Blues Bytes

What's New

October/November 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Joe Louis Walker

Sean Costello

Maria Muldaur

Jack Bruce and Robin Trower

Mike Zito

Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks

Davis Coen

Ben Prestage

Samuel James

Sean Chambers

Jim Suhler

Blues Cures

Joe Louis WalkerFor three decades, Joe Louis Walker has been one of the most original and innovative blues musicians. Since the mid ’80s, he’s mixed the blues with soul, jazz, zydeco, and gospel. He’s done acoustic albums, collaborations (with Otis Grand and the star-studded Great Guitars), and even did a disc featuring slide guitar. With his 20th album (and second for Stony Plain Records), Between a Rock and the Blues, Walker focuses on the bond between the blues and rock.

The disc features 12 tracks, five penned by Walker (two in partnership with guest guitarist Kevin Eubanks). The scorching opener, “I’m Tide,” takes a cynical look at the shallowness of today’s culture. “Black Widow Spider” and “Prisoner of Misery” are both autobiographical tunes that look at some old problem relationships. Eubanks is featured on two tracks, “If There’s a Heaven,” which blends blues, rock, and gospel, and the blues rocker “I’ve Been Down.” These two tracks were produced by Walker and recorded at Eubanks’ studio in L.A. and also feature longtime Walker bandmates Henry Oden (bass) and Jeff Minieweather (drums), along with keyboard player Ellis Blacknell, Jr.

Duke Robillard produced ten of the tracks and wrote “Tell Me Why,” which features some of Walker’s powerful slide work, a strong solo from the Duke, and some fine keyboard support from Bruce Katz. Blues guitarist Murali Coryell (son of jazz/rock fusion guitarist Larry Coryell) wrote the timely “Way Too Expensive.” “Hallways” is a slow blues dealing with suspected infidelity, written by Bay Area bluesman Steve Hall, and the closer, “Send You Back,” from Dutch band Fat Harry and the Fuzzy Licks, is a straight blues that features Walker on acoustic guitar and Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica. The remaining three covers are favorites of Walker’s: Ray Charles’ “Blackjack,” Roy Gaines’ “Big Fine Woman,” and Travis Phillips’ “Eyes Like a Cat.”

Walker’s guitar work is as dynamic and innovative as ever, and his raw, earnest vocals combine the best of blues, soul, and gospel. The working band on the ten tracks produced by Robillard include Katz on piano and organ, Jesse Williams on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, Doug James on saxophone, and Carl Queforth on trombone, and they provide stellar support.

Between a Rock and the Blues is another premium effort from Joe Louis Walker that should please longtime fans as well as newcomers.

--- Graham Clarke

Jimmy Duck HolmesIn 2006, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes was the first artist to record on the Broke & Hungry Records label. His debut release, Back To Bentonia, was a critical success, as was the worthy follow-up, Done Got Tired of Tryin’. Since then, Holmes has been the subject of numerous interviews and stories, played many of the major blues festivals, has appeared on TV (notably ABC’s Good Morning America), and had a major role in last year’s Blues Music Award-winning documentary, M for Mississippi.

Holmes continues his hot streak with his latest for Broke & Hungry, Ain’t It Lonesome, which features Holmes’ introspective blues on seven acoustic tracks played in the tradition first made famous by fellow Bentonia, MS musicians Skip James, Jack Owens, and Henry Stuckey, along with three electric ventures into the Delta traditions of John Lee Hooker and James “Son” Thomas, featuring Holmes with young Clarksdale drummer Lee Williams.

Holmes wrote most of the tracks for the new disc, the acoustic numbers capturing perfectly the haunting aspects of the Bentonia style. “Slow Down, Slow Down” was first heard on the recent M for Mississippi doc, while other originals, such as “Done Got Tired of Tryin’,” which, interestingly, provided the title for his previous CD, but makes its first appearance on this disc, “My Baby’s Gone,” and the memorable album closer, “Nightmare,” are also textbook examples of the genre.

There are some notable twists on the disc as well. Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right” and the traditional track “Someday Baby” both get “Bentonized” with satisfying results, and the three electric numbers featuring Williams are first-rate. “All Night Long” and “Tell Me Woman” sound like long-lost Hooker tracks. The third electric track is the entrancing instrumental, “Bentonia Boogie.”

Ain’t It Lonesome is arguably Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ best release yet, but as far as I’m concerned, any release that works to keep alive the wonderful Bentonia blues style is noteworthy. Fortunately, Holmes is not only keeping it alive, but he’s breathing new life into it as he goes.

--- Graham Clarke

Sean CostelloUnfortunately, many musicians die much too young, but the passing of Sean Costello seemed to hit many fans particularly hard. Most of us had watched or listened to him from the days he got his start in the mid ’90s as teen-aged guitar wizard and had enjoyed watching him mature as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Viewing the various blues message boards after his untimely death last April made it obvious that he had met and touched quite a few listeners during his short life.

Costello’s former record label, Landslide Records, has released a compilation of some of his best recordings called Sean’s Blues. Although the young guitarist only recorded two discs for Landslide (2000’s Cuttin’ In and 2001’s Moanin’ For Molasses), the collection also gathers tracks from his debut release (Call The Cops from Blue Sun Records in 1996). There are also several previously unreleased studio and live tracks ranging from 1998 to 2002.

The first few recordings from Call The Cops show Costello to already be an imaginative guitarist at 16, but still finding his way as a vocalist. He wrote two of the early tracks featured here, including the title track and the swinging shuffle, “Take Me Back.” The acoustic cover of John Lee Williamson’s “Sail On,” is one of many tracks here featuring his longtime collaborator, Paul Linden, on harmonica.

Tracks from Cuttin’ In include another John Lee Williamson tune (“Mellow Chick Swing”), a brooding take on Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble,” and an uptempo original, “Who’s Been Cheatin’ Who.” The four year gap between recordings (plus a highly successful, for both parties, team-up with Susan Tedeschi) show Costello well on his way to crafting his own unique sound, gaining confidence on his already formidable guitar work as well as vocally. Two tracks are included from Moanin’ For Molasses: another Otis Rush track (“It Takes Time”) and the crunching rocker, “Don’t Be Restless With My Heart.”

The previously unreleased tracks are well worth the purchase of the disc alone. There are five studio tracks recorded in Atlanta in 1998, including a rollicking instrumental from Linden (“The Plumber”), a wonderful reworking of Bob Wills’ “Big Beaver,” and an electric (literally) cover of Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues,” which pairs Costello and Tedeschi (with the latter on lead vocals). Also included are a trio of live recordings from 2000 and 2001 (Otis Rush’s “All Your Live (I Miss Loving)” J. B. Lenoir’s “Mojo Boogie”, and a sizzling cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Motor Head Baby”).

The final unreleased tracks are gems from 2002, and show Costello’s deepening interest in soul music (which was really evident in his 2004 self-titled disc for Tone Cool/Artemis). These selections include songs from Robert Ward (“Your Love is Amazing,” complete with shimmering Magnatone effects) and Fenton Robinson (“You Don’t Know What Love Is”), along with two great originals that would be heard again in the future (“She Changed My Mind” and “Feel Like I Ain’t Got A Home”).

For fans of Sean Costello, the previously unreleased tracks make this an indispensable collection. It also provides an excellent overview of his career, tracing his development from start to near finish (omitting only his final release for Delta Groove, We Can Get Together) and shows that there was still much promise to be fulfilled. Sadly, we won’t get to see what might have been, but hopefully, there are more tracks sitting in the can that deserve to be heard as much as the unreleased tracks featured here. It also serves as a great introduction to his talents for newcomers.

--- Graham Clarke

Maria MuldaurMaria Muldaur is often referred to as America’s First Lady of Roots Music. She first catapulted to fame with her Top 10 smash hit, “Midnight At The Oasis,” in the early ’70s, but she has moved from pop to jazz to gospel to blues to folk since then. Few people realize that she first recorded with the Even Dozen Jug Band, which included John Sebastian and David Grisman. Her new release, Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy (Stony Plain Records), serves as a reunion between Muldaur and her former band mates. Other guests include the Crow Quill Night Owls, a new jug band discovered by Muldaur.

Most of the dozen tunes come from the 1920s and ’30s, including “Shake Hands and Tell Me Goodbye,” “Shout You Cats,” “The Ghost of The St. Louis Blues,” “Garden of Joy,” and “He Calls That Religion.” The group does an outstanding job recreating these songs. Some of the old traditional tracks from the Great Depression era are especially timely, “Bank Failure Blues” and “The Panic Is On.”

Singer/songwriter Dan Hicks wrote the two new songs, the hilarious “The Diplomat,” and “Let It Simmer,” featuring a sultry vocal by Muldaur. Hicks and Muldaur also team up for an entertaining medley of “Life’s Too Short” and “When Elephants Roost In Bamboo Trees.” Also included on the disc is the title track from Muldaur’s 2005 disc, “Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul,” which was the final recording of the late Fritz Richmond, jug player for the legendary Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and also features Taj Mahal.

The subtitle for the album is “Good Time Music for Hard Times,” which is appropriate. Jug band music has always been presented as a lighthearted escape from the things that trouble the soul. During these tough times, people need a nice change of pace from the everyday grind. Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy provides a refreshing change of pace and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a hop in your step.

--- Graham Clarke

Jack Bruce and Robin TrowerA pair of blues/rock legends, Jack Bruce and Robin Trower, recently teamed up for the critically acclaimed 2008 release, Seven Moons. Bruce is recognized as one of the most innovative bass players of his era, but is best known for his work with the ground-breaking trio Cream (with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker). Trower’s 40 year career includes a stint with the progressive rock band, Procol Harum, and a lengthy solo career. This is not their first project together either, as the duo joined forces in the early ’80s as the B. L. T. Trio.

Shortly after the release of their latest disc, they embarked on a European tour, which resulted in a CD, called Seven Moons Live (Ruf Records). The CD includes eight songs from the original CD, plus new versions of three classic Cream songs. Joining the pair is drummer Gary Husband (Gary Moore, John McLaughlin), who provides powerhouse backing.

Most of the material from Seven Moons is mid-tempo blues/rock, some of the highlights include the title track, “Lives of Clay,” “So Far to Yesterday,” “Bad Case of Celebrity,” and “Come To Me.” The track, “Carmen,” is from their B. L. T. Trio days. Bruce has not lost a step on bass, and plays one remarkable solo after another. His vocals are still as powerful and expressive as 40-plus years ago. Trower’s guitar work is first-rate, maintaining his own distinctive bluesy sound while incorporating traces of Jimi Hendrix similar to his days of playing during the psychedelic era of rock.

The three Cream covers are standouts. “Sunshine of Your Love” is awesome, with Bruce’s powerful playing and Trower’s muscular guitar solo. “White Room” is even better, with Trower taking an incredible solo that builds on Clapton’s original and takes it to a whole other level. The final track, “Politician,” is also a fine effort.

Most impressive is the interplay between Bruce and Trower. This show, recorded in Nijmegen, Holland, was only the third one of the tour. They complement each other perfectly, like they’ve been playing together for years. Hopefully, this not the end of their partnership and we’ll hear more from them soon, but for now, fans of pile driving blues/rock will be more than satisfied with this disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Mike ZitoSt. Louis native Mike Zito was first enthralled by the guitar of Eddie Van Halen, but eventually fell under the spell of guitarists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix, who mixed their rock guitar with a healthy dose of the blues. He has released four independent projects, plus his Eclecto Groove Records debut, Today, which garnered a lot of attention in 2008.

His second release for the label, Pearl River, is a hard rocking tribute to the sounds of Mississippi blues and Louisiana soul and funk that follow that meandering river along its course from Far East Mississippi down through the eastern Louisiana swamps and bayous emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

Produced by David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy) and Eclecto Groove CEO Randy Chortkoff (who also plays harmonica on the disc), Pearl River features an impressive crew of guest stars, ranging from familiar Crescent City names like Cyril Neville (who co-wrote the socially conscious title track and provides vocals) and Anders Osborne (who supplies acoustic guitar and co-lead vocals on his own “One Step at a Time”), and young drummer Eric Boliver, whose standout time-keeping is the secret weapon on this disc. Singer/songwriter and one-time child star (and Mississippi native) Susan Cowsill joins Zito on vocals for “Shoes Blues.”

Zito wrote or co-wrote nine of the 13 tracks on Pearl River, and they show his wide range of influences. Highlights include the raucous opening track, “Dirty Blonde,” the eerie “Dead of Night” (which features spooky accordion from Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone), the swaggering “Natural Born Lover,” “Big Mouth,” a funky rocker, and “C’mon Baby,” a solid slice of New Orleans R&B.

Zito shows impeccable taste in his choice of covers, including “Eyesight To The Blind,” featuring Chortkoff’s harmonica), “All Last Night,” which showcases another harp player, Lynwood Slim, and “Sugar Sweet,” which is recreated as a loose-limbed funk workout.

Zito’s guitar work is first-rate, and his raspy vocals are perfectly suited for the material. In addition to Boliver on drums, the rock-solid backing band includes bass player Lonnie “Popcorn” Trevino, Jr. and former SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans. Pearl River will certainly please blues/rockers, but its charms go so far beyond that niche that fans of the New Orleans music scene and blues lovers alike will want to pick this one up as well.

--- Graham Clarke

Tribute to Mississippi SheiksBetween 1930 and 1935, The Mississippi Sheiks recorded nearly a hundred singles and made a definitive mark as one of the most popular string bands ever recorded. Consisting of singer/guitarist Walter Vinson, fiddle player Sam Chatmon, and Chatmon’s brothers Lonnie and Armenter (who also enjoyed solo success as singer/guitarist Bo Carter during the ’30s.), the Sheiks recorded many memorable tunes, but the most enduring of their recordings has to be “Sitting On Top of The World.” The timeless track was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame recently and has been recorded numerous times over the past 80 years by artists like B. B. King, Ray Charles, The Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, Doc Watson, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan.

The group recorded for three different record companies, toured constantly from the deep South up to New York and Chicago, and even performed for President Franklin Roosevelt. Part of the Sheiks’ appeal was that their sound appealed to both white country music fans and black blues fans. They also incorporated jazz, pop, and “hokum” (songs that featured clever sexual word play) into their music, so their appeal was very broad. The group broke up in 1935, though several of them were “rediscovered” in the ’60s and enjoyed some renewed success, but nothing as noteworthy as their earlier recordings.

Black Hen Music has produced a wonderful tribute to the Sheiks with Things About Comin’ My Way. Black Hen Music president Steve Dawson has been a fan of the group for a decade and has gathered a veritable who’s who of blues and roots musicians to capture the essence of The Mississippi Sheiks’ music.

There are 17 tracks, featuring a highly diverse set of performers that demonstrate the wide range of the Sheiks’ appeal. There are blues artists present (The North Mississippi Allstars’ funky, disheveled take on the hokum tune, “It’s Backfirin’ Now,” is a highlight, as is the always reliable John Hammond’s “Stop and Listen” and Kelly Joe Phelps’ mournful “Livin’ In A Strain”), country (Oh Susanna’s “Bootlegger’s Blues,” Danny Barnes’ “Too Long,” and Black Hen president and disc producer Steve Dawson’s easy, loping cover of “Lonely One In This Town.”), and somewhere in between (“Ndidi Onukwulu’s soulful version of the title track, The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ authentic, yet fresh reproduction of “Sittin’ On Top of The World,” Jim Byrnes’ gritty, rootsy interpretation of “Jailbird Love Song,” and Madeleine Peyroux’s breathtakingly sultry reading of “Please Baby”).

The disc also features music from other artists including Bruce Cockburn (an exhilarating “Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down”), Bill Frisell (the instrumental, “That’s It”), Geoff Muldaur (leading the Texas Sheiks in the timely “The World Is Going Wrong”), Del Rey (the joyous “We Both Are Feeling Good Right Now”), Bob Brozman (who puts on a guitar clinic with “Somebody’s Gotta Help You”), Robin Holcomb (the dark “I’ve Got Blood In My Eyes For You”), and The Sojourners (the gospel standard “He Calls That Religion”).

Things About Comin’ My Way is an outstanding tribute disc that serves its purpose well. It’s a must-buy for fans of the roots music movement in the tradition of O Brother, Where Art Thou? It should also lead listeners to not only check out the music of the artists on the disc, but should also steer some fans to experience firsthand the music of The Mississippi Sheiks.

--- Graham Clarke

Davis CoenI really enjoyed Davis Coen’s previous release for Soundview Records, Blue Lights For Yours and Mine, with its mix of acoustic and traditional blues standards spiced with a Memphis soul feel, courtesy of some impressive work by Hammond B3 player Lance Ashley. For his latest release on Soundview, Magnolia Land, Coen keeps the Memphis vibe thanks to the continued presence of Ashley, but he’s more or less abandoned his previous focus on Piedmont acoustic guitar in favor of the North Mississippi blues groove.

Coen certainly surrounded himself with qualified people. The session was recorded at Jimbo Mathus’ Delta Recording Service in Como, MS, and produced by Mathus himself (who also played bass and guitar on several tracks). Several tracks feature Hill Country Blues vets Kinney Kimbrough (drums) and Justin Showah (bass) from the band Afrissippi.

Magnolia Land consists of a dozen tracks, evenly split between originals and covers. Noteworthy originals include the opening track, “Tired and Lonesome,” featuring an appropriately world-weary vocal from Coen and some ghostly organ from Ashley. “Anna Ann” is a jaunty number mixing Hill Country and Rockabilly, along with some slippery slide work from Coen. “Nothing To Hold On To” is a neat little soul burner that would have been a good fit on the previous album, and “Shake Your Goobie,” is a straight Hill Country boogie.

Coen tackles some challenging covers this time around. Wisely, he doesn’t emulate Howlin’ Wolf on “Natchez Burning,” instead playing it straight with the vocal. The traditional “Goin’ Away Baby” is a dazzling North Mississippi romp, while “Country Girl” and “Eyes Like Diamonds” are a mix of Mississippi Delta and Chicago blues. “Shortnin’ Bread” mines more of the Hill Country sound, and the closer is Muddy Waters’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” which closes the disc on a high note.

Magnolia Land is an enjoyable and rewarding set of blues, a nice change of pace from Davis Coen’s previous work. It will be interesting to see which musical direction he will head in next, but should he linger with the Hill Country sound for awhile, that would be perfectly fine.

--- Graham Clarke

Ben PrestageBen Prestage can best be described as a one-man-band on steroids. Playing lead guitar, bass, and drums (four foot pedals controlled by his heels and toes of both feet), he’s a force of nature on the bandstand with his sometimes ferocious and frenetic attack. His variety of blues includes influences from the Mississippi Delta, Piedmont style, Bluegrass, and even a hearty dose of Memphis soul, all of which is on full display in his seventh, and most recent release, Live at Pineapple Willy’s, an exhilarating two-disc set recorded at the Panama City Beach club.

The 27 song set is a mix of old traditional blues, old-timey songs, and impressive originals. He rips through most of them at a breakneck pace and it’s obvious that it was a rousing time. He shows his versatility by moving from tracks like the gentle “Candyman,” to the Muddy Waters slide fest, “Step It Up and Go,” which receives an intense ragtime renovation, “Can’t Be Satisfied,” to the New Orleans jazz sound of “Viper.”

His own compositions, such as “5 Letter 4 Word Blues,” “Me and My Uncle,” “No One Can Forgive Me,” and “Angela” are also noteworthy, and fit pretty well with the older covers. Prestage is a versatile guitar player and because of his variance of styles and speed of playing, the set never lags at all. His gravelly, soul-drenched vocals bring to mind John Hiatt at times.

If you think all one-man-band acts are cut from the same cloth, guess again. Ben Prestage has much more to offer than what you might be used to. The Florida-based bluesman has put together a powerful and highly original set that is guaranteed to please any blues fan. Visit CD Baby to check out this and other Ben Prestage CDs. While you’re at it, check out Prestage in action on multiple videos at YouTube.

--- Graham Clarke

Samuel JamesSamuel James brings to mind those blues troubadours of the 1920s and ’30s, only with modern production values. Still in his 20s, he has already mastered fingerstyle, banjo, slide, harmonica, and piano. Not only that, but his compositions seem to be pulled straight from the era he favors. These “story songs” mostly come from personal experience, which is probably what makes them so compelling.

James’ latest CD, For Rosa, Maeve, and Noreen (NorthernBlues Music), picks up right where his previous release, Songs Famed for Sorrow and Joy, left off….with masterful songwriting and performances. Again, James is responsible for every sound on the disc, playing resonator, Flamenco, and 12-string guitars, banjos, harmonica, and piano, along with all the foot taps, stomps, and hand claps, which is fine because anyone else would just be in the way.

James’ songs mix suspense, humor, frustration, pain, and suffering, like any good blues song should. Highlights include the opening cut, “Bigger, Blacker Ben,” a folk song for the 21st Century, “Joe Fletcher’s Blues,” a humorous tale of love gone bad, “A Sugar Smallhouse Valentine,” a sequel from his previous release, the tender “Rosa’s Sweet Lil’ Love Song,” “Miss Noreen,” a lively number showcasing James on banjo, and the stark “Wooden Tombstone,” with James singing accompanied only by his tapping shoe.

Truthfully, every time you listen to this disc, you will find something else to appreciate. That’s what makes a great album great….the fact that it improves with each listen, and a song you might have missed the first time grabs you the second time around. You’ll find yourself doing that with For Rosa, Maeve, and Noreen, because you’ll be spinning it over and over.

There aren’t many bluesmen out there right now like Samuel James, who are working to preserve the blues in its earliest forms. Hopefully, he will continue to bring this nearly forgotten era to life for us for a long time to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Live, Volume 3 wraps up Barbara Blue’s trilogy of recordings from Silky O’Sullivan’s club on Beale Street in Memphis, where Blue has held residence for the past decade. Where the first two volumes focused on Blue’s tough blues vocals on tracks from her albums and familiar covers, Volume 3 focuses less on the blues and more on mainstream songs, which are also a big part of her act.

The diverse list of songs includes tunes by country singers like Lucinda Williams (“Still Long for Your Kiss”), Dolly Parton (“Jolene”), Eddie Arnold (“You Don’t Know Me”), and June Carter Cash (“Ring of Fire”). There are a few popular tracks that give a nod toward the Bluff City, such as “Black Velvet,” Walking In Memphis,” and “Dixie Chicken,” and a few old favorites (Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans,” and Leon Russell’s “A Song For You”).

Anyone who’s familiar with Barbara Blue and her singing knows that she’s as skilled performing these songs as she is belting out her usual set of blues and soul. She really stands out on all tracks, but my favorites include the reflective “You Don’t Know Me,” “Walking In Memphis,” “After The Glitter Fades,” “Dixie Chicken,” and the closer, “A Song For You.” Joining her on these songs is Nat Kerr (piano) and Lannie McMillian (saxophone), along with her backing vocalists (Nancy Apple, Reba Russell, Kathy Keller, and Danny Childress).

Live, Volume 3 is, like its two predecessors, a first-rate set that captures Barbara Blue at her best.

--- Graham Clarke

Sean ChambersSean Chambers got a guitar for Christmas when he was ten years old. As soon as he started learning to play it, he realized that he had found his calling. While he listened to many guitarists at the time, Jimi Hendrix was his favorite and the one he studied the most. Picking up a love for the blues from Hendrix’s bluesier material like “Red House,” and “Catfish Blues,” Chambers started digging deeper and found the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, the three Kings, SRV, and Johnny Winter. He started his first band in his native Florida in his late teens and before long, he was sharing bills with the likes of B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and others. Soon he was recording his own discs and found himself serving as Hubert Sumlin’s musical director and guitarist for five years.

Chambers’ newest release is Ten Til Midnight (Blue Heat Records), and it should net him some well-deserved attention. Basically recorded live in the studio with a powerhouse rhythm section in tow (Paul Broderick – drums, Tim Blair – bass), the disc features ten tunes, seven originals written by Chambers or in tandem with Blair. The focus is on guitar-heavy blues/rock, as heard on the title track and other tunes like “Blues & Rock n’Roll, “Make It Go,” and “Too Much Blues,” which sounds like a lost Z.Z. Top track with its raw, crunching groove.

Chambers is also able to mix in some straight blues on songs like “When I Get Lonely,’ which features some wicked slide guitar, and “In The Winter Time,” a slow blues that gives him a chance to really stretch out, and the acoustic closer, “I Don’t Know Why,” featuring Chambers and harmonica player Gary Keith . The covers are also well-selected. Chambers’ version of Luther Allison’s “All The King’s Horses” is obviously one of his favorite Allison tunes, given his enthusiastic performance. “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” the Guitar Slim classic, benefits from an arrangement similar to Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied,” allowing Chambers to shine on slide guitar. The final cover is an actual Z.Z. Top song, Billy Gibbons’ “Brown Sugar.”

Chambers’ guitar work is outstanding and his road-tested, gravelly vocals are ideal for the rock-edged material he specializes in. He also produced the disc with Blair. Ten Til Midnight is an excellent disc that showcases an unfamiliar voice that should become familiar soon if there’s any justice at all in the blues world.

--- Graham Clarke

Billy LavenderMemphis guitarist Billy Lavender has established a nice reputation in his hometown over the past several decades with his mix of blues, rock, and R&B influences, ranging from the Beatles to Grand Funk Railroad to Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. He mixes all of these styles together on Memphis Livin’ (I55 Productions), which features him in tandem with a host of local singers and musicians, tackling a wide range of music with roots in the Bluff City.

The disc benefits from a talented group of vocalists, including drummer Tony Adams, who ably handles a trio of tunes (the soulful opener, “Singing The Blues,” the blues/rock shuffle, “Bad Boy,” and the closing swamp rocker, “Delta Time”) and Memphis soul belter Reba Russell, whose three tracks include the appropriately titled “Let’s Party” (which also features a fiery harp solo from Blind Mississippi Morris), “Bottom Line,” a mellow pop tune, and “Blue,” an interesting song with sitar from producer Brad Webb, who also contributes slide and rhythm guitar on multiple tracks.

Singer/harmonica player Vince Johnson gets three vocals, the slow blues, “Cold As Ice,” the uptempo “Shake It,” and “3 AM,” a late night soul/blues, and Ken Dinkins does a splendid job with the pop-styled “Tonight.” Lavender even takes his turn behind the mic on the rockabilly raver, “Get Along,” and a pair of songs, “All The People,” and “If I Could,” where his confident vocals lean more toward ’60s era pop/rock. “Just Chillin’” is a funky instrumental showcasing Johnson on harmonica and Lavender’s guitar.

Lavender’s fretwork is impressive, comfortably moving from blues to soul to rock without breaking a sweat. He also wrote or co-wrote most of the music on the disc. Memphis Livin’ is a wonderful tribute to the music of the Bluff City that rocks and grooves from start to finish in the finest Memphis tradition. It comes off as an informal session between longtime friends playing the music they know and love. Blues fans should not let this one slip past.

--- Graham Clarke

The Rump Shakers are a Detroit band that incorporates that city’s heritage in everything they do. Their Urban Decay (Funky Records) is about the city and the 'burbs. The CD cover features shots of the Packard plant in 1921 and current photo of the Fisher Body Plant’s abandoned shell There are moments here that remind of the barely contained anarchy of the MC5 and of John Sinclair’s intense and intensely poetic rant/raps.

On the opening version of “Leaving Trunk,” head honcho Chef Chris tears into the tune with sharp teeth, while guitarists Dylan Dunbar and Danny Methric shred. Some of the material is wholly locals-only in flavor. You have to live in the area to know where Keego Harbor is. The Brew House and Back Seat Saloon from this 'burb are celebrated on “Boogie Through the Night” and “Back Seat Saloon,” both jaw dropping rockin blues that rattle the speakers.

Some of the material is going to turn some PC folks off (“Tattoos ‘N’ Fake Tits,” “White Trash With a Little Class”). Some will be stunning, as is the title cut (“what happened to the Motor City/Nobody seems to know/There used to be flowers/Now nothing here seems to grow”). “Moanin’ For Motown” is JL Hooker for 2009. Chris has a loud muffled vocal approach blows killer harp. He’s part dangerous and part sentimental.

The Rump Shakers are a band that’s come to report the dirty truth.

--- Mark E. Gallo

VeronicaVeronica & The Red Wine Serenaders' self-titled disc on Totally Unnecessary Records is a refreshingly different CD, featuring ukelele, kazoo, washboard, mandolin, resonator guitar, dobro, and clarinet, together with bass, piano, etc. The band is from Italy and have a sound all of their own, reminiscent of '20s and '30s blues – hence my comment about being refreshing, as not many blues musicians pay much heed now to that period.

The vocals get shared between Veronica Sbergia and Yan Yalego, creating a nice mix of different flavours – they duet, too! The whole CD sounds like the band was having a bunch of fun while they were recording – I’d bet money that this is a great live act!

If you like old style blues, played as it should be, then get hold of this CD – have a listen to “Bootlegger’s Blues,” Lovesick Blues,” “Good Old Wagon” and the rest – you won’t be disappointed.

--- Terry Clear

If Billy Gibson is the King of Beale Street, then my buddy Eric Hughes has to be one of the crown princes. Eric’s latest CD, Live on Beale Street, is full of great writing and a tight band, and receives the benefit of the house mix at the Rum Boogie by my good friend Robbie Rose and the astute mixing of the magical one, Dawn Hopkins. Robbie girl, I’ll see you soon. But enough of hellos, I’m good to go on this one.

Eric starts off with “Handy Man,” a tribute to his amazing abilities to fix just about anything. Robert Nighthawk Tombs sets the tone for our first cut with some blistering keyboard work on the B3 as Eric extols his virtues, “I’ll take a look…at your washing machine…now…it won’t be long…till your clothes are clean…I’ll fire your furnace….when it’s cold outside…I’ll be your heat when your flame is dieing…I’m your handy man….if I can’t fix it…no one can! Memphis Mike Forest is lighting things up on his guitar as well and I’m guessing this was quite a night at the Rum Boogie.

Eric grabs his harp and starts “Mellow Down Easy” off with just the right edge, “Mellow down easy…when you really want to blow your top!” Cooler heads prevail when all you want to do is go off on someone. Our third cut, “Muddy Waters Records,” is correct in its assumption that lost Muddy Waters records must be recaptured at all costs. Eric’s relationship went south and his girl kept the vinyl. Pretty risky move on her part. “I got to hear my blues…when my heart gets black…I’m going to heap some evil on you…if I don’t get my Muddy Waters records back!” Hopefully she was smart enough to return the vinyl to its rightful owner.

We’ve all been down to our last dime at one time or another. Eric’s version, “My Last Dime,” finds him pleading with the operator to try the number of his girl one more time. “This old operator lady come on the lady…and she told me this: the caller you’re trying to reach is no longer in love with you…please hang up and don’t try again!” Eric definitely screwed up this time and there’s now way she’s coming back. Our next cut, “Favorite Toy,” finds Eric looking to replace Ken so he can flirt with Barbie. “But Joe said…honey, just say when…I love your more than that sissy Ken…I want to be your playtime boy…I want to be your favorite toy!” I’m hoping Eric doesn’t get thrown back in the toy box anytime soon.

“Paycheck Boogie” is one of my favorite tunes from an earlier CD of Eric’s and here we find Friday’s paycheck burning a hole in his pocket. “Friday…Friday…I got my money in hand…Monday…Monday…nothing left to spend…work all week…I do it all again…I do the paycheck boogie!” Considering Eric’s wonderful wife, Laura, is the bass player in his band, I think the paycheck boogie worked out all right in this case!

Sounds of the Delta echo in my ears as the band gives a hill country feel to our next cut, “Catfish Blues.” Robert Nighthawk Tombs handles the harp duties on this one as Eric tells why he wishes he was a catfish. “Well you know I wish…I was a catfish…swimming on out to deep blue sea…why you know I’ll have all you good looking women…fishing after me!” Sounds like a good enough reason to me. “Well…goodbye…goodbye baby…I ain’t go no more to say…why you say you want to quite me…go ahead and have your way.” Eric’s hoping the “Blow Wind” will bring his girl back to him but she’s determined to go in this tune and nothing’s stopping her. Robert’s keyboard work is just as impressive as his work on the B3 and we’re jumping now when Memphis Mike kicks in with his guitar.

Our next song, “Come Home Blues,” has a country feel to it as Eric is sing to his girl. “I say come home mama…love me like before…well you’ll find your key…still going to fit my door!” There’s still room in the closet for all of her stuff and Eric will definitely welcome her back. Robert’s back at it on the piano on this cut and I’m thinking I’ll definitely have to catch Eric’s group the next time I’m in Memphis.

We finally get a chance to hear a little bit of Laura’s bass as she plays a haunting introduction to our next cut, “Mean Old World.” Mournful notes from Eric’s harp work to help her set the mood. “Well…it’s a mean old world…to try and live in by yourself…when you can’t be with the one you love…you got use somebody else!” Eric’s love is moving on and he’s coming to the painful realization that its time to look for someone new. Speaking of break-ups, Eric’s at a loss when his girl moves out and takes the dog with her in “Did You Have to Take the Dog Too?” “You even took the logs from our fireplace…bad enough you left me blue…did you have to take the dog too?” There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend and hopefully Eric got his companion back when she left.

Live on Beale Street closes with Eric on the harp blowing the intro to “Just Keep Loving Her.” “Well…I woke up this morning…feeling bad…think about the woman that once I had…just keep loving her…just keep loving her and I don’t know the reason why!”

Live on Beale Street is a classic record by the Eric Hughes Band for all the right reasons: a live audience at my favorite club on Beale, the magic fingers of Robbie Rose working the house mix and the final mix produced to Dawn Hopkins’s meticulous standards. Throw in a tight band that features Eric on harp, his wife Laura on bass, Jumping James Cunningham on drums, the guitar talents of Memphis Mike Forrest and a multitude of talents including great keyboard work by Robert Nighthawk Tombs and you’ve got a party that doesn’t end until the last song’s over.

To grab a copy of this disc or to learn more about Eric’s band, check out his website at Eric’s band is well known in the Bluff city and definitely worth checking out. You’ll be glad you did.

--- Kyle Deibler

Jim SuhlerI don’t get a chance to listen to XM as often as I’d like to, but thank God for Bill Wax’s astute inclusion of Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat’s new disc, Tijuana Bible, in the rotation. I heard more than enough to peak my interest and managed to get a copy to review. Haven’t heard some good Texas border blues in awhile and Jim’s new disc more than fits the bill.

Tijuana Bible is patterned after the pornographic comic book series of the same name and according to Jim, it includes “16 lurid chapters!” The title cut is up first and here we find a gentleman in a Texas border town experiencing a night of lust, passion and depravity. “Written in a narcotic haze…thirteen chapters in seven days…smuggled in across the border…Tijuana Bible…made to order!” Next up is “Devil in Me”, featuring some wicked slide guitar from Jim. “Wicked woman…treat me mean…asked for water…got gasoline…only the devil…only the devil in me!” Jim has definitely been a very bad boy!”

Our third cut is Jim’s version of an Elvin Bishop tune, “Drunken Hearted Boy,” and Elvin is kind enough to play slide guitar on the song for Jim. “I drink because I’m worried…I don’t drink because I’m dry…I know if I keep on drinking people…I’m liable to drink away my life!” Drinking away his blues is what Jim’s trying to do. He tells us that if we had his problems, “you’d drink too!” A nice assist from Elvin. And a well done version of his tune.

Another cover tune, “Up to My Neck in You,” is up next and Jim lets out a yell to get it started. “Well, I’ve been up to my neck in trouble…I’ve been up to my neck in strife…I’ve been up to my neck in misery…for most of my life…you come along when I needed you…now I’m up to my neck in you!” Sounds like Jim’s been getting kicked right and left, hopefully things will get better soon. A “Long Hot Summer” isn’t making Jim’s life any easier. “It’s gonna be a long…hot summer…the days will never end…the memories will linger on…long hot summer once again!” The tempo picks up in “Black Sky,” but we still feel Jim’s desperation. “Oh, the thunder and lightning…shake me down to my very soul…demons are fighting…feel like I’m long control…oh…Black Sky!” In the old days Jim would be riding a horse to the border, I’m guessing now it’s a convertible with the wind in his hair.

Joe Bonamassa is kind enough to pick up the lead guitar on a beautiful ballad, “Deep Water Lullaby.” “Gypsy sun and rainbow sky…gently hang your head and cry…can’t you see the other side…sweet deep water lullaby!” Joe’s fretwork is brilliant and I like this tune a lot. “Years of Tears” finds Jim lamenting the loss of a woman he loved very much. “I’m drowning in despair…going down…down in misery…I’ve got years and years of tears…before I’m finally free.” Life looks up in “Po’ Lightnin’,” a tribute to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Lightnin’s influence on Jim’s music is obvious and he definitely found a good student in Jim. “Po’ Lightnin’s dead and gone…left me here to sing this song!”

“Border Rock” finds Jim paying homage to the great of Texas. “From the Red River mud…to the Rio Grande…the piney woods…to the desert sand…border rock…is all I understand.” And Jim definitely plays it well. The Hispanic influences that run deep in Texas appear in our next cut, “Mexicali Run.” “Cross the river…south of town…hope to God that I don’t drown…desert wind…midnight sun…making my Mexicali run!” The run is dangerous, border guards are everywhere but Jim’s determined to make the run. “Sunday Drunk” is up next and Jim’s dreaming about a different life. “Sunday morning comes to soon…three sheets by the afternoon…I know there’s gonna be hell to pay…payment due on Judgment day…Tonic & Tanqueray.”

“Chaos in Tejas” just seems to be the story of Jim’s life. “Last night I heard the devil call…I’ve been wondering what to do…reach up and hand me my walking shoes…cause there’s chaos…chaos in Tejas.” All I can say about our next cut, “Juice,” is just that Jim’s heading over to his woman’s house and the rest definitely falls under the theme of Tijuana Bible. Got to keep it clean you know. A cover of Rory Gallagher’s “I Could’ve Had Religion” seems to be Jim’s one chance at redemption and the harmonica of Cheryl Arena works well on this tune. Somehow I’m having a tough time believing Jim could have had religion!

The last song on what has been a great disc, “Cold Light of Day,” features the keyboard work of Shawn Phares. “Got to carry on…got to…make it through the night…I don’t know who to blame…in the cold light of day.”

Tijuana Bible more than lives up the promise of the couple of cuts that I was privileged to hear on XM. Jim’s a great guitarist, he’s got an awesome band behind him and some very talented friends stopped by to help him record this disc. I know there’s a DVD out that features a lot of the tunes found on this disc and I’ll be ordering it shortly. More information about this amazing Texas guitarist and his band can be find at; while you’re there, grab a copy of Tijuana Bible. I know it will make my top 10 list this year.

--- Kyle Deibler

Sean Carney and friendsIt’s no secret that my buddy, Joe Whitmer, is the proud producer of the International Blues Challenge. On the wall in Joe’s house is a picture of the young gunslingers (Sean Carney, Jonn Richardson and Nick Schnebelen) taken by Jenn Ocken, that Joe dearly loves. It’s a shot taken from the rear; a view that Joe appreciates, in part because oftentimes it’s the only view he gets. That said, the young gunslingers, Trampled Under Foot and Henry Gray all got together to record Blues Cures, a disc to support Sean’s cancer charity, Blues for a Cure. It’s a great disc for a worthy cause so hit it.

The disc opens up with a cut entitled, “Side Tracked,” an instrumental. Sean, Nick and Jonn are three of the best new guitarists in our genre and listening to them have at it with Trampled Under Foot backing them is a treat. Our next cut, “Love My Baby,” finds Danielle of Trampled Under Foot at the microphone. Danielle went toe to toe with Shakura S’Aida at the IBC two years ago and has one of the strongest female voices out there. There’s definitely no doubt that Danielle loves her baby. “I need my baby…like the moon need the sky….oh, my baby needs me too…and I don’t ask him why!” I have to admit that it’s hard to distinguish who is playing guitar when but the fretwork on this disc is amazing and it’s a good challenge to have to figure it out.

Henry Gray is at the keyboards for our next cut, “Cold Chills.” “Cold chills…she made cold chills run all over me…oh…every time I start thinking about my woman boys…I get just as glad as I can be.” Andy Cornett lends his harp to this cut and adds just the right touch to this wonderful song by Henry.

Our next tune is “Crosscut Saw,” featuring the vocals of Jonn Richardson. Jonn is best known as the guitarist for Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy, and this is the first song I’ve heard him sing. Jonn’s got a strong voice and I can hear his Texas influences in some of the guitar playing on this cut. Nice job, Jonn! “Jonny Cheat,” our next tune, has definite ZZ Top influences and finds Nick Schnebelen on the microphone. Nick’s got a touch of bad ass in him and the song fits. “When you lose the one you love…you know it cuts you pretty bad…more times than not…you know it’s another man!” Kind of wonder which end of the story Nick’s been on but that’s a question for another day.

“Come on In” finds Henry back at the piano and the microphone. “Come on in…ain’t nobody home but me…we can drink a little liquor…drink a little wine…we can get drunk and have a helluva good time…come on in…ain’t nobody home but me!” Sean takes the microphone for the first time on our next tune, the Freddie King classic “Use What You Got.” Here we find that Sean’s got an insight into how to keep his baby happy. “You’ve just got to use what you got…and it doesn’t matter about your sign!” Jonn’s guitar solo in this cut is tastefully done and I’m wishing I was there when this was recorded. The next cut, “Comin Home to You,” is a Trampled Under Foot staple featuring both Nick and Danielle. “Wheels racing down the track…and I ain’t looking back…I’m just coming home to you on an evening train!”

“Times Are Getting Hard” features more of Henry’s great keyboard work as he tells us just how difficult things are getting. “Too much taxes on your groceries…too much taxes on your meat…you ain’t got no money…you can’t even…find a job!” The call goes out to Jonn for another guitar solo and it’s plain to see that all of the young gunslingers are tremendously talented. Jonn’s back on the vocals for “Wait On Time.” “Well…I live the life I love…and I love the life I live…the life I live baby…is all that I’ve got to give…just wait on my baby…I’ll be there one day…Lord, until I get there baby…all I can do is hope and pray!”

Up next is Nick, who isn’t shy about telling us his thoughts in “Ain’t My Problem.” “Sit there telling stories…not a one of them is true…you got to put down that bottle…spend some time fixing you…you’re money ain’t my problem…I got problems of my own…take all your worries and troubles…take them back inside your door!”

Blues Cures closes with another tune by Henry Gray, “How Could You Do It,” and the grand finale “Whoa Baby” that just feature Sean, Nick and Jonn. “Whoa Baby…won’t you stay for awhile…if you give me a couple of minutes…I just might make your style!” Beautifully done, with Nick doing the vocal honors, “Whoa Baby” is a great way to end this disc.

Kudos to Sean for putting this project together. Cancer has affected a number of people in Sean’s inner circle and this project is a worthy effort on their behalf. Henry, Jonn, and Nick, Danielle and Chris of TUF all deserve praise as well for their contributions to this project.

To read more about the charity, Blues for a Cure, or to order a copy of this disc, please check out the website Sean has set up for this project at Sean, Trampled Under Foot and a host of other players are getting together in Columbus, Ohio in December at Whiskey Dick’s to do it all over again. If you’re in the Columbus area, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

--- Kyle Deibler


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