Blues Bytes

What's New

August 2016

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Eddie Turner

Omar Coleman

Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

Little Charlie

Mark May Band

Jane Lee Hooker

Tasha Taylor

Diana Rein

Sammy Eubanks

Hitman Blues Band

AG Weinberger

Ed Baldwin - Sliding Delta book

The Mighty Orq

Gus Spenos

Bridget Kelly Band


The FremontsFor any blues fan who longs for the days of those great Excello swamp blues recordings, Gulf Coast R&B, and the old-school Mississippi Delta blues, please take comfort in the knowledge that The Fremonts are here to make things right for us. The San Diego-based group (Mighty Joe Milsap – vocals/percussion, Alan West – drums/percussion, Patrick Skog – guitar/bass, Kurt Kalker – percussion/drums, Troy Sandow – harmonica/bass, Tony Tomlinson – guitars/bass/percussion) offer succor to the needy with Alligator (Truax Records), their third release of genuine traditional blues and roots music.

A delicious mix of swamp blues favorites (including Charles Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working,” Silas Hogan’s “Everybody Needs Somebody,” Lonesome Sundown’s “It’s Easy When You Know How”), vintage Delta classics (Frank Frost’s “Jelly Roll King” and “My Back Scratcher”), and even a few New Orleans and Memphis gems (Fats Domino’s “My Girl Josephine” and “I’m Ready,” and Rufus Thomas’ “Can’t Ever Let You Go”), The Fremonts put their own special brand of magic on each of these, giving them a vintage reworking. They even do a marvelous retake on R.L. Burnside’s “Going Down South” and the Bill Withers ’70s hit, “Who Is He And What Is He To You.”

The Fremonts’ original songs on Alligator include “Swinging Ten Pounds,” “Have Some Faith,” and the instrumental “Blues Hungover,” a revisiting of the Slim Harpo tune “Blues Hangover.” The band sounds fabulous and in Mighty Joe Milsap, they have the perfect voice to go with their music. Everything here is just pitch perfect. Several guest artists chip in to make a great disc even greater. Bob Corritore contributes harmonica on a couple of tracks and former IBC winner Ben Hernandez also chips in on harp on one track.

Alligator is one of my favorite discs of the year so far. Some blues fans do miss those wonderful old blues recordings, usually recorded live in the studio and mixed in mono. The Fremonts recorded this album the same way and capture that sound perfectly. If you haven’t experienced the music of The Fremonts, this is an excellent place to get started and will be a treat for fans of that classic swamp blues sound of days gone by.

--- Graham Clarke

Eddie TurnerIt’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Eddie Turner on the recording front. The former Otis Taylor Band guitarist unleashed three amazing discs (Rise, The Turner Diaries, and Miracles & Demons) on an unsuspecting public over the last half of the last decade, then fell silent… least in the studio. He’s continued his mesmerizing live shows in the interim, dazzling audiences with his music that blends the blues with funk, rock, R&B and even psychedelia, along with his guitar work that proves the musical path between Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix is of short duration.

For further proof, listeners are directed to Turner’s latest and much-anticipated release, Naked….In Your Face (7-14 Productions), a steamy and intense live date recorded in August of 2015 at The Blues Can in Alberta, which teamed the guitarist with bassist/vocalist Anna Lisa Hughes and drummer/vocalist Kelly Kruse, here dubbed Trouble Twins. The 75-minute set consists of nine songs that showcase Turner’s guitar and the Trouble Twins’ uncanny knack with a groove.

Six of the tunes are Turner originals from his previous releases, “Secret” and the title track from Rise, “Jody,” “So Many Roads,” and “Dangerous” from The Turner Diaries, and “Blues Fall Down Like Rain” from Miracles & Demons. These songs are transformed from their original incarnations into pulsing, hypnotic groove-driven tunes with Turner unleashing on guitar throughout. All of the songs are extended from their original form and given ample time to unfold and develop into something new and compelling, even occasionally riveting. In other words, those who are inclined to look at their watch during an extended live version of a song will not be inclined to do so here.

Hughes penned one song, the bluesy ballad “Mistreated,” and her deep sultry vocals are a plus. She also takes the mic for Nick Gravenites’ “Buried Alive In The Blues” and the rock classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” She also accompanies Turner on vocals on several songs and they sound great together.

Of course, the real star of Naked….In Your Face is Eddie Turner’s guitar work, which bridges the gap between blues, funk, and rock about as well as it can be done. The Trouble Twins give him a nice, fat and funky backdrop to work with and the result is must-listening for fans of modern blues. This is one of those live shows that you’ll hate you missed in person.

--- Graham Clarke

Omar ColemanOmar Coleman says that he likes his blues mixed with a shot of funk and soul. Apparently, a lot of blues fans like it, too, because Coleman’s Delmark Records debut, Born & Raised, was one of the big releases of 2015, finishing #15 in Living Blues Top Radio Albums of the Year, despite a mid-June release. Coleman and Delmark wasted no time in releasing the singer/harp master’s follow-up for the label, Live., which was taken from three late summer of 2015 performances at the legendary Rosa’s Lounge.

Backed by his stellar band (Pete Galanis – guitar, Neal O’Hara – keyboards, Dave Forte and Ari Seder – bass, and Marty Binder – drums), Coleman rolls these songs like a man on a mission. He pays tribute to one of his musical influences, Junior Wells, with an appropriately funky reading of “Snatch it Back and Hold It” (which segues into the Johnnie Taylor classic, “Wall To Wall”) and a foot-stomping cover of “Two Headed Woman.” Taylor is revisited on another medley later in the set, with “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” emerging at the end of the Coleman original, “Sit Down Baby.”

As you might have surmised, the funk is strong with this release. Coleman’s previous release's title track, “Slow Down Baby” and “Lucky Man,” another original, are standouts. He also covers Rufus Thomas’ “Give Me the Green Light” with similar results. Coleman also turns in a rocking “Slow Down Baby,” “Raspberry Wine,” which has a jazzy feel, thanks in part to O’Hara’s work on the keyboards, a smooth soul ballad in “One Request.,” and traditional Chicago blues fans will dig his cover of the Willie Dixon standard, “I’m Ready.”

So far, the last year has been a successful one for Omar Coleman, with two excellent Delmark releases and an appearance at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival, with many others to follow. Live. shows the 43-year old to be a strong and confident singer, songwriter, and harmonica player, and the best thing is that he’s just getting started.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny WayneFor Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s new release, Jumpin’ & Boppin’ (Stony Plain Records), the keyboard wizard focuses largely on the classic jump blues and boogie-woogie era. He enlists several experts in the field to assist, too --- guitarist/labelmate Duke Robillard eats this kind of music for breakfast, so he’s a natural choice. Longtime B.B. King bass player Russell Jackson is also present, as well as young guitarist Charlie Jacobson, drummer Joey DiMarco, Sherman Doucette (harmonica), Dave Babcock (tenor and bari sax), and Connie Sinasac (backing vocals).

Wayne produced the disc, his tenth overall and third for Stony Plain, and wrote 12 of the 13 songs all of which showcase Wayne’s keyboard dexterity and his warm and soulful vocal style. Highlights include the stop-time “Bankrupted Blues,” one of several songs on the album that would have fit like a glove into the catalog of Ray Charles. Others include the jazzy “Back To Square One” and his tasty cover of the Eddy Arnold classic, “You Don’t Know Me,” which actually was a part of Ray Charles’ catalog.

The pace is frenetic on tunes like “Rock, Rock Little Girl,” “Jumpin’ & Boppin’ With Joy,” the New Orleans-styled “I Need Your Lovin’,” “Look Out. There’s a Train Coming,” and “I’m Comin’ Home” (which mixes in a bit of Sly Stone midway through), all of which make it hard for listeners to keep their seat. There are some fine mid-tempo tunes as well, such as “Blues Stew,” the ominous “Blackmail Blues,” and “Ciao, Ciao Baby,” and Wayne gets to show off his nimble fingers on a pair of instrumentals that bookend the disc, “Blues Boss Shuffle” and “Boogie to Gloryland.”

Wayne is in fine form and Robillard and the band provide excellent support, giving this disc a decidedly retro feel with their instrumental work. They really convey the joy and exuberance of this great era of music, making Jumpin’ & Boppin’ a must-buy for fans of jump blues and boogie-woogie piano.

--- Graham Clarke

Little CharlieLittle Charlie Baty has long dreamed of recording an album like Skronky Tonk (EllerSoul Records), a recent organ jazz collaboration with Lorenzo Farrell (Hammond B3) and J. Hansen (drums), both current members of Baty’s former band now known as Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. The trio, billed here as Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing, take listeners on an entertaining foray through blues, jazz, swing, and even a little Gypsy jazz for good measure.

The set list consists of 13 instrumental tracks, mostly covers of blues, swing and jazz, plus three Baty originals, two of which (the title track and “Cobalt Blues”) are pure blues. The other Baty tune, “Gerontology,” is a fast-paced swinger. Covers include the jazz standards “How High The Moon,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “Flying Home,” Charlie Christian’s “Swing To Bop,” Erroll Garner’s “Misty,” and Django Reingardt’s “Nuages.” The trio also covers “Django,” John Lewis’ tribute to the hugely influential guitarist.

Baty’s fretwork is clean, crisp, and concise. He really shines on these tracks and it would be great to hear him continue to explore this style of music. His interplay with Farrell’s silky smooth accompaniment and Hansen’s rock-steady time-keeping is absolutely seamless. Skronky Tonk is a must-have for anyone who digs blues guitar on the jazzy side.

--- Graham Clarke

Mark MayThe Mark May Band’s newest release, their sixth overall, is appropriately entitled Blues Heaven (Connor Ray Music). May, a former singer/guitarist in Dickey Betts and Great Southern, plays a high-energy style that combines traditional blues with Southern rock and Gulf Coast R&B. May and band (Dave Absalom – guitars/vocals, Tim Keefe – bass, Gary Jorgenson – drums) are joined by the Soul Satyr Horns (Ted Basinger – trombone, John Bonham – trumpet, Joe Reasoner – saxophone), plus a host of guest musicians on several of the album’s 13 tracks.

May knows how to write an entertaining tune. “Boom Boom,” the opener that compliments, ummm, certain attributes of a particular lady, has a churning Texas beat with some stinging Albert Collins-like lead. May also ventures toward the Windy City for a couple of tunes, “Money,” a fine midtempo burner that benefits greatly from the presence of the Satyr Horns, and “Put Down That Poison,” likely the most upbeat, dancable lament to substances of abuse that you’ll hear, has an almost Crescent City quality. The city of Memphis also gets a nod with the optimistic and soulful “Garden of Truth,” and May really outdoes himself on the reflective title track, a slow burner that features Eric Demmer (formerly with Gatemouth Brown) on saxophone.

“She’s A Keeper” is a neat little old school swamp rocker (with slide guitar from Kentucky Headhunter Greg Martin), and “Leaving Houston” is a Texas-styled shuffle. I really like the Southern rock vibe from “Gulf Coast Woman” and “Almost Like a Suicide.” “I’m Her Fool” features some razor sharp slide guitar from May and mixes blues and rock very well. “Boomerang” is a funky R&B track with some nice rhythm work and the horns really punch things up as well. “All I Ever Do” funks things up as well, with guest guitarist Hadden Sayers playing lead, and rhythm guitarist Absalom takes the mic for the R&B rocker “Kind of Girl.”

Strong songs and performances make Blues Heaven a riveting listen from beginning to end. Blues fans, especially blues-rock fans, will want to check out this release.

--- Graham Clarke

Jane Lee HookerJane Lee Hooker is a five-man, um…make that five-WOMAN ensemble that play gritty, swaggering, relentless blues rock. All five members – Dana “Danger” Athens (vocals), Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston (drums), Tracy “High Top” (guitar), Tina “T-Bone” Gorin (guitar), and “Hail Mary” Zadroga (bass) have chops to die for and paid their dues for years before their 2013 consolidation. Together, they pack quite a wallop, as evidenced by their recently released debut, No B. (Ruf Records).

No B. consists of 11 hard charging tracks, ten covers and one original. The cover tunes will be familiar to many blues fans, but probably not in the form presented by JLH, who keeps true to the original spirit on each of them, but also adds their own distinctive bent to tunes like the tradtional “Wade In the Water” and “Didn’t It Rain,” Memphis Minnie’s “Bumble Bee,” Albert King’s “The Hunter,” and Ray Charles’ “I Believe To My Soul.”

The band also pays homage to Muddy Waters with a pair of his classics. “Champagne and Reefer” and “Mannish Boy,” one of the album’s standout tracks. Another is an energetic reading of Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues.” There are also covers of songs from Otis Redding (“Free Me”) and Willie Dixon (“Shake For Me”). The group’s only original tune, “In The Valley,” falls easily in place with the other tunes, blazing blues rock.

Athens is a strong vocalist and the twin-powered guitar attack is equal to the task, as is the hard-working rhythm section. No B. is a energetic and aggressive set of blues rock that will please fans of that particular genre. Blues fans will be hearing more from these ladies in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Tasha TaylorTasha Taylor is the daughter of soul legend Johnnie Taylor and Honey For The Biscuit (Ruf Records) is her third album. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gracefully balances the cool, retro sounds of Stax-era soul music with a modern rootsy sound that’s steeped in the blues. Taylor wrote all 13 tracks, co-writing a couple with Tom Hambridge and Richard Flemming, and she welcomes guest artists Keb’ Mo’, Robert Randolph, Samantha Fish, and Tommy Castro on a few selected tunes.

The disc gets off to a nice start with “Feel So Good,” a funky R&B track punctuated by a pulsating bass line and Memphis-style horns (great work throughout the disc from Jamelle Williams, Matthew DeMerritt, and Lemar Buillary). “Wedding Bells” is a nice slice of featuring a strong vocal from Taylor, and the upbeat “Family Tree” includes guitar and vocals from Keb’ Mo’. “Weatherman” offers more funky R&B and segues into the deep soul ballad “One and Only.” “Little Miss Suzie,” with subtle lap steel guitar work from Randolph, will get your motor running.

Taylor revisits R&B and soul territory with “I Knew” and “That Man,” which bookend her journey into countrified rock territory with the jaunty “How Long,” co-written with Hambridge. “Leave That Dog Alone” turns up the funk with a vengeance and gives guest guitarist Fish plenty of room to strut her stuff, too.

“Places I Miss” and “Don’t Rush Off” are a fine pair of ballads, the former leaning a bit toward jazz, and the closer, “Same Old Thing,” takes things back to the ’60s and ’70s Hi Records, sounding a bit like a long-lost Ann Peebles tune. Castro joins Taylor on vocals for this great closer.

Talented as Ms. Taylor is, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by a band of this caliber (Nathan Watts – bass, John Notto – guitar, Jon Taylor – guitar, Don Wyatt – piano/organ, Munjungo Jackson – percussion, and Gerry Brown, Ronald Bruner, Stanley Randolph – drums). These folks make it look a lot easier than it really is.

I really like the smooth blues/soul vibe coming from this album. Tasha Taylor proves that while she may have inherited the soulful genes of her dear old dad, she’s not content to let that be a stopping point and is poised to take things up to the next level, which should be music to the ears of blues and soul fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Diana ReinDiana Rein, a.k.a. “The Six-String Siren,” recently released her second album, Long Road, a superlative 12-song set of original tunes. The Romanian-born, California-based singer/guitarist produced the disc, wrote all of the songs and handles all the instrumentation, lead and rhythm guitars, bass, and EZDrummer.

As Bill Mitchell stated in his review of Long Road in the June issue, Rein has an Emmylou Harris quality to her voice. She’s capable of conveying vulnerability or toughness in equal measure and adds a versatility to her music, which mixes the blues with rock, country, and a bit of soul. The reflective title track kicks off the disc in fine fashion, with Rein’s world-weary vocals and melodic guitar break. “Wild One” is a tribute of sorts to her musical inspiration, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who gets a shout-out during the song.

The remaining ten tracks combine several strong blues rockers (“Livin’ Loud,””Come Back Home,” the hard-charging “Green Light,” “The Real Thing,” a sinewy funk-rocker) with ballads (the pleading “Don’t Walk Away” and the somber “Wicked”). The gritty “Done Me Dirty” is another standout., and “Down Down Down” has an acoustic opening, but soon launches into an all-out electric rocker. Rein closes the disc with a beautiful instrumental, “Peace,” which was composed after the death of her beloved dog.

I was not familiar with Ms. Rein’s music prior to listening to Long Road, but based on this excellent sophomore effort I’m pretty sure that blues fans will be hearing much more from her in the future. She’s got the tools and the talent.

--- Graham Clarke

Sammy EubanksSammy Eubanks has long been regarded as a mainstay of the Northwest blues scene. He’s also a big part of the country music scene there, and has been favorably compared to Delbert McClinton due to his versatile vocal style which blurs the line between blues, soul, and country. He’s a three-time Best Male Vocalist winner with the Washington Blues Society and his band advanced to the IBC semi-finals in 2013.

Sugar Me (Underworld Records) is Eubanks’ fifth release and shows the multiple sides of his musical persona. Blues fans will enjoy his covers of tunes previously heard from Skeeter Brandon (“Stop That Grinnin’”), Muddy Waters (“I Just Wanna Make Love To You”), and Bobby Bland’s “It’s My Life Baby.”

Blues rockers will dig his cover of Los Lobos’ “My Baby’s Gone.” Country music fans will recognize Mark Collie’s “Born To Love You,” but Eubanks’ interpretation will satisfy listeners on both sides of the aisle. Eubanks’ swinging take on David Kirk Stewart’s “No Excuse For The Blues” falls into this category as well. He also covers Indigenous’s “Blues All Mornin,” giving it more of a soul reading than the original.

Eubanks’ three originals include the sweet title track, which showcases his guitar playing along with his singing, the southern rock-flavored opening autobiographical cut, “All Blues To Me,” and the rocking closer, “I’m Gonna Leave You.” He’s backed by a solid set of Nashville-based musicians (Darren Theriault – producer/bass, Bob Britt and Matt Hauer – guitars, Chris Kimmerer – drums, Scott Saunders – keyboards), plus former SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans.

Sugar Me is a solid set of music from Sammy Eubanks that will satisfy fans of blues, soul, and country, while proving that the same musical roots run through all three genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Hitman Blues BandThe World Moves On (Nerus Records) is the latest release from one of New York’s finest, The Hitman Blues Band. Fronted by guitarist/singer/founder Russell “Hitman” Alexander, the band has expanded their sound of late, adding a standout horn section on their last release. On their sixth and latest release, Alexander, a charismatic and versatile guitarist and vocalist, is backed by returning members Mike Porter (bass/backup vocals), Guy LaFontaine (drums), and new additions Kevin Bents (keyboards), Mikey Vitale (tenor sax), Nick Clifford (baritone sax), and backing vocalists Joanna Alexander and Nancy Hampton.

The set list on their new release includes seven new original songs penned by Alexander, Porter, and former keyboardist Kevin Rymer (who guests on several tracks), five reconstructed songs from a couple of the HBB’s previous albums, and an extended rocking cover of the blues standard “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
The new songs combine modern blues energy with traditional blues styles and a little bit of soul added to the mix, and include “Bad Bad Man,” an atmospheric midtempo number with loads of swagger and some terrific slide guitar, “Don’t You Tempt Me,” a blues rocker, the cool and jazzy “Moving On,” the introspective title track, the surging blues burner “Two Trains Running,” “Jenny Goodbye,” a solid blues swinger, and “I’m All About You,” a smoky ballad.

The five reconstructed tunes include four from their 2003 release, Angel in the Shadows, the slinky boogie slidefest “That’s What it’s Like to Be a Man,” “Two Minute Warning” and the title track, both of which have a cool jazz feel, and “Hammer Down,” a scorching rocker. The other revision is from the band’s Blooztown, from 2000, “Catch-22 Blues,” which has an after-hours urban vibe.

The band gets able assistance on selected tracks from Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums), Ray Alexander (vibes), Bobby Forrester (keys), Johnny Gale (bass), Richard Crooks (drums), Seth Glassman (bass), and Murray Weinstock (piano). To these ears, The World Moves On is the strongest release from The Hitman Blues Band to date. Their sound is becoming more versatile with each release and they move from rocking blues to urban blues to ballads pretty smoothly. This is a disc that will be appreciated by fans of any or all of the three styles.

--- Graham Clarke

Ed BaldwinSliding Delta, a new book from author Ed Baldwin, is a historical novel/coming-of-age story that uses mid-1960s Mississippi and the state’s signature music (and some of its artists) as a backdrop for an interesting and well-developed story. Baldwin is a retired Air Force flight surgeon who has lived most of his life in the south, and is the author of the best-selling adventure series starring Major Boyd Chailland.

The book’s protagonist is Doug Spencer, a college student/budding guitarist from Chicago who decides to travel to Mississippi in the Summer of 1965 to meet one of his musical heroes, Mississippi John Hurt. Spencer is at a crossroads in his collegiate career and is searching for answers about his life and his future, hoping to find them during his journey. Doug Spencer is a likable character, a bit naïve to the ways of the world, but he begins to learn quickly during his journey which takes him through Memphis, Cleveland, and finally to Hurt’s hometown, Avalon, where most of the story takes place.

Down to his last few dollars, Doug is taken in by the Kinder family who own the local store. He works in the store during the summer, and soon becomes familiar with many of the sights, sounds, and attractions of Mississippi, including fishing and picking cotton. He becomes friends with several of the townspeople, and begins a sweet romance with Abby Kinder. Doug also experiences events related to happenings that took place in Mississippi at the time, including examples of bigotry and the KKK.

Throughout the book, the blues serves as a background for Sliding Delta, as many of the legendary performers of the time make appearances in addition to Hurt. Doug gets to meet and play with and learn from several of them. Baldwin goes into detail with some of the playing styles of these artists and these parts of the book are both entertaining and informative to blues fans. As the summer passes, Doug improves as a guitarist and eventually, he returns to Memphis, where he meets a few of the musical icons from the Bluff City and even gets to form a band.

Sliding Delta will be an enjoyable read for fans of Mississippi and Memphis blues of the ’50s and ’60s, who will find themselves nodding in remembrance of some of the events that take place in the book. It’s also an entertaining read for readers who just like a good story. The characters are all well-developed, never clichéd at all, and the pace of the story moves pretty quickly. When reading Baldwin’s prose, readers will almost feel the intense humidity of a Mississippi summer, smell fish frying, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the juke joints where the blues is being played.

--- Graham Clarke

AG WeinbergerA towering figure on the Romanian blues scene, singer/guitarist AG Weinberger hails from Transylvania and not only looms large musically, but also physically (6’6” and 255 lbs). He was the 2015 Romanian Jazz Awards winner for Best Blues Act and Album of the Year and was the country’s recipient of the President Medal, which is the highest honor in Romania for Arts, Music, and Cultural Recognition. A frequent headliner at many of the country’s festivals, he also has several best-selling albums to his credit, and his new release, the live set Mighty Business (Bigfoot Records), looks to continue his hot streak.

Recorded in 2009 at Bucharest’s Hard Rock Café, this hard-charging, entertaining 11-song set showcases four Weinberger originals and seven covers of blues, jazz, and R&B covers. The guitarist is backed by Sorin Petrilă (rhythm guitar, vocals), Vlad Spătar (bass, vocals), and Miklós Orbán (drums). From listening to these tracks, all the accolades about Weinberger’s guitar playing are well-deserved. He’s a monster on the power chords, but is also versatile enough to tackle tunes like Charlie Parker’s jazz standard “Billie’s Bounce” and the Meters’ “Cissy Strut.”

Three Muddy Waters classics get the Weinberger treatment. The opening cut, “Baby Please Don’t Go,” really kicks things off in energetic fashion, and “The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock ‘n Roll” gets a nice funky reworking. The standout Waters cover, however, has to be his slow burning reading of “Standin’ Around Cryin,” which features some masterful slide guitar. There are a couple of other fine slow blues numbers included:.Sam Taylor’s “Mother Blues” and the splendid nine-minute “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” with Weinberger really pours his heart out both vocally and instrumentally on both tracks.

Weinberger’s four originals are all strong as well. “Try To Get In the Middle of The Real” and “I Can’t Get Enough,” both have a southern rock feel to them. The former song leans toward the Allman Brothers mix of blues, rock, jazz, and funk, while the latter track leans toward the Skynyrd side of the road. “Sweet Little Number” is an enjoyable little rocker, and the boogie-based closer “Take Me To The Highway” ends things on a high note.

Based on this fine live effort, it’s easy to see why AG Weinberger is so highly regarded in his native Romania. He’s a powerful guitarist and vocalist and talented tunesmith. If there’s any justice, Mighty Business will give him the opportunity to expand his audience in all directions.

--- Graham Clarke

The Mighty OrqThe Mighty Orq was a finalist at this year’s International Blues Challenge’s Solo/Duo Division. The Houston-based singer/guitarist has been active for 13 years, performing solo and with his band in the U.S. and Europe. He’s a two-time winner in a pair of Houston Press Music Awards categories (Best Guitarist – 2007 & 2010, Best Blues Act – 2012 & 2015) and was also a finalist at the 2011 IBC’s. Recently, Orq signed with Connor Ray Music, releasing Love in a Hurricane, his label debut and seventh release overall.

Orq wrote 10 of the 12 tunes on the disc, which include the slide-driven rocker, “Sweet In Between,” which kicks off the disc, the R&B/pop-flavored “Falling Down,” the world weary soul track “Say It With Silence,” the rootsy title track, the sturdy blues rocker “The Possum Song,” and the lovely ballad “Carry Me Home.” “You’re In Love (That’s Alright)” has a bit of a Second Line funk backdrop to it and an accordion solo, “Big Boat” gets down and funk, and the roadhousing boogie track “Let Me Have My Fun” should get listeners to moving pretty quickly.

Orq covers two classic blues tunes, putting his own unique spin on both. Freddie King’s “Pack it Up” is as funky as King’s original and Orq’s spirited vocal is amplified by some nice keyboards from Barry Seelen, while the ominous “Death Letter Blues” has only a droning guitar and percussion backing but Orq’s vocal carries the day. There’s also a cool and calm instrumental, “Cannon Ball,” with Orq playing acoustic solo.

Love in a Hurricane is a fine, diverse, and interesting release from Mighty Orq that deserves to be heard by blues fans. It shows that his position in the IBC finals this year was well-deserved.

--- Graham Clarke

Gus SpenosWhen he’s not busy dazzling audiences with his exciting mix of big band jump blues, R&B, and jazz, Gus Spenos works as one of Indianapolis’ top neurologists. While it’s nice to have a second career to fall back on, something tells me that it might be harder to get an appointment with Dr. Spenos in the future based on his fantastic new release, If You Were Gold Baby, a marvelous collection of 13 tunes, mostly classic material from years gone by with one original tune that would have been a perfect fit back in the day.

The only original tune on the disc is the title track, which kicks off. the disc It’s a fairly easy-going number with Spenos’ relaxed vocal and a nice tenor sax and trumpet solo. The rest of the album is nearly split evenly between instrumental and vocal covers of classic blues and R&B tunes. The vocals include songs from Earl Curry (“I Want Your Loving”), Jesse Powell (“Can’t Help Myself”), Jimmy “T99” Nelson (“Cry Hard Luck”), Jimmy Witherspoon (“Money’s Gettin’ Cheaper”), Lee Harris (“96 Lbs”), and Todd Rhodes (“Gin Gin Gin”), plus a duet with Charanee Wade on Jimmy Preston’s “Rock With It, Baby.” Spenos displays a warm, inviting vocal style that is a perfect fit for this material.

On the instrumental side, Spenos covers a pair of tunes from New Orleans legend Lee Allen, the R&B standard “Walkin’ With Mr. Lee,” “Ivy League,” plus songs from Preston (“Hot Box”), Preston Love (“Strictly Cash”), and the rock ‘n roll anthem “Tequila.” Spenos is as talented on tenor sax as he is behind the mic and he gets excellent support from a rousing big band that includes trumpet (Freddie Hendricks), alto sax (Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. or Bruce Williams), baritone sax (Jason Marshall), plus guitar from Brad Williams, keyboards from Brandon McCune and Collin DeJoseph, drums from Cecil Brooks, and percussion from Komoyaka King.

If You Were Gold Baby is sure to satisfy fans of the stylish big band-era blues and R&B, and should keep Spenos out of the office for an extended period.

--- Graham Clarke

Bridget KellyI’ve always considered the International Blues Challenge and the affiliate state competitions to be a part of a massive talent development missive on behalf of the Blues Foundation. Every band I’ve ever been around that’s competed in Memphis has come back a better band because of the experience, and The Bridget Kelly Band is no exception. I met Tim Fik and Bridget Kelly long before I ever heard them play, but they’ve represented themselves well the last two IBCs by advancing to the semi-final round and their new disc, Outta the Blues, is a very polished disc sitting in my CD player at the moment, so let’s give it a spin.

Bridget and the band open with “Gonna Stay Here”, and here we find Bridget at the end of a relationship that isn’t working for her anymore. Her advice to her soon to be ex, “travel on baby, I’m gonna stay here with the Blues.” The rhythm section of Alex Klausner on drums and Mark Armbrecht on bass are holding the back end down and I can tell the band’s been together awhile. Sweet, passionate tones emanate from Tim Fik’s guitar as the band segues forward to our next cut, “Spellbound,” and it’s easy to get caught up in the precision of Tim’s fretwork. Whoever the object of Bridget’s affection is, they’ve definitely caught her attention and woven their spell upon her. That spell is what she’s trying to escape from now. “I’ve been numb now for so long…I no longer feel the pain…something in your mojo, baby…that did a number on my brain.” I’m hoping that Bridget can shake the spell and move on with her life.

More of Tim’s impressive fretwork provides the intro for our next cut, “If You See My Baby,” and another love in Bridget’s life is coming to an end. “My baby don’t love me…he’s walking out the door…you know how the man…he’s done this before.” Wherever Bridget’s man appears, be advised to “keep your hands off my sugar, Lord, he’ll be lying.” He’s good to go in his mind but it’s clear that Bridget isn’t through with this one yet. “Sweet River Blues” has an upbeat jump to it and here we again find that Bridget is basking in the aura of a love that’s going good. “Dancing…with the Devil…I end up losing my friends…every party…every good time…has to come to an end…but I know…in my soul…straight to you…I have to go…when I get those old…sweet jellyroll…sweet river blues.”

The song tempo slows way down as Tim picks the intro to “Baltimore Woes” and here Bridget is singing about the lament of a woman who tried to teach her son the right way to live. “Oh, baby…got your Mama crying…and her tears are falling like rain…her heart is sorry…so sorry…yet her heart…is filled with pain….Baltimore woes.” Mood and tempo lighten as Bridget and the band move on to “Dancin’ With the Blues”. Here we find that the opportunity not taken could easily be the opportunity lost. “Flowing tears…pour like rain…who to trust…in this world of pain…revelation…you’re no good love…never true…never lonely…dancing with the blues.” Love isn’t easy…it isn’t always fair…but it is far better to make the attempt and fail than to never try at all.

Bridget, of course, is a hard one to teach and she learns her lesson again in “Dangerous Man.” “My friends, they all told me…stay away from that man…I didn’t listen…you know how I am.” Walking on the dangerous side didn’t work out this time for Bridget and this is one man she definitely should have walked away from. Our next cut is a combination track of a tune called “Up and Gone” along with Howling Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”. “Yea…you’re going to get yours…find yourself alone…when you come back home to Memphis…I’ll be up and gone….Ahooooooh.” “Lonely Night in June” follows and it’s a beautiful ballad that finds Bridget wanting to apologize for the way she’s treated her man. “Don’t turn away…and make me crazy…cause I know our love is strong…forgive me baby…please sympathize…with this pain….I can’t go on…it’s been a long…long…lonely night in June.”

Tim takes the microphone for a track, “When the Nighttime Comes”, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard him sing. “Yea…the streets are cold…it ain’t no fun…when the nighttime comes.” I find Tim’s vocal a nice change of pace on the record and his fretwork continues to impress me. A quick snare drum intro from Alex brings Bridget back to tackle the next track, “Hard Times in the City”. “Love is cheap…money’s tight…ain’t no future…the ends in sight…hard times…hard times in the city.” Bridget, it should be known is blonde, and that serves her well on the next track, “Someone’s Hoodooin’ Me.” “Help me…I’m in trouble…someone is hoodooing me.” You have to give Bridget credit though…if she steps in it she usually will find her way out.

The band closes with two tracks; “Double Crossed,” another tale of betrayal…”you double crossed me baby…there ain’t no third time,” and "Rocket to the Moon," a song that finds Bridget wanting to travel the Universe with the man she loves…”come on baby…there’s a party going on…come on with me, baby…party all night all long….straight to the blues…and rocking to…right back where we belong.”

This hardworking band from Gainesville, Florida has managed to put out a very good record with Outta the Blues. They’ve honed their chops in Florida and gone toe to toe with the best the IBC has to offer in Memphis. As a result, The Bridget Kelly Band is one that’s making a lot of noise in the Southeast and building a following one gig at a time. You can keep up with Bridget and the band on their website,, and grab a copy of Outta the Blues while you’re there. This is one disc that will help you smile even with your blues.

--- Kyle Deibler



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