Canada for producing and playing on albums.

Bourne’s latest project is with a collection of musicians dubbed The Free Radio Band. Bluesland (Linus Entertainment) is a mix of folk, rock, and country music, all drenched with the electric blues. Basically recorded live in the studio, with Bourne’s son Pat playing fiery lead guitar, Pa Joe on electric smooth jazz guitar, Moses Gregg on bass, and Miguel Ferrer on drums, the disc kicks off with the smooth “Deep Dark Woods,” then rocks hard on “Home.” “On The Sunny Side” slows things down to a more pensive mood and showcases Bourne’s songwriting.

Bourne’s harmonica drives the country-tinged “Forever Truly Bound,” while “Columbus Stockade Blues” leans toward rockabilly. “Who’s Knockin’?” offers some surf-based guitar fills over a jazz backdrop, and “Daily Bread” is straight-ahead electric blues. The disc closes with a robust version of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” the album’s lone cover.

Bluesland is a pleasingly diverse set of interesting tunes that will appeal to fans of blues and folk.

--- Graham Clarke

David LaFleurDavid LaFleur is a talented singer/songwriter who also plays guitar, mandolin, dobro, and dulcimer. He has toured the mid-Atlantic region and the East Coast for over 20 years, performing a unique and entertaining blend of blues, folk, Americana, and Appalachian, mixed in with a healthy sense of humor. LaFleur’s latest self-released effort is called Them Bones and is an amazingly diverse collection of folk music, both old and new.

The opening track, “Rovin’ Gambler,” is a country-based tale with LaFleur playing acoustic guitar. “Pleasantville” is an original composition, a cowboy song, that keeps that same feel, but with LaFleur on mandolin. “Double Down or Fold” veers more toward the blues side, with some excellent slide guitar. “The Quilt Song” is a melancholy song of lost loved ones, with accompaniment by Camilo Perez-Mejia on cello. “Oh Freedom” features a hearty vocal and some spirited work on the dobro.

“The Last Thing” is a tune about a last effort to save a romance. It features a heartfelt vocal from LaFleur and stellar backing from Bill Wallach on mandolin, Bill Starks on piano, and Antoine Sanfuentes on percussion. The mood lightens considerably with the humorous rocker, “Shepherd’s Pie Revisited.”

“Darlin’ Corey” is a tragic story with suspense heightened by LaFleur’s emotional vocal and fretful (no pun intended) guitar. “Dunolaigh” ventures into Celtic territory, as does a stunning version of Robert Burns’ old tune, “My Luv Is Like A Red Red Rose,” truly one of the standards by which all love songs are measured. The title track is one I remember from my youth and it brought back some fond memories to hear LaFleur’s amusing recreation here.

LaFleur is considered by some to be a master of the dobro, and there are two instrumental tracks here that offer verification. “Big Bad Bro” is an up-tempo workout, while the album closer, “Paco’s Lullabye,” is just that…..a gentle, sweet tune.

David LaFleur’s Them Bones is an excellent set of blues, folk, and Americana. Acoustic guitar fans will absolutely love this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Heather O'NeillHeather O’Neill’s A Feminist Manifesto is not the typical blues album that I review each month. O’Neill is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter/guitarist whose work I was not familiar with prior to receiving this disc. Her approach is blues leaning toward jazz and even pop in some cases. Her vocals are pleasant, sometimes seductive, sometimes whimsical, always interesting. Her songs, in the case of this recording, touch on the subject of misogyny, particularly in the recording industry. However, the lyrics are never heavy-handed and she mixes in a healthy dose of humor.

The six songs on this EP are beautifully rendered, with Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs) contributing some exquisite violin, Dave Uhrich on electric guitar, Terry Connell on trumpet and flugelhorn, Wally Hustin on bass, and Rick Vitek on drums. Connell’s flugelhorn is prominent in the opening cut, the light, but sensuous “Ballerina in a Bullfight.” “Tiffany Town” is more pop/rock-based, and “1,000 Springs” is a standout with some sterling interplay between O’Neill’s vocal and Goodman’s electric violin. “Monique” is a sober tune that leans toward the jazz side of the blues. “Black Paint” is another somber piece, but with more of a country feel. The closer, “What a Way” picks up the pace a bit. It’s a funky piece with O’Neill taking the guitar duties accompanied only by bass and drums.

I won’t lie to you…..I wasn’t sure what to make of this EP upon first listen. It is blues mixed with jazz and some light pop. O’Neill has a marvelous voice and writes good tunes about serious subject matter. The instrumentation is first rate. Call it a thoroughly modern approach to blues. Like every other genre, the blues has to look forward to move forward and that’s what Heather O’Neill is doing with this release.

Broaden your horizons and give A Feminist Manifesto a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Erick HoveyErick Hovey is from Iowa, where when he’s not busy tilling the soil as a fifth-generation farmer, he’s making some really cool music. Hovey recently released a pair of CDs that mix blues influences with styles like rock, jazz, soul, reggae, and funk. Hovey began playing the blues at local taverns at the tender age of 14, but has expanded over the years to take in many venues and festivals around the U.S. Midwest.

The first of these releases, Blues Farm, is the most blues-oriented of the two. The opener, “Ball and Chain,” has a slow, moody, funky backdrop with some terrific understated guitar work. “Know Who You Are” is more upbeat, almost blues/rock with Hovey’s ragged but right guitar, and features some tasty harmonica from Andy Blumenthal and keyboards from Tom Gary. “Soda Pop Girl” is a gentle swinger about a girl who drives our protagonist around town while he drinks, and “Patchouli” is highlighted by Hovey’s stinging guitar fills.

Other highlights include the atmospheric “Runnin’ With A Full Moon,” the jazzy workout, “Fight That Monkey,” “Missing Part,” and the guitar-driven shuffle, “I’m Through.” Hovey’s a fine guitarist and his vocals are solid and suit the material well, and he gets excellent support from Blumenthal (harmonica), Gary (keys), Jeff Foreman (drums), Dan Lodden (bass), and Heather Kelly (vocals). This is a pretty solid set of Midwest blues that will please most blues fans.

Erick HoveyA lot of the same ground is covered on Recycled Souls, but with more of a rock edge, and slightly more emphasis on songwriting. Highlights on Recycled Souls include “When Will I See You Again,” “Half Dead,” “What You Doin’ Here,” “Ain’t Done With You,” “Here Again,” “Thousand Times,” and “Feels So Good Hurts So Bad.” It’s a first-rate set of songs, with the same band in support (plus bass player Andy Schneider on one track).

One of the highlights of reviewing CDs for Blues Bytes over the years is that I’ve been exposed to music that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard. Over the past few years, I’ve discovered that the Midwest is a very reliable source of blues and roots music. Erick Hovey is another name that I’ve added to the list and he will be placed toward the top. He’s an excellent guitarist and singer, a fine composer, and meshes various genres seamlessly to really make his own unique musical style. I highly recommend both of these discs.

--- Graham Clarke

Mickey ThomasMickey Thomas’ last release was an impressive effort with the Bluesmasters in 2009 that returned him to his blues and soul roots that first brought him recognition for his contributions to Elvin Bishop’s ’70s classic, “Fooled Around and Fell In Love.” Of course, most music fans are familiar with his tenure with Jefferson Starship/Starship and their catalog of hits in the late ’70s/early ’80s (I can still remember how blown away my friends and I were when we first heard him on “Jane”). Thomas’ latest release, Marauder (Gigatone), is not a follow-up to his last release……though the blues are always present in whatever he does, as he pays tribute to many of his musical influences, some of his peers, and even those who have followed him.

Like most musicians from his era, Thomas was heavily influenced by the Beatles, who inspired him to become a singer. Thomas pays tribute to them as a group (“Rain,” “Oh! Darling,” “Across the Universe”) and as individual composers (a faithful reading of McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and George Harrison’s “Wah Wah”). Other artists covered include Bob Seger (“Hollywood Nights”), Squeeze (“Tempted”), Tom Cochrane (a unique interpretation of “Life Is A Highway”), AC/DC (“Moneytalks”), Leon Russell (the Joe Cocker hit, “Delta Lady”), and Peter Gabriel (“Sledgehammer”). There’s also more modern fare from the catalogs of Oasis (“Champagne Supernova”) , Snow Patrol (“Chasing Cars”), and Muse (“Supermassive Black Hole”).

Though this is a rock album (the closest it gets to blues is the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Gimme Shelter”), Thomas’ roots are deep in the blues and soul, and he inject plenty into each of these songs. Unlike many singers, his voice has improved with age, remarkably still as limber and versatile as it was over 30 years ago. He’s performing a set list of songs that he loves, plus he never gives less than 100% when he’s performing. All of these factors make Marauder a disc worth having, and if you’re a Mickey Thomas fan, it’s a must-have.

--- Graham Clarke

Dicky JamesIndiana-based Dicky James and the Blue Flames recently released their second disc, Hard Rain. The disc is made up of 11 tracks (plus a hidden 12th track), two of which are covers. Most of the songs were written by James and the band, with a couple being penned by Wes “Dub C” Cox, who “sings” on his tune, “Special To Me,” and the rough and ready instrumental, “Icehouse Shuffle,” written by Blue Flames harp man Bob “Icehouse” Freeze. The rest of the band consists of Dicky James (guitar and vocals), Johnny “Lightning Boy” Beeson (organ), Mark “P Funk” Ford (bass), and Will Cox (percussion).

The funky opener, “A Real Good Blues,” opens the album up on a positive note, followed by the ominous title track, punctuated by a full horn section. B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” is next, with the country blues “Bulldog Talking,” with nice work on the dobro by James. “It’s All True” is a minor-key blues that features James’ stinging guitar, some of his best work on the disc, along with Freeze’s harp and some tasty Hammond B3 from Beeson. Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign,” gets an interesting fresh read from the band.

The slow blues, “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues,” is one of the album’s standout tracks, a tune of regret and remorse, with some great fretwork from James and a perfect world-weary vocal. The horns return for the funky “Game On,.” The previously mentioned “Special To Me” veers sharply into reggae territory, but “We Git to Play” closes the disc on a strong blues-based note, with Elmore James-styled slide guitar, Freeze’s harp, and those punchy horns. The hidden12th track, “Roll the Credits,” where DJ Doc Long reads album credits over a groovy shuffle, is not to be missed.

James plays some first-rate guitar and his vocals are a barrel of fun as he growls, wails, cackles, and even barks his way through this strong set of songs. The band is superlative in support. These guys nearly made the IBC competition last year, just falling short during the Indiana qualifier. Don’t be surprised if you hear from them next year in Memphis. Hard Rain is a rock-solid set of blues that will appeal to any discerning blues fan.

--- Graham Clarke

Susan WyldeVocalist/pianist Susan Wylde is a classically trained artist with influences ranging from Etta James, Mavis Staples, and Billie Holliday to Joni Mitchell, Sting, and Joe Jackson. She’s been nominated for multiple awards on the Canadian music scene and was a finalist in the International Songwriting Contest. Her music straddles the line perfectly between blues and jazz, and that is apparent on her latest release, In The Light (Sun, Moon & Stars Entertainment).

In The Light has a dozen tracks, equally split between originals and covers. Guitarist Jack de Keyser co-produced the disc with Wylde and contributes some sterling guitar work throughout. Wylde touches on a number of blues styles, playing it straight on tunes like “One Real Man,” which features stinging guitar from de Keyser and harmonica from Jerome Godboo, “Love Me All Night Long,” a sizzling slow version of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Three Hours Past Midnight,” and a sweet take on John Loudermilk’s “Turn Me On.”

Other tracks, such as B.B. King’s classic “The Thrill Is Gone” and the somber title track, lean more toward the jazz side of blues, as does the poignant “I Can’t Tell New Orleans Goodbye,” a tribute to the post-Katrina Crescent City. Speaking of Louisiana, there’s also a couple of dashes of Dixieland jazz with tunes like “Lovely Push-Up Bra,” a song Wylde wrote for the late Jeff Healey, a fan of the genre. Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” also gets the Dixieland treatment, showcasing Wylde’s vocal and keyboards with Paul Reddick’s harmonica.

The disc closes with a trio of cover tunes, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” and the Etta James’ R&B standard, “At Last.” Wylde’s relaxed, assured vocal delivery on these tracks is a change from their original versions heard by most, but it gives the songs a renewed energy.

In The Light is a recording that’s perfectly poised between jazz and blues. Fans of both genres will find a lot to enjoy here. There are some wonderfully crafted original tunes here by Ms. Wylde, as well as some unique interpretations of familiar classics.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog

In The Light (Sun Moon & Stars) is the first that I’ve heard of Canadian songstress Susan Wylde, although this is not her first album. Wylde mixes jazz and blues together to create a unique style of music, and she has some great backing musicians to help her out. This lady has a voice that fits the music that she’s chosen and this CD gives her a great opportunity to show what she can do.

This CD has an equal mix of original songs and covers and there’s nothing to choose between them when it comes to quality, although the covers are more blues than jazz, and the originals are the reverse.
Tracks like the Johnny Watson number “Three Hours Past Midnight,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and the song that B.B.King made famous, “The Thrill Has Gone,” really show that this lady can sing the blues when she wants to, and tracks like “Georgia On My Mind” showcase her voice perfectly.

A great mix of jazz and blues – have a listen and see what you think!

--- Terry Clear

Kirsten ThienKirsten Thien’s third album (see previous Blues Bytes review) is out already, and it’s called Delicious (Screen Door Records). It features 13 tracks, two of them are radio edits of existing tracks, and eight of the tracks were written, or co-written, by Kirsten.

There’s an unavoidable comparison with Bonnie Raitt here, both are fiery redheads who write and sing blues, and track one, “Love That’s Made To Share,” sounds as though there is a heavy Bonnie Raitt influence to it. That’s not a criticism, by the way, as it’s an excellent opening number and it features one of my favourite bluesmen, Hubert Sumlin (who appears later in the album too).

“Nobody’s Ever Loved Me Like You Do” features some bluesy guitar, but it’s more of a soul track than a blues number. This is totally rectified when track three opens. Wow! This is a VERY bluesy track, it features Hubert Sumlin again and it really gets into your system. It’s called “Please Drive” – a story of girl who’s had too much to drink and wants the man to drive, full of innuendo and great lyrics.

It seems like track three set the scene as the following track, “Taxi Love,” is a good blues as well, although it was originally recorded by soul man Wilson Pickett. Tommy Mandel comes to the fore here with some great Hammond playing, including a hot solo.

The title track, “Delicious,” is up next, a rocking blues, maybe a little more rock than blues with guitar work by Arthur Neilson and some more Tommy Mandel organ. It’s followed by a gentle soul ballad, “Ain’t That The Truth,” which again puts me in mind of Bonnie Raitt. Dave Patteron takes up the guitar with this one, and there’s some horns in the background, courtesy of Kent Smith and Andy Snitzer. These two guys know exactly what it’s all about as they normally back people like Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones.

The horn section features again on a rocker “Treat ‘im Like A Man,” with Dave Patterson and Tommy Mandel again putting in some hard work.

Track eight is what this album is all about for me. It’s a “delicious” version of the old Ida Cox song “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues” with Thien on vocal and acoustic guitar and Billy Gibson playing harmonica. No doubt in my mind that this is far and away the best track on the CD, and I’d buy the CD for this track alone!

The following track is another cover, this time of the Willie Dixon number “I Ain’t Superstitious,” which I fell in love with when I heard Howlin' Wolf belt it out. This is a superb version and it runs the Ida Cox number a very close second in my opinion.

Things slow down again with “A Woman Knows,” almost a modern country song, and then the tempo is up again with “Get Outta The Funk, Get Into The Groove.” The CD closes with radio edits of “Treat ‘im Like A Man” and “Taxi Love.” I have to say that I would absolutely love to hear Kirsten Thien make a whole album of tracks like the Ida Cox and Willie Dixon covers.

--- Terry Clear

Richard Ray FarrellI Sing The Blues (Blue Beet Records), the latest offering from Richard Ray Farrell, a man who really knows how to play the blues, and every album he produces is totally different from the last. This latest CD has 12 original tracks, all of them written by Farrell, and all of them excellent.

The album opens with “Ol’ Man Blues,” a slow blues with a bit of New Orleans flavour to it – in fact in the opening few lines Farrell sounds like Dr John. This track has Farrell on vocals, guitar, and harmonica, and there is some lovely tinkling piano from Bill Heid.

The tempo picks up for “Cherry On The Cream,” all about a wonderful woman, the sweetest little girl that he has ever seen. And the tempo picks up even more with “Bad As You Wanna Be,” a jump blues with upright bass to the fore, played by Mike Lampe. There’s no way that you can listen to this track and sit still!

I’ve long thought that this man Farrell is at his very best when picking and sliding on the guitar, and here he really pushes that point home with the delightful “Memphis Bound” – you could easily buy this CD for this one track, and then the other 11 tracks would be a fantastic bonus.

Things slow down with a nice ballad on track five, “Starting Over Again,” an unusual mix (for Richard Ray Farrell) of blues and soul. This CD is such a mix of different styles and tempos, that it catches your ear and it doesn’t let go until the very end of track 12. “Listening To The Falling Rain” sounds like it could have come straight from the pen of Van Morrison, a moody ballad with haunting piano work and great lyrics.

On to “Leisure Man,” a slow blues that could easily have come from the late 1950s, all about a man who lets a variety of women look after him. Richard Ray showcases his harmonica playing to good effect on this track.

Farrell takes us back to the jump blues route with “Steady Eatin’ Woman,” a song with some really great humorous lyrics about a woman who is eating her man out of house and home. The just when you think you’ve heard all that this man has to offer with different styles, he hits you with a rocking blues called “Little Suzie” straight from 1955 – jiving music at it’s best! And then he does it all again on track ten with a jazz-influenced “Sweet Dreams (of you).”

The album finishes off with a jump blues instrumental called “Skitchin’,“ followed by a 1920s flavoured “Ride That Freedom Train” with Brian Cox on sousaphone – he was also playing this instrument on track one, but it stands out a lot more on this track – and some vocals from Jeannie Brooks, Carol Brooks and Georgie Bond.

If I had to make just one comment on this album, I’d say “it won’t let you get bored,” but there’s a lot more to it than that – so many different styles and influences.

---Terry Clear

KK MartinI knew there was something vaguely familiar about the name K.K. Martin when his new album, Naked Blues, Vol. II (Ranell Records), arrived in my mailbox last month. Digging through the Blues Bytes archives, I found this review from the February 2000 issue --- a avorable critique of the first Naked Blues disc. I called it a nice traditional blues disc with a selection of pleasant country blues numbers from a man who at the time was making the transition from rock and pop to blues.

I don't know what Mr. Martin has been doing in the dozen years since the first Naked Blues CD came out, but it's obvious that he still has a good feel for playing traditional blues. Vol. II is more of the same, with 12 well-chosen covers from artists like Tom Waits, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Johnny Winter, Charlie Musselwhite, and more. This is stripped down blues --- one could say that it's truly naked blues --- with Martin playing solo throughout. Just the man with his voice and guitar.

The CD opens with a very good version of Peter Green's "Rattlesnake Shake," with Martin showing he's got a slide for his guitar and knows how to use it. He's a good singer, not a great singer, but certainly good enough for the material here. He follows with a Guy Davis ragtime number, "Slow Motion Daddy," with its suggestive lyrics and easy tempo.

The two Tom Waits songs (it's always a pleasure to hear his material), "No One Can Forgive Me" and "Gin Soaked Boy," are also highlights with Martin getting the appropriate rasp in his voice and also contributing good guitar picking.

Closing the album is a nice version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See that my Grave is Kept Clean," a slow, foreboding tune packed with emotion.

K.K. Martin is an artist that deserves a wider distribution for his music. Here's hoping his CDs find a wider audience someday. In the meantime, check him out on his website.

--- Bill Mitchell



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