Blues Bytes

What's New

September 2015

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Debbie Davies

Shemekia Copeland

Buddy Guy

Albert Cummings

D.L. Duncan

Eight O'Five Jive

Sonny Terry

Jay Stollman

Ragpicker String Band

Mick Kolassa


Bob Malone

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion

Laura Tate

Hank Mowery

Jay Gordon

Smoky Greenwell


Debbie DaviesKudos to Debbie Davies for her positive attitude and a refreshing look at the Blues she loves so much. Her new record on the Vizztone label, Love Spin, takes an honest look at life, love and everything in between with the goal of taking a second look and allowing herself to put a positive “Love Spin” on her perception. It’s a positive look on life and it serves Debbie well on what is a very good record. Let’s give it a spin.

Our first track, “Life of the Party,” is dedicated to John “Juke” Logan, and here we find Debbie feels like she is “the life of the party,” particularly when she has her guitar in hand. “You know we’re on a mission…we’re going to make you smile…that’s my sole ambition…mile after mile…life of the party…that’s who I am.” “Life of the Party” is a jumping tune and sets the tone for more to come, right out of the box. The title track, “Love Spin,” is next and Paul Opalach lends his lap steel to the mix as Debbie educates us about the “love spin.” “You got to put a love spin on it…and turn your life around.” No matter what it is --- anger, disappointment or resentment --- just take another look at everything and put your own “love spin” on it. The second “Love spin” look can go a long way toward improving our perceptions and attitudes about whatever situation we may find ourselves in.

Up next is a beautiful ballad, “Let the Heartaches Begin,” and Terry Hanck joins Debbie vocally and sonically with his sax. “If little bitty teardrops must fall…the sooner we start…the sooner we can cry it all…then we’ll both be free to love again…so let the heartaches begin.” Terry is lending a beautiful sophistication to this tune with his saxophone and Debbie’s fretwork is off the charts.Sometimes just being consistent is the key and Debbie tells about it in our next cut, “Don’t Change It Up.” “I love what you’re doing, Baby…baby don’t stop…baby don’t stop…don’t change it up.” Jay Stollman joins Debbie on the vocals for this song and the best advice that both of them can give is “don’t change it up.”

We segue on to “It’s All Blues” and this is a classic song from Debbie. Dana Robbins adds the delicate intonations of her saxophone to this track as Debbie describes a number of variations of the music we all love. “You can make it raw…you can make it swing…you can make it funky…do your own thing…anytime…. any place…long as it sets your little soul free…it’s all blues…all blues to me. Lenny McDaniels penned our next track, “Talk Real Slow,” one of two non-original tunes on Debbie’s disc and there’s a sense of sensual understanding between a woman and her man with this tune. As Debbie sings, “Baby, talk real slow…and I won’t let go…I hope you get my message…I hope you understand…Baby, talk real slow…and I won’t let go.” Debbie knows what she wants and it helps to convince her that your love is real, so Baby, “talk real slow.”

The up-tempo “I’m Not Cheatin’ Yet” makes its appearance next and here we find that while Debbie might be tempted, she’s not “cheating yet.” Dana’s back with her sax and Dave Keys is twinkling the ivories on a piano as well. Debbie’s real clear with her message, “I’m not stepping out…so don’t sit there and pout…I’m not stepping out…you’d be better off to break a sweat…cause, I’m not cheating yet.” Debbie’s fretwork is emphatic and her man best understand that it’s her intent to stay. So of course, every now and then a man has to get his point across, and in this case, he’s threatening Debbie with “Two Twenty-Five Year Olds.” Debbie’s more than willing to call him on his bluff here, “If you’re going to dream now…let your dreams be bold…you say you’re going to trade me in for…two twenty-five year olds?” They both know he’s not going anywhere and it’s probably best to retreat to his man cave and leave Debbie alone for just a little while.

The other non-original tune on Debbie’s disc was penned by Swedish Blues artist Sven Zetterberg, who named it “A Darker Side of Me.” We all have dark sides that need to see the light of day once in awhile and Debbie is no different here. The song has a classic jazz feel to it and Debbie’s free to express her darkest emotions. “I’ve got a limit…something you can’t see…. I’m sorry if I scared you…you just saw a darker side of me.” Life isn’t always easy for Debbie either and every once in a while she just needs to lose control and let the world see, “a darker side of me.” Terry Hanck is back with his saxophone for one of the last two original tunes on Debbie’s disc, this one being “I Get the Blues So Easy.” “I can’t sleep at night…my mind keeps me awake…I worry about my money…and the love I didn’t make…might make me crazy…but it’s the life I choose…. sometimes, playing this guitar…just gives me the Blues.” With all of this going on, it’s easy to see why Debbie gets the Blues so easy.

Debbie closes out Love Spin with “Way Back Home.” For a number of us, life is a cyclical process and sooner or late we all seem to find our way back home. Debbie’s laying down some wicked slide guitar and she’s serious about her journey. “I’m going to find my way…find my way back home… now, if you won’t go with me…I’m still going home.”

Love Spin has been an amazing journey from the first track to the last. I’ve enjoyed every song and found Debbie Davies’ journey here to be very refreshing. You can grab a copy for yourself on Debbie’s website,, and I strongly encourage you to so. I think we’ll definitely be hearing more accolades for this disc before the year is out, and deservedly so. Congratulations, Debbie, for coming out with a disc that made me sit up and take notice. It doesn’t happen very often anymore but I’m glad it did. Well done!

--- Kyle Deibler

Shemekia CopelandI had the opportunity to talk with Shemekia Copeland after her performance at this year’s Flagstaff Blues & Brews. I told her it was time to get a new record out, we’ve been missing her at the Blues Music Awards and it was high time she got back to Memphis. She indicated that she’d been in the studio and had a new record coming out in the fall. That record, Outskirts of Love, marks her return to Alligator Records and just recently showed up on my doorstep.

Shemekia opens with the title cut, “Outskirts of Love,” and here we find that at times, love’s not perfect, no matter how hard we try. “When you can’t find those things…you’ve been dreaming of…. you’ve been living…. living on the outskirts of love.” Love Shemekia’s vocal in the opening track, and we’re off and running. We transition to “Crossbone Beach,” and here we find Shemekia dealing with the dark side of life after being slipped something in her drink that caused her to black out and lose complete control. Jano Rix is at the keyboards and I hear them prominently in the intro to this tune. “I ended up on Crossbone Beach…as close to hell as you can reach…how’d I end up on Crossbone Beach?” A man with a gold tooth is the one who slipped her the drug and at some point karma caught up with him and Shemekia was able to escape. Producer Oliver Wood is on the guitar for this tune and his fretwork is amazing.

Shemekia chose one of her Dad’s tunes, "Devil’s Hand," for the record and the band tackles that next. Lex Price’s bass is at the forefront of the intro as he helps Jano on the drums lay the back end down. “Woke early one morning…saw the Devil…playing his hand…you know he wrecked my life…just like a hurricane.” Playing cards with the Devil is a lost cause, he cheats to get his way and is quick to capitalize on the mistakes of others. Shemekia and the band move on to tackle “The Battle Is Over (But the War Goes On),” a tune originally performed by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. “If talk was money…you’d be a millionaire…if thoughts could kill…there’d be nobody here…so many thinking evil…and talking jive…it’s only true love…keeps this world alive.” This particular battle might be won, but it’s a difficult world out there and we all need to keep fighting the war. Will Kimbrough handles a number of the guitar duties on this disc as well and I’m enjoying what I hear of his fretwork.

It’s refreshing to hear Alvin Youngblood Hart lending his guitar and vocals to our next cut, “Cardboard Box,” a tune about homelessness and life on the streets. “And I don’t need a vacation…don’t need a breath of fresh air…I don’t need to go out…cause I’m already there…. life is rough…it gets worse…we all end up in a box…I just got there first.” A snare intro and pedal steel by Pete Finney take Shemekia on to her next tune, “Drivin’ Out of Nashville.” “I’m driving out of Nashville…with a body in the trunk…trying to figure out…the depths that I have sunk…I never hit the big time…but I went out with a bang….cause Country ain’t nothing…but the Blues with a twang.” I appreciate the humor in this tune and Shemekia pulls it all off without a hitch.

“I Feel a Sin Coming On” is our next cut and I have a feeling this tune is right up Shemekia’s alley. “He just sits there…his eyes on me…I shake with temptation…just knowing what it could be…I ought to go home…I’ve been here too long…. oh, yes I have…. cause I…feel a sin coming on.” She’s at the crossroads of yes or no, and the way the wine flows will determine the outcome of it all. I like this tune by Shemekia as she explores the choices a married woman, with a good man at home, sometimes makes. A Jesse Winchester tune, “Isn’t That So,” is next and here we find Shemekia admonishing us to “go where your heart says go.” “You got to bury the seed…in the dirt my friend…if you want the seed to grow…you’ve got to go where your heart says go…isn’t that so.”

A heavy kick drum and bass intro from Lex Price take us to a tune once performed by ZZ Top, “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” “Jesus just left Chicago…headed for New Orleans.” Billy Gibbons joins the fray on guitar for this tune as Shemekia continues to enthrall us with all of the miracles Jesus wrought after he left Chicago. “You won’t see him in person…but he’ll see you just the same…you don’t have to worry…taking care of business…is his name.” The familiar sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival are up next as Shemekia tackles the classic Fogerty tune, “Long as I Can See the Light.” “Though I’m gone…you don’t have to worry…long as I can see the light.” No matter how far Shemekia wanders…as long as she can see the light…she will always be able to find her way home.

Shemekia’s take on an Albert King classic, “Wrapped Up In Love Again,” is the next track we’re treated to. “Here I am…wrapped up in love again…you say you don’t want to marry me…you just want to be my friend.” Arthur Neilson is on the guitar for this tune and he’s laying down some tasty licks as part of the homage to Albert’s song. The final cut is a Jessie Mae tune, “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy,” a spiritual in the first degree. “Let’s all rise together and face the rising sun…Lord, help the poor and needy…in this land.”

I’m happy to have new music from Shemekia Copeland in hand. It displays a range of tunes and sentiments that at times surprised me but they all definitely work in the context of Outskirts of Love. Shemekia has always toured quite a bit and her schedule can be found at Pick up a copy of her new disc while you’re there and catch her when you can. Shemekia’s one of the mainstays of our genre today and has earned her following, one fan at a time. Well done, Shemekia!

--- Kyle Deibler

Buddy GuyA lot has changed in Buddy Guy’s world over the last year, in part because of the passing of his good friend, B.B. King. With B.B.’s passing, Buddy has become the predominant voice of American Blues, and I wonder if that wears on him with the responsibility of this genre of music we all know and love. Personally, I think Buddy is taking it in stride, and his new disc, I Was Born to Play Guitar, reflects this. Buddy’s playing is as intricate and tasteful as ever, and he sounds quite comfortable with his new role in the Blues. This record is a gem; let’s give it a spin.

Buddy tells us in “I Was Born to Play Guitar”: “I’ve got a mean reputation…and everybody knows my name…I was born to play guitar…and people, I’ve got the Blues running in my veins.” Buddy had the Blues from the age of two to hear him tell it and we’re glad he realized it early on. Billy Gibbons joins us for the next cut, “Wear You Out,” and here they’re reflecting on possessions in their lives that they’ve just flat pushed to their limits. For Buddy, it’s a '54 Strat and for Billy, initially a Cadillac. “I had a ’70s something Eldorado…they said it never going to stop…100,000 miles in 69 days…I felt the engine drop…I’m going to wear you out.” This also applies to women to hear them tell it but you’ll have to catch that verse for yourself.

Buddy slows things down a tad on “Back Up Mama,” and here we find out he has a plan B if plan A doesn’t work out. “I keep up a back up mama…. and she lives…a way cross town…I’ve got a back up mama…if mama #1 is not around.” To Buddy’s way of thinking, women can be mean and unpredictable, so having a back up mama is the smart thing to do. Kim Wilson’s the next to appear with his amazing harp on “Too Late.” Here Buddy loves his woman but there’s only so much he can stand and away he goes. “I can’t stand your cooking and you ain’t good looking, I’m gone.” Kim’s harp fill is intense as Buddy tells his woman, “It’s too late…I’m gone.”

Bassist Michael Rhodes adds a killer intro to Buddy’s next cut, “Whiskey, Beer & Wine,” and he tells us about a rundown bar that only serves these three things. “You can fix anything…over whiskey, beer & wine.” Simple solutions perhaps, but not necessarily always the best ones. Up next is “Kiss Me Quick” and Kim’s back on the harp, lending his expertise to Buddy’s tune. Buddy’s obviously found a woman he likes, “You’re so fine…we ain’t got much time…kiss me quick.” Kim’s harp fill reflects the urgency in Buddy’s lust for this woman and time’s a wasting, “kiss me quick.”

In the hauntingly beautiful intro to “Crying Out of One Eye” Buddy shares a story of a love he lost, despite all of her protests to the contrary.” “You said you’ve never known another…like the love we’ve been in…but you know…. and I know…. you didn’t have to love…. and when you said goodbye…you were only crying out of one eye.” Obviously not a completely true love and though Buddy’s hurt at losing her, it obviously wasn’t going to last. Joss Stone lends her vocals to the mix in our next tune, a duet with Buddy, “(Baby) You Got What it Takes”. While I enjoy the repartee between the two, I have a tough time imagining Joss as part of this equation, though kudos to Buddy for having her guest on his record.

Buddy’s Strat sets the tone for our next tune, “Turn Me Wild,” and here we find Buddy reflecting on his youth. “When I was young…I stayed in line…I didn’t do no midnight creeping…Mama had a broom beside the bed…. I can tell you it wasn’t for sweeping…the blues done turned me wild…it got deep down in my soul…I get like an old hound dog…. deep down in the rabbit’s hole.” Whatever the circumstances surrounding Buddy’s youth were, the Blues has him now and we’re glad it does. We move on to the melodic “Crazy World,” and here we find Buddy reflecting on the state of the world today. “You can lay money down…and win every bet…but the taxman is going to take…half of what you get…it’s a crazy world….craaaazzzy world.”

Relationship issues tend to crop up in everybody’s life and Buddy’s back talking about them in “Smarter Than I Was.” “It’s been nine cold nights…and she ain’t coming home…she took my soul…. to the darker side…. but halfway there…I done got wise…nine cold nights…it’s time to say goodbye…I may not look it…but I’m smarter than I was.” Suffice it to say, Buddy’s learned his lesson and the time came to let her go. “Thick Like Mississippi Mud” is another tune that finds Buddy reflecting on the state of affairs in the world today. The Muscle Shoals Horns make an appearance here and the entire sonic experience is one of the highlights on this disc. “The smoke is getting thick…thick like Mississippi mud…there’s so many people at this party…Lord, I can’t even get drunk…you know the Blues done took my life…and turned my world upside down.”

Buddy closes out this amazing disc with two tunes, “Flesh & Bones,” a tribute to his friend, B.B. King, and an ode to another of his friends in “Come Back Muddy.” Van Morrison makes an appearance on “Flesh & Bones” as the tune conveys Buddy’s feeling about what a good life, lived, is, “Life is more than flesh and bones…sing that loud before you’re gone…when you’re gone…your spirit lives on…. This life is more than flesh & bones.” Definitely my favorite tune on Buddy’s disc and what he says is true. You never know what a smile, an acknowledgement or a hug might mean in the life of another person you meet along your way. A tremendous amount of your life, your legacy, will be found in the hearts of those you touched along the way. “Come Back Muddy” finds Buddy reflecting on another of his friends that he misses dearly, “Come Back Muddy…. Lord, Knows…you can’t be replaced.”

To make a disc like Born to Play Guitar at this point in Buddy’s life is amazing. He’s still at the top of his game with amazing fretwork and heartfelt lyrics that will touch you all. Producer Tom Hambridge surrounded Buddy with some amazing session players and the guest stars, with the possible exception of Joss Stone, were spot on. Kudos to Buddy for reminding us that he still has a lot to say and making that point abundantly clear. Buddy’s tour schedule can be found on-line at and catch a performance by this legendary Bluesman when you can. Born to Play Guitar is an outstanding addition to your music library. While the disc will whet your appetite, Buddy Guy is still a dish best served live.

--- Kyle Deibler

Albert CummingsAlbert Cummings and I have been talking in spurts over the last year or so about his new disc on Blind Pig Records, Someone Like You. Albert felt it was his best disc to date, and now that I’ve had an opportunity to listen to the new record I’d have to agree with him. I particularly like the organic feel of the new record. All of the cuts are first takes and in fact, the first time any of the tunes had been played together by the amazing band producer David Z put behind Albert. Mike Finnigan on organ, Tony Braunagel on drums and Reggie McBride’s bass played the tunes for the first (and last time) when they were recorded. In these days of Pro Tools and Autotune, I found the rawness of the record appealing to me. Let’s give the new disc a listen and you can decide for yourself.

Albert opens up with “No Doubt.” and right away we hear Mike’s organ at the forefront of the tune. Albert’s woman is sneaking into the house at 3am and he’s totally aware of the hour she lays down in the bed beside him. Obviously she’s up to no good and the thing to do is let her go. As Albert sings, “when there’s a doubt…there’s no doubt about it.” Goodbye and good riddance. Albert’s in a good place in his life and his wife Christina is the inspiration for a number of the tunes he writes. I’m sure “I Found You” is one of those. “I thought the day might never come…I knew my dream of loving you…now I thank my lucky stars…because I finally…well, I finally found you.”

Albert’s happiness is short-lived in our next cut, “Up Your Sleeve,” and here we know he’s completely aware of the fact he’s being played. “Oh, I know what you got up your sleeve…you don’t change your ways now, baby…you’re going to be watching me…packing up to leave.” Her backdoor man is keeping a close eye on the situation, hoping for another taste of forbidden love and Albert will gladly leave this woman behind if she doesn’t appreciate the man she already has. Albert’s guitar playing is ferocious on this cut and I’m reminded of his performance at Blues Blast in Phoenix several years ago, in which a 7 ½ minute rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” is still burned firmly in my memory banks.

Our next cut, “Movin’ On,” has a laid back, sort of country feel to it, and again Albert’s Strat is at the forefront as he picks the intro to this tune. “I’m going to sail…all over the sea…and when I’m gone…ain’t no nobody going to miss me…I’ve been down…not this far before…I’m going to leave…. ain’t nobody going to see me go…it’s time…for me to be moving on.” Mike’s organ work is called to the front and his solo emphasizes the conviction I hear in Albert’s voice.

“So Strong” is the first ballad of the disc, and Albert again intricately picks his way through the intro as Mike’s organ and Reggie’s bass fall in behind. “When I think about what you said…I relive the whole night…going through my head…standing alone by the waterfall…holding myself up…hoping you would call…I watched the stars shooting in the sky…couldn’t hold back my tears…no matter how hard I try….guess right sometimes turns out wrong…guess that’s what makes us so strong.” Whatever the circumstances are, Albert and his woman seem to work through their issues and reach a common ground and love that holds them together. As Albert sings, “I don’t know why I do what I do…guess that’s why I’m crazy about you…so strong.” I’ve always appreciated Albert’s ballads and “So Strong” is another tune growing on me rapidly.

Albert takes the time to honor his wife Christina and their boys in his liner notes, “I never knew what love was until I had this family.” I feel this sentiment is reflected in Albert’s next cut, “Finally in Love.” “I love to show you off to all my friends…walking around while we’re holding hands….I think I’m finally in love…you’re the one I’ve been dreaming of…you must have been sent from heaven above….I think….I’m finally in love.”

Albert’s back in the fire with his next cut, “Make Up Your Mind,” and here’s he’s confronted by a woman whose feelings are conflicted. The band is in high gear as Albert tells her, “Make up your mind…you need to make up your mind.” He’s more than willing to deal with whatever comes next, but she needs to “make up her mind.” Albert’s frenetic fretwork is on full display here and dammit woman, figure it out.

Jimmy Vivino adds his considerable guitar work to our next two cuts and I’m not about to try and distinguish between his fretwork and Albert’s, though I could make an educated guess. Anyway, Albert’s vocal is at the forefront, “I woke up this morning…with a bird on my window sill…the little bird said, “your woman is running around on you... she’s running around on you, against your will.” Albert wants more proof, “Little bird…can you take me to the place you saw them in….when the little bird took me there…I saw her laying right there next to him.” Jimmy’s fretwork is very tasteful and with the little bird being right, it’s time for this woman to go. The band transitions into an instrumental, “Meatlocker,” and I hear Mike’s organ, Reggie's bass, Tony’s drums, a bit of Jimmy’s guitar and Albert topping the whole thing off extra fine.

Reggie lays down a heavy bass intro to our next cut, “I’m in Love With Yo,u” and here we find the romantic in Albert coming back out again. “I want to hug you, kiss you…hold you in a warm embrace…and do things to you that put a smile on your face…all I think about is you…I don’t know what I’m going to do…but I know one thing…baby, I’m in love with you.” Albert’s in love with her and he’s definitely got it bad.. We move on to “Old Dog” with Albert laying down the law in the pound. “I said…look out you other dogs…if you think you’re going to get my bone…you’ve got another thing coming.” Albert’s fretwork is front and center while he makes it clear that he’s the baddest dog on the porch. This woman is his and all the other dogs had better leave her alone.

The band closes with an upbeat tune, “Stay Away From My Sister,” and I’m left to contemplate just how pretty Albert’s sister might be, as protective as he is here, “Stay away from my sister…and I’ll stay away from yours.” Might have to ask him about that the next time we correspond.

I love the energy of Albert’s new disc. He says in the notes that he loves his music spontaneous, and recording everything in one take without rehearsing first is highly unusual in this day and age. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Albert play live and this disc reminds me of exactly why it’s that time again. Albert’s website is and his tour schedule is there for all to see. Grab a copy of Someone Like You while you’re there. I have to agree with Albert that it’s definitely some of his finest work to date, and I definitely want to hear more.

--- Kyle Deibler

DL DuncanThe name D.L. Duncan was a new one to me when his new self-titled CD on 15 South Records arrived in my mailbox, but it's now one of my favorite albums of the year. While I wasn't familiar with Duncan's background, I certainly recognized many of the musicians backing the Nashville artist, including keyboard wizard Kevin McKendree, Muscle Shoals bass player David Hood, background singers The McCrary Sisters, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and Delbert McClinton guesting on harmonica. Not surprising that Delbert's involved with this album, as Duncan's vocals remind me a bit of those of McClinton.

The music here is a mix of soulful blues. Kicking it off is a blues shuffle "I Ain't The Sharpest Marble," and already McKendree is threatening to steal the show with his usual tasty piano playing. Duncan doubles on guitar, laying down some solid blues licks. Following is the swampy sound of "Dickerson Road," a Mark Robinson original with snaky slide guitar presumably contributed by Landreth.

McClinton's harp work comes to the front on the slower blues "You Just Don't Never Know," with the McCrary girls and McKendree both giving this tune a nice gospel vibe. We get more of Landreth's fine slide work on the Duncan original "Your Own Best Friend."

Duncan goes all-out gospel on "Sending Me Angels," featuring David Pinkston on pedal steel guitar, mandolin picking from Guthrie Trapp and more stellar piano work from McKendree. Duncan's best blues guitar work comes on the mid-tempo blues shuffle "Orange Beach Blues," perhaps my favorite cut on the disc. There's actually a touch of a classic Allman Brothers sound here. In fact, Duncan at times sounds a little like Gregg Allman when he steps up to the mic. That Allman connection can best be heard on the amazing slow blues, "St. Valentine's Day Blues," as he tells a story of being alone and waiting for his loved one to come home. More really good blues guitar from Duncan here.

The album's closing song has Duncan telling his woman that "All I Have To Offer You Is Love," a powerfully soulful number highlighted by the leader's guitar picking, Pinkston's tasteful pedal steel playing, Trapp's mandolin and McKendree's keyboard work.

You can learn more about D.L. Duncan on his website, including how to pick up this fine, fine album.

--- Bill Mitchell

805 JiveEight O'Five Jive is a Nashville-based five-piece ensemble playing retro jump blues and doing it well, as heard on their 2014 disc, Too Many Men (Red Rudy Too Tunes). They sure put out a lot of sound for just five musicians, and I bet they're just so much fun to see in concert. But we'll instead have to settle for repeatedly popping Too Many Men into the CD player and dancing around like crazed fools.

Ms. Lee Shropshire handles the vocals for the band and she booms out the lines of the opening song, Big Maybelle's "I've Got a Feelin'," with sax man Patrick Mosser also wailing away on his horn. The rhythm section of dummer Duane Spencer and bassist Bill Bois lays down a bit of a reggae backbeat on the number. Following this tune is a jumping version of the Billy Ward & the Dominoes classic, "Have Mercy Baby." Mosser again steps up with a tasty sax solo while guitarist Andy Scheinman contributes strong guitar licks.

The first band original shows up with Shropshire's "Misery Loves Company," a number that sounds like it easily could have been recorded by any number of 1940s-era big bands. Again, Mosser's sax solo in the middle of the song is a highlight. Following is an urgent version of the Jimmy Liggins classic drinking song, "Drunk," always a fun tune when it's done by a good group of musicians like we find here.

My preferred cut on the disc is their version of Jay McNeely's novelty tune, "Insect Ball." which kicks off with good drumming by Spencer. Shropshire shows off her impressive vocal range as she rapidly itemizes the insect guest list at this particular gathering. Another Shropshire original, "Young Enough To Be My Son," brings out the cougar in her but she has the sense to say no to that younger man. Scheinman gets another chance to let his fingers fly across his guitar's fretboard here.

The title cut is a catchy, med-tempo tune, done originally by Ruth Brown, that shows off Shropshire's vocals as she tells about her problems dealing with way 'too many men'.

Too Many Men is just a fun album. I imagine that the band had a blast in the studio and likely puts the same oomph into their live shows. You can find them on their website and at various venues around the Nashville area.

--- Bill Mitchell

Sonny TerryThe Wolf Records release of His Best 21 Songs (Wolf Records) by blues harmonica legend Sonny Terry is a bit of a misnomer since it covers just the years 1938 to 1946 of a recording career that lasted until Terry's death in 1986. Perhaps a better title would have indicated that these were the best 21 recordings of the early period of Terry's career, but I'm nitpicking now instead of talking about the music.

The 21 recordings here start with two songs, "Mountain Blues" and "The New John Henry" from John Hammond's Spirituals To Swing concert in Carnegie Hall. Terry had been called on to replace Blind Boy Fuller who had been imprisoned just before the show. These two numbers and the next six to follow, recorded from 1938 to 1941 with a variety of accompanying musicians including Fuller, came during a time when Terry was singing in a falsetto voice around his harmonica riffs. Unfortunately, the vocals on these cuts quickly started to wear on me.

Terry teamed up with long-time partner Brownie McGhee in 1942, and cuts 9 through 11 feature the duo in the best recordings on the album: "The Red Cross Store," "Shake Down" and "Sweet Woman." Terry's voice is at his strongest and, as expected, McGhee provides solid accompaniment on guitar.

Their relocation  to New York in 1941 allowed Terry and McGhee to become part of the Big Apple's folk scene as well as appearing on Broadway. Terry's connection to the folk circuit contributes to the remaining 10 songs on the album, as he teams up with folk icon Woody Guthrie and guitarist Alec Seward on some of the best known folk/blues classics from that era, including "Stackolee," "Rock Me Momma," Betty and Dupree" and "Red River." The quality of Terry's vocals vary from cut to cut, with his best singing coming on "She's A Sweet Woman," in which he alternates between harmonica riffs, his signature whoops and strong singing.

Closing the album is "South Bound Express," with Terry usings his harmonica to emulate the various sounds of a train as it's heading down the track. This is something that he and many, many other harmonica players did during the early days of blues, but few did it as well as Terry.

His Best 21 Songs is not likely to be an album that one just sits down and listens to as background music. Instead, it's more of an historical artifact to be kept in a complete blues library. For more listenable Terry albums, check his Bluesville recordings with McGhee from the early '60s or the Whoopin' disc, with guests Willie Dixon and Johnny Winter, released by Alligator in 2984.

--- Bill Mitchell

Jay StollmanJay Stollman is a classic case of Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. He is unquestionably in possession of one of the great voices of his time, as heard on his new disc, Room For One More (Number 7 Records).

His take on "A Change Is Gonna Come," for instance, reminds of a young Rod Stewart, when Rod had killer pipes. Jay still has that kind of a voice – and its buoyed by the impressive guitar work of Debbie Davis on most cuts, with Andy Abel or Jeremy Goldsmith on the others. Scott Spray and Johnny Mennonna share bass duties, Tommy Nagy and Gerald Myles trade off on drums, Matt Zeiner is the keyboardist and Kevin Totoian blows harp on a few tunes.

Jay Stollman sings his ass off on 14 amazing cuts, including Walter Trout’s "Ride Til I’m Satisfied," Johnny Winter’s "Tired Of Trying," and classics like the aforementioned Sam Cooke staple ("A Change Is Gonna Come"), "I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water" and "Lonesome In My Bedroom." The self-penned tunes are equally impressive.

Keep your ears on this man!

--- Mark E. Gallo

Rag PickersBetween the three of them, mandolinist Rich DelGrosso, guitarist Mary Flower and guitarist / fiddler / mandolinist Martin Grosswendt have collected nine Blues Music Awards nominations and rave reviews for their instrumental work. The three virtuosos have joined forces to record an album for Yellow Dog Record. The Ragpicker String Band is a dream collaboration for acoustic blues and roots fans and features 14 tracks that invoke the memory and spirit of artists from the Mississippi Sheiks to Sleepy John Estes to Jim Kweskin.

The 14 song set mixes originals and covers from a wide range of sources. There are a couple of selections from the Mississippi Sheiks (“Honey Babe,” and “Lonely One in This World”), plus three from Sleepy John Estes (“Clean Up At Home,” “Black Mattie,” and an instrumental mandolin-driven version of “Milk Cow Blues”), the traditional “Trimmed and Burning,” Lil Johnson’s “Minor Blues.” Other highlights include a couple of tracks related to modern times, such as “Google Blues,” a sobering, but hilarious look at modern romance, and “Motel Towel.”

Flower and DelGrosso each contribute original tunes. Flower’s “Baby Where You Been,” and Del Grosso’s “By Your Side” and “Street Doctor” all fit well with the standards, and each of the three takes a turn behind the mic. Del Grosso has five tracks, Flower and Grosswendt each have three, and several of the tracks are sung in harmony and the three sound really well together.

Of course, the string-bending is the featured attraction here, and the trio certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. There are three fantastic instrumentals included, a sharp reading of Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk” (sans piano), the aforementioned “Milk Cow Blues,” and the closer, “Bruno’s Dream,” a piece written by Flower that showcases her lap slide guitar.

Although this is a side project for the trio, there are plans to work together indefinitely at festivals and workshops this year and beyond. Based on this wonderful album, I, for one, would love to hear more from The Ragpicker String Band as soon as possible.

--- Graham Clarke

Mick KolassaGhosts of the Riverside Hotel (Swing Suit Records) is the latest release from Mick Kolassa, and judging by its contents (12 songs, eight originals, four well-chosen covers, plus a formidable cast of supporting musicians), it looks the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s career will continue to build serious momentum following his fine 2014 release, Michissippi Mick. Even better, as on its predecessor, 100% of the proceeds from this album will go to The Blues Foundation.

Kolassa covers a lot of ground on these tunes, from the rocking blues cover of Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man,” which kicks off the disc to the traditional blues of “Grapes and Greens” (with Eric Hughes on harmonica and his brother Walter on slide guitar) to the Depression-era standard, “One Meatball” (with Victor Wainwright on piano and Reba Russell on backing vocals) to the swinging “I Always Meant To Love You” to “Trouble,” a clever take on temptation penned by Todd Snider.

“Nothin’ Left To Lose (Robin’s Blues)” is a sad and moody slow blues with a somber vocal from Kolassa. The mood is lifted on the next tune, the laid-back “If I Ain’t Fishin’,” a Kolassa original tune about getting away from it all. There are several other original tunes that stand out, including the funky “Whiskey Woman” and the West Side blues “Mama’s Got A Mojo.” “Walkin’ (Dead) Blues” will please fans of the Walking Dead series, and may be the first blues song about zombies.

Other tunes include a bluesy remake of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” made popular in the ’70s by Three Dog Night, and the closer, “Delta Town,” is a tribute to Clarksdale, Mississippi and the hotel cited in the album title. This track features the imitable Watermelon Slim on dobro and harmonica.

Jeff Jensen produced the disc and adds some stellar guitar work throughout the album. Jensen’s regular band (Bill Ruffino – bass, Robinson Bridgeforth – drums) back Kolassa, who has provided blues fans with another entertaining and enjoyable disc of blues with Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel.

--- Graham Clarke

CorteSinger Al Corte’ once sang the blues so hard that he suffered a hernia. He’s been performing since he was a teenager singing in the church and doing Doo Wop on street corners and alleys. He began working professionally in the ’60s, serving as front man for the Buffalo, New York group, The Cavemen. He’s also done a lot of other things during that time, including racing motorcycles, doing stunt work, acting, managing artists, and producing TV shows and videos. During this time he’s also had his own band, Corte’, and recently released the invigorating Seasoned Soul, a disc that will appeal to a lot of music lovers.

Seasoned Soul features ten classic tunes, ranging from ’50s and ’60s R&B and soul to slick urban blues. The set list will be familiar to most blues fans, opening with four sizzling tunes associated with blues giants like Albert King (“Oh Pretty Woman”), Freddie King (“I’m Tore Down”), Little Milton (“That’s What Love Will Make You Do”), and Otis Rush (“All Your Love I Miss Loving”). The album then shifts into Southern soul mode with a smoking version of Ray Charles’ “Unchain My Heart” and a sparkling reading of Otis Redding’s “Any Ole Way.”

Corte’ also visits the Motown side of town with the Barrett/Strong composition “That’s The Way Love Is,” originally done by the Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye, and tackles a pair of Delbert McClinton tunes, the soulful ballad “I Want To Love You” and a swinging take on “Leap of Faith,” before closing with the James Brown funk standard, “Cold Sweat.”

Corte’ remains a force of nature with his powerful vocals, equally effective on the smooth soul side and the raucous roadhouse blues. The band (producer Jerry Bone – guitars, bass, horn patches, harmonica, organ, his son Lennon Bone – drums, Ron Miller – piano, strings, Charlie Chalmers – sax, Sarah Jo Roark – background vocals) provide superlative support. Jerry Bone’s guitar work is particular noteworthy on many of the tracks. Seasoned Soul was obviously a labor of love for Al Corte’ and fans of blues and soul will find a lot to love with this standout set.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob MaloneL.A.-based keyboardist/singer/songwriter Bob Malone has toured the world for over two decades as a solo artist, in addition to playing keyboards in legendary rock and roller John Fogerty’s band since 2011, recently released his eighth solo album, Mojo Deluxe (Delta Moon Records). The new album consists of a dozen tracks, ten originals and two covers, which mix rock, blues, and R&B in equally potent measures.

This is a high energy set that rocks even on the slower tempo material. Malone is a fine songwriter with a unique perspective on the blues, giving familiar topics a modern edge. Tracks like “Certain Distance,” “Toxic Love,” and “I’m Not Fine” reflect that modern touch, while “Paris,” is somber, with Malone ironically looking at being alone in the City of Romance. I really like a pair in the middle of the disc, too --- "Looking For The Blues,” which features some nice slide guitar and horns complementing Malone’s keys, and the slow and funky “Rage and Cigarettes.”

Additional standout originals include “Watching Over Me,” which addresses the possibility of guardian angels in our lives, and the closer, “Can’t Get There From Here,” a reflective “life evaluation” upon reaching middle age. Malone also offers an excellent instrumental, “Chinese Algebra,” that really gives him room to stretch out on the keys. He also covers Ray Charles’ “Hard Times,” largely keeping the original understated arrangement, but adding some searing guitar work from Bob DeMarco, and Muddy Waters’ “She Moves Me,” which is the blues at its finest.

Mojo Deluxe is a highly entertaining set of high energy modern blues with one foot definitely planted in the traditional fare as well. Malone is a pretty impressive performer and songwriter and this set should not be missed.

--- Graham Clarke

Zoe SchwarzZoë Schwarz Blue Commotion have only been playing together for around three years, but have been very busy in the studio during that time, having released three studio albums in that time. Their fourth release, I’ll Be Yours Tonight - Live (33 Records), was not planned, but fortunately for us blues nuts, the band seized the opportunity when presented. Recorded at the Tuesday Night Music Club in London, the disc captures the band at their best as they rip through a dozen tracks in what the band calls a typical live performance.

If this CD represents is a typical performance, then folks should be lining up to see this band (Schwarz – vocals, Rob Koral – guitar, Peter Whittaker – organ, Paul Robinson – drums). They’re equally comfortable whether rocking the house (“Your Sun Shines Rain,” “Take Me Back”), or exploring the jazz side of blues (the Billie Holiday standard “Fine & Mellow,” “We’ll Find A Way,” “I Believe In You,” “Beatitudes”), or tackling the pure blues itself (“Let Me Sing The Blues,” “Smile,” “Say It Isn’t So”).

Ms. Schwarz is a powerful vocalist. She can play it tough or tender and sounds as good on the jazzier numbers as she does on the blues and rockers. Koral’s guitar work is equally effective, regardless of the genre they’re playing. Whittaker’s keyboards are a major plus throughout the disc and he and Robinson are a pretty formidable rhythm section. The band is augmented on several tracks by Si Genero (harmonica/backing vocals) and a horn section (Ian Ellis – tenor sax, Andy Urquhart – trumpet).

All in all, I’ll Be Yours Tonight is a most impressive look at a working band doing what they do best. Expect to hear much more from Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Laura TateI Must Be Dreaming: A Tribute to the Music of Mel Harker is an album by singer Laura Tate. For those who may be unfamiliar, Ms. Tate is a gifted singer/actress/producer/director who possesses a smooth and sultry voice that’s equally comfortable with blues, jazz, country, pop, and rock and roll. Mel Harker is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who came to music in his early 30s, after an accident ended his career as a chef. His versatile, concise, and compelling songwriting spans several genres as well.

Several years ago the two worked together, and recently Harker gave Tate all of his songs. She’s picked 12 of her favorites for this tribute and, man, this is some good stuff. Backed by a full band, with producer Terry Wilson, playing all guitars, bass, and drums, and fellow Texan Teresa James providing back-up vocals, Tate moves through this set of soul and country ballads and rockers with ease. Simply put, there’s plenty in these dozen tracks that will appeal to a wide range of music lovers.

The tunes vary from the clever country rock “Snake Tattoo” to “No Place To Hide,” which has a light New Orleans flair, to the swinging “What a Way to Go,” with its irresistible groove, to the title track, a breathless jazz ballad. “Dead End Road” is a roadhouse rocker with piano and backing vocals from Teresa James, and “Talk Is Cheap” is a great little piece of horn-driven soul. Tate really shines on the ballads, such as “Don’t Try To Talk Me Out of Loving You” and “Hold On (To The Edge of Your Love).”

Though the album covers a wide variety of genres, there’s not a feeling of haphazardness. Each style blends effortlessly from song to song, thanks to the vocal talents of Ms. Tate. “”If Ever Forever Should End” is a lovely bluesy ballad which segues easily into the aptly-titled “Cowboy Jazz” to the funky “Counting Up The Ways” and “Too Blue,” which has an old-school jazz backdrop.

If there’s any justice in the music world, I Must Be Dreaming should not only bring attention to the vocal charms and appeal of Laura Tate, but also to the songwriting talents of Mel Harker.

--- Graham Clarke

Hank MoweryHank Mowery’s debut solo release, Account To Me, was a tribute to his late friend Gary Primich. That 2013 album won Best Self Produced CD honors at the IBC, and helped launch Mowery on the national and international blues scene. Prior to launching his solo career, Mowery toured with Texas guitarist Mike Morgan and played in the Grand Rapids-based Hawktones with guitarist Junior Valentine. Excuses Plenty is Mowery’s sophomore effort, released on Nick Moss’s label, Blue Bella, and features ten excellent tracks, mostly written or co-written by Mowery.

Highlights include the rocking blues opener, “Anna Lee,” who has a “parttime job as a mail-order bridesmaid,” the soul/R&B original “I Don’t Want To Know,” and the title track, which has a swampy Excello Records feel with shimmering guitar courtesy of Troy Amaro. Mike Morgan plays guitar on “Walk With Me” and the Chicago-styled shuffle “One and Only” that follows. “Little Bit of Rhythm” has an easy, almost jazzy swing with swirling B3, compliments of Chris Corey, and “Cry For Me” has an almost surf guitar backdrop.

Fellow harmonica ace Dennis Gruenling and guitarist Doug Deming and his band, the Jewel Tones, guests on a pair of tasty tracks, the slow burner “Would You Still Love Me On A Rainy Day,” and William Clarke’s West Coast stomper “Telephone Is Ringing.” Gruenling plays harp solo on the former track, allowing Mowery to focus on the vocals, but the pair exchange solos on the Clarke tune. Good stuff. The closer is an acoustic reading of the Skip James classic, featuring some nice fretwork from Amaro.

Excuses Plenty is a great sophomore effort from Hank Mowery, mixing classic traditional blues sounds with a fresh contemporary attitude. It proves that Mowery’s name should be placed high on the list of current blues harmonica players.

--- Graham Clarke

Small Blues TrapThe Greek blues band Small Blues Trap (Paul Karapiperis – vocals, harmonica, rhythm and resonator guitarr, percussion, Panagiotis Daras – rhythm and lead guitars, vocals, violin, percussion, Lefteris Besios – bass) has a fascinating new release, their fifth overall. Time Tricks (Anazitisi Records) sounds like it should be part of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, with it’s droning rhythm guitar, hypnotic percussion, and frenetic harmonica. Yeah, I could defintely see the Mysterious Stranger riding across a barren terrian with this music in the background.

The opening track, “Gamblin’,” really captures a ghostly, sinister atmosphere with an almost-Hill Country-like rhythm and front man Karapiperis’ gravelly, desperate vocals and harmonica. “This Little Tune” is a bit more upbeat, with some nice lead guitar work from Daras. The title track is a somber, reflective tune that segues into “I Wish I Could Fly,” a funky rocker with some nice rhythm work from bass man Besios and Karapiperis’s ethereal harmonica.

I really like the grim “A Strange Shade of Red.” On this interesting track, Daras plays violin with Karapiperis playing resonator and harmonica. “I’m Leavin’ This Town” is an upbeat rock-flavored blues with piercing lead guitar work from Daras. It leads to the closing instrumental, which is called “Resurrected Jesse James Returns Back Home – From the Land of the Dead – To Take Care of Unpaid Matters,” which largely recreates the hypnotic rhythm of the opening track before moving more in a Delta blues direction near the close. Daras and Karapiperis both shine on this track, taking multiple solos on guitars and harmonica.

Time Tricks may be one of the most interesting blues recordings you’ll hear this year. I really like Small Blues Trap’s brand of blues. It incorporates a variety of blues styles (Hill County, Swamp, Delta) with rock, and their songs always follow a definite and compelling theme. As with previous projects, Small Blues Trap has uploaded the entire album in video form at YouTube, so you can preview it there.

--- Graham Clarke

Jay GordonI think that if there’s ever a decision to place a picture next to the definition of “Blues Rock” in the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary (it’s in there, I checked), the cover of Woodchopper’s Ball (Shuttle Music) should be a contender. The latest release from blues rocker extraordinaire Jay Gordon and Blues Venom is both a new album and a retrospective of some of the guitarist finest moments, offering the best of what’s already been right next to what’s here and now. Prepare to get your socks blown off.

The explosive opening track, “The Stinger,” just burns from start to finish. “Hobo Hilton” is more of a slow blues, but not your ordinary slow blues, with more incendiary guitar. “Chainsaw Boogie” may actually blow your speakers out with all of its screaming slide guitar that would make Elmore James proud (Gordon actually plays a guitar made from a chainsaw on this track.), and the next tune, “Stranger Blues,” is actually a cover of an old James tune. Bassist Sharon Butcher takes the mic for “Voodoo Woman,” which gives Gordon even more space to let it rip.

The last of the new tunes is an acoustic reading of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues,” and the intensity level doesn’t let up one bit with this terrific unplugged version. The final half of the CD consists of tunes remastered and hand-picked by Gordon from his previous albums. They include the searing slow burner “Pain,” the icy hot instrumental “Message To Collins,” “Drippin’ Blues,” and a pair of incredible nine-minute-plus tunes, “Blues Venom” (with harmonica from Mario Ramirez, Richie Valens’ kid brother) and “Original Sin,” that close the disc.

This disc is so hot that Jay Gordon has to have sparks flying from his fingers. Blues rocker take heed. Woodchopper’s Ball is one that you don’t want to miss.

--- Graham Clarke

Smokey GreenwellHarmonica player Smoky Greenwell has been a fixture on the New Orleans music scene for the better part of five decades. Over that time, he’s released ten albums, the most recent being this delightful, laid-back set, Live at the Old U.S. Mint (Greenwell Records), which is being released as a CD/DVD set.

Greenwell is backed by his own band (Pete Bradish – drums, vocals, David Hyde – bass, Jack Kolb – guitar), and with guest appearances from zydeco star Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and New Orleans guitarist Mark Penton (leader of Mark and the Pentones).

Greenwell’s set consist of songs from his previous studio albums, and they include the dynamite instrumental “Smoke Alarm,” that kicks off the show, the ironic (and autobiographical) “My Own Blues Club,” the anti-war “Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” and the jazzy “Power of Now.” He also blows a mean tenor sax on “Peter Gunn.” Penton takes center stage to do two tracks from The Pentones’ latest release, Don’t Leave Nothin’ Behind, the swinging shuffle “Jodie,” and “I Earned The Right,” and Barnes kicks things up a notch with a pair of zydeco workouts, “Love’s Gone” and “Leroy’s Shuffle.”

If you’re not familiar with Greenwell, this is a nice introduction. He’s a clever and creative songwriter and his tunes presented here are real crowd-pleasers. It’s also a good introduction to Penton and Barnes, though it would have been good to hear a little bit more from both of them. Regardless, Live at the Old U.S. Mint is a refreshing and relaxing set of New Orleans-styled blues that will get your toe tapping and your head bobbing.

--- Graham Clarke

2 Ton BridgeThe “digital 45” “Pennies on the Shore/I’m a Hoot Owl,” from 2 Ton Bridge is designed to be a preview of a full album to be released in 2016. Based on these two songs, the full player should really be a treat for blues and Americana fans. 2 Ton Bridge is Alexander Wright, who plays guitar, banjo, and sings. He’s accompanied by an outstanding group of musician: Eric Heywood (pedal steel guitar), Marvin Etzioni (electric mandolin), Phil Parlapiano (accordion), Joachim Cooder (drums/percussion), Dylan Cooper (standup bass), and Tammy Rogers and Taylor Brasheer (background vocals).

To me, this is what Americana is supposed to sound like. Wright has a GREAT deep and resonant. I really like the tone of both of these songs.....they're different, but they both really capture the spirit of Southern music to me, and the instrumental work is just pitch perfect on both songs. These songs will appeal to fans of Americana, country, roots, and blues. I'm looking forward to the rest of the album, and so should you, but I encourage you to pick up this sampler while you’re waiting….it’s packaged like an old-school 45 and will bring back fond memories to long-time music fans.

--- Graham Clarke


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