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October 2023

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Order these featured albums today:

Chris Beard

Dave Keller

Johnny Rawls

Chris Yakopcic

Groove Krewe

Louis Michot

Nick Wade

Tom Hambridge

Bluesland Horn Band

Anthony Rosano

Jason Ricci

Tom Buenger



Chris BeardChris Beard is the son of Rochester, New York blues legend Joe Beard, and on Pass It On (Blue Heart Records), the second member of the family to play the blues continues to show that he's every bit as legit as his dad. The younger Beard is certainly not new to the scene, having started his recording career in 1998, when his Barwalkin' album earned him a W.C. Handy nomination as Best New Blues Artist.

Beard's most recent release is the seventh album in his name, and it's a very strong collection of 10 solid blues songs, eight originals and two well-chosen covers, blending in soul and funk sounds to the mix. In addition to his regular working band, Beard brings in a host of special guests, mostly notably his father Joe on the title cut.

"Let The Chips Fall" opens the album with a funky drum solo before Beard's blues guitar and the soulful horn section join in for an up-tempo soul/blues masterpiece. Beard has a rich voice that's capable of showing a range of emotions, and we hear it first on this very fine number. Beard then shows that he his blues guitar licks can match the pain in his voice on the slow blues "One More Cry For Love," as he sings about young girl who was forced to leave home and live on the streets because she wouldn't give up the baby on the way.

"Big Girl" is an up-tempo blues about that big girl with the little dress on sitting in the bar, but she's certainly out of his league. "Pass It On Down" is a slow blues on which Beard sings about the effect that his dad has had on his life and his career, with the elder Beard joining in to voice his love and respect for his son. He encourages Chris to 'pass it on down' to the next generation, just like he did. Very touching number.

Beard really shows the pain in his voice on the killer slow blues "House Of Shame," with the guitar breaks echoing the blues he's feeling. For my money, "House Of Shame" is one of the best cuts here. The mood and tempo changes considerably on the funky New Orleans-ish number, "When Love Comes Knocking," with John Tucker contributing the essential organ accompaniment. This one will have you out on the dance floor.

Louisiana blues artist Kenny Neal  recorded "Son I Never Knew" in 1989, and Beard traveled down to Baton Rouge to cut his version of this slow blues with Neal helping out on rhythm guitar. A fantastic song given plenty of emotion for the man trying to meet that son, pleading to at least tell the boy that he's just an old family friend. This one should earn nominations for Blues Song of the Year at the next awards programs.

"Keeps Me Believing" is a slow soul ballad with plenty of strings behind Beard's expressive vocals as he sings about holding on to the good times he's shared with that special woman so that they can keep the faith in their relationship. "Who Do You Think You're Foolin'" ups the tempo and noise level with Beard's stinging guitar solos and a wall of horns taking us back to the 1970s.

Closing the album is a mournful slow blues, "Bitter Baby," with Beard expressing the pain in his heart through both his vocals and guitar playing. Another highlight here is the tasteful piano solo from Jonathan Curry. It's a strong ending to one of the best blues albums of the year.

The release of Pass It On will hopefully garner more international acclaim for Beard. He's long overdue for a move into the upper echelon of blues cats. Highly recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

Dave KellerLast November, soul blues artist Dave Keller and his band (Ira Friedman – keyboards, Jay Gleason – drums/percussion, and Alex Budney – bass) traveled to a remote cabin in the Adirondack Mountains, ten miles from the Canadian border, and recorded It’s Time To Shine (Tastee-Tone Records). Huck Bennert, Ronnie Earl’s longtime engineer, drove up with a Subaru full of recording equipment and the band recorded the album live, without headphones, all in one room of the cabin. Keller wrote all 12 songs and produced the album with Dz (Big Diesel) serving as executive producer.

The gritty “Waiting For The Sunrise” opens the disc. Keller’s vocals and guitar work are spot on and Friedman’s keyboards give this rocker a unique feel. “The Truth Of The Blues” rocks even harder, and the band really locks in behind Keller’s impassioned vocals as he implores all of us to get on the same page to address society’s ills.

The sparkling “789-0133” is a cool soul number that adds horns from Mark Earley (tenor/baritone saxes) and Tom Palance (trumpet) and backing vocals from Annika Chambers-DesLauriers,. On the inspired title track, Keller declares that he’s no longer standing back in the shadows but stepping up and taking his moment in the sun … words that everyone can and should relate to.

If you can listen to “I Wanna Go Back To Memphis” and NOT want to go to Memphis, you may need to reevaluate your life. The song’s Stax feel, with horns and backing vocals, as well as the shoutouts to the river, sweet tea, and Beale Street make me want to go back this weekend.

“The First Time With You” is a beautiful ballad about new love, highlighted by Keller’s strong vocals and crisp guitar work, the horns, and Friedman’s B3. “Nothing Like Your Love” is an energetic, upbeat soul raver that carries the theme forward, while Gleason and Budney’s rhythm work drive the hard-charging retro rocker “Paint A New Life Together.”

“Full Measure Of Pleasure” is an excellent tune that mixes blues themes with soul and rock, and “Mayor Of Memory” is an interesting song about a man remembering everything --- good and bad --- that’s taken place in his relationship. I enjoyed Keller’s lyrical approach on this one.

The sentimental “Something ‘Bout A Sad Song” strikes me as being a solid fit in several genres, but Keller’s southern soul version is first-rate. The mid-tempo soul number “Hard To Believe” closes the album, with the realization that the lady he thought was out of his league was really in love with him.

The rustic setting seems to bring out a raw, unvarnished SOULFUL feel to It’s Time To Shine, even more so than Keller’s previous releases that set a pretty high bar in the first place. The musical rapport between Keller and the band is amazing, and this batch of songs are among his finest. This album should have a spot in every soul and blues music fan’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Johnny RawlsSoul blues legend Johnny Rawls returns to Catfood Records after a six-year absence from the label with Walking Heart Attack,. He also reunites with Catfood’s excellent house band, The Rays (Dan Ferguson – keys, Richy Puga – drums, Johnny McGhee – guitar, Bob Trenchard – bass, Randy Roman – sax solos, Nick Flood – baritone/tenor/alto sax, Mike Middleton – trumpet, Frank Otero – trombone), with Jon Olazabal (percussion) and background vocalists Janelle Thompson and Sharkara Weston. The ten tracks include four written by Rawls and Trenchard, one by Trenchard and Rawls apiece, one by label mate Derrick Procell, and three classic covers.

The title track opens the disc, a funky slice of soul that describes the woman that every guy has probably encountered at least once in their lifetime with mixed results, with Roman taking the first of several memorable solos on this track. Next is a super cover of the Otis Clay (who recorded the magnificent Soul Brothers album with Rawls in 2014) classic “Trying To Live My Life Without You,” which is followed by “Free,” penned by Rawls, where he gives thanks for the things he has instead of thinking about what he doesn’t have. Good advice for everyone.

“Tell Me The Truth” is a solid soul blues number that features McGhee’s crisp guitar and punchy horns. Rawls served for a number of years as guitar player and band leader for O.V. Wright, even did a tribute album to Wright in 2013 (Remembering O.V.), so it’s only appropriate that Rawls covers Wright, and “Born All Over” serves as a perfect vehicle for his soulful pipes.

Procell contributes “Heal Me,” an easygoing soul number with a little bit of a gospel feel, compliments of Ferguson’s keyboards. “One More Sin” features Rawls on guitar. It’s a cool up-tempo soul track that would work well crossing over into another genre.

Rawls also plays guitar on “Lies,” a mid-tempo soul heartbreaker that features one of Rawls’ best vocal outings on the album. Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” may not seem like an ideal cover for a soul and blues recording, but the song’s message should resonate. Rawls is able to move the track from its Jersey origins to give it more of a southern soul feel.

Trenchard wrote the reflective closer, “Mississippi Dreams,” which seems to strike a chord with Rawls, a Columbia, Mississippi native.

Walking Heart Attack is another fine addition to the Johnny Rawls catalog. The veteran soul blues man continues to produce one quality release after another with no signs of letting up any time soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Chris YokopcicI really enjoyed Chris Yakopcic’s second release, The Next Place I Leave, which was released in 2015. The acoustic guitarist dazzled with his nimble guitar work, his superb covers of classic blues tunes, and his own original compositions. In fact, his album was one of several released that year actually encouraging me to dig deeper into not only this contemporary acoustic blues guitarist, but to revisit many of the pre-war artists that I had ventured away from.

His latest album, Live At The Hidden Gem (Yako Records), was recorded at the Dayton, Ohio music club cited in the title. It’s a solo set, with Yakopcic performing half originals and half covers to a highly appreciative audience.

The opener is “Gotta Get Goodbye Somehow,” a lively Yakopcic original, featuring that fast-fingered fret work and some vocal gymnastics as well. His cover of Blind Blake’s “Chump Man Blues” shows that he’s completely familiar with and adept at the legendary ragtime fingerpicker’s style. The rapid-paced “When It All Goes Wrong At Once” tells the tale of a man down on his luck. Yakopcic covers three Robert Johnson songs on this set, the first being “Traveling Riverside Blues,” which he gives a refreshingly original reinterpretation, adjusting tempo back and forth throughout the song.

“The Hangover” is an amusing Yakopcic original which tells the tale of a man waking up in a limousine with no recollection of the night before. The cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” is first rate, rolling along with a real bluegrass feel. The second Johnson cover is a warm version of “Kind Hearted Woman,” which Yakopcic tells the audience was the first song he ever learned to play.

The vividly descriptive “Sounds Of The Highway” was one of my favorites on his previous album, so it was nice to hear it once again, and Tom Waits’ train song, “2:19,” gets a crisp treatment, with Yakopcic’s urgent guitar speeding the song along.

On “Sweet Time Blues,” Yakopcic really captures the classic pre-war blues sound, even “sampling” the classic “St. Louis Blues” within the guitar break. His last original, the tender “My Last Three Strings,” was also on his last album. The set closes with the third Robert Johnson tune, the fiery “Preachin’ Blues,” and he does a magnificent job on this track with spectacular guitar work and a powerful vocal.

Chris Yakopcic’s Live At The Hidden Gem captures this artist at his best as he provides a masterful mix of originals and covers. Fans of acoustic blues guitar will certainly want to get their hands on this superb set.

--- Graham Clarke

Groove KreweThe Groove Krewe is based in South Louisiana, led by writer/producers Rex Pearce, Nelson Blanchard, and Dale Murray. Their music has been featured in movies, television, and radio. Their previous release, Run To Daylight, featured Nick Daniels of Dumpstaphunk as frontman, and mixed Memphis-style blues and soul with New Orleans-flavored R&B and funk.

Their latest effort is a five-song EP, Blues From The Bayou (Sound Business Services, LLC), and featured singer/guitarist Jonathon “Boogie” Long as frontman (he played guitar on the band’s previous release). Pearce, Blanchard, and Murray (with Terry Duncan on one tune) collaborated on all five songs and provided most of the music.

Long, whose self-titled 2018 release was one of my favorites, is at his best on these five tracks, providing his robust vocals and inspired guitar work. The opening track, “Ain’t No If About It,” is a horn-fueled rocker that’s bound to get feet on the dance floor. “Lightnin’ Done Struck Again” is a mid-tempo soul and blues track. Long proves to be more than adept at these genres as well, with stinging fretwork and a heartfelt vocal.

“Dangerous Curves” is a smooth and funky R&B tune that’s a lot of fun, and “Empty Pocket Blues” is a tough downhome blues that’s right in Long’s wheelhouse. The closer, “Eclipsed By Love,” mixes blues and soul into a Southern rock gumbo.

Assisting Long (vocals/lead guitar), Pearce (guitar), Blanchard (keyboards/guitar/bass/background vocals), and Murray (percussion) on these outstanding tracks are drummers Eddie Bayers and David Peters, bassists David Hyde and Leon Medica, guitarist Tony Haselden, background vocalist Elaine Foster, and a terrific horn section that includes Jason Parfait, Ian Smith, Bobby Campo, Pete Verbois, and Chris Belleau.

Blues From The Bayou is a relatively short listen (17 minutes), but you certainly won’t mind hitting “replay” several times. The five songs are all top notch efforts, and hopefully Long and the Groove Krewe will reassemble and give us a full album’s worth in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Louis MichotI wasn’t familiar with Louis Michot, the fiddle-playing frontman for the Lost Bayou Ramblers, until I reviewed a couple of albums released by his side project, Michot’s Melody Makers, over the last few years. Michot recently released his first solo album, Rêve du Troubadour (Nouveau Electric Records), and it’s an eclectic mix of traditional and modern sounds, blending Cajun, zydeco, blues, and folk. Michot plays fiddle, guitars, bass, accordion, and various percussion instruments, and is joined by a host of other musicians, including Leyla McCalla, Nigerian Tuareg guitarist Bomino, Quintron, Shardé Thomas and her Rising Star Drums and Fife group, Corey Ledet, Langhorn Slim, Dickie Landry, and fellow Ramblers Bryan Webre and Kirkland Middleton.

Quintron joins Michot on the opener, “Amourette,” providing a modern hip-hop feel that complements Michot’s fiddle on this classic Cajun song originally recorded in the mid ’30s. Thomas and her bandmates back Michot on the haunting title track, which adds a bit of the North Mississippi hill country sound with satisfying results.

Guitarist Langhorn Slim is featured on “Ti Coeur Bleu,” which has a mainstream feel, due in part to his guitar work, and “Souvenir de Porto Rico” features McCalla’s cello and the violin duo String Noise engaging Michot’s fiddle and guitar.

Michot recorded parts of the album at his home, on his houseboat studio, where he kept studio mics outside the boat to capture the sounds of the birds and insects. The solo track “Les Beaux Jours” really captures that quality of the recordings.

Saxophonist Dickie Landry guests on “Boscoyo Fleaux,” which offers Michot rapping over Landry’s avant garde sax blowing. “Jean Cuan Dit Gentil” is a historical ballad about a Frenchman who wed a French Creole in Alabama and moved back to Louisiana, leading into the hypnotic “Le Cas de Marguerite” that introduces Bombino’s unique guitar work into the mix.

Corey Ledet plays accordion on “Acadiana Culture Backstep,” a lilting dance tune that’s just marvelous. The closer, “Chanquaillier-Tchen-Ka-Yay,” is a collage of sorts, blending a couple of old recordings with modern studio tricks.

With Rêve du Troubadour, Louis Michot combines the history and traditions of the Cajun/zydeco world with contemporary music --- blues, hip-hop, and World. Like all of Michot’s music that I’ve been able to hear, it makes for compelling music and always leaves you eagerly anticipating what direction he will take with his next release.

--- Graham Clarke

Nick WadeNick Wade took his first music lesson at the age of five when his grandfather, who played with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, taught him to play the trainer flute. He became serious about music in his early 20’s, teaching himself guitar and playing Chicago electric blues, but he gravitated toward Robert Johnson’s music and decided to devote himself to country blues and spiritual music. He’s played numerous festivals and performed with many of today’s best blues artists, such as Bobby Rush, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Corey Harris, Guy Davis, RL Boyce, Lightnin’ Malcolm, Watermelon Slim, and Little Freddie King.

Wade’s debut release is the stunning Feeling Good Is Good Enough (Extra Sensory Productions), a 12-track set of original country blues and spirituals featuring Wade’s powerful vocals and guitar work (using a 1936 Gibson-made Kalamazoo and a 2022 Goodman Grand Concert) with L’il Ronnie Owens guesting on harmonica for one track. He recorded all the songs live to tape in the studio and outdoors in Green Springs, Virginia.

“Sky Line Blues,” the opening track, is an original song from Wade, but it very much has the feel of the classic pre-war country blues with his fingerpicked guitar and gruff vocals. “Sing With The Angels” is a gospel blues continuing in that vein, with a haunting vocal and driving fretwork.

“Broke And Busted” addresses themes that are all too familiar with present-day listeners, and “Ease On Down The Road” describes the life of an itinerant bluesman. L’il Ronnie joins Wade on harmonica for the bleak “Lonesome Copperhead Snake,” which leads to the brief, but lively instrumental “Ragmuffin.”

“When You Bury My Body” is a meditative tune reflecting on what’s to be done when death comes and what takes place afterward. “The Broken Hearted Man” has the feel of an old Mississippi John Hurt tune in Wade’s picking, but his vocals have a bit more anguish. “Down The Way” is a somber blues with strong, emphatic guitar and vocals. “Engineer Blues” is a train song, familiar in early blues, but Wade avoids cliché and gives the theme his own personal spin.

The powerful “Crucifixion” is Wade’s telling of Christ’s story through the eyes of Jesus, his lyrics give the song a powerful blues effect that will remind some of Robert Johnson’s works, with his vocals and guitar perfectly conveying the message behind the lyrics. The album closes with the jaunty instrumental “Raggin’ My Blues Away.”

If you have an ear for the acoustic, pre-war guitar blues, I strongly recommend that you check out Nick Wade and Feeling Good Is Good Enough. The Virginia guitarist effectively captures the feel of the 1920’s and 30’s blues and shows that it’s still a firm fit in the 2020s.

--- Graham Clarke

Tom HambridgeBetween producing critically acclaimed, award-winning albums for Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and many others, Tom Hambridge managed to find a little time to work on and release his own album, Blu Ja Vu (Quarto Valley Records), a superb set of tunes written by Hambridge with Richard Fleming and others, featuring an all-star roster in support, including Guy, Ingram, Joe Bonamassa, Josh Smith, James Cotton, Glenn Worf, and Chuck Leavell. Hambridge handles drums, percussion, and vocals and is backed on most tracks by guitarists Rob McNelley and Bob Britt, bassist Tommy MacDonald, keyboardists Kevin McKendree and Jon Coleman, and background vocalist Emil Justin.

It's hard to imagine a better way to kick off this disc than for Hambridge to team up with Buddy Guy on the killer “Ain’t That Just Like Love,” with rambunctious keyboards from McKendree and a torrid guitar break from Guy. Bonamassa joins in on “That’s My Home,” contributing crisp guitar and strong vocals. “Wear You Out” (co-written by Gary Nicholson) is a fierce rocker paying tribute to a ’54 Strat, a Cadillac Eldorado, and a woman who just can’t be satisfied.

“Blues Don’t Care” features Hambridge with Kingfish on guitar and vocals, and the pair turn in a great performance on this cool blues tune, and the scorcher “Sick With Love” features the fiery guitar work of McNelley.

“Automatic” is a raucous rock n’ roller about a ’65 T-Bird, metaphorically speaking, while “Symptoms Of Love” is a funky rocker that serves as a sequel to the earlier “Sick With Love.” The late, great James Cotton guests on harmonica for the stirring instrumental “Brother John’s Boogie,” and it’s certainly great to hear Mr. Superharp once again, teaming with McNelley’s soaring surf guitar.

“Get Outta Town” is a rowdy toe-tapper with great fretwork and keyboards, and Josh Smith contributes ominous guitar to “Smarter Than I Was,” as Hambridge comes to the realization that his lady won’t be coming home tonight.

On “Johnny Winter,” Hambridge asks a question that a lot of blues (and rock) fans wonder about. Why isn’t the blues-rock legend in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A good question, for sure, and McNelley adds some Winter-esque slide guitar to stress the point. “Meet Me In Chicago,” co-written by Robert Randolph, is a fast-paced number with more McNelley slide guitar work and Hambridge stands out on the drum kit as well.

The closer, “End Of The Line,” finds Hambridge pondering his future and hoping he’s not the last man standing.

I certainly hope Tom Hambridge is not the last man standing, but he has left a superb body of work with his production of numerous blues artists and his own solo efforts. Blu Ja Vu is the best effort I’ve heard from his own catalog and I hope we get to hear many more albums from him as a producer and an artist.

--- Graham Clarke

BlueslandThe Bluesland Horn Band, out of Canada, recently released their sixth album, appropriately entitled Six. The band’s initial run was from 1998 to 2004, but they reformed in 2013 after a near-decade by guitarist Terry Medd, who produced the new album and wrote all ten tracks, mostly during the pandemic period. The songs are a solid lot based on the musical styles found in the Memphis and New Orleans regions, with a few surprises thrown in. There’s a long list of musical contributors listed in the album credits, but they are primarily an eight-piece unit with Marty Cochrane handling most of the vocals.

“My Old Truck” opens the album, a Crescent City-flavored good time number that gives a nostalgic feeling. The funky “Creole Queen” keeps the New Orleans vibe going, as Cochrane sings the praises of the city. “Shuffle In The Attic” is a cool blues instrumental that rolls right along, and “Rock My Roll” is a grinding rock n’ roller, highlighted by the horns and Medd’s slide guitar. Guest vocalist Big Hank Lionhart adds an ominous tone to the swampy blues “Keep The Devil Behind,” and the second instrumental, “Alley Shuffle,” has a rollicking Kansas City feel.

“Holy Water” is a soulful blues ballad with a warm vocal from Cochrane, “Not Ready” is a jazzy tune about our ongoing efforts to defy Father Time, and “Solitaire” is a Latin-tinged ballad that features Cochrane with guest vocalist Rita McDade.

The album wraps with “So Long, Goodbye,” a Windy City blues with vocals and harp from Jack Lavin (who also plays bass on this and several other tracks).

Six is an excellent set of well-crafted songs and performances from a seasoned set of veterans in The Bluesland Horn Band.

--- Graham Clarke

Anthony RosanoAnthony Rosano (vocals/guitar) and the Conqueroos (Kyle McCormick – drums, Jake Fultz – bass) join up with Tab Benoit on his Whiskey Bayou Records label for their latest effort, Cheat The Devil. Rosano and the band are veterans of the International Blues Challenge, having advanced to the semi-finals a couple of times with their fierce mix of traditional blues and rock. The new album features ten tracks, nine written by Rosano, that recall the classic sounds of late ’60s/early ’70s guitar-fueled blues-rock, but with a thoroughly modern approach.

The opener, “Sweet Little Devil,” locks into a tough, edgy groove, and Rosano’s searing fretwork really sends the track to a higher level. “My Baby Gets Around” is a gritty blues about a woman doing her man wrong. The blues ballad “What Kind of Fool” goes down in the alley with Rosano’s grungy guitar and his soulful vocal, while “Keeps Adding Up” is a roadhouse rocker highlighted by Rosano’s crisp guitar and the Conqueroos’ steady-driving rhythm. “Sin City” simply sizzles and features some of Rosano’s best playing with standout support from the band.

The intense “Jonesboro Road” is a sweaty mix of blues, rock, and funk, the mid-tempo “Rosalita” tells the story of man leaving his lady whose “beauty is like summer rain” for a trip across the sea, and the haunting “Shook” paints a vivid picture of the aftermath of a broken relationship.

The ominous “Scattered Bones” is a swampy, growling blues rocker, and the vibrant title track provides ample opportunity for Rosano’s soaring slide guitar. The album wraps with a powerful cover on Slim Harpo’s “King Bee,” which takes the swamp blues standard in a fresh, new direction.

Fans of guitar-driven blues-rock will find much to savor with Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos’ Cheat The Devil. It’s a superb set of original tunes played with grit and intensity.

--- Graham Clarke

Jason RicciJason Ricci and The Bad Kind’s recent release, Behind The Veil, is the band’s first for Gulf Coast Records. The New Orleans-based harmonica master and band --- Ricci’s wife Kaitlin Dibble (vocals/background vocals), Brent Johnson (guitar/background vocals), Jack Joshua (bass/vocals/background vocals), and John Perkins (drums/background vocals) --- are joined by guests Joe Krown (piano/Hammond B3), Gulf Coast labelmate Joanna Connor (guitar), and Lauren Mitchell (background vocals).

Ricci has drawn much attention over the past two and a half decades for his skillful harmonica playing, overcoming substance issues to continue his career as a touring musician, recording artist, and teacher.

The opener, “Casco Bay,” is an atmospheric tune about a seaport that’s a bit like a sea shanty. as the voices and Ricci’s harp have an ethereal feel and it’s an interesting beginning to the album. Dibble sings the next track, “5 – 10 – 15,” a New Orleans-flavored swinger previously recorded in the ’50s by Ruth Brown, and it includes Krown on piano with Johnson provides some shimmering lead guitar.

Ricci gets an opportunity to put his harp skills on full display with the nimble instrumental “Baked Potato,” and Joshua takes lead vocals on his own “Cirque du Soleil,” a mid-tempo blues shuffle.

The next song combines Dibble’s “Wrong Kind of Easy” with a cover of Little Walter’s “Nobody But You” (written by Walter Spriggs of the 5 Echoes). The resulting medley strikes a saucy jazz with terrific performances from Dibble, Johnson, and Ricci, who also joins his wife on vocals for the latter tune.

Ricci also sings on the riproaring cover of Bobby Rush’s “Ain’t She Fine,” and the slow burning cover of “St. James Infirmary.” His vocals are a good fit for the emotional tone of the song, with his amazing harmonica taking over the second half of the tune.

The playful duet “Why Don’t We Sleep On It” was written by Ricci after an argument with Dibble, and the pair has a great time delivering it. “Terrors of Nightlife” was written by Dax Riggs of the metal band Acid Bath. Ricci and Dibble again share the mic on this somber ballad and Johnson gives a crisp guitar solo that fits the song perfectly.

Dibble’s “No Way” is a fierce blues rocker that is highlighted by her powerful vocal, Ricci’s harp (based around “Spoonful”), and Connor’s soaring slide guitar. Joshua sings a slow blues version of Jeff Turmes’ “Shipwreck,” with superb contributions from Ricci and Johnson.

Speaking of superb, check out the closing track, a fantastic take on Booker T & the M.G.’s “Hip Hug Her,” that stretches to nearly eight minutes and gives the entire band (plus Krown) plenty of space to strut their stuff.

Behind The Veil features well-crafted original tunes, an intriguing set of cover tunes, and marvelous performances from Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind.

--- Graham Clarke

Tom BuengerTom Buenger is a West Coast-based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who spent over a decade in the military and then a half decade in the corporate world before focusing on music fulltime. His musical influences range from blues to soul to R&B, roots, and gospel, with listeners getting a taste of all these genres on Buenger’s second release, Blues From Caucasia, which features ten original songs and one cover. Buenger plays guitar, harmonica, piano, and kazoo, accompanied on selected tracks by Chris Eger (bass/electric guitar), Teresa Russell (electric guitar), Rafael Tranquilino (drums/bass/guitar), and Cyrus Zerbe or Richard Williams (drums).

The opening track, “Above The Sun,” is one of my favorites on the album. It’s a supremely soulful gospel/blues shuffle that will put a hop in your step. Buenger provides vocals and harmonica, while Eger plays electric guitar and bass, while Williams handles the drums. The gritty “Start A Fire” mixes soul and blues with powerful lead guitar from Russell and a strong vocal from Buenger, who also plays piano, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, while “That Ain’t Right” is a mid-tempo acoustic blues about a lover done wrong,. The playful “What You Gonna Do” mixes electric and acoustic guitar from Tranquilino and Buenger, respectively.

The breezy acoustic blues “Mean Things” describes a man facing the ongoing inner battle between right and wrong, and the top-tapping countrified shuffle “Get With Me” really swings and even features a kazoo solo. The gospel tune “Don’t Stop” offers inspiring lyrics over a bluesy backdrop (with multi-layered background vocals from Buenger).

“Feel Alright” is a R&B-based ballad that really showcases Buenger’s vocal range, as does the acoustic guitar-driven “Fight No More,” which also features him on multi-layered harmony vocals. The last two tracks are the acoustic “Talk To Me,” an updated version of the Piedmont blues style, and a breathtaking cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul Of A Man,” again with Buenger’s vocals multi-tracked.

Blues From Caucasia is a marvelous album that spans several genres evenly while keeping one foot in the blues. Tom Buenger’s vocal range is impressive, and his songwriting is first rate. Don’t miss this one.

--- Graham Clarke

Lil RonnieDuring the Covid shutdown, Ronnie Owens, frontman for Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes, spent some time listening to some old “live band” recordings, and ran across a particularly inspired set recorded in 2005 at Loafers Beach Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. The set was scheduled to be released on the Pacific Blues record label, but the label owner, Jerry Hall, passed away suddenly, so it was never completed. Owens and his longtime producer, Martin Gary, and engineer Bill McElroy did a final mix on the tapes and mastered them, so blues fans now have the opportunity to hear the set on EllerSoul Records as Got It ‘Live’ From ‘05.

Li’l Ronnie Owens, of course, plays harp and sings, and this edition of the Grand Dukes included George Sheppard (drums), Bryan Smith (bass), Robert Frahm (guitar), and John Fralin (keyboards). There are three additional studio tracks that will be included in the band’s upcoming release, with Owens and Fralin joined by Gordon Harrower (guitar), Michael Gallager (drums), and John Coppenger (bass).

The live set opens with an energetic Li’l Ronnie original, “Mellow Chick,” which surely got the audience to moving right off the bat. Another Owens original follow. “Bettin’ On My Baby” is a Windy City shuffle with tasty guitar work from Frahm.

Owens and Frahm have some nice moments with a fine cover of George “Harmonica” Smith’s “Crossed Eyed Susie Lee.” Another Smith cover shows up pretty quickly, “Early Monday Morning,” which is an easygoing slow blues that the band really stretches out on. In between the two Smith songs is “Life Changes,” a swinging original shuffle.

“Hey Little Girl,” written by Zuzu Bollin, is another standout track, with Frahm’s T-Bone-esque guitar and Li’l Ronnie’s amiable vocal, and “Love Trance,” another original, is a moody rhumba. The live portion of the album concludes with Jimmy Rogers’ “Rock This House,” a nine-minute show-stopper that gives the whole band a minute or two in the spotlight.

The studio tracks begin with “V’s Boogie,” a rowdy New Orleans-flavored piano boogie instrumental,  followed by a sweet, slow burning version of the Little Willie John classic “Need Your Love So Bad,” which features Harrower on vocals. The last tune is a rollicking read of Lazy Lester’s “Same Thing Could Happen To You,” a great way to wrap up this fine album.

Blues fans will be happy that Li’l Ronnie was able to find this live set in his archives and release it for public consumption, and the three excellent new tracks bode well for the band’s upcoming album. Got It ‘Live’ From ’05 will surely satisfy fans of Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes, and is recommended listening for anyone unfamiliar with this marvelous band.

--- Graham Clarke

Stevie JMississippi’s busiest soul blues man Stevie J Blues is at again, with two great new tracks that touch on blues, soul, and R&B, contemporary but with a traditional feel that appeals to longtime fans of those genres.

The first single, “Like Marvin,” is an excellent track that pays tribute to Motown legend Marvin Gaye by citing his name and embracing the musical and lyrical style that brought him his fame. It promises to be a crowd pleaser, based on those qualities.

Stevie JThe second single, “What Are We Gonna Do,” is a silky soul duet between Stevie J Blues and southern soul newcomer DeNisa, describing a most serious situation. DeNisa’s smoky, soulful vocal delivery bodes well for her future in the business.

These two tracks are must-listening for soul blues fans.

--- Graham Clarke

Traveling Blues KingsThe Travellin’ Blues Kings (full Belgian version, formed by necessity during the COVID crisis) recently issued a couple of singles. “Brothers and Sisters” (Naked Records) deftly mixes soul, blues, and rock with a touch of gospel and reflects on the pandemonium taking place in today’s society. “It’s Better” (Naked Records), a funky slice of rocking soul with a hard-driving rhythm, punchy horns, and rumbling background vocals. These are two really cool tracks that will put a hop in your step, for sure. It’s great to hear these new tracks from this talented group. These guys know how to play the blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Red RedI only know a few things about the Belgian band Red Red. They consist of an ethnomusicologist/mulitinstrumentalist from Ohio, the band’s musical background encompasses the Belgian roots, blues, and jazz music scenes, their group includes a turntablist(!) named DJ Courtasock and their first single, “Lay Me Down Marie” (Naked Records) kicks butt and takes names.

With a droning hill country rhythm, scorching slide guitar, and an irresistible vibe from beginning to end that will have you moving every movable part of your body and singing along, this one deserves to be heard. Look for their debut album, The Alabama Kid, coming in November 2023.

--- Graham Clarke


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