Brian Terry burst onto the zydeco scene in the mid 1990s with his band Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers and recorded two remarkable
discs for Rounder that mixed the traditional sounds of zydeco with
healthy doses of hip-hop, funk, and even some rap. Dubbed by Terry as
Z-Funk, the style was an impressive attempt to catapult the music into
the 21st century and Terry was able to mix and mold smoothly enough to
actually satisfy both traditional zydeco fans and newcomers, no mean
feat in itself.
Over a decade later, Lil' Brian and the Travelers (having dropped the “zydeco” from
their name) are still at it, with their latest release, Worldwide
(Freh’toi Records). Influenced and encouraged by the legendary Buckwheat
Zydeco, Terry learned his lessons well, as he proudly displays his chops
on both the piano-style accordion and the old diatonic. Unlike a lot of
hip-hop, Terry sings a good bit more than he raps. Adding even more
hip-hop credibility to the proceedings is Kurupt, from the Dogg Pound,
who raps with Terry on “Funky Zydeco,” which shows that Terry listened
to George Clinton as much as he did Buckwheat in his formidable years.
The P-Funk influence really shows on “Funky Feel’in” as well.
Other highlights include the lively “Bounce,” the extremely funky
“Popcorn,” and “Jam Y’all,” with its 70s vibe. “Ducema” has a more
traditional feel to it, but still packs a solid groove, as does a remix
of the Rockin’ Sidney tune, “Good For the Goose, Good For the Gander.” A
cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” adds horns and throws reggae
rhythms into the mix.
Worldwide has the potential to invigorate the hip-hop genre
almost as much as it does the zydeco genre. As one of the most
forward-looking artists in zydeco, Brian Terry has an opportunity
offered to few musicians, the chance to breathe new life into a
still-vital music, and maybe shake things up in some others in the
--- Graham Clarke
Stacy Mitchhart’s latest release (his ninth), Gotta Get The
Feeling Back Again (Dr. Sam Records), shows that the Nashville-based
bluesman is the real deal, taking the blues in interesting new
Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again consists of eleven songs, seven
originals and four covers. Mitchhart shows an ability to compose songs
with catchy hooks (as experienced on the soul track “Can’t Get Enough Of
Your Lovin’”). “The Blues Has Got You Bad” is also a strong tune that
many everyday fans can probably relate to, and “Better Off Without You”
will ring a bell for those who have trouble getting out of a bad
relationship. “Doghouse Blues” has a nice country quality to it
(complete with jug, banjo, and fiddle).
While admittedly not a big Led Zeppelin fan, Mitchhart manages to
breathe new life into a medley of Led Zep tunes (“Black Dog/Whole Lotta
Love”) by turning them into a loose acoustic Delta Blues workout with
fantastic results. He also tackles the Allmans’ “Whipping Post” in a
similar manner, giving it a jazzier, soulful touch. The other two
covers, “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and a live version of “Blue
Monday,” are played a little more straightforward and closer to their
original versions, but include some of Mitchhart’s best guitar.
With a strong band providing excellent support, Gotta Get The Feeling
Back Again is an impressive mix of strong original compositions and
some clever interpretations of classic oldies. Mitchhart is not only a
first-rate guitarist and singer, he's an excellent composer. There’s a
good chance that you'll be hearing some of these songs by other blues
artists in the near future. All in all, this is a great set of blues
with a touch of funk and soul thrown in for good measure.
--- Graham Clarke
Dialtone Records’ latest release continues their tradition of
documenting previously unheard of Texas-area musicians. Texas
Northside Kings deviates somewhat from previous releases, which
featured older, previously obscure local musicians, because it features
six of Austin’s hottest young guitarists: Eve Monsees, Johnny Moeller,
Shawn Pittman, Nick Curran, Seth Walker, and Mike Keller, all of which
have appeared on their own recordings or in support of others.
Monsees, who fronts Eve Monsees and the Exiles, gets three tracks,
including a neat old-school cover of Magic Sam’s “You Belong To Me,”
which is punctuated by Spot Barnett’s saxophone, and a shimmering
instrumental, “Hawaiian Hound.” Moeller, who recently joined the
Fabulous Thunderbirds but is best known for his work with Darrell
Nullisch, teams up with organist Earl Gilliam to strike up a jazzy mood
on “Radio Groove,” and even takes the mic for a rare vocal turn on the
Crescent City-flavored “I’m A Samplin’ Man.”
Pittman, who’s recorded with Susan Tedeschi and has a couple of solo
releases, has three cuts, including the rollicking “I Don’t Need No
Sugar Mama” and a great cover of “Reap What You Sow.” Curran, who’s
recorded for Blind Pig and is also the current Fabulous Thunderbird’s
guitarist, offers throat-shredding vocals and searing guitar on his
three tracks (Howlin’ Wolf’s “I’ll Be Around,” Little Walter’s “Oh
Baby,” and a fun take on “Slippin’ and Slidin’”).
Keller, who currently plays in Marcia Ball’s band, makes the most of his
one track, a fiery take on Elmore James’ “Red Hot Mama.” Walker, who’s
recorded five solo albums, packs a soulful punch both vocally and with
his guitar on his splendid take on Lazy Lester’s “I Hear You Knocking”
and he shines on “Since I Fell For You.”
Backed by a stellar band including Barnett, Gilliam, drummer Willie
Sampson, and Jeffrey Plummer on bass, Texas Northside Kings is an
outstanding effort that will please blues fans.
--- Graham Clarke
Texas bluesman Randy McAllister’s latest release, Dope Slap
Soup (Reaction Records), features more of his innovative songwriting
and is in more of a soul bag than his earlier releases. McAllister has
always been hard to pigeonhole because he’s comfortable playing not only
blues, but soul, rock, and even country. While probably giving record
stores a headache as far as where to file his recordings, it’s a good
thing for fans since he’s more than capable in each genre.
The general feel of the album is more Memphis than Texas with cuts like
“When I Get Back Home” and “Close Your Eyes,” which have a definite Stax
Record feel to them. Actually, “When I Get Back Home” was written by
guitarist Mike Morgan, as was the equally soul-drenched “I Have To Set
You Free.” However, there’s hard-rocking blues as well with “The Girl
Ain’t Right” and “Blame Yourself,” and a country flavor to “Hardheaded.”
There are also a few of those story songs McAllister does so well, with
“Baptist Church Van,” “$127.00 Sandwich,” and “Can’t Pick Your
Relatives.” The closing track, “Steady Decline,” is a genre-buster that
features blues-rock guitar, a soulful B-3, gospel-style backing female
vocals, and inspirational lyrics. However you categorize it, you’ll love
This is another fine effort from McAllister, who is as appealing a
singer and harmonica player as he is a composer. He gets strong support
from Morgan, Matt Woodburn, Mitchell Smiley, and Todd Blalock on
guitars, Chuck “Popcorn” Louden and Danny Cochran on drums, Sonny Collie
on bass, Mike Hanna and Tim Alexander on keyboards, and Benita
Arterberry-Burns and Angie McWhirter on backing vocals. This is powerful
stuff, wherever you file it.
--- Graham Clarke
Though he was a major part of the blues scene in the 1950s and early
1960s, Jimmy Reed has long been one of the tragic figures of the genre.
Despite having many records that made the music charts, he struggled
with alcoholism and epilepsy (long undiagnosed), and never had much to
show financially for his success. One of the lasting images I have of
Reed is a publicity shot of him with guitar and harmonica, looking sharp
in a suit and tie, sitting on a stool with duct tape holding the bottom
together. He just always seemed to deserve better than he got.
Reed’s catalog of songs, all featuring his earthy harmonica and rhythm
guitar along with the highly underrated Eddie Taylor’s lead guitar, have
been part of many blues bands’ repertoire for years and continue to be
even today. Whatever your feelings may be about the complexity of his
music, you can’t argue with the fact that those rudimentary rhythms
influenced countless younger musicians back in the day, like Elvis
Presley and the Rolling Stones. Probably most of the guitarists who got
their start in the ’60s knew at least one or two Jimmy Reed tunes.
One of these was Mississippi native Omar Kent Dykes. Best known
as the “Omar” in Omar and the Howlers, Dykes has spent the past three
decades plus singing and playing the blues. The first song he ever tried
to play on a guitar was Reed’s “Big Boss Man.” Dykes wanted to do a Reed
tribute record for years and finally seized on the opportunity, teaming
up with guitarist extraordinaire Jimmie Vaughan to release On
The Jimmy Reed Highway (Ruf Records).
Vaughan is a tower of strength on the guitar, as always a model of
consistency and taste. His solo on “I’ll Change My Style” should be
featured in the guitar textbook as the model for a blues guitar solo.
Also on hand are two longtime Vaughan associates: singer Lou Ann Barton
and harmonica ace Kim Wilson. James Cotton, Gary Primich, and Delbert
McClinton (who sings co-lead vocals on “Hush Hush”), also make guest
appearances as well. Barton is the unsung hero (no pun intended) on this
collection, contributing sensual lead vocals and backing vocals on
nearly all the tracks.
Some of the familiar Reed tunes are present, including “Big Boss Man,” a
medley of “Baby What You Want Me To Do/Bright Lights Big City,” “Aw
Shucks, Hush Your Mouth,” and a dandy cover of Eddie Taylor’s classic,
“Bad Boy.” There are also some pleasant surprises from the Reed catalog
as well, rarely heard tunes such as “Good Lover,” a nice, smoky duet
between Barton and Dykes, “I’ll Change My Style,” “Baby, What’s Wrong,”
and “You Upset My Mind.” The only non-Reed songs present are the title
cut, which is a nice homage to Reed that avoids being corny, and the
closing track, “You Made Me Laugh,” Dykes’ fond remembrance of his wife,
who passed away a couple of years ago after a lengthy bout with cancer.
This is a wonderful tribute album in more ways than one. Not only will
you want this one for the great performances, but it should also
encourage blues fans unfamiliar with Jimmy Reed to check out his
wonderful recordings, which are available in numerous compilations.
Those who delve deeper will be glad they did.
--- Graham Clarke
Since starting his own record label, Deep Rush Records, several years
ago, Bobby Rush has built an exceptional catalog. He released a
live CD/DVD that captures his stage act as perfectly as possible (Live
At Ground Zero), a funky blues session with Alvin Youngblood Hart
that ranks with his best recordings (Folk Funk), two sets of his
trademark soul/blues (Undercover Lover and Night Fishin’),
and also two collections of his rare early recordings (The Essential
Rush’s latest effort, Raw, is a stripped-down return to his
roots. Rush goes the solo route on this set, playing guitar and
harmonica on 13 mostly original tracks, though he’s accompanied on three
tracks by former band member Shawn Kellerman on dobro. While Rush has
long been regarded for his harmonica proficiency, he acquits himself
pretty well on guitar, mostly playing rhythm. Kellerman’s backing is
While the tracks on Raw are mostly originals (the lone covers
being Larry Williams’ “Boney Maroney,” John Lee (Sonny Boy I)
Williamson’s “School Girl,” and Muddy Waters’ “Howlin’ Wolf”), many of
the tracks borrow lyrics and ideas from other artists, such as Waters,
Ricky Allen, Rice Miller (Sonny Boy II), and Willie Cobbs. While some
may scoff at the idea of these being “original” songs, it should be
noted that blues artists throughout the years, including that noted
blues composer Willie Dixon, have done the same thing --- taking old
lyrics and themes from others and transforming them into their own
voice. Rush has long been one of the best at doing this.
A lot of the songs deal with typical Rush themes, such as conflict
between the sexes (“I Got 3 Problems,” “Knockin’ At Your Door,” “9 Below
Zero”), but Rush also tackles current events as well. While this is a
previously uncharted path for him, he proves to be more than up to the
task. “What’s The Use” takes the basic theme of Allen’s “Cut You Loose”
and transforms it into a cry of frustration about a man who’s worked
hard all his life and has nothing to show for it. “How Long,” where Rush
asks for his long-promised 40 acres and a mule, walks the same path of
frustration and anger. Another song, “Uncle Esau,” goes back to Rush’s
childhood (in fact, I remember my grandmother singing me the second
verse when I was a child) and was previously featured on Folk Funk.
This is a side of Bobby Rush that many of his longtime fans will be
unfamiliar with, but listeners will be pleasantly surprised at how
easily he’s able to pull it off. Rush is not afraid to try something
new, something that can’t be said about many artists with over 50 years
in the business.
--- Graham Clarke
Bert Deivert was born in Boston, Massachussets in 1950, but now
lives in Sweden. His original music influence was Son House, and this
shows in some of his music, although there are lots of other influences
apparent as well – Mississippi John Hurt and Tommy Johnson are two that
stand out. A couple of the tracks on Takin' Sam's Advice
(Gravitation Records) put me in mind of the playing and singing of
Richard Ray Farrell on his acoustic album, another accomplished modern
This CD is the first that I’ve heard of Bert’s music, although he has
previously made albums with Eric Bibb and Tom Paley, but what an
introduction to his music it has turned out to be. There is only one
original track amongst the 14 on the CD, but that is no criticism
because the tracks that Bert Deivert has covered are varied and of top
quality. For fans of acoustic blues, this CD is a very valuable addition
to any collection, and I just can’t stop playing it.
The album opens with a very well done version of Yank Rachell’s “Seems
Like A Dream,” including some inspired mandolin playing! Tommy Johnson’s
“Big Road Blues” follows, slowing the pace down a little and leading
into the highlight of the album (for me, anyway) – “Preachin’ Blues,”
the Son House classic. This track, as well as Bert’s version of another
Son House number, “Levee Camp Moan,” would make me buy the CD on their
own. This is where the Son House influence shines through, and these are
two of the best covers of Son House songs that I’ve ever heard, with
faultless slide guitar work that I’m sure the great man himself would be
The fact that these two tracks are so good shouldn’t detract from the
quality of the other 12 tracks, because I don’t think that there’s a bad
one amongst them, including the original “When You Got A True Friend,”
which was written by Bert Deivert and Brian Kramer (who plays National
steel on this track and "Big Road Blues").
There are some old traditional blues songs – “Silver City,” “Mississippi
Blues,” “Crow Jane” and “Morning Blues,” and some more good covers –
songs by Bo Carter, Jimmy Rogers and Sleepy John Estes, and a couple
more Yank Rachell numbers.
The other musicans on the album deserve a mention too – they provide
great support. As well as Brian Kramer, mentioned above, listen out for
the fiddle playing of Nina Anderberg (especially on “My Baby’s Gone”).
There’s Gunnar Backman on banjo, Lasse Bostrom (guitar), Peter Case
(harmonica, guitar and vocals), Emmy Deivert providing backing vocals on
“Crow Jane,” Dan Magnusson (drums), Tom Paley (guitar on “Divin’ Duck),
Per-Arne Pettersson (double bass), Mats Qwarfordt (harmonica) and Janne
Zander on various guitars.
--- Terry Clear
3AM Live is a CD by a band, 3AM, that is, sadly, largely
unrecognised outside of the South of England.
This is a great shame because they are a very accomplished band with a
For this CD, they’ve chosen some material that wouldn’t naturally occur
to a blues band, and that goes a long way to making them a little
unique. The recording quality, for a self-produced and live recorded
album, is excellent, as is the music quality too.
Vocalist Helen Turner has a very distinctive voice, well suited to the
blues – a bit like a cross between Janis Joplin and Maggie Bell – and
she uses it to good effect. She shows in her music that she has been
influenced by both of the singers mentioned above by including some of
their songs in her playlist, and she is equally at home with up tempo
tracks and with slow ballads. On top of this, the band behind her are
first rate. I’ve played this CD a few times now and I can’t detect a bum
note – not always something you can say about a live album.
The CD opens with the Maggie Bell song “Good Time Girl” – and it’s not a
bad choice for the first song as it gets your foot tapping fairly
quickly. It leads into “What You Got” and is followed by the first of
the odd choices that I mentioned earlier, the Beatles “I saw Her
Standing There.” It actually translates fairly well into a bluesy
number, but unfortunately Helen Turner falls into the familiar trap of
singing it with the original words, instead of changing it slightly so
that it’s sung from a female point of view. This is a small criticism of
an otherwise good track, but it would sound so much better if she
changed it a little. Carol King’s “Natural Woman” follows – again, not a
track that you would normally associate with the blues.
From there on in, this album just gets better and better – Little Willie
John’s “Need Your Love So Bad” is fabulous (it actually suits being sung
by a woman and I’m surprised that the likes of Koko Taylor or Etta James
haven’t picked up on it. If they have, I haven’t heard!!). “Simple
Suggestion,” extremely well-written by Helen Turner and guitarist Iain
Black is a good inclusion, followed by two Janis Joplin numbers – “One
Good Man” and “Move Over.”
There’s another band original, “My Version,” co-written by family
members Tim & Andy Renton (guitar and drums, respectively) and a friend
of the band, before the CD closes with Rufus Thomas’ classic “Walkin’
The CD is available from the band’s website,
it’s well worth a good listen.
--- Terry Clear