Chambers and Paul DesLauriers met in 2018 at
the IBCs, reunited in 2019 at that year’s IBCs
and married later that year. Both had
well-established careers. Chambers has several
fine releases in the soul/blues field and
DesLauriers as well in the blues/rock genre, so
it’s only natural that the two combine their
efforts. They’ve done so, most successfully,
with their initial collaboration for VizzTone
Label Group, Good Trouble. It’s a strong
set of blues, soul, gospel, and rock, with four
originals and seven wide-ranging covers.
Chambers handles the vocal duties on 10 of the
11 tracks, and DesLauriers plays guitar, along
with J.P. Soars. The rest of the band consists
of Chris Peet (drums/bass/percussion), Gary
Davenport or Alec McElcheran (bass), Bernard
“Bingo” DesLauriers (drums), Barry Seelan (B3),
and Kim Richardson (background vocals).
opener is the Crescent City-flavored “You’ve Got
To Believe,” teaming Chambers’ vocals and
DesLauriers’ guitar backed by a second-line
rhythm. The soulful “Stand Up” is a funky call
for peace and unity, with a fiery solo from
DesLauriers, while the duo turns in a great
performance with their dynamite cover of George
Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity.” Chambers takes us
to church with a moving performance (with
DesLauriers on dobro) on the original “Heavy
Load” (talk about some sacred steel!).
South’s “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” gets an
excellent interpretation before DesLauriers
joins Chambers on Little Willie John’s “I Need
Your Love So Bad,” a splendid slow blues that
seems to be tailor-made for the pair. A hard
rocking version of Cassie Taylor’s “We Got The
Blues” turns into a mission statement for the
duo, and the original “I’m Going To Live The
Life I Sing About In My Song” is a simmering
ballad with a funk edge.
pair have a big time with Baby Washington’s
raucous “Money’s Funny” and Mountain’s classic
rocker “Mississippi Queen,” before the album
closes with the traditional spiritual “I Need
More Power,” which features a stunning vocal
from Chambers that slowly builds in intensity.
Annika Chambers and Paul DesLauriers make
beautiful music together on Good Trouble,
a powerhouse recording that bodes well for these
new musical and life partners.
--- Graham Clarke
Soul Drivers are a seven-piece band out of
New England that specializes in classic southern
soul music of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals
variety. Drummer/singer/DJ River City Slim
started the group in 2012 with singer Bob Orsi,
a member of the New England Music Hall of Fame.
The band also consists of guitarist Larry
Willey, bassist Tony Delisio, keyboardist Steve
Donovan, sax man John Smayda, and trumpeter Neil
Tint. I’ll Carry You Home (Hog Heaven
Records) is the band’s second release, offering
seven original tunes and four tasty covers.
The opening track
is a cover of the Temptations’ #1 hit from 1969,
“I Can’t Get Next To You,” but the band’s
version hews closer to Al Green’s slower,
funkier 1970 cover, and Orsi and the band really
dig into this one. The title track follows, a
sweet soul ballad penned by Orsi, and “Party By
The Tower” is a smooth blues that settles into a
nice groove. “A Little Bit of That” (featuring
Paul Gabriel on guitar) has a Stax feel with
Donovan’s B3, Smayda’s saxophone solo, and
Orsi’s soulful vocal.
“Cry To Me” has
been recorded by numerous artists over the
years, including Solomon Burke, Professor
Longhair, and Betty Harris, who the Mighty Soul
Drivers have backed for years. The band does a
fine job on their interpretation of this soul
classic. Their cover of the Bobby “Blue” Bland
hit “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog” is also excellent,
with Orsi taking a smoother vocal approach than
Bland’s original. Guitarist Gabriel returns for
a solo on the funky blues “Cold Cold Night,” and
Orsi and the horns shine on “Tell Daddy,” the
original version of Etta James’ “Tell Mama”
(first recorded by Clarence Carter).
The River City
Slim original “Parking Lot Blues,” about a
secret love affair, feels and sounds like a
long-lost Muscle Shoals classic. Slim also wrote
“Piece Of My Pride,” a swinging blues driven
along by Donovan’s piano, and Donovan co-wrote
the closer with Orsi, “Dressed To Kill,” which
serves as a funky mission statement for the
Mighty Soul Drivers.
Fans of the
classic sounds of southern blues like they used
to play in Memphis and Muscle Shoals will
absolutely love I’ll Carry You Home. The
Mighty Soul Drivers have the sound down pat and
they certainly deliver the goods!
--- Graham Clarke
Charlie Thomas is best known for his work
with The Drifters, one of the most influential
R&B groups of the ’50s, performing on such chart
hits as “There Goes My Baby,” “Save The Last
Dance For Me,” “This Magic Moment,” while taking
the lead vocals on “Sweets For My Sweet” and
“When My Little Girl Is Smiling.” Thomas was
inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as
part of The Drifters in 1988.
The late Doc Pomus, songwriter extraordinaire,
penned “Save The Last Dance For Me,” “This Magic
Moment,” and “Sweets For My Sweet,” among others
for The Drifters, as well as countless other
songs that are entrenched in Rock & Roll and R&B
history. He was also inducted into the Rock &
Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 1992 as a
non-performer, as well as the Songwriters Hall
of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. Recently, a
song Pomus co-wrote with Phillip Namanworth, “Be
My Rock” (Mad Hands Records), was unearthed and
recorded by Thomas with The Blues Burners in
Thomas sounds as good as he did back in the day
with The Drifters, with a little seasoning added
to his vocals over the years. The song is tender
gospel-flavored soul with sweet backing vocals
and Joe Martone’s organ in the background. The
Blues Burners provide stellar support
(especially Arnie Brown on guitar) with an
assist from Crispin Cioe and Larry Etkin of the
Uptown Horns. “Be My Rock” is a marvelous
throwback to simpler times, a wonderful slice of
soul from one of the genre’s masters.
--- Graham Clarke
Wright Band’s 2015 release Wonder Man
was a favorite of mine, but I hadn’t heard
anything else from them until their latest
release, Hangin’ At The DeVille Lounge (Sadson
Music). At the end of 2015, Wright and his
family moved from Michigan to Florida, pretty
much starting all over again. A new life and a
new band (wife Laurie LaCross-Wright – rhythm
guitar/vocals, Billy Agner – bass/vocals, Vail
Hayes – drums, Dennis “Torpedo” Toerpe – B3).
the opener, “Welcome To The DeVille,” to set
things up for the rest of the album, which gets
started in earnest with the haunting “House of
Spirits,” telling the story of the lounge in
spooky fashion. “No One Cares At All” follows
and it’s a funky swinger with a nasty bass line
from Agner driving the song along. “Evil In
Disguise” is a catchy rock-edged ballad which
segues nicely into the hard-driving blues-rocker
“Devil Man Blues.” The nearly-eight-minute slow
burner “No Man Is An Island” is a great vehicle
for Wright’s soulful vocal and soaring guitar
shuffle “Goin’ To NOLA” tells of a trip to the
Crescent City, while the upbeat “Devil In The
Details” tells of the travails of everyday life.
“Trouble’s Always Knockin’” is a sweet blues
ballad with a wonderful guitar intro from Wright
and only gets better from there.
“No Turnin’ Back”
is a fierce Texas-flavored blues shuffle with
more great fretwork, “Burnin’ Precious Time” is
a tough-as-nails rocker, and “Devil Music” rocks
heavy as well, with Wright’s guitar taking on a
metal edge on this superb closer.
Looks like the
move south definitely rejuvenated Wright as he
turns in an inspired performance both vocally
and instrumentally. The songwriting is also top
notch, making Hangin’ At The DeVille Lounge
an album that blues-rock fans will certainly
enjoy. Welcome back, Rusty!
--- Graham Clarke
Hot Mess (Blueskitty
Records), the latest release from Michele
D’Amour and the Love Dealers, is similar to
their previous efforts, a smartly-crafted
collection of original tunes that mix blues,
funk, and jazz seamlessly. Ms. D’Amour is a
soulful vocalist and her songs are always
entertaining. She’s skillfully supported by the
Love Dealers (Patrick McDanel – bass, Carl
Martin – drums, Noel Barnes – saxophone, and
Richard Newman – guitar), along with guest
keyboardists Tom Worrell and Philip Woo.
The title track
opens the disc, a funky swinger that finds
D’Amour trying to get a friend back on track.
Next is the album’s lone cover, a swampy read of
Dr. John’s moody “I Walk On Guilded Splinters.”
“Plum Crazy” is an old school rock n’ roll
tribute to a ’46 Ford (as pictured on the album
cover), and “Devil In The Dark,” which warns of
people who are not what they appear to be, is
deep funk with a hill country vibe. “If The Shoe
Fits” is a clever original about the often
treacherous issues with modern relationships,
and the amusing “Muddlin’ Through” addresses the
challenges of everyday life.
message of encouragement, “Helping Hand,” was
written by Newman, and “It Won’t Break My Heart”
is a break-up song despite it’s somewhat sunny
musical presentation. The bleak “Cold Red Sun”
describes an area ravaged by wildfire, and the
funky blues “Nurse With A Purse” is an
interesting reverse-take on the “Sugar Daddy”
The closer is the
New Orleans-flavored “Your Dachshund Won’t Leave
Me Alone,” a double entendre-laden tune that
wraps things up nicely with second line drumming
from Martin, snaky slide guitar from Newman, and
sax from Barnes.
and the Love Dealers continue to be a dependable
source of great music, well-written originals,
and outstanding performances. Hot Mess is
a great addition to their already impressive
--- Graham Clarke
Levin is a Cincinnati-based piano player who
has just released his fifth album despite the
fact that he's just 22-years-old. He's proven to
be a true triple threat --- an expert piano
player, a fine singer, and a promising
Album number five is Take Your
Time (VizzTone), and it's quite different
from Levin's previous releases in that he shares
the vocal duties with three Chicago and Louisiana
blues stalwarts --- Bob Stroger, Lil' Ed, and
Lil' Jimmy Reed.. Levin's voice is heard on four
numbers and, of course, he provides
outstanding piano accompaniment on every cut.
Levin is a very fine singer in his own right, so
in a way I miss hearing his voice on every song
as on the previous four releases. But then
again, who can complain about getting to hear
the vocalists that he brought into the studio?
Since he's still very young there will be
more Levin albums to come, so let's enjoy this
one for what it is, an outstanding
collection of piano blues with downhome blues
Opening the album is the first of four cuts
on which Levin sings, the mid-tempo blues
shuffle "Take Your Time." Not only does he kill
it on vocals, but also pounds out a superb
piano solo. "Hole In The Wall" has both Levin
and Lil' Ed singing together, starting the cut
with an á capella intro while Ed comes in with
his usual rockin' guitar. Johnny Burgin supports
Levin on guitar on the snaky blues "Out Of Your
Own Way," and Stroger backs on bass as well as
sharing vocals with Levin on the mid-tempo blues,
"Love You Baby." The last cut is especially
delightful, with the two singers connecting despite
the 70 year difference in their ages.
92-year-old Stroger shows up on three more cuts.
"Jazz Man Blues" is an up-tempo jumper with raw
vocals and bass from Stroger and great solos
from Levin and guitarist Noah Wotherspoon.
also handles vocals on Eddie Taylor's slow,
plodding blues "Bad Boy," then plays bass on
the closing instrumental number, "Mr. Stroger's
Strut," also featuring more fine guitar work
addition to his appearance on the aforementioned
"Hole In The Wall," Lil' Ed smokes it on both
guitar and vocals on the Roy Hawkins slow blues
"Why Do Things Happen To Me," and later on the
up-tempo blues shuffle "Longer Hours, Shorter
Pay." The latter is just true Lil' Ed, a man
from whom we haven't heard enough lately.
Louisiana blues cat Lil' Jimmy Reed pops in to
sing and play guitar on three numbers, starting
with the blues shuffle "I've Been Drinking Muddy
Water." The swampy blues "You Know You're So
Fine" gives Levin plenty of space for piano
solos, later tackling a slow, late night blues,
"Lump Of Coal."
was a great idea for an album, cementing Levin's
reputation as one of the best young blues
artists on the scene today. Bringing in these
veteran blues men was really a stroke of genius.
Take Your Time is the name of the album,
but don't take your time in adding it to your
collection. There's some mighty fine blues here.
--- Bill Mitchell
first became familiar with the name Eric
Demmer when I heard a really fine sax solo
on the recent album from The B.B. King Blues
Band. He played in Gatemouth Brown's band back
in the day, and more recently has spent time
with guitarist Mike Zito. With So Fine
(Gulf Coast Blues), Demmer steps to the front of
the bandstand showing he's more than just a good
horn player. Not only can he blow his sax, but
Demmer also has a decent voice.
start this review by focusing on the last two
cuts, as these are my favorite numbers here.
Demmer's daughter Danielle, takes the vocal lead
on the funky soul/blues "Any Day Get Away," also
notable for the funky Memphis-style guitar
effects from Hugo Rodriguez. Ms. Demmer is a
strong singer from whom I'd like to hear more.
The closing number, "Have You Ever Loved A
Woman" (not the Freddie King version), gets
funky and gives Mr. Demmer the opportunity to
show off his best vocal work.
A Guitar Player" has Demmer
explaining that he's a guitar player at heart who doesn't
play a guitar, or something like that. Rodriguez
again gets the chance to shine on his axe while Demmer sings and blows his horn. "She's So Fine"
is a slow, mysterious blues with a heavy rhumba
sound. I like it! Rodriguez again shows off
his Memphis guitar chops on the opening funky
blues, "Don't TalkeTo Me," with Demmer wailing away
on the sax midway through the song.
Demmer's voice also stands out on the Allman-ish
blues/rock tune, "Will It Ever Be The Same," and
shouts out vocals with some echo on the rocker
"I'm Alright." The tempo changes on the slow,
jazzy blues "Start It All Again," with Rodriguez
throwing down some heavy blues licks and Barry Seelen
contributing tasteful piano.
cuts mentioned here are the highlights, but
actually the entire album is strong. So Fine
is a good effort from Demmer. If you are a sax
fan, then this one is right up your alley.
--- Bill Mitchell
Goluban is a harmonica player from Croatia,
celebrating his 20 years of touring with this
new release, 20 Years On The Road (Blue
Heart Records). He's backed by three different
sets of musicians and eight guest vocalists from
around the world, and he shows that he's indeed a
world-class harmonica player.
Opening the cut is a rollicking instrumental
number, "Express Ride," featuring Goluban backed
by The Tobacco Road Blues Band. Following is one
of two cuts on which Goluban chooses to sing,
"Blow Junkie Boogie," a John Lee Hooker sounding
number, and it shows why he added other
vocalists for the bulk of the album. His voice
is unlistenable, and this one should have been
left on the cutting room floor. The same applies
to the closing number, "I Love You Baby."
better are the songs featuring Skylar Rogers, a
very fine blues singer with musical roots in
both Chicago and Memphis. "Searchin' For My
Baby" is an up-tempo blues, and "Forhill's
Boogie" proceeds at a rapid pace that will get
plenty of movers and shakers out on the dance floor.
love the music of British vocalist Malaya Blue,
so of course I was digging the pleasant
mid-tempo blues shuffle "Electric Lights,"
on which she handles the vocals, with
a strong organ solo contributing extra rich
sound. Another fave of mine is Teresa James,
showing up on the fast-paced "Speedin' Train."
Southern soul singer Gregg Martinez pops in for
the slow, snaky blues/soul number "Disappear For
Southern California soulful blues singer Kelly
Zirbes contributes her very fine voice on two
numbers, the up-tempo blues shuffle "Hittiin'
The Road Again" and the 12-bar blues tune
"Everyday's Fear." Her vocals make me think I
need to dig a little deeper into her discography.
Other singers appearing on 20 Years On The
Road include Mark Cameron, Ryan Donohue, and
Crooked Eye Tommy. This isn't an essential
purchase, but there's enough good stuff here to
--- Bill Mitchell