Blues Bytes

What's New

October/November 2014

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Devon Allman

Dukle Robillard

Mississippi Heat

Linsey Alexander

U.P. Wilson


Rob Stone

Liz Mandeville

Knickerbocker All-Stars

Kirby Sewell Band

Hurricane Ruth

Murali Coryell

kettles - eno

Sista Jean & CB

JW-Jones Band

Chris O'Leary

John Weeks Band

Empire Roots Band

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion


Devon AllmanFor Devon Allman, the last couple of years have to be a blur. In 2011, he became part of Royal Southern Brotherhood during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, resulting in a 2012 album that won rave reviews. In 2013, he released his album debut for Ruf Records, Turquoise, followed by touring with RSB (resulting in a live disc) and the band’s follow-up earlier this year. Somehow, Allman found time to return to the studio to record his second solo release for Ruf, Ragged & Dirty.

For his latest release, Allman went to Chicago and employed some of the Windy City’s finest musicians, including guitarist Giles Corey (Billy Branch, Mississippi Heat), bassist Felton Crews (Charlie Musselwhite), keyboardist Marty Sammon (Buddy Guy), and Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge, who also played drums and co-wrote several songs. The different approach results in a set that moves away a bit, but not completely away from the Southern-flavored rocking soul of Turquoise and steers more toward a blues and blues/rock vein.

The opener, “Half the Truth” is a rugged rocker that kicks things off nicely. “Can’t Lose ‘Em All,” penned by Hambridge and Lee Roy Parnell, has some of the Southern rock and funky charm found with Allman’s work in RSB. “Leavin’,” with acoustic guitar from Corey is a more subdued, but still intense rocker. “Traveling,” is a funky rocker, and following the same theme (coming home from the road) is “Back To You,” a smooth blues ballad with some nice interplay between Allman and Sammon.

Allman also addresses the daily happenings of the real world on tracks like “Blackjack Heartattack,” a gritty rocker about the pitfalls of gambling, and a smoking cover of Otis Taylor’s “Ten Million Slaves” covers the history of slavery in America. Allman also covers Luther Allison on the scorching title track and the Spinners’ ’70s R&B classic, “I’ll Be Around.” Hambridge (on drums and xylophone) and Allman (on resonator guitar) close the disc with the marvelous “Leave The City.” Oh, and don’t forget the stunning instrumental, “Midnight Lake Michigan,” that appears in the middle of the disc…….nine-plus minutes of blues guitar heaven.

Vocally, Allman doesn’t sound like his famous father, Gregg, all that much, but he’s every bit as soulful and committed in his approach and really shines on the and I think Uncle Duane would be mighty impressed with his inventive guitar. The appropriately titled Ragged and Dirty is the truest blues recording Devon Allman has done up to this point, and his best work to date.

--- Graham Clarke

Duke RobillardFor his latest release, Calling All Blues (Stony Plain Records), Duke Robillard takes on the myriad facets of blues and American roots music and the locations from where these styles originally surfaced. As always, the venerable Mr. Robillard is joined by his regular band (Bruce Bears – keyboards, vocals, Brad Hallen – bass/background vocals, and Mark Teixeira – drums/percussion/background vocals), along with guests Sunny Crownover (lead/background vocals), Rich Lataille (alto/tenor sax), Mark Earley (tenor/baritone sax), and Doug Woolverton (trumpet).

The opener, “Down In Mexico,” and “Emphasis on Memphis,” both have a strong Bluff City vibe. I really like the Stax-flavored horns on the latter track and Robillard’s neat slide solo. Ms. Crownover does a splendid job with the lead vocal on the smoky blues ballad, “Blues Beyond The Call of Duty.” On “Confusion Blues,” the vocal is handled by Bears with Robillard adding some sweet T-Bone-esque guitar.
“Motor Trouble” is a Texas boogie tune in the style of Frankie Lee Sims, with Robillard’s vocal double-tracked. The roadhouse blues rocker “Nasty Guitar” continues the Lone Star State portion of the disc with some appropriately grungy fretwork. For “Svengali,” Robillard plays acoustic, slide, and electric guitar and even pulls out a Turkish Saz while Teixeira provides percussion on drums, wine bottles, etc.

The album ends as strongly as it started with a redo of Robillard’s own “Temptation,” highlighted by a funky jazz backdrop complete with muted Miles Davis trumpet from Woolverton, and a rowdy rock & soul cover of the Carter Brothers’ “She’s So Fine.”

If you’ve been a fan of Duke Robillard’s for very long, you’re no doubt aware that he’s well-versed in not just various shades of the blues, but also jazz, swing, and roots. He really pulls out all the stops on this release, with some inspired playing (he played the slide solo on the swinging “I’m Gonna Quit My Baby” with a broken hand) and singing. Calling All Blues is an extremely enjoyable musical journey through American music styles, and my new favorite Duke Robillard disc.

--- Graham Clarke

Mississippi HeatAny new release from the Chicago band Mississippi Heat puts a hop in my step, and their latest, Warning Shot (Delmark Records), is no exception, with 16 tracks of pure blues heaven. Led as always by harmonica ace Pierre Lacocque, who wrote 10 of the 14 original songs, and featuring engaging lead singer InettaVisor, the band welcomes a new guitarist this time around, veteran Chicago string bender Michael Dotson (Magic Slim, Aron Burton).

Of course, Mississippi Heat is known for their dynamite band and this disc features drummers Kenny Smith and Andrew Thomas, guest guitarist Carl Weathersby, Neal O’Hara (organ, piano), bassist Brian Quinn, percussionist Ruben Alvarez, background vocalists Mae Koen, Diane Madison, and Nanette Frank, and Sax Gordon on, you guessed it, sax. They provide superlative backing, with Dotson and Smith also taking the mic on several songs.

There’s a variety of blues styles here, beginning with “Sweet Poison,” where Dotson’s sizzling slide brings to mind Elmore James, the rousing Alley Cat Boogie,” the lilting New Orleans-flavored tracks “Come To Mama,” “Recession Blues,” and “Birthday Song,” and “Nowhere To Go,” a serious Chicago blues track. The title track is a nice slice of Windy City soul, with guitar from Weathersby, and Visor teams with Dotson and Lacocque on the acoustic Delta-styled “Too Sad To Wipe My Tears.”

Dotson acquits himself very well on his vocal tracks ….. the uptempo “Yeah Now Baby,” “Swingy Dingy Baby,” a rocking shuffle, and the atmospheric “Evaporated Blues.” Smith’s vocal is an old-school slow blues with some great accompaniment from Lacocque, whose creativity on harmonica is a major presence throughout the disc. He takes center stage on an excellent instrumental version of the Hank Williams classic, “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

To these ears, Warning Shot is Mississippi Heat’s finest release yet. It really showcases the group’s talent and versatility. It’s a great release from beginning to end, just like we’ve come to expect from this fine band.

--- Graham Clarke

Linsey AlexanderCome Back Baby is the impressive second Delmark Records release from Chicago bluesman Linsey Alexander. The guitarist’s Delmark debut, 2012’s Been There Done That, was well-received and stood out as one of the best releases of that year. Alexander, who came to the blues from the soul circuit, puts a heavy soul emphasis on his brand of Windy City Blues, mixing his strong emotional vocal style with innovative, always-tasteful fretwork.

Alexander wrote all but two of the 13 tracks. They range from the exquisite slow blues “I Got A Woman,” to the rollicking shuffle “Booze and Blues,” to the funky “Booty Call,” to the traditional blues of “Can’t Drink, Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat,” which features some stinging lead work from Alexander coupled with some fine harp from Billy Branch (who appears on two other tracks). I really like the title track, too, with the soul-drenched horn section.

On “Things Done Changed,” Alexander reflects how far we’ve come in society for the better during his lifetime. “Call My Wife” is a humorous tale about overindulgence that would have certainly put a smile on Detroit Junior’s face back in the day, and “Too Old To Be A New Fool” is a great slow blues about eventually learning from your mistakes.

Branch, rhythm guitarist Breezy Rodio, keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy, bass player Greg McDaniel, and trumpet player Ryan Nyther are back in place for Come Back Baby. Newcomers include drummer Pooky Styx, Chris Neal on tenor sax, and guest Bill McFarland on trombone. As on Alexander’s previous effort, the session was recorded live in the studio and the band sounds fantastic.

Come Back Baby is an outstanding piece of Chicago blues and soul from a master of both genres. Linsey Alexander may be in his 70s, but he shows no signs of heading out to pasture in the near future. Blues fans everywhere should take this as a positive sign.

--- Graham Clarke

U.P. WilsonU.P. Wilson burst on the blues scene in a big way during the 1990s, driven by an excellent series of albums for JSP Records and regular visits to European festivals. The Dallas/Fort Worth resident was never really able to garner much attention in his home country which, sadly, is an all-too-familiar refrain for most blues musicians.

In the late ’90s, Blues Archive, a dedicated group of U.K. blues fans and filmmakers, were able to record many of the blues artists who were touring during that period and managed to capture Wilson in performance at London’s 100 Club on St. Patrick’s Day in 1998.

For those who have only heard Wilson’s guitar prowess, the DVD Live At The 100 Club, London 1998 (JSP Records) will be a revelation. He tears through a ten-song set that includes several instrumentals that demonstrate his versatility as a string-bender and his showmanship. There’s even a chance to watch him do his patented one-handed move on one track. He also displays a nice rapport with the audience and bandmates. Finally, those of us who didn’t get a chance to see him in person can see what the fuss was all about.

Bonus features are a part of most DVDs and this one has some really noteworthy extras. There’s a sound check featuring some fantastic music from Wilson as he gets everything in order with drummer / bandleader / manager Steve Meek. There’s also an interesting and insightful interview with Wilson included.

For me, Live At The 100 Club, London 1998 was a real surprise and a treat. I never realized that there was live footage of U.P. Wilson in action. Not only is he in action, but he appears to be in peak form for this set. If you’re a blues fan at all, you definitely need to check out this outstanding DVD, as well as the others that JSP is currently issuing. It’s the next best thing to being there in person.

--- Graham Clarke

Fo'ReelThe New Orleans band Fo’ Reel came from a studio project created by guitarist Mark Domizio (Bryan Lee, Mark Chaz). The members include the legendary C.P. Love, soul singer extraordinaire, and keyboardist Johnny Neel (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Dickey Betts). Also lending a hand are saxophonist Jon Smith, singer Rick Lawson, drummers Allyn Robinson and Daryl Burgess, bass player David Hyde, baritone sax man Ward Smith, and trumpeter Barney Floyd.

Their new release, Heavy Water, showcases the band working through a first-rate set of New Orleans-styled blues, R&B, and funk, with eight original tunes (two instrumentals) written by the band, and three dynamite covers. There’s a great variety of tunes here, ranging from the slippery soul blues of the title track, to the Latin-tinged “What Can I Do,” to “Shake N Bake,” which sounds a lot like one of those ’70s-era Tower of Power songs. There’s plenty of pure blues present as well, such as the obviously titled “Blues,” and “Outside Love.”

The band also covers three tunes, with the Memphis soul classic, “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” being tailor-made for Love’s soul-drenched pipes. The other two covers are associated with Luther Allison, and both in more of a soul vein ---”What’s Going On In My Home” and “Just As I Am” --- and Love also does a fine job on them. Rick Lawson provides soulful vocals on four tunes as well, and while his vocals are distinctive from Love’s, they are no less effective.

Two instrumentals complete the package. “Gate” is a tribute of sorts to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Domizio recalls the Louisiana legend with his fretwork. “Tater” closes the disc and features some nice interplay between Domizio and Neel. Both provide some very nice moments throughout the album on their respective instruments, as does the tight horn section.

You will be obliged to press “replay” many times while listening to Heavy Water. It’s a fantastic mix of blues, funk, soul, and even a little jazz, all topped with a healthy dose of New Orleans seasoning. What music fan wouldn’t want to give that a listen? Hopefully, we will be hearing much more of Fo’ Reel in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Rob StoneYou can always depend on Chicago singer/harmonica ace Rob Stone to produce a quality set of Windy City blues. His previous three releases are testimony to that claim. His fourth release, Gotta Keep Rollin’ (VizzTone) keeps that streak alive, teaming Stone with his longtime band (Chris James – guitar, Patrick Rynn – bass, Willie “The Touch” Hayes – drums) and several noteworthy guest stars. Stone’s VizzTone debut features a dozen tracks evenly split between six originals (written by Stone, James, and Rynn) and six well-chosen covers.

The originals include standouts like “Lucky 13,” an old school number with guitar from guest John Primer, the manic “Anything Can Happen,” with some blistering piano from Dave Maxwell and tenor sax from the great Eddie Shaw, the Little Walter-esque instrumental, “Strollin’ With Sasquatch,” “Wired and Tired,” with piano from Henry Gray, and the swinging closer, “Not No Mo’.”

Stone also shines on the diverse set of cover tunes from Johnny Jones (“Wait Baby”), John Lee Williamson (“Wonderful Time”), Jazz Gillum (“She Belongs To Me”), Billy “The Kid” Emerson (the rocking “Move Baby Move”), Willie McTell (“Cold Winter Day”), and Lonesome Sundown (“It’s Easy When You Know How”).

Also lending a hand on various tracks are Ariyo (piano), Frank Rossi (drums), Eddie Kobek (drums), Jeff Stone (guitar), and Mike Mahany and Clarke Rigsby (background vocals). Rob Stone does an excellent job with this sparkling set of classics and originals. There are plenty of traditional sounds here to keep longtime fans listening and enough of a contemporary edge for new listeners, too.

--- Graham Clarke

Knickerbocker All-StarsThe Knickerbocker All-Stars consist of a multi-talented group of music veterans who have played with such blues luminaries as The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray, Roomful of Blues (who headlined for years on Sunday nights at the Westerly, R.I. Knickerbocker Café), as well as their own bands. The All-Stars were assembled by John Paul Gauthier, Robert Christina, and John Paul Sheerar for Open Mic at the Knick (JP Cadillac Records), a loving tribute to the music and artists that influenced them.

Bob Christina, drummer with guitarist Ricky King Russell and the Cadillac Horns, played a big part in putting the band together and he and Russell, along with Christina’s brother (former T-Birds’ drummer Fran Christina), bass player Bob Worthington, keyboard aces Al Copley and Dave Maxwell, and an outstanding horn section (Doc Chanonhouse – trumpet, Bobby “Breeze” Holfelden – trombone, Rich Lataille – tenor and alto sax, and Dennis Cook – baritone sax) provide backing to an impressive list of vocalists who should be familiar to blues fans.

The 12-song set list is loaded with familiar tunes, mostly of the jump blues and R&B variety with eight different vocalists bringing these classics to life. Texas singer/guitar slinger Willie Laws ably handles Gene Barge’s “Mother-in-Law Blues” and gives a downhearted reading of Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years.” Malford Milligan breathes fire into the Bobby “Blue” Bland classic “Turn On Your Love Light” and the swinging “Love Disease.” Johnny Nicholas does after-hours perfectly with the Billy Eckstine standard “Jelly Jelly,” and does splendid versions of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” and Guitar Slim’s “Along About Midnight.”

Curtis Salgado jazzes up another Bland tune, “Ain’t That Lovin’ You,” a standout among standouts on this set. Sheerer steps behind the mic for the Big Bill Broonzy tune, “Somebody’s Got To Go.” Brian Templeton rips through the first of two Freddie King hits, “I’m Tore Down,” while Mike O’Connell nearly brings the house down on the raucous closer, “Goin’ Down.”

Open Mic at the Knick is a powerhouse set of tunes paying tribute to a musical era that’s not nearly as bygone as some listeners might be led to believe …… an era that’s still celebrated on a regular basis at the Knickerbocker Café by artists just like these. Hats off to Gauthier, Sheerer, Bob Christina and these musicians for keeping these blues alive.

--- Graham Clarke

Markey BlueThe Nashville-based band Markey Blue specializes in high-energy soul/blues with a distinct Memphis/Stax Records flair. Lead singer Markey has worked as a showgirl in Vegas, a film and TV actress, a comedienne and impressionist, and as a country singer before returning to her soul and R&B roots. Guitarist Ric Latina has worked as a studio and stage guitarist, working with a list of artists ranging from Waylon Jennings to Kirk Whalum to Gary Puckett to Rhonda Vincent. Latina and Markey met in Nashville when their respective bands shared a bill and decided to join forces.

Markey Blue’s debut release, Hey Hey (SoulOSound Records), features a dozen original tunes steeped in the deep soul sounds of the Bluff City, backed by a powerhouse band versed in the genre. From the opening cut, the decidedly upbeat “When Love Comes Along (Hey Hey),” which features a great, playful vocal from Markey and the band blowing at full steam, you will be hooked.

Highlights include the seductive “I Can’t Let You Go,” “Feeling Blue,” which sounds like a lost Ann Peebles number, the funky “Flames,” the sultry “Play Me,” which features Jack Pearson on guitar, the soul-drenched “Another Lover,” the gritty “Ain’t No Angel,” and “Baby I’m Cryin’,” a smoldering R&B tune that closes the disc. Truthfully, there’s not a bad tune in the bunch.

While the band offers superlative support, really capturing the feel of classic Memphis blues and soul, the main attractions, Markey’s impressively versatile vocals and Latina’s excellent spot-on guitar work, are worth the price of admission here. Hey Hey will certainly appeal to fans of blues and classic soul in the Memphis tradition, but Markey Blue has plenty to offer to fans outside of those genres with Markey’s lovely voice and Latina’s impeccable fretwork.

--- Graham Clarke

Liz MandevilleA couple of years ago, Liz Mandeville was asked to write nine songs for an upcoming album by Windy City blues singer Shirley Johnson. During the songwriting process, Mandeville ended up writing 19 new tunes, and the Chicago singer/songwriter/guitarist ended up using 11 of those songs to make a CD of her own, Heart ‘O’ Chicago (Blue Kitty Music), a classic album of soul, R&B, and blues.

Working with a veteran band (Minoru Maruyama – guitar, Darryl Wright – bass, Jeremiah Thomas – drums, Joan Gand – piano/B-3), and a great horn section (Wade Baker – trumpet, Eric Campbell – trombone, Oz Landesburg – sax), Mandeville is really in her element, writing some of her most engaging tunes, some of which are clever modern takes on traditional affairs, such as “Quit Me On A Voice Mail,” or “Smart Woman Foolish Choices” (one of two duets with singer Charlie Love).

I really like Mandeville’s vocals on these songs. She shows a lot of range and sounds fantastic on the old-school soul opener, “Cloud of Love,” with comes with some Memphis-styled B-3 from Gand and sax from guest Eddie Shaw, the moody slow burner, “These Blues,” and the sultry “Tic Tok.” Other highlights include the timely “Why Would a Woman Sing the Blues,” and “So Called Best Friend,” one of a pair of tracks with smoking harmonica from Billy Branch, the other being the rousing “Party At The End of Time.” Fellow harp ace Dizzy Bolinski shines on the romper, “(Life Is Like a) Wave,” which closes the disc.

To me, Heart ‘O’ Chicago is Liz Mandeville’s best release yet. She writes in the liner notes that she has an affinity for classic Chicago soul and R&B. Listening to the disc should verify that wholeheartedly. It’s obviously a real labor of love.

--- Graham Clarke

Murali CoryellYou might say that playing guitar is in Murali Coryell’s genes, being the son of jazz fusion guitar legend, Larry Coryell. However, Coryell’s preferred musical path centers around blues and soul. On his latest release, Restless Mind (Shake It Sugar Records), the guitarist deftly mixes the two genres together, with 11 entertaining original compositions and one classic cover.

Highlights include “Kiss Me First,” a funky R&B track, the reflective title track, the upbeat “I’m So Happy,” and the straight-up rocking toe-tapper, “Sex Maniac.” “Crime of Opportunity” is an excellent slow bluesy number with an impressive guitar break from Coryell. On the funky “I Can’t Give You Up” and the soulful “Tag Along,” Coryell and his band (Ernie Durawa – drums, Chris Alcaraz – bass) are joined by Joe Morales (sax) and Jimmy Shortell (trumpet).

“I Need Someone To Love” is a catchy blues shuffle with more nice fretwork from Coryell, and “Lonely Eyes” has a Latin flair. The urban blues-styled “Everyday Is a Struggle” offers up some of Coryell’s best fretwork, and Coryell’s updated reading of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” closes the disc in fine fashion.
Coryell’s guitar work is spot-on for these tunes, rooted as much in funk and soul as in the blues, and his vocals are standout, with a perfect mix of silk and grit. Restless Feeling will be a great fit for fans of blues, funk, and soul music.

--- Graham Clarke

Kirby Sewell BandThe Kirby Sewell Band is a five-piece outfit from Canada. Sewell, a Calgary native, is the driving force with his powerhouse vocals, and his bandmates (Neil Gunhold – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals, Morgan Turk – lead guitar, Jae Cho (bass), and Jim Johnston –drums) move effortlessly from roadhouse blues and rock to country and soul on their exciting new release, Girl with a New Tattoo (Smelly Cat Records).

Gunhold wrote all ten of the tracks (with co-writing credits to Sewell on the sinewy rocker, “Kiss You Tonight”), and they range from the funky opener, “The Devil’s in the Details,” to soulful numbers like “Simply Not Enough,” country-flavored tunes like “A Better Reason,” catchy hard rockers like “$1.11,” “Carry Me Home,” and “Stop and Go,” and the humorous title track, which swings along happily.

Sewell also handles blues tracks like “Cryin’ All The Way Home,” an entertaining minor key blues rocker and the frenzied acoustic/electric closer, “Till the River Starts to Overflow,” with ease. His tough, expressive vocals make Gunhold’s songs come to life, and the guitar interplay between Gunhold and Turk is a definite highlight.

This is a great set of original tunes with an old-school '70s vibe that mixes blues, soul, and rock in equal doses. Sewell's soulful vocals, combined with excellent songwriting and musicianship, make this a very compelling release, and leaves you wanting to hear more.

--- Graham Clarke

Hurricane RuthHurricane Ruth is a tough blues-rock band out of Illinois featuring the powerhouse trio of David Lumsden (lead guitar), Gary Davis (bass), Jim Engel (drums), and the dynamic vocals of the band’s namesake, “Hurricane” Ruth LaMaster, the little lady with the big voice. The band made quite an impression during their appearance at the 2012 I.B.C., with their debut release earning a nomination for Best Self-Produced CD at the following year’s I.B.Cs.

Their sophomore release, Born on the River, consists of 11 original tracks, some of which were inspired by LaMaster’s hometown, Beardstown, Illinois, which is located on the Illinois River. The album is energetic and intense and has the feel of a live performance. LaMaster’s nickname is appropriate because vocally, she is a force of nature on songs like the autobiographical title track, the sizzling “Make Love To Me,” and the defiant “Cold Day In Hell.” She’s equally comfortable with the intensity taken down a notch, such as on the blues ballad, “The Walls.”

“Dance, Dance, Norma Jean” is a relentless ZZ Top-styled boogie, “Slow Burn” has a swampy metal vibe, and “Money Train” is a funky rocker, as is the entertaining tale of “Big Helen.” Though it’s easy to get moved to the background with such a powerful and charismatic singer, the band does an excellent job in support, with some dazzling guitar work from Lunsden and rock-solid rhythm support from Davis and Engel. The closing track, “Real Good Woman,” a swaggering blues-rocker, features the band and the singer at their most formidable.

Born on the River rocks from start to finish, and serves notice that blues fans had better pay attention to Hurricane Ruth. Both the band and the vocalist are equally potent.

--- Graham Clarke

kettles - enoThe Jake Leg Chronicles (Indian Proud Entertainment) from kettles | eno ain’t gonna be found in your Daddy’s southern rock collection. You could call it 21st century southern rock if you want. I think the kids call it Americana these days anyway. Steed Kettles and Jeff Eno met years ago as part of the Atlanta band Skin n Bones in the mid ’90s, and later reunited as part of the Americana band Liberty Jones. Kettles wrote eight of the ten songs featured on The Jake Leg Chronicles, and his roots in country and folk melds perfectly with Eno’s pop and roots rock background.

Kettles’ songs run the gamut from the country rock of “Poor White Trash” to the moving “I’m Coming Home,” about a man running from the law, to the break-up song “Sticks and Stones” (also present as a bonus track “Redux”), to the inspriational closer, “We Believe.” He also imbues tracks like “I Think Too Much” and “The Rest is History” with a bit of humor to lighten the mood. This is good stuff, obviously written by someone who’s lived it or at least been really close to it.

Eno sings on four of the tracks, including his own “American Fool,” a toe-tapping pop-styled country rocker about coming-of-age. The album’s lone cover is a dandy …… a soulful reworking of Gram Parsons’ classic “A Song For You,” with backing vocals from Karin Johnson. Other guest musicians include guitarist Jim Lavendar of The Cigar Store Indians, guitarist Mike Duckworth from Liberty Jones, keyboardist Dave James of Boy Howdy, and David Smith, who contributes guitar, drums, bass on mulitple tracks.

Wherever you classify it --- southern rock, folk, blues, roots, Americana --- The Jake Leg Chronicles is good stuff, with songs about love, hate, misfortune, injustice, inspiration, and everyday life that will ring true for most listeners, especially those who share deep south roots with kettles | eno. Fans of any of these genres should not let this one slip past.

--- Graham Clarke

Sista JeanA couple of years ago, Sista Jean & CB blessed us with Back To The Root, an awesome set of acoustic blues with a touch of soul and jazz featuring the wonderfully subtle vocals of Sista Jean (Jean McClain) backed perfectly by CB’s (Carlyle Barriteau) guitar. After the album’s release Sista Jean embarked on an extensive two-year world tour with Hugh Laurie & the Copper Bottom Band, but has returned to work with CB, who has been touring with jazz singer Bobby Caldwell, on their second full release, Requiem For A Heavyweight (Tribute To Odetta), paying homage to one of her musical heroes.

The new CD is slated for a March 2015 release, so Sista Jean & CB have issued the Spectacular 2 Song Double Pack (Freckled Bandit Records) to help their fans make it until the new CD comes out. The two songs, “Alabama Bound” and “Easy Rider,” are both songs that Odetta (and also Leadbelly) performed back in the day. The uptempo “Alabama Bound” features a tough vocal from Sista Jean and some dazzling guitar from CB, while “Easy Rider” is taken at a slower pace, stretching to six and a half minutes. Jean’s impassioned vocal is spot on and CB’s understated guitar is augmented by drums.

This two-song set will surely please fans of the duo’s initial release and whet their appetites for the upcoming release. I can’t wait to hear McClain work through a complete album of Odetta’s classic songs. This is a great place to start to check out this pair, and it gives you time to go back to hear Back To The Root if you missed it the first time around.

--- Graham Clarke

JuJu KingsOver my years of working the International Blues Challenge for the Blues Foundation I’ve literally met hundreds of bands from around the world. The fortunate (or unfortunate few) that have been assigned to compete in the Rum Boogie have had to endure their share of grief from me in that time, and I’m honored to call many of them friends. Such is the case of one Jerry Lee Gingery and his band, The JuJu Kings. We’ve stayed in touch and I’m happy to see that they will be back in Memphis in January for another go at the IBC crown. Jerry Lee and his band have released a new album, Southside of Nowhere, and it’s a good one. Let’s give it a spin.

When I’ve seen Jerry Lee in Memphis he always played bass while singing the lead vocals for the JuJu Kings. I’m not surprised that he plays lead guitar on most of the tracks on the new disc; I’ve just never seen him do it. We open with “Whiskey Train” and the idea of going on a bender seems to appeal to Jerry Lee. I hear a little North Mississippi influence in this tune as Jerry Lee ponders life, “I asked the bartender…what am I doing here…I said my friend…would you be so kind….to hit me one more time….all aboard the whiskey train.” I’m enjoying the vibe of this tune and Doc Romanowski’s talented keyboard work on the organ lends just the right touch to the mix as Jerry Lee plays a wicked guitar solo in what’s intended to be his drunken desperation.

The title track, “Southside of Nowhere” is next and I’m appreciating just how tight a band the JuJu Kings are. “You’re from the southside of nowhere…the wrong side of the tracks…I know where you’re born…you just can’t hide the facts…the southside of nowhere…the wrong side of the tracks.” Doc’s back on the piano this time and again he’s spot on with his keyboard track. Life isn’t fair and sometimes it’s held Jerry Lee back but he can’t help the fact he was born on “the southside of nowhere…the wrong side of the tracks.” Brandon Santini lends his considerable harp talents to the mix on our next tune, “Rich Man Blues,” and Jerry Lee’s finding life isn’t always greener on the other side. “Got a brand new Cadillac…penthouse in the sky….but I long to feel the Blues…one more time before I die.” Not bad problems to have but definitely not worth selling your soul for either.

Jerry Lee’s bass is at the forefront of our next cut, “Something’s Wrong,” and the rhythm section is solid with Roberto Aguilera Jr. on the drum kit. “Magic potions…instant delight…but that don’t…make things right…something’s wrong.” Jerry Lee knows the path he’s heading down just isn’t right but he’s also not sure what’s missing, knowing my friend he’ll figure it out soon. Brandon’s harp is back in full force as the band moves on to “Must Have Been Blind.” “Must have been blind…far as I can see…my little woman…she’s starting to worry me…stepping out at midnight…to half past three…just can’t believe…she’d be cheating on me.” If you can’t figure that out Jerry Lee, you must have been blind. “B&B By the Sea” is a beautiful ballad and Jerry Lee has a definite vision for the future of the relationship he’s in. “Tourists in their rooms….nestled in bed…dreams of a new tomorrow….just a swimming in their heads…by the sea.” A quaint B & B sounds heavenly and a perfect was to enjoy life with the one you love at a pace that allows you to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

I’ve got Brandon’s harp and a kick drum in my ear as the band begins to tackle our next cut, “Life Goes On.” “Dog in the yard…squirrel in the tree…says come on down…if you please….life goes on.” Through the good and the bad, life does indeed go on. A quick laugh and Jerry Lee leads the band forward in a ’50s style tune, “Hop Skip & a Jump.” “Who’s the one you come running to…I’m the one you come running to. Jerry Lee knows when this girl’s relationship goes bad he’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from her entering his arms instead. “Going uptown to see my sweet Mae Bea…cutest little girl I ever did see…she’s got them long, tanned legs…and a skirt so tight…I want to wrap her up around me…and love her all night.” Jerry Lee’s got it bad for “Mae Bea” in “Mae Bea Sweet Baby” and if he’s lucky, it will all work out.

Our next cut, “Sorry for Myself,” finds Jerry Lee contemplating the reasons for feeling down and they center around his woman who’s gone away. “Yes, it’s late at night…waited for a knock on my door…well my baby…said she come in…I know it’s a lie….it’s been six days….and she ain’t come by….sitting round here…feeling sorry for myself.” She’s spent all his money and I hate to tell you what you already know Jerry Lee, but this girl just ain’t coming back. A blistering guitar intro continues this theme of dissatisfaction as Jerry Lee tackles the next tune, “Tired of Messsin’ With You.” “I’m so tired…of the things you do….well, I’m so sick and tired…tired of messin’ with you.” Jerry Lee’s woman is not treating him right and the best thing to do here my friend is kick this one to the curb.

Southside of Nowhere is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Lee’s father, Harold Gingery, and I’m assuming our last tune, “Daddy’s Song,” is a tribute to his father by Jerry Lee. “Daddy died on a Monday…feeling mighty down…cast his soul on the water…watched it drift away…spilled ashes on the ground…where we’ll visit here someday…Daddy dies on a Monday…life won’t be the same.” A beautiful tune, Jerry Lee, and a fitting end to what has been a great disc from top to bottom.

I’ve always said that any band that goes to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge comes back better for the experience, and what I’m hearing in my headphones indicates that Jerry Lee & the Juju Kings assimilated the lessons learned very well. Kudos to Brandon Santini for lending his amazing harp to the mix.

I’ve enjoyed this record tremendously. You can learn more about Jerry Lee & the Juju Kings at and this is a great disc to pick up from Jerry Lee and the guys. See you in Memphis, my friend..

--- Kyle Deibler

JW-JonesJW-Jones has made his mark on the Canadian Blues scene with 12 Maple Blues Award nominations and other prestigious awards including the Ottawa Business Journal’s recognition as one of the “Forty Under 40” brightest and talented entrepreneurs of the region. With all of these accolades behind him, JW set his sights on tackling America and enlisted the help of Tom Hambridge to produce his first disc for Blind Pig Records, Belmont Boulevard. It’s a hot disc and though my ears are still blistering from the last go around, let’s hit play again.

JW opens up with a tune written by Tom and Colin Linden, “Love Times Ten,” and here JW is looking for what we’re all after, a love worth having.“ And I’m right here…just a waiting for you…we need a love times 10…yes, just squeeze some more in…we need a love times ten.” Tom assembled some great players to back JW on this disc and I hear Reese Wynan’s magic touch as part of the mix for this tune. We move on to a strong bass line from Dave Roe with Tom on the drums for “Watch Your Step.” This tune has a ’60s beach feel to it as JW sings, “You’d better take it easy, baby…before you go away…you did me dirty, baby…you’d better watch your step.” Karma’s got a way of evening everything out and the pain this woman caused JW will come back around to her some day. JW’s guitar tone is very bright and I’m reminded of the playing of one of his influences, Little Charlie Baty, from back in the Night Cats day.

A very upbeat tune that just smokes. JW’s guitar is at the forefront for out next cut, “Blue Jean Jacket,” one that JW helped co-write. “My blue jean jacket…I felt like I could take on the world…those friends of mine…they felt so fine…when I was holding my girl…in my blue jean jacket…she held onto my side.” JW’s jacket holds some fond high school memories for him from back in the day and he always managed to feel invincible in that blue jean jacket.

I hear Reese on the B-3 and mournful tones are emanating from JW’s guitar in “Coming After Me.” JW’s struggling to move on from his past and it keeps coming back to haunt him. “Feel like Jesse James…with a bounty on my head…just trying to stay alive…but the sheriff wants me dead…I ain’t done nobody wrong as far as I can see….how come the blues keeps coming after me?” I don’t know the answer to that but hopefully JW will manage to stay one step of the demons that seem to be haunting him here.

“Don’t Be Ashamed” is another tune that JW wrote with Tom Hambridge and the tone is fairly somber here. “You don’t have to be ashamed…you’re not the one to blame…what did he do…how did he hurt you?” JW’s guitar tone is a bit angry here and perfectly lends credence to the tone of desperation that he’s looking for on this tune. Tom’s setting the tempo for “Thank You,” an original tune by JW and here we find JW giving thanks for a love ending in his life. “Oh…she found another man…I guess somebody had to take a stand…thank you baby…for doing me wrong.” JW definitely loved her but he’s happy to be moving on from her as well and that happens to all of us in this life.

“Magic West Side Boogie” is another JW original, and Jamie Holmes is keeping the steady tempo on the drums for this cut as the band tears it up in a blistering instrumental track before we move to “What Would Jimmie Do,” a tune JW and Tom wrote in honor of one of JW’s idols, one Jimmie Vaughn. “And the guitars strapped across my back…I’m at the Regal spending on the track…the king of cool taught me where it’s at…so I ask myself…what would Jimmie do?” What Jimmie would do, JW, is soulfully play the shit out of it and that’s all I can tell you here.

Tom contributes a tune he wrote with Gary Nicholson and others, “If It Feels This Good Tomorrow,” to JW’s disc and it’s the next track up. “If it feels this good tomorrow…I know we’re doing something right…if we both wake up dreaming…we don’t want the dream to end…we can face the day together…over and over again.” An optimistic tune of love and we’re all lucky if we can find a love that “feels this good tomorrow.”

JW tackles a Buddy Guy tune next, “What’s Inside of You,” and his guitar is hitting all of Buddy’s notes with Reese lending his support on the B-3. “I looked for you, baby…I looked for you all night long….baby, won’t you tell me…what’s inside of you?” The sentiment finds JW trying to understand the love in his life and it’s not a question she wants to give an easy answer to. The band moves on to JW’s tune, “Never Worth It,” and here we find JW in another situation with an unhappy ending. “It’s never worth it in the morning…when the daylight…reminds you.” JW’s hoping he can find a way through it all but in the end, “it’s never worth it in the morning.”

The final cut on the record is another collaboration between JW and Tom, the hauntingly eerie “Cocaine Boy.” “Cocaine boy…cocaine boy…kept my truth…buried deep…yes, I’ve got scares nobody can see…white gold…running through those veins…a lifetime of nightmares and pain…cocaine boy.” I’m not going to venture a guess as to whether this tune is autobiographical or not, but JW does indicate in the notes that some of his tunes contain very serious personal stores from his past and writing about them was liberating and a part of the healing process for him. I wish you well in this regard, JW.

Belmont Boulevard is an interesting disc and showcases some highly personal tunes from JW-Jones. I’d be curious to hear some of the back stories from JW someday, and I’m sure that will probably happen. JW’s guitar tone is blistering and this is a very upbeat disc that Tom Hambridge coaxed out of him for his debut on Blind Pig Records. His intent is to take the U.S. by storm, and this disc proves that JW is more than ready.

--- Kyle Deibler

Michael HosslerTime to give the Big Hoss some credit here. Michael Hossler aka “The Big Hoss” is best known here in Colorado as the lead guitarist for Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Blues Band and has held the position for as long as I’ve known him. So it was a bit of a surprise when I heard through the grapevine that Hoss was recording a CD. The gem in question, With Friends Like These, is really a showcase of who’s who here in Colorado and Michael Hossler is truly blessed with friends like these. They’ve helped him make a record to be proud of, and I appreciate his dedicating the record to his father, John. It’s in the CD player now, let’s give it a spin.

We open with “Shake the Shack” and Michael has Erica Brown on vocals with Dan Treanor blowing harp, Bill Shannon on bass and Chooch on the drums. It’s a tune about a juke on the edge of town and folks are partying on a Friday night. “Shine your shoes…slick up your hair…and put on your party dress…hard rocking ain’t nothing when it comes to shacking the shack…shake the shack.” A hard driving tune and it should be noted that all of the tunes on this disc, except for “Shake the Shack,” are originals.

“Blues Fuse” is our next cut and it’s an instrumental with a jazz feel, what Deanna Bogart likes to call “Blusion.” Michael’s guitar playing is spot on and I’m laughing at the memory of a conversation we’ve had where he has one specific go to lick. This tune proves there is more than one weapon in the arsenal Hoss and I’m not buying that one anymore. “7 Step Hag” is next and it’s another great instrumental with Ronald Buckner on Bass and Bruce Crisman on the drum kit. Hoss’s playing is inspired and it sounds good to hear him stretch his musical wings a bit here. It’s early in the record, Michael, but your Dad would be proud of this project.

An old west feel permeates our next cut, “Hiding in the Shadows,” and one of my favorite singers, Rex Peoples, is at the microphone. It’s a tune about a widow who is mourning the loss of her husband, and the licks Michael is trading with Nic Clark on harp give the perfect ambience for this tune. “She hasn’t seen the sun since her lover passed on…walks beneath the moon from dusk to dawn…hiding, crying…carrying on…hiding in the shadows.” Rex adds a killer vocal to this tune and it’s my favorite song on the record.

Hoss moves onto another instrumental, “Are You Cool Yet,” and it’s just him on the guitar for this one. Sweeping runs and intricate picking abound and I’m once again reminded that Michael Hossler is a better guitar player than he gives himself credit for sometimes. Nice job Michael. Michael recently won the Telluride Acoustic Blues competition with Merrian “MJ” Johnson, and MJ’s at the mic for “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” “Every time you think of me…it’s going to cause you misery…you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.” MJ works her vocal magic with this tune and it’s definitely another favorite of mine on this disc.

Our next cut is the instrumental, “The Right Thing by Leaving,” and Hoss is stretching his “Blusion” wings here as well. Rich Sallee holds down the bass line and Bruce Crisman is on the drums for this tune. The first time I listened to “Somewhere Down the Road,” I couldn’t believe my ears and had to check the liner notes twice. Michael is on the microphone for this original tune of his and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard him sing. Who knew the Big Hoss could sing! “And somewhere down the road…I’ll be so far from home…and feel so all alone.” Nice tune, Hoss, and great job on the microphone.

“Whip, Crack, Perfect” has more of a funky feel to it and is the last of several great instrumental tracks on this disc. It feels more progressive to me and I’m enjoying the vibe of this tune. Hoss’s guitar provides the intro for our last tune, “I Am the Invisible Man” and Jay Forrest has the vocal for this cut. “I am the invisible man…I can walk away…I can say goodbye…it’s a brand new day…you won’t see me cry…I am….an invisible man.”

I’ve always said that the best way to judge a man is by the friends he has, and With Friends Like These proves beyond a doubt that Michael Hossler is a blessed man. I’m sure this was a labor of love for Hoss, and I’m glad to see him stretch his wings a bit and take some musical chances on this record. Nicely done, Michael.

--- Kyle Deibler

Chirs O'LearyA former Marine, Chris O’Leary, has certainly paid his dues to his country and to the Blues while fronting Levon Helm’s Barn Burners for several years. Throw in the death of his good friend and drummer, Sean McCarthy, and you can tell that Chris has endured his share of trials and tribulations over the past couple of years. In a disc dedicated to Sean, Live at Blues Now, Chris and the band give an over the top performance for the good folks of Basel, Switzerland. Sound man Dave Muscheidt did an outstanding job of capturing the band’s live performance, and having Alex Schultz as the guest guitarist is simply the cherry on top. It’s time to give this gem another listen.

The band starts out with “Give It” and the back end with Matt Raymond on bass and Jay Devlin on drums set the tone for this tune. Chris’s harp is added to the mix and I hear a bit of baritone sax from Chris DeFrancesco, as Chris pleads his case for love with the object of his affections. “You’ve been sad and only…so many times before…will you be my one and only…I’ll give you what you’re asking for…give it…to me baby…give it.” Alex’s fretwork is incendiary and we’re off and running with it here. Throw in Andy Stahl’s tenor sax and the horns are front and center as we move onto “Trouble.” “I don’t know how I got here…Lord, knows where I’ve been…I’m talking trouble…I’ve been living in…I’d better get it all together….for all this trouble I’ve been living in.” Chris doesn’t really expound on exactly what the trouble was but at least he’s willing to change his ways and begin to move forward.

Alex is back on the guitar and I’m wishing I was in Basel for this show. Next up is “Louisiana Woman,” and given that Chris says it’s a true story we’d all better be careful down on the Bayou. “Creole Woman…all’s you had to say…don’t worry, Cher…laissez les bon temps roulez…I’ll still cross my heart…for it’s too late…knock on wood…I don’t want to tempt fate.” Chris’s mournful harp tones echo the magic to be found in the air, and it sounds like Chris was a wise man to avoid the temptations of the Louisiana women.

The crowd’s applauding as the band kicks it up a notch for Chris’s next cut, “Walk the Walk.” “Can’t run…but you sure can hide…I got a plan to be your man….I’ll do everything I can…keep you warm when it’s cold outside…you can talk the talk…but can you walk the walk?” Chris is in love but this woman may not have the game she needs to back up her talk. Let’s hope that Chris is right with this one. We move on to “Water’s Risin’,” and this is a tune that Chris wrote with Levon Helm. “I hope you can swim…honey, our relationship might sink.” They’re experiencing some rough times together but hopefully they’ll be ok. “Going down…water’s rising…taking on water…I hope you can swim, baby, our relationship might sink”

Jay’s toms are setting the pace for our next cut, “I Wish You Would,” and I hear Chris’s baritone sax every now and then. Chris is singing into his harp mic and it gives his voice a unique twist for this tune. “Early in the morning…bout the break of day…I’m guessing my baby went away…please, baby baby…give me one more try…you know I love you…want to be your man…come back baby…I wish you would.” This girl’s gone and I’m thinking Chris is not going to get this one back.

“Mr. Used to Be” gives a different twist to the same old story. Chris is glad this one’s gone and whatever she does, please don’t come back. “I do wish I could have known…I had to share you with the rest of the town…I do not miss you, baby…don’t you come home to me…I’m perfectly happy…being your Mr. used to be.” Good riddance to bad rubbish in this case, and Chris is more than happy to move on.

Our next cut, “Blues is a Woman,” has that late night, last call, club feel to it from way back in the day. Alex is laying down some extremely mournful tones on his guitar and the mood for this song is perfectly clear. “Blues is a woman…and she don’t mean me no good…she never does like she ought to…low down woman…never does like she should.” I love the tones form Andy’s tenor sax in the background and it’s clear that whatever this woman did to Chris, she hurt him badly and it’s time he let her go.

Chris has the crowd singing along with him on the next tune, “King of the Jungle.” “King of the jungle…man, he’s the king of the jungle…he’s the baddest cat around.” You know he’s tough if the lions, tigers and grizzlies all give him the right of way. This is a fun tune and a welcome relief from the somber tone of “Blues is a Woman.” Jay’s snare is at the forefront to give “Tchoupitoulas” a New Orleans flare as Chris tells us about this small town in Louisiana. “This small town…ain’t no destination…people only passing through…take a walk…down Tchoupitoulas…you never you know what you might find…let that muddy Mississippi…wash all your cares behind.” A quick place to pause and reflect but a definitely a destination to leave behind.

Chris’s baritone sax is at the forefront of the intro to our next cut, “Waiting for the Phone to Ring.” “Hey Rapunzel…I know your tower ain’t no fun…you know it bound to happen…I might as well be the one…I’ve proper questionable raising…but I’ve got proper table manners…in fact…instead of lowering your standards….what’s say you lower your stance.” Chris is working hard to charm this one but I’m not sure Rapunzel is going to fall prey to his charms. But if she does, oh Lord,look out!

The saxes provide the perfect foil to Chris’s harp as the band heads into the final cut on our disc, “History.” “Oh when I seen your apple…you know I made your orchard my home.” Chris has an answer for all of the heroines from the past and he’s more than happy to include them in his new version of “history.” Alex just kills his fretwork on this last tune and there’s no doubt the good folk of Basel, Switzerland witnessed an amazing show at Blues Now.

This is Chris O’Leary’s third disc out on the Fidellis Records/Vizztone Label Group and it’s a good one. Dave Gross did an amazing job of mastering the live recording and the Chris O’Leary Band definitely tore the roof off of Blues Now that fateful night in March.

Chris is based in the Hudson River Valley and the lessons he learned at the hands of the master, Levon Helm, are readily apparent. Alex Schultz’s fretwork is amazing and I’ve enjoyed this disc tremendously. You can learn more about Chris O’Leary and his band on their website,, and grab a copy of this live disc for yourself. After that, pour yourself a cold one and turn it up loud!

--- Kyle Deibler

John Weeks BandThe Denver area seems to be a location that many musicians gravitate to, and such is the case with John Weeks. John lived in Paris during the ’90s for quite a while and fronted the band TNK that played over 200 dates a year as part of the Parisian music scene. While I don’t know the story of how John ended up in Denver, I do know that he’s surrounded himself with some of the area’s finest musicians in Andras Csapo on harp, keyboards and vocals, Curtis Hawkins on bass and Tim “Chooch” Molinario on drums for his latest project, The John Weeks Band, and they’ve released an excellent first EP, the self-titled John Weeks Band. Let’s throw the disc in and give it a spin.

John’s guitar leads us off and I can hear AC’s organ in the background as the band kicks it into gear for “All Night.” John seems to know that the relationship he’s in is ending and he’s ready for her to go. “I thought I loved you baby…but you’re just being so mean.” It’s not working out and John doesn’t sound distressed that she’s leaving either. The rhythm section makes its appearance felt in the next cut, “Devil in My House,” and the dark tones they’re providing compliment John’s dealing with the Devil. AC’s got the harp in his hand now and I love the funky, mysterious vibe of this tune. “Devil in my house…please go…don’t stay…I didn’t ask you here…go find somewhere else to play.” The tune has a Hill Country vibe to it and you can hear how tight this band really is.

Chooch kicks the rhythm section into high gear and we move on to the up tempo “Why Don’t We Sleep on It.” AC’s playing some shrilling harp tones and then John’s guitar enters the mix to take it up one more notch. I can hear Curtis’s bass in the background and it sounds like he brought the upright out for this one. A tasty instrumental and the band is just killing it. AC’s organ brings us back down to reality and slows the tempo on our next tune, “How Can You Love Me?” Here we find John confused as to why this woman loves him at all. “How can you love…if you don’t like anything….anything that I do or say?” Honestly John, she really doesn’t and a one way exchange of authority just won’t work. You’ve got it right when you sing, “my friends don’t come over anymore…they think that I’ve lost my mind.” I have faith that John will wake up soon and this woman will no more. Mournful tones emanate from John’s guitar and one can only hope he figures it out soon.

AC’s harp is front and center on “I Want to Get Back Home” and for a minute I’m thinking I’m hearing a trumpet in the mix. John’s been on the road a long time and home is starting to look like the right option. “My sweet lady’s calling…you know I should be by her side…it’s so hard to find a way…but I, ran out of room to roam.” Sounds like John’s wanderlust is waning and he should be home soon. Some intricate picking on John’s guitar leads us back to AC’s work on the organ, and John’s contemplating the lack of communication in his life. “When I hold you arms…when I’m trying all my charms…I don’t know how you feel…you never say what you mean.” That’s a tough problem to have, John, and when you figure it out; please let all of us know the answer to that one.

Curtis’s bass and Chooch’s snare take us into the last cut, “Moving On,” with AC on the organ for good measure. “You told me that you love me…but that was just a lie….good thing for you….I’m moving on just in time.” John’s being mistreated and he’s smart enough to know when it’s time to leave. Get out while you can, John, you’ll be glad you did.

I’ve enjoyed the self-titled John Weeks Band and have seen John play several times recently, but I need to catch him with his band. He’s assembled a great band behind him and I’m looking forward to the next release already. If you’re in the Denver area, you can find the band’s schedule on their website,, and hit a show while you’re here. This is just a taste of what’s to come and that’s a good thing.

--- Kyle Deibler

Empire RootsThe Empire Roots Band are Bill Sims, Jr. on vocals, Woody Mann on guitars and backing vocals, Dave Keyes at piano and background vocals, and bassist Brian Glassman. Separately, they've toured the world with everyone from Odetta to Kenny Burrell to James Moody to Son House. This is an eclectic and accomplished quartet who pay tribute to the Reverend Gary Davis in the recording Music From The Film Harlem Street Singer (Acoustic Sessions) and the film of the same name. Guitarist Mann studied with Davis, so is something of an expert. The four are all stellar players. Sims has a honey-soaked whiskey voice, Keyes' piano is exceptional and Glassman offers the foundation.

The opening "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" has a decidedly theatrical presentation. One gets the impression that if this were presented in an acoustically sound theatre, one would be able to hear clear as a bell in the last row, minus microphones. Gary Davis aficionados might recognize most or all of the songs. Some folks are being turned on to his amazing songbook for the first time in this compelling collection. Davis recorded spiritual music and secular music. He may have played more of the spiritual because his wife reportedly would not allow anything but “the Lord's music” to be played in her home.

"Search My Heart" is spiritual. "Mean Old World," one of the standard Davis's, is secular. Sims is accompanied by sparse piano, bass and then guitar in the intro. The piano takes a superb solo before the band comes back. Sims sings, “This is a mean world to live in/until you die” with passion and conviction in his voice. "There's Destruction In This Land" (“can't you see?” ) has a gospel call-and-response feel. "Soon My Work Will All Be Done" is given a delicate guitar intro before Sims begins to sing, “I'm going home to live with my Lord.”

These recorded interpretations of the music of the Reverend Gary Davis are generally cleaner than the originals. The players are fantastic. "Trying To Get Home" (I'm done with the works of the Devil”) again centering on vocals and piano, with a bass solo, is a delight. One of the most soulful pieces on the collection.

The following "Sunday Church Medley: Banks Of The River/Let Us Get Together" is the most conspicuous church piece on the set. The backing vocals gives this authenticity. "Hesitation" is one of the most recognizable Gary Davis tunes. Like a few others it was given a delightful reading by Hot Tuna. The instrumental interpretation is a toe-tapper.

There have been many interpretations of Davis's music over the years. This stands as one of the best.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Zoe SchwarzExposed (33 Records) is Zoe Schwarz Blues Commotion's third album in less than three years and it reflects the rapid progress made by Zoe and all of the musicians during that time. They have raised the bar once again having already set high standards for themselves and their expanding legion of fans.

Exposed is quite simply breathtaking, epitomised by the opening track "Angel Of Mercy," with its clever tempo and mood changes as it reaches one crescendo after another. Like Beatitudes from the Good Times CD, Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral have come up with a song which will be regarded as a classic in years to come. The lyrics are pure poetry, “The candle of my life that burned so bright, It flickers in my final twilight, Dancing in the shadows, dancing in the half light, From my lips, my heart and soul.” Indeed, all 13 tracks here are original, dynamic, beautifully arranged and expertly produced and mastered to achieve a crystal clear sound quality.

The blues underpins the track list, with the up-tempo "Let Me Sing The Blues" and "Broken Heart Blues," plus the earthy "I Wonder Who My Next Man Will Be." The trademark Billie Holliday influences include "Fifteen Days" and "Let’s Explain," whilst contemporary jazz is represented in "Heroes" with lyrics and melody by the talented chanteuse and composer Sue Hawker.

Zoe sings with honesty, emotion and intensity; Rob’s guitar solos are compelling, tasteful and interspersed with memorable blues and rock riffs; Pete Whittaker’s sublime, melodic Hammond organ infuses the entire sound; harpist Si Genaro adds flair, charisma and reflective interplay with the vocals and other instruments whilst Paul Robinson’s drums maintain precise rhythm and timing. What is exposed for all to hear in this superb album is the love and devotion of Zoe and her partner Rob, the heart and soul which they put into their music and a band which performs in complete synergy to produce an awesome and unique sound.

Fortunately for all jazz and blues enthusiasts this is one Commotion that will not go away but continues to grow and develop.

--- Dave Scott


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