Blues Bytes

What's New

September 2016

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Matthew Skoller

Bonnie Raitt

Paul DesLauriers Band

Lucky Losers

Matty T Wall

Isaiah B Brunt

Bill Phillippe

The BluesBones

Iron Bridge Band

Mick Kolassa

Travis Green

Mike Sponza

Ilana Katz Katz



Matthew SkollerThe latest disc from Chicago blues harp player Matthew Skoller, Blues Immigrant (Tongue 'N Groove Records), can best be described as "old school" Chicago blues. Joining Skoller on this disc are a whole bunch of fine accompanying musicians, notably Johnny Iguana (keyboards), Giles Corey (guitar), Eddie Taylor Jr. (guitar), Felton Crews (bass), and Marc Wilson (drums).

Skoller adapts an old Sonny Boy Williamson #1 tune, "Welfare Store Blues," moving into the 21st Century with a revised composition, "Big Box Store Blues." He opens it with a classic harmonica riff before going into the vocals --- "...she wanted me to go down to the big box store for a tank of gas and a bouquet of flowers, I told her no, baby, I sure don't wanna go...." Skoller later explains his reasoning for not liking these big box stores, including having to show a membership card at the door --- " ... Now they come to Chicago, Illinois, shut down every mom and pop store in town, you can have your tires changed whilst you get your coffee ground ....," while also talking about how he knew the first names of the small business owners he preferred to support. A really creative update on an old Chicago blues theme.

The mood gets more primal on the next cut, the haunting "The Devil Ain't Got No Music," in essence stating that the Devil (politicians, businessmen and other evil icons in our society, perhaps?) have everything else except for music, which is why their home is Hell. Wilson's polyrhythmic drumming helps this one stand out along with a couple of stirring harmonica solos from Skoller.

The title cut, "Blues Immigrant," sounds like it's an autobiographical number detailing when Skoller's grandparents first arrived in Ellis Island in 1922, and then moving through the multiple societal changes that he's witnessed since he was born. A mid-tempo shuffle, this one includes references to the Black Panthers, Robert Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Disco, New Age, and Nicaragua, all pointing back to the fact that he needs a green card to play the Blues. Thought provoking, especially in our current political environment in which everyone seems to hate everyone else.

"Only In The Blues" tells the listener how tough it is to be playing the Blues today. Once again I like the arrhythmic beat being laid down by drummer Wilson, one of the unsung stars of this band. If you're looking for a classic slow blues sound, then be sure to check out "Tear Collector," featuring solid guitar work from guest Carlos Johnson. Skoller sings about the woman who stole his tears --- "... I need someone to cry for me tonight, little girl stole my tears, nothing's gonna be alright ...."

The ethereal sound of Brian Richie's shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown flute, blends well with Skoller's harmonica playing on the very creative and mysterious "Story of Greed." Iguana contributes good piano work here. Not your standard blues sound, but it's very addictive.

One of the few covers on Blues Immigrant is a fine version of "747," a Haskell Sadler composition done in the early 1990s by Joe Louis Walker. This rendition is a much more traditional-sounding blues than Walker's version, with Iguana's more basic-sounding piano and Skoller's harmonica. Of course, you should remember the standard repeating line of ".... she caught a 747, Greyhound runs too slow ...."

"Organ Mouth" is a Memphis-style funky instrumental, with Iguana summoning his inner Isaac Hayes on the organ and Skoller coming in with harp solos first in the higher end of the register and then later on in the lower half. You won't be able to stop your feet from tapping along to this one.

There's lots more here, but I'll cut this review short and end with the recommendation that every cut on Blues Immigrant is a keeper, giving you time to seek out your own copy. Take Skoller's advice and don't go running to the big box store looking for it. They probably won't have it anyway, but you may be able to find it at your neighborhood record store where the sales clerk may already know your name.

--- Bill Mitchell

Bonnie RaittDig In Deep (Redwing Records), the 17th studio album and 20th overall in singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt's long and illustrious career, was released back in February 2016. But for an album and an artist of this magnitude it's not too late to get a review posted on our site. On Dig In Deep, Raitt's voice sounds as fresh and vibrant as ever as she makes her way through a dozen songs, both originals and covers.

"Unintended Consequence Of Love" is a typical Bonnie Raitt composition, with piano accompaniment deftly provided by the wonderful Jon Cleary and Raitt's signature slide guitar licks nicely framing this call to get the excitement back in a relationship. Just a great song starting off a great, great album. This might be one of the best songs of the year in any genre.

She segues nicely into a cover of an INXS song, "Need You Tonight," of course made bluesier by Raitt's guitar work. Here she continues the theme of encouraging the man in her life --- ".... So slide over here and give me a moment, your moves are so raw, I've got to let you know .... you're one of my kind ....." An interesting addition to this song is Mike Finnigan's clavinet and B-3 playing, making it kind of an electronica blues thing.

Very few singers can vocalize their feelings on lost love as well as Raitt, and we hear her pain and anguish on "All Alone And Something To Say," both in her vocals and in the crying notes of her guitar --- " ... All the nuggets of gold on my tongue, pearls of wisdom coming in waves, how cruel is it that fate has to find me, all alone with something to say ... "

Just when you think you know where Raitt's going with this album, she pulls a shocker by including a cover of the Los Lobos standard "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes." Drummer Ricky Fataar pushes the song along with an urgent, steady beat and Raitt's snaky slide guitar keeps pulling that beat to the end.

Another Raitt original, "If You Need Somebody," has her offering respite to a friend who is coming out of still another bad relationship, telling him, " .... Never could have guessed it, best friends since we were kids, but now I lose it every time that you're near, with every dead end, it's getting harder to pretend when I know all you need is standin' right here ..."

The first single from this album, "Gypsy In Me," was a well-deserved selection, as Raitt sings about her wanderlust soul. Here she never settles in one place or develops any lasting relationships --- " .... Hello, goodbye, honey, it's been good and I must be going, restless, I guess, when I'm in one place for too long, I don't know why but I'm like the wind and I just keep blowing free, must be the gypsy in me...." Raitt's slide guitar work here is just plain stunning.

Closing out this fine album is a slow, sentimental number, "The Ones We Couldn't Be," with Raitt sitting down at the piano and accompanied only occasionally by Patrick Warren's underlying layer of haunting keyboard effects. Again, she laments about a lost relationship, going through all of the reasons why it didn't work out and admitting that it was primarily her fault.

If you're already a Bonnie Raitt fan, then it's likely you bought Dig In Deep the day it was released. If not, get it now. You won't regret it. It's also a good introduction to her music for those late to the Bonnie Raitt party.

--- Bill Mitchell

PDBThe Paul DesLauriers Band took second place at the 2016 IBC, and after listening to their sophomore release, Relentless (Big Toe Productions), it’s easy to see how they achieved such a lofty position. The album is appropriately titled. This dynamic trio (DesLauriers – guitar/vocals/piano/theremin, Greg Morency – bass, Sam Harrisson – drums/percussion) positively burns through ten original tunes that they crafted from the bottom up.

DesLauriers composed these songs with longtime collaborator Alec McElcheran and simply put, they’re all winners. The opening track is “Stewtro Rock (Just Got Back),” with it’s “Wham!”-like intro and, yes, relentless, rocking attack, give listeners the feeling that this album is going to be something special. The funky, hypnotic grooves of “I’m Your Man” and “Still Under My Skin” will remind listeners a bit of the North Mississippi Allstars’ work, and “Ten Feet Tall” is a driving rocker sandwiched in-between.

“Wipes Away Your Sin” and “Up In The Air” mark the center point of the album, a gorgeous pair of rockers that may be the best two tracks on the disc, which is really saying something. The hard-driving “We Just Might” is a fun and funky romp, and “If I Still Had You” is also in strong contention for Best In Show. It’s the purest blues on the disc, clocking in at a smoldering eight and a half minutes.

The closing song, “Gonna Make You Move,” is a two-parter. Part 1 is loose-limbed and funky, and Part 2 shifts the song to a blues-rock instrumental mode. The combined effort really sums up the qualities of this band, which is one of Canada’s most highly regarded blues acts. It’s a pretty safe bet that Relentless, combined with their impressive showing at this year’s IBC, will spread the word to all corners of the globe.

--- Graham Clarke

The Lucky LosersThe Lucky Losers return for their sophomore release, In Any Town (Dirty Cat Records), a confident set of blues and R&B tunes that look to past eras --- mostly the ’60s, but also put a modern spin on familiar blues-related subjects. The Bay Area band is fronted by two veterans of that area’s blues scene, singer Cathy Lemons and singer/harmonica wizard Phil Berkowitz, and includes Martin Greene (guitar), Chris Burns (keyboards), Tim Wagar (bass), and Robi Bean (drums).

As on their 2015 debut, A Winning Hand, the group traveled to Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and enlisted producer/guitarist Kid Andersen, surely one of the busiest guys in the blues world these days, for this winning set of 11 tracks. Five were written by Lemons and four by Berkowitz with his writing partner, guitarist Danny Caron, with two interesting cover tunes.

The pair alternate on vocals for several of the tunes. Lemons really stands out on the soulful “It Ain’t Enough,” the simmering blues ballad “Don’t Let ‘Em See You Cry,” the ’60s-styled “Give Me a Sign,” and the lovely title track, which is probably her best vocal turn on the disc. Berkowitz does a classic soul turn on “Blind Man in the Dark,” rocks the house on “Devil’s Dream,” and funks it up with “Still Enough Time To Cry.” He also provides some stellar harmonica throughout.

The duo’s easy charm and rapport really bring their duets to life. The opener, “So High,” is a fun romp with playful vocal interchanges between the two and Berkowitz adds some nice harmonica. The pair also covers “Jackson,” the old Johnny Cash hit which goes the rock n’ roll route. The pair’s vocal asides are pretty entertaining, too, as on the energetic “I Can’t Change Ya,” a Lemons vocal with some more engaging repartee. The closer is Bobby Charles’ “Small Town Talk,” which is one of my favorite tunes. Lemons and Berkowitz knock this one out of the park.

Andersen’s production work is peerless, as usual, and he plays guitars, bass, Fender Rhodes, and percussion on many of the tracks. Other musical guests include Terry Hanck (sax), D’Mar (drums), Franck Goldwasser (guitar), Michael Peloquin (tenor and baritone saxes), Mike Rose (trumpet), Mike Rinta (trombone), and Lisa Leuschner Andersen (backing vocals).

In Any Town is a entertaining and enjoyable listen, in part due to the great songs and performances, but also due to the engaging personalities of Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz. It’s obvious that these two have a ball working together, and that this was a labor of love for both. It shows in every note played or sung.

--- Graham Clarke

Matty T. WallGuitarist Matty T. Wall, a native of Perth, Australia, plays the blues, but also incorporates metal, jazz, funk, and rock into his rocket-fueled guitar work. A student of musical history, Wall’s fretwork pays tribute to blues guitarists across the board from Robert Johnson to Jimi Hendrix and beyond, but he’s also a skilled songwriter and gifted vocalist. All of these talents are on full display on Wall’s debut album, Blue Skies (Hipsterdumpster Records).

Wall penned seven of the ten tracks on his debut, and they include the sizzling Windy City-styled opener “Burnin’ Up Burnin’ Down,” a pair of meditative slow burners, “Love Gone Away” and “This Is Real,” the breakneck instrumental “Scorcher,” which really showcases his nimble fretwork, and the gorgeous title track. There’s also “Broken Hearted Tattoo,” a rocker that also incorporates jazz and a bit of John Lee Hooker boogie rhythm, and “Smile,” a instrumental that shows he has a more subtle touch on the strings as well.

Wall’s three covers are well-chosen. He takes on the seldom-covered “Voodoo Chile,” from Hendrix’s catalog (not the usual “Vooddo Chile (Slight Return)”), and proceeds to blow the doors off the place in an nearly 12-minute piece of guitar nirvana. He also does a spirited and energetic take on Keb’ Mo’s “Am I Wrong,” and closes the disc with an amazing recreation of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail.” Wall’s version, although a decidedly different reading, nevertheless captures the eeriness and urgency of Johnson’s original.

Wall is backed by a powerhouse rhythm section (Jasper Miller – drums, Stephen Walker – bass) along with Gordon Cant (organ), and Deli Rowe (backing vocals). Blues Skies is as confident and assured a debut as I’ve heard in a long time, with exciting and adventurous guitar work, strong, soulful vocals, and original songwriting. Expect to hear much more from this talented artist.

--- Graham Clarke

IB BruntIsaiah B Brunt’s latest release, A Moment In Time (Isaiah B Brunt Music), finds the Australian blues man returning to New Orleans, where he recorded his previous album, Just The Way That It Goes. Like it’s predecessor, the new release has a relaxed feel, with Brunt taking on all the guitar work (electric and lap steel), backed by Crescent City icon, George Porter, Jr. (bass), Doug Belote (drums), Mike Lemmler (piano, B3), and a marvelous horn section that includes Jeffrey T. Watkins (saxophones), Ian E. Smith (trumpet, trombone, flugel horn), James Evans (clarinet), and Tuba Steve (sousaphone).

Brunt wrote all nine of the songs, which include the stylish “Still Waiting,” the soulful “Singing The Blues,” the Delta-flavored “That Place On The Road” (featuring Smokey Greenwell on harmonica), and the horn-fueled shuffle “Lost Jacket Blues.” The funky “May I Dance With You” is a keeper as well, and “Travel Back In Time” is a fun old-timey track that features clarinet and sousaphone. “Party Late All Night” is a great slice New Orleans R&B that benefits greatly from Porter’s thumping bassline, which also figures prominently on the slow blues “Same Old Road.” The reflective title track closes the disc in understated fashion.

Brunt’s guitar work is, as always, spot-on. His vocals have more of a warm, vulnerable Boz Scaggs quality this time around than previously. He gets additional musical support from backing vocalist Sarah E. Burke and David Stocker on mellotron. A Moment In Time is a wonderfully calm and serene set of New Orleans-styled blues and R&B. Brunt seems to have found what he was looking for musically in the Crescent City. Hopefully, he will return there soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Bill PhillippeParade (Arkansas Street Records) finds San Francisco-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Bill Phillippe working through a set of 11 tunes that reflect on love, life, and loss. Phillippe’s debut, Ghosts, was a solo effort that mixed his original songs with stunning recreations of pre-war blues classics. On his follow-up, Phillippe expands his sound a bit, adding Swen Hendrickson’s upright bass, Ivor Holloway’s clarinet, and Glenn Hartman’s accordion, which gives these tracks a haunting, yet beautiful quality.

Standout tracks include “Blues Come Calling (Home),” a cool track that sounds almost like a duet between Phillippe’s somber vocal and the mournful clarinet, the folkish “Proper Sorrow,” the amusing “If I Should Lose My Mind,” the haunting “Everything I Have Is Grey,” the lilting title track, “Little Zion,” which ventures in a jazz direction, and the playful “Red Beret.”

Phillippe also includes a couple of covers, using the instrumental of the Duke Elliington piece, “Solitude,” to segue into his own “A Kinder Voice,” and closing the disc with a reading of Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me.” Actually, listeners may be reminded of Waits’ musical style while listening to Parade, in the way that Phillippe approaches the blues. He’s not bound by traditions or norms, choosing to add musical elements in ways not usually heard (or even thought of) by most blues fans. It’s an approach that works wonders and deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

BluesBonesBased in Belgium, The BluesBones have built an impressive European following based on their energetic approach to the blues that blends the traditional sounds with modern influences, such as pop and rock. Led by charismatic lead singer Nico De Cock, the band (Stef Paglia – guitar, Edwin Risbourg – Hammond organ, Geert Boeckx – bass, Dominique Christens – drums) covers a wide path of musical styles, all encompassing the blues. Recently, the band issued their fourth album, Double Live, which captured a standout performance at Hypestudio in Mechelen, Belgium in front of an appreciative audience.

The band moves effortlessly from R&B ("Saved By The Blues") to the slow burner “Voodoo Guitar” to the rocking and rowdy “Riding Out” to open the set. “Moonshine” has a swampy feel with some nice slide guitar work from Paglia, and “Find Me A Woman” is an uptempo shuffle. De Cock ably handles the vocals on the smooth blues ballad “I’m Still Your Man.” “No Good For Me” is a funky rocker and the first CD concludes with a lengthy slow blues “She’s Got The Devil In Her,” with a sweet extended run from Risbourg on the B3 and a torrid guitar solo from Paglia.

The second disc gets off to a rousing start with the blues rocker “Broken Down Car,” and that vibe continues with the impressive “I Try,” a ballad that builds to a fierce guitar-fueled conclusion with some string-bending pyrotechnics from Paglia and the song segues into “Runaway,” another lengthy workout with some fireworks between Paglia and Risbourg. Listening to these two songs are 20 minutes well spent! The churning rocker “Cruisin’” is another standout, and “Devil’s Bride” is a high energy blues.
It adds up to almost two hours of excellent music.

Most of the songs are originals and the band is sharp as a tack. De Cock is a masterful frontman who has the crowd eating out of his hand with his powerful and versatile vocals and lively banter. Double Live is a very good live set that provides ample evidence that the The BluesBones’ enthusiastic support overseas is well-deserved.

--- Graham Clarke

Iron BridgeAgainst the Grain (Messej Media & Publishing) is the latest release from the Jersey-based blues rocking Iron Bridge Band. The quintet is led by guitarist Stephen “Jude” Walsh, whose original, sometimes provocative songwriting and imaginative guitar work are not to be missed. Vocalists Chandler Mogel and Amy Anderson (who also plays percussion) are also standouts, as is the steady rocking husband and wife rhythm section of Scott and Lanie Suky (drums and bass, respectively). Their music combines blues with rock, Southern rock, and soul.

The band shows their versatility right off the bat, kicking off with a power rock anthem, “A Little Too High,” and charging full bore into the driving “Black Sheep’s Son,” before moving to the country-flavored ballad, “The Fall.” “American Boss” is a stinging commentary about the current political division in the country, followed by a dandy pair of Southern rockers, “Raleigh” and “Every,” with the latter displaying some fine soaring Dickey Betts-styled fret work.

The blues rocker “Mark Twain” boasts searing guitar, and the propulsive “Backwoods Charm (A Southern Gothic)” is an entertaining story about a con artist and his travels. “Day Gets Me Down” takes the band down to Memphis for a soulful ballad from Mogel and guest vocalist Jessie Wagner. Walsh’s guitar takes the spotlight for the gorgeous instrumental “Faded.” The band returns for the chilling “Wilderness,” which has a light rock/pop feel, and closes the disc with “Light in August,” an acoustic gem with Anderson’s lovely vocals pairing with Walsh’s guitar.

Guest musicians include Jeff Levine (keys), Joseph DeMaio (guitar), Robert “Bobby” Gamboa (percussion), and Nick Suky (percussion). The Iron Bridge Band really strike gold with Against the Grain, a powerful, far-reaching, thought-provoking set of original tunes from a talented group that blur the lines between blues and rock.

--- Graham Clarke

Mick KolassaTaylor Made Blues (Swing Suit Records) is a fitting title for Mick Kolassa’s latest release. The singer/songwriter/guitarist is a resident of Taylor, Mississippi, a tiny town (as Faulkner said, a “postage stamp of native soil”) in the Mississippi Delta that’s renowned for its delicious food and strong connection with the blues. As on his previous releases, Kolassa has gathered a veritable “All Star” team of blues artists to help out, including Jeff Jensen, who once again produces and plays lead guitar.

Kolassa has assembled another great set of original tunes. The opener, “Baby Face Louise,” is a lively downhome shuffle, and one of two tracks that include Eric Hughes’ harmonica. The title track is a loving tribute to Taylor and its small-town charms. You can almost smell the fried catfish. “I’m Getting Late” is a humorous dig at growing old, and on a related note, “My Hurry Done Broke” is about just slowing down, whether by choice or design. “In The Day” is a funky protest song, “With Friends Like Mine” is a celebration of Kolassa’s personal and musical compatriots who “keep him on the right track,” and “Left Too Soon” and “Raul Was My Friend” are poignant tributes to those who have passed on.

As on previous releases, Kolassa offers several entertaining cover tunes, this set features Graham Nash’s “Prison Song,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs,” the Temptations’ classic “I Can’t Get Next To You,” and “Keep A Goin’,” Frank Lebby Stanton’s 1910 poem, transformed into a wonderful gospel-flavored romp (with lap steel from Colin John and co-lead vocals from Deb Landolt).

Kolassa, Jensen, John, Landolt, and Hughes are joined by Bill Ruffino (bass), James Cunningham (drums), Chris Stephenson (keys), Reba Russell and Tullie Brae (backing vocals), Victor Wainwright (piano), and Castro Coleman, a.k.a. Mr. Sipp (guitar).

100% of the gross profits from sales of Taylor Made Blues will go to The Blues Foundation, split evenly between The HART Fund and Generation Blues, just like Kolassa’s other releases. That’s a good reason to buy this disc and give it a spin, but it’s not the ONLY good reason. It’s also a great set of blues, just like Mick Kolassa’s other releases.

--- Graham Clarke

Travis GreenTravis Green fits a pretty neat, and potentially large, niche in the blues world. The Austin-based singer/guitarist blends rockabilly, country, and soul with his brand of blues, all neatly encapsulated in his recent release, A Little Too Late. Green possesses a vocal style that sits comfortably within all of these genres. He's capable of the high, lonesome qualities present in the country and rockabilly world, and he moves between velvet smooth and greasy gritty with the blues and soul. For this effort, Green ventured to Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and producer/guitarist Andersen surrounded him with a choice group of West Coast musicians.

The title track kicks off the disc on the country side of things, with Andersen’s guitar and Jim Pugh’s keyboards providing a nice backdrop for Green’s vocals. The laidback “Please Don’t Cry” continues in that vein, with Green getting nice vocal support from Lisa Leuschner Andersen. The cool R&B toe-tapper “Everybody Knows” adds Nancy Wright’s saxophone to the mix with excellent results, and Pugh’s velvety touch on B3 is a wonderful complement to Green’s heartfelt vocal on the swampy blues ballad “The Only Love.”

“Keep You Off My Mind” is a rockabilly rave-up that would have been a smash back in the day with Green’s smooth croon and Andersen’s twangy accompaniment. Green’s soulful vocal and Andersen’s pedal steel guitar ensure that the ballad “Damage Done” would appeal to a host of music lovers, whether blues, country, or pop. The upbeat “Caroline” steers the disc into early rock n’ roll territory with Wright’s sax, Pugh’s keyboards, and sweet backing vocals.

“Road Runs Cold” has a spooky, swampy ambience with Andersen’s shimmering Duane-Eddy-based guitar, and the moody “Salt and Sand” follows suit with more outstanding supporting keyboards from Pugh. The closer, “Don’t Forget,” concludes the disc, a nice mid-tempo slice of country and soul.
A Little Too Late will appeal to music fans of several genres beyond the blues. Anyone who digs the mix of country and soul will find a lot to enjoy with this great release.

--- Graham Clarke

Mike SponzaAs long as human beings have drawn breath, the blues has been a part of life. How do we know this? By the old stories we slogged through in high school and college literature classes, by the stories we read in the Bible,etc. Though many things have changed over thousands of years, man continues to make poor decisions, get ripped off by his fellow man, watch his mate leave him for another, and lose everything he has gained.

As Italian blues guitarist Mike Sponza points out in the liner notes to his new album, Ergo Sum (EPOPS Music), “Human passions have no age…...I’ve discovered there’s a trait d’union between the ancient poems of Catullus, Horatius, Martailis, Juvenalis, and the lyrics of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan.” Basically, over thousands of years of change, the blues remains a constant, just with different lyrics and musical accompaniment.

All that being said, Ergo Sum is an awesome set of modern blues that will kick listeners in the pants, regardless of your knowledge of ancient or modern literature. Sponza is a powerhouse guitarist and he also penned the eight tracks with some assistance from a couple of his musical guests,.Ian Siegal and Dana Gillespie. The eight songs vary in style from traditional blues to jazz to roots and Hill Country.

Sponza and Siegal collaborated on seven of the eight songs and Siegal lends his rugged, weather-beaten vocals to great effect on “Modus in Rebus,” an ode to moderation, the Hill Country stomper “Carpe Diem,” and the exceptional soul burner “Prisoner of Jealousy” that closes the disc. Sponza contributes vocals on several tunes including the Lou Reed-like monologue that opens “Modus in Rebus,” and the loose-limbed Texas swinger “Poor Boy,” which includes some of his scorching slide guitar. The legendary British blues chanteuse Gillespie turns in a mesmerizing performance on “The Thin Line,” a jazzy ballad that ranks as one of the best cuts on the album.

Sponza writes in the liners, “In a thousand years, the questions will be the same: It could be love, friendship, politics, family…….I’m sure the answers will be the same, too. Because man will never change. Luckily.” Blues fans are advised to check out Ergo Sum and Mike Sponza, an artist who pays respect to the blues from a long time ago, and I mean a LONG time ago, while fearlessly pushing the music into the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Ilana Katz KatzYou don’t hear a lot of blues fiddle these days, considering the prevalence of the instrument in the early days of the blues, so it’s always intriguing when a new album is released that integrates it back into the music. Ilana Katz Katz is a musician/visual artist/novelist who lives in Boston, where she has also worked as a subway musician, honing her craft down below for the past seven years.

Katz’s fiddle playing meshes the traditional Appalachian style with the old blues styles heard back in the day by the Mississippi Sheiks and those plantation recordings by Muddy Waters that many blues fans are familiar with, and she’s played with a pretty prestigious set of artists which include Ronnie Earl, former Canned Heat guitarist Barry Levenson, Bobby Radcliff, Cedric Watson, and Chas Justis.

Katz recently issued her second album, Movin’ On (Regina Royale Records), and it includes 13 tracks with five originals and eight covers. Her original tunes are very good and include the devastating “You Crush My Soul,” the slow burner “Demon Blues,” the ethereal “Forevermore,” one of several tracks that feature Watson on gourd banjo, and several dandy instrumentals, among them the dazzling “Cruel Willie Blues #2,” a jazzy rambler with guitar from Radcliff and “Blues For Bobby Radcliff,” which, interestingly enough, doesn’t include Radcliff’s playing, but does include some really nice fiddle interplay between Katz and Watson and guitarist Justis.

The cover selection consists of mostly familiar tunes, but Katz presents them from the female perspective, such as the standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Greasy Coat.” There are also tunes from Big Bill Broonzy (“Sweet To Mama”), and the R&B classic “Kansas City.” The instrumental “Tanya” pairs Katz with Radcliff with fun results, and Watson joins her on the traditional medley “Lazy John/Sail Away Ladies.” Another traditional tune, “Jack of Diamonds” features Katz solo on vocal and fiddle and was inspired by her musical idol, Tommy Jarrell.

Movin’ On is a lovely, sometimes haunting set of blues that mixes traditional with modern styles. Ilana Katz Katz is a talented musician and songwriter and she has a knack for making the old-time sound fresh and vital with her modern approach to songwriting. Blues fans who aren’t afraid to try something new and different will enjoy this disc, but there’s plenty there for the more traditional-minded to enjoy as well.

--- Graham Clarke



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