Blues Bytes

What's New

September 2014

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Sena Ehrhardt

Markey Blue

Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson

Larry Garner (DVD)

Etta Britt

EG Kight

Missy Andersen


JP Soars

Big Harp George

Generation Blues Experience

Jeff Dale

Kaye Bohler

Greg Allman tribute

Mick Kolassa

Laura Rain


Sena EhrhardtI like Sena Ehrhardt’s opening song on her new disc, Live My Life, out now on Blind Pig Records. Choosing to open with “Stakes Have Gone Up” is the perfect statement for her to make. Sena’s no longer an artist on the rise and her new disc puts her right in the middle of the poker game, playing for all the gold. The “stakes have gone up,” indeed. Let’s give her new record a spin.

Sena’s new attitude on “Stakes Have Gone Up” is real. No longer satisfied with average, Sena’s got her eye on a much greater prize. Love isn’t always easy and her affections are hard won by whomever chooses to pursue her. “I remember…there was a time…I could have leapt…without even trying…now, my whole life is on the line…the stakes have gone up.” Guitarist Cole Allen’s poignant guitar solo emphasizes Sena’s determination and good luck tying this girl down. The tune “Things You Shouldn’t Need to Know” is up next, and Sena is reflecting on relationship advice that isn’t easily learned. Whether you like it or not, not everyone coming into your life has the best of intentions and sometimes the downfall isn’t always easy.

The resulting life’s lessons fall neatly into that category of “Things You Shouldn’t Need to Know.” We move on to find that Sena is applying those lessons learned in “Slow Down” as she attempts to keep a relationship from falling apart. “Slow Down…oh, you’re moving away too fast, boy…you gotta give me a little love…if you want our love to last.” The band ratchets it down a bit as Sena tackles the first ballad on her new disc, “Help Me Through the Day.” Here she’s struggling with the challenges of life and it’s her man’s good love that she needs to cope with everything that is. “I can see…so much pain…deep inside your eyes…I know someone has hurt you…someone has made you cry…oh, baby…don’t confuse me…just try to understand…make me realize then….you’re my man.” Regardless of the past, he’s Sena’s man now and he needs to step up.

The title track, “Live My Life,” is next and Sena’s stepping out in full force. “They don’t want to help me…they want to keep me insane…this city’s starting to wear me down…I hear people scream and shout…nothing’s going to break my stride…I want to live my life.” Sena’s a survivor and I have no doubt she’ll stay true to herself through all of the trials she’s facing here. Her self confidence serves her well in our next track, “Chilled to The Bone.” Her relationship is ending and Sena’s smart enough to see the writing on the wall. “Deep in my heart…I feel we’re drifting…it’s been there from the start…but we weren’t listening…we’re falling apart…it’s breaking my heart…we’re fading…now this house…just ain’t a home…how can a heart be chilled to the bone?” As painful as it is, it’s time to move on and Sena will be just fine.

“Too Late to Ask” is up next, and this is my favorite tune on the disc as Sena’s duet with Cole Allen takes us through the pain of a relationship that may or not be salvageable. “You were right…I was wrong…I shouldn’t haven’t always been gone…demons kept me on my knees…I’m sorry what you went through….I shouldn’t have put that on you…I wish I had just one more chance…but it’s too late to ask.” Their pain is real and I’m left with the hope that they will work it out and stay together. I appreciate the change of pace that “Everybody Is You” brings with it as Sena comments on the town gossip around her. “They say I lost my way…everybody don’t love me anymore…you tell me everybody…don’t like the company I’ve been keeping…if everybody’s so damn worried…how come my phone ain’t been ringing?” They’ve all taken sides and the result is “it seems to me…everybody is you.” Sena’s over it and she’ll be just fine.

The classic Albert Collins tune, “If Trouble was Money,” is one of Sena’s favorite tunes and she chooses to share it with us here. “If trouble was money, babe…you know I’d be a millionaire…I could buy the whole damn world…and you know…I’d still have money to spare.” Sassy and sultry, I’m sure if Sena had the money, she’d spend it wisely. We move on to another tune that Sena wrote, “Did You Ever Love Me at All?” The band kicks it into high gear and I’m surprised by the ferocity of this tune. “But in the middle of the night…when you don’t feel quite right…I hear a voice say…can you hear it…did you ever love me at all?” We’re not sure but it’s clear that Sena’s telling him to make up his damn mind.

Sena and the band bring the record to an end with another ballad that she wrote, “Come Closer.” “You were a handsome soul…just standing proud and tall…I was a shy young thing…standing against the wall…made me feel more beautiful…than I thought I could be…that’s when you whispered to me…come closer baby, you don’t have to speak…” I have a hard time imagining Sena as a shy, young thing but her imagery is effective as she tells us the tale of the man she fell in love with and the life they built together.

Live My Life is probably the perfect statement for Sena Ehrhardt to make at this time in her career. Her new disc features a number of original tunes written by herself and guitarist, Cole Allen that reflect a commitment to having her voice distinctly heard in her creative process. The result is an excellent disc that puts her squarely in the middle of the conversation with fellow contemporaries Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, Samantha Fish, Dana Fuchs and others as new female forces to be reckoned with in the Blues. With a growing international touring schedule and a tight band with which to hit the road, Sena’s future is bright indeed.

--- Kyle Deibler

Markey BlueI like it when a record surprises me, and such is the case with Hey Hey, the new disc from Markey Blue. I haven’t heard a good Memphis style, horn-driven disc in awhile and bandleaders Jeanette Markey and Ric Lantana have crafted a good one. Let’s give it a spin.

We open with “When Love Comes Along (Hey Hey)," and the horns jump in at the downbeat and away we go. We don’t always know when someone enters our journey to share their love with us. But when they do, let them in, and as Markey sings, “It’s going to hit you when love comes along, hey hey.” Ric’s fretwork is deadly and the horns bring a passion to the mix that is highly satisfying. Ric’s guitar provides the intro for our next tune, “I Can’t Let You Go” and Markey’s lamenting the loss of a love in her life. “You told me…heart to heart…soul to soul…my lips on yours would never grow cold…but you’re gone…and I’m all alone…but I can’t…can’t let you go.” Sadly for Markey he moved on and the pain of her loss is very real.

The next cut, “Something’s Wrong,” finds Markey realizing that all is not right in her world. “Something’s going on….oh, something’s wrong with my man…I thought I had a good man…I thought I had a man I could trust…oh, baby…there ain’t going to be no more us.” He evidently has a wandering eye and Markey will have none of it. Our theme of sadness finds Markey alone again and reflecting on it in “Feeling Blue.” “Lying here by myself…tears falling down like rain…whiskey bottle…it ain’t helping me feel no pain…same old sad song…rolling me back over you…feels like stormy weather…and I can’t help this feeling…there ain’t no one else to blame…I just can’t help…feeling blue.” He’s gone and Markey to her benefit is realizing her culpability in the end of her relationship with this man and the resultant void in her life.

We move on to “Flames” and find Markey’s sending out mixed messages to the man interested in her. “The flames go higher…and higher…filling me with desire…spinning me….round and around.” Markey’s finding herself lost in the whirlwind of this love and definitely not in control of the emotions it’s inspiring. A light touch on the snare and finger snaps lead us into the next tune, “Play Me,” and the horns are back. Markey’s love has a house of his own and she’s definitely wanting him back in hers, “you don’t really love me…ooh, you don’t feel the same…touch me honey…the way you did back then…tell me all your pretty lies…and do it once again…play me one more time.”

“Another Lover” finds Markey realizing the man in her life was never serious and the time for a change is at hand. “Before you say another word…boy, I’m telling you goodbye…your good thing’s gone now, baby…go watch me fly…going to find me…another lover.” It’s not always easy being the strong one in a relationship and Markey appreciates the fact that she’s the source of support in “With You.” “Oh, I’ll be there, honey…I’m going to see you through.” He’s lucky to have the support and love of a good woman to lean on and hopefully appreciates Markey for the love she’s giving him. Our next cut, “Voodoo Do,” definitely has that deep woods mysticism to it. “Why are you haunting me baby…what do your voodoo…do?” Markey’s in love with a mystery man and its possible that all is not what it seems to be.

Another haunting melody provides the intro for our next tune, “Ain’t No Angel,” and Markey’s not pretending to be anything other than what she is. “You bring me roses…you bring me wine…but what I want…you just can’t find…take me as I am…I ain’t no angel.” Markey’s bad side is coming out and either he’ll be able to handle it or he won’t. “By My Side” leads to a return of Markey’s gentler side. “Nobody says…it was easy…if I say…goodbye…now I’m asking…Lord, all I asking, baby…is that you’ll be…by my side.” She’s going through a rough patch but Markey loves her man and hopefully he’ll answer her plea to stay by her side. Ric’s guitar solo lends just the right amount of hopefulness to Markey’s voice and the horns are just amazing.

The group closes out what has been an excellent record with another song of sadness in “Baby, I’m Cryin’.” I’m not sure why he chose to leave but it’s painfully obvious that Markey wanted him to stay. “Baby, I’m crying…baby, I’m crying….again.” Her pain is real and the gloominess of a rainy day isn’t helping Markey feel any better about the pain she’s experiencing.

There’s a "who’s who" of Nashville area players who lent their talents to Hey Hey by Markey Blue and that speaks to the city’s appreciation of their talents. Thanks for bring back that old school Memphis Stax and Hi-Records sound. Kudos to Jeanette and Rick for their musical vision for this disc and the talented songwriting and arranging that it showcases. I’m looking forward to hearing more great music from this band for a long time to come. Their website is and grab this disc, it’s definitely a treat.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mud Morganfield and Kim WilsonSome collaborations are no-brainers, and such is the case with Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson, Severn Records artists hot off the recent releases of Son of the 7th Son for Mud and On the Verge for Kim and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The Severn home office was inundated with numerous folks suggesting the pairing of Mud and Kim for a new record. After very limited discussion Severn honcho David Earl broached the subject, and the result is For Pops / A Tribute to Muddy Waters.

Surrounded by a stellar supporting cast of Steve Gomes, Robb Stupka, Billy Flynn, Barrelhouse Chuck and Rusty Zinn, Mud and Kim gathered with everyone at the Severn Studios in Maryland and proceeded to record this disc in a “house party” environment of invited guests and fans. By choosing to support selected tunes as well as Muddy’s music, Mud and Kim were able to produce a disc that sounds fresh while strongly supporting the spirit of the Legendary Muddy Waters. Let’s get to it.

Kim’s harp leads the way and the band tackles one of Muddy’s shuffles, “Gone to Main Street.” As Mud sings, “I’m going to take you downtown…and put shoes on your feet…you know…I love you girl…tell everyone one you meet.” His love for the girl is obvious and we’re off and running. “Just to Be With You” is a Bernard Roth tune and again, Kim’s harp leads us into it. “I will wrestle down the devil…just to kiss your sweet lips, baby…you know you’re my desire…there ain’t nothing I wouldn’t do…just to be with you.” Mud definitely has a bit of his father’s silver tongue and he sings this tune of endearment with great passion.

Tempo picks up and the band tackles a Willie Dixon tune, “I Don’t Know Why.” “Come here, baby…come here and tell me why…why I get so excited…when you pass me by…well, I don’t know why…other men don’t approve.” Barrelhouse Chuck is attacking the keys and I’m thinking Mud’s fine to lust after this woman whether the rest of us approve or not. Muddy’s classic, “I Want You to Love Me,” is up next and Mud is clear in terms of what he wants. “I want you to love me…baby, until I drop dead…in front of you.” Kim continues to blow a mean harp and I can hear the passion in the notes he’s playing to support Mud’s desires.

Mud moves on to another of his Dad’s tunes, “Still a Fool,” and the band is in fine form behind him. I don’t have the benefit of knowing who is playing lead guitar on this tune, but the playing is emotive and haunting in the way it supports Mud’s vocals. “I’ve been crazy…I’ve been a fool…well, now…I fell in love with her…with another man wife.” This can’t be good but I get the feeling Mud is committed to his choice as he adds, “Oh well”. I’m not familiar with “My Dog Can’t Bark” as a song choice, but the band kicks it into high gear and I’m enjoying the vibe. “They talk about my dog…they talk about me cat…say my dog can’t bark and my cat can’t scratch.” As Mud sings, “I done got tired…I’m going to say some too.”

The band then tackles a James Oden tune, “She’s Got It,” and Mud leaves no doubt that the woman in his life definitely has “got it.” “She’s got a real soul voice…with a mellow tone…whatever she’s got…I can’t leave it alone…she’s got it.” Mud’s a happy man and hopefully he’ll be able to hang onto her and avoid what would surely be a major heartache. Kim’s harp and Robb’s backbeat lead us into another Willie Dixon tune, “I Love the Life I Live, I Love the Life I Live.” I can’t add much here other than Mud and the band nail it and you can tell this project is a labor of love. What sounds to me like Rusty Zinn’s guitar leads us into another of Muddy’s songs, “Blow Wind Blow.” “Well, when I rose this morning…I didn’t have my baby by my side…well, I didn’t know where she was…she was out with another guy.” “Blow wind…blow my baby back to me…well, you know if I don’t find her…my heart going to be in misery.” I think I’d accept the heartache and move on from here myself.

Muddy’s classic, “Nineteen Years Old,” is up next and Mud hits it head on, and I love this version of his Dad’s tune. Mud and the band tackle “I Want to Be Loved,” a Willie Dixon tune next and the sequencing of these tunes together is an interesting decision that I appreciate. “Don’t care how long you’re gone…don’t care how long you stay…but someday, baby…you ain’t going to trouble me…anymore.” We go from loving a beautiful 19-year-old to needing to be loved to deciding we don’t need her anymore with the inclusion of “Trouble No More” on the disc. There definitely were some astute song choices made for this record and I appreciate that.

The band closes with Barrelhouse Chuck’s beautiful piano intro to Willie’s classic “I Just Want to Make Love to You” before Mud asserting “She Moves Me” with a classic rendition of another of his father’s tunes. “She got a pocket full of money…the little girl…going to try to help me lose…she moves me man…honey…and I don’t see how come…she’s got a pocket full of money…the little girl…don’t try to help me none.”

For Pops / A Tribute to Muddy Waters is an excellent disc with flawless performances throughout from Mud, Kim and the band. Kudos to David Earl of Severn Records for green lighting this project and the love they put into it. I’m sure this is a disc that will be considered for a number of awards when such nominations come out and it’s my understanding that Mud, Kim and the band will be touring behind it in 2015. Sounds like a great show to me and one definitely not to be missed.

--- Kyle Deibler

Recently, JSP Records issued live DVD sets from several of their former artists. One of the first releases, Born To Sang The Blues, features a 1997 performance from Baton Rouge blues man Larry Garner in Oxford, England at the Fuggle and Firkin. Garner spends several weeks a year touring in Europe and has built a considerable following across the pond over the past twenty-plus years, based in part on his frequent live appearances and the success of his two JSP releases from the mid ’90s, Double Dues and Too Blues.

This live date finds Garner working through an hour-long set of some of his most popular tunes at the time, backed by a sympathetic band and fronted by an enthusiastic and receptive audience. Garner’s performance is spot-on, whether it’s his singing and guitar playing, or his easy rapport with the crowd with his casual conversations and interesting and witty anecdotes.

The set, part of a project called Blues Archive from BBC documentary cameraman Paul Reed, University of Oxford sociologist Amanda Palmer, and TV sound recordist Bob Webber, consists of eight songs, all of which will be familiar to fans of Garner’s ’90s releases ---.”Jook Joint Woman,” “The Road Of Life,” “Preacher Man,” “Had To Quit Drinking.” He also does variations on a couple of classic blues tunes with Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Evening Everybody” and the old standard “That’s All Right.” He intersperses stories and remarks throughout the songs to the enjoyment of the crowd. Garner also provides a running commentary between songs during the performance.

Among the extras on the DVD is a 25-minute interview with Garner discussing his life and his musical development and influences. There are also a few bonus tracks included and a sound check.

All in all, Born To Sang The Blues gives blues fans a vivid picture of Larry Garner’s music and his personality. Excellently filmed and recorded, it’s the next best thing to actually being at a Larry Garner performance.

--- Graham Clarke

Etta BrittEtta Britt got her start in the late '70s as part of the country music trio Dave & Sugar. From there, she became an in-demand vocalist on sessions for Marty Stewart, Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, and others. After marrying noted guitarist Bob Britt, she basically gave up the music business to raise her family and working to pay the bills, only occasionally performing. In 2010 she signed a record deal and released the appropriately titled Out of the Shadows, which won critical acclaim and led to multiple TV and radio appearances, along with tour dates with Delbert McClinton and Paul Thorn and touring on her own.

For Britt’s second release, Etta Does Delbert, she pays tribute to one of her musical mentors, Delbert McClinton, whose music she fell in love with while touring with Dave & Sugar in the early ’80s. McClinton’s music has always been a part of her repertoire, dating back to her solo days in the late ’80s, so on paper, this would appear to be a dream project, both for Britt and for fans of Delbert McClinton.

For this set, Britt chose ten tracks written by or performed by McClinton, plus one of her own compositions that she co-wrote with former McClinton band leader and longtime musical associate, Kevin McKendree. McClinton fans will be familiar with most of these tracks, but Britt does a fine job on all of them, shining on tracks like “Old Weakness (Comin’ On Strong),” “Every Time I Roll The Dice,” “I’m With You,” “New York City,” and “The Jealous Kind.” McClinton even joins in on the fun for a couple of tracks, singing harmony vocals on “Best of Me,” and sharing lead vocals with Ms. Britt on “Boy, You Better Move On.”

Bob Britt produced the disc and plays guitar, joined by several former and current members of McClinton’s band (McKendree – keys, Steve Mackey – bass, Lynn Williams – drums), Dana Robbins on saxophone, and the McCrary Sisters, Scat Springs, and George Pendergrass on background vocals. However, this is Etta Britt’s show, and even though her background is in country music she is first and foremost an R&B singer, no question about it. These songs are tailor-made for her vocal style and she does a spectacular job. Hopefully, she and McClinton will bless us with a complete album one of these days.

--- Graham Clarke

EG KightEG Kight has been away from the music scene for a bit. The Georgia singer has been battling a couple of life-threatening illnesses for a couple of years, but thankfully, she is back to peak form with her latest release, A New Day (Blue South Talent). She wrote or co-wrote all ten of the tracks, which mix the country-flavored blues ballads she’s noted for with gospel and soul.

The autobiographical opening track, “Holdin’ On,” recounts her recent health struggles, and the upbeat gospel track, “Don’t Give Up,” provides inspiration through tough times. The rest of the disc is pure EG Kight, with tracks like “Comin’ Down with the Blues,” a sensational slow blues, the lovely ballad “Can’t Catch the Wind,” and the breathless rocker, “Let’s Get Down.”

Other highlights include “Graveyard Dead Blues,” co-written with Tom Horner and Lisa Biales, “Bad Times,” a sensational duet with Greg Nagy that Kight co-wrote with Horner and the late Ann Rabson, the sassy “Low Mileage Woman,” and the country blues closer, “Time To Move On.”

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” EG Kight is living proof of that concept. A New Day shows her to be renewed and revitalized both physically and musically, and it’s definitely her best release to date.

--- Graham Clarke

Missy AndersenMissy Andersen’s eponymous debut release from 2009 was an excellent mix of blues and soul. This fine album showcased her powerful, tough, but tender vocal style, influenced as much by jazz singers like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn as it from soul and blues belters like O.V. Wright, Irma Thomas, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ann Peebles, Ray Charles, and James Carr.

Andersen’s superlative follow-up, In The Moment (Main Squeeze Records), boasts an equally big sound with Andersen tearing through 11 diverse blues and soul tunes, ranging from the stylish swing of the opening track, “Rent Party,” to the deep southern soul of “More Than Enough” and “Same Things Make You Laugh Will Make You Cry,” to blues tracks like “Night Stalker,” “Whole Lotta Nuthin’,” “Better or Worse” (with guests James Harman and Nathan James), and the exquisite slow burner, “Ladies Shoes.”

Andersen shows that her range goes beyond blues and jazz with tracks like “No Regrets,” which has a jazzy swing and offers sage advice about moving on, and the inspirational “Reach Out,” which teams guitarist James with Andersen’s husband, guitarist/band leader Heine Andersen, with dazzling results. The funky “Hey Now” is another standout simmering exuberance, but the closer, a splendid version of Snooks Eaglin’s “I’ve Been Walkin’,” really takes the cake, building from a sparse opening to a breathless gospel-flavored conclusion with some nice musical fireworks from guitarist Andersen and keyboardist Sue Palmer.

Additional musicians include Marty Dodson (drums), Bill Stuve (bass), Ben Moore (Hammond B3), Michael McKinnon (bass), Christopher Hoffee (percussion), a sweet horn section (Robbie Smith – trumpet, Gerard Nolan – tenor sax, Bob Mathes – baritone sax), and backing vocals from Andersen, Sonja Mack, and Karen Trapane.

In The Moment is an outstanding follow-up to Missy Andersen’s debut release, a fine showcase for her considerable vocal talents.

--- Graham Clarke

MonkeyJunkFor the Canadian band MonkeyJunk (Steve Marriner – harp, baritone guitar, vocals, organ, Matt Sobb – drums, percussion, Tony D – lead guitar, vocals), their hot streak began in 2009, with the release of their debut, Tiger In Your Tank, which earned the band the 2010 BMA for Best Artist Debut, the Canadian Indie Award for Blues Album of the Year, and multiple Maple Blues Awards (the Canadian version of the BMA’s). Intiallly released on the band’s own Beefy label, Tiger In Your Tank has now been remastered and reissued on MonkeyJunk’s current label, Stony Plain Records.

The title track, penned by Willie Dixon, kicks off the disc, but with a funky, swampy vibe that will get your toe tapping and your head bobbing (don’t miss the Son House cameo at the beginning of the track, stating the line that gave the band their name). There are three other covers…..a soul-drenched take on Magic Sam’s “Give Me Time,” with a great vocal turn from Marriner, a rocked-up reading of Otis Rush’s “If You Were Mine,” and Leon Russell’s “Boogie Man,” transformed into a grungy Hill Country styled boogie, courtesy of some fierce fretwork from Tony D.

The originals from the band are equally strong. “Small Town Evil” has a southern rock feel with some splendid slide guitar from Tony D, and “Push Comes To Shove” really turns up the funk with some nice work from Marriner on the keys. “Pay The Cost” is a wonderful traditional slow blues, and “Leave The Rest To You” is reminiscent of “Dixie Chicken”-era Little Feat with its funky backdrop. “Blues For Anna” is a rough and ragged Delta blues-styled track with vocals from Tony D.

There are also two cool instrumentals, “Beefy,” with some nice slide work from Tony D and harp from Marriner, and “Gutsy,” a jazzy R&B tune. In addition, the band recorded two new tracks, the rocker “Lucky One,” and the atmospheric “Pueblo.”

It’s great to have this release available to a wider audience. MonkeyJunk has built an impressive following over the past few years and Tiger In Your Tank proves that the band was a force to be reckoned with from the very beginning.

--- Graham Clarke

JP SoarsSince JP Soars won the 2009 IBC (and the prestigious Albert King Award), the young guitarist has stayed busy with touring, releasing a pair of CDs (one studio, one live), and teaming up with Tampa-based singer/guitarist Damon Fowler and Memphis keyboardist Victor Wainwright to form Southern Hospitality, whose 2013 Blind Pig debut release won acclaim (Blues Blast Music Award for Best New Artist Debut Release). He also found time to sit in with Jimmy Thackery on the former Nighthawks guitarist’s live 2012 release.

Soars recently released his third studio CD, Full Moon Night in Memphis (Soars High Productions), with his band the Red Hots. The guitarist’s musical influences range from blues to jazz to metal, and you get a little taste of all of them on the 14 tracks presented here. The blues is front and center on cuts like the rowdy title track, which opens the disc, the T-Bone-esque “Makes No Sense,” the Texas swinger “Savin’ All My Lovin’,” and “Way Back Home,” which features Soars on cigar box guitar.

On Soars’ remake of T-Bone Walker’s “Mean Old World,” he transforms the song into a Latin-flavored slow burner with some Link Wray-styled reverb. “Reefer Man,” the old Cab Calloway tune, really jumps with some great guitar work from Soars and nice work from the horn section, and the funky “Back To Broke” and “The Back Room” veer more toward R&B with satisfying results. “Viper” leans toward Django Reinhardt with gypsy guitar and a clarinet solo.

Soars revisits the Latin rhythms with “Lil’ Mamacita,” dabbles in country with “The Road Has Got Me Down” (with vocals from Teresa James), and on the rock side of things, there’s the powerful “Somethin’ Ain’t Right,” and the rocking closer, “Missin’ Your Kissin.’” All in all, Full Moon Night in Memphis gives listeners the opportunity to see just how talented JP Soars really is…..not just as a guitarist, but also as a singer and songwriter. This is a solid release from beginning to end.

--- Graham Clarke

You might be wondering about what’s taken Big Harp George so long, at 59 years of age, to release his debut recording, Chromatism (Blue Mountain Records). Well, he has a day job of sorts. Big Harp George (a.k.a. George Bisharat) works as a Professor of Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He also writes commentary on the Middle East for various publications (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc..).

When he’s not dabbling in law and politics, however, Big Harp George can blow a mean harmonica in the tradition of chromatic harmonica legends like Big George Smith, William Clarke, and Paul DeLay. Bisharat has been playing since his teens, joining up with guitarist Otis Grand and drummer Raja Kawar to form the Bliss Street Blues Band while the trio attended American University in Beirut. Kawar joins him on his debut, along with guitarist Little Charlie Baty, Rusty Zinn, and Kid Andersen, who plays bass on all tracks, vibist Kent Bryson, keyboardist Chris Burns, and saxophonist Michael Peloquin.

In addition to being a monster on harmonica, Bisharat is also a strong vocalist and penned several songs on Chromatism. “Left So Soon” is a heartfelt tribute to DeLay that surely would have made him smile, and “Cellphone Hater” is a timely tune about the continuing loss of privacy brought on by advancing technology. The swinging “Strolling Down Bliss Street” recalls Bisharat’s college days. “Cocktail Hour” is a smooth jazz instrumental, and the Chicago-styled “Hey Jelah.” touts the merits of being an empty-nester.

One of the first songs Bisharat heard when he discovered the blues was Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Crazy About You Baby,” and he reprises it here (the only track where he plays diatomic harmonica). Other covers include a pair of T-Bone Walker tunes (“My Baby is Now on My Mind” and “Hard Way”), John Green’s tender ballad “Someday,” Jesse Stone’s “Smack Dab in the Middle, and Gene Krupa’s “Drum Boogie” give the band the spotlight to close things out.

Chromatism is an excellent, well-rounded set of blues and jazz tunes from Big Harp George. It’s a shame it’s taken him this long to record, but hopefully we will be hearing from him again in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

GBAHere’s a feel-good story if there ever was one…..a 12-year-old guitar wunderkind visits a juke-joint with his dad and meets a pair of South Central L.A. bluesmen, one nearly 70 years old and the other pushing 80, and Generation Blues Experience was born. Now 14, guitarist/singer Ray Goren, 80-year-old guitarist/singer Jamie “Bluesboy” Powell, and 70-year-old harmonica player/singer Sammy Lee have already released two discs, one studio and one live.

Their latest release, Private Angel, features eight songs, seven originals written by the band, who share vocal duties pretty evenly as well. Lee handles vocals on the opening cut, the boisterous “Little Mama,” the slow burner “Sugar Momma,” and “Katrina” a Crescent City shuffle lamenting the notorious storm and its effects. Powell and bass player Lester Lands each take one vocal, Powell handling the country blues track, “Crazy,” and Lands testifying on the inspirational “Put Love On Your Guest List.”

Guitar phenom Goren dazzles on his six string, sounding like a young B.B. King on the tremendous title track, on which he also sings, but he’s not just imitating what he’s heard on YouTube or his iPod by any means. He explores a wide range of blues on these cuts, displaying a staggering amount of range and ability for his age, whether playing the straight blues or mixing in bits of jazz and rock. Vocally, he brings a surprising amount of maturity to his three songs (“Private Angel,” the lovely R&B tune, “Rainin’,” and a live version of the Bill Withers classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” that ends the disc.

From listening to the eight tracks on Private Angel, it certainly seems like young Ray Goren has a definite vision of what the blues are supposed to be. Fortunately, he has joined up with a veteran set of musicians who have the ability to help him get there. This is an amazing release from a great young artist.

--- Graham Clarke

Jeff DaleJeff Dale is a Chicago native who grew up listening to the Windy City sounds of artists like Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, and many others. He learned to play the blues and started writing blues songs when he was in his early teens, accompanying artists such as Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton, Honeyboy Edwards, and Etta James, and releasing a couple of albums in the ’80s before fading from the scene.

In 2009, he resurfaced with a new band, The South Woodlawners, and has released three albums since then. The latest, Good Music (Pro Sho Bidness), provides keen insight into Dale’s musical identity and talents as a performer and a songwriter. He’s able to capture the feel of the old style blues, but with modern flourishes, especially on the title track, and other tunes like “Town Line Road,” “Wagon Wheel,” “The Devil I Know,” and “Cold Wind.”

Other tracks, still focusing on the blues but with a twist here and there are “Letter From The Birmingham Jail” (based on the famous letter from Martin Luther King, Jr.), “She Love Me,” one of the first blues songs about sexting, the self-explanatory “Naked Woman In My Bed,” and “My Brain Took The Whole Night Off,” a track most of us can easily relate to. Also unique are “Final Destination,” a great slow blues with cello played by Dane Little, and “Murder,” a noir-ish track featuring an oboe solo (courtesy of Marilyn Schram).

Dale does an excellent job on guitar and vocals, and his songwriting is outstanding. He gets ample assistance from the South Woodlawners conglomorate – drummers Tim Austin and Mark Mack, bassists Andre Howard, Andre “Big Perm” McCottrey, and Orlando Wright, harmonica players Glen Doll, Jeff Stone, and Chef Denis Depoitre, sax man Jim Jedeiken, keyboardist Derek Phillips, and guitarist Charlie Love.

Good Music is an appropriate title for Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners’ latest release. Loaded with inspired musical performances and a wide-ranging set of impressive original tunes, this set is recommended to all discriminating blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Kaye BohlerSan Francisco-based singer/songwriter Kaye Bohler has been wowing audiences for over 25 years with her performances, earning the nickname “The White Tina Turner” for her intense and compelling live shows. Her amazing voice is as at home belting the blues as it is on heartfelt deep soul music. Handle the Curves is her latest release and Bohler takes us on a marvelous journey through Memphis-based blues and soul, backed by a fantastic band led by Grammy-winning guitarist/producer Pete Anderson with horn arrangements from Tonight Show trumpeter Lee Thornburg.

The horns (Thornburg – trumpet and trombone, and Ron Dzibula – saxophone), accompanied by Anderson’s always spot-on guitar work and Michael Murphy’s keyboards give the ten tracks, all penned by Bohler, a decidedly retro feel. Bohler’s vocals are big, bold, and sassy, and her songs capture the mood and spirit of the earlier era. Some of the tracks seem autobiographical (“Bubble Gum,” “The Way I Do Business,” “Slayed”), while others deal with determination and inspiration (“Backbone,” “Family Is Found,” “Don’t Take My Hope Away”). Others tracks are just plain fun, like “Diggin’ on My Man,” “Party Time,” “It’s The Blues,” and the salacious title track.

Anderson produced the disc, duplicating as closely as possible the recording and production practices done in the Stax/Volt Records era. He also doubles on bass, with further assistance from Kelly Back on guitar and drummers Jeff Sorenson and John Paul. For fans of old school blues and soul, Handle the Curves and Kaye Bohler are pretty hard to beat.

--- Graham Clarke

B-KirkLatenighters Under A Full Moon (Roller Records), from the Norwegian band Berdon Kirksaether & The Twang Bar Kings, is a concept album which tells a story about a group of friends’ adventures during a Saturday night out on the town. Consisting of 11 instrumental tracks, it serves as a soundtrack of sorts accompanying their exploits. Guitarist Kirksaether is a veteran of the Norwegian blues scene and was part of the band CIA. For this release, he’s joined by two of his former CIA mates, drummer Olaf Olson and bassist Stein Tumert.

The tracks have a pretty jazz-oriented backdrop, with songs like “Go Cat Go,” thanks in part to Kirksaether’s fretwork, which though blues-based also shows influences of jazz and rock. Songs like “Conrad’s Bar Bounty” and “Cool Cats On The Move” and “Jumping The Night Away” keep the blues alive on this set, while “Midnight Haze” and the title track lean more toward blues-rock. “Rendezvous” is a real keeper, too, with its Latin backdrop.

On several tracks, the trio is augmented by Øyvind Sørby on saxophone, Finn Tore Tokle on bass and Leo Volskiy, who lays down some nice Memphis-style keyboards on a few tracks. This is a really cool set of blues instrumentals that cover a lot of ground from blues to jazz to R&B to rock and is definitely worth a spin.

--- Graham Clarke

LighthouseIf you listened to the self-titled debut recording from Lighthouse with no prior knowledge of the band and without consulting the liner notes, you would almost swear that you were listening to a great new Americana band, probably from the heartland of America. However, Lighthouse is actually a collaboration between Mats and Linda Brandemark, two of Sweden’s finest roots artists.

Lighthouse offers 11 outstanding tracks that mix pop, rock, and Americana seamlessly. Among the standouts are “Passing Me By,” which benefits greatly the shared lead vocals of the Brandemarks, and from Martin Högvall’s lap steel guitar, the lovely “Darkness (Hides Behind the Sun),” the “road” song “No U-Turn,” and the melancholy “Queen of Hearts.”

The Brandemarks are both excellent vocalists and sound great together. Musicians include Johan von Feilitzen (electric guitar, keyboards, drums, backing vocals), Rolf Viberg (bass), Marc Gransten (bass), Dirk Reidstra (tenor sax), Gunnar Hofverberg (mandolin), Magnus Larsson (lap steel), Pelle Henricsson (drums), Peter Lindberg (pedal steel), and Thomas Ohlsson (drums). They really capture the essence of this style of music.

Lighthouse is as good an album of roots and Americana music as I’ve heard this year. Even though the performers live thousands of miles away, they have a firmer grasp of the genre as many of the artists from the country of its origin.

--- Graham Clarke

Achilles TenderloinAchilles Tenderloin is Joe Augustin, a folk-blues singer/songwriter/guitarist from Indiana. His music is influenced by pre-war blues artists like Skip James, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, and Tommy Johnson, but it also reflects jazz sensibilities, especially vocally, best illustrated by vocalists like Billie Holliday and Nina Simone. His own lyrics are highly personal and sometimes emotionally charged.

For his latest CD, Stronger Than Wine, Augustin offers six original songs, along with four diverse covers. “Cold Morning Blues” invokes Skip James with its gentle guitar work and Augustin’s forlorn vocal. “Let The Good Times Roll” is a bit more upbeat, and is complemented by Aaron Nell’s muted trumpet, which also makes an appearance on “Daisy May.”

Nell also adds fiddle on a pair of original tunes, the John Henry tale, “Steel Hammer Blues,” and “Doppler Blues,” and a couple of the cover tunes, which include an intense remake of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Can’t Keep From Cryin’,” Leadbelly’s “In The Pines,” Tommy Johnson’s “Cool Drink of Water,” and an off-the-charts redo of the Toadies’ “I Come From The Water.”

It’s interesting to hear these classic pre-war tunes revamped and revitalized in this manner. Augustin’s vocals and the various instrumental flourishes make you look at them in a different way. These interpretations, plus the compelling original songs make Stronger Than Wine a fascinating and innovative interpretation of the blues. File this one under “Brave New Blues.” To check out Achilles Tenderloin’s music, visit their website at,

--- Graham Clarke

Christy RossiterChristy Rossiter & 112 North Duck have already released a fine studio album this year, but they are striking while the iron is still hot, issuing a scorching live set recorded last December at a fundraiser for a Christmas toy drive sponsored by the Blues Society of Omaha. Live at the Toy Drive (Applecopter) features Rossiter and band (Michael Beebe – guitar, Billy Talacko – guitar, sax, David Beasley – bass, and J. E. Van Horne - drums) working through a 48-minute set of 12 songs, split between covers and originals.

The band takes one song from their debut album, Flat River Blues (“Natural Disaster”), a pair from Gone Fishin’ (“The Louisiana Way” and “Baby I’m Gone”) and four from their latest release, Stand Up & Raise Some Hell (“Smart Phone Junkies,” “Take A Walk With Me,” “Shades of Gray,” and “The Westboro Blues”). Rossiter is in great voice and the band provides rock solid support on these originals.

The five covers are well-chosen and should have been familiar to the fans in attendance, though the band doesn’t do routine versions of any of the songs. They include Sleepy John Estes’ “Leavin’ Trunk,” Freddie King’s “Hideaway” (played here at a tempo closer to the Magic Sam version, “Do the Camel Walk”), Rosco Gordon’s “Just A Little Bit,” Joe Medwick’s “Further On Up The Road,” and Willie Dixon’s “Don’t Go No Further.”

The set was recorded in a large ballroom with a digital recorder set by the soundboard. The process really captures the feeling of a live performance. You can hear the crowd reacting enthusiastically to several of the performances. If you liked Christy Rossiter & 112 North Duck’s previous releases, or you’re a fan of high-energy modern blues and soul, you will find a lot to enjoy here.

The CD can be purchased at the band’s website. The proceeds from CD sales will go to the Toy Drive for Pine Ridge, a reservation in South Dakota, and supplies toys for kids, supplies at one of the schools, and propane for some of the elders on the reservation. At this year’s fundraiser, the band will be appearing with Too Slim and the Taildraggers.

--- Graham Clarke

Gregg AllmanThere are those who will suggest – your correspondent among them – that the album by which all live albums will forever be judged is the Allman Brothers Band Live at the Fillmore. The monumental collection All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman (Rounder) – two CDs and a beautifully shot DVD in a gorgeous package – isn't that album's equal, but it sure gives it a run for its money.

Recorded live at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on January 10, 2014, an impressive line-up gathered to pay tribute to to Gregg Allman with more than a passing nod to the template Fillmore set. Most songs that are associated with the brothers and their amazing cohorts are here. The newest version of the band, most notably Warren Haynes and Butch Trucks, check in with killer versions of "Come and Go Blues" and" End of the Day" to launch the program. It's non-stop energy, both on the stage and in the audience from that point forward.

Trucks and his partner Susan Tedeschi do a righteous cover of "Stand Back." Gregg's son Devon joins Jimmy Hall and Robert Randolph on "You Can't Lose What You Never Had," replete with signature slide work. Taj Mahal joins Gregg on "Statesboro Blues." John Hiatt does a fine version of "One Way Out" and Eric Church, a new name to me, gives a convincing rendition of "Ain't Wastin' Time No More."

In the tradition of the Allman Brothers Band there are classic extended jams. In the tradition of Gregg Allman the songwriter, there are poignant moments as well. Of the standout moments is a duet with Jackson Browne and Gregg Allman on Browne's "These Days," a radio hit in its time for both artists. This is followed by the two singing Gregg's "Melissa."

The set closes, as you might expect, with a burst of energy, sort of like the grand finale of a fireworks show. The full Allman Brothers Band assembles for "Dreams" and "Whipping Post," leaving the listeners exhausted and screaming for more.

This is one of the standout CDs of the year. Allman Brothers fans need this one.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Mick KolassaThe baseball players who impress me the most are the players who smile and laugh a lot because they're havin so much fun playing a game. Same with musicians. Mick Kolassa is a man who is clearly having fun on his CD, Michissippi Mick (Swingsuit). On the opener, "New Beale Street Blues," co-credited to Kolassa and WC Handy, he sings “If Beale Street could talk/married men would have to pack their bags and walk.” This is a rollicking tune by a band of fun-having players. Kolassa is just the most boisterous kid on the playground.

A superb string player and vocalist, Kolassa also writes the most joyful songs. "Blues Are All Around You" (“they're everywhere you go/I was walking down the street last night/blues came up behind me/had to step in a whiskey store so I could drink them off my mind”) features killer electric guitar courtesy Jeff Jensen. His remake of "The Letter," the old Box Tops tune, is gorgeously bluesy with sweet backing vocals by Reba Russell and organ from Chris Stephenson, giving it a taste of church in the mix.

The Cab Callway classic, "The Reefer Man," has a tamborine and drum propelled groove with guitar and bass work that break into quick tempo honky tonk piano by Victor Wainwright. A song made for robust hand clapping this is tent revival blues. Johnny Mercer's standard, "Blues In The Night," has harp and trumpet via Brandon Santini and Dedrick Davis floating on a bed of electric guitar and organ.

"WPD" is a tune that tackles the “awful sight” of watching white people dance. Mick's "Time Ain't On My Side" reminds of Elvin Bishop or David Bromberg with its half sung, half talked through story. “I just had another birthday, this thought came over me/suddenly I'm not half the man I used to be/I used to stay out all night long/I could party like a kid/don't even try that anymore/its something that I used to did.”

In addition to releasing superb music, Kolassa is to be commended for giving 100% of the profits from this disc to the Blues Foundation.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Laura RainPowerhouse vocalist Laura Rain, of Laura Rain and the Caesars, obviously logged some hours listening to Janis Joplin. That's not to say she sounds like Joplin. She doesn't. But, she comes from that same place vocally that straddles rock and soul and blues. She likely cut some teeth on Chaka Khan coming up, too. But, beyond influences, this is a woman on a self-fulfilling crusade, set to make her own strong mark.

Her vocals and delivery on Closer (LRC) are riveting. On the opener, "Seasons," she hits emotional nerves gorgeously backed by her guitar-playing partner, George Friend with a killer horn “section” of Johnny Evans (saxophones) and John Douglas (trumpet), giving it a Muscle Shoals kind of groove.

Bassist/keyboardist Phil Hale and drummer Ron Pangborn, both with their own strong resumes, complete the core quartet and are knock-out solid throughout. "Squawkin'" is rhythm-driven with tasty guitar and a slapping drum that punctuates. "All of Me" is ultra soulful. "Your Love Is Not Broken (It's Just Getting Stronger)" is medium tempo testimony with gorgeous organ work by Duncan McMillan.

The closing "My Heart is Open" is a gorgeous bookend to the 11 cut gem. Soulful, rocking and blues, sometimes all at once, are her calling card. A soulful and funky affair, Closer is a superb album top to bottom.

--- Mark E. Gallo


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