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August 2022

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Order these featured albums today:

Kat Riggins

Matty T Wall

Todd Sharpville

Breezy Rodio

Strongman Blues Remedy

Mick Kolassa

Chris Antonik

Demetria Taylor

Al Basile

Emanuel Casablanca



Kat RigginsWith Progeny, Kat Riggins’ latest release from Gulf Coast Records, the talented Miami-based vocalist pays tribute to her family and their influence on her life and career. Her second effort for Gulf Coast finds her working with label founder/guitarist Mike Zito, bassist Doug Byrkit, drummer Matthew Johnson, keyboardist Lewis Stephens, along with special guests Melody Angel and Albert Castiglia (guitars) and rapper Busta Free. The 13 tracks are all Riggins originals, running the gamut from blues to soul to rock and gospel.

The opener, “Walk On,” is a defiant blues rocker with layers of crunching guitars, a funky backbeat, and a particularly feisty vocal from Riggins. The moody “Sinkin’ Low” takes a hard look at our troubled world, with Riggins’ vocal taking on a tense, ominous tone. “Espresso” is an upbeat, catchy love song, both musically and lyrically, and “Got To Be God” is a soulful ballad about rebounding from a failed relationship. Meanwhile, Riggins points out that whatever travails she faces, she won’t be alone on the earnest upbeat rocker “Warriors.”

“In My Blood” is a buoyant gospel-flavored number with Riggins celebrating her family and their heritage, and she keeps that gospel feeling going with an absolutely beautiful a capella reading of “Walk With Me Lord” that will put goosebumps on your goosebumps. The haunting “Promised Land” is a terrific, grinding blues rocker with soaring fretwork from Zito and a powerful vocal from Riggins.

The singer is joined by Castiglia on guitar and Free with rap vocals on the funky tribute to Miami, “My City,” and Angel plays guitar on “WoahMan,” an energetic track encouraging women to stand up for what they deserve.

The solemn “Cross The Line” is another gospel-themed song, while “Mama” is a bittersweet tribute to Riggins’ late mother (give yours a hug if you still have her). The album closes with “40 25:40,” another gospel number that tells of the return of Jesus and the coming judgment on all.

I’ve heard all of Riggins’ releases, and while her vocals are always strong I think Progeny features her best vocal performances to date. Maybe it’s her closeness to the material, but she pours heart and soul into these songs, even more than she has on previous efforts. Her albums are always a pleasure to listen to, but Progeny captures her at her very best and leaves listeners wanting more.

--- Graham Clarke

Matty T WallAustralian blues rocker Matty T. Wall’s previous three albums have all been wildly entertaining, with his fierce guitar work and powerful vocals working in a variety of styles that span beyond the blues genre into rock and even jazz territory. It’s only appropriate that he give his fans a taste of his live show, and he does so with Live Down Underground (Hipsterdumpster Records), a powerhouse set recorded at Lyric Underground in Perth, Western Australia with drummer Ric Whittle and bassist Leigh Miller providing rock solid backing behind Wall’s jaw-dropping guitar work.

The nine-song set consists of six songs from Wall’s 2016 album, Blue Skies, and three from 2018’s Sidewinder. The disc opens with the harrowing, hard-charging rocker, “Broken Heart Tattoo.” This high-energy song is followed by the instrumental, “Slideride,” which believe it or not, picks up the energy level even higher. The mid-tempo “Burnin’ Up Burnin’ Down” keeps the momentum going into the rough-edged “Walk Out The Door” and the appropriately titled “Scorcher,” before the group pauses to catch their breath on the splendid slow burner “This Is Real.”

The album’s lone cover is Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile,” not the (Slight Return) most remember…this is the slower, bluesier version, and Wall and associates have a nearly 15-minute go at it, with each member of the trio getting ample room to shine. Wall’s fretwork is most impressive on this track as he maintains the edge of the Hendrix original but put his own spin on it as well. The set closes with a pair of instrumentals that really showcase Wall’s guitar work, the dazzling “Sophia’s Strut” and the gorgeous “Smile.”

Live From Underground captures Matty T. Wall at his very best, as a guitarist, composer, and vocalist. Blues rock fans are strongly encouraged to get on board right here if you’re unfamiliar with his talents. You will be encouraged to check out the rest of his catalog once you’re done.

--- Graham Clarke

Todd SharpvilleTodd Sharpville’s brand of blues leans heavily into his personal experiences. Back in 2010 he released Porchlight, a stunning two-disc set in which he dealt with his divorce and the death of his father. 12 years later, Sharpville’s latest release, Medication Time (DixieFrog Records), revisits a period in his life 16 years ago when he was faced with being separated from his children as a result of his divorce, a time that led to a total breakdown and a two-month stay in a mental hospital.

Medication Time includes nine Sharpville originals and three most interesting covers, including the opening track, a Bob Dylan tune (co-written with Helena Springs for Street Legal, but ultimately an outtake) called “Walk Out In The Rain,” which Sharpville tackles with gusto. “Get Outta My Way” is a horn-driven original rock n’ roller, while “Tangled Up In Thought” has a Memphis feel and an appropriately soulful vocal turn from Sharpville, and “House Rules” is an amusing mid-tempo shuffle.

Larry McCray, who regularly checked on Sharpville during his hospital stay, guests on the swinging “Brothers From Another Mother,” and the two make a really good team who hopefully will collaborate more in the future. The moody title track seamlessly blends blues, soul, and jazz as it tells its harrowing tale. The pace and energy increases considerably with the driving blues rocker “God Loves A Loser,” and the album’s second cover, Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing.” Sugar Ray Norcia guests on this wild remake, transformed into a Windy City-styled shuffle which works even better than expected.

“Silhouettes” is a haunting jazz-flavored ballad with sparse accompaniment with Sharpville turning in a subdued vocal and keen guitar work. The upbeat shuffle, “Stand Your Ground,” picks things up with punchy horns and a tasty Second Line rhythm steering things along. It’s followed by the third cover tune, Bruce Springsteen’s “Red Headed Woman,” which gets a rousing rockabilly treatment.

The album closes with a great blues ballad, “I Don’t Need To Know Your Name,” with another excellent vocal from Sharpville.

Produced by Duke Robillard, Medication Time is another winner in Todd Sharpville’s catalog. He pours heart and soul into every album he’s done, and the same applies to this superb effort. Blues fans will get their money’s worth with this recording, and we all hope it won’t be another 12 years before he gives us more.

--- Graham Clarke

Breezy RodioFor his latest album, Underground Blues (Windchill Records), Chicago-based guitarist Breezy Rodio teamed with Texas guitar legend Anson Funderburgh to craft 14 original compositions of what Funderburgh labeled “Chicago West Side Modern Blues.” Rodio is joined by Funderburgh, who also produced the disc, on two tracks, along with Johnny Bradley (bass), Daniel C. Tabion (piano/organ), Lorenzo Francocci (drums), and Josh Fulero (harmonica). This is the fifth album for Rodio, who backed fellow Chicago bluesman Linsey Alexander for ten years before going solo.

Funderburgh sits in on the standout opening track, “Half Way In The Devil’s Gate,” a slow burning blues with Rodio’s vocal deep and slightly distorted in the mix. Rodio sings the praises of his adopted hometown on “C.H.I.C.A.G.O.,” a Windy City shuffle which showcases Fulero on harmonica and Tabion on the keys. The interesting, shape-shifting title track finds Rodio discussing the struggles of living under the pandemic restrictions. “Playing My Game Too” is a slippery, funky blues (Funderburgh contributes guitar on this track, too).

“That Damn Cocaine” is a cautionary note to a friend to get the monkey off their back, “The Murder” is a harrowing tale of a man trying to escape the clutches of a furious lover, and “Lightning Strike” is a tasty slow blues with an ample dose of Rodio’s fretwork.

“The Asymptomatics” is a cool, jazzy instrumental with nice solos from Rodio and Fulero, “Let Me Go” is a smooth mid-tempo blues, and “Gerry Told Me” is an autobiographical song about making it in the music business.

The New Orleans rhumba “Hello Friendo” starts off like a Professor Longhair track with Tabion’s rollicking “Big Chief”-styled piano before settling into a nice workout for Rodio’s guitar and Fulero’s harmonica, while “Sugar Daddy” is a splendid slow blues in the Chicago blues tradition, and “Why Did You Go” swings along with a lively West Coast blues vibe.

Rodio wraps things up with “Bluesoned,” a modern blues tune, mostly instrumental, where he tells listeners of his “poisoning” by, and subsequent addiction to, the blues, laying down some smoldering, intense guitar work on this track.

Underground Blues captures Breezy Rodio in peak form, as a composer and performer with a truly unique guitar style. Each song stands well on its own, complemented by his diverse fretwork. There’s not a bad tune in the bunch, making this release a great one to add to your collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Steve StrongmanThe Strongman Blues Remedy is the latest in a line of blues supergroups, conceived by award-winning Canadian blues artist Steve Strongman during the pandemic shutdown. Strongman (vocals / guitar / bass / harmonica) is joined by Steve Marriner (vocals/harmonica), Dawn Tyler Watson (vocals), Harrison Kennedy (vocals), Crystal Shawanda (vocals), Dave King (drums), Alec Fraser (bass), and Jesse O’Brien (keys). Volume 1 (Stony Plain Records) features ten original tunes written by the band and associates, offering a nice, upbeat remedy for the recent hard times.

Strongman handles vocals on five of the tracks --- the slide-driven shuffle “Hard Luck,” the slow blues “White Lightnin’,” the jaunty acoustic “Gettin’ Stoned,” the mid-tempo rocker “True To Me,” and the sturdy shuffle “Love Comin’ Down.” Marriner sits in on harmonica and vocals on the swampy, Hill Country-flavored “Swansong,” and Ms. Watson turns in a terrific vocal on the feisty “Fine Young Man,” her brassy vocal complemented perfectly by Strongman’s fretwork.

Former Chairman of the Board member Kennedy has enjoyed a storied solo career in the blues world since his days with Holland/Dozier/Holland. He really stands out on his two vocal contributions, the powerful soul blues “I Don’t Miss You” and the lively shuffle “I Like To Ride,” which was released as the album’s first single. The talented Ms. Shawanda sings on the blues rocker “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” featuring searing guitar work from Strongman.

The fact that The Strongman Blues Remedy’s first album is entitled Volume 1 is a good thing, because listeners will certainly want to hear more after checking out this fine release. So bring on Volume 2 asap!

--- Graham Clarke

Mick KolassaThe incredibly prolific Mick Kolassa has released 11 albums since 2014, the latest titled I’m Just Getting Started! (Endless Blues Records), and it’s as high quality a set of his “Free Range Blues” as the previous ten. For this latest effort, Kolassa gives listeners a dozen tracks, eight originals and four tasty covers previously associated with Taj Mahal and Sleepy John Estes, Chainsaw Dupont, John Hiatt, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Kolassa is backed by a fine set of musicians that include Jef Jensen (guitar/producer), Dexter Allen (bass/guitar), Rick Steff (keys), John Blackmon (drums), Brandon Santini (harmonica), Bill Ruffino (bass), Andrew McNeill (drums), Marc Franklin (trumpet), Chris Stephenson (keys), Kirk Smothers (sax), J. Remy Williams (keys/backing vocals), and Julia Melah and Donna Jones Nickleson (backing vocals).

The title track opens the disc, and Kolassa delivers it with such verve that you figure he might have 11 more albums in him down the road. The soul blues ballad, “What Can I Do?,” features Allen on guitar, the encouraging “Bigger Dreams” implores listeners not to give up on theirs, and “Alibis and Lies,” previously done by Chainsaw Dupont has a jazzy feel, while the deliciously funky take on “Leaving Trunk” is a nice showcase for Kolassa and Santini.

“That Kind Of Man” is a smooth ballad with a ’70s R&B/soul vibe, thanks to Jensen guitar and Steff’s work on the keyboard. “Are You Ready?” was originally recorded by rock band Pacific Gas and Electric in 1970. Kolassa’s version is taken at a more leisurely, bluesy pace than the original, but retains the gospel feel of its predecessor. “Take Me Away” and “Trying Not To Let The Darkness In” are both slow burners, the former leaning toward soul and the latter toward the blues side of the spectrum.

The album wraps up with a funky blues cover of John Hiatt’s “Real Man,” along with two more originals --- the swampy blues track “Hard Hearted Woman,” which warns of a female to be avoided, and the humorous “How Much Can I Pay You?,” about a lady who’s having too much fun for all the other patrons at the club.

As always on Mick Kolassa’s albums, 100% of the net proceeds from I’m Just Getting Started! go to the Blues Foundation, where it is split between the Hart Fund and Generation Blues. I encourage you to check out this excellent effort and listen to some good music while helping to support a worthy cause.

--- Graham Clarke

Chris AntonikIt’s been several years, way too long, since we’ve heard anything from Canadian blues rocker Chris Antonik. During that gap in recordings, Antonik has dealt with divorce, single parenthood, and sobriety, along with the additional stress of living through the pandemic. Antonik’s brand of blues has always included traces of other genres, and his newly-released fourth album, Morningstar (Moondog Music/Second Half Records), reflects those influences musically and the effects of the past five years on his life lyrically.

Morningstar was co-produced by Antonik and Juno Award-winning producer Derek Downham, and listening to it brought back memories of those great atmospheric albums of the late ’80s that were produced by Daniel Lanois. Like those releases, this album covers a diverse set of genres, all firmly rooted in the blues, and make for powerful listening. Antonik also invited several guests to participate in the release, including Jarekus Singleton, Paul Deslauriers, and Mike Mattison.

Singleton guests on guitar for the opening track, “Waves Of Stone,” a song about the end of a relationship which blasts out of the starting gate like a rocket with strong fretwork between the two guitarists throughout the track. “Pilgrim” is a bit more sedate in its approach, but not by much with Antonik’s guitar still front and center and a bit of a retro pop-rock feel with the addition of synthesizers from Downham and the backing vocals from Marlene O’Neill and Ciceal Levy.

The optimistic “Back To The Good” features more searing guitar work with horns, while “Trust In Me” is a mid-tempo funky rocker about the frustration and daily perils of single parenthood in a world gone mad, punctuated by a frenzied soprano sax break from Alison Young and guitar solo from Antonik that fit perfectly within the song. Young joins Antonik on vocals for the next tune, the sweet country-flavored ballad “In Our Home.”

The next song is a two-parter, “The Greatest of The Americans.” Part One is a short instrumental with Antonik’s guitar and Young on synthesizer, while Part Two is a slow-building rocker that laments the current U.S./Canada relationship via a failing cross-country romance. The stirring “Learning To Love You” is Antonik’s tribute to the classic album Layla, complete with soaring rock arrangement and Allman-esque guitar, and “How To Be Alone” is a tasty slice of 80’s era pop backed by electronic drums (and Antonik’s sizzling Ernie Isley-like guitar solo) that addresses the need to sometimes sit back alone and find yourself.

“We’re Not Alone,” with Deslauriers joining Antonik on guitar, is a cool blues shuffle, reminding that whatever one is going through, they’re not by themselves. “The Promise of Airfields” is a feel-good Latin-styled track that finds Antonik celebrating his sobriety, and “Little Man” is a poignant tune that he wrote for his son, perfectly verbalizing what most fathers would love to say to their children. Mattison guests on harmony vocals for the funky “Be Here Now,” before the album wraps up with the gorgeous ballad, “Grace,” as Antonik reflects on what got him through the hard times.

To these ears, Morningstar stands as Chris Antonik’s best work to date. Certainly it’s his most personal, and his performance throughout lets us know that he has lived all of these lyrics, and then some. Not your typical blues-rock album, but definitely one that any music lover will take solace from, because we’ve all lived it in one way or another.

--- Graham Clarke

Demetria TaylorThe publicity notes for the new album by Chicago blues singer Demetria Taylor proclaim that she was born to sing the blues. Listen to the dozen cuts on her latest, Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do (Delmark Records), and you'll certainly agree. She's got a fine voice and is backed by a killer Chicago band led by guitarist Mike Wheeler, and then throw in the bloodlines that she possesses as the daughter of the late Windy City blues legend Eddie Taylor. It's not a voice with lots of power like one would have heard from Koko Taylor, Big Time Sarah, or others, past and present. Her vocals won't start the paint peeling off the walls, but rather it's more of a pleasant voice conveying the emotions coming from her heart.

Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do kicks off with one from Eddie Taylor Sr.'s discography, with "83 Highway" being a mid-tempo blues that gives Wheeler plenty of space to preview the guitar wizardry that we'll hear throughout the album. Wheeler and bass player Larry Williams share songwriting credits on the next number, the up-tempo "Baby Be Good," with exceptional guitar work throughout. That leads into one of the best cuts, the up-tempo Memphis funky tune "Bad Girl Day," with Taylor proclaiming that she's going to be a bad girl tonight. Brian James gives it that extra Memphis oomph with a very fine organ solo.

Ms. Taylor keeps it in the family with another killer cut, "Blues Early This Morning," with songwriting credit given to Vera Taylor, Eddie's wife. Deitra Farr shares vocals on this up-tempo blues shuffle, and Billy Flynn guests on guitar. "Welfare Blues" is a funky high-velocity number written by Eddie Taylor Jr., with James again showcasing his keyboard skills. The funky sound remains on the Wheeler original, "Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do," as Taylor sings about all of the blues legends who would stop by the Eddie Taylor residence when she was young. Talk about an early blues education!

"Done" is a soul/blues co-written by Wheeler and Williams, with the former throwing in some blues/rock guitar parts to give this tune plenty of variety, before they slow the tempo on another Wheeler/Williams piece, "I'm Gonna Tell It."

James stars on both organ and piano on the double-entendre number written by Ms. Demetria herself, "Nursing My Kitty Cat." She lets us know that she found a man to treat her right when her regular lover doesn't come home. "Stay Gone" seems like a continuation of the previous song, as Taylor tells that man that he doesn't need him to come home. She's doing quite fine without him. That leads into an up-tempo Magic Sam cover, You Belong To Me," as Taylor tells one of her men how much she loves him.

Wrapping it up is a straight-ahead Chicago blues shuffle co-written by Ms. Taylor and James, "Young Gun Taylor," with Wheeler again tearing it up on guitar.

Ms. Taylor states emphatically that "it's her time," and I believe she's ready to take the next step towards blues stardom. She's already a significant member from the very prolific Taylor family, and Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do will hopefully get her career to that next level.

--- Bill Mitchell

Al BasileVeteran New England area cornet player Al Basile is back with Through With Cool (Sweetspot Record), the follow-up to his very fine B's Testimony from last year, just another of more than a dozen recordings to his name. His career goes back further than that, most notably his stint with Roomful of Blues starting in 1973. Basile is also an acclaimed poet/playwright, so it goes without saying that he's capable of penning solid blues songs, which he does on all 14 cuts on Through With Cool.

Basile is one of the top horn players in the blues business. Combining his playing with his songwriting skills always makes for a solid set of tunes. He isn't a great singer, with not a lot of power in his voice, but he gets by. There are times I think a song would be better with more power in the vocals but it is what it is, and his vocal work doesn't detract from a very fine collection of blues.

Among the best cuts is "Hero," a song about what Basile's woman wants him to be for her, but he sings, "... But the costumes's loose and the cape don't fit, I don't know how to fly, and that's the truth of it ..." It's a jazzy mid-tempo blues with strong guitar from Kid Andersen. Another hot number is the up-tempo "Two-Legged Mule," highlighted by the piano work of Bruce Bears and another smokin' guitar solo from Andersen. "Couldn't Live With It" has a funky beat and, once again, gives Andersen a chance to show off his prodigious guitar talents.

The snaky blues "Keep On Living" has Basile singing about the woman who disappeared and never left a clue, but his darker side tells that someday he will be haunting her. This theme of women disappearing on him seems to dominate Basile's songwriting, because we hear the same kind of lament on "Not Anyplace At All," one with a Latin beat.

Basile goes deep into the blues on the final two cuts, first the slow, plodding "We Lie On Your Grave," with our star capturing the dark moment with perhaps his best cornet solo. Closing the album is a simple acoustic blues, "Through With Cool," with just guitar and a steady drum beat behind Basile as he realizes in his later years that he just needs to stop trying to be cool. Words of wisdom for all of us. But he gets dark and mysterious by singing, "... I can't be cool no more, the world's moved on without me, tell me what am I living for? ..."

I'm glad I have a physical copy of this album, complete with a booklet giving all of the words to the songs. As much as I've always appreciated Basile for his cornet playing, I'm now realizing that he's an even better songwriter. That college degree in creative writing shows in his songs. Please listen to the words carefully when you're tuned in to the music of Al Basile.

--- Bill Mitchell

Emanuel CasablancaA new name on the blues/rock scene is Brooklyn-based singer, guitarist and songwriter Emanuel Casablanca, with a new album, Blood On My Hands (Kings County Blues), containing 16 mostly original compositions. He's a young artist with plenty of potential, a searing guitar player who is equally comfortable playing harder blues/rock while also able to sit down and play an old blues classic.

There's stuff I like here, although parts of the album are too hard for my tastes. I also believe that this could have been a more concise collection of tunes, as the final four cuts were mostly unlistenable. But let's talk about what's good here.

My favorite cut is "Like A Pulse," which starts with an acoustic guitar intro, followed by nice piano from Ian Howells and a variety of percussion sounds from Sanga of The Valley. Kat Riggins joins in on co-vocals, with the two pairing well together on a tribute to that significant other, singing, "... you're my soul, you're my rhythm, like a heartbeat, like a pulse ..."  Touching lines. Riggins inspires Casablanca to get more range and power in his vocals, and he comes in later with strong electric guitar licks. The number ends with more tribal drumming. This is a really great song, and a sign of the Casablanca's potential.

Equally strong is his cover of Robert Nighthawk's "Anna Lee," a slow and very laidback number that is so different from much of the album. Casablanca's voice is well-suited for this style of blues, and Jimmy Carpenter adds solid sax playing. "Testify" is another good, hard drivin' blues, kind of with a little John Lee Hooker sound to it. "Bloodshot Eyes" (not the better known song by this name) is a mid-tempo blues shuffle, with Casablanca's voice showing more range and his guitar playing much more subdued on most of the album.

Among the more blues/rock cuts I prefer "In Blood," with guest Paul Gilbert helping on guitar. I'd like to hear a little more power in Casablanca's vocals, especially when he sings to his woman, "... I gave you my heart, but girl, you took it in blood ..." Eric Gales shows up to help with guitar duties on a mid-tempo heavy blues shuffle, "Blood On My Hands." By now, you may be noticing a fascination with the word 'blood,' as it shows up in the album title and on seven cuts, not to mention the time he sings about his love being like a pulse. Interesting.

There's more to Blood On My Hands than I've covered more, but I'll leave those for you to sample to see if you're into that style of blues/rock. There's enough here to pique my interest in this artist, and I hope to hear a more concise, focused sound the next time around.

--- Bill Mitchell



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