Blues Bytes

What's New

September 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

The Delgado Brothers

Billy Price and Fred Chapellier

Jeff Healey

Dani Wilde

Al Basile

Dave Keller

Charles Wilson

Mike Morgan and the Crawl

Steve Guyger

Chicago Blues Harmonica Project






The Delgado BrothersLearn to Fly (Bell Asher Records) is the first disc in six years by The Delgado Brothers. It's been way too long for these East L.A. cats who just don't venture into the studio often enough. If you're already on The Delgado Brothers bandwagon, then you'll know what to expect here. If not, then understand that these guys don't play anything resembling straight blues. In fact, their sound is really hard to categorize. Let's just call it 'Delgado Brothers music.'

The CD commences with the catchy, Santana-ish title cut, with brothers Steve and Joey sharing the vocals. Victor Bisetti's Latin percussion work sets the appropriate tone here. The soulful "I Wanna Know," with some nice guitar work from Joey Delgado and vocals shared by Steve Delgado and guest Sherry Pruitt.

Dave Melton adds slide guitar to Joey Delgado's sensitive vocals on the love song, "Be the One"; the extra guitar accompaniment compliments the rest of the band quite nicely on this tune. Steve then sings about a girl, "Melissa," that he used to love, perhaps from afar. Has anyone seen her? Sherry Pruitt joins in again with her gospel-influenced voice.

The listeners get a real treat when The Chambers Brothers provide their street corner background vocals behind Steve's plaintive singing on the slow number "If the World." Take it to church, my friends!

Just when you think that maybe you've figured out The Delgados' sound, they take it down Louisiana way on the funky, second line number "Lafayette." The band also shows an ability to put out a classic soul sound on "All I Have," with lead vocals by Steve backed by Sherry Pruitt, Joey Delgado and John Avila.

The closing cut could perhaps be autobiographical, as Steve sings of his love for his brother (or brothers, perhaps) on "Oh, Brother." It's a slow number with sparse accompaniment that brings Learn to Fly to a satisfying end. For more info on this wonderful group, check their site at Perhaps you will join me on their bandwagon --- it's indeed a happy place.

--- Bill Mitchell

Billy PricePittsburgh soul/blues crooner Billy Price always teams up with a dynamic blues guitarist, which makes his partnership with Fred Chapellier, a native of France, a natural combo on Night Work (DixieFrog Records). It's typical Billy Price sound on this CD, which means plenty of gritty soul vocals and stinging blues guitar.

The album starts with what I consider the weakest cut, a snaky, midtempo tune "Smart Money," co-written by Price and Chapellier. I just don't think it has the same punch as the rest of the album and doesn't show Price's great vocal range. The tempo stays the same on "My Love Comes Tumbling Down," but now we're hearing Price testifying as his voice is punctuated by some tasty blues licks from Chapellier. We then move on to the title cut, a midtempo blues shuffle that showcases both the horn section and the blues harmonica work of guest instrumentalist Mark Wenner (of Nighthawks fame).

Price's affection for the late great soul singer O.V. Wright shows on two occasions on Night Work: a slow, bluesy version of Wright's Don't Let My Baby Ride" and the band's own soulful tribute, appropriately titled "O.V. Wright," complete with verses of Wright songs interspersed with tales of riding around with his girl listening to O.V.'s music.

The venerable Otis Clay joins in for a very nice version of Al Green's "Love and Happiness." Clay's voice never sounded better, although a minor nit is that the recording quality of his vocals are a little cold and tinny. No matter, because a voice as wonderful as Clay's overcomes the less than perfect recording condition. Chapellier chips in with one of his hottest guitar solos of the night towards the end of the number.

Price reprises the excellent uptempo number "Who You're Workin' For," which he originally recorded 20  or so years ago on Free At Last. Wenner's fantastic blues harp playing makes this one the definitive version. "Who You're Workin' For" is one of the highlights of Night Work.

Chapellier really gets to turn it loose with some incendiary blues guitar on "Under The Influence," a song he co-wrote with Price. "All The Love in the World" is a slow blues that shows that Price is more than just a soul man; I've heard him really, really sing the blues in person, and he does it here on this number.

The disc ends with an instrumental, "Skunk Shuffle," that showcases every band member, but the real closer is a funky joint autobiography, "Champagne Blues and Pittsburgh Soul," which wraps up this fine CD very nicely. It proves that the partnership is a lucrative one. We will hopefully hear more from the combination of Price and Chapellier in the future.

--- Bill Mitchell

Jeff HealeyJeff Healey’s death last March after a long battle with cancer hit many guitar fans hard. Healey’s unique guitar style appealed not only to blues fans, but also rock and jazz fans, as the versatile guitarist was amazingly adept in all three genres. Several of my friends who were fans wondered if there were any unreleased Healey recordings stored away somewhere. The answer to that question is an unequivocal “yes,” as evidenced by the recent release, Songs From The Road (Ruf Records).

Recorded over a 15-month period between August of 2006 (Notodden Blues Festival in Norway), May of 2007 (the Islington Academy in London) and November of 2007 (Jeff Healey’s Road House in Toronto), Songs From The Road offers a wide-ranging mix of blues (Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” and Muddy Waters’ “I’m Ready”), 60’s rock and pop (Cream’s “White Room,” CSN’s “Teach Your Children,” a sizzling version of the Allman’s “Whipping Post,” and a pair of Beatle covers – “Come Together” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), and even a few tracks familiar to Healey’s fans (his major hit, “Angel Eyes,” and “I Think I Love You Too Much,” penned by Mark Knopfler).

Healey’s regular working band (Dan Noordermeer – guitar and vocals, Alec Fraser – bass and vocals on “White Room,” Dave Murphy – keyboards and vocals on “Whipping Post,” and Al Webster – drums) are joined by former BTO frontman Randy Bachman on the album’s centerpiece, a fantastic cover of “Hoochie Coochie Man.” As always, they provide first-rate support to Healey, who is simply spectacular. He never gave less than an inspired performance, even after he became seriously ill.

For fans of Jeff Healey, Songs From The Road is an essential purchase. For those unfamiliar with the talent and versatility of this amazing guitarist who left us much too soon, this disc is a nice place to hear what all the fuss was about. Let’s hope there’s more music of this quality still in the vault.

--- Graham Clarke

Dani WildeWhen Dani Wilde was 14 years old, she attended the Bishopstock Blues Festival in the U.K. and saw Sue Foley, Shemekia Copeland, and Susan Tedeschi perform. Up until that time, she had only heard the blues done by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and others, but seeing young women on stage playing the blues inspired her to follow in their footsteps. Her deep soul vocals landed her a gig with British folk singer Maddie Prior and her guitar skills won her an even wider audience.

In 2007, she signed a record deal with Ruf Records, which resulted in her taking part in the annual Blues Caravan Tour with fellow Ruf artists Deborah Coleman and Candye Kane and appearing on the live disc, Blues Caravan: Guitars & Feathers. Now Ruf has released her debut solo album, Heal My Blues, a non-stop blues-rock guitar fest.

Wilde is a powerful guitarist and an incredibly expressive singer, who wrote eight of the 11 tracks here. Her original compositions are mostly high-energy modern blues, including “Bring Your Lovin’ Home,” the sizzling title track, “Come Undone,” and “Testify.” She can also slow it down for tracks like “I Love You More Than I Hate Myself” and “People Like You.” She does a fine job covering some familiar tunes, John Lee Hooker’s “In The Mood,” Mel London’s “Little By Little,” and Norman Whitfield’s “I’m Going Down.”

Equally exciting is Wilde’s kid brother, Will “Harmonica” Wilde, a dazzling young harp player who plays like a man possessed, notably on “Slow Coach,” the best of Wilde’s original compositions. Also contributing are Ian Parker, who plays guitar on three tracks, ”Morg” Morgan, who shines on keyboards throughout, Mike Griot on bass, and Denis Palatin on drums.

Heal My Blues is an impressive debut release from Dani Wilde. She’s well on the way to being compared favorably with those ladies who initially inspired her to play the blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Al BasileSoul Blue 7 (Sweetspot Records) is Al Basile’s seventh release and like the previous six, it showcases his wonderful compositional skills and encompasses blues, soul, jazz, swing, pop, and even reggae. It also features most of the original Roomful of Blues line-up (including Duke Robillard on guitar) in support, which is never a bad thing. Basile started out as a writer, composing songs as well as novels and poetry. Music has always been a part of his life though. He started playing trumpet as an eight-year-old and has played with Robillard since their teenage years. Forty years later, their interplay is seamless.

Basile wrote all 13 songs, ranging from the easy swing of “You Showed Me Something,” to the funky R&B of “Dollar To A Dime” (which features a smooth trumpet solo from Basile and sparking piano from Bruce Katz), to the opener, “Housekey Blues,” which has a New Orleans second-line feel. “Causing Joy” features playful pop-styled lyrics with a reggae beat, and “Where Are You Tonight” is a deep soul track about a woman who causes disappointment over and over again.

Basile’s unique lyrics are particularly noteworthy on “I Hope You’re Right,” where he hopes he’s able to live up to his woman’s great expectations, and “Fool Me Again,” with a protagonist who’s waiting to be double-crossed by his lover yet again. The closing track, “Termites In My Basement,” is a traditional blues track, featuring Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica, about growing old.

In addition to Robillard and Katz, who is superlative throughout on the keys, the band features Marty Ballou (bass), Mark Teixeira (drums and percussion), Doug James (tenor and baritone sax), Rich Lataille (alto sax), Carl Querfurth (trombone), and Sax Gordon Beadle (tenor sax solo on “Where Are You Tonight”).

Soul Blue 7 is an excellent listen from start to finish. Great songs, music, and performance make this one a keeper.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave KellerThose of you who picked up Ronnie Earl’s most recent release, Living In The Light, are already familiar with Dave Keller. Keller contributed two vocals to the disc, including a stunning reading of Bob Dylan’s inspirational “What Can I Do For You.” The Massachusetts native has spent a lot of time performing in the Northeast and has garnered rave reviews from artists like Earl, Mighty Sam McClain, and Paul Rishell. In addition to being a fine singer, Keller is also an excellent guitarist, bringing to mind multitalented artists like James Hunter, and also blows a mean harmonica.

Keller also wrote all the songs for his latest release, Play For Love (Tastee-Tone Records), a strong set of soul and blues. Most of the lyrics have a highly personal slant to them. The opener, “Here I Am,” features a little guitar intro that’s a mixture of Otis Rush and T-Bone Walker. It’s one of many tracks that include soulful Hammond B3work from Ira Friedman. “Take Your Time” is a tender tune Keller wrote for his young daughters, and “To The City” is a metaphorical glimpse at Keller’s life to date.

The title cut deals with the true reason that most musician start and continue to ply their craft, and “Only Place I’m Going (Is Down)” is about a man who is seemingly stuck in neutral while everything and everybody around him is changing. “Something’s Gotta Give” deals with the struggles of making marriage work, and “It’s Only Human” conveys a real sense of want, despair, and even some desperation. “All Souls Are Built For Flying” is a song inspired by Keller’s youngest daughter, and “Gabriella” is a “happy accident,” an impromptu jam session while tuning up that turned into an actual album track.

Joining Keller and Friedman are Jan Schultz (Fender bass) and Brett Hoffman (drums). Keller produced the disc and it has a warm, homey feeling to it. Actually the whole disc is that way. Keller is a stay-at-home dad who makes his living teaching guitar to 35 students a week and playing about ten gigs a month. It’s obvious that he loves what he does, but he also knows and appreciates what’s really important in life.

Play For Love is one of those nice little discs that you sometimes stumble upon that’s full of surprises and exceeds your expectations. Here’s hoping, based on this release and his recent work with Ronnie Earl, that Dave Keller gets a little attention outside of the New England area.

--- Graham Clarke

Charles WilsonI used to absolutely love soul/blues, dating back to when it was just called plain old soul music. I hit the wall with the style around the mid to late ’80s, when most of the records started sounding alike, mostly due to production values like those computerized drums and synthesizers standing in for the horn section. It got to the point that I couldn’t tell songs apart and who was even singing them, so I drifted away from the style except for rare instances, but continued to try to keep up with it on local radio stations (most stations in Mississippi play lots more soul/blues than the more traditional style) occasionally.

Troubled Child, the latest disc by the incredible Charles Wilson, represents the way they used to do them, folks. Wilson seemed to hit the mark on his last disc for Delmark, but with this latest effort on Severn, he may have outdone himself. Backed by the Severn “house band” of Steve Gomes on bass (who also co-produced the disc with David Earl and contributed a couple of songs), Robb Stupka on drums, and Benjie Porecki on keyboards, along with the appropriately nicknamed “Monster” Mike Welch on guitar, plus a horn section and strings (arranged by the great Willie Henderson), Wilson is in the zone unlike anyone since Michael Jordan in the 1992 NBA Finals.

Troubled Child has ten tracks of the real stuff….vintage soul, ranging from Bobby Bland’s classic, “Where My Baby Went,” to “Somebody’s Tears,” a lovely tribute to Wilson’s uncle, the late Little Milton Campbell, and Sam Dees’ moving title track. Bob Marley’s reggae standard, “Is This Love,” gets a major Memphis soul makeover, and George Jackson’s “I Don’t Want To Take A Chance” is also first-rate, as is a cover of Clay Hammond’s “The Good Side of My Girl.” Producer Gomes also wrote a couple of songs that fit perfectly with the older material.

Earl and Gomes have captured the classic sound of those great soul records of the ’60s and ’70s and with Charles Wilson providing his smooth, but potent vocals, Troubled Child stands as one of the best releases of 2009 so far.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Troubled Child was previously reviewed in the June 2009 issue.

--- Graham Clarke

Mike MorganMike Morgan and The Crawl first made a lot of noise with a group of sizzling releases on Black Top Records in the late ’80s/early ’90s. In those days, Morgan’s hard-driving, aggressive Texas blues guitar attack was often complimented by lead singer Lee McBee’s raucous vocals. After Black Top’s demise, McBee left the band to lead his own group in his hometown of Kansas City. Morgan moved on to Severn Records and his third release for that label, the aptly titled Stronger Every Day, reunites Morgan with McBee for a few tracks.

While Morgan’s guitar shows influences of Texas string benders like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, T-Bone Walker, and Frankie Lee Sims, his compositions also show an influence by soulsters like Otis Redding. There’s also a hint of Louisiana swamp pop on tunes like “Sweet Angel” (sung by McBee), and Memphis soul (“When I Get Back Home,” sung by Randy McAllister). “The Birthday Song” is in a similar vein and features a nice vocal from Morgan, as is “Where’s The Love.”

Other highlights include the opening track, the blues rocker “All Night Long,” the acoustic “How Much More Time,” which has a southern rock feel, a rip-roaring take of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Okie Dokie Stomp,” the slow blues, “I Cried For My Baby,” and “Funky Thang,” an instrumental workout.

The three vocalists each bring a little something different to the disc and the variety provided is a plus. Morgan is much improved as a singer and seems most confident on the more soul-oriented tracks, but he’s more interesting when he’s playing guitar. Others contributing to Stronger Every Day include two of Funderburgh’s Rockets (Rhandy Simmons – bass, Danny Cochran – drums), along with Brian Ferguson (drums), Drew Allain and Sonny Collie (bass), and Stefano Intelisano and Mike Hanna (organ).

A well-crafted release that you may have initially missed (it was released in late 2008), Stronger Every Day shows Mike Morgan to be an artist who is still taking chances, venturing into rock and soul while staying firmly rooted in the blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Steve GuygerSteve Guyger has been playing the blues for four decades and is recognized as one of the best harmonica players in the world today. He’s played with many of today’s modern legends (Carey Bell, Rod Piazza, Charlie Musselwhite, Little Sammy Davis, Rick Estrin, Kim Wilson, and Mark Hummel) and has fronted his own band, the Excellos, for over 30 years. His most recent release, 2008’s Radio Blues (Severn Records), is a stellar set featuring classic blues from the ’50s and ’60s, or new songs influenced from that era.

Featuring an experienced band in support (Fabulous T-Bird guitarist Johnny Moeller, bass player Steve Gomes, drummer Rob Stupka, and Bill Heid on keyboards), Guyger tears through a first-rate set of songs with covers like Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper,” Muddy Waters’ “Let Me Hang Around,” Kansas Joe McCoy’s “Oh Red,” and Rudy Toombs’ “I’m Shakin’.”

On the original compositions, Guyger takes it from straight blues (“Lookie Here,” “You’re So Fine,” “Blues Won’t Let Me Be”) to early rock & roll (“Little Rita,” “I Can See By Your Eyes”) to old school R&B with a Diddley beat (“Afghan Rumble,” “Hey Little Baby”). The new songs capture the mood perfectly and sound like they easily could have come from the era.

Guyger shows why he’s considered a harp master by fellow players like Jerry Portnoy and Rick Estrin, and his vocals are confident and convincing. The band, particularly Moeller, perfectly recreate the sound and feel of those wonderful Chess and Excello recordings from 50 years ago.

The fact that Radio Blues respectfully honors the music of days gone by while still maintaining a fresh, original atmosphere as well is a testament to the talents of Steve Guyger, as well as his co-producers Gomes and David Earl. Radio Blues should appeal to fans of classic or modern blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Chicago Blues Harmonica ProjectIn 2005, Severn Records released Diamonds In The Rough, by The Chicago Blues Harmonica Project. Consisting of six unsung harmonica wizards from the Windy City, the disc was well received and critically acclaimed. Due to the positive reception, Severn has released a follow-up disc, More Rare Gems, featuring six more harmonica talents performing two songs apiece, belying the notion that the blues harmonica player was nearing extinction in Chicago.

More Rare Gems features a couple of players who might be familiar to blues fans: the late Little Arthur Duncan and Harmonica Hinds, who previously recorded with Koko Taylor. Duncan’s selections are “Can’t Stand It No More,” which owes a debt to Billy Boy Arnold’s “Prisoner’s Plea,” and Muddy Waters’ “Gone To Main Street,” while Hinds offers the comical “Kill That Mouse,” and an upbeat instrumental, “Sunday Morning Blues.”

The remaining four harp players are relative newcomers to recording. In fact, two of their number, Jeff Taylor and Charlie Love are better known in Chicago for playing other instruments (Taylor – drums, and Love – guitar). Love acquits himself well with a cover of Howlin’ Wolf (“Ooh Baby, Hold Me”) and Elmore James (“The Year Old Boy”), and Taylor tackles Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster of Love” (vocal only, with harmonica from Russ Green, who performed on the first Project CD), and Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do.”

Reginald Cooper, a relative newcomer to performing, does a nice version of “Shade Tree Mechanic,” and a slowed-down “Give Me Back That Wig,” and Big D, the youngest player of the bunch, gets downright swampy with his version of “I’ve Got To Be With You Tonight” and the lively “Well You Know.”

Offering fine support are The Chicago Bluesmasters, which include Twist Turner (drums), Rick Kreher and Illinois Slim (guitars), E.G. McDaniel (bass), Max Brumbach (piano). The session was also produced by the Bluesmasters and recorded at Turner’s Delta Roots Sound Studios.

Fans of blues harmonica will enjoy this disc as much as they did the first one. More Rare Gems shows that the future of Chicago blues harmonica, is in good hands. Little Walter would be proud.

--- Graham Clarke

WoodbrainWoodbrain may look like your basic four-piece blues band, but there’s much more to them than meets the eye. The Portland, Oregon-based quartet’s brand of blues also incorporates rock, jazz, and Americana in equal doses, owing as much to John Coltrane and Derek Trucks as they do Son House or Skip James. It’s an irresistible blend, as heard on their latest CD, Swimming in Turpentine, on Yellow Dog Records.

Improvisation is the name of the game with Woodbrain, as many of these arrangements were still in the assembly stage as the tape was rolling in the studio. The looseness works well on tracks like “Port Chicago Highway” and “Dig,” a manic track featuring guitarist/singer/songwriter Joe McMurrian on banjo that the band learned about ten minutes prior to recording it. “Northbound” has an urgency and urgency that’s propelled by the fervent harmonica of David Lipkind.

The old blues standard, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” is brought into the 21st Century with a jolt. Bukka White probably wouldn’t have recognized this version if it was standing in front of him. McMurrian’s growl and screaming fretwork combined with Lipkind’s other-worldly harmonica make this one of the standout tracks. Others include the country-flavored “Home Of My Own,” “Storm Clouds,” a slower tempo track that, though more sedate than other cuts, is no less intense, and “Black Water Side,” the old Bert Jansch song is transformed into funky workout that shows Americana music at its best.

The rhythm section of Woodbrain is Jason Honl (bass) and Jimi Bott (drums) is excellent, providing the perfect backdrop for McMurrian’s songs and his gritty vocals and even grittier guitar. They are able to blend their influences together seamlessly, creating their own unique vision of the blues, as can be heard on the closing instrumental, “Pottsville Conglomerate.”

You see the term “Brave New Blues” bandied about quite a bit, but in this case, it certainly applies. These guys are absolutely fearless, taking the blues in directions where few have ventured.

--- Graham Clarke


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