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August 2019

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Order these featured CDs today:

Coco Montoya

Reverend Shawn Amos

Brandon Santini

Matt Andersen

Larry Griffith

Taylor Scott Band

Kenny Parker

Cara Being Blue

Susan Williams and the Wright Groove Band

Ally Venable

Black Cat Biscuit

AG Weinberger

Travellin Blue Kings

Hundred Seventy Split

Giles Robson



Coco Montoya
The music of guitarist Coco Montoya has often been labeled as blues-rock, but I believe his sound leans more to the pure blues side of that equation. That solid foundation in the blues comes from his early apprenticeship with legends, first with Albert Collins and later with John Mayall, before launching his solo career more than 25 years ago. Montoya's album count is now into double figures after previous releases on Alligator, Blind Pig and Ruf,and his newest one, Coming In Hot, has Montoya back on Alligator.

The spirit of Albert Collins lives on in Montoya's music, especially when he covers one of the Master of the Telecaster's better known numbers, "Lights Are On But Nobody's Home." It's a slow blues, with Montoya honoring his erstwhile mentor quite well. That same guitar style can also be heard at times on Don Robey's "Ain't It A Good Thing," done earlier by Bobby "Blue" Bland, and bolstered with the addition of former Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy.

Some of Montoya's best guitar work can be heard on the opening number, "Good Man Gone," a hot up-tempo blues with some searing chords, and later on the mid-tempo blues "Trouble." He throws in more intricate guitar playing on a blues shuffle, "Stop Runnin' Away From My Love," on which Montoya's vocals take on a more soulful tone.

The title cut is a hard-driving, up-tempo original that is augmented by the addition of Jon Cleary on piano. "What Am I?" begins with a jazzy guitar intro before transforming into a slow, anthemic soul ballad sound, with Mike Finnigan adding solid organ accompaniment. Montoya also shines on vocals on the slow blues, "Witness Protection."

The closing number on Coming In Hot, "Water To Wine," is one of its strongest selections, a slower blues shuffle with powerful vocals and Montoya's usual incendiary guitar.

Coming In Hot continues Coco Montoya's impressive discography since leading his own band. It's one of the best albums of the year to date.

--- Bill Mitchell

Shawn AmosThe Reverend Shawn Amos returns with a wonderful five-song EP recorded live in his California kitchen. This collection, Kitchen Table Blues, Vol. 1 (Put Together Music), consists of songs taken from Amos’ YouTube series of the same title in which he cooked and sang for 90 Sundays in his Van Nuys, California home. Other performers, such as Mindi Abair, Charles Wright, Jean McCain, and The Mudbug Brass Band, would drop by as the show progressed.

There’s no information about the contributing musicians on Vol. 1, but Amos rips through a remarkably balanced set of tunes, beginning with a folky version of The Faces’ “Ooh La La” that retains the original version’s irresistible charm. It’s clear that Amos really digs this tune based on his spirited performance and the delightful musical accompaniment. Next is the Alabama Shakes tune “Hold On,” featuring a stripped-down arrangement of acoustic guitar and understated horns. “Whip It,” from the ’80s new wave band Devo (yes, you read that correctly), retains the quirky funk of the original but adds grungy harmonica and baritone sax to the mix.

“Have Love Will Travel” was originally recorded by ’60s-era garage rockers The Sonics. Amos’ version is a slower take on the original but is no less effective and remains a crowd-pleaser at Amos’ live shows. The closer is Tom Waits’ “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” which gets a finger-snapping, toe-tapping jazzy arrangement with nifty double-bass accompaniment plus a liquidy electric guitar solo near the midway point.

Amos released Vol. 2 of this most excellent collection in May, so stay tuned right here for a future review. This is a series that works as well on audio as on video, so if you’re not familiar with Kitchen Table Blues, grab a listen to Vol. 1 at your earliest convenience.

--- Graham Clarke

Brandon SantiniSinger/harmonica player Brandon Santini’s debut release for American Showplace Music, The Longshot, is a muscular set of rock-edged blues leaning to the blues side of the aisle. Santini had a hand in composing 10 of the 11 tracks, co-producing the album with Ben Elliot and John Ginty. The music covers a variety of styles rooted in the blues --- roots, country, gospel, rock, and soul --- and give listeners a fuller appreciation of Santini’s musical gifts.

The opener, “Don’t Come Around Here,” kicks off the disc in rocking roadhouse style, while the mid-tempo “Beggin’ Baby” has a greasy soul feel, with slide guitar accompaniment from Greg Gumpel who co-wrote the song with Santini and Victor Wainwright. The acoustic gospel track, “One More Day,” finds Santini praying for help when things get too tough, and “Drive You Off My Mind” keeps that unplugged vibe going but adds electric and slide guitar along with Ginty’s wonderous keyboards. The rugged “Heartbreaker” is soulful rocking blues, while “Broken Bones” is a gentle, country-flavored ballad.

“Back To You” is a steady-driving rocker with crunching guitar work from Timo Arthur and a fabulous harmonica break from Santini. The pair team up again for the catchy “My Worried Mind,” with Arthur really outdoing himself on this track. “Going Home” is another mostly acoustic number, taken at a much quicker tempo. The album’s lone cover, Willie Dixon’s “Evil (Is Going On),” finds an inspired Santini emulating Howlin’ Wolf’s growling vocal through a harp mic, and the closing track, “Somebody’s Gotta Go,” is a an energetic modern blues.

The Longshot is a strong set of traditional blues with just the right amount of contemporary influences. Brandon Santini does this style as well as anyone currently practicing, really showing his range and versatility with this fine album.

--- Graham Clarke

Matt AndersenCanadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Andersen’s warm, soulful voice induces goose bumps. Born in New Brunswick, Andersen got his musical start with the band Flat Top,. He's won European Blues Awards in 2013 and 2016 for Best Solo/Acoustic Act, Maple Blues Awards for 2010 and 2011 for Entertainer of the Year and Acoustic Act of the Year (also winning Male Vocalist from 2011 – 2016), and in 2010 he won the IBC Solo Performer Award, the first Canadian to do so.

Andersen’s latest release, Halfway Home By Morning (True North Records), encompasses blues, soul, R&B, folk, and Americana. Produced by Steve Dawson and recorded in Nashville, the new album features Andersen backed by a potent group of musicians including Dawson (guitars, pump organ, pedal steel, mandotar), guest vocalist Amy Helm, Mike Farrington (bass), Jay Bellerose (drums), Christ Gestrin (keyboards), with Jim Hoke (saxophones), Charles Rose (trombone), and Steve Hermann (trumpet), plus Ann, Regina, and Alfreda McCrary on background vocals.

All 13 tracks are originals, written or co-written by Andersen, and they are deep and pure soul music with roots in the blues, R&B, and Americana. As good as Andersen’s vocals are, the songs are equally gripping, addressing subjects that most listeners can easily relate to regarding affairs of the heart and everyday life. The opener, “What Would Your Mama Say” blends country, soul, and funk, and the McCrary’s sweet backing vocals, Dawson’s slide guitar and Gestrin’s keyboards help mightily, too. The righteous rocker, “Free Man,” up the funk a bit more and adds horns. Ms. Helm joins Andersen for a beautiful country-flavored duet, “Something To Lose.”

“The Bed I Made” is a great slice of ’60s-era soul, while the slow burning “Give Me Some Light” has a country soul feel right out of Muscle Shoals. “Better Than You Want” combines country, soul, and a bit of rock, with irresistible  interplay between Dawson’s slide guitar, the horns and the McCrarys. “Gasoline” follows the same playbook but with more rock-edged guitar added, and Andersen’s vocal on the wonderful gospel-ish soul ballad “Over Me” is one of his best on the album. Dawson’s soaring slide guitar give the encouraging R&B track “Help Yours Elf” a extra punch.

“Long Rider” is an exuberant country rock track about returning home after too much time spent away, while “Take Me Back” blends soulful vocals from Andersen with Dawson’s slide guitar into an interesting concoction. “Been My Last” is about as straight country as the album gets, but Andersen’s vocal straddles the thin line between country and soul.

The album closer, the acoustic “Quarter On The Ground (A Song For Uncle Joe),” is a bit of a tearjerker, with Andersen singing his regret (backed by the McCrarys) that he didn’t get to speak with his uncle one last time.

This is one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard this year. Matt Andersen is not just a powerful vocalist that effortlessly handles a variety of genres, but he’s also a great songwriter. With the added attraction of Dawson’s guitar and production, The McCrary Sisters’ always-perfect vocal accompaniment and a first-rate band in support, Halfway Home By Morning should be required listening for any self-respecting blues or soul fan.

--- Graham Clarke

Larry GriffithThe making of Atlanta-based blues man Larry Griffith’s latest project, Bonafide, was an arduous process. During recording, Griffith went through a difficult breakup (is there any other kind?) and was forced to take a two month break to undergo throat surgery. Happily, the entire ordeal has generated what might be Griffith’s best and most inspired effort to date. In addition to singing, playing guitar and drums (he got his start as a 16-year-old session drummer for Federal Records in his native Cincinnati), Griffith produced and wrote all nine tracks.

Bonafide kicks off with the swampy funk of “Hoodoo Hannah,” then rolls into the smooth urban blues “Always Going To Be Something,” one of several tracks on the album that deal with relationship difficulties. Griffith offers a fine piece of advice that everyone should follow on the mid-tempo soul-blues, “It Ain’t What They Call You,” and he’s just about fed up with his significant other’s misadventures on the faster-paced “I Know.”

The horn-fueled “I Do, I Did, I’m Done” finds Griffith sacrificing to keep the one he loves, and heats things up on the playful, sexy “Slow Grind,” which leaves little to the imagination. On the ballad “Had Enough,” Griffith bares his soul about the broken relationship with his most heartfelt vocal (with sweet support from 2Blu – Teresa Lynn and Deborah Carr), but with the upbeat R&B track that follows, “I’m Free,” he starts to see daylight again. The closing track, “Mama Tried,” is a loving tribute to Griffith’s mother who went above and beyond in raising her children under difficult circumstances.

Zig Ziglar once said, “Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” The trials that Larry Griffith recently faced obviously inspired him to greater creative heights with some of his best and most personal songs and performances yet. Bonafide is, like the title, the real deal.

--- Graham Clarke

Taylor Scott BandThe Denver-based Taylor Scott Band’s musical approach encompasses blues, funk, R&B, rock and soul. Guitarist/vocalist Scott has toured the U.S., Canada, and Europe with Otis Taylor, appearing on Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus: Red Meat with guitarist Warren Haynes, and enjoys an ever-growing fan base with his own band. A supremely soulful vocalist and powerful guitarist and songwriter, Scott’s latest effort, All We Have, touches on all the aforementioned musical genres and should do much to expand their audience beyond their home base.

The album opener (following a 30-second intro) is “Somebody Told Me,” a serious mix of funk, rock, and pop that could, and should, be a hit if there was any sense in the world. The horn-fueled “Curiosity” follows, a cool track that marries soul and country with a bit of an inspirational message, and “Clearance Bin” is a reflective ballad with a great little slide guitar solo that might be the standout tune on the disc.

The country-flavored “Salted Watermelon” is a fun, mellow track that will bring back fond memories to some listeners, and the idiosyncratic rocker “Hair of Indigo” flirts with psychedelia and features an appearance on guitar from Los Lonely Boys’ Henry Garza.

“Carry Me Away” is a solid upbeat pop rocker, and “Wishing Well” is a pop-ish blues rocker with harmonica from Nic Clark and harmony vocals from Sarah Morris Wirtz. “Surrounded” is an acoustic reflection on the effects of society’s obsession with all things social media, and “Where This Is Going” is a slice of ’70s-era pop rock. The album closes with a pair of ballads: “The Walk,” which deftly blends blues and soul, and the wistful “Good Things.”

Scott and the band (Jon Wirtz – keyboards, Chris Harris – bass, Lem Williams – drums) are augmented by Clark, Garza, Josh Levy (baritone sax), Ben Rubin (bass), Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), Jesse Brooke (percussion), and Steve Watkins (harmony vocals). All We Have is an excellent mix of blues and rock, with a few other genres added for good measure, that will please any fan of good music.

--- Graham Clarke

Kenny ParkerLike many music fans, guitarist Kenny Parker’s love of music began with the Beatles in the early ’60s. While listening he began to also check out the music of those artists who were influences on the Fab Four and ended up playing in his first band at age 14. He started listening to B.B. King and Albert King in high school and decided the blues were for him, working in a Cadillac factory in his native Detroit after graduation while working with Detroit blues legends Mr. Bo, and later the Butler Twins who backed Parker on his mid-'90s debut recording for JSP Records, Raise The Dead.

Parker’s latest release, Hellfire (Rock-A-While Records), finds the guitarist/songwriter collaborating with another Motor City guitar monster, Jim McCarty, who goes back to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Siegal Schwall Blues Band, the Buddy Miles Express, and Cactus in the ’60s. They are joined by Dan Devins (vocals/harp), Mike Marshall (bass), and Dave Marcaccio (drums) with guest keyboardists Leonard Moon, Bill Heid, and Chris Codish. 11 of the 12 tracks were written by Parker.

The disc kicks off with a cool mid-tempo shuffle, “I’ve Got My Eye On You,” before moving to the soul burner “Baby Come Back To Me,” “Blind And Paralyzed,” a classic bump-and-grind slow blues, and “Bye Bye Baby,” an old-school rocker. The title track is a swampy blues that tells the story of a fiery-haired heartbreaker named Ruby, while “Goin’ In Circles” is a solid blues number that really kicks. “Dance With Me” is a brisk jump blues.

Vocalist Devins turns in a heartfelt performance on the soulful ballad “I’m Missing You, and the catchy “But Then We Danced” has a ’60s Beach Music feel. Following up is the driving blues rocker “Half Crazy” and the fine seven-minute “Back Up Plan,” a great slow blues that gives Parker and McCarty ample room to show their guitar chops.

The album closes with a live track from St. Louis’ Gem Theatre, a dynamite cover of Omar and The Howlers’ late ’80s anthem “Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty.”

Parker doesn’t take the mic, but with guitar work this awesome he really doesn’t have to. His songwriting is also first rate and his musical rapport with McCarty is also top-notch. Devins is a fine vocalist, tackling a variety of blues styles with ease on this release. The rhythm section and keyboards provide rock solid backing throughout.

Hellfire is a powerful set of blues rock that’s sure to please. Here’s hoping Kenny Parker and his friends don’t go another 23 years between albums.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim GartlandTim Gartland recently issued his fourth solo release, Satisfied (Taste Good Music). The Nashville-based singer/songwriter/harmonica player has been active on the blues scene in Chicago, Boston, and Nashville for over 30 years, studying with Jerry Portnoy and playing with a host of greats including Bo Diddley, Carey Bell, Big Jack Johnson, and Pinetop Perkins. His latest effort features ten original tracks that blend the blues with soul, rock, and roots, with backing from Tom West and Kevin McKendree (keys), Robert Frahm (guitars), Tom Britt (slide guitar), Steve Mackey (bass), and Wendy Moten and Ray Desilvis (backup vocals).

The opener, “Drinking For Two,” is a rocking tune lamenting the loss of a girl by drowning his sorrows, and “Don’t Make More Trouble” is a mid-tempo rumbler offering sound advice to all. Gartland’s rumbling vocal plays to great effect on the soulful “Blues For Free,” and he sounds great on the old school rock n’ roller “Can’t Paint A Prettier Picture.” “You Best Think Twice” is an excellent blues shuffle with some of Gartland’s finest harp work on the disc.

On the title track, which has a bit of a laid-back country feel, Gartland reflects on the things in life that bring him the most joy, and encourages others to do the same --- more good advice. “Walk On” keeps that peaceful, easy feeling going with a nice ambling groove, while “Why Does The Room Begin To Sway?” takes on a funky reggae rhythm (with nice vocal backing from Ms. Moten). The subdued “Artifacts,” a sad tale of a lost love, features Britt’s slide guitar, and the closer, “Don’t Judge Me,” is a Windy City-styled shuffle that calls out hypocrisy in others.

Satisfied is a fine set of relaxed, self-assured southern-flavored blues and roots. Tim Gartland is a superb harmonica player, a warm and engaging vocalist, and a talented songwriter, so there’s plenty of fine music for blues fans on this enjoyable album.

--- Graham Clarke

Cara Being BlueCara Lippman, a.k.a. Cara Being Blue, relocated to Nashville from the New England area a decade ago and quickly won over the music fans there who nominated her for blues awards four years in a row by the Nashville Industry Music Awards. The Tennessee Rhythm and Blues Society honored her in 2016 for her contributions to the blues genre in the city. She currently serves as a pro blues jam host and entertains at festivals all over the Tennessee area.

Lippman’s first full length solo effort, Grit, was recently released and features ten original songs written or co-written by the young singer, who’s joined by a core band of Val Lupescu (guitars), Eric Robert (keys), Jonathon Nixon (bass), Flip Winfield (drums), Miqui Gutierrez (sax), and Varney Greene (trombone), with guest guitarists Dave Fields, Jack Pearson, and Will Gustofson, bassist David Abdo, drummer Matt Doctor, harmonica player Tim Gonzalez, and backing vocalist Mandy Vixen on several tracks.

The title track opens the album, a sassy tribute to those ladies who are determined to overcome whatever obstacles they face. Guitarist Fields appears on the ominous swamper “Crocodile Man,” Gustofson adds fiery fretwork to the funky “Leave Me In Flames,” “My Doggie,” and the high-spirited “Some Fun,” which closes the disc, while Pearson’s standout guitar is a highlight on the slow blues “You Don’t Wanna.”

The rock-pop ballad “One Day” shows that Lippman is a solid fit in those genres, as well as doing funky R&B on “Skippin’ Stone." “Old Feelin’” is a bluesy ballad with a smoky vocal from Lippman and excellent harpwork from Gonzalez, and the horn-fueled “Kind Kinda Man” is a swinging shuffle written in honor of her father, Arthur Lippman.

Lippman is a talented vocalist with a tender, but tough vocal style. She writes first-rate songs and gets great support for the band who shine in a variety of musical styles, as does she. I guess you might say she has “grit" --- lots of it. It’s a safe bet that we will be hearing much more from Cara Being Blue in the years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Susan WilliamsSusan Williams & The Wright Groove Band actually released their debut album, It’s About Time, in early 2018. The band (Williams – vocals/ bass, Mike Gallemore – guitar/vocals, Darryl Wright – lead bass, Rob Davis – drums, Mike Cruse – keys) competed in the 2018 and 2019 International Blues Challenge, and their album was entered into the 2019 IBC in the Best Self-Produced CD category. Williams is a 30+ year vet of the Illinois blues scene and one-time bassist for Shirley King. She has a rich, nuanced voice equally comfortable in a blues or soul vein.

The band’s debut offers 11 original tunes, nine written by Williams and two by Gallemore. The musical approach blends blues with R&B and soul, with the songs describing relationships in a variety of stages. The moody opener, “Tell Me That You Love Me,” actually has a jazzy after-hours feel, while “I Love What You Do” is a midtempo rocking blues with tasty slide from Gallemore. “Loving You From A Distance” is a sensitive blues ballad, followed by the upbeat shuffle “Shame On You” and the funky “I’m Sorry.”

The feisty “Meet Me In The Middle” is a highlight, and “You’ve Got Another Think Coming” is a rousing rocker with a touch of funk. Williams’ desperate vocal and Gallemore’s stinging lead guitar drives “One Way Street.” “Please Come Back To Me” is a terrific blues ballad with a lot of soul, and “Keep Moving On” mixes blues with rock as Williams vows to walk away from tough times without looking back. “Too Little, Too Late” is a sweet soul blues that provides a fine conclusion to the disc.

Williams has a smooth vocal style that’s strikingly similar to Bonnie Raitt or Susan Tedeschi but with a bit more soul and grit. The band is a well-oiled machine with this material. If you missed It’s About Time when it was first released, this is your opportunity to make the most of a second opportunity.

--- Graham Clarke

Ally VenableAlly Venable’s third release, Texas Honey, is her first for Ruf Records. The 20-year-old guitar phemom started the year off as part of Ruf’s 2019 Blues Caravan tour and has toured in support of Lance Lopez and Eric Gales. On this excellent new effort she’s once again joined by bassist Bobby Wallace and drummer Elijah Owings, along with keyboardist Lewis Stephens and special guests guitarists Mike Zito (who also served as producer) and Gales. Venable wrote eight of the eleven tracks, co-writing one with Zito.

Texas Honey opens with a terrific rocker, “Nowhere To Hide,” moves to the intense mid-tempo “Broken,” about a relationship turned bad, and soars into hyperspace with the gritty title track. “Blind To Bad Love” is a smoldering slow burner with a strong vocal from Venable and Zito providing rhythm guitar, while Gales contributes guitar and co-lead vocals on the driving blues rocker “Come And Take It,” followed by a fun cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Love Struck Baby” which marks the midway point of the disc.

Zito’s slide guitar complements Venable’s moody ballad “One Sided Misunderstanding,” leading into the surging “White Flag” featuring some of Venable’s rawest guitar work and vocals on the album. “Long Way Home” is a standout track with a catchy guitar riff and soaring guitar solo.

“Running After You” incorporates a bit of pop into the blues rock mix quite effectively, and the album closes with a distinctive, hard-driving take on “Careless Love” that really puts a fresh coat of paint on the 1920s classic.

I’ve heard all three of Ally Venable’s releases to date, and she has made remarkable progress with each release. Texas Honey shows her to be as formidable a songwriter as a guitarist and vocalist. The sky’s the limit for this talented young lady.

--- Graham Clarke

Black Cat BiscuitThe Belgian band Black Cat Biscuit was established in 2015. The five-man band (Bart “Yasser” Arnauts – vocals/rhythm guitar, Mark “Mr. Mighty” Sepanski – harmonica, Stanley Patty – lead guitar, Patrick “P Daddy” Indestege – bass, Jeff “Junior” Gijbels – drums) won the 2018 Belgian Blues Challenge and competed in this year’s European Blues Challenge, finishing fourth. A few weeks later the group released their debut album, That’s How The Cookie Crumbles (Naked).

The band’s sound incorporates smooth West Coast swing, jazz, boogie, a little rock, and a little bit of country, with rugged Texas-styled blues. This is a most interesting combination of styles, working very well as the band is talented and more than up to the challenge. Amauts’ warm, direct vocal style is reminiscent of Lou Reed, a perfect match for the 12 original songs.

The opener, “Train 66,” is a rough and ready rocker with ripping slide guitar from Patty throughout. “Haunting Me,” a catchy, fast-paced shuffle follows, followed by the intriguing “Son of a Vampire,” an amusing horror tale set to a Bo Diddley beat, and the moody “Parrot Woman” which has a swampy feel thanks to the eerie guitar and Sepanski’s harmonica. “Ain’t Got Nobody To Come Home” is a smooth and soulful ballad with a mellow jazz vibe, and the up-tempo “What I Really Need Is You” is a swinging toe-tapper.

The rocking “He’s A Fool” has a droning, hypnotic rhythm with more tasty slide guitar from Patty, and the rollicking “Bad James” leans toward C&W a bit with twangy guitar and Sepanski’s harmonica. The upbeat “Hey Little Kiddy” is a groovy shuffle, and the funky “I Don’t Know” will put a hop in your step. “So Sad And Lonely” is a moody after-hours blues highlighted by Amauts’ rumbling vocal and Patty’s liquidy guitar fills. The album closer, “Goin’ Home,” is a countrified high stepper.

There’s lots to like about Black Cat Biscuit --- Amauts’ warm vocals, Patty’s guitar versatility, Sepanski’s dynamic harmonica, and the rhythm section’s peerless support. That’s How The Cookie Crumbles provides more proof, as if you needed it, that the blues is alive and thriving on the other side of the world.

--- Graham Clarke

AG WeinbergerTransylvanian guitarist AG Weinberger is not only an imposing figure physically (6’5”, 255 lbs), he’s also an imposing figure on the Romanian blues and jazz scene having won multiple awards, including the President Medal, which is the highest honor in Romania for Arts, Music, and Cultural Recognition. He headlines many of the major European festivals, playing 80 concerts a year, while doing his best to popularize the blues in Eastern Europe via performances, educational workshops, and hosting radio and TV shows.

Weinberger’s latest album, Reborn (Bigfoot Records), is a diverse affair, mixing blues and jazz with rock and folk. He’s backed by a talented group of musicians (Cseke Gabor – keyboards, Pusztai Csaba – drums, Hars Viktor – bass, Voga Viktoria – backing vocals, and Pusztai Kabelacs Rita – background vocals) on 12 tracks, ten originals. Blues guitar legend Bob Margolin also makes a memorable appearance on one track.

Willie Dixon’s classic “Wang Dang Doodle,” one of the album’s two covers, gets things off to a rousing start. Speaking of rousing and funky, “Sweet Little Number” dazzles with an irresistible second-line beat and some Fess-like action on the ivories from Gabor. The simmering soul-blues of “On The Wrong Side” is not only a showcase for Weinberger’s vocals but his lap steel guitar skills as well. Margolin makes his appearance on “The Fool’s Lucky Day,” with his excellent-as-always slide guitar.

The funky “It Wouldn’t Be Enough” features more of Weinberger’s immaculate lap steel, and the whole band gets a chance to stretch out on the instrumental “Slippery Slope,” a slick piece of jazzy blues. “Just One Minute” is a sweet acoustic ballad with a sincere vocal and more splendid lap steel from Weinberger. Johnnie Bassett’s “Cadillac Blues” is one of my all-time favorite blues tunes, with Weinberger doing a fine job with his cover, his guitar work a little bit hotter than the original.

“Shoot” is a rocking boogie track that should get toes to tapping and booties to shaking. “Caroline” has a pop feel and probably would have made some noise on the charts a few years ago, while the title track is an intriguing, exploratory piece that incorporates blues, jazz, and rock. The album concludes with “I Am The Water,” a introspective piano ballad.

Reborn is a rock-solid set of blues and blues-based tunes from AG Weinberger, one of Europe’s foremost blues artist.

--- Graham Clarke

Travellin Blue KingsThe Travellin’ Blue Kings (Stephen Hermsen – vocals/guitar/harmonica, Jimmy Hontelé – guitar, Winne Penninckx – bass, and Marc Gijbels – drums) are based in Belgium, but have played festivals all over Europe, including.Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, the U.K. and Italy. Their brand of blues combines Texas, West Coast, Memphis, and Chicago, with a bit of rockabilly and swing added to the mix, and they captured the first-ever European Blues Challenge in 2011.

Wired Up (Naked) is the band’s debut release and it features 11 original songs, all penned by the band. The opener, “I Don’t’ Wanna Stop,” is a lively jumping blues with a sizzling guitar solo halfway through, “About This World” is a hypnotic mid-tempo tune with a droning guitar line and energetic harp, and “The Way It Used To Be” has a modern blues sound with an interesting backbeat and an otherworldly guitar line trailing. “I Cannot Believe” is a splendid slower-paced blues with nice West Coast, T-Bone-esque guitar, and “Straight Eight” has a countrified air with twangy guitar.

“I’m A Good Man” is a smooth slow blues featuring B3 support from guest keyboardist Patrick Cuyvers, and a wonderful extended guitar solo from Hontolé. The title track is next, an excellent instrumental with a distinctive old-school surf guitar vibe that works very well, and the intense “Ninety Minutes” follows suit while also mixing in the blues. The guitar riff that drives “Get It Done” brings to mind classic ’60s pop/rock, and “Your Being” follows a droning North Mississippi Hill Country rhythm very effectively. The closer, “Into The Night,” is a jumping rockabilly rave-up that sounds like the Fabulous Thunderbirds of the ’80s.

The Travellin’ Blue Kings waited a bit to release their debut recording,. Judging by the interesting original tunes and enthusiastic performances on Wired Up, the wait was well worth it. Hopefully, these guys won’t keep us waiting too long for a follow-up.

--- Graham Clarke

170 SplitTen Years After bassist Leo Lyons left the band to form his own power trio, Hundred Seventy Split, in 2010. TYA had become a global phenomenon following a breathtaking performance at the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival. Recorded live on tour at venues across Europe in 2019, Live, ‘Woodstock 69’ (Corner House Records) is a golden anniversary celebration album which is essentially a tribute both to TYA and Leo’s co-founder, the late, great, guitar virtuoso, singer and songwriter Alvin Lee.

All five songs from the Woodstock set are included, and their authenticity and impassioned delivery will appeal to hard-core blues enthusiasts. Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” confirms from the outset the suitability of Joe Gooch to carry the heavy mantle of Alvin Lee. Joe replaced Lee in TYA at the start of the millennium and stayed for over a decade before teaming up with Leo again. Gooch’s greatest quality has been to bring his own skills and interpretations both vocally and instrumentally to Alvin’s songs whilst retaining their integrity.

Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” features Lyons at his best, defying age with his high energy, dexterous bass solo and fast and furious dueling with Gooch. This track alone epitomises what TYA was about with Lee and Lyons at its epicentre, and which only Hundred Seventy Split can emulate. “Help Me”’ by Sonny Boy Williamson/Dixon is one of the bluest blues on record, Gooch’s climactic, wailing guitar underpinned by the brilliant dynamics of drummer Damon Sawyer. “I Can't Keep From Crying” initially stays faithful to Al Cooper’s version before developing into a jazz-infused, experimental yet controlled, tour de force with its complex fretwork and changing rhythms prior to returning to the main theme. The sheer genius and inventiveness of Damon’s drumming set it apart from any other version.

“I'm Going Home” is where it all started for TYA, and, like Alvin, Joe’s credibility as a rocker is impeccable as he storms through this compilation of rock and roll classics at an unprecedented velocity, held together brilliantly by Leo and Damon. The three extra TYA classics are “Love Like A Man,” with its mesmeric guitar riff and piercing solos, the psychedelic, percussive and haunting “Fifty Thousand Miles Beneath My Brain,” and their biggest hit, the poignant “I’d Love To Change The World”, all written by Lee.

The two bonus tracks showcase the distinctive, creative and exceptional talents within Hundred Seventy Split which will hopefully encourage readers to explore the band’s back catalogue and discover a cornucopia of inspirational music. "The Smoke" is a catchy, heavy rocking number which reminisces about moving to London from the Midlands, whilst "Do You Wish You Were At Woodstock" does what the title suggests but in a unique style which completes the metamorphosis from TYA to HSS.

--- Dave Scott

Giles RobsonThe big question was how could UK harp ace Giles Robson follow up his Blues Music Award in Memphis for the Best Acoustic Album, Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues? The answer lies in this amazingly inventive, powerful and glorious collaboration with Bruce Katz & The Band, Don’t Give Up On The Blues (American Showplace Music), which firmly establishes Robson as a premier harp player on both sides of the pond. As the 30th anniversary of Harp Attack approaches, it is timely that Chicago legends Cotton, Wells, Bell and Branch have a worthy heir to the blues harp throne.

This USA debut recording explodes into life with “Land To Land,” its mesmeric harp riff and eerie vocal delivery interspersed by piercing solos complemented by trademark Hammond B3 background licks from Katz. The jaunty “Don’t Give Up On The Blues” promotes the healing qualities of the blues, the optimistic message enhanced by Bruce’s joyful and inspirational piano accompaniment. The shuffling, percussive rhythm of drummer Ray Hangen underpins “Damn Fool Way” providing the perfect platform for Robson’s quirky vocal and harp delivery.

“Your Dirty Look And Your Cheeky Grin” is a slow-burning, atmospheric account of truth, and lies in a relationship, the lung-bursting wailing harp and mournful piano keys building to a crescendo. The mood lightens a little on the beautifully arranged “Show A Little Mercy,” Aaron Lieberman excelling on guitar and bassist Antar Goodwin maintaining a solid groove. All of Giles’ technical qualities are evident in the instrumental “Boogie At The Showplace” as he duels with Katz, namely his supreme timing, phrasing, use of vibrato and chugging.

On the politically charged “Fearless Leaders,” Robson expresses his mistrust of who and what to believe through his poignant vocals and heart-rending harp accompaniment. The upbeat “Hey, Hey Now!,” with its staccato rhythm contrasting with the fluid B3 solo is another highlight and a precursor to the equally memorable instrumental, “Giles’ Theme.”

“Life, With All It’s Charms” has one of the most enchanting, repetitive harp phrasings as Giles muses on what it means to hold his baby in his arms. Chicago style blues is celebrated on “That Ol’ Heartbreak Sound,” with Robson proving his status as a major player on the contemporary scene, his energy boosted by the flamboyant Katz and the phenomenal band.

The last of the 12 original tracks, “Way Past Midnight,” is an instrumental tour de force from five musicians at the top of their game with Giles Robson proving he is well worth his place in blues harp history.

--- Dave Scott




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