Bonnie Raitt’s blues credentials are well established. She started her
musical career opening for and playing with such blues legends as Son
House, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
Also, over the past 30+ years, she has released one quality album after
another, all of which display her warm, soulful vocals and powerful and
distinctive slide guitar in blues/rock settings.
However, I’ve always thought that to truly appreciate the charms of Ms.
Raitt, you really needed to see her live. I’ve found her to be one of
the most relaxed, confident performers that I’ve had the pleasure of
seeing live and, if possible, her vocals and guitar sound better in
person than on wax (or aluminum, or whatever they’re using these days),
and she makes her audience feel right at home.
Raitt’s latest release, the DVD/CD set VH1 Classic Presents Decades Rock
Live! Bonnie Raitt and Friends (Capitol), does a lot to prove that
theory, as Raitt turns in a stellar performance captured by the music
channel at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and augmented by guest
appearances from several other noteworthy musicians.
The largest portion of the material comes from Raitt’s most recent
studio release, Souls Alike. Her opening duet with New Orleans
keyboardist Jon Cleary (who reprises his performance on Souls Alike)
kicks things off in energetic fashion. Raitt then does a feisty take on
“I Will Not Be Broken” and a moving reading of “God Was In The Water,”
both from Souls Alike. She also does a great version of “Something To
Raitt is joined by Allison Krauss, and they team for two tracks,
including a gorgeous version of “You,” which features some of Krauss’s
wonderful fiddle. Keb’ Mo’ also gets two songs with Raitt, including one
of Raitt’s classics, “Love Letter,” and they show a dynamic rapport. Ben
Harper’s two tracks (both of which also appear on the CD) are also well
done and Harper’s lap steel guitar is always worth a listen,
particularly on “Two Lights In The Nighttime.” Norah Jones appears near
the end of the concert, and she and Raitt turn in a superlative effort on
“I Don’t Want To Change” that is one of the highlights of the
To close things out, Raitt brings the whole gang out for “Love Sneakin’
Up On You,” which caps off a very impressive performance. Raitt is in
great form and voice and the slide guitar is a thing of beauty when in
her hands. While it’s great to have friends to help you, Raitt shows
that she’s quite capable of carrying the show herself.
The DVD is well-produced, and it also features brief interviews with
Raitt and friends. One minor complaint: the DVD features 17 tracks,
while the CD, for some reason, only has 11 musical tracks. At only 52
minutes, fine as is, the CD certainly wouldn’t have suffered from the
addition of a few more tracks, including Norah Jones’ beautiful version
of “Tennessee Waltz” and Raitt’s own “Hear Me Lord” and “Crooked Crown.”
However, that shouldn’t keep you from giving this impressive set a spin.
There’s plenty of great music to enjoy.
--- Graham Clarke
Mighty Crazy, the new release by The Fremonts, Featuring Mighty Joe
Milsap, on Wooden Monkey Records, sounds like an Excello recording session
that made a pit stop at Chess Records. The Fremonts present the blues
like they used to be done, using recording techniques from the mid ’50s,
but with just enough modern touches to keep things vibrant. Milsap’s
laidback delivery (a cross between Sam Myers and Frank Frost) is ideal
for the project and The Fremonts have an excellent grasp of the style,
opting for a “less is more” approach that works wonders with the
The Fremonts boast two guitarists, Patrick Skog and Tony Tomlinson, who
alternate stinging leads and tasteful fills and also alternate on bass.
Troy Sandow does yeoman’s work on harmonica and drummer Kurt Kalker
provides a steady, solid backbeat. Guest musicians include Carl “Sonny”
Leyland, who contributes piano to a couple of tracks, and Rip Carson, who
sits in on acoustic bass for one track.
The track list consists of mostly covers, including several choice
Excello sides (“I Hear You Knockin’,” “Real Combination For Love,” and
“Tell Me Pretty Baby”) that replicate that much-loved and much-missed
swampy sound. Milsap’s take on Frost’s “Pocket Full of Money” bounces
along with considerable swagger, while his version of Myers’ “I’ve Been
Dogged By Women” is also top-notch. There’s also a strong cover of Muddy
Waters’ “I Want You To Love Me.”
The original compositions include “Grabs Hold It,” which sounds like it
was pulled from the Slim Harpo songbook, the humorous “Chunk A Rock,”
“The Train Song,” and the lively “Come To Mighty Joe.”
Produced by Mark Neill (The Paladins, Los Straitjackets, Old 97s, Big
Sandy), Mighty Crazy is a fantastic collection of old-school blues that
you’ll be listening to over and over. Somewhere in Blues Heaven, Frank
Frost, Sam Myers, Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, and Lonesome Sundown are
smiling because their legacy is in very capable hands. For purchasing
information, go to the band’s website,
--- Graham Clarke
Out of West Palm Beach, Florida, The Hellhounds list a wide variety of
influences, ranging from R.L. Burnside, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and
Otis Taylor to Jeff Beck and Sonny Landreth. Their music can best be
described by the name of their record label, Deltabilly, and features
the indomitable vocals and harp of Vince Flora and the hard-driving
guitar of Johnny Beemiller. Providing rock-solid support is the rhythm
section of bassist Ron Rummage and Memphis drummer Steve Potts (since
replaced by Bill Meredith) and their hard work raises the already torrid
proceedings up even higher.
Their debut release, Halfway Between Somewhere and Nowhere, was produced
in Memphis by Jeff Dunn, with Dunn’s father, Memphis R&B icon Donald
“Duck” Dunn serving as executive producer. Beemiller and Flora wrote all
ten tracks, which are some of the most powerful, relentless rocking
blues you’ll ever hear. There’s not much time to catch your breath
The standout tracks are plentiful. The rip-roaring opener, “Downtown,”
kicks things off in rollicking fashion. “On the Run,” recounts Flora’s
trip to Sturgis Bike Week. “2 Inch Ball Hitch” is a wry description of Beemiller and Flora’s simultaneous divorces. The harrowing “Rising Tide”
describes the 2004 hurricane season in south Florida and would serve as
an appropriate theme song for the Gulf Coast during the late
summer/early autumn months every year.
“Devil Woman” is a blues/rocker in the Z.Z. Top tradition, while “Smoke
That Stuff” can best be described as a Swamp Blues/Hip-Hop anti-drug
track (complete with scorching slide guitar and a rap verse). I dare you
to try and sit still through “Blackened Tuna,” a hilarious take on the
current fitness craze.
Closing the proceedings out is “Deltaville,” a biographical track about
Flora’s great-grandmother and how she helped stir his interest in music.
We’re grateful for her efforts. Halfway Between Somewhere and Nowhere is
a sensational disc that grabs you and never lets go. You’ll be hearing
more from The Hellhounds.
--- Graham Clarke
Akron, Ohio’s M. Scott Horn’s guitar work reflects the influence of
blues legends like Blind Blake, Robert Pete Williams, Reverend Gary
Davis, and even Robert Johnson, but his palate is broad enough to
include other artists like Bob Dylan, Guy Clark, Nick Drake, Roy
Bookbinder and former Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma
Kaukonen. All these influences are shown to full effect in Horn’s latest
effort, Fake As The Blue (self-released).
Horn’s guitar style is gentle and soothing and his plaintive vocals are
distinctive. The disc consists of nine tracks, four originals and five
covers originally done by some of his influences: Dylan, Clark,
Williams, and Johnson. The covers are very well done, especially the
Dylan tune, “She Belongs To Me,” and Horn’s take on Clark’s “Don’t Let
The Sunshine Fool You” is also a standout, as is “Williams’ “Levee Camp
Blues.” Obviously, Horn’s musical tastes are as diverse as his talent.
Horn’s own compositions range mostly from forlorn tales of lost love
(“And I Don’t Know Why” and “Someday”) to the poignant closer, “One I
Had.” He also does a jaunty instrumental, “West Coast Blues.” Jim
Ballard contributes keyboards and bass on a couple of tracks, but Horn
plays solo for the most part.
Fake As The Blue was also produced by Horn, and is a nice set of
acoustic blues guitar that will please fans of acoustic blues and folk.
To purchase this fine set, go to
--- Graham Clarke
Looking for a solid mix of blues and roots music to put some pep in your
step? The Wheels, from New Jersey, might have the cure for what ails
you. Their self-titled release on Barbecue Records features a broad
range of styles, ranging from blues, rock, R&B, folk, and surf music.
Guitarist Mike Esposito plays acoustic and electric guitar, Dobro,
National steel, lap steel, and bottleneck slide. Bassist Vern Miller
also plays for the renowned ’60s garage band, the Remains, and drummer
Bob Cianci has played in the tri-state area (New York/New
Jersey/Pennsylvania) for years and is also a music journalist (Great
Rock Drummers of the Sixties).
The 13 tracks are a mix of originals and covers of blues
standards. The covers are electrified versions of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’
& Tumblin,’” Sleepy John Estes’ “Divin’ Duck,” and Sonny Boy
Williamson’s “Help Me.” As far as the originals go, “I Want You Baby”
features some standout surf guitar. Most of the other originals are
bluesy, some with a pop-rock feel with the highlights being “When Are
You Coming Home,” “Days of Our Love,” “Everybody Wants My Money,” and “I
Can’t Dance (The Way I Used To).” Some of the tracks, like “Country Boy
(Sure Can Plow),” have a country blues-style groove to them.
Esposito and Miller do a good job sharing vocal duties, and Esposito’s
guitar work is impressive throughout. The Wheels is a consistently fine
disc from a group of musicians who know their way around the blues and
other styles equally well. Blues/rock fans will find this to be a
--- Graham Clarke
Martin Pugh and Stan Ruffo started out half a world apart (Pugh in
England and Ruffo in California), but their love for ’50s-era blues
eventually brought them together. Their latest release, No Pork Tonight
(Sho’ Nuff Records), is an entertaining look at that era of music, with
a few modern touches mixed in.
Pugh has a varied background, having played with Carl Douglas of “Kung
Fu Fighting” fame as well as serving as lead guitarist on Rod Stewart’s
first solo album. He also recorded with the ’60s/’70s blues/rock group Steamhammer and with Armageddon (formed by Pugh with former Yardbird
Keith Relf), before stepping back to pursue other interests. Ruffo
emerged in the early ’90s and quickly established himself as an
entertainer and harmonica player in the central California area. Ruffo
encouraged Pugh to pick up his guitar again and the two paired up and
have been playing locally and sharing billing at dates with artists like
B. B. King and Ray Charles.
Pugh plays tasteful leads and fills throughout on a series of terrific
instrumentals. The jaunty “MP’s Hideout” will have you jumping, while
“No Pork Tonight,” is a jazzy, introspective number, and “Breakfast On
Beale” is a soulful tribute to the Bluff City. Ruffo proves himself to
be a pretty entertaining composer and has a singing style that will
remind you of Rick Estrin of Little Charlie and the Nightcats on tracks
like “Just My Luck,” Pot Belly Pig,” and “Little Man In The Boat.” He’s
a first-rate harmonica player and also doubles on saxophone on a few
tracks, including the instrumental “Pork Ribs.” The closing track, “Torn
Pages,” has more of a modern rock feel to it, and shows that the duo is
comfortable playing modern sounds as well.
This is an impressive disc of blues by two seasoned veterans that pays
tribute to a style that’s all too rarely heard today. For more
information about this album, go to Stan Ruffo’s website,
--- Graham Clarke
Stony Plain Records is a Canadian institution. Their 30-year survival,
based as an independent record company in Edmonton, Alberta, is
certainly remarkable. Via extensive liner notes and an interview
included in their thirtieth anniversary set, you learn President Holger
Peterson produced his first record (by Walter Horton) in 1972 and
officially created the label in 1975. By the early ’80s, Peterson had no
money to show for his labor of love. He thought seriously about giving
it all up. But Petersen continued to live his dream. You can fully
experience them on this rich compilation.
Although the songs on 30 Years of Stony Plain were recorded over a span of 40 years (1965 to 2005),
most were recorded this decade. On multi-genre disc one, Ian Tyson
blends folk and country into pop, while Spirit Of The West mixes
drinking with Irish Celtics. Jay Geils delivers a swinging instrumental
with spontaneous energy. Alternative music gives a nod to country and
western courtesy of Jr. Gone Wild.
Blues fans will especially enjoy disc two. Sonny Rhodes has one of the
gruffest voices. He uses it to emote a conviction for the blues on a
shuffling Texas boogie. Jimmy Witherspoon calls you to appreciate the
music. King Biscuit Boy performs in the happy, horn-drenched style of
great Canadian blues band like Downchild, who also make an appearance.
Of course, Duke Robillard – the label’s most prolific artist – pops up
all over. He can be found directly or indirectly on eight songs and four
videos. One of them is with New Guitar Summit, who feature guitarists
from multiple disciplines. Together, they glorify the years when blues
and jazz had not yet become individual silos.
Regarding the onerous task of choosing the songs Peterson said, “I
picked my favorites and tried to create a flow. Asleep At The Wheel with
the Roomful of Blues horns was a natural.” Although it’s just a taste,
this widely appealing collection will whet the appetite for anyone with
an appreciation for roots music.
--- Tim Holek
Wake Up & Worry, the latest record released by Mitch Kashmar on Delta
Groove Records, continues the excellence that Mitch displayed on the
Blues Music Award nominated Nickels & Dimes. Mitch’s brilliance as a
harp player, combined with his lyrical gift in songwriting, continues to
bring him to the forefront as a contemporary blues artist to be reckoned
Mitch comes out with his harp blazing in the opening cut, “I Got No
Reason.” “I Got No Reason” is celebratory, everything is working out
fine and life is good. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
“Dead Presidents” refers to everyone’s love for money. “I’m hardly
broke….I’m barely bent….everyone loves them dead presidents!” “The 500
McKinley is the one for me….thousand dollar Cleveland is hard to
get….everybody loves those dead presidents!”
A Latin feel contributes to the upbeat “Green Bananas.” Tongue in cheek,
“Don’t buy any green bananas….you won’t be around that long….you better
get on the phone….sing your sad song….don’t buy any green
bananas….unless you’re going to give them to me!” Rick Reed on bass and
Richard Innes on drums give ‘Green Bananas” a solid back beat and the
calypso feel is supported by Kim Calire on the piano. The instrumental
“Funky Dee” is up next and showcases Mitch on harp and the guitar
talents of Rusty Zinn. Up-tempo with a reggae feel, it almost seems like
I’m at Tipitina's in New Orleans enjoying the vibe. Mitch’s phrasing is
flawless and gives the tune a very modernistic feel.
“Wake Up and Worry,” the title cut, is up next. The whole concept for
Mitch’s album is that the hedonistic, 'got to have it now' culture we now
live in contributes to our modern day feeling of the blues. Many of us
are in the familiar, 'I owe, I owe, so off to work I go' conundrum and the
indulgences available to us in today’s society are direct contributors
to the blues we feel. Our 'enjoy now, pay later' mentality is catching up
to us. “Wake up and worry...if I ever get to sleep….just living on my
plastic…falling in too deep” pretty much says it all. Mitch lets us know
that he’s a creature of the evening on the next cut, “Night Creeper.”
“I’m a night creeper baby…..can’t stand the light of day.” He would just
rather play all night and sleep all day.
“Half Pint-a-Whiskey” showcases another of Mitch’s vices, drinking.
“Half pint of whiskey and a long tall glass of wine.” “Me and my baby
are going to ball all night…I got what it takes to keep her right….half
pint of whiskey….” Junior Watson’s succinct guitar work accents the bent
of our hero to be self indulgent.
Mitch’s harp comes to the forefront again on his ode to country blues,
“Black Dog Blues.” Alastair Greene contributes some distinctive guitar
work on his National resonator to compliment Mitch’s harp in giving this
piece its unique feel. I really like the harp on this song and it’s
apparent that a little harp is good for the soul.
Next up is “You Dogged Me,” a duet between Mitch and Delta Groove owner,
Randy Chortkoff. The emphasis is on the mistreatment they’re receiving
at the hands of the girl in question….”you dogged me baby but I can’t
get you off my mind.” The girl has another man of her own and any
inclinations she may have towards the affections of Randy are definitely
misplaced. Rarely do I hear dueling harmonicas on a song and this duet
is definitely unique.
Mitch decides its time to leave and he lets her know it in “Up the
Line.” “You took me from my home…wasn’t nothing but a little child…man I
heard some promises….man I know it was a line of jive….if I stay another
day you’re going to drive me right out of my mind.” Excellent guitar
work by Junior Watson and Rusty Zinn augment a strong harp performance
by Mitch and bring this song to its logical conclusion.
Guitar work by John Marx provides the introduction to “I’m Sorry.” An
apologetic tone is taken by Mitch as he apologizes to his woman for the
hurt he’s caused. “I’m really really sorry baby…I’ll do anything to make
you mine…the hardest thing is to say goodbye if you don’t understand the
reasons why….please sweet darling let me back in that bed….I must have
been out of my mind.” An outstanding contemporary ballad, “I’m Sorry” is
my favorite cut on what has been a great listen.
Kashmar’s harp and Calire’s piano playing provide the back drop for the
final cut, the instrumental, “The Waddle.” Solos by Mitch and Junior are
supported by a strong bass line from Rick Reed, and for some strange
reason I have visions of penguins marching in my brain. Can’t really say
where that comes from, but it’s appropriate to the song.
I enjoyed Wake Up & Worry. Mitch Kashmar is a gifted writer and I find
his lyrical stylings to be outstanding. This record has a very
modernistic blues feel to it, by design, and a strong supporting cast of
Junior Watson, Rusty Zinn, Rick Reed, Jim Calire, Richard Innes and
others support the vision that Mitch was striving for. When the worries
of the day get you down, this is a record that will bring a smile to
your face and help lighten the load.
--- Kyle Deibler
I’m not sure I was ready for
the guitar assault that Bill Perry unleashes on his newest Blind Pig
Records release, Don’t Know Nothing About Love, but considering that Popa Chubby produced this record, I should have known better. The result
is almost 50 minutes of blistering blues guitar that will have some of
you running for cover.
Perry opens his assault with the up-tempo “Let Me Love You.” ES 335
blazing from the opening lick, Bill lets us know he’s worried about the
state of his new love. “Let me want you baby…let me hold you baby…let me
want you baby…want you all the time.” He’s got it bad but I’m never
quite left with the feeling that she feels the same way. Things are
different on “My Baby Loves to Dance.” “She gets home from work…changes
all her clothes…mixes up a cocktail or two…calls me on the phone…my baby
don’t want to be alone!” It’s time to go out and just dance the night
Up next is a re-worked version of “Hello Josephine.” “Hello
Josephine…you remember me….like I remember you.” Perry’s guitar solo
makes extensive use of pyrotechnics to highlight his affection for
Josephine and showcases Perry’s genius as a guitar player. “I Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Love” has a Delta feel to it and utilizes slide work by
Bill to convey his confusion. “Well you ask me the same questions…over
again…I don’t much about love…..I think it’s a sin…I don’t know nothing
baby…don’t know much about love.”
“Ball of Confusion” is an apt description of the world today according
to Perry. “Sale of pills are at an all time high…number of folk walking
round with their heads in the sky.” Not really a flattering picture of
life as we know it. Perry’s guitar intro let’s us know he’s had enough
on “Leaving Home”. “Got to go right now….I don’t think I’ll be
back…always telling me to do this…do this and do that.” He’s had enough
and is more than happy to leave the girl behind and go on down the road.
“Down in New Orleans” opens with a haunting melody reflective of the
pain and depression felt by the city’s inhabitants. “Sun went down…to
the still of the night…the birds stopped singing….yeah their happy
tune….felt something deep inside….something deeper than the blues.”
People in the city were desperate for help that never came. “Down in New
Orleans” is an original composition and my favorite tune on this record.
“She’s a Burglar” lets us know that Bill’s under the spell of a woman he
can’t figure out. “She broke into my mind…she’s a burglar….took
everything she could find…..she smiled at me with those honey lips and
took away my soul.” Our boy’s lost everything and he’s not about to get
it back any time soon.
“Accuse Me of Lyin” finds Bill’s relationship about to end. “Accuse me
of lying…when I’m telling the truth….I can’t take it no more…going to
have to cut you loose.” Moving on is the only thing he can do. Life
takes another turn as the tempo slows way down on “Can’t Afford to Die”
with a passionate intro that has Perry’s Gibson singing. “Looks like the
money in my bank account….looks like it ain’t going to last….girlfriend
found another man….the price of gas is getting way too high…..I got to
keep on living these blues…damn sure can’t afford to die.”
Perry closes out his record on a high note with “Waitin’ for My Luck to
Change.” “It’s cold outside…it’s starting to blow my mind…I’m going deep
down to Florida…trying to collect my mind….well I’m waiting for my
luck….waiting for my luck to change….I got to feel some warm weather
cause I’m starting to go insane.” I have the distinct feeling the Bill
Perry has already lost his mind.
Don’t Know Nothin’ About Love is a rocking blues record and a distinct
change from a number of CDs I’ve heard lately. Bill Perry only knows
one way and that’s to just let it all hang out. Popa Chubby’s role as
the producer is to stay out of the way and let Bill be Bill. He does so
in a fashion that showcases his considerable skills as a guitarist and
vocally bares his soul as a bluesman. And ultimately that’s what a good
blues record should do. I think Bill Perry’s best work is still ahead of
him, but I enjoyed the effort at hand.
--- Kyle Deibler
The foundation behind Boo Boo Davis' new release, Drew,
Mississippi (Black & Tan Records) is there, as it's apparent that
Davis is the real thing. His blues style is rough, raw and authentic.
His previous CDs have received rave reviews. For a good example, see the
issue of Blues Bytes.
The stated intention of Drew, Mississippi was to fuse "the raw
blues sounds from the Mississippi Delta with modern grooves." To that
effect, Davis teamed up with Ramon Goose and his twin brother Joe Goose
of the U.K.-based fusion blues/hip hop group Nublues.
I applaud Davis for trying to take his music to new audiences and giving
it a fresh, new sound. I like when artists stretch the limits and take
their music in different directions. But for my taste, this one just
doesn't cut it. I had to give up four songs into the CD; I couldn't
handle any more of the experimental noise and scratchin' behind Davis'
raw, Wolf-style vocals and harmonica.
I'm sure there's an audience out there that will appreciate the music on
Drew, Mississippi, and more power to you. But it's not for me.
--- Bill Mitchell