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September 2018

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Order these featured CDs today:

Deb Ryder

Bob Corritore

Keeshea Pratt

Big Harp George

Paul Filipowicz

Dustin Douglas

Tomislav Goluban

Matty T Wall

The Furious Seasons

Billy Price

Neil Warden

Barbara Blue

Karen Lawrence



Deb RyderVocal powerhouse Deb Ryder is at it again. Her latest release, Enjoy The Ride (Vizztone Records), may be her best release to date with 13 original tunes, all written by Ryder, and production by Grammy winner Tony Braunagel (their third collaboration) and bassist/husband Ric Ryder. Enjoy The Ride features an all-star cast of backing musicians, including Chris Cain, Debbie Davies, Kirk Fletcher, Big Llou Johnson, Coco Montoya, and Braunagel with fellow members of the Phantom Blues Band (Johnny Lee Schell, Mike Finnigan), just to name a few.

Montoya’s fiery lead guitar kicks off “A Storm’s Coming,” a strong opener that sets the table well for the remainder of the album, while “Temporary Insanity” features Fletcher’s tasty fretwork and harmonica from Pieter van/der Pluijm. “Bring The Walls Down” leans toward the soul side of the aisle with Cain on guitar and Big Llou Johnson and Van G. Garrett’s spoken-word interlude at midpoint, and the driving “Nothin’ To Lose” is a tough rocker featuring Schell on guitar. Meanwhile, on the slow burner duet “For The Last Time,” Ryder and Finnigan both turn in affecting, emotional vocals, with Finnigan adding B3 and Montoya contributing on guitar once again.

The stirring “What You Want From Me” provides an interesting and unique gospel-meets-Bo-Diddley approach, with Ryder testifying in front of a four-person choir (Maxanne Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Kudisan Kai Regalot, and Leslie Smith). The funky title track should get backsides to moving during Ryder’s live performances, and Finnigan and van/der Pluijm both do some nice work backing her on B3 and harmonica respectively.

Cain returns on guitar and duets with Ryder on the greasy urban blues “Got To Let It Go,” and Davies assumes fretwork duties on the next two tracks: the shuffle “Sweet Sweet Love” and the defiant “Goodbye Baby.” “Forever Yours” captures Ryder’s vocals in all of their glory, as she delivers a masterfully nuanced vocal that complements the understated musical backdrop perfectly. The rousing closer, “Red Line,” brings the album to a close.

Over her past four releases, Deb Ryder has continued to develop as one of the finest vocalists in the business, covering an amazing range of blues styles and also becoming a very effective songwriter. It doesn’t hurt a bit that she’s backed by a superlative band with an impressive list of guest artists, as well.

Enjoy The Ride is Ms. Ryder’s best to date, no question about it.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob CorritoreHarmonica master Bob Corritore keeps a busy schedule, hosting a weekly blues radio program, owning Phoenix’s Rhythm Room, and recording and performing with many of the blues artists in the southwest United States, but he manages to turn out an excellent blues album every few years. His latest effort is Don’t Let The Devil Ride (Vizztone Records), which collects a dozen traditional blues performances taken from sessions recorded between 2014 and 2017, featuring an impressive list of vocalists and sidemen.

Seven vocalists share the spotlight. They include Willie Buck, who performs his original shuffle “Went Home This Morning” to open the disc, Cash Box Kings vocalist Oscar Wilson, who smoothly handles Little Walter’s “Tell Me Mama” and Corritore’s original shuffle “Fork In The Road,” backed on both by guitarist Jimi “Primetime” Smith, and Sugaray Rayford, who offers his own “The Glide,” which includes some fine keyboards from Fred Kaplan, and a thunderous “Steal Your Joy.”

The boisterous Alabama Mike takes the mic on four tracks, which include a simmering take on Albert King’s “Laundromat Blues,” Junior Wells’ freewheeling “Lovey Dovey Lovey One,” the slow burning title track, and a loping swamp blues reading of “Blues Why You Worry Me.” Arizona blues singer George Bowman performs his own ballad “I Was A Fool” with passion and grit, Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry tears into “Willie Mae” on vocals and guitar with equal aplomb, and the legendary Tail Dragger closes out the disc with his own “Thundering and Raining,” a fine ballad with guitar backing from Rockin’ Johnny and Illinois Slim.

The roster of musicians is as formidable as the vocalists, with the three aforementioned guitarists, plus Big Jon Atkinson, Danny Michel, Junior Watson, Mojo Mark, Johnny Rapp, and Chris James, keyboardist Kaplan, Henry Gray, Bob Welch, bassists Tony Sandow , Kedar Roy, Patrick Rynn, and Bob Stroger, and drummers Marty Dotson, Brian Fahey, Rene Beavers, and Malachi Johnson. As always, Corritore proves with each track why he’s one of the finest harmonica players currently practicing as well as being one of the best ever, whether accompanying a vocalist or instrumentalist or taking a solo.

Traditional blues fans will not be disappointed with the performances on Don’t Let The Devil Ride. Let’s face it …it’s impossible to be disappointed with any recording that has Bob Corritore’s fingerprints on it.

--- Graham Clarke

Keeshea PrattIn January of this year the Keeshea Pratt Band, representing the Houston Blues Society, took home top honors in the Band Division at the International Blues Challenge, despite actually only being a band for less than a year! Singer Pratt and band (Brian Sowell – guitar/vocals, Nick Fishman – drums, Shawn Allen – bass/music director, Misaki Nishidate – trumpet, Dan Carpenter – saxophone, James Williams III – trumpet) were the talk of the town with their heady mix of downhome blues and Memphis soul. Recently issued Believe is a dynamite release.

Allen wrote or co-wrote all of the 12 tracks featured on Believe, and the band and Ms. Pratt all bring their A game to the material. The sultry opener, “Make It Good,” is a solidly soulful introduction, and the brassy party anthem “Have A Good Time Y’all” will get listeners moving. The funky “In The Mood” keeps the good times rolling, and woe be to the poor guy who didn’t make the grade on the sultry “It’s Too Late.” The energetic “Shake Off These Blues” boasts a cool second line rhythm, while “Home To Mississippi” is downhome Magnolia State blues at its finest (Pratt is a Jackson, Mississippi native) with tasty slide guitar and harmonica.

“Easily Replaced” is a sassy shuffle featuring a huge sax solo from Carpenter, and the horn-fueled “Monkey See, Monkey Do” is a feisty tale of retribution. The title track is a blues-infused message of perseverance, and Pratt really shines on the encouraging “Can’t Stop Now,” while the slippery “Out of My Mind” is a stomper taken at a breakneck pace. The closer is a live track, “So Bad Blues,” which shows Pratt and the band’s ability to get the audience into the act with a truly powerful performance from singer and band.

Despite the fact that these songs were written by Allen (with collaborations by Fishman, Joshua Cook, and Norman Whitfield), Pratt sings these songs like they’re hers. In fact, she owns them via her performances. She definitely didn’t leave anything in the studio (or the stage for the closing track), and Believe provides ample evidence that top honors at the I.B.C. were well-deserved for the Keeshea Pratt Band.

--- Graham Clarke

Big Harp GeorgeIf you’re familiar with Big Harp George, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with his latest effort, Uptown Cool (Blues Mountain Records). George is a master of the chromatic harmonica, so there’s that. He’s also a wonderful songwriter with a biting wit as he addresses many topics that are well beyond the scope of traditional blues songs, so there’s that, too. He also surrounds himself with excellent musicians on his releases, and this disc is no exception with Kid Andersen and Little Charlie Baty sharing guitar duties, Chris Burns once again manning the keyboards, and multiple tracks featuring horns as well.

The 12 tracks cover a variety of styles and a variety of topics. The swinging opener, “Down To The Rite Aid,” is a tongue-in-cheek look at the perils of aging, while “Internet Honey” mulls the ins and outs of internet dating to a greasy Memphis backbeat, and “Alternative Facts” cleverly takes the whole “Fake News” topic to a whole new level. The Latin-flavored “I Wanna Know” features Baty on Spanish guitar and D’Mar on percussion, and “Nobody’s Listening” is a smooth late-niter with George’s vocal and harmonica nicely complemented by stellar contributions from Baty on guitar and Burn on piano.

“In The First Place” is a lively jump blues instrumental that’s a lot of fun, and “Standing By The Weather” keeps up the energetic pace, adding a bit of Latin rhythm. Guitarist Andersen adds a touch of rock-edged guitar to “Bulletproof,” and set a somber mood with his fretwork on the Windy City-styled slow burner “Cold Snap By The Bay,” which also features Burns on piano and Michael Peloquin’s wailing sax. The swinging “Just Calm Yourself” pairs George and vocalist Loralee Christensen on vocals, and the title track is a funky instrumental that showcases Baty and George.

The closer, “Lord Make Me Chaste,” starts out in a laidback gospel setting before winding up in complete Crescent City mode with superb work from the horn section (Peloquia on saxes and Mike Rinta on trombone and tuba), percussion from D’Mar and drummer Alexander Pettersen, and a cool scat vocal from Derick Hughes.

Big Harp George has released three albums to date, and each subsequent release has exceeded its predecessor. Uptown Cool is his best effort yet, with a lot of great songs with charming, humorous lyrics, and fine musicianship from a band who seems to be having a ball making music.

--- Graham Clarke

Tim LotharDanish singer/songwriter/guitarist Tim Lothar issued Stories in late 2012, a warm and personal release which consisted of a dozen songs taken from his life and personal experiences. After five years, Lothar has released a sequel, naturally entitled More Stories. Again, these songs are taken from personal experience or personal reflections on life and, as previously, Lothar’s acoustic guitar work and strong and confident vocals are spot on.

The album was recorded live in the studio and really has the feel of a live recording, with Lothar placing six different musical interludes within the set, all of which are stylistically diverse instrumentals, each varying in tempo and setting the scene for the songs to follow. Lothar wrote eight of the nine songs, which address fairly common blues themes, though not always in the traditional manner.

The opening song, “Here And Gone Again,” paints a vivid picture of the ‘restless soul” of the traveling blues man. ”... Just like a rolling stone/I am bound to move on ...” “There Is Only Now” has a bit of a European/Gypsy feel via Lothar’s finger picking, but the lively “Railroad King” is a train song that will bring a smile to listeners’ faces.

Lothar also addresses the complications of relationships on several tracks. The somber “Nothing Here Will Be The Same” describes a woman taking on a new life and what she’s leaving behind, while “The Coward” is the account of a man clandestinely doing the same thing. “Crippled Heart” is about the perils of one falling in love with a broken spirit.

“Another Train Song” is, indeed, another train song, but with a humorous twist on the traveling blues man’s life, thanks to Lothar’s clever lyrics. The cheerful “Coffee And Wine” is cut from the same cloth, with playful lyrics about two kindred spirits. The album’s lone cover, Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene,” is taken at a understated, contemplative pace which differs from the original and most other versions heard over the years,. The album closes, appropriately, with the wistful “Fare Well,” as Lothar signs off.

More Stories is another excellent effort from Tim Lothar, whose unique approach to acoustic blues, combining traditional playing with a modern lyrical approach, bodes well for his future endeavors. It has been very enjoyable to watch his development as a guitarist, singer, and composer over the past few years, and it will be interesting to hear what happens next.

--- Graham Clarke

P FlipPaul Filipowicz was born and raised in Chicago and his father often took him to many of the clubs, joints, and pool halls in the Windy City on Saturday nights, where he was exposed to the music via the 45s in the juke boxes at each place. He heard many of the legends of that time --- Magic Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Howlin’ Wolf --- at those joints and clubs. Now a member of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame as a guitarist and singer, Filipowicz pays tribute to the music and artists who influenced him over his 30-plus year career with Unfiltered (Big Jake Records), his tenth album.

Filipowicz covers two of Magic Sam’s songs on Unfiltered, including the opening track, a ripping read of “All My Whole Life Baby,” and a strong treatment of “Everything Gonna Be All Right,” with that familiar Magic Sam riff and harmonica from Benny Rickun. “I Found A New Love,” written by Little Milton, but also a part of Magic Sam’s repertoire, gets a gritty, smoldering take, and the standard “Tin Pan Alley” is loaded with intensity and smoky atmosphere. The Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darling” gets a boisterous reading as well, and Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” is reverentially treated.

Filipowicz also contributes five original tunes, including the West Side-flavored “Brand New Hat,” an energetic number with crisp lead guitar, a funky rhythm section (Chris Sandovol – drums, Rick Smith – bass) and power-packed horns (Tom Sobel – tenor/baritone saxes, Jack Naus – trumpet), and the sweaty mid-tempo “My Woman,” which boasts some of Filipowicz’s most pungent guitar work.

Speaking of guitar, Filipowicz also includes three dandy instrumentals. The title track sounds like a long-lost Freddie King track from the ’60s, while the slow and easy “Canal Street” sounds like an old Little Walter number with Rickun’s harmonica. The closer “Riding High” has a Memphis feel with the horn section and funky backbeat.

Unfiltered is a wonderful tribute to the blues of the Windy City from an artist who experienced them first hand some 40 years ago. It’s obvious from every note played that this was a labor of love for Paul Filipowicz, which helps make this disc required listening for fans of the Chicago blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Dustin DouglasA power blues-rock trio based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen are renowned for their guitar-fueled retro style of ’60s and ’70s blues-rock that also channels the epic live performances of artists like ZZ Top, Joe Bonamassa, and SRV. The charismatic singer / guitarist Douglas is backed by drummer Tommy Smallcomb and bassist Matt “The Dane” Gabriel. Hot off their eponymous debut in 2016 and a well-received 2017 EP of blues covers, the band recently issued Break It Down (Quad D Records), a release that should put this band on the map once and for all.

The band penned all 13 tracks, and the opener, “A Little Bit,” gets the disc kicked off on a funky hip hop-ish note, mixing Gabriel’s throbbing bass and Smallcomb’s driving beat with Douglas’s searing guitar runs. “Destiny” keeps the funky vibe up but with more of a retro rock edge, and the catchy “On The Dance Floor” is introduced with an acoustic guitar but soon goes electric in a big way. Each of these songs feature distinctive rhythms and lyrics that stay with the listener. A track like “Turn Around” is an example, with memorable lyrics and guitar work from Douglas.

“Goodbye” is an old-school rock ballad with a definite ’70s vibe, and “Hold Of Me” follows suit, though at a more driving tempo. “My Time Is Precious” reintroduces the funk to the proceedings with excellent rhythm work from Smallcomb and Gabriel. The ballad “Ain’t No Denying” leans toward Southern rock with the mix of electric and acoustic guitar, and “Out Of My Mind” is a nice slow burner with a soulful vocal and blues guitar from Douglas.

The crunching rockers “Fat Cat” and “Your Face Is Stunning are both standouts, and “Tragedy” is an excellent cautionary tale about the unforeseen circumstances of relationships. The disc wraps up with “No More Tears To Cry,” a Southern blues rocker the band also featured on their EP from 2017. Douglas unleashes some fine slide guitar on this track, which brings the disc to a satisfying conclusion.

With this batch of killer original songs and performances, Break It Down should earn Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen some much-deserved praise and attention in the blues and blues-rock genres. Fans of either style should absolutely check out this release.

--- Graham Clarke

Tomislav GolubanCroatian harmonica player Tomislav Goluban has performed throughout Europe and has released eight previous albums. His ninth release, Velvet Space Love (Spona), is a collaboration with fellow Croatian Toni Starešinić, who plays keyboards, piano, and various synthesizers. The album is rooted in the blues, Goluban’s harmonica work being a big reason, but the duo also incorporates jazz, funk, electronic, soul, and hip-hop, Starešinić’s specialties, into the mix.

There are eight original songs, three of which are also presented in remix versions, and one cover, which is Ennio Morricone’s “Man With A Harmonica,” which forms an interesting marriage of electronica and Spaghetti Western. The opener, “Zero Gravity,” shows Goluban to be a versatile harp blower and Starešinić’s spacey contributions complement his harmonica playing well on this track, as well as “Space Drive,” the funky “My Jupiter Mistress,” the haunting “10_9_3,” and “Hypersleep Dream” (which features operatic vocalization from Josipa Lončar).

“The Busiest Woman I’ve Ever Loved” is in more of a jazzy vein, and includes (Zvonimir Bajević – trumpet, Robert Polgar – sax, Mario Šincek – trombone), guitars (Mike Sponza and Robert Bašić), and a rhythm section (Igor Vugrek – drums, Damjan Grbac – double bass). “TSMK” is on the blues with a bit of a country-western, thanks to the twangy guitars, and the upbeat “Till The End Of Space And Time” has a poppy ’80s feel.

“Zero Gravity,” “Space Drive” and “TSMK” also appear in lively remix versions, which give Starešinić an opportunity to dig deeper into the electronic aspects of each song.

Velvet Space Love is an interesting piece of work that some might call “21st Century Blues.” While it is not your conventional blues music, the earthy harmonica work of Tomislav Goluban keeps it grounded in the blues. It’s definitely worth a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Matty T WallMatty T. Wall’s latest release, Sidewinder (Hipsterdumpster Records), is a hard-charger that should earn the Australian guitarist a greater measure of respect here in the U.S. Wall enlisted Grammy-winning producer Bob Clearmountain as producer and engineer, and the result is an impressive mix of blues, rock, soul, country, and pop. Wall is joined on these 12 tracks by Ric Whittle (drums/percussion) and Stephen Walker (bass/backing vocals), with guests Gordon Cant (keyboards), Steve Searle (horns/brass), Jonas Petersen (strings), and Deli Rowe (backing vocals).

The 12 tracks include eight Wall originals plus four covers. The opener, “Slideride,” is a rip roaring affair with Wall really ripping up the place with his soaring slide guitar work. The smoking title track is a propulsive rocker that should be a crowd pleaser. Wall shifts genres a bit with a cover of Trombone Shorty’s “Something Beautiful,” giving it a mellow ’70s pop-rock feel, while his reading of Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come” allows the opportunity to display his vocals. His original “Can’t Stop Thinkin’” is a rough-edged ballad, followed by the funky rocker “Shake It.”

Wall also covers the old blues war horse “Going Down,” but gives it a fresh take with strings and backing vocals, one of the more original versions these ears have heard in a long time. The original “Ain’t That The Truth” mixes R&B and pop sensibilities, with Wall turning in a smooth vocal performance, and the sadly brief instrumental “Sophia’s Strut” showcases Wall on guitar in a big way. The horns join in for “Walk Out The Door,” an excellent trip into urban blues territory with some crisp fretwork from Wall, who then goes acoustic on the ballad “Leave It All Behind.” The closing tune is a blues/hip-hop mash-up of Chris Thomas King’s “Mississippi Kkkrossroads,” which will appeal to some listeners more than others.

Sidewinder is a fine sophomore release from Matty T. Wall that shows his blues-based guitar and soulful vocals are a great fit in a variety of styles.

--- Graham Clarke

The Furious SeasonsThe Furious Seasons are an acoustic trio (David Steinhart – vocals/guitar/percussion, Jeff Steinhart – bass/keyboards, P.A. Nelson – acoustic/electric guitars/vocals) that have played together since 2008. Their musical approach incorporates folk, pop, and blues, as displayed on the group’s sixth release, Now Residing Abroad (Stonegarden Records), a collection of 13 original songs of love, life, and loss.

Listeners will be taken in immediately by the music that this talented trio plays, but are advised to stick around for repeated listens to absorb the lyrics. The lively opener, “Expo Line,” reflects on the passage of time in one’s life, and the moody “So Sorry Adele” is a highlight, showcasing some fine guitar work from Nelson. “Tethered” is about losing control due to circumstances often beyond one’s control, and the subtly topical “The Loyal Canadians” finds the trio considering relocation to a neighboring country based on recent events.

“Fort Knox” has a bluesy flair, thanks to the guitar work, and the gentle “Airtight” is very appealing. The menacing lyrics of “Understood” belie the mellow music backing it, and “Come To L.A.,” the album’s concluding tune, is a somber statement on the tragedy and sometime ensuing turmoil surrounding divorce.

Anyone who enjoys folk music will absolutely love this album. The trio’s music and their vocal harmonies will remind listeners of Simon and Garfunkel at times, and once the music and harmonies grab you the lyrics will soon follow. Blues fans will enjoy this release for the exquisite guitar work from Nelson and David Steinhart. Now Residing Abroad should appeal to music fans across the board.

--- Graham Clarke

Billy PriceBlue-eyed soul man Billy Price ventured to Greaseland Studios in San Jose to record his latest masterwork, Reckoning (Vizztone Records), with Kid Andersen, who co-produced and plays guitar. The veteran singer is also joined by a formidable band that includes drummer Alex Pettersen, keyboardist Jim Pugh, sax players Nancy Wright and Johnny Bones, and bassist Jerry Jemmott. The 13-song set list consists of mostly covers, but there are a few strong originals mixed in as well.

Price has always been a master interpreter of other soul classics, and this album is no exception to the rule as Price ably handles covers of “Dreamer” (originally done by Bobby Bland and Etta James) and songs previously recorded by Johnny Rawls (“I Keep Holding On”), Denise LaSalle (“Get Your Lies Straight”), along with wonderful takes on the Booker T/Eddie Floyd classic, “I Love You More Than Words Can Say,” long associated with Otis Redding, and Mark Narmore’s “Your Love Stays With Me,” a modern soul track that deserves to be heard.

Price also does a dynamite version of J.J. Cale’s early ’90s “No Time,” transforming the easy going shuffle into a horn-fueled high energy affair, and the title track, originally from the Billy T Band, gets a gospel-soul reworking (the Sons of the Soul Revivers provide excellent backing vocals on this and two other tracks). The ’70s R&B hit from L.T.D., “Love Ballad,” is also a standout with Price faithfully recreating the soul and passion of the original (Andersen’s Coral sitar accompaniment is a highlight), and the funky “Synthetic World,” from Swamp Dogg, is a nice piece of work, too.

To these ears, “39 Steps,” written by Billy Price Band keyboardist Jim Britton is one of the best new original songs I’ve heard this year. This feisty track combines soul and blues in equal doses, and Price does a fine job on the vocals. The slippery “One and One,” written by Britton and Price, is a great song that would have made a lot of noise on the charts back in the day, and “Never Be Fooled Again” deftly mixes funk and soul, while “Expert Witness” does the same but with rousing background vocals from the Sons of the Soul Revivers again).

With well over 40 years of performing under his belt, it’s plain to see --- or make that “hear" --- that Billy Price is still a force to reckoned with on the soul-blues circuit. Reckoning should be featured prominently on many soul and blues fans’ “Best of 2018” lists.

--- Graham Clarke

Neil WardenThe blues doesn’t run any deeper than when life itself hangs in the balance as Andy Gunn and Walter Trout have proved recently. Weissenborn lap steel guitarist Neil Warden recorded this EP, Canalslide Blues, when recovering from cancer, a process which thankfully helped the healing process. This recording, although only 20 minutes long, is a profound and inspirational musical journey communicated not in words but solely through Neil’s exceptional guitar playing.

On "The Road Home," Neil’s sumptuous slide creates a poignant, melancholic mood as he sets out on the hard road ahead, the grief and heartache echoing from the strings. "Canalslide Blues" has a jaunty feel suggesting optimism alongside moments of anguish, the atmosphere created by skillful slide and finger picking techniques.

The longest track, "Mantra," is a complex, contemplative, classic piece of music beautifully arranged, the spaces between the chords as significant as those played. The powerful, spirited "Dust Bowl" signifies Neil returning to his best, stronger than ever and extending the Scotsman’s illustrious 40-year career as a highly respected and innovative bluesman. An extremely unique blues experience well worth listening to. Check out Neil's website.

--- Dave Scott

Barbara BlueBarbara Blue is known as the reigning queen of Beale Street, and that well-deserved reputation comes out on her latest CD, Fish In Dirty H2O (Big Blue Records). Produced by Jim Gaines, Ms. Blue's 11th release consists of 13 cuts of powerful blues showcasing her strong voice.

Fish In Dirty H2O opens with what could be semi-autobiographical, as Ms. Blue sings "My Heart Belongs To The Blues." This one starts with a slow gospel introduction before turning into a mid-tempo jazzy blues with tasteful guitar from Will McFarlane. Next up is her adaptation of "Johnny Lee (Angeline)," a '50s R&B mid-tempo shuffle that could have easily been done back in the day by The Five Royales or someone like that. "Accidental Theft" has more of a rural sound, a slow blues that features McFarlane's slide guitar accompaniment. McFarlane again shines with a smokin' blues guitar solo on the mid-tempo blues shuffle "Dr. Jesus."

This is a small complaint, but by this point in the album I was wanting something more up-tempo and giving Ms. Blue the chance to just plain rip the roof off the joint. But be patient .... that will come later.

Another favorite of mine was the extremely slow blues, "Walk Away," with powerful gospel-ish vocals from Ms. Blue and sparse instrumentation provided by Rick Steff's subtle keyboard accompaniment. Jim Spake jumps in later in the song with a nice sax solo. Ms. Blue's advice to herself is that she needs to "... start anew without the mistakes I made with you ..."

It's obvious that Ms. Blue has an affinity for Memphis' favorite cuisine --- barbeque --- because she mentions that smoked meat specialty twice in her songs, especially on "BBQ Man," a good double entendre blues shuffle with a jazzy sax intro. She makes another mention of Memphis barbeque later on the slow, jazzy blues number "That's Working For Me." At this point, I was developing a serious hankering for some dry ribs.

I mentioned earlier that the tempo would pick up later in the album, and we hear it along with Ms. Blue's powerful vocals on the up-tempo blues shuffle "Gravy Train," with really good piano work from Lester Snell and more solid guitar work from McFarlane.

Wrapping up this fine album is a slow, soulful blues, "Slow Burn," followed by an eerie rendition of Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen," with effective acoustic slide guitar from McFarlane.

While she's been around for quite some time, this disc really serves as my own introduction to the powerful vocals and creative songwriting of Barbara Blue. After listening to Fish In Dirty H2O, I'll be digging around the archives for some of her past releases.

--- Bill Mitchell

Kaaren LawrenceBest Of Live (Hostel Records) is kind of a 'greatest hits' collection from one previous live album by blues rocker Karen Lawrence and Blue By Nature. This group released a 13-song live album in 1998 called Live At The Lake, and now 20 years later Hostel Records has taken the best eight cuts from that set and re-mastered them for this collection. The sound quality is pretty good for when the recordings were made, with the crowd noises audible but not intrusive.

Ms. Lawrence's voice is often compared to that of the late Janis Joplin, and we hear her strong, husky vocals right away on the rockin' mid-tempo blues shuffle, "It's All About You," on which lead guitarist Rick Dufay also gets to step to the front of the stage. Her vocals are injected with a measure of sass on "Another Day, Another Mile," a faster shuffle which again gives Dufay the chance to stretch out.

For something a little different, the up-tempo "I Had It All Wrong" starts off with some funky wah-wah effects on guitar leading into powerful singing by Ms. Lawrence.

We're treated to more Joplin-ish vocals on the slow blues ballad, "Fun and Games," with some fuzzy guitar accompaniment, and then again on the set's highlight, "I'll Get Along Alright," a mid-tempo blues shuffle that closes out the album.

For fans of Karen Lawrence, especially if you don't already have the earlier version of this album, Best Of Live is worth checking out.

--- Bill Mitchell



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