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October 2000

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Order these featured CDs today:

Scott Dunbar

Carl Weathersby

Charles Wilson

Clay Hammond / Z.Z. Hill

Walter "Wolfman" Washington

Little Feat

Elvin Bishop

John Lee Hooker

Pinetop Perkins

Home Cookin'

Anthony Gomes

The Love Dogs

Dennis Gruenling

Little Arthur Duncan

Muddy Waters

Chuck Berry

What's New

Scott DunbarSeveral years ago, while I was looking through some of my mother’s old photographs, I stumbled onto a picture of a black man, about 60, playing a guitar.  The back of the picture read "S. Dunbar – Lake Mary, December, 1964."  I asked my mother about it and she said, "That’s Old Scott, he was a fishing guide at Lake Mary."  Lake Mary (or Old River Lake), near Woodville, MS, is where my grandfather used to go fishing in his spare time.  My curiosity was aroused, so I decided to find out more about this Scott Dunbar.  The only thing I could find out was that he was a fishing guide (which I already knew) and that he had done a album in 1972 called From Lake Mary that was hard to find.  I didn’t know if he was still alive or not, but I finally found out some information about him when his obituary appeared in the paper in 1994.  I had pretty much forgotten about him until I saw that Fat Possum Records was reissuing his lone release on CD. Dunbar lived his entire life in the Woodville area, rarely, if ever, traveling over a hundred miles from home and was illiterate.  He played guitar, accompanied only by the stomping of his boot, and sang in a high, expressive voice, often just singing along with his guitar (check out “Blue Yodel”).  The majority of his repertoire consisted of traditional songs he learned while growing up. This CD, recorded at Lake Mary, consist of familiar covers ("Little Liza Jane," "That’s Alright Mama," "Easy Rider," "Goodnight Irene" (which my mother remembered hearing him sing) and several instrumental tracks where Dunbar showed that he was a very talented guitarist ("Memphis Mail," "Richard Daley Blues"). The session was very informally recorded, often capturing some of Dunbar's laughter and conversation after songs (such as his embarrassment performing "Sweet Mama Rollin' Stone," where he stops and says "I better stop there!……..That’s a dirty song!"). The sound is excellent.  It almost sounds like you’re in the room with him. What this CD does, more that anything, is capture a musician who plays for the sheer joy of playing.  It's a reminder that the blues doesn’t have to be sad.  Scott Dunbar didn’t play the blues to make money or become famous.  He played for his and his fans' enjoyment. That’s the best kind of music. This is one of those hidden treasures that, once in a while, you stumble onto and are glad that you did.

Why Carl Weathersby is not more widely known is one of the big mysteries in the Blues genre these days.  He's paid his dues, playing with the Sons Of Blues for over a decade, plus releasing three previous well-received CDs for Evidence.  He has a tough, but soulful voice, and a muscular guitar attack strongly reminiscent of Albert King.  Yet, he continues to toll away in the upper middle ranks of blues guitarists.  Those familiar with his work, however, put him near the upper echelon. Weathersby’s fourth release for Evidence, Come To Papa, should solidify that standing with fans and newcomers alike.  This release marks a different approach for Weathersby, focusing more on his soul/R&B leanings.  This is the music Weathersby grew up listening to, and his love for it shows throughout this CD.  The covers lean toward the Memphis side of soul with the title cut, a reworking of Ann Peebles’ classic with Ms. Peeples contributing co-lead vocals, and "Breakin' Up Somebody’s Home." There are also excellent remakes of "Walking The Back Streets and Cryin'," and Albert King's "Flooding in California."  Weathersby only wrote two of the songs, the best of which is "My Baby," which is a soulful tribute to the music of his youth (with male backing vocals). The other original, "Danger All About" is a tough look at inner city life.  The backing musicians convey the approach Weathersby was looking for on this release.  Among them are Lucky Peterson providing funky support on keyboards and Rico McFarland on steady rhythm guitar, both of whom contributed a song apiece. And what soul record would be complete without the contributions of the Memphis Horns.  This CD is a change of pace for Weathersby, and might put off some fans of the edgier approach of his previous releases.  However, like the best musicians, he’s always in search of expanding his sound. Give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

--- Graham Clarke

Stan Mosley - Souled OutWith the passing of Johnnie Taylor there will be a tremendous void, not only at Malaco, but among the legion of fans that awaited his every release. Sure they (Malaco) still have Tyrone Davis, Little Milton and Bobby Bland. But J.T. was unique, being able to be extremely soulful and funky at the same time. Why am I mentioning this? Well, Stan Mosley's music travels along the same path. He can be funky, as witnessed on Souled Out by "Anybody Seen My Boo," with a second line of "...I gotta find her before Jody do..." Sound familiar? On "Payback Is a Mutha," a duet with Tanya Youngblood, he bemoans the loss of his woman, a very emotional and moving song that should do well in the dance clubs. As I'm typing this, the wonderful ballad "I'm Not The Man I Used To Be" is playing on the stereo, and it is apparent that we are in the company of a great singer. With wonderful production from three different producers, it's just a matter of time before he finds his "sound" and becomes a major artist. It is wonderful to have Frederick Knight back as a producer and songwriter. His years of experience shine through. He is the commensurate musician and a stabilizing force on this release. This is an important release in the development of a fine new artist. It is a relevant and modern look at where southern soul is going. Check him out.

Charles Wilson - Mr. Freak Charles Wilson is becoming one of the stalwarts of the soul/blues airwaves. His soulful and expressive voice enables him to deliver any song with a feeling that it is fresh and new, making this latest release, Mr. Freak (Ecko), enjoyable even though it is quite similar in feel to his last few releases. All 10 songs are written by John Ward or in partnership with Raymond Moore, and follow the same tried and true formulas of cheating songs and, of course, the obligatory "Hoochie Booty." Soon we'll have hoochie t-shirts, hoochie compilations and a hoochie hit parade. Oh well, whatever sells. The beautiful ballad "I'm So Glad" is my pick hit from this release, although the synthesized "Leave The Light On" could hit with the smooth contemporary soul crowd. In summation, if you are familiar with Wilson's prior releases, you know what to expect --- a release that should be quite successful with the southern soul chitlin' circuit.

Clay Hammond / Z.Z. HillFrom the opening bars of "I'll Make It Up To You," track # one on Southern Soul (Kent U.K) from Clay Hammond & Z.Z. Hill, you immediately know that you are in for a special trip that only the most soulful and spiritual singers can offer. It's one of those songs that gives you goose bumps as you sit there stunned and unable to move. Even strong listeners are almost driven to tears because this is pretty heavy stuff. So you ask, who is Clay Hammond? He is best known for writing the 1963 million selling hit "Part Time Love" for Little Johnny Taylor, subsequently recorded by many others over the years. Over the next several years he recorded a handful of singles for the Galaxy and Kent labels, most of which appear on this classy reissue. "Do Right Woman" is an apparent answer to the Aretha Franklin evergreen. A 1977 tour of Japan resulted in an album released there but not in the U.S. The Japanese recording industry repeatedly proved that they knew more about our soul artists than we did. In 1981, he took over as lead singer of The Rivingtons, who had a major hit with "Papa Oom Mow Mow" in 1962. Hammond stayed with that group until 1987, then joined one of the touring groups of The Drifters, which helped pay the bills. In 1988, he finally had a U.S. release on Evejim Records with the excellent "Streets Will LoveYou." It is with great hope that, with the release of this new CD, his career will be resurrected. It is sort of anticlimactic hearing the wonderful Z.Z. Hill cuts after 16 tracks of Clay Hammond heaven. But these remaining 10 tracks (many previously unissued) are worthy of reissue and wonderfully fill out this release. Obviously Hammond is the star here, and my greatest appreciation goes out to the fine folks at Ace U.K. for making these tracks available. If you are into Sam Cooke and the kind of glorious music that he made, don't miss this one. It's the best reissue of 2000 to date, barely nosing out the fine Mighty Sam reissue reviewed last month. Five deep bows to everyone involved in this project. Clay, call home, we miss you.

--- Alan Shutro

In New Orleans, Walter "Wolfman" Washington's status is that of local legend, much like that of Dr. John or Snooks Eaglin. After honing his chops backing up Johnny Adams and Irma Thomas, Washington started making a name for himself in the 80s, after twenty years in the business. After cutting a couple of albums on a small local label (which are now impossible to find), he signed with Rounder and released his first nationally-distributed record in 1986, Wolf Tracks. As the critics and the buying public were quick to realize, Washington's soulful voice and his very personal blend of blues and pre-disco R&B made for a great match, and it wasn't long before the guitarist and his band, The Roadmasters, were touring intensively in the US and abroad. Two more Rounder albums followed (Out of the Dark and Wolf at The Door) before he switched labels. After a European interlude, Washington came back to Rounder in 1998. On The Prowl (on Bullseye Blues Basics, a Rounder budget series that already brought us Gatemouth Brown's Okie Dokie Stomp) is a great introduction to theWolfman's many talents, as it includes the best from his first three Rounder albums. Among the highlights are great covers of Otis Redding's "Nobody's Fault but Mine," Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "You Can Stay But the Noise Must Go," and the Pomus/Rebennack penned "Hello Stranger." But Washington's original material (accounting for roughly half the songs) is just as good --- soulful, funky and just plain fun. It's a shame that to this day his music is still underrated. This is a man who reminds me of Ray Charles or Al Green, who can make you dance all night, and whose ballads are as gripping as Bobby Blue Bland's. If you don't know him yet, this is where you start. 

For some strange reason, it seems that people either wholeheartedly love or absolutely hate Melvin Taylor. The Chicago guitarist who was considered a child guitar prodigy in the 70s (that's way before any Kenny Wayne Shepherds or Jonny Langs or Shannon Curfmans…) probably plays too fast for his own good. As is the case oftentimes when someone has so much talent that he or she makes everything look easy, Taylor has been criticized for playing too fast, too long, too many notes, in too many different styles, etc. On his latest, Bang that Bell (Evidence), he plays a couple of straight blues, but also a funky number and some electric jazz licks, with plenty of wah-wah and other effects that rock guitarists use, blending everything into his own particular brand of free-form music. Melvin Taylor doesn't write his stuff, but he sure has eclectic tastes when he listens to music, if one is to judge from the variety of sources that he covers here. On the blues side, there is a Larry Garner song ("Another Bad Day"), a Tinsley Ellis slow burner ("A Quitter Never Wins") and a Ray Agee obscurity, "Love is a Gamble." On the jazz side, you'll find the 12-bar, 3-chord Mose Allison tune "If You're Goin' to the City" and a Victor Wooten ( Bela Fleck's bassist) composition, "My Life."  On the funky side, you can't beat "Don't Cloud Up on Me" (a Lucky Peterson tune, where the rhythm section of Dave Smith and Steve Potts really shines). But the leadoff and closing tracks (both featuring Eric Gales) also incorporate strong elements of funk, mixed with jazz and rock, respectively. And then there's "It's Later Than You Think." As lightning fast as he usually is, Taylor is given a run for his money by harmonica ace Sugar Blue, who blows a mean John Popper-ish solo. But, you ask, how is Taylor the singer? Fine --- his singing style is totally the opposite of his guitar playing, non-flashy, casual, almost conversational, which makes for a nice change of pace. Then again, chances are that if you love Melvin Taylor, it's for his guitar prowess. You won't be disappointed by Bang that Bell.

Sure, Lowell George was a great musician, slide guitarist, composer and singer. And sure, his Little Feat band mates decided to call it quits after he died. (George himself had dissolved the band shortly before his death in 1979, to be more precise). But I'll never side with those who say that Little Feat shouldn't be making music any more (unless they change their name). After all, on the current roster of this near-mythic band, there are still five (5!) surviving members who were on hand on the band's most acclaimed work, Dixie Chicken, recorded in 1973: Paul Barrere, Sam Clayton, Kenny Gradney, Richie Hayward and Bill Payne. Hayward and Payne were in fact founding members, back in 1969. The only two newer members are Fred Tackett, who shares lead and rhythm guitar work with Barrere, much as the latter did with George, and female vocalist Shaun Murphy, whose voice brings to mind comparisons with Melissa Etheridge or Bonnie Raitt. The addition of Ms. Murphy in 1995 freed Little Feat from the Lowell George concept. So if you come to the band from this angle, you might be disappointed. On its own, their latest album, Chinese Work Songs (CMC International) is a good album, one that showcases these musicians' tremendous abilities and eclectic tastes. Boasting up to five percussionists (with guests Lenny Castro and Piero Marioni), it sounds at times a lot like what Santana was doing at the beginning, except that the free improvisations are relegated to the end of the songs after the more conventional choruses and verses. Sometimes, like at the end of the title track or the eight minute long "Just Another Sunday," these solos are really stunning, transforming the songs, elevating them. At other times, especially at the end of the rather ordinary ballads, it just seems that the band doesn't know when to stop. This caveat aside, and despite good but not extraordinary songwriting, Chinese Work Songs is an entertaining CD, with surprising covers  from Phish and The Hooters, and three very strong opening tunes, a joyful cover of The Band's "Rag Mama Rag," the boogie-ish "Eula," and the guitar and piano-driven story/song "Bed of Roses." In the end, Little Feat comes up with a funky blues/pop rock sound all its own, making you forget all about Lowell George … no small feat!

Another survivor of a past era still playing, but no longer making revolutionary music, is Elvin Bishop, one of the mainstays (and founding member) of the band that brought the blues to the campuses, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. After four studio albums, Alligator has seen fit to release a live Bishop record, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the guitarist's first ever. Actually, it is and it ain't. The CD, called That's My Partner!, was recorded in January 2000 at Biscuits & Blues, in San Francisco. It's a double bill, since it also features the man who taught and mentored Bishop in the blues back in the 60s, Little Smokey Smothers. Smothers was also an early member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but he wasn't around when the band cut its first, self-titled album, and thus was deprived of the chance to enjoy the 60s blues boom. In fact, he grew so discouraged with the small amounts of money he was making that he left the music business entirely and did construction work for a living. After a long layoff, his first album was released in 1993, marking a successful comeback, and he's been working the blues circuit since. Meanwhile, his former pupil had participated in three of the most important white blues albums ever (with PBBB), and then became a successful solo artist, bridging the blues and southern-rock sensibilities and getting a couple of charting hits in the mid 70s. Bishop and Smothers have stayed close friends all the while, and this friendship is now immortalized in the opening song of That's My Partner! (the title-track). On that track and the next, "Roll Your Moneymaker," Bishop and Smothers share the vocals and the guitar work, while on the rest of the album they each get their own songs to perform. Bishop contributes seven of his tunes, including three from his previous CD, The Skin I'm In, while Smothers has five, including three covers. As usual with the man they call Pigboy Crabshaw, this is a fun night out, with plenty of humor in the lyrics, some friendly banter with the audience and between the co-stars, and lots of perfectly played guitar (and piano, thanks to S.E. Willis). It might not leave an indelible impression, but it's enjoyable all the way through, with excellent ensemble sound, and the crowd is obviously having a great time. And, just as you were wondering what those charting hits of Bishop sounded like, the CD closes out with a version of the first of these, "Travelin' Shoes." Makes me want to put mine on, to go and see these guys live wherever next they're playing.

Blues is steeped in tradition, but there are new talents coming to the blues all the time. Down in Terre Haute, Indiana, such a new talent is Mark Cook, who has just produced (and engineered, and mixed, and arranged…) his first CD, An Evening with the Blues (on his own Cook Records). In addition, Cook has written every song on the CD, save for the lyrics of "Don't Come Knocking." He plays guitar on every track and bass on eight tunes, plus organ and keyboard here and there. But he doesn't sing. That task is shared between three vocalists, Tom McFarland, Dave Kyle and John Henderson, in each case very ably. I know what you're thinking --- a guitar prodigy comes up with plenty of overused guitar solos and calls it the blues. That's what I thought upon opening the package that landed in my mailbox a few days ago. But I was in for a present surprise. First off is "All Your Lovin'," a nice jump blues with great horns. Don Zlaty on tenor and alto saxophone, and also on organ, takes many excellent solos all through the record. Cook can obviously play the guitar, but he doesn't overdo it. He's not trying to be the next Guitar God. A good point. The next couple of songs are shuffles, and though the lyrics are somewhat cliché, they do the job. What is truly surprising is Cook's range. He tackles (and handles convincingly) a jazzy instrumental, then recalls Robert Cray on "Faded Memory," does a nice acoustic guitar duet on "It's Too Late," and then uses distortion effects and a wah-wah pedal on "No Concern." When he's playing bass he's got very good grooves, sometimes downright funky, as in "Don't Come Knockin'." All in all, this is a superior independent release. Musically, it covers lots of ground, although lyrically it stays most of the time pretty close to the 'good love gone bad' variety. One exception is "It's Your Sweet Love," composed for his wife, a soulful ballad that cries for a Joe Cocker cover. I'm not sure you can obtain the CD through Mark's site (, but you can contact him at, and he'll surely be glad to help.

From the outer reaches of the universe, where blues meets the jazz avant-garde, comes Perfect Day, Chris Whitley's latest release, his first on Valley Entertainment Records. With the help of Billy Martin and Chris Wood (two thirds of jazz jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood), Whitley revisits songs that he grew up listening to. These range from The Doors' "Crystal Ship" and Lou Reed's title track, to blues classics like "Smokestack Lightning," "Spoonful," Muddy's "She's Alright" and Robert Johnson's "Stones in my Passway" (here listed as "Stones in my Pathway"). Just don't expect a typical album of covers. Whitley has radically transformed these songs, much like a master mechanic can reshape bruised auto body parts and create something unique from something old. The sound is, shall we say, industrial jazz.  But at least half the songs are blues songs in origin. You might want to check it out, just to hear how strangely familiar yet thoroughly strange these songs sound like.

--- Benoît Brière

Walter HortonI'm not sure if Walter 'Shaky' Horton's Live (Pacific Blues) is a re-release, or just some old live material that has finally made it onto CD. But whatever, it’s a real gem. The set was recorded live at The Union Bar in Minneapolis in January 1979, and features a four- piece band with Walter backed up by Robert Bingham on guitar, James Smith on bass and David Larson on drums. The original tape was recently remixed by Jerry Hall and Joe Bellamy, and boy did they make a good job of it! The CD only contains eight tracks, but they add up to 53 minutes of first rate blues from one of the most respected Chicago harmonica players. This is blues at it’s best! The album opens with part one of " Union Shuffle" (part two comes later as track 5) and the whole thing keeps cooking from there on. Having listened to " Union Shuffle (part 1)" constantly over the last week, I’m certain that it’s about to become the new signature for my radio blues show. For me, the CD is worth getting just to hear Shakey’s versions of Muddy’s "Mean Mistreater" and Elmore's "Shake Your Money Maker," but it’s hard to separate these two tracks from the other six. If you like harmonica blues, or if you play harmonica, get this CD and play it to death!!

World Wide Wood (Pacific Blues) from Lynwood Slim contains a mix of tracks recorded over a three year period, between 1996 and 1999 in California, Italy and Canada (hence the title of the CD, I guess). The musicians come from various places around the world --- Belgium, Italy, USA, Canada --- and this gives the music a very different feeling. The guys all gel together, with Slim sharing the vocals with Belgian Mark Thijs on a couple of tracks, and also giving Italian Egidio Ingalla a blow on the harmonica on "I Don’t Want To Know." 
Most blues styles are covered here, from ballads ("Don't Tell Me") through jump blues ("Fine Frame") to boogie (Fred Kaplan's boogie piano on "Come Back" really had my feet tapping). All in all, World Wide Wood has something for everyone.

--- Terry Clear

There probably isn’t a blues fan out there that doesn’t admire and respect the contributions that John Lee Hooker has made to the blues scene over the past 60 years or so. Recently, there have been several collections released of his early recordings done under various names for a handful of labels in the Detroit area of that time. Now most of this material is pretty representative of Hooker’s recording career in it's infancy, but none of those recordings come close to the collection I’m about to tell you about. The Unknown John Lee Hooker (Flyright) is the name of this ever so special recording that remained undiscovered in the private collection of Gene Deitch for the last 50 years. Bear with me for a brief history lesson on how these recordings came to be. Gene Deitch was an animator for the Tom & Jerry cartoons of the late 1940s, as well as the cartoonist that drew the 'Cat' for Record Changer magazine in the late 40s and early 50s. Being a devout blues and jazz fan, Gene started holding Friday night coffee and blues record parties at his house in Hollywood, and continued the tradition when he relocated to Detroit in 1949, the year these recordings were made. One of the attendees at one of these parties told Gene about a great young unknown blues singer named John Lee Hooker, who was making some noise playing the clubs in Detroit’s black district at the time. Gene ventured out to hear the young singer and invited him to dinner and to play at one of his socials. Hooker agreed to play, and Deitch recorded it on a borrowed DuKane business class tape recorder that used (believe it or not) paper tape. Enough background, let’s take a look at this wee bit of blues history, shall we. The album opens with a "Guitar Blues Instrumental" (how's that for a title?) that basically is John just picking and strumming. "Two White Horses" seems to borrow both musically and lyrically from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," but is nonetheless quite moving. A few timeless classics such as "Trouble In Mind," "How Long," and a frantic version of "Catfish Blues" might surprise the listener with the sublimated treatments given to them by Hooker to fit his style. Others like "33 Blues," "Jack O' Diamonds," and "Come See 'Bout Me" sound exactly like the versions he would record in later years, only done in their simplest and purest forms here. There are two brass rings that make this collection a must have for collectors and Hooker fans alike. The first are John's interpretations of some classic folk numbers. You can almost feel the back-breaking misery of life on a chain gang that is contained in a very stirring version of "Water Boy." There is a very different version of "John Henry" that sounds nothing like the piece with which most folks are acquainted, and a very upbeat pleasing arrangement of "Rabbit On The Log." I did mention that there were two brass rings, didn’t I? The second is the coup de grace of these recordings, which has John Lee reaching deep down into his roots to cover three old-time spirituals. "Old Blind Barnabus," "Ezekiel Saw The Wheel," and a thundering version of "Moses Smote The Water" will make the listener yearn to have been in Mr. Deitch's living room that night 50 years ago. The performance turned in that evening is typical of Hooker doing what he does best. Equipped only with an acoustic guitar, his voice, and his ever relentlessly pounding foot keeping time, John gives the performance of a lifetime. His playing is his trademark chordal and single note soloing, delivered with his usual conservative vocals that never get overly sullen nor overly passionate except in all the right spots. What is so remarkable about these recordings is that this is indeed a live album done with positively no overdubs or second takes. The recording is crisp, clean and clear with very little background noise, which is surprising considering that there was a roomful people surrounding the performer, and the equipment used was still in its developing period. I had a hard time getting my hands on this recording, as it was not released on a major label. But it was well worth the search. Hopefully, word of mouth and other reviews have inundated record stores and distributors alike with requests, and won’t leave anyone who wants it searching too long. So whether you are a serious collector, a country blues or a John Lee Hooker fan looking to complete or complement your collection, this is a timeless look at legend in the making. Thank you, Gene Deitch, for sharing what must have been a very gratifying evening with the rest of us. This one’s a keeper.

Fresh on the heels of Back On Top comes a live album from the undisputed king of blues piano, Pinetop Perkins. Now anyone who read my recent review of the above mentioned album will most likely accuse me of being biased.... but so be it. As live albums go, this one is a gem. Live At Antone's, Vol.1 (Antone's) is the first of two planned releases of Mr. Perkins' red hot performances recorded at Antone's in Austin, Texas during their weeklong anniversary celebration in 1995, and is 56 minutes of pure classic live delight. Accompanying Pinetop is an all-star band made up of some of the finest players in the blues today --- Kim Wilson blowing up a storm on harp, Rusty Zinn picking the guitar notes, Calvin Jones plucking the bass, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith pounding the skins, and Mark Kazanoff’s tasty sax work. This dream lineup gels together for nine numbers, consisting of classic cuts such as "Look on Yonders Wall," "Big Fat Mama," and "Hi Heel Sneakers," all played to perfection. Three not to be missed tunes are the original instrumental "Pinetop's Mambo," "Just A Little Bit," and a swinging workout of "Caldonia" that the whole band just cooks on from start to finish. Production credits are accorded to longtime Austin guitarist and session great Derek O' Brien. The sound quality and mix are as first rate as the stellar performances turned in by every musician on this disc. Having never really been a fan of live albums because of their usually sub par production standards, I was somewhat skeptical about this one until I played it and got my socks knocked off. I can’t wait to hear Volume 2!

--- Steve Hinrichsen

Blue Dot Records' Afrobilly Soul Stew is the second release by Home Cookin', a strong blues-rock quartet led by Bay area vocalist Brenda Boykin (until recently, best known for her work as the singer in the Johnny Nocturne Band). While Johnny Nocturne is best at swing-style jump blues, Home Cookin' is more of a rockin' outfit. Backup horns are used on a few cuts, but most of the CDs tracks consist of the basic quartet (singer, guitar, bass, drums), augmented by Robert Cray keyboardist Jim Pugh. While most of the disc's 14 cuts are blues-based originals by Ms. Boykin, there are also occasional forays into rockabilly/country, reggae, and even pre-Specter era Righteous Brothers. Although the experiments with non-blues material don't always work, these are admittedly minor drawbacks to what is otherwise a very enjoyable release. I've never had the pleasure of hearing this lady sing live, but I have little doubt that she can really deliver the goods onstage. Her brand of stew sure sounds mighty tasty to these ears!

I must confess that I'd not heard of Anthony Gomes before receiving his second release, Sweet Stringin' Soul (Urban Electric Records). He is one of the newset young singer / blues-rock guitarist / songwriters on the scene. This release is a bit of a departure, in that it focuses on his acoustic guitar and original songwriting skills. Despite the acoustic format, there is band support on most cuts, including the virtuoso harmonica of Sugar Blue. Although most of the songs focus on traditional themes of "man and woman" (or perhaps man versus woman), he's not afraid to tackle weightier subjects like crime and televangelists. Indeed, Gomes' songwriting skills may even be stronger than his singing and playing (not that his other talents are anything to sniff at). Of all the "youngsters" out there now bringing the message of the blues to a new generation, this young man may well be the one to watch.

--- Lee Poole

One of the most fun bands on the circuit today comes out of New England. I've never seen these canines in person, but I'm betting that The Love Dogs put on one heck of rousing good show. Their third CD for Tone-Cool Records, New Tricks, is their best yet. They play a jump style of rockin' blues, with a little Louisiana twist. This nine-piece ensemble excels at the stop time jump blues of Tiny Bradshaw's "Well Oh Well," featuring the raspy vocals of E. Duato Scheer. Contrasting that tune is the slower, catchy Keb' Mo' shuffle "Hand It Over," with some nice sax solos from Myanna and a gospel-style chorus. For a completely different sound, there's the zydeco number "Watch That Dog," with accordian from band keyboardist Alizon Lissance. This young lady also doubles as a fine singer, as evidenced on the bluesy "Richest Guy In The Graveyard." The Love Dogs do more than just cover songs, as leader Scheer wrote the quirky, yet soulful, sounding "The Day Before I Met You." This pack of hounds make up one hot band ... catch them if they come to your town!

Another surprisingly good indie CD from the Northeast comes from Dennis Gruenling, Up All Night (BackBender Records). These fellows play Chicago-style blues ... nothing real original, but nice stuff. Gruenling plays harmonica, while Sandy Mack handles the vocals on all cuts. Mack isn't a great singer, but his voice becomes more engaging the deeper you get into the album. One of six Gruenling compositions, "True Love," is a standout, with strong harp and good running Chicago guitar from Andy Riedel. The title cut is also a keeper, a slow blues with nice dirty vocals from Mark and Muddy-style guitar from Bill Hunt. Gruenling shows his harp prowess on the always difficult Little Walter instrumental "Roller Coaster," with enough differences from the master's version so that it doesn't sound like a note for note rip-off. For fans of Chicago-style blues, Up All Night is worth a listen.

If you prefer your Chicago blues coming right out of the Windy City, then take a listen to Little Arthur Duncan's Live In Chicago! (Random Chance Records). While Duncan isn't one of the better known Chicago cats, he's an entertaining performer. His style, both on harmonica and vocals, is most reminiscent of Snooky Pryor, especially on the opening cut "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter." He'll sometime slip into a Howlin' Wolf vein, as on the dirge-like "Asked Her For Water." Also part of Duncan's repertoire is a swampier sound à la Slim Harpo, which you can hear on "Pretty Girls Everywhere" and "I'm A King Bee." Guitarist Rockin' Johnny Burgin leads a sympathetic backing band. Corner tavern musicians like Little Arthur Duncan don't get much recognition outside of their immediate neighborhoods, and deserve the support of blues fans everywhere.

Last Call - Live At The Boston Teaparty (Mr. Cat Music) is the last known recording by seminal Chicago pianist Otis Spann, recorded in Boston just weeks before his death in 1969. I'm usually real skeptical of these types of recordings, as the dismal sound quality usually negates the historical value of the recordings. While the sound here is decent, it's the rest of the situation that makes this CD a questionable addition to your library. For one thing, Spann had laryngitis that night, and could not sing. Rather, his wife Lucille and guitarist Luther "Snake" Johnson share the vocal duties. The latter's guitar is good on the shuffle "Get on Down to the Nitty Gritty," but on other cuts sounds a bit dated. "Chains of Love" is just too plodding and gets boring pretty quickly.  Lucille Spann's vocals on "My Baby (Sweet as an Apple)" are a little too histrionic and annoying. However, Otis Spann's piano work is good throughout the performance. Your desire to own this CD will depend on whether you want everything Spann recorded. Otherwise, there are probably better choices for your blues collection.

If you somehow have missed out on any of the numerous collections of classic Chicago blues recordings from the Chess label, MCA Records continues to re-package these historical gems. Two more out this month are Rollin' Stone - The Golden Anniversary Collection from Muddy Waters and The Anthology from Chuck Berry. Both sets are double CDs. There's not much that I can say about these artists and their classic music that hasn't already been said many times. You already know the names of the songs. If not, then just take my word for it and get these CDs, because the music on them is absolutely essential.

--- Bill Mitchell

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