Blues Bytes

What's New

August 2012

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Buddy Guy

Linsey Alexander

Dennis Jones

Barbara Carr

Zac Harmon

Tim Too Slim Langford

Johnny Mastro

Oli Brown

Paul Mark

Randy Kaplan

Albert Cummings

Darren Jay


Buddy GuyBuddy Guy has become one of the Elder Statesmen of the Blues right before our eyes. Over the past 20 years, Guy has enjoyed wide exposure, a recording contract with a major label, multiple Grammy Awards and Blues Music Awards, TV appearances, and shows no signs of slowing down at age 76. Seemingly at the height of his fame, it only seems natural that Guy would release his autobiography (with assistance from David Ritz), When I Left Home – My Story (De Capo Press).

Guy begins with his hardscrabble upbringing in rural Louisiana, working in the fields with his family. At a young age, he developed an interest in music, and his parents encouraged him to pursue it, eventually moving him to Baton Rouge to live with a sister in order for him to find a better job. It was during his time in Louisiana that he met his greatest musical inspiration, Guitar Slim, and received a guitar from a mysterious benefactor.
After recording a demo in Baton Rouge, Guy is encouraged by family and friends to migrate to Chicago and try to grab the brass ring. Guy introduces us to an amazing cast of characters and fills the book with compelling anecdotes that range from humorous. to frightening, to sad, to uplifting. We also experience Guy’s frustrations as he attempts to build a career despite tough financial conditions, trying to raise a family, unscrupulous record people, and criminally low wages whether performing gigs or working in the studio. Guy probably doesn’t have to worry about money anymore, but the hardships of the ’50s and ’60s still linger.

Guy also devotes several chapters to his relationship with the mercurial Junior Wells. Though the two enjoyed a lengthy musical partnership, it was not without its rough spells. Guy pulls few punches, with revealing details about Wells and other musical associates, such as Leonard Chess, Willie Dixon, and his Windy City mentor, Muddy Waters. The legendary story of a starving Guy meeting up with Waters (who made him salami sandwiches) is recounted here, and Guy acknowledges that without Waters, he probably would have gone back to Louisiana, but Waters wasn’t without his faults.
Guy also acknowledges his debt to other bluesmen, like Otis Rush, Earl Hooker, Magic Sam, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Otis Spann, and many others. These artists are included in the numerous anecdotes, which are easily the highlight of the book. Guy’s memory is impeccable and blues fans will love to hear these stories from the viewpoint of someone who was actually there.

Guy also devotes time to the many blues/rock artists who have been influenced by him, such as Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The section devoted to Vaughan’s death is especially poignant, as are chapters devoted to Waters’ decline and passing and Little Walter’s demise.

If you’re not a fan of Buddy Guy before you start reading When I Left Home, you will be when you’re finished. Guy, despite his penchant for flash and flair onstage, comes off as a soft-spoken, humble man while recounting his story. Any readers interested in post-war Chicago Blues, and modern blues will want to get their hands on this book.

--- Graham Clarke

Linsey AlexanderFor the last 15 years, Linsey Alexander has been The Man on Chicago’s North side blues scene with regular gigs at Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S., Legends, and Blue Chicago. A powerful and charismatic performer, he excels on guitar, playing in a number of styles, with his soulful vocals, and as a fine songwriter. He’s recorded several discs over the past few years, but Been There Done That is his debut release for Delmark.

The new disc was recorded live in the studio with a nine-piece ensemble that includes Mike Wheeler and Breezy Rodio on guitars, Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards, Greg McDaniel on bass, and James Wilson on drums, plus the LA Horns (Ryan Nyther – trumpet, and Bryan Fritz – tenor sax), plus an appearance by harmonica legend Billy Branch on three tracks.

Alexander wrote or co-wrote 11 of the dozen tunes, many of which are standouts, including “Bad Man,” which also benefits from some great Albert Collins-like lead work from Rodio, “I Had A Dream,” which features a scorching solo from Alexander, the mellow soul/blues title track. Other songs, like “Going Back To My Old Time Used To Be,” and the cool update on the Robert Johnson lore, “Saving Robert Johnson,” mix elements of modern funk with the blues.

The band is really in the zone on these tracks…..only two overdubs on guitar tracks were needed. Branch shines on his three numbers --- the old school opener, “Raffle Ticket,” “The Same Thing I Could Tell Myself,” and the outstanding “My Mama Gave Me The Blues.” The disc’s lone cover is “Looks Like It’s Going To Rain,” a heartfelt tribute to the late Windy City blues mainstay, Willie Kent.

Alexander sounds great on vocals, his guitar work is versatile, providing the perfect mix of traditional and modern, and he does a great job on his songwriting, breathing new life into familiar blues themes. Been There Done That proves that there’s still plenty of great blues being played every night in Chicago and Delmark is doing an excellent job helping to spread the good news.

--- Graham Clarke

Dennis JonesFor powerful blues/rock of the hightest order, look no further than Dennis Jones on his latest CD, My Kinda Blues (Blue Rock Records). Jones unleashes 13 sensational tracks (12 self-penned) that combine powerhouse music (courtesy of Jones – guitar, Michael Turner – drums, and Samuel Correa – bass) with some of the most original, honest songwriting you’ve heard in a while.

Jones doesn’t waste any time. “Jesus or the Bottle” mixes actual news sound bites with some scathing lyrics about televangelists backed by a hard-driving boogie beat. The mood lightens on the next track, a humorous country blues cut, “Same Train,” that features harmonica and background vocals from Kenny Neal. The rocking title cut is next, and Jones makes it clear what his “kinda” blues really is. “Text Us Girl” is a clever composition that bemoans the texting/twittering craze.

Next, Jones takes his rocking blues to the Windy City with the late Dave Thompson’s Chicago-style shuffle, “You Took My Baby,” featuring Guitar Shorty on a pair of blazing solos. All that’s missing is a Junior Wells harmonica break.

“I Want You” is another funny song about that kind of no-good woman that you just can’t stay away from. “Never Go Away,” about the exasperating qualities of relationships, pumps up the funk as Jones laments “How can I miss you, if you never go away.” The pensive “Best That I Can” slows the pace briefly before literally jumping into the topical “They Say."

“Good For Me” is a strong blues/rocker with lyrics that hit as hard as Jones’ guitar riffs and solos. “One More Dance” is a sensual swampy blues that slowly builds into Jones’ gripping guitar solo. “Devil’s Nightmare” is a bracingly sober look at things apocalyptic, wondering how far away the end may be.

The disc closes with a long instrumental, “Baltimore Blues,” that begins with a Magic Sam-like West Side riff, but covers a lot of additional ground in it’s seven-plus minutes running time.

If you like raw and ragged, well-written blues/rock, you will probably agree that Dennis Jones’ “kinda” blues is your “kinda” blues, too. Don’t miss this one.

--- Graham Clarke

Dennis JonesAlso released in conjunction with My Kinda Blues is the DVD, Dennis Jones Band: Live at Temecula Theater. This set features a whopping 18 tracks and finds Dennis Jones and the band in fine form, as they blaze through songs from each of their three previous CDs, plus “Best That I Can” from their latest release.

The performance is filmed in a pretty straight-forward manner….there’s no bells and whistles or special effects, just the band playing their tunes. Jones doesn’t showboat or try to fit every note into every solo. He just plays each tune with the maximum intensity and power. Turner and Correa are rock solid in their backing.

Standout tracks include “Kill the Pain,” “Brand New Day,” “Hot Sauce,” “Him or Me,” “I’m Good,” “Big Black Cat,” “Super Deluxe,” and “Try Not To Lie.” In addition, there are four bonus tracks that are as strong as the rest, especially “Something Good,” a slow burner, and the Jimmy Reed-based “You’re Wrong.”

Live at Temecula Theater offers a compilation of Dennis Jones’ best work for newcomers and is a pretty impressive representation of their live show that will please longtime fans as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Barbara CarrAfter years of toiling away with limited success (including a stint with Chess Records in the ’60s and early ’70s), soul/blues singer Barbara Carr finally hit her stride in the late ’80s and early ’90s, culminating in a successful decade with Ecko Records, where she cultivated the image of a tough, brassy, take-no B.S.blues mama with songs like “Long on Talk, Short on Love,” “Bone Me Like You Own Me,” “Bit Off More Than You Can Chew,” and “If the Lord Keeps the Thought of You out of My Head, I'll Keep Your Booty out of My Bed.”

That image is downplayed somewhat on Carr’s latest release, Keep the Fire Burning (Catfood Records), but it doesn’t matter a bit. Carr has one of the more distinctive voices singing soul/blues these days with her deep, sultry, warm style. On this album’s list of songs, mostly written by fellow Catfood artists Johnny Rawls, Sandy Carroll, and Bob Trenchard, the focus is more on conventional soul/blues than Carr’s usual repertoire, but Carr’s vocals are so good and evoke so much passion, whatever the song, longtime fans won’t care and newcomers will buy in completely.

Carr sounds magnificent on songs like “Hanging On By A Thread,” “Moment of Weakness,” the deep soul ballad “We Have The Key,” and the excellent title track. The more blues-oriented tracks (“You Give Me The Blues” and “I Got The Blues”) are equally effective, thanks to the naturally gritty edge in her vocals. Another highlight is the duet with Rawls, “Hold On To What You’ve Got,” which would have fit seamlessly into the catalog of classic Stax duets from the ’60s.

The band (Catfood’s house band, The Rays….Trenchard – bass, Richy Puga – percussion, Johnny McGhee – guitar, Dan Ferguson – keyboards, Andy Roman – sax, Mike Middleton – trumpet, Robert Claiborne - trombone) is wonderful and the background singers are also an added treat. The Iveys (Arlen, Jessica, and Jillian Ivey) handle this duty on several tracks, and Monica Gutierrez and Candace Reyes split duties on a couple of other tracks.

Keep the Fire Burning should satisfy longtime Barbara Carr fans and should serve as a great introduction for new listeners. Years of hard work are paying dividends for the singer, and she’s still at the top of her game.

--- Graham Clarke

Zac HarmonIt’s been three years since Zac Harmon’s last release, 2009’s From The Root. Since that time, he’s won several awards, including a lifetime achievement award at the 2009 Jackson Music Awards in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi and a pair of awards given by the Jus’ Blues Foundation (including their 2011 Best Contemporary/Traditional Male Blues Artist), plus he entertained the troops in Iraq and Kuwait during the Bluzapalooza tour and became one of the few blues acts to actually perform in Egypt at the site of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Thank goodness he found time to release a new album of his exciting brand of blues, which mixes elements of soul, funk, gospel, and R&B effortlessly, and this latest disc, Music Is Medicine (Urban Eagle LLC), ranks as his best so far.

“Miss American Girl,” the track that opens the disc would be a smooth fit on most of today’s R&B albums, with Harmon’s pleasant vocals and stinging lead guitar, the cool backing vocals, and the timeless up-tempo pop feel of the music and the lyrics. I could have pictured Kool & the Gang cutting this track back in their heyday. “Blue Pill Thrill” about that magical pill that makes mountains out of molehills, opens with a muscular Albert King-esque guitar intro that meanders through the track, which also has a really funky bass backdrop.

The next track is a searing track, “Running From The Devil,” touching on the eternal bluesman’s battle between the sacred and the secular. “Grandma’s Prayer” is a soulful gospel number, Harmon’s tribute to his grandmother and her strong faith, that mixes Harmon’s sweet vocals with the voices of keyboard player Corey Lacy and drummer Cedric Goodman. “Drowning in Hollywood” is a taut rocker about struggling to make it in the Big Time, and “Country Boy” is driven by a bluesy “Mannish Boy” groove and hypnotic background vocals from Lacy and Goodman, Harmon testifies about his upbringing and the advice he got from his mama and seemingly threatens to tear his guitar into shreds.

“I’d Rather Be With You” is a light and lovely reggae tune, and “Talk To Me” brought a smile to my face and it reminded me of those late ’70s R&B tunes that I grew up listening to. “Wounded” is a pop/soul ballad penned by BR Millon and Gregg Wright (who both play guitar on the track), with Harmon and Sueann Carwell trading vocals. “The Healer” takes the album title to heart and extols the virtues of music and its healing strength. The closer, “Joanna,” is a soulful blues track that finds Harmon pleading for a second chance.

The Zac Harmon Band (Lacy, Goodman, and bass player Buthel) sound fantastic, as do the guest musicians (Millon, Wright, keyboardist/drummer Christopher Troy, who also co-produced the disc with Harmon, drummers Ralph Forrest and Lavell Jones, and bass player James Strong). Harmon really does an excellent job on guitar and vocals, plus he also plays keyboards, bass, and drums on selected tracks.

A smooth ride, Music Is Medicine is a classic set of modern blues, incorporating elements of the new and the old into an exciting mix that should be drawing a lot of attention at the end of the year, when everybody does their Top Ten lists. It will more than likely be on mine.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim Too Slim LangfordI’ve been trying to listen to Broken Halo, the new solo acoustic CD from Tim “Too Slim” Langford, for several weeks now. Langford, who’s usually rocking the shingles loose at clubs and joints everywhere as frontman of the Taildraggers, decided to go acoustic on his first solo effort. If you’re familiar with Langford, you know that hard as he rocks the house, it’s also worthwhile to stop and listen to what he’s saying in his songs as well. This disc is no exception to the rule….hence my dilemma. Every time I would sit still long enough to plug it in and try to take it in, countless interruptions would ensue. Finally, I holed up in a small dark place and gave it a spin.

Broken Halo rewards from the opening chords of the haunting instrumental that opens the disc, “La Llorona” (translated “The Weeping Woman,” which is also an old Hispanic legend). Langford’s mournful slide work on dobro really sets the pace for the disc. “Three Chords” continues the somber pace, reflecting on the very short time we have to make our mark on love or life. “Shaking A Cup,” tells of the plight of the homeless to a Hooker-esque boogie, and “You Hid It Well” is a raw and ragged Delta blues track about alcoholism and denial. “Princeville Serenade” is a lovely instrument, played on ukelele overdubbed with ukelele slide, that really sounds cool.

“40 Watt Bulb,” about a struggling musician, is chilling, with its coarse lyrics and with Langford’s weathered and weary vocals. The title track is next and is a more upbeat rocker, with something of a “Suzie Q” rhythm, about falling in love with a woman who’s experienced a few bumps along the road of life. “North Dakota Girl” and “Dollar Girl” are both songs about female companionship, one song about looking for the right woman to settle down with, the other about settling down temporarily.

“Long Tailed Black Cat” is a wonderful slice of blues, an original tune about bad luck that would have easily fit in with the early ’50s Muddy Waters. The closer, “Gracie,” is a heart-rending tune about Langford’s grandmother, who passed away in 1971. It’s a wistful look about not really appreciating people until it’s too late. Langford really bares his soul on this one, and its something anyone who’s lost a loved one can relate to.

Broken Halo is a gentle, mellow masterpiece, and maybe one of the more personal blues albums you will hear. Langford obviously had this in the works for some time, because its nearly perfect in production and execution. If you’re a fan of acoustic blues, you will want to have this one, but there’s much more to enjoy.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny MastroJohnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys have been a part of the southern California blues scene since the early ’90s, but have built a worldwide following, having toured Europe over 20 times. Their sound adeptly mixes the modern with the traditional. Mastro handles the vocals and plays superlative harmonica, while guitarist Smokehouse Brown channels the blues from Muddy Waters to Elmore James to Jimi Hendrix. Actually, that’s a pretty good definition of the band’s sound, too.

Mastro says that their latest release, Luke’s Dream (Rip Cat Records), started out as a traditional blues record, “but it took a wild turn and never really came back so I just rode the wave.” The disc is a wild ride, a breath of fresh air in the world of sterile blues too often cut from the same mold. There are four acoustic tracks present, such as the title track, a country-tinged blues that kicks things off, but the majority of the album is no-holds-barred sizzling electric blues that almost grabs you by the throat with “Thunder Roll.” “Knee High,” “Hurt,” “Francine,” and “My Rocket.” The power and energy on these tracks may cause the paint to peel from your walls.

Champion Jack Dupree’s “Junker Blues,” bears little resemblance to the original with the crunching slide work from Brown, but that will be fine for most listeners. “Mr. JJ’s Man” is a more traditional rocker, with some fine harp playing from Mastro, while “Tonight We Ride,” showcases more of Brown’s scorching fretwork along with Mastro’s harmonica. The acoustic track, “Spider,” is another keeper with some great interaction between Mastro and Brown, and the faithful cover of Little Walter’s “Roller Coaster” is very good, too.

Perhaps the most unusual tune on the disc is the closer, “Temperature.” It’s seven minutes plus of mind-blowing, out-of-this-world blues/rock with that features the band with former Tito & Tarantula guitarist Peter Atanasoff laying down some molten guitar licks with Brown.

Other special guests include guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Scott Abeyta, and percussionist Max Bangwell and Lisa Cee. Luke’s Dream is for those blues fans who like their blues with a jagged edge. Though Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys have a foot planted firmly in the traditions of the blues, they definitely like to go 21st century as well. This may not be your daddy’s blues, but it’s a worthy successor.

--- Graham Clarke

Oli BrownOli Brown made quite an impression in 2012, with his sophomore effort for Ruf Records. Heads I Win Tails You Lose, produced by legendary British producer Mike Vernon, was rated among the Top Ten releases for several publications, and was named Best Album at the 2011 British Blues Awards.

Brown’s follow-up, Here I Am, is produced by Wayne Proctor, and there seems to be more a focus on Brown’s singing and songwriting this time around. The title cut opens the disc with Brown proclaiming defiantly that he wants to be his own man. That vow of independence moves to “Thinking About Her,” one of the standout tracks on the disc, definitely more of the bluesiest. “All We Had To Give” is another blues track, about the end of a relationship.

Brown’s songwriting is solid, and tracks like “Devil In Me,” “Manic Bloom,” and “Remedy” back that up strongly. ‘Stinger Missile,” the closing track, is a scorcher as well, featuring Paul Jones on harmonica. There are also a pair of covers that are somewhat off the beaten path. “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” Al Kooper’s tune, forever associated with Donny Hathaway, allows Brown to really step up vocally, and he is more than up to the assignment. Nikka Costa’s “Like A Feather” gets down and funky and features Brown and fellow Ruf recording artist Dani Wilde on vocals.

While the focus seems to have shifted somewhat to Brown’s vocal talents this time around, rest assured that he’s still given ample room to bend a string or two. Backed by his “Dream Team” (Proctor – drums, Scott Barnes – bass, Joel White – keyboards), he continues to impress with his fretwork. If Oli Brown continues to make albums like Here I Am, blues fans will be able to look forward to years of listening pleasure.

--- Graham Clarke

Paul MarkPaul Mark & the Van Dorens’ latest release, Smartest Man in the Room (Radiation Records), offers more of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s smart brand of blues/rock. It’s packed to the brim with plenty of raw, roughhouse guitar, hard-driving rhythms, thought-provoking songs, and, of course, the rough-hewn but soulful vocals of the frontman.

Mark’s songs touch on familiar blues themes……love, loss, and regret, but they also touch on topical issues as well, sometimes within the same song. The title track is a not-so-subtle poke in the eye of corporate America. “Time Will Tell,” a Texas shuffle, is a highlight, as is “One More Coat of Paint,” which is about a foreclosed home, or a woman, or both, and “U Must Come 2,” a soul-drenched slow blues with a great vocal from Mark and greasy keyboard work from Dan Schnapp.

Mark plays piano on “Can’t Remember Nothing,” a hilarious tune about encountering a long-lost love so long-lost that he can’t remember her. “40 Feet of Rope,” “When God Finds The Time,” and “The Creature Walks Among Us” are prime examples of his ability to blend his brand of roots music with his unique perspective on the way things are in the world.

There are also several instrumentals, the Latin-flavored “Barrio Stroll,” “Wrist Rocket,” which has sort of a surf feel to it, The slow-burning Texas rocker “Choke Hold,” and the shimmering closer, “Road Hawg.” Mark also does a fun cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Ya Tell Henry.”

The disc was recorded in New Orleans and Memphis with the Van Dorens, a rock solid unit that knows how to groove (Schnapp – keyboards, James Strain – bass, Paul Vezelis – drums). Other musicians include Al Gamble on organ, Harry Peel on drums, and a sweet trio of backup singers (Reba Russell, Stefanie Bolton, and Susan Marshall).

Smartest Man in the Room will make you laugh, make you move, and make you think, something that Paul Mark has been giving us for the past 25+ years.

--- Graham Clarke

Randy KaplanIf you blues lovers have children and you would like to introduce them to the blues, but you’re a little reluctant to expose them to the sometimes “adult content” of blues lyrics, allow me to introduce you to Randy Kaplan, a New York-born, Los Angeles-based musician, who is regarded as one of the finest children’s performers in the country. Kaplan spent over two years working on his latest effort, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie (myKaZoo Music), a child-friendly album of reworked blues song that will also appeal to fun-loving adults, too.

Kaplan revises 17 classic blues tunes originally done by legendary artists like Robert Johnson (“They’re Red Hot” and “Kindhearted Babysitter Blues,” from “Kindhearted Woman Blues”), Sonny Boy Williamson (“Runaway Blues,” from “Jackson Blues”), Jimmie Rodgers (“In a Timeout Now,” from “In the Jailhouse Now”), and other revisions of songs from Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Muddy Waters, Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Smith, and many others.

Though he changes the lyrics to make them more “kid-friendly,” the music is the same and Kaplan plays guitar and harmonica and leads a stellar band, which includes Katie Euliss (upright bass, percussion), the versatile Mike West (mandolin, tenor banjo, 5-string banjo, bottleneck guitar, acoustic guitar), Colin Mahoney (drums, percussion, rosin-melted frying pan), Bradford Hoopes (piano), Chris Leopold (trumpet), Tom Johnson (trombone), Ed Judd (tuba), Cyndi Kroll Haupti (tap dancer), and Erin Parr (washboard, percussion).

Kaplan is also accompanied by nine or ten young children, who sing along, ask questions, tease and otherwise carry on with him throughout the songs. There’s also a narrator of sorts, named Lightnin’ Bodkins, a wizened old Delta character who’s seen it all and fills in biographical information about the blues legends, introduces songs, and tries to figure out a blues nickname for Kaplan throughout the disc.

Also included are 20 pages of liner notes that discuss the artists and the songs and the stories behind them, so it’s a great opportunity for young and old to learn about the blues. Randy Kaplan has done a wonderful job helping youngsters learn more about America’s musical heritage and making it fun in the process. Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie is recommended for all ages.

--- Graham Clarke

Albert CummingsIt’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Albert Cummings. We booked him in Phoenix several years ago and Albert blew everyone away with a seven-minute version of “Voodoo Chile” that still sits in my memory. Albert’s new disc, No Regrets, releases on August 28th and it’s easily the single best disc Albert’s done, and I’ve heard them all. So let’s give it a listen.

The party kicks off with a rousing introduction as Albert’s Strat kicks out the opening bars of “Glass House.” Here we find Albert admonishing a past lover to be careful what she wishes for or pay the consequences. “You’ve been telling people things…that you know you shouldn’t say…better watch yourself, babe…cause every dog has its day…you’ve been living in a glass house, babe…better not throw no stones!” Our tempo and tone slow down considerably as Albert tackles a ballad, “500 miles.” “I’ve got my radio on…got my window rolled down…and I can feel that cool night air…I don’t like to be…out here on the road…but I know I’m almost there…I’ve got 500 miles…before I wrap my arms around you!” Albert’s been on the road and he’s so happy to be coming around home to his woman. Its 500 miles to home and you know he’s going to get there!

“Eye to Eye” is another ballad that finds Albert reflecting on a love gone by. “All the leaves are falling…winter will be here soon…another year has passed….since we’ve been apart…and I have learned to live…with this hole in my heart…I don’t know why….why we can’t see…eye to eye!” It just wasn’t meant to be but the woman Albert loved definitely has stayed in his memory and in his heart, they just didn’t see “eye to eye."

Our next cut, “Checkered Flag,” finds Albert kicking up the tempo and aggression as he admits that the only thing that makes him feel alive is to just get in his car and drive! “I put the pedal to the metal and I give it all she’s got…my engine’s really running and begging me to stop…but they won’t catch me…this ain’t no game of tag…I’ll see you at the finish line…I’m headed for the checkered flag!” Knowing Albert, I can only imagine how fast he’s driving toward that checkered flag.

Another ballad, “She’s So Tired,” is up next and I hear Rick Steff on the keyboards in the background, doing his thing. “She’s So Tired” definitely has country influences as Albert tells us the story of a woman who has definitely suffered her share of pain. “As she sits in disappointment…never giving up her style…she looks across the room…to see a young man with a smile…so she asks him to join her…and sit down for a spell…knowing in her heart…where the night would lead so well…she’s so tired of being lonely!” This woman is definitely tired of coming in second best and is choosing a different course tonight. “She’s So Tired,” with its country influences, is definitely one of my favorite cuts on this disc for sure.

Next up is “Your Day will Come.” Here we find Albert confronting a passed lover who telling everyone a different story from the truth. “I can forgive…but I can’t forget…I live my live with no regrets…you’re going to pay for what you have done…your day will come!”

“Cry Me a River” finds Albert dealing with another love gone bad. “And I don’t know…how I missed all the signs….but I know…what goes around…comes around…and you got yours….and I got mine….cry me a river…cause I don’t care….I don’t care anymore!” Albert’s definitely moving on and it’s good to get this soured relationship behind him. A blistering Strat intro provides the backdrop for what I would consider a classic Albert Cummings tune, “Drink, Party and Dance.” “It’s been a long week at work…but man, I’m feeling good…I’m going to call my friends…we’re going to party like we know we should. We’re going to drink party and dance…all night long!” Classic Albert and a great party tune for sure.

Those of us who have seen Albert live know we’re generally in for a high octane performance and on “Foolin Me,” we find Albert calling out a woman who is trying to play him. “All I needed…was just one look…you’re too easy to read…just like a book…I don’t know where you get your love…treat me a way…I just don’t deserve…I don’t care who you are….who you’re trying to be…I can see right through you…cause…you’re not foolin me!”

On “Where You Belong,” we find Albert taking the time to console the woman he truly loves in a very touching ballad. “How long has it been…since you’ve seen the sun really shine…as long as it been…since you’ve stopped to read the signs….I can tell that it’s been quite awhile…I can tell….because I miss your smile….so cry on my shoulder…tell me what’s wrong…just let me hold you in my arms…cause that’s where you belong!” Albert can’t always read his woman’s mind, but he’s definitely willing to try to do the best he can to make her happy.

A rousing version of “Mannish Boy” follows and then Albert closes out No Regrets with a final ballad, “Home Town.” Here we find Albert reflecting on life and the road and the feeling he gets when he makes it back home. “I’m driving down Main Street…now who knows who’ll you meet…it sure is nice….to see old friends…familiar faces….and warm embraces…it’s so good to be home again…and all the things that I see….make me think carefully of my life…and how I need to slow down…no matter where I go…I always love to come back home…my home town!”

No Regrets finds Albert in that zone where ability and maturity mesh to produce outstanding music and you will find that here. The disc displays Albert’s finest songwriting to date and the band behind him is at the top of their game. He’s definitely found his stride and is ready to hit the road in fine fashion. You can find out more about Albert and order this great disc from him on his website at Well done, Albert!

--- Kyle Deibler

Taylor ScottOne of the highlights for me at this past February’s International Blues Challenge was the privilege of witnessing a young band from Cheyenne, Wyoming tear up the competition and become the talk of the town for the week-end. Taylor Scott and Another Kind of Magick made a lot of friends that week and it’s kind of sad to know that the band has chosen to go their separate ways for a variety of reasons, all of them good ones, at least for now. But the band has chosen to go out in style, releasing an EP to honor their fans and friends they’ve made along the Blues Highway. Old Yellowstone Road is the name of the disc and it clearly shows the reasons the band has attracted a very loyal following. So, let’s give it a spin and give the band their due.

The first track up is “Welcome to the Blues,” and the soulful tone of Taylor’s guitar leads the way. It’s a fitting intro as Taylor implores us all to stay awhile. “Welcome to the blues, y’all…take off that coat and stay awhile…yea, baby, get up and do that thing…cause my Blues…its got style!” Nic Clark steps in with his usual brilliant harp fills and the tune just goes on from there. The Uribe brothers, Louie and Mike, are solid on the back end and now I hear the piano fills from Tom Amend. A great way to kick this disc off. Up next is a soulful ballad, “Conversations with the Blues,” and again its Taylor’s guitar leading the way. “Please excuse me people…I gotta sit there and reminisce…about a night I had a conversation with the Blues…and it went something like this!” Taylor’s lamenting the life of a Bluesman, no money in his wallet; no gas in the car…about all he has left is a beat up guitar. The soulful tunes emanating from his guitar emphasize the trying times a Bluesman goes through but Taylor’s a survivor and he’ll emerge from the pack. I’m sure of that.

The third cut on the disc, “Days are Numbered (A Song for My Friends),” finds Taylor giving thanks to all of the bands supporters as he ponders his future in the Blues. “And sooner or later…I gotta go away…but I’ll always be coming back…won’t ever be the same….I know there’s just one thing…I know I can’t do…can’t forget about you!” The band has developed a very loyal following among Blues fans and I seriously doubt that any of us who have seen them perform will ever forget them either. The Uribe brothers provide the intro to “Walkin’ Pressure Cooker” and Tom comes in behind them on keys to provide the platform for this tune. Here we find Taylor somewhat overwhelmed by everything going on in his life. “I’ve been running on empty…for four or five days…and when I get back home…everything’s in disarray…everybody’s talking…can’t get a clue….they got to tell me…what they want….and what I ought to do….I’m a walking pressure cooker…could go off at any time!” The truth of the matter is that Taylor is very levelheaded, he’ll figure it out.

Another slow ballad, “Pulled From Under You,” is up next and mournful tones from Taylor’s Gibson lead the way. Here Taylor is discussing the worst kind of Blues, when you’ve lost at love and are wondering what the future will bring. “Sometimes…the most convincing lies are told…by the way they look at you…this is the worst kind of love…go out and find somebody new…the rug is pulled out from under you!”

Old Yellowstone Road closes with “Can’t Read Your Mind, Baby.” “I can’t read your mind, baby…you won’t tell me how you feel….I just got to know, baby….if what we got is real!”

The band surprises us with a non-titled bonus track and it gives the listener one last call to hear Taylor on guitar, Louie Uribe on bass, his brother Mike on drums, Tom Amend on keys and last but not least, Nic Clark on harp. The musicianship of the band comes through completely and it’s easy to see how they’ve developed such a loyal following over the past few years. One thing is for sure, the Blues isn’t done with them, not by a long shot. I’m looking forward to hearing what the future has in store for Taylor, Nic and the rest of the crew. Time will tell, but I for one am glad to have run across them on the Blues Highway. You can find out more about the band at and try to catch one of their last few performances if you’re anywhere near them on the Front Range. It will definitely be worth the trip!

--- Kyle Deibler

Darren JayMemphis is a hard town for a Blues musician to make a living. Competition for gigs is fierce and only the cream of the crop is able to rise above the fray. Those that do earn the respect of the elder legends in the Bluff city, and such is the case with Darren Jay & the Delta Souls. I’ve worked with Darren Jay at several Blues Foundation functions, so when my partner in crime at the Rum Boogie, Robbie Rose, mentioned Darren’s new disc to me. I knew I had to give it a listen. It goes without saying that Robbie was right as usual, but I’m going to give her credit anyway. Drink My Wine is an excellent disc and some of Memphis’s finest musicians backed Darren Jay & the Delta Souls on this project.

The first tune up on the disc is “Rider,” an instrumental that gives everyone in the band a chance to stretch their wings. The more than capable bass of Laura Cupit holds down the back end, Tony Thomas lends his keyboard wizardry on the organ, while Darren is front and center laying down some nasty guitar licks. I’ve not seen Darren play live, but it’s definitely on my bucket list of things to do.

“Workday Blues” is up next, and here we find Darren Jay pontificating on a familiar theme, having to go to work to make a living. “Well, I wake up in the morning…put on my socks and shoes…make myself some coffee….it’s the same old thing….same ole workday blues!” The Memphis Horns make an appearance on “Workday Blues” and provide a unique Memphian touch to this tune. Another Darren Jay original, “Drink My Wine” is up next, and Darren’s playing some very blistering guitar. He’s normally such a quiet guy to be around that it’s interesting to me the expressive tones that come out of his guitar. “I’m going to sit here til the morning…I’m going to drink me a little wine…I’m going to sing about you little darling…til the morning shines!” Darren Jay’s in love and doing his best to make the best of a bad situation. Better off to just let her go, Darren Jay.

“Lovin’ Man” has this Zydeco backbeat that’s very interesting as Darren Jay gets down to the meat of the situation. “Little darling…how you feeling tonight…do you need a loving man to feel alright?” Darren Jay is definitely interested in pursuing this girl if she’ll give him half a chance, and he’s absolutely sure he’s the man for the job. Darren Jay’s guitar is front and center as we move onto our next cut, “Too Late Baby.” His relationship is not working out and it’s time to move for him to move on. “It’s too late baby…left me in misery.” You hear the pain in the licks from Darren Jay’s guitar and the feelings are amplified by more of Tony Thomas’s organ work. The Willie Dixon classic, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is up next and only one of two covers on a disc that contains nine original tunes by Darren Jay. “You know I’m him…everybody knows I’m him…I’m the Hoochie Coochie Man…everybody knows I’m him!”

At times Darren Jay’s guitar tones are very bright, reminding me a little of Junior Watson, and the exemplary back end bass provided by Laura proves to be a good foil to his guitar. Such is the case on “Everybody Get Together.” “Everybody get together and have a good time…grab your friend and let’s make it all rhyme!” “Tin Pan Alley” is the other cover tune on Drink My Wine and has a very dark side to it. “Down in Tin Pan Alley…seen what was going on…it was some hot down there…I couldn’t stay very long…alley’s the roughest place…I’ve ever been…all the people down there….they’re looking for the whiskey, wine and gin!” Tin Pan Alley is definitely a place to stay away from unless you’re definitely hell bent on finding some trouble to get into!

The next tune, “(Baby) Don’t You Lose My Number,” is reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis as Tony Thomas is definitely busy twinkling the keys on this one. The band’s in high gear on this one, “ahh, such a thrill…ahh, you give me chills….baby, don’t you lose my number…baby, don’t you lose my number, no…no…no!” Rodd Bland takes the helm on the drums as Darren Jay and Laura head deep into another instrumental, “Zilla.”

The album closes with another Darren Jay original, “River’s Edge.” “Take me down to the river’s edge…walking down on Beale Street…smell that barbecue…a bluesman’s also singing…have you seen my baby too? Take me down to the river’s edge!”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Drink My Wine. Thanks again, Robbie, for pointing me in the direction of this disc. As always, you’re the best, my dear. Darren Jay is currently serving a tour of duty on behalf of our country. My friend, I hope you get a chance to read this soon. You and the Delta Souls have managed to put out an excellent disc and I look forward to the day I can finally catch you in a live performance. I’m sure anyone can grab a copy of this disc on Darren Jay’s website,, and be sure you do. A Memphis blues record has its own unique style, and I appreciate all of the support that a number of legendary Memphis musicians provided to Darren Jay & the Delta Souls to make this dream come true.

--- Kyle Deibler

Together In Love We Drown, the second CD by northeast Ohio’s distinctive band, Mo’ Mojo, is an enjoyable 55-minute collection of 14 original songs that not only lives up to the expectations set by the band’s acclaimed 2010 CD Finally!, but it is a follow-up that surpasses the artist’s debut. Mo’ Mojo, which was showcased at the 2012 International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, returns with its same collection of accomplished musicians who are gifted with the ability to know when to cut loose, when to hold back, and how to blend together.

Mo’ Mojo’s new CD opens with the title track, an infectiously danceable tune that lays out the band’s signature modern zydeco sound, with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Jen Maurer and Davidione Pearl flirtily trading vocals, accentuated by Pearl’s lively tenor saxophone. The CD continues with Maurer’s diatonic (button) accordion-driven “Mo’ Mojo Zydeco,” co-written with Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, which channels the traditional dancehall and house party spirit characteristic of the joie de vivre of New Orleans and Acadian-based music.

Blues fans will particularly appreciate “Big Storm Blues,” a Maurer original that sounds like a blues classic. It benefits from multiple plays, as Mo’ Mojo’s musicians accomplish the feat of each doing something extremely interesting individually, while melding together cohesively. The song is punctuated by Joe Golden’s soulful and economical guitar solo that conjures an image of storm clouds approaching from the west. By the time that Golden turns the stage over to guest harmonica player Sam Rettman, a listener can virtually see the big storm directly above.

In addition, Bill Lestock’s fiddle-based Cajun reel, “Hold To A Dream,” will appeal to blues-oriented aficionados of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, as well as to fans of traditional Louisiana-inspired music. Lestock’s upbeat fiddle, combined with Maurer’s joyful vocals, can elicit a soaring feeling of exhilaration through this hopeful song.

Another highlight is the haunting “Maya,” in which the restrained sultriness of Maurer’s vocals, reminiscent of Peggy Lee, contrasts with her stealthily fierce lyrics such as, “Once she’s into your mind, it’s the end of your life as you know it.” Enhanced by the subtle urgency of Lestock’s fiddle and Golden’s slide guitar, the song adds a slightly dark and powerful element that longtime Mo’ Mojo fans might not be used to. That slight darkness provides a richer overall color to the band and to Together In Love We Drown.

Mo’ Mojo’s core strength, however, is in the band’s uplifting, live-in-the-moment personality, which is emphasized in Together In Love We Drown. Drummer Rod Lubline and bassist Darren Thompson combine to put on a clinic for how to be an interesting yet effectively discreet rhythm section. Their relaxed groove supports the happy zydeco of “I Love The Country Life,” a song further distinguished by the band’s hallmark three-part vocal harmonies shared by Maurer, Pearl, and Leigh Ann Wise, as well as guest Paul Kovac’s mandolin solo. In addition, even those who do not often dance will find it hard to resist the toe-tapping playfulness of “Texas Man,” which features guest Barnes on piano accordion and guest vocals from Tracey Nguma and Sarah Benn.

Fittingly for a band that treats its live shows as partnerships with its audiences, Mo’ Mojo closes Together In Love We Drown with Maurer’s intensely moving “Everything Is As It Should Be,” in which she emotively expresses, “I have finally found some peace.” Like the finale of any great live band’s set, “Everything Is As It Should Be” gives each band member an opportunity to shine, and leaves the listener wanting more. Mo’ Mojo’s new CD, Together In Love We Drown, confirms that the band’s modern and unique take on zydeco and blues is, indeed, as it should be.

--- John Gadd

Charles Burton Blues BandSan Diego bluesman Charles Burton Blues Band was wrapping up a European tour when Burton hopped into a studio in Sweden, and backed by a trio of native Swedes laid down 11 of his all-time favorite songs on the appropriately-named Favorites. It's a decent album --- not one that you are going to rush out to add to your collection, but a good self-released CD that you'll likely pick up directly from Burton during break time at one of his gigs.

Burton is a good, basic blues guitarist and has a good enough voice to handle the material here. It's all familiar material --- perhaps too familiar, in that do we really need another version of "Got My Mojo Working" and "Key To The Highway"?

Ironically, Burton sounds best on his cover of the pop number, "Spooky." Yeah, I know that sounds strange, but it works here. He also does a nice version of Lieber & Stoller's "Poison Ivy." For more of a straight blues, the best effort here is Duke Robillard's "Tell Me Whÿ."

If you can't get to one of Burton's gigs, the CD is also available from his website and from CD Baby. Check it out!

--- Bill Mitchell



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