What's New

August 2020

Pick Hit

What's New




Back Issues


Order these featured albums today:


JD Taylor

The Lucky Losers

Shawn Pittman

2020 Blues

Hudspeth and Taylor

Dwane Dixon

Johnny Rawls

Dave Specter

Fuel Junkie

Rebekah Meldrum

Shirley King


Hurricane Ruth

Lisa Mills

The Hi-Jivers

Sass Jordan



MandalynThis four-song EP, Wrecked, from unknown vocalist Mandalyn just happened to show up in my mailbox one day. I put it into my pile of CDs to consider for review, not getting to it for several weeks. I don't even remember who sent it to me, and my expectations for it were pretty low.

Man, was I ever wrong about this one! I still don't know a whole lot about Mandalyn, other than that she is a classically trained singer, but the four songs on Wrecked have whetted my appetite for more. It's powerhouse soulful blues from a dynamic vocalist with a good future ahead of her. Recorded in Nashville, the EP was produced by Tony "TC" Coleman (former B.B. King drummer), who leads a solid band of Bart Walker (guitar), Brian Allen (bass) and Frank Ray (keyboards).

Opening the EP is the title cut, a slow soulful masterpiece that showcases Mandalyn's powerful, octave-bending voice. She shows her raw emotion early on and continues to inject even more energy into her vocals as the song progresses. Another original composition is "Baby On The Run," a mid-tempo soul number that's both eerie and spooky, with staccato notes coming from Mandalyn's voice while Walker lays down some interesting guitar licks later in the song.

"Feel Like Breakin' Up Somebody's Home" has been often covered since it was a hit nearly 50 years ago for Ann Peebles, but Mandalyn redefines this soul/blues classic with her sassy vocals. The horn section of Varney Greene (trombone), Joshua Harner (trumpet) and Mickey Guitierrez (sax) joins the band to give this version the appropriate brassy sound. The Lieber-Stoller composition, "I Who Have Nothing," is intro'd with jazzy piano from Ray before Mandalyn comes in on vocals in front of an orchestral arrangement/ This inspirational love song has been covered by a diverse set of artists, from Joe Cocker to Ben E. King to Shirley Bassey to Tom Jones, and we can now add Mandalyn's name to list of singers who have killed it.

Make a note of this name right now --- Mandalyn --- she's got a chance to be a star. I can't wait to hear more from this exciting new artist.

--- Bill Mitchell

JD TaylorComing out of the Memphis area is a very fine disc, The Coldwater Sessions (VizzTone), from singer / harmonica player JD Taylor, who is known for his work as the leader of the band Little Boys Blue. Taylor and his backing band, plus special guests, headed down the road from Memphis to the Zebra Ranch Studio in North Mississippi, near the town of Coldwater, thus the name of the album. It's bluesy, soulful and gritty, with all 11 cuts being top-notch stuff. Taylor can blow his harp with the best of them, and while his voice doesn't have a lot of power it easily adapts to the range of material that he covers.

All but one of the songs on The Coldwater Sessions are original compositions. It's obvious that Taylor was influenced by Jimmy Reed since I had to keep double-checking the songwriting credits to make sure that the raw blues numbers "Got You Where You Want Me" and "Honey Honey Baby," as well as the very Junior Wells-sounding "Ooh Wee," weren't covers. The latter number mixes a Chicago blues sound with a taste of James Brown influence, not incongruous since Junior Wells was highly influenced by the soul hit makers of the day. Guitarist Jon Hay even sounds like he could have played the same parts on an early James Brown album.

Taylor and the band easily transition back and forth between blues and soul, with a big horn section joining on the soulful "Nothing Left To Say." I'm impressed with Taylor's vocal work on these soul numbers, notably the slower numbers like "Nothing Left To Say" and "At First Glance." The band is also capable of getting funky, with the horns providing the intro to "It Ain't No Good" while guitarist Jon Holiday provides some nice B.B. King-style guitar.

For even more variety in material, the band occasionally moves into more of a jump blues sound, like on the up-tempo "Hanging On," with Hay putting down some killer guitar licks and Taylor jumping in with solid harmonica accompaniment. Taylor switches over to the chromatic harp and Hay lays down an exquisite Texas blues guitar solo on the closing instrumental, "The Coldwater Swing."

Adding an extra spice to this very fine album are backing vocals by a couple members of the Southern Avenue band out of Memphis, as well as Hammond B-3 accompaniment from the legendary Rev. Charles Hodges.

The Coldwater Sessions is a very strong album, likely to wind up on multiple Top Ten lists for the year. Kudos to JD Taylor and all of the musicians that joined him on the trek to Mississippi to record this gem.

--- Bill Mitchell

The Lucky LosersSan Francisco ensemble The Lucky Losers are fronted by singer Cathy Lemons and harmonica player / vocalist Phil Berkowitz. Their latest album, Godless Land (VizzTone), was recorded at Kid Andersen's Greaseland studio and is a mixture of various blues styles that give both Lemons and Berkowitz the chance to step to the front of the stage. It's a decent album, with some outstanding numbers and then some that just didn't grab me. The backing band of Ian Lamson (guitar), Chris Burns (keyboards), Endre Tarczy (bass) and Derrick "D'Mar" Martin (drums) is solid, and a few guests work their way into the mix during the session.

Lemons shines on vocals on the opening number, her own composition, "Half A Nothing." It's got a classic soul sound with Lemons shouting out sassy vocals, while Berkowitz comes in with a really strong harp solo and also contributes vocals. Having both singers sharing vocals on the same song happens regularly on Godless Land, such as the up-tempo "No Good Lover," a frantic, up-tempo blues that has the two singers going at each other. It was a hit in 1956 for Mickey & Sylvia, and Lemons and Berkowitz turn in a nice version.

One of the more intriguing cuts is the Doc Pomus / Mac Rebennack composition, "Be You," standing out for Andersen's use of a sitar to create a rather unique sound to this tune. Another well-chosen cover is the old-timey mid-tempo blues, "What Makes You Act Like That," with Andersen taking the guitar leads with really nice acoustic picking just like Lonnie Johnson did on the original.

While I much prefer Lemons' vocals throughout the album, Berkowitz does a respectable job on the slow blues original, "The Good Fight," which he co-wrote with Danny Caron. The horn section of Michael Peloquin (sax) and Mike Rose (trumpet) stand out here. Lemons shines on her own song, "Leave You On The Side Of The Road," a driving song with an infectious beat. Burns is showcased with some wonderful piano playing on the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Catch Desire By The Tail."

While not everything on Godless Land was up to par with its best numbers, there's enough good stuff here to keep this album in the "recommended" category. 

--- Bill Mitchell

Shawn PittmanIt's been way too long since I've acquired a CD from Shawn Pittman, with my other albums by the Oklahoma native dating back to 1998 and 2001 when the young guitar slinger was based in Texas. He's recorded intermittently since then, while also moving back home to his home state and taking the time to earn a degree in Information Technology (now that's a cool factoid!).

After one of his sabbaticals from the music biz Pittman headed across the pond for a European tour and took advantage of a couple of off-days to do some recording in a Copenhagen, Denmark studio along with the father and son combo of Erkan Özdemir (bass) and Levent Özdemir (drums). The result is the solid blues disc, Make It Right (Continental Blue Heaven). It's a dozen cuts of good rockin' blues with a real "live in the studio feel," making me happy that Pittman is still around and putting out great music.

All 12 cuts are solid, but the one that really caught my ear was when Pittman takes the listener to the Mississippi Hill Country with Junior Kimbrough's mid-tempo raw blues "I Feel Good." He especially gets that Delta sound in his voice here, as he does on a slower version of a Jimmy Reed composition, "Let It Go."  The tone that Pittman got from "Let It Go" was attributed to a pieced together Telecaster with an Esquire neck and a neck pickup from a '50s Kay. (Note: Guitar gearheads will want to have the physical CD in order to read the liner notes to find out about the various guitars used in the session by Pittman).

Pittman gets funky on the Eddie Taylor number, "There Will Be A Day," putting out some of his hottest guitar solos on the album. He used a Jimmie Vaughn Tex-Mex Strat on a killer instrumental version of James Brown's "Cold Sweat," as well as when he summons his inner T-Bone Walker on the Bobby Bland blues shuffle, 'Woke Up Screaming," and on Albert King's "Finger On The Trigger."

While he's better known as a guitarist, Pittman can pack a wallop of soul and raw emotion into his vocals, best heard on the slow minor-key blues original, "How Long?" "Make It Right" is a raucous, up-tempo blues with plenty of echo in his vocals and reverb in the guitar effects.

While it's not like he disappeared off the face of the earth, Make It Right is the first Shawn Pittman album to make it to my mailbox in quite some time. Welcome back, Shawn, welcome back.

--- Bill Mitchell

2020 BluesJudging from the quality of the five songs on 2020 Blues, a sneak preview of albums being released by Alligator Records over the next few months, it's very likely that the iconic blues label is likely to be dominating our Blues Bytes Pick Hit feature in the near future. And it's obvious that at least some of their artists are not reluctant to voice their opinion about the current toxic political environment in the United States, and that's a good thing.

2020 Blues contains one cut each from upcoming albums by Chris Cain (his Alligator debut), Selwyn Birchwood, Shemekia Copeland, Curtis Salgado, and the combo of Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite.

Copeland's contribution, the title cut of her Uncivil War album, will very likely be a strong contender for Song of the Year. Backed by very tasteful acoustic accompaniment, Copeland packs a whole lot of emotion into her vocals as she sings about the divide in our country, "... the same old wounds we opened before, nobody wins in an uncivil war ..." It's a passionate plea for peace among ourselves and a desire for us to all work together. Maybe we'll get there in 2021.

Bishop also doesn't hide his political beliefs on "What The Hell?," as in no uncertain terms he voices his criticism of the current administration and what it's done to the nation, "...I want to know how could a good thing go so wrong, half the people in the country can't stand the other half ..."

Cain sticks to his common songwriting theme of love gone wrong on "I Believe I Got Off Cheap," a mid-tempo blues with his deep, powerful voice booming out the blues about his escape from the wrong woman in his life. Birchwood, who turned into one of my personal faves with his two previous 'Gator discs, follows the same basic lament about his love life on "Living In A Burning House." Salgado gives an upbeat song about the fact that he wants to keep going, with his soulful gospel-ish vocals singing, "...The longer I live, the older I want to get ..."

This sampler will be available in mid-August on all popular streaming sites, and you'll want to download it even if you plan to eventually acquire each of the individual discs when released.

--- Bill Mitchell

Hudspeth & TaylorThe duo Hudspeth & Taylor consists of Kansas City blues vets Brandon Hudspeth (guitar) and Jaisson Taylor (vocals, percussion). Though the pair have known each other for 20 years, they only began their collaboration about five years ago, when Hudspeth was asked to put together a duo which evolved into a weekly gig. After a year, it evolved to an acoustic setting, with Hudspeth providing all the guitar work and Taylor supplying his warm, lived-in vocals and innovative percussion work. Their debut recording, Folie a Deux, captures their approach in 13 compelling tracks.

The upbeat “Big Fat Hairy Lie” opens the disc and we get a dose of Taylor’s smooth vocals with this track, backed with Hudspeth’s slide guitar. The Delta-flavored “Walking Down The Road” is a real Jimmy Reed-like toe-tapper, and the driving boogie track “I’ll Be Right Back” is irresistible fun. The haunting ballad “I Know It’s Gonna Rain Again” takes it’s sweet time and it’s well worth it. Hudspeth’s guitar work is almost hypnotic in its allure. The jaunty “Candy Man” (not the song associated with Mississippi John Hurt) ventures into Piedmont blues territory, while the “Silly Billy” gives a nod to Django Reinhardt’s guitar style.

The album’s lone cover is a lively read of the late K.C. blues man Provine Hatch’s (a.k.a. Little Hatch) “Rock With Me Baby.” “Low Down Dealer Man” is about a shady card dealer, and the humorous “Sometimes You Act Crazy” takes a look at a moody significant other (yes, there are some out there). The title track is a Piedmont-based instrumental with some dexterous fingerpicking from Hudspeth, and “Future” is a Hooker-esque boogie. “When You Comin’ Home” is a nice country blues, and the closer, “Daddy Baby,” features Taylor’s driving percussion and vocals sung in unison with Hudspeth’s electric slide.

Folie a Deux is a masterful set of mostly acoustic blues that features fine songwriting from Hudspeth and Taylor as well as superlative instrumental work. Hopefully, these talented artists will continue to collaborate for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Randy McAllisterYou have to admire Randy McAllister’s approach to the blues. His songwriting is top notch as he covers life’s everyday occurrences with the right mix of grit, tenacity, determination and humor. He’s a powerful vocalist and harmonica player, even playing drums on some tracks.

McAllister also turns in an excellent album every couple of years, combining the above elements with an impressive list of musicians in support (dubbed “The Scrappiest Band In The Motherland”). His most recent release carries the intriguing title Spitball, Shatter and Patch (Reaction Records), and offers ten equally intriguing original tracks.

The opener, “Relax Watch The Crash,” is a laidback roots tune that reflects on handling things beyond our control. Brandon Hudspeth adds slide guitar, Bill McKemy provides tuba, and Heather Newman guests on background vocals. Hudspeth’s slide and McAllister’s harp both figure prominently on “The Loudest Chicken,” which is a wild rocker, then a blues shuffle, then a rocker once again.

Newman returns for backing vocals on “My Drawl Caused It All,” a humorous southern rocker that we folks who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line can relate to. I really like Hudspeth’s guitar on this track and several others, reminding me a lot of Sonny Rhodes’ lap steel.

On the acoustic “Kingsland,” McAllister turns in a supremely soulful vocal, backed by understated harmonica and guitar. The rollicking “Rolling Up My Sleeves” features more great Hudspeth guitar, and the mid-tempo “Straight Up Truckin’” combines the blues and soul as well as you’ll ever hear. At least until you hear the next song, “The Song That Writes Itself,” a song like they used to do ‘em that describes one’s bad decisions returning with a vengeance. “Pactola” combines rock, soul, and funk, with more of that great slide guitar to boot.

“Laid Back Jack” returns to that front porch acoustic Delta groove, and the closer, “The Girl’s In Love (With Herself),” is a driving blues rocker that wraps the disc up nicely. In addition to the contributions from Hudspeth, Newman, and McKemy, McAllister gets mighty strong rhythm support from Cliff Moore (bass) and Adam Hagerman (drums).

Anytime you hear a Randy McAllister album you know you’re going to get maximum effort, with superb songwriting and performances from all involved. Spitball, Spatter and Patch needs no touch-ups at all --- it’s great as is!!

--- Graham Clarke

Dwane DixonFor his third release, Betting on a Gambling Man, Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwane Dixon decided to just do everything. He wrote all of the songs, produced the album, and played all of the instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and harmonica). Dixon started playing the blues in 2013 and has become a fan favorite in eastern Canada with his classic roadhouse blues rock approach.

The rollicking title track kicks off things, a biographical sketch of Dixon’s dad and his love of gambling. “A World of Hurt” takes on a Texas roadhouse rock theme, while “Swallow That Pill” has a strong ZZ Top feel. “Ain’t No Big Thing” leans more to the Southern rock end of the spectrum with some impressive slide guitar from Dixon. The acoustic “I Buried Your Bones” blurs the line between blues and country quite effectively, and the laidback “Small Town Talking Blues” follows the same musical path.

“Wanna Be Your Man” borrows liberally from the melody of Howlin’ Wolf’s “You’ll Be Mine,” but stands well on its own merits thanks to Dixon’s guitar work and a strong vocal. The wild swinging “Whisky You Don’t Lie” is a lot of fun, and the closer, “The Awakening,” is a spacey, rocking instrumental giving Dixon ample room to put his guitar chops on display.

Betting On A Gambling Man is a relatively brief album at slightly under 37 minutes, but Dwane Dixon packs a lot of great music into a short span of time. His standout songwriting, singing, and guitar work will leave listeners wanting to hear more. Blues rockers will find much to enjoy with this release.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny RawlsDespite the title, soul man extraordinaire Johnny Rawls I Miss Otis Clay (Third Street Cigar Records) is not really a sad record at all. Rawls and Clay were friends for over 40 years and finally collaborated on the Soul Brothers album in 2014, just before Clay passed away two years later. The title track of the album is Rawls’ heartfelt tribute to the legendary singer. The gospel/soul feel of the melody give it the feel of a classic Clay track, and Rawls’ vocal is strong yet wistful at his friend’s departure, and you can almost see the late singer smiling down from Heaven at his friend’s tribute.

The album opens with the funky soul of “California Shaking Again,” a sequel of sorts to one of Rawls’ more popular songs, “California Shake” from his 2017 album Waiting For The Train. “Give A Toast To The Blues” is a horn-drenched, soul/blues tribute to some of the legends of the genre. “I Can’t Let Nobody” and “Can’t Read Your Mind” both have a solidly smooth Memphis soul / Hi Records variety feel, with Rawls turning in an excellent pleading vocal on the latter, while on “Giving You Something You Can Feel” he turns on the charm as he comes to the rescue of a woman spurned.

The easy-flowing and buoyant “Slow Roll It” and the sensual “Motion Of The Ocean” should be dance floor pleasers, and the catchy “Kissing and Hugging” is deep southern soul at its finest. The reflective ballad, “The Wind,” is the perfect closer, with Rawls’ honestly-delivered vocals making this track a standout among standouts.

After nearly 20 albums and almost a half century in the business, Johnny Rawls’ talents are undiminished by time. His silky, soulful vocals are as sharp as ever, and he knows how to deliver a song as well as the soul singers of the ’60s --- O.V. Wright, James Carr, Z.Z. Hill, and Otis Clay --- who inspired him. I think all of those legendary performers would be proud of the man who’s carrying on their name and their music. I Miss Otis Clay ranks with the best work Johnny Rawls has released.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave SpecterBlues From The Inside Out is the latest release from guitarist Dave Specter, who offers up a few surprises this time around. Fellow guitarist Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna joins Specter on two tracks for starters. Specter also sings for the first time on this album, and most impressively at that. The 12 tracks are all originals by Specter, combining the blues with jazz, soul, funk, and gospel, also featuring vocal turns from Brother John Kattke on four tracks and Sarah Marie Young on one track.

The reflective title track kicks things off. Specter’s first vocal appearance will make most fans wonder why he hasn’t taken the mic on previous releases because of his relaxed, assured delivery. He also delivers a scathing boogie-fueled rebuke of the Commander In Chief on “How Low Can One Man Go,” and lays it on the line to a lover with a wandering eye on “Asking For A Friend.” Keyboardist Kattke ably handles vocal on the swampy, horn-driven “Ponchatoula Way,” the soulful “March Through The Darkness” (inspired by Mavis Staples), the swinging “The Blues Ain’t Nothin’,” and the Latin-flavored “Opposites Attract.” Ms. Young gives a powerful, passionate performance on the acoustic “Wave’s Gonna Come.”

Fans of Specter’s guitar work shouldn’t panic though, because there’s plenty of fantastic fretwork present on four tasty instrumentals. The deliciously funky “Sanctifunkious” is a nod to the Meters and the Neville Brothers, while “Minor Shout” seamlessly blends blues and jazz. Meanwhile, the splendid “Soul Drop” is a marvelous musical mix with Specter’s guitar, Kattke’s B3, and the Liquid Soul Horns, and “String Chillin’,” is a smoky after-hours album closer with Specter’s guitar front and center.

Kaukonen makes his two appearances on guitar count, and Specter’s longtime cohorts – Harlan Lee Terson (bass) and Marty Binder (drums) are at their best. There are also guest appearances from Ruben Alvarez (percussion), and Tad Robinson and Devin Thompson (backing vocals). Blues From The Inside Out ranks with Dave Specter’s best, and it’s certainly his most diverse collection with his vocal prowess very nearly matching his superlative guitar skills.

--- Graham Clarke

Fuel JunkieThe Montreal-based band Fuel Junkie recently issued their second album, All Out, an explosive set of horn-driven blues. The band features three, sometimes up to seven, horns as they blend blues with soul, R&B, and funk. Singer/songwriter/tenor saxophonist Marc LeClerc is joined by fellow tenor Philippe Brochu-Pelletier, baritone saxophonist Patrice Luneau, guitarist Antoine Loiselle, bassist Jean-François Charest, and drummer Philippe Fleury. The band is augmented on five of the 11 tracks by Lex French and Andy King (trumpets) and Jean-Nicolas Trottier and Olivier Lizotte (trombones).

The album starts with a bang, courtesy of the title track, an energetic R&B track with all seven horns blasting away. “High Stress, Low Money” has a funky New Orleans bounce, as does the ballad “Can You Dig It,” on which the band insists on playing the blues the way they want to play them. “Bad Luck” is a smoking blues ballad with crisp guitar work from Loiselle, and the swinging “V-Twin” is a cool love song. “Kiss In The Moonlight” is an intense, stop-time blues, and “Hard Times” is a soulful blues describing a relationship’s end.

The slow burner “Once Or Twice” strikes a mournful tone, with a heartfelt vocal from LeClerc, but the mood picks up quickly with “Get Out On The Road.” The band rolls into the brisk swinging instrumental “TorqueFlite” before wrapping up with “Push Me Away,” a track that shows the band is equally comfortable playing in a heavy blues-rock vein.

All Out is a fun and exciting set of swinging blues that will please those who dig horn-fueled blues and R&B. Fuel Junkie has a great sound, with fine songwriting and excellent musicianship. Expect to hear more from this ensemble.

--- Graham Clarke

Cass Clayton BandThe Colorado-based Cass Clayton Band combines the blues with rock, soul, funk, and R&B so effortlessly that you barely see the seam. Clayton has a powerful and soulful voice that can rapidly move from tough or tender, and her songwriting and slide guitar work are equally first-rate. The 12 tracks (11 originals written by Clayton with producer/guitarist Taylor Scott) on the band’s latest release, Play Nice, touch on all of the above-mentioned genres, but the roots are firmly entrenched in the blues.

The opening track, “Dawes County,” is a poignant Americana-flavored track about returning to your hometown. “Little Things” leans more toward the soul side of the aisle with a solid, slightly funky groove, and the mellow title track adds a bit of pop to the soul mix, driven by Jon Wirtz’s Hammond C3, while “B Side” is an R&B tune with lyrics that give an interesting perspective to a romance. “No Use In Crying” is a lively soul number, one of several tracks that feature a horn section, and Clayton’s vocal is particularly tender on the ballad “Tattered And Torn.”

The up-tempo “You’ll See” is a light and funky track, and “The Most Beautiful” is a deep, reflective ballad that points out that true beauty is not skin deep, featuring a fantastic vocal from Clayton on this song. “Doesn’t Make Sense” is a funky, stripped-down cut that stretches out and takes its sweet time, and “Flowers At My Feet” pulls out all the stops, mixing the funk with a touch of rock and soul. That leads into the short, simmering instrumental “Slow Kiss.” The album finale is a cover of Ted Hawkins’ “Strange Conversation,” one of my favorite tracks from the late singer/songwriter. Clayton’s vocal is superb and a perfect fit for the song.

Play Nice is a most excellent album, mixing blues with healthy dose of soul, R&B, and funk. Cass Clayton has a voice that will stay with listeners for a long time, one of the most compelling to be heard these days.

--- Graham Clarke

Rebekah MeldrumFor singer Rebekah Meldrum, the line between blues and gospel is a very thin one. Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, she was exposed to gospel music from a young age, but at the age of eight she heard Koko Taylor and her musical direction was set from that point in time. She’s collaborated with guitarist Paul Holdman for several years, releasing a co-billed album in 2016 that was well-received. On her most recent self-titled effort, Rebekah Meldrum, Holdman is still in place as co-writer and guitarist and he’s joined by Tad Robinson, who provides harp and vocals on several of the tracks, along with drummer Kevin Kouts, bassist David Murray, a horn section (P.J.Yinger – trumpet, Richard Dole – trombone) and harmonica player Patrick Long.

At seven songs and around 30 minutes, it’s a quick, but entertaining listen. The opener, “Set Your Soul Free,” is a splendid slow burner with a taste of the Mississippi Delta, with Holdman’s shimmering guitar and Robinson’s harp and Meldrum’s robust vocal. “Whiskey and Wine” is a smooth after-hours blues, and the ruminative “Far Away” is solid soul-blues while “Ain’t Thinking Bout You” mixes blues and jazz with funk.

“Gypsy” is an easygoing blues tale of Molly Malone, a restless singer/dancer who follows her muse from town to town. “Coat Tails” revisits the funky groove with some tight work from the rhythm section and Holdman with Long on harmonica. The album concludes with “I’m Here,” a song written in memory of victims of suicide and their families. Meldrum sings the first verse, Robinson the second, and they share the third verse.

Holdman’s sublime guitar work and the Crescent City-styled horn chart help make this one a keeper.
Again, not a very long release, but Rebekah Meldrum is a well-spent half hour with fine songs and outstanding performances.

--- Graham Clarke

Shirley KingBlues for a King from Shirley King started with a track at random: “Man this woman has a voice just like Junior Wells…” Well, it was Mr. Wells’ voice which is heard first on the track “Hoodoo Man Blues.” Joe Louis Walker is the guest guitarist on this number "BTW." Soon the lady’s voice is heard, full of confidence and sometimes a primal scream of purpose versus perfect pitch, belonging to Shirley King. She is reported to be daughter of blues legend B.B. King, which would help anyone with such a namesake. If that weren’t the case, her voice would still garner attention and gain momentum.

One aside is that Junior Wells passed in ’98, so we wonder from among the many other guests on this album (Elvin Bishop, Robben Ford, Kirk Fletcher, Steve Cropper, Pat Travers, Arthur Adams), who else had been in the can for some time. But these questions are not relevant if the primary purpose is the blues.

--- Tom Coulson

SwingadelicSwingadelic's Bluesville (Zoho Music) must be important since two separate marketers asked us to review this disc. The ensemble is from New York City, “smile-in-your-face and vintage big band and blues, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles.” We can also just visualize dancers flocking to the floor.

We began with the track “Harlem Nocturne,” a classic for sure. This version is a swing-and-a-miss due to a tempo is a bit too pulled-back. it contains alto sax just like the Earl Bostic version, and tremolo guitar like the Viscounts version. The question always becomes “Why play this new cover instead of the hit versions?”

Next at-bat was a strike. “Fool’s Paradise,” the Johnny Fuller tune made popular by Mose Allison. Are you kidding me? Way too far pulled-back sung by some guy pulled out of a jam session at the corner bar. Third spin was “Riffin’ on McGriffin,” an organ-based original tribute to a late great jazz organist. This one has life to it, indeed horn riffs behind various soloists. Finally a home run.

--- Tom Coulson

Catherine Russell's “Reap Just what you Sow” is a single for Dot Time records, in the can since ’07 but not released until 2020. We were familiar with Russell’s voice from a previous albums of standards where she was clearly a natural and in command of her relaxed yet emotional voice. This recording is a throwback to the times and feel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s vocal and guitar. We later found out however that Catherine Russell learned this number personally from Alberta Hunter in the 1970s, who composed it for a show on commission. It lifts one up any old day.

--- Tom Coulson

Hurricane RuthWe think Hurricane Ruth has potential as a bad ass woman, she does front a good shufflin’ band on Good Life. It’s not that she’s trying too hard, nor does she leave us particularly cold. She’s just not at the top of the genre, it doesn’t knock us out.

And that we like track number two, “Dirty Blues,” and “What you Never Had” better than the leadoff number speaks to the tone as too much a bat out of hell. Also the release is more rock than blues, so her target demo is respected. Her airplay after the fact did connect us on social media.

--- Tom Coulson

RD Olson, an Arizona-Arkansas transplant, is a good harp player, singer, and writer. And this single, “I Got a Message,” is rather attractive listening. Miss Linda’s backup vocals sound trebly in the mix, but the message is good. We’ve heard RD over-confident, seen the perfectionist in him, and we’ve experienced his real blues personality and potential. Some of his recordings have been pleasant surprises. But over-the-top Blues Brothers-type production here isn’t the best utilization of Olson’s attributes.

--- Tom Coulson

Lisa MillsPicks to click from The Triangle by singer Lisa Mills include: “That’s what Love will Make You Do" and “Same Time Same Place.” The triangle of the album title is: Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Jackson, Mississippi. Lisa Mills has been on a journey, recording songs originally birthed in each respective city.

“Greenwood, Mississippi” has been chosen as the single from the album. Legendary and local musicians backed Mills on the 14 songs recorded in their original locales. They are claimed to be live and not overdubbed.

Though Lisa Mills’ singing style alone might not stand out to us at first (among the hundreds of other voices seemingly aimed at us these days), the story of the album’s title, and how it was done, explains a sparkling quality about this release overall.

--- Tom Coulson

The Hi-JiversIt’s not that front woman Dawna Zawn is a great singer, in fact she doesn’t always hit the notes on the Hi-Jivers' Play Their Favorites (Wild Records). What Zawn has instead is a vested interest in the band’s sound and cooperative feel. These aren’t hired top musicians creating an occasion for the overdubbed singer to rise to. This is music fully integrated and beyond, in a world of rambunctious, over-driven, self-absorbed & immature singers.

One of the Hi-Jivers secrets is not marketing themselves as blues. Their sound by example is just as real a blues as many of the masters. Others are outside trying to get in, this one bad-ass woman, and her musicians, are on the inside lookin’ out.

--- Tom Coulson

Sass JordanSass Jordan wants to be a bad-ass woman singer, probably like Joplin, on Rebel Moon Blues (Stony Plain Musc). The press calls her a “high-spirited Canadian rock queen.” Her sound makes the listener wish she’d just breathe, do some woodshedding before her next outing. Work on some groove, share some emotion instead of showing off. Confidence is good as far as it goes, but when it makes one cocky, it’s even worse.

To her credit, backing tracks and musicians do indeed sound like blues. To cleanse the pallet, I gotta hear a REAL bad ass women…one others can learn from. Where’s my copy of Coleen Duffy & Devil Doll’s Queen of Pain?

—Tom Coulson
I play on the air what I review in print, fullmoonhacksaw.com
Listen to our re-booted one-hour weekly radio series “Blues Radio"



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


The Blues Bytes URL... http://www.bluesbytes.info
Revised: August 15, 2020 - Version 1.02
All contents Copyright © 2020, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.