What's New

September/October 2019

Pick Hit

What's New




Back Issues


Order these featured CDs today:

Toronzo Cannon

Billy Price


Big Daddy Wilson

Shane Dwight

Adam Holt

Duke Robillard

Harpdog Brown

Meg Williams

Terry Robb

Packrat's Smokehouse

Manx Marriner Mainline

John Clifton

Kerry Kearney

Luca Kiella

Ellis Mano

Head Honchos

Jason Robert

Stef Paglia

Mike Goudreau

Tony Campanella

Bob Corritore

Mighty Mike Schermer

Rick Vito

Tony Holiday

BB King Blues Band

Soul Rebels

Kurt Elling and James Morrison

BB and the Blues Shacks

Staci Griesbach



Toronzo CannonToronzo Cannon is quickly moving into the upper echelon of Chicago blues artists. After two fine albums on Delmark Records, the one-time Windy City bus driver moved over to the Alligator label, with The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp being his second release as a 'gator artist. Cannon is a very good singer and guitar player, but what really separates him is his creative songwriting.

The opening cut, "Get Together or Get Apart," might be viewed by the title as a word for our society in general, but this message is instead about the relationship with his woman. Stinging guitar licks and strong, soulful vocals highlight this number. The title cut comes next, a slower soul blues on which Cannon shows us that in many ways there are many similarities between the three named subjects. He sings, "... We're one in the same, just three different names, don't hate the players, hate the game ..." and "... Quick to take, slow to give ..."

"Chicago Way" was the title of Cannon's previous album, but this time around it's an auto-biographical fast-moving song that tells the listener what he's all about and how the Chicago way has made him what he is today ... and he let's everyone know that, like the city, he's got broad shoulders, too. I thought when he launched into "Insurance" that Cannon was doing a Jimmy Reed cover, but this is an original that borrows heavily from the similar Reed song, except Cannon's version is updated as a lament about the cost of health insurance nowadays. Billy Branch joins the band to provide harmonica accompaniment throughout as well as a very nice solo midway through the song.

Roosevelt Purifoy starts out "Stop Me When I'm Lying" with some dynamite New Orleans-style piano and the horn section of Mark Hiebert (baritone sax), Joe Clark (trumpet) and Chris Shuttleworth (trombone) provide the appropriate second line backing. Cannon then tears it up on guitar on a slow blues shuffle, "She Loved Me (Again)," taking us back to Chi-town all the way. Really good guitar licks dominate this number --- listen with headphones to get the best effect. Seven minutes of absolute dominance of his instrument.

Prepare to be inspired when listening to "The Silence Of My Friends," with Purifoy taking it to church on the piano. Cannon was inspired by Martin Luther King here, encouraging everyone to speak out about social injustice (and, yes, there's still plenty of injustice around us). What a wonderful song. It'll rank number one on this album for many listeners. Cannon then keeps it down by the riverside for the simpler "The First 24," playing acoustic slide guitar.

Chicago singer Norma Jean joins in to trade vocals with Cannon on "That's What I love About 'Cha," while Purifoy pounds away on the upper register of the piano. The jazzy "Ordinary Woman" gives Purifoy another chance in the spotlight on a mid-tempo shuffle, showing that he's a true unsung star of the Chicago blues scene. Cannon comes in later with a really tasteful guitar solo.

Wrapping up this very nice album is a slower blues shuffle, "Let Me Lay My Love On You," followed by "I'm Not Scared," an inspirational number that includes Joanna Connor on slide guitar and Lynne Jordan, Cedric Chaney and Maria Luz Carball on vocals. Cannon gets into some heavy guitar effects on, much different than how he sounds on previous cuts.

The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp is likely to rank as one of the year's best at award time, and is another in his growing list of worthy recordings by Toronzo Cannon.

--- Bill Mitchell

Billy PriceI've listened to and reviewed many albums by Pittsburgh soul/blues singer Billy Price over the years (he's now based in Baltimore, but he'll always be a Pittsburger to me), first seeing him around 40 years ago. Needless to say, I've always been a fan of his very fine vocals and horn-driven arrangements on the dozens of recordings he's made. (In fact, his early recording of "Eldorado Cafe" is one of the singles that I'd need to have on a desert island mix tape).

For his more recent albums Price has ventured west to be recorded at the Greaseland studios in San Jose, California, run by production start Kid Andersen. Price's latest, Dog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast Records), goes in some different directions with Andersen's superb production and a wide array of diverse instruments brought into the mix.

Starting us off is a Price original, "Working on Your Chain Gang," a soulful number with just a touch of a funky beat, with Jon Otis, son of legendary bluesman Johnny Otis, adding congas to the rhythm. Andersen chips in a nice guitar solo, and, of course, there are horns in the background. There will almost always be horns on Billy Price songs. "Lose My Number" has a snakier sound than we normally hear on Price tunes, thanks mainly to the late-night, jazzy keyboard work from Jim Pugh. Price wants that woman to lose his phone number and just go away, taking away his pain. There's pain in his voice, but I'd like to hear a little more power mixed into the vocals.

My favorite cut is the Rick Estrin-penned title cut, with the usual Estrin high-jinx on harmonica as well as Alabama Mike sharing vocals with Price. Lots of funky guitar effects from Andersen also make this one a keeper. But just as I write how much I love "Dog Eat Dog," Price comes along with a haunting version of Otis Rush's "My Love Will Never Die," with echoey vocals and eerie guitar licks from Andersen. Whew, this one's intense! Okay, maybe the latter is my favorite cut. It doesn't matter, because both are outstanding numbers.

"Walk Back In" is typical Billy Price soul as he tells that woman he's coming back looking for forgiveness and wanting to start all over again, with the horn section providing strong backing. "Remnants" is a mid-tempo blues with all kinds of unique backing sounds, notably some wah-wah effects on Andersen's guitar.

Looking for a classic soul sound? Then check out "Same Old Heartaches," written by Pittsburgh area twin brothers Mervin and Melvin Steals. I was not familiar with the Steals brothers, but in looking them up on the internet I learned that they wrote quite a few classic R&B and soul hits over the years. It's nice to hear Price cover one of their songs, this one done originally by the Impressions. Another more traditional soul sound comes from the Billy Price / Fred Chapéllier composition, "More Than I Needed," beefed up by strings and synthesizers added by Andersen and the female backing vocals of Vicki Randle and Lisa Leuschner Andersen.

The Billy Price / Kid Andersen partnership has been a good one. While his previous recordings have all been solid, the last couple done at Greaseland have pumped new energy and creativity into his recordings as well as sounds that go beyond the classic soul / blues effects. Dog Eat Dog is an outstanding example of how an artist can continue to stay relevant after so many years on the scene. It's a keeper.

--- Bill Mitchell

RedfishThis album of 12 original songs, Souls, by Redfish (Rakehell Music) comes hot on the heels of the band’s highly acclaimed debut EP, 5x5, confirming the meteoric rise of these exceptional musicians from the UK’s England and Scotland border region.

Souls opens with an intriguing track, the light, fuzzy sound and funky rhythm of “There’s Nothing Else” interspersed with explosive brass solos from Roz Shuman, Chris Riley and Ali Paxton. “Don’t Waste The Good Stuff” is traditional blues with superb Elmore James style guitar from Martin McDonald who is excellent throughout the album, deliberately understated at times and always tasteful. The piano keys of Fraser Clark effortlessly breeze through the jaunty “Rakehells,” complementing McDonald’s axe grinding and the conversational vocal style of Stumblin’ Harris.

The rapping "(Kick Up) Hell’s Delight" showcases the technical prowess of drummer Sandy Sweetman and bassist Rod Mackay, the innovative horns adding to the quirky vibe. The tempo slows and the temperature rises with the powerful, balladic “Hate The Song But Love The Singer,” the anguished vocals matching perfectly the atmospheric guitar and piano solos. “One More Fight” has drama and intensity, again enhanced by Fraser’s and Martin’s inspirational contributions.

Harris does anything but ‘stumble’ through the smooth, soulful vocals on ‘”Just Like Peggy Lee,” rather he reveals his impressive vocal range. The rhythm and brass sections excel again on the upbeat, jazz-tinged “For The Love Of The Wrong Woman” with Clark‘s piano at its epicentre. “It’s A Very Lonely Life” is a slow, deep blues with some of the most intense and expressive keyboard and guitar interludes ever to grace such a somber occasion.

The message might be solemn on “I Miss You So,” but the mood is lightened by the cheerful delivery. “Shadow On My Soul” is a magnificent song written by Harris, inspired by Nina Simone and brilliantly executed by this band of alchemists transmuting the lyrics into poetry and the musical notation into a symphony. The boogie-woogie feel of “Hallelujah Road” completes this beautifully arranged, glorious, genre busting and at times breathtaking extravaganza.

--- Dave Scott

Big Daddy WilsonBig Daddy Wilson was born and raised in North Carolina, working on tobacco plantations and in cotton fields as youth, going to school during the week and to church on Sundays. He quit school at 16 and joined the Army, which sent the youth to Germany. After initial homesickness, he met a German girl who became his wife, and he’s lived there ever since. Wilson also met the blues while in Germany, inspiring him to start writing songs and eventually performing and recording. His smooth and soulful vocals have made him a favorite on the German blues scene.

Recently signed to Ruf Records, Wilson ventured to Memphis and Muscle Shoals where he worked with guitarists Laura Chavez and Will McFarlane, bassist Dave Smith, and drummer Steve Potts, among others, plus the legendary producer Jim Gaines. Wilson’s Ruf debut, Deep In My Soul, features 12 tracks, 11 written or co-written by the singer. Also lending musical support are Mark Narmore (keys), Brad Guin (sax), Ken Waters (trumpet), Rick Steff (organ), and McFarlane, Guin, Waters, Mitch Mann, Trinecia Butler, and Kimberlie Helton (backing vocals).

The opener is an excellent straight-outta-Memphis soul burner, “I Know (She Said),” a horn and keyboard-fueled confection with goosebump-inducing backgroung vocals from Butler and Helton. “Ain’t Got No Money” is a mid-tempo number that grooves, and Sandy Carroll and Narmore’s gospel-flavored ballad, “Mississippi Me,” is a perfect fit for Wilson’s warm vocal style.

“Trippin’ On You” is funky R&B, and the upbeat “I Got Plenty” deftly blends soul and country, while “Hold On To Our Love” is a sweet soul ballad like they used to play them.

The title track has a little bit of reggae in its rhythm that mixes well with the horns and with Hammond and Chavez’s crisp guitar work. The moody “I’m Walking” finds Wilson calling it quits in a relationship, again punctuated by a great Chavez solo. “Crazy World” is one of those smoldering slow blues tracks that you wish would go on for a long time, with Wilson and Chavez doing some of their best work on the album. “Redhead Stepchild” is about another woman who just won’t do, while the ominously funky “Voodoo” is about one who will.

The album closes with a snippet of acoustic gospel, “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself,” another track that listeners will wish lasted a little bit longer.

Wilson’s initial releases were also more acoustically inclined, so he steps out of his comfort zone in a way with Deep In My Soul. The results speak for themselves --- this is s fine a soul-blues release as you’ll here this year.

--- Graham Clarke

Shane DwightShane Dwight’s latest effort, No One Loves Me Better (Red Parlor Records), like many of his other releases skillfully blends the blues with country, rock, and a little bit of soul. The ten-song set is relatively brief at 35 minutes, but packs a wallop as Dwight (vocals and guitars) joins forces with an all-star cast: Mickey Raphael (harmonica), Rob McNelley (guitars), Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Gene Dunlop (keyboards), Patrick O’Hearn (bass), Kenneth Blevins (drums), and Bekka Bramlett and Derek Alldredge (background vocals).

The warm title track opens the disc, a country rocker with McNelley contributing slide guitar behind Dwight’s soulful vocal. “She Likes To Ride” is an energetic, funky track, and the gritty “If You Ain’t The Devil” lends proof to the theory that there’s a thin line between the blues and country music. The dark “Bullets and Gasoline” is a grim southern rocker tale of revenge, and “Sucker” is an interesting mix of country, rock, soul, and hip-hop tune that works really well.

On the hard-charging “Stand Up,” Dwight rocks the house with Raphael’s harmonica, Bramlett’s frenetic backing vocals, and Dwight’s resonator slide guitar in tow. “White Powder” is a blues rocker about the perils of cocaine, and the gripping “Levy Girl” is a winner, with Dwight’s gravelly vocal perfectly complemented by Bramlett’s haunting background vocals. The thunderous “Shakin’” rocks hard and is a nice lead-in to the acoustic closer, “Trial Of A Poet,” with Dwight’s grainy vocal and Resonator backed again by Bramlett’s vocals.

If you’re already a fan of Shane Dwight’s, you should already have this set. If you’re not already a fan, No One Loves Me Better is a great place to get on board.

--- Graham Clarke

Adam HoltAdam Holt’s latest effort, Kind of Blues (Zenith Records), finds the Alabama singer/guitarist blending a variety of styles. Yes, there’s blues here but it’s blended with country, Americana, and southern rock. Holt has a warm, clear, singing style that lands a little more of the country side of the country/soul aisle, but his muscular guitar playing leans more toward the rock side. He also wrote nine of the ten tracks, recording the album in his commercial studio in Alabama with support from Owen Finley and Pierre Robinson (bass), Greg Deluca (drums), Donnie Sundal (keys), Lee Yankie (slide guitar), and Mark Welborn (pedal steel).

The opening track, “Mr. Morning Drive,” was co-written by Holt’s wife, Jillian, and is an upbeat, loving tribute to her grandfather who worked as a DJ for over 50 years, retiring at 90 (that’s his voice that introduces and concludes the track). The mid-tempo “Don’t Give Up On Me Baby” is a smooth fit for either the country or rock charts, and the ballad “Bobby” is a pointed plea to an addict to clean up his act. “I’m Still Holdin’ On” is probably the most country track on the album (nice pedal steel accompaniment from Welborn) as Holt struggles to leave the past behind, and “Before I Trusted You” also has country mixed with rock.

The amusing “Give The Dog A Bone” is a fun rocking boogie, with Holt showing he’s not afraid to discuss topical issues with “The Story Must Go On” and “The Bourgeoisie” songs that discuss the Civil Rights era and corporate America, respectively. “The End” seamlessly combines country with jazz, and the closer, a faithful read of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” retains much of the feel and passion of the original.

Kind of Blues shows Adam Holt to be equally comfortable in a number of genres. He’s a gifted singer and guitarist, and is not afraid to step on toes as a songwriter. The album and artist are definitely worth checking out.

--- Graham Clarke

Duke RobillardCall Ear Worms, the latest release from guitarist extraordinaire Duke Robillard on Stony Plain Records, an oldies album if you want. It’s mostly a collection of favorite songs that Robillard enjoyed when he was growing up. It’s a mixed bag of styles, a little bit different from a typical Robillard album, but the Duke throws enough twists and turns into the mix to make it interesting. He also enlists several different vocalists and guest musicians to assist him and his core band (Bruce Bears – keyboards, Brad Hallen – bass, Mark Teixeira - drums).

Robillard only sings on one track, the Gerry Goffin/Carole King track “The Other Side of Goodbye,” but his exemplary guitar work is prevalent throughout. He only offers up one of his own original tunes this time around, a strong remake of “Don’t Bother Trying To Steal Her Love” (a favorite of mine from his ’80s recordings) with vocals from Dave Howard, lead singer with the New England band Neil and the Vipers. The mellow “Living With The Animals, an interesting track from Tracy Nelson’s Mother Earth, offers vocals from Chris Cote and electric violin from Marnie Hall.

Frequent Robillard collaborator Sunny Crownover sings lead on two tracks: a peppy read of the Arthur Alexander-penned country soul number “Everyday I Have To Cry Some” (with British pop star Julie Grant, who covered the song back in the ’60s) and the Brenda Lee classic “Sweet Nothin’s.” Rhode Island-based singer/guitarist Mark Cutler sings and plays slide guitar on Bob Dylan’s “I Am A Lonesome Hobo,” and Klem Klimek sings and plays tenor sax on the Chuck Berry chestnut “Dear Dad.” Bears sings on a stellar cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can,” and Teixeira does a fine job vocalizing on the Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon.”

Robillard’s guitar provides “lead vocals” on four splendid instrumentals. First up is “Careless Love,” crafted as a swinging tribute to Duane Eddy. Alexander’s “Soldier Of Love” is presented as an instrumental for maybe the first time, but based on Robillard’s smooth effort it's definitely not the last. Robillard and the band rip through Link Wray’s “Rawhide,” because that’s just what you do with a Link Wray song, and close the disc with a lovely take on the ’50s pop ballad “You Belong To Me.”

Ear Worms is a great mix of familiar tunes and a few rarities. There’s a lot of diversity in the song selection, and the variety of vocal styles is a plus. In the end, as with any Duke Robillard release, it makes for tasteful and compelling listening.

--- Graham Clarke

Harpdog BrownCanadian bluesman Harpdog Brown (that’s his real name) recently discovered that his family has roots in New Orleans. The harmonica player has long been a purveyor of classic electric blues, usually of the vintage Chess and Sun Records variety. But with his recent discovery of a familial Crescent City connection he also incorporates the blues and jazz stylings of New Orleans into his usual brand of blues for his latest release, For Love & Money (Dog House Records).

Lending Brown a hand is guitarist/producer Steve Dawson and a savvy, powerhouse band (Dave Webb – piano/Hammond B3, Robert Vail Grant – drums, William Joseph Abbott – clarinet and alto sax, Skye Lambourne – trombone, Jerry Cook – baritone and tenor sax, and Jeremy Holmes – bass, all who know their way around these musical styles.

The album consists of a baker’s dozen tracks that move between jump blues and swinging R&B, circa late ’40s/early ’50s. Brown does a fine job covering several songs associated with that era: Louis Jordan’s “Blue Light Boogie,” Memphis Slim’s “The Comeback,” a pair from Amos Milburn’s catalog (“Vicious, Vicious Vodka” and “Thinkin’ And Drinkin’”), and Wynonie Harris’ “Buzzard Luck.” There are also newer songs from former Brown guitarist Wayne Berazan (“A New Day Is Dawning” and “One Step Forward”) and Brandon Issak (“I’ll Make It Up To You”).

Brown wrote two songs: the entertaining “Reefer Lovin’ Woman” and “Stiff,” a song about the perils of being physically and financially broken. Keyboardist Webb contributes the title track, a rollicking look at life on the road, and trombonist Lambourne penned the sweet closer “Sasha’s Lullaby.”

Brown’s warm, lived-in vocals are a treat and fit the material perfectly. The band does a marvelous job and Dawson is a wonder, as always, on guitar. Fans of jump blues and swinging R&B will get their money’s worth with Harpdog Brown’s For Love & Money.

--- Graham Clarke

Meg WilliamsMeg Williams’ fine EP from 2018, Maybe Someday, enabled the Nashville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist to compete in the 2019 I.B.C. (representing the Kentucky Blues Society) and become the director for the house band for the Women In Blues Showcase. She has followed up with an excellent session recorded at FAME Studios for her debut full-length album, Take Me As I Am: The Muscle Shoals Sessions (NOLA Blue Records), which features ten new songs written or co-written by Williams, plus second takes of two of her songs from the EP.

The seductive “Come On Over To Me” kicks off the disc, with Williams in fine voice backed by Dan Wecht’s slide guitar. It’s followed by “Tell Everybody,” an upbeat country rocker, “Shame,” a lively venture into funk territory, and “Little Bit of The Devil,” which retains the fiery southern rock feel of the EP version. The mid-tempo “Played By The Blues” is a fine vehicle for Williams’ soulful vocals, and “Sometimes I Need You Too” is introduced as a ballad but slowly builds into a Allman-esque conclusion via Wecht’s splendid slide guitar.

Williams declares on the country-flavored title track that she’s not compromising to get what she wants, while the “What About Me?” really captures the Muscle Shoals spirit with assistance from Clayton Ivey on B3, and “Can’t Keep Waiting On You” is a spirited, straight-ahead rocker.

“I Feel A Heartache Coming” was one of the best tracks on the EP, and it’s a winner here as well, a catchy pop-rocker with a touch of soul. The sexy “Make A Move” is funky R&B and the closer, “Take A Chance On My Love,” is classy soul blues.

In addition to Wecht and Ivey, Williams gets strong musical support from guitarist Will McFarlane on three tracks, Bob Wray (bass), Justin Holder (drums), Brad Kuhn (organ on one track), and Sara Rogers (background vocals).

Take Me As I Am: The Muscle Shoals Sessions fulfills the promise that Meg Williams showed on her EP, definitely proving that she’s a formidable talent as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

--- Graham Clarke

Terry RobbTerry Robb is, hands-down, one of the finest finger style blues guitarist currently practicing; I’d argue one of the best ever. Having heard several of his previous efforts over the years, I would have to put his current release, Confessin’ My Dues (Niasounds), near the top of the heap. It’s a breathtaking piece of work that encapsulates country blues, jazz, swing, folk, and ragtime. He’s backed on several of these 13 exquisite tracks by Dave Captein (standup bass) and Gary Hobbs (drums), with rhythm guitarist Adam Scramstad sitting in on one track.

The opening track, “Butch Holler Stomp,” is a short but dazzling ragtime workout that you wish lasted much longer than 1:52. The next track, “Still On 101,” is a tough Delta-styled romp, while the spiritually-tinged “How A Free Man Feels” is the first track to feature Robb’s warm vocals. The jazzy “It Might Get Sweaty” is a funky change of pace.

“Heart Made Of Steel” is one of five tracks where Robb plays with the band, and it has an almost-rock edge with some of Robb’s most nimble finger work, and “Now Vestopol” is an extended acoustic workout that covers a lot of musical ground in its six-minute running time.

“Darkest Road I’m Told” is an excellent Delta blues that owes a debt to Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Highway 61,” and “Three Times The Blues” actually leans more toward the jazz side of the blues aisle but with Robb’s work on the resonator being electrifying. The title track is a lively country blues, and “Death of Blind Arthur” (maybe a tribute to Blind Arthur Blake) is a somber minor key blues that shifts into ragtime near the midpoint.

“High Desert Everywhere” is a slide guitar driven instrumental taken at breakneck speed. “Keep Your Judgement” has an old school rock n’ roll vibe, and the pensive instrumental, “Blood Red Moon” is a solid closer.

As stated above, Terry Robb is one of the finest acoustic guitarists on the current circuit. He not only plays with precision but also with passion. Confessin’ My Dues should be in any acoustic guitar fan’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

PackratPackrat’s Smokehouse got their start in the late ’80s, recording several excellent albums for the King Snake label and developing the “Florida Swamp Blues” sound in the process which was a deft combination of swamp blues (via Lazy Lester and Lightnin’ Slim) and the moody Mississippi Delta/Chicago sounds of Howlin’ Wolf. The band (Anthony “Packrat” Thompson – lead vocals, harmonica, and guitar, Robert “Lightnin’ Boy” Thomas – lead guitar and vocals, Aaron “Pops” Watson – drums, Ken Sly – bass, vocals, and percussion, and Peter Beers – keyboards) recently issued a double CD live set, Men Of The Swamp Live (Black Frost Music).

Two live performances are represented on this set. The first disc features a set recorded at Babe James Center in the group’s hometown of New Smyrna, Florida. The nearly 75 minute set features nine songs, a mix of originals and covers. The opener, “The Night Jack Frost Killed Possum Brown,” is from one of the group’s ’90s releases, Let’s Swamp Awhile, and is a capsule summary of the band’s sound, mixing the Delta with the swamp.

Next up are faithful takes on Lightnin’ Slim’s “Hoo Doo Blues” and Jimmy Reed’s “Hush Hush” (Reed’s “Caress Me Baby” appears later in the set). The band also covers Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’."

The band original, “Low Down Rider,” is next, an up-tempo swamp rocker. Other originals on the first set include the rocking boogie “95 South,” the aptly titled “Smokehouse Boogie,” and the extended jam, "Hoo Doo Woman Blues,” which closes the first set. Thompson’s powerful vocals and playful stage banter are a plus and his harmonica work is exemplary, while Thomas’ guitar work is superb, as is the support from the rhythm section.

The second set, recorded at Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahassee, Florida, is a shorter set, under 45 minutes with three songs clocking in at over ten minutes. Beginning that set is an extended groove on Reed’s “You Don’t Have To Go,” followed by the slow burning original, “Sue City Sue,” featuring some terrific guitar and harmonica work, the swampy shuffle “Them Creepin’ Blues,” and a reprise of “Hoo Doo Woman Blues” that goes into a great extended jam.

If classic swamp blues is your bag, check out Packrat’s Smokehouse and Men Of The Swamp Live for proof that the genre is alive and thriving. As Packrat might say, “Hammercy!!”

--- Graham Clarke

Manx MarrinerHell Bound For Heaven (Stony Plain Records) is the debut release from Manx Marriner Mainline, a new collaboration of two roots music icons, Harry Manx and Steve Marriner. Manx, who sings and plays slide guitar, banjo, and the 20-stringed Mohan Veena on the disc, has won multiple awards for his creative blend of blues, folk, and world music. Marriner, of the Juno Award-winning band MonkeyJunk, sings and plays guitar, bass, Hammond organ, drums, and harmonica. The pair wrote or co-wrote six of the 11 tunes, touching on blues and gospel music.

“Nothing,” the opening track is a bluesy shuffle featuring a world-weary vocal from Manx, backed by Marriner’s harp. On the next track, the upbeat “Everybody Knows,” Marriner lays down some gorgeous slide guitar which is punctuated nicely by Clayton Doley on Hammond. On the interesting title track, Marriner is supported by The Gamblers on background vocals and Manx on Mohan Veena. Marriner also contributes “My Lord,” a spiritual solo effort with guitar, harmonica and backing vocals from The Marrinaires, while “My Only One” is a subtle folk blues with Manx on banjo, Marriner on harmonica, and Doley on Hammond.

The four cover tunes appear consecutively. Charley Patton’s “Rattlesnake Blues” gets an electric blues treatment that moves the track from the Mississippi Delta to the Louisiana swamps, and a chilling take on Pops Staples’ “Wish I Had Answered” gets a soulful and regretful vocal and tremolo-laden guitar work from Marriner. The Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is played pretty closely to the original, with Manx playing slide guitar and Marriner singing and playing 12-string guitar. The duo’s version of the traditional “This Little Light Of Mine” is a fun one, with exuberant instrumental backing and supporting vocals from The Sahaja Singers. The closer, “Rise And Fall In Love,” is a beautiful ballad co-written by Manx and Marriner.

Hell Bound For Heaven is a dynamite set of blues and gospel tunes from two of the best in the roots music industry. Though Harry Manx and Steve Marriner have played together for many years on stage, this is their first collaboration on record. Here’s hoping that it won’t be the last.

--- Graham Clarke

John CliftonCalifornia-based singer/harmonica player John Clifton latest release on Rip Cat Records is In The Middle Of Nowhere, a strong 11-song set of originals and well-chosen covers that span the blues, R&B, and old school rock n’ roll. Clifton produced the disc and gets able support from Scott Abeyta (guitar), Jake Finney (bass), Edward Fritz (drums/congas), and Bartek Szopinski (keyboards), with guest appearances from Roger Perry (guitar) and John Shafer (tambourine).

Clifton’s previous effort, 2018’s Nightlife, was a highly enjoyable affair and his follow-up is just what the doctor ordered for fans of blues from the old days. The opener, “I’m Leaving You Baby” is from the catalog of Lightnin’ Slim, with Clifton retaining the original’s swampy charm with his gritty vocals and harp. The title track follows, an original that keeps the rumbling swamp blues rhythm going. Next is a ripping take on Jimmy Rogers’ “If It Ain’t Me Baby,” where Clifton threatens to blow the back off the harmonica, and the jazzy instrumental “Cool Spot In Hell,” with nice moments from Abeyta, Szopinski, and Clifton.

“Poor Boy,” the Howlin’ Wolf track gets a swinging update, and “Keep It Clean,” a pre-war track from Charley Jordan, is converted to an electric boogie rocker. Clifton’s original “Junkie Woman Blues” is played in an entertaining acoustic Piedmont style down to Clifton accompanying himself on dobro. The other Clifton originals are the menacing Chicago burner “Four Years Ago” and the Rice Miller-esque “Ain’t Spending No Money.” Clifton also covers Junior Wells (a splendid slow burn read of “So Tired I Could Cry”) and country music legend Merle Haggard (a rousing “Honky Tonk Night Time Man”).

John Clifton manages to take the traditional sounds of the blues and put a sparkling fresh coat of paint on them. In The Middle Of Nowhere is required listening for fans of the traditional and contemporary brands of blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Kerry KearneyI don’t know where this Kerry Kearney character has been hiding, but it's way past time to flush him out for all to see and hear. Actually, Kearney is based in Long Island, where he’s been plying his wares for over 40 years, earning awards in the region for his slide guitar wizardry including induction in the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. He’s toured and performed with the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts, Robert Randolph, and Sonny Landreth.

Kearney has managed to release 17 recordings over his career, and I’m seriously considering searching out for a few of them after hearing his latest, Smokehouse Serenade (Highlander Records). This powerhouse set features Kearney (guitar, banjo, vocals) with Mario Staiano (drums, percussion), Gerry Sorrentino (bass), David Bennet Cohen (keys), and Charlie Wolfe (harmonica) as well as a host of guest artists. Kearney wrote nine of the 12 songs, and he covers an impressively wide range of blues styles with these songs.

The rousing shuffle “Shakin’ Like Jelly,” a driving blues rocker. opens the disc with another local legend, Frank “Kingbee” Latorre, supporting Kearney on harmonica. “Long Tall Mama” is an easy-rolling acoustic number that will get toes tapping and fingers snapping. It’s followed by a retooled version of “Statesboro Blues” that has a rollicking Crescent City feel (with trombone from Victor Poretz and piano from Mark Mancini), the funky rocker “Fireplug,” and “No Way Back Blues,” another fantastic acoustic workout, this time with a real Delta vibe.

The breakneck-paced “Wake Me, Shake Me, Bake Me” is an engaging mix of blues, rock and funk, and Kearney’s cover of the pre-war standard “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” is delightful, with more a crisp acoustic guitar solo and great piano from Mancini. Next up is the amazing “Camptown Races/Smokehouse Serenade,” a six-minute-plus instrumental that Kearney opens with banjo before quickly launching into a dynamite electric guitar work out that will have listeners hitting “replay.”

On the acoustic “Girl From Memphis,” Kearney plays guitar and dobro, backed by Wolfe on harmonica, and plugs in again for the sizzling “Creole Woman,” which is bound to be a crowd favorite. The band stays down south for the Second Line party tune “Goin’ To The Mardi Gras” before closing out with the stirring rocker “Pretty Baby.”

I’m not sure how I missed hearing the Kerry Kearney Band before now, but rest assured that that won’t be the case anymore. Smokehouse Serenade is an awesome set that will not only satisfy blues rock fans, but even the more traditional-minded blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Luca KiellaKeyboardist Luca Kiella moved from his native Italy to Chicago while in his 20's, lured by the sound of the blues. During his time in the Windy City, he worked with Toronzo Cannon, Popa Chubby, The Welch-Ledbetter Connection, and many others before launching his solo career. His debut release as a solo artist, Figure It Out, is a five-song EP that teams Kiella with guitarist Aaron Weistrop (guitar), Dave Forte (bass), and Rick King (drums).

Kiella kicks off the EP with a short, but lively boogie instrumental, “Ten O’Clock Blues,” before diving into New Orleans funk with a tasty cover of Jon Cleary’s “Unnecessary Mercenary.” The sweet title track is a tribute to Kiella’s late mother, who was always there to give him a helping hand when he needed it. The country classic “I Can’t Stop Loving You” gets a complete makeover, from laidback country classic to upbeat R&B. The closer, “So Many Questions,” is an introspective pop-flavored ballad.

Figure It Out clocks in at around 18 minutes, but it’s a strong 18 minutes that will leave blues fans wanting to hear much more from the talented Kiella. There’s something here for everybody.

--- Graham Clarke

Ellis Mano BandThe Ellis Mano Band is a group of elite studio musicians who provide support for artists on the Swiss music scene. Singer Chris Ellis is a regular on the Swiss and German music scenes, while Edis Mano is the go-to guitarist for artists on the Swiss scene. Bassist Severin Graf is known as “Mr. Groove” and drummer Nico Looser has backed Tracy Chapman and Scarlet Rivera while also serving as a member of Switzerland’s top late-night TV show. After collaborating for a year, the group has released Here And Now, a ten-song set of original songs that deftly straddles blues, soul, and pop.

Ellis’ robust vocals combine the right amount of soul and grit on these tracks. The opener, “Whiskey,” is a heavy-duty blues rocker that deals with heartbreak. It’s followed by the title track, which merges blues and soul, and “Where We Belong,” a piano-driven heartland rocker. The gentle ballad “Goodbye My Love” features acoustic guitar and a bit of a country-pop flair, while Ellis pours his heart out on the haunting “A Lifetime,” about a lost opportunity for love and happiness, fueled by Mano’s torrid fretwork.

“Badwater” is a gripping southern rocker where Ellis really gets the chance to show his vocal range, and “Georgia” is a nice change of pace, moving into funky blues and soul. “Bad News Blues” is gritty, blues rock, and “I Want You Back” is an acoustic ballad. Ellis sounds good on all of these tracks but he really stands out on the ballads. The closer, “Jeannine,” has a fun, New Orleans feel with horns and piano and dobro and backing vocals from the band.

Lending the band a hand are Manuel Halter or Kico Babic (keys), a horn section on several tracks that includes Florian Egli, Michael Gilsenen, and Dave Blaser, and backing vocalists Samia Afra and Sarah Huber.

Here And Now is an impressive debut from the Elliis Mano Band, a group that we will hopefully be hearing more from in the coming years.

--- Graham Clarke

Head HonchosThe Indiana-based blues rock conglomerate known as Head Honchos consists of the father/son team of Rocco Calipari Sr. and Jr., providing a double-whammy attack on lead guitar with Sr., who also is a long-time member of Howard and the White Boys, providing vocals. They are backed by the propulsive rhythm team of drummer Scott Schultz and bassists Roberto Agosto and C.C. Copeland, with additional support from Steve Ball (keys), Phil Smith (percussion), Jo Jo Outlich (harmonica) and Joe “J.B.” Brown (sax) and Mitch Goldman (trumpet) on selected tracks.

The band’s debut release, Bring It On Home (Grooveyard Records), is a powerful, confident set of 13 tracks, with eight originals written by Calipari, Sr. and five inspired covers. The originals include the hard-rocking opener, “Not For Me,” “Old And Tired,” and the energetic “Work,” which features some tasty slide guitar. “Come Strong” has a nice southern rock feel with the Calipari’s twin-guitar attack, and the funky “Next To You” offers more fierce and fiery slide guitar.

The band’s approach to T-Bone Walker’s “Mean Old World” is very interesting, upping the tempo and rocking it up a bit, giving the song an impressive reconstruction. They also remodel The Meters’ classic, “Fire On The Bayou,” retaining the cushy keyboards and chunky rhythm but mixing the swampy funk of the original with a touch of southern rock. There are also a pair of cautionary tales, with the grungy “Lucky’s Train” introducing Outlich on harmonica, followed by the breakneck, horn-fueled “Whiskey Devil.”

The horns hang around for an enthusiastic take on Willie Mitchell’s R&B driver, “That Driving Beat,” and a soulful version of Wilson Pickett’s “99 ½ Just Won’t Do” that hews pretty closely to the original, as does their cover of “Goin’ Down,” which really isn’t a bad thing to do in this particular case. As Charles Oakley once observed, “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

The closer, “Soul Free,” is a mellow Allmanesque southern rocker that serves as a capsule summary of the Head Honchos musical statement on Bring It On Home, which is one that should appeal mightily to any discerning blues rock fan.

--- Graham Clarke

Jason RobertJason Robert was front man/guitarist for Stone Stanley, a California-based Americana group that released a pair of albums, the last being The Mudstomp Tapes in 2017. Robert recently released his first solo effort, The Death of Stone Stanley, a collection of ‘funeral dirge and gospel blues songs,' as described on his website. Robert features a dozen songs on his debut solo set, mixing originals with several old favorites. He plays guitar, drums, and kalimba, backed by Scott Longnecker (bass) with guest Jim McComas (lead guitar and harmonica on two tracks).

The track list includes the optimistic opener, “Someday,” which reflects on castaway earthly trials and tests for a better future, a somber take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man,” an upbeat “All I Need,” which also looks at the good beyond the state of today’s world, “Mr. Bell,” a grim tale of a mining camp boss who could very well represent death itself, “Moonshiner,” a gentle take on an old Irish folk tune, and a rumbling read of the classic “You Gotta Move,” which is faithful to the Mississippi Fred McDowell version.

“Good Vibes” is a relaxing change of pace with an easy reggae rhythm, and “Sat Around” is an acoustic ballad about unrequited love. The electric “Never Gonna Die” is a crunching rocker with scorching guitar work. “John The Revelator” is the gospel blues classic, also from Blind Willie Johnson, with a strong vocal from Robert and equally effective guitar from McComas. “Hereafter” is a dark, reflective blues with a rock edge,. The closer, “Woke Up This Morning,” is a McDowell tune which Robert relates to the demise of his previous band and the rise of his new solo career, one that listeners will find to be off to a promising start with The Death of Stone Stanley.

--- Graham Clarke

Kathryn GrimmSinger/songwriter/guitarist Kathryn Grimm’s latest effort, Blues Tools, features a dozen tracks, nine penned by Grimm with three covers. The Portland resident has previously worked with Jeff Buckley, Michael Bolton, Bo Diddley, and Portland blues legend Sonny Hess. She also fronts two local bands, Kathryn Grimm and the Blues Tools and Hippie Love Slave. On this set she’s backed by drummers Charlie Swift, Robin James, and Jim Hardin, bassist Kelly Swift, Mark Frere, and Michael Sunday, keyboardist Aidean Abounasseri, sax by Felix Sanders and Johnny Powell, while Buckley guests on slide guitar.

Grimm is a fine songwriter who pulls from personal experiences. For example, “God Is Testing Me” was composed after she discovered her van was stolen. It’s a funky rocker with gospel background singers. “Talking To The Wind” has a bit of a Latin lilt, referring to someone who seems to be incapable of listening (those of you with children might be able to relate). The opening track, “You Make Me So Happy I Can’t Sing The Blues,” discusses a dilemma I have often wondered about with blues artists, and “C’mon Home” is a song lamenting the end of a relationship.

There’s also a powerful song, “The Best Of Me,” which serves as a scathing indictment against domestic violence, which was taken from her own life. “Gone” is an irresistibly catchy rocker, and the up-tempo “Love Gun” is driven by a punchy sax break from Sanders. The optimistic title track is a fun tune, also with an old school sax solo, this time from Powell, and guitar from Hess. On the closing ballad, “Empty Space,” Grimm gets an opportunity to put her vocal talents on display.

Three covers complete this excellent set: a fine reading of the gospel standard “Troubles Of This World,” a jazzy take on “Miss Celie’s Blues” (from The Color Purple), and the ribald “Hot Date With Buzz,” written by bass player Frere and featuring Buckley on slide guitar.

Kathryn Grimm has the Blues Tools and she’s not afraid to use them. This is a solid album with great songs and performances from an artist who definitely deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Stef PagliaBelgian guitarist Stef Paglia is a founding member of the BluesBones, who won the Belgian Blues Challenge in 2014 and finished second in the 2017 European Blues Challenge. He’s been playing guitar since the age of 12, getting into the blues after being introduced to the music by his father, and has enjoyed a fair amount of success with the BluesBones, having also released three albums with the band. Recently, Paglia formed his own trio and has released his debut as a solo artist (backed by bassist Geert Schurmans and drummer Joel Purkess), Never Forget (House of Tone Productions).

Never Forget consists of 12 tracks, 11 written by Paglia, who composed the music, and his girlfriend, Iris Teunissen, who wrote the lyrics. Paglia’s brand of blues mixes healthy doses of rock, pop, funk, and soul, with the opener, “Watch Out,” getting the disc off to a rocking start. “Take Me Away” does the same before working more toward a soul/funk mix as it progresses. Paglia covers Jimi Hendrix’s “Freedom,” strongly, remaining pretty faithful to the original while turning in one of his more powerful vocals on the album. “The Dead Tree” is a reflective ballad which closes with a hard-rocking flourish.

“Mystery Heaven” is a lovely, well-paced instrumental that arrives at the midpoint of the disc and gives Paglia a chance to display his playing skills. The blues rocker “Twilight” is a keeper, while “Dirty Woman” has a Southern rock vibe, and the funky “Crush On You” is just terrific, with Paglia laying down some cool slide guitar. “The Unknown” is an upbeat Texas roadhouse blues that would have been a good fit in SRV’s arsenal. The closer, “Warmth Instead Of Cold,” is a blues-rock ballad on which Paglia pulls out all the stops with some of his best fretwork.

Never Forget is a fine debut from Stef Paglia, who shows considerable guitar chops and fine vocal abilities. It will be interesting to watch him develop as a solo artist over the next few years.

--- Graham Clarke

Mike GoudreauVermont native Mike Goudreau has been playing guitar for over 40 years since picking up the instrument  at 14. His musical influences span rock, pop, blues, and jazz. He’s had numerous songs that have appeared on TV shows and is in high demand as a sideman, backing up blues artists John Primer, Diunna Greenleaf, John Hammond, and harmonica master Lee Oskar, among others. He’s also released 20 albums since the mid ’90s, his latest being Acoustic Sessions, a relaxed set that mixes blues, country, gospel, a little jazz, and Americana.

Goudreau wrote 12 of the 14 tracks and co-wrote the other two with David Lapp. He’s backed by Jonathan-Guillaume Boudreau (upright bass), Jean-François Bégin (drums/percussion), Pascal “Per” Veillette (harmonica), Toby Wilson (dobro, pedal steel), Erich Kory (cello), Didier Dumoutier (accordion), Stéphane Tellier (guitar), and David Elias (baritone sax, glockenspiel).

The opener is the exuberant “I’m So Glad I Have You,” with Veillette’s harmonica nicely punctuating Goudreau’s crisp fret work. “Tell Mama I’m OK” has more of a rambling country feel, even incorporating a bit of “Six Days On The Road” into the melody, and the funky blues “What Did I Say” is a real toe-tapper, as is “She Talks Too Much,” which sounds like a long-lost Elmore James-like track. The gentle “Back To That Place” revisits the country theme, as does the spunky “I’ve Gotten Used Of You.”

“The Blues Is Killing Me” is a mid-tempo track that stands out as one of the best tracks on the disc --- well-written and played. The somber “The End of Our Dance” is a heartfelt look at the conclusion of a failed relationship, but the mood quickly turns cheerful with the celebratory “I’m So Happy We Met” and “Jello On A Roller Coaster.” “Hear My Prayer” reflects on the regrets of not being able to say goodbye to someone before their passing. The instructional “Everybody Breaks The Rules” and the country blues “Bread And Water” are the Goudreau/Lapp collaborations. The album closes with “Come Home Baby,” a swinging blues that adds baritone sax to the proceedings.

Acoustic Sessions is a fun and wide-ranging set of original tunes from Mike Goudreau, a gifted performer who is certainly deserves wider recognition.

--- Graham Clarke

Tony CampanellaSt. Louis guitarist/singer Tony Campanella is the first signee to Mike Zito and Guy Hale’s new Gulf Coast Records label. Zito has known Campanella, regarded as one of the finest guitarists in the St. Louis area, for nearly 30 years. His debut Gulf Coast release, Taking It To The Street, is a strong 11-song set made up of four Campanella originals, three from Zito and four covers. Campanella plays lead guitar and handles vocals, backed by Zito (rhythm/slide guitar) and Zito’s band – Lewis Stephens (keys), Terry Dry (bass), and Matt Johnson (drums).

The title track kicks off the disc, a swaggering blues rocker penned by Zito that serves as a fine introduction to Campanella’s guitar playing. “Pack It Up” is a sassy Texas blues shuffle, a la SRV, and “One Foot In The Blues” is a wonderful slow burner with Campanella turning in a powerful performance on vocals and guitar. Next is the funky “You Don’t Know,” a rocking read of Sonny Boy Williamson’s (Version 1) “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and Albert King’s “Finger On The Trigger.”

Eddie Vinson’s theme song, “Mr. Cleanhead,” seems like a good fit for Campanella given his smooth pate, and he does a fine job with an equally smooth vocal and King-like guitar run. The last cover, Sonny Boy Williamson’s (Version 2) “Checking On My Baby,” is rocking blues with a touch of funk. “Texas Chainsaw” is a moody piece teaming Campanella’s fretwork with Zito’s ominous slide guitar, and “My Motor’s Running” is a bouncy, upbeat shuffle. The closer, “Those Are The Times,” is a reflective slow blues from Campanella’s pen.

Looks like Gulf Coast Records is off to a great start with this solid blues rock release, which should help Tony Campanella expand his fan base beyond the St. Louis region.

--- Graham Clarke

Bob CorritoreBob Corritore’s latest release, Do The Hip-Shake Baby! (VizzTone/SWMAF Records), is a sequel of sorts to his release from last year, Don’t Let The Devil Ride, in that it features the harmonica master teaming with a group of fellow blues artists for a classy set of blues, rock n’ roll, R&B, and gospel tunes. Corritore produced the album (with Clarke Rigsby and Kid Andersen) and plays harp throughout, taking the spotlight occasionally but always providing rock-solid support throughout.

Corritore is joined on these tracks by a huge cast, including Mighty Joe Milsap and the Fremonts, who open the set with a gritty cover of Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and following up later in the album with another Harpo classic, “I’m Gonna Keep What I Got.” The energetic Alabama Mike lends his dynamic vocals to four tracks: Jimmy McCracklin’s “Gonna Tell Your Mother,” Asie Payton’s “Worried Blues,” a soulful read of Junior Parker’s “Stand By Me,” and “Few More Days,” a rockabilly classic from Eddy Bell & His Bel-Aires. Jimi “Primetime” Smith sings and plays guitar on “I Got The World In A Jug.”

The ageless Henry Gray contributes piano and vocals to Hank Ballard’s “The Twist,” and Cash Box Kings vocalist Oscar Wilson does a fine job on the Jimmy Reed tune, “Bitter Seed.” Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry brings his own “You Better Slow Down” to the proceedings, and Corritore’s frequent recording partner, John Primer, ably handles Muddy Waters’ “Love Deep As The Ocean,” capturing a bit of the spirit of his former bandleader in his delivery. Sugaray Rayford guests on two tracks, the jumping “Trying To Make A Living” (backed by guitarist Junior Watson) and the gospel closer, “Keep The Lord On With You.”

Like its predecessor, Do The Hip-Shake! doesn’t really break any new ground but it’s as great a set of traditional blues as you can find these days, venturing into a wide variety of blues styles encompassing Chicago, Texas, the Delta, the West Coast, and the Gulf Coast region. Any Bob Corritore recording is worth a listen and guaranteed pleasure for blues fans. This album is no exception.

--- Graham Clarke

Mighty Mike SchermerMighty Mike Schermer’s latest release, Bad Tattoo (VizzTone/Finedog Records), is the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s seventh album overall, and its 12 tracks show that he’s in the upper echelon of all three categories --- a clever, original songwriter capable of crossing genres seamlessly, a talented guitarist, and an engaging vocalist. Produced by Schermer and Kid Andersen at the fabled Greaseland Studio, the disc features guest appearances from Rick Estrin, Austin De Lone, Billy Price, Chris Cain, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin, Jim Pugh, and Nancy Wright.

The opener, “She Won’t Be Coming Back,” has a cool, almost Latin-flavored rhythm, the keyboards from De Lone and saxophones from Eric Bernhardt and Wright really giving the song extra punch. The funky “Lover’s Hall of Fame” is a cool R&B track with a clever theme, and “How Much Longer?” is a retro rock n’ roller that incorporates Farfisa organ to great effect, while “I Can’t Let Go” is a soulful blues with Pugh sitting in on organ and backing vocals from Price and L’il Baby (a.k.a. Lisa Lueschner Andersen).

The title track is next, an amusing track about an unusual romantic dilemma, and the soul burner “Ain’t That The Way Love Goes?” is a greasy, mid-tempo shuffle, with Cain joining Pugh on keyboards. The upbeat “One Thing Every Day” is an optimistic, pop-tinged tune of encouragement, and “Hey Francine!” is a jaunty country rocker, while “Baby Down The Well” is a gritty, unblinking view of the world today. “Suffocating Love” reminds me a lot of an early ’70s Johnny “Guitar” Watson track with its funky beat and Schermer’s vocal delivery, with Cain also joining on guitar.

“Stop Looking For Love” is a swampy blues with a driving beat and harmonica from Estrin and the closer, “Up All Night,” locks into a lively J.J. Cale “Shuffle or Die” groove --- a fantastic conclusion to a highly entertaining disc that definitely deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Rick VitoRick Vito’s latest effort, Soulshaker (Vizztone Records), finds the mulitple Grammy nominated guitarist working through a stellar set that shows his songwriting and singing skills are nearly on par with his extraordinary guitar work. Though he’s backed on a few tunes by keyboardists Kevin McKendree (one track) and Mark Horwitz (two tracks), bassist Charles Harrison (two tracks), and drummers Charles “Mojo” Johnson (nine tracks) and Rick Reed (three tracks), Vito plays guitar, vocals, bass, and keys on the majority of these 12 numbers, ripping through them like a house afire.

“She’s Just Too Fine” is a hearty shuffle that further shows Zito's guitar versatility, as does the slow burning “I’ve Got A Secret.” “I Do Believe” is a frenetic rocker with a sizzling slide guitar solo, and “World On Fire” is an ominous look at the world today. “Dancin’ Little Sister” is a dandy old school rock 'n’ roller that Chuck Berry would have loved, while “The Ball And Chain” mixes swamp blues with Bo Diddley and “I’m Going To Heaven” brings gospel to the road house. “Walking Shoes” is a grungy, funky urban blues, with “Promise Land” revisiting gospel with a bit of a country feel.

Vito’s slide guitar has a different, richer tone than one usually hears, plus he has a real gift for melody as heard on a trio of wonderful instrumentals, the smooth and jazzy “Doggin’ Around” (associated with Jackie Wilson), the haunting “Soul Shadows,” and a marvelous read of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

If there’s any justice in the world, Soulshaker should promote Rick Vito as a force to be reckoned with in the blues world. Already acknowledged as one of the finest living slide guitarists, his new release also puts the spotlight on his songwriting and singing. It’s definitely an album blues fans should seek out.

--- Graham Clarke

Tony HolidayMemphis-based harmonica ace Tony Holiday, along with his musical partner, guitarist Landon Stone, has been playing about 200 shows a year throughout the nation. Along the way the duo have been making various stops around the country, playing the blues with some of the genre’s most highly regarded musicians, right on their front porches. Appropriately enough, the album is called Porch Sessions (VizzTone Records), and is a must-listen for any blues fan who digs the harmonica (with two or three harmonica masters going head to head on each track) and deep, down-home blues at their rawest.

The set of guest artists includes a slew of Holiday’s fellow harmonica players, such as James Harman, who makes three appearances on harp and vocals, with ”Pick-Pocket Fingers,” “Special Friend,” and “Goin’ To Court,” all of which also feature guitarist Kid Ramos. John Nemeth guests on two tracks, Little Sonny’s “Woman Named Trouble” (with singer/harmonica player Jake Friel) and a short take on Junior Wells’ “Blues Hit Big Town.”

Aki Kumar and Charlie Musselwhite team up with Holiday and guitarist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin for the standard “That’s Alright,” and Mitch Kashmar and Ronnie Shellist join Holiday on two tracks, “Becky Ann” and the incredibly cool instrumental “Hip To It.”

Other guests include guitarist John Primer and still another harmonica wizard, Bob Corritore. Primer, Corritore and Holiday perform “They Call Me John Primer” and “Tell Me Baby.” The closer is the Bobby “Blue” Bland classic, “This Time I’m Gone For Good,” with a fine vocal from William Kidd and Shellist sitting in with Stone and Holiday, the latter also taking vocals on two tracks, “Three Way Party” and “Coin Operated Woman.”

Porch Sessions is an excellent set of traditional blues, with the various combinations of harmonica players working splendidly. The set is rock-solid from start to finish, and the stripped-down, live approach works extremely well.

--- Graham Clarke

BB King Blues BandThe King is gone, but the band remains and is doing him proud. The B.B. King Blues Band has continued touring in remembrance of their late boss. The current line-up (James “Boogaloo” Bolton – trumpet, Eric Demmer – sax, Russell Jackson – lead vocals/bass, Walter King – sax, Herman Jackson – drums, Darrell Lavigne – keys, Lamar Boulet – trumpet, Wilbert Crosby – guitar, Brandon Jackson – drums, Raymond Harris – trombone) boasts over 100 years of musical talent, and lately they’ve added Michael Lee (best known for his stint on Season 15 of The Voice) as lead guitarist and vocalist.

The Soul of the King (Ruf Records) is a tribute to the band’s former leader, but the group doesn’t spend the entire album covering old B.B. King tunes though there are a few choice cuts of his included on the 13-song set. Instead, they offer up a dandy set of original tunes that one could easily see King performing in his heyday. The disc is loaded with guest artists (Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Taj Mahal, Joe Louis Walker, Diunna Greenleaf, Mary Griffin, and Kenny Neal, for starters), but it’s the band members themselves who really earn the spotlight with this sparkling set.

Bassist Jackson takes the mic for four of the 13 tracks, the slow burning opener, “Irene Irene,” which includes guitar from Shepherd, the Second Line-driven “Low Down,” the lively “Taking Care of Business,” and “Becoming The Blues,” which features backing vocals from Greenleaf and harmonica from Neal. Jackson and his bandmates wrote all four of his selections. Bolden’s robust vocals highlight three songs: the funky R&B track “Hey There Pretty Woman,” the swinging shuffle “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” and the jazz-flavored “Pocket Full of Money.”

Demmer, who does yeoman work throughout on alto and tenor sax, turns in a warm vocal performance on the smoky ballad “She’s The One.” Demmer isn’t the only instrumental standout on the disc, as Boulet also gets his moment in the spotlight on “Pocket Full of Money” and “Low Down” (with Kirk Joseph on tuba). The rest of the band is excellent, as might be expected from B.B. King’s band.

The guest stars shine as well, with Neal turning in a marvelous reading on “Sweet Little Angel,” on vocals and guitar, Greenleaf very nearly making “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere” her own, and Mary Griffin and Taj Mahal having a great time with “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss.” Joe Louis Walker offers his own “Regal Blues (A Tribute To The King),” a wonderful acknowledgement of the debt Walker owes to B.B. King for his own successful career. Lee and the band close the disc with a goose bump-inducing cover of “The Thrill Is Gone,” which Lee performed successfully while on The Voice.

The Soul of the King is a blues album that every blues fan needs to have in their collection. It’s not just a tribute to a legend --- it’s a statement that King’s band still has a lot of great music left to play.

--- Graham Clarke

Hacksaw Jazz radio show summary

Radio hour # one, 10-03-19
Kurt Elling & James Morrison, "September in the Rain", Live in New York (Indie courtesy Sony Music/Schagerl ’19)
Bria Skonberg-Villian Vanguard, "Nothing Never Happens" (BriaSkonberg ’19)
Otis Rush, "My Baby’s a Good ‘Un", Southern Bred Vol. 4 (KokoMojo ’19 orig Cobra ’69)
Otis Spann," I’m Leaving You", Southern Bred Vol. 5 (KokoMojo ’19 orig Chess ’56)
Twisted Rod, "Electrified", One in a Million (Rhythm Bomb ’19)
BB & The Blues Shacks, "You Better Don’t Wanna Know", Dirty 30 (Rhythm Bomb ’19)
Louis Armstrong, "Tin Roof Blues", Armstrong in Europe (Dot Time ’19 unreleased since ’52)
Shawn Purcell, "Symmetricity in the Linear Evolution", Symmetricity (Armored ’19)
Flying Horse Big Band, "Trinkle Tinkle", Good News (Flying Horse Records ’19)
Troy Roberts, "Trams", Days Like These (Toy Robot ’19)
2-min break music: Chuck Mangione, "Self Portrait"

Radio hour # two, 10-03-19
Staci Griesbach, "Sweet Dreams", My Patsy Cline Songbook (StaciGriesbach ’19)
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, "Sky High", On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme (Linus Entertainment ’19)
Roberto Fonseca, "Kachuca", Yesun (Mack Avenue ’19)
The Soul Rebels, "Sabor Latino", Poetry in Motion (Artistry/Mack Avenue ’19)
Derel Monteith, "Connemara", title track (DerelMonteith ’19)
David Finck, "The Song is You", BASSically Speaking (Burton Avenue ’19)
Kristen R. Bromley Trio, "Winter Sunrise", Simply Miraculous (KritenRBromleyLLC ’19)
Mad Love feat. Kathleen Hollingsworth, "Whisper Not-ISH" (Gladitude ’19)
Florian Hoefner Trio, "Loosin Yelav", First Spring (Alma ’19)
Randy Napoleon, "Signed Dizzy, With Love", Common Tones (Detroit Music Factory ’19)
2-min break music: Stan Getz, "Children of the World"

Soul RebelsWith over 30 new releases appearing in our mailbox this week, here’s an entire show of them. Results of research AFTER playing them: vocalist Kurt Elling joined Austrailian trumpeter James Morrison at Birdland, Canadian trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg has gone off the deep end for our prez and the resulting women’s march. Obscure blues singles are re-released by KokoMojo records, two Otis’s --- Rush and Spann. Subsidiary label Rhythm Bomb record new sessions dead ringers for the old, Euro rockabilly from Twisted Rod Euro blues from BB and the Blues Shacks together 30 years. Louis Armstrong’s 1952 Berlin concert tape finally comes out with Trummy Young on trombone. Pittsburgh’s Shawn Purcell feels the need to play guitar synth, tricky a la Monk comes director Jeff Rupert from U Central Florida of Flying Horse Big Band. Tenor sax leader Troy Roberts hosts an organ trio of Joey DeFrancesco and Jeff Tain Watts, no slouches.

Hour two opens with L.A. vocalist Staci Griesback singing Patsy Cline, back is the all female Latin jazz group Jane Bunnett & Maqueque. Roberto Fonseca’s piano leans Cuban on only a couple of his album, The Soul Rebels are an amalgam of pop thru a New Orleans instrumentation funnel. Pianist Derel Monteith has energy amid an otherwise lifeless and boring solo record --- turns out all tracks are mike tests for his trio record released simultaneously. David Finck makes the bass a solo instrument, BYU’s guitar specialist Kirsten R. Bromley is mildly happening. A group called Mad Love calls themselves East/West jazz/Americana-soul and features female vocal. Pianist Florian Hoefner sounds Keith Jarret-ish but cites Americana inspiration like Levon Helm and Chris Thile for his arranger/trio session. Guitarist Randy Napoleon has good orchestral accompaniment with tenor sax.

Elaborate, expressive and very artistic is this week’s program, Hacksaw Jazz.

I play everything I review, and review everything I play, on-air.

--- Tom Coulson
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube





[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]


The Blues Bytes URL... http://www.bluesbytes.info
Revised: October 13, 2019 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2019, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.