Blues Bytes

What's New

December 2005

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Johnny Dyer with Mark Hummel

Mel Melton

Al Kooper

Jeff Healey

Kevin Mark

Wayne Baker Brooks

Dean Reichert

Teresa James

Blues Guitar Women

Otis Rush

Zora Young


Mississippi Heat

Rolling Fork RevisitedHow did a CD as great as Rolling Fork Revisited (Mountaintop Productions) slip past all of us??? This Muddy Waters tribute album by Johnny Dyer with Mark Hummel was released over a year ago. It first came to my attention when Mr. Dyer played in Phoenix in September and presented me with a copy of his disc.

All I can now say is "better late than never." This one would have ranked near the front of my top ten list for 2004 if I had heard it last year. Sure, the thought of still another collection of Muddy's music, no matter how great the original versions were, might make some readers wonder why. It's all been done before.

You need to put those thoughts aside, because this loving tribute to the great Muddy Waters is one of the best I've heard. At times, you need to remind yourself that you're not listening to Muddy's classic recordings. It's not that Dyer sounds that much like Muddy (no one ever could), but the spirit and quality of the originals is there.

Dyer handles all of the vocals but plays harmonica on only one number. Hummel does most of the harp work, and is joined on some cuts by former Muddy band members Paul Oscher, playing mostly slide guitar and some harmonica, and drummer Francis Clay. Rusty Zinn also sits in on guitar on some cuts. As explained in the liner notes, those responsible for the disc selected songs that were heavy on harmonica and slide guitar, giving Hummel and Oscher plenty of chances to show off.

"Young Fashioned Ways" is one of the best numbers. Dyer's voice takes on a raw power not heard on other numbers, Bob Welsh contributes a great Spann-style piano solo, Zinn provides more intricate guitar licks than on the original version, and Hummel pumps out a soaring harmonica solo. "Can't Get No Grinding" again gives Hummel an extended solo and he plays the harp like never before.

"Country Boy" recalls Muddy's earlier, stripped down trio recordings; Oscher is featured here on slide guitar and rack harmonica. On "Gone To Main Street," the interplay between Hummel's driving harmonica and Oscher's playful slide guitar is intoxicating. Oscher also gets to play some heavy slide on "My Dog Can't Bark and the slower "Layaway Plan," a song that I don't remember from Muddy's repertoire.

"Forty Days and Forty Nights" again finds Dyer in excellent vocal form, with plenty of power in his voice, while Zinn gives the tune a more contemporary sound with his guitar work.

"Evans Shuffle," with only Dyer on harmonica and 'yells' and Oscher on racked harmonica and guitar, provides a nice, simple ending to a great album.

The musicians involved in this project didn't try to re-invent the classic Muddy Waters sound. Instead, they merely delivered loving renditions in the spirit of the originals ...  and they did it very, very well. If you too missed out last year on Rolling Fork Revisited, then go looking for it. If you can't find it, then keep searching. It's that good.

--- Bill Mitchell

Reed Family - Blood HarmonyThe Reed Family has quite a history in the Phoenix area alone, whereas individually they have come to mark many musical territories around the nation. Sometimes its been painful to witness their adversity: Death (particularly brother Bucko late in 2004), tragedy, health issues. The good that has clearly come of this is a deeper and more profound soul in their music. Whether for Christmas, spiritual or secular listening, The Reed Family Album “Blood Harmony: A Cappella” (Southwest Musical Arts Foundation Records) is filled with love. The “ring” of the five or six voices ranks right up there with the best of choirs or smaller vocal groups anywhere.

For a brief history: They began in the ‘40s on Chicago radio as “The Original Singing Crusaders” led by their father Leonard Reed, becoming the Reed Family Singers in Kankakee, Illinois. Most of the family came to Phoenix in the 1970s. Margo and Francine in particular created jazz followings. Late brother Tony organized the “Reed Family” sound to do annual concerts at Phoenix Symphony Hall among other venues. Francine has become known internationally for a long stay with Lyle Lovett, and lesser with Willie Nelson and Delbert McClinton. Michael continues to work solo in Phoenix, as does Mellody in Kankakee.

From the recognized to the revved-up, Jesus and prayer are recurring themes of this CD, gospel the undercurrent. Recorded in March 2005, sisters Margo and Francine seem to share ring-leading (pun intended) and it’s amazing (at least in Margo’s case) that there’s no formal musical training behind this seemingly effortless vocalizing. There is what may be a gospel novelty, “Rusty Old Halo (and skinny white cloud/robe is so wooly it scratches).” The most unlikely “Sixteen Tons” appears, other selections are in suspended, almost non-existent, tempo.

“This Little Light” shines with Margo, then out of church traversing an old Mills Brothers hit sung Doo Wop style, and on to the street corner with Rudolph’s nose. From about the same era that still echoes voices like Al Jolson, Helen Forrest and Judy Garland comes the concluding cut, “You Made Me Love You,” commencing with Margo’s voice, passed to her by “Mama Girley.” This is the only track with instrumental accompaniment inJohn Shea’s piano.

This album is a precious gem; the art of A Cappella singing (voices only, no instruments) isn’t practiced by many these days, and even more rarely by “blood” family. Phoenix in particular should revere the recording, as its people are credited with much inspiration. In the liner notes by long-time Phoenix/US/European jazz journalist Patricia Myers, the Reeds thank support groups Phoenix Blues Society and Jazz In Arizona. Clarke Rigsby has again let it happen in his studio, and particular kudos must go to producer Bob Corritore, who during a Reed Family performance at his Rhythm Room immediately knew he had to record this sound.

To order the CD, visit the KJZZ site.

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to

There are long solo piano intros, sometimes 16 or 32 bars many times over, kind of like a gospel structure. But this is no gospel music. A loud, raw and untrained voice usually enters after these long intros on each cut. It’s all solo piano accompanied by the player’s own vocal. Bobby Lounge, born somewhere in the “deep south,” is definitely an anomaly: From the liner notes, “In 2004 Bobby again became interested in playing his songs for his friends...” resulting in this one-shot batch done in at a private residence, with excellent sound quality. The CD title is quite attractive, I Remember The Night Your Trailer Burnt Down (Abitian label, spelled BURNED on the back cover).

Unfortunately the humor is so inside it probably will remain “for his friends.” I do applaud his way of flipping off society by putting a “parental advisory” warning on a couple tracks, “may not be suitable for radio or children,” two categories he’ll certainly always be far from. Somehow the elite-reaching songwriting comes off neither canny or uncanny.

By track four there is welcome energy, adding variety, with a boogie woogie piano pattern. And on one hand the fare is classy, due to the top condition of the fat-sounding acoustic piano and the player’s obvious prowess, then in the next classless by design.

Dull, pointless stories evolve out of the artist’s clear purposeful annoyance. His voice is part Randy Newman, another Leon Russell, but Bobby Lounge doesn’t hit these marks. The whole thing is difficult to take in whole, much less to repeat. This monotony is compounded by much of the material being performed in the same key. We almost hear Jerry Lee sing the track “If I Had Been Elvis,” then the attitude summed up in the concluding track, “I’ll Always Be Better Than You.”

To his credit, the melody does stay in your head for a moment. But overall, like a T-shirt with wording designed to offend and instead displaying the wearer’s mentality, the caustic, vain humor just doesn’t do it.

---Tom Coulson
Radio broadcaster/musician
comments to

Mel MeltonIt screams Zydeco from note one, but quickly diverts to other twists and turns in contemporary blues and other Louisiana-associated styles. It appears we have an excellent harmonica front-man, with appealing vocal chops too, in Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos release Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse (Louisiana Red Hot Records). At the next level there’s great guitar slinging: Slide, “tremelo” and conventional electric solos stand out from a good audio mix (probably a result of mastering touches done in Nashville). Rhythms are pulled-back, then shifted to two-step, and group vocals are well-melded in a gumbo of rock and soul influences. Horns are great additions on several tracks.

One of the slow dances is “Things I Used To Do”-type, and New Orleans themes feel like pre-Katrina moods assured of return, specifically “Hot, cool, hip-hop, old-school.”

Gambling on horses is another story but we’re always winners within swampy confines. All music is original by Mel Melton, with assistance on some, except for one: As expected, Ray Charles continues to be utmost in mind of recording artists everywhere and the tribute from this disc is what sounds like a chromatic harmonica instrumental of “What I Say.”

The only flaw seems to be a mix-up in track numbering on the printed back cover. It’s all labeled “Louisiana Dance Hall Music” and/or “Cajun Swamp Bop.” Whether delivering a simple backbeat or more regional specialties, Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos seem to perform on a foundation of good old Rock ‘N Roll quite well, and earn high marks.

---Tom Coulson
Radio broadcaster/musician
comments to

Al KooperThe name is familiar, seemingly from the “This guy’s still around?” category. Even without going to, the booklet liner notes for Al Kooper’s 2005 release Black Coffee (Favored Nation label) thankfully reminds us of his biographical contributions to an era of influence. This is his first solo release in 30 years. Brooklyn-born, early writing for Keely Smith to Gary Lewis to Lulu, thru probably his most-associated work as keyboardist on Dylan’s “Rolling Stone,” surviving ’60s folk circles, the first front-man for BS&T, work with the late Michael Bloomfield, playing on Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland,” doing the piano work on the Stone’s “Can’t Always Get...,” discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd, and into lesser-known but important producing, eventually to the west coast, and associations with both B.B. King and Ray Charles, yeah, these are ways we’ve heard this guy.

This is album rock, not blues, but there are soul touches from his horns, the “Funky Faculty,” and a little down-home in places with acoustic slide guitar and mandolin. Add to that great production tricks, including “fade-ins” at track beginnings. There’s much layered percussion.

Disc sequencing and segues work, a lot of experience and continued work has produced a well-conceived result. Personally the experience takes me back, makes me feel good. The “Black Coffee” background vocalists become a mini choir on one cut, then there’s a jazzy ballad. A couple unexpected covers include a live recording of “Green Onions” where Kooper just squeezes the grit out of the Hammond B3 organ. Then a Ray Charles hit sung without overdoing imitation.

Actually the leader’s voice is much varied, in one case conjuring up Dr. John, then maybe Neil Young in the next. You’ll be told a tale of sadness and woe then get energized with a locomotive rhythm, reminding one of a better Rare Earth “Get Ready.” Of the disc’s 14 tracks, only four aren’t written by the leader, and one of these is Smokey Robinson’s. Kooper’s songwriting is simply excellent, bordering on brilliant. It’s hippy music for this moment, more electric folk than pop- or rock-sounding.

---Tom Coulson
Radio broadcaster/musician
comments to

Jeff HealeyThe Montreux Jazz Festival began in 1967. Then, it only ran for three days with a handful of artists. Now it is one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals, running for more than two weeks and attracting crowds of over 100,000 people. Eagle Vision’s Live at Montreux DVD series features concert footage from some of the best Montreux performances, e.g., Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, and Dr. John. Jeff Healey is one of the most prolific blues-rock guitarists. Blind since the age of one, Healey began playing guitar at three and formed the Jeff Healey Trio by age 20. Their debut album See the Light was released in 1988. It went platinum and earned Healey a devoted following among blues-rock fans. Just around the time sacred steel music was being discovered by blues culture, Healey was blasting out his own unique guitar fashion.

On July 3, 1999, the Jeff Healey Band, featuring, Joe Rockman (bass), Pat Rush (guitar), Tom Stephen (drums) and Healey, played Montreux. Their 75-minute set is the main feature of this 100-minute DVD.

During "Stop Breakin’ Down," you realize stage presence-less Pat Rush is one of Canada’s most under appreciated guitarists. He doesn’t distract from the musical wonder of Healey, who wanders the stage while filled with the spirits of Robert Johnson and his own energy. Beginning with "Third Degree," the guitar is no longer in a support stand, so Healey sits and plays his crescendo-ing instrument while holding it in his lap. This distinctive technique involves all four fingers and thumb being used on the fret board. If there was rocket fuel on or near the stage during this tune, these guys would have ended up in orbit. John Hiatt’s "Angel Eyes" is one of the best modern rock ballads.

In concert, Healey’s deep vocals are just as strong as in the studio. Harmonizing guitars are pure bliss for fans of the bended, pushed, and pulled string. "Roadhouse Blues is one such dueling double guitar attack with searing solos that may frighten a few listeners away. During "See The Light," the music explodes with too much screeching guitar.

As a bonus, the DVD includes four songs filmed at a 1997 Montreux performance. On "As The Years Go Passing By" Healey accentuates his inflective voice, and turns his guitar into an electrified lightning rod. Both concerts are professionally filmed, and contain excellent high definition cinematography. By the use of amazing close-ups, you will see Healey’s baffling finger dexterity, which crawl along the fret board like a spider. The concerts are also available on CD, but less three songs from the DVD. However, "Yer Blues" is only available on CD. The Jeff Healey Band’s sound is raw and heavy, but then again they are four white guys from Canada. Overall, the music is more rock than blues, but fans of electric guitar will be ecstatic.

--- Tim Holek

Kevin MarkThe province of Quebec has a treasure trove of undiscovered blues artists. Although many of them have been performing and recording for years, most are not known outside of the province. One example is the venturing Kevin Mark. With a full bodied guitar and a considerable voice, Mark is a big man with a big sound. He requires a lot of band behind his powerful guitar. Seven musicians support him on his 50-minute sophomore release, Rolling The Dice (Blue Hog). The three man horn section (Little Frankie Thiffault, Mario Allard, and Paul Nedzela) seem to be having a blast, and they do more than simply provide fills. Throughout, Michael Fonfara’s skillful keyboards tingle away in the background courtesy of Jack de Keyzer’s adept production.

Like most of the songs, "So Blue Without You" bops and swings with lively horns and expressive piano. "Mean Mistreater" comes with a hint of rhythm from "Mustang Sally." "Big Blue Cadillac" combines the past times of music, cars, and sex. The lyrics of "I’m So Broke" contain many clichés, yet they are entertaining. You will enjoy this party song about a sad situation. The horns acquire Memphis soul on "Searching For My Baby." The song is one of the album’s highlights, as is Thiffault’s vibrant sax solo. Laurier Gagnon adds Hound Dog Taylor-like slide guitar to "You’re So Mean." These 13 songs (including 11 Mark originals) contain material to get you out on the dance floor. Ballroom dancers will especially enjoy "I Want You To Be My Baby."

Although swing music (like any genre) has its limitations, the powerful tone of Rolling The Dice is sure to establish Mark as a triple threat (singer, songwriter, guitar player) on the Canadian blues music scene.

--- Tim Holek

When American blues bands land a gig in Paris’ Le Meridien Etoile Hotel’s chic Lionel Hampton Jazz Club, it is a feather in the band’s cap. For many, it is a career highlight. On March 27, 2003, Henry Gray And The Cats performed there and it was captured on a DVD and CD entitled Live In Paris (Lucky Cat). No one can play traditional blues better than seasoned veterans, who were raised on it and who have lived it. Henry Gray hails from just outside New Orleans. At the age of eight, he began to demonstrate his talent on piano. In 1956, he joined Howlin' Wolf’s band and remained there until 1968. Gray is considered by many as one of the best living exponents of the Windy City piano blues style. The Cats include Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal (guitar), Brian Bruce (harmonica), Earl Christopher (drums), and Andy Cornett (bass). Overall, they are a timeless band that still gets dressed up for their performances. Gray may not know many chords, but he and his Cats are a class act and the real deal when it comes to the blues.

The sole Gray original, “Showers of Rain,” is performed like a group of guys half their age. Here, Henry lays down some of his signature upper registry notes. Gray’s vocals are weathered and dampened on “It Hurts Me Too,” but his piano is a pummeling barrelhouse. “Lil’ Buck”’s smooth guitar is perfected and so unobtrusive that it distinctively stands out. Obviously, the band is having a blast during “Sweet Home Chicago.” Gray’s bass notes and Buck’s riffs fit together like a glove on a stomping rendition of “Rock Me.” Though Gray cannot recall all the lyrics to “Key To The Highway,” it is valiantly performed by request. With just brief pauses between the 14 songs, there is minimal interaction with the crowd as one song blends into another.

Six of the songs are also present on Gray’s Live – Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest CD from 1999. All but one of the 14 tracks are covers. Keep in mind that this film/recording was made and produced for a European audience. The band has distribution rights, but didn’t get a chance to select the material. On top of this, the crowd seems real subdued and almost sedated – the clientele looks more interested in the martinis than the blues. The hidden treasure here is renowned Louisiana guitarist “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal, who spent many years in the bands of Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. Sinegal is credited as a sideman on over 300 recordings in each decade since the 1950s.

Overall the piano, harp, and guitar are dazzling, yet no one needs to showboat. The musicians aren’t allowed to detract from the band, which keeps the focus on the songs. They are all experienced musicians with a solid sense of timing. This CD/DVD has captured some house rocking American music, which is to be treasured as it is a dying entity. Blues, R&B, and old time rock ‘n’ roll fill the 55-minute disc. There isn’t a bulk of diversity in these songs. Yet you will cherish them for their open-ness, honesty, and authenticity.

This is some of the best traditional blues I have heard since listening to Willie Smith’s Bluesin’ It CD. For further info, refer to or

--- Tim Holek

Wayne Baker Brooks creates power blues by taking early electric Chicago blues, and combining it with Texas rock and modern day R&B. On his debut CD, Mystery (Blues Island), the 35-year-old singer / songwriter / guitarist assaults the listener with contemporary blues. His passionate, booming vocals complement his wicked yet tasteful lead guitar. Wayne’s musical debut was made at the age of five, when he played percussion on boxes, pots, pans, and spoons. By the time he was 21, Wayne began playing guitar and concentrating on a career in music. He is the youngest son of blues superstar Lonnie Brooks and has been a regular member of The Lonnie Brooks Blues Band since 1998. Wayne’s other talents include founding Blues Island Productions, running a Blues In The Schools program, and co-authoring the Blues For Dummies book.

Many musical directions are taken on the opening cut and title track of Wayne’s debut CD. This might have you thinking Baker Brooks is having an identity crisis. Far from it, he is just being himself. Beginning with "Nu Kinda Blues," Baker Brooks really comes into his element on the record. The song is performed “Chicago Style” and it’s vibrant. The tune is essentially an instrumental with Ben Ruth’s thriving harp mixed in with a dance club beat, and sound effects by D.J. Ajax. Wayne Baker Brooks takes what Chris Thomas King and Chuck D. started to a higher ground. This unconventional land will definitely attract today’s youth. He first combined funk, rap, and blues while D.J.’ing for his classmates. At times on his debut, he sounds like the cross-product of Michael Jackson, Luther Allison, and Jimi Hendrix. Ultimately, the self-taught musician combines elements of various roots music. Then, he adds his own essence in order to create a pioneering sound that is cool with today’s record buying youth. A fine example of this is found on "You Made It Easy, Baby."

Charging horns add extra power and dramatics to "Your Turn (To Talk To The Blues)." Like a jolt received from an electric shock, the horns and Baker Brooks’ vocals punch out on it. "Sooner Or Later" has a catchy main groove with an infectiously repetitive hook. It is a power rock song where the guitar solos crank and blaze like Harvey Mandel. Background singers add bootylicious funk to "Tell Me." It features a rock heavy rhythm, pounding drums, and a slicing guitar solo. The danceable "Baby Stop" has backing vocals, which are as funky as its rhythm. Lyrically, "Just Lika Butterfly" is a new twist on the old problem of unfaithfulness. "Exiled" reveals the soft, mean, and assertive sides of this vegetarian’s voice. "It Don’t Work Like That" is a catchy little blues-rock ditty with a jagged hook. Yes, the enchanting guest performing searing guitar on the song is Lonnie Brooks. Throughout, Brother Ronnie provides energetic rhythm guitar.

Mystery is blues-based, but as Baker Brooks is a young and diverse contemporary musician, the sounds of hip-hop and rock strongly feature throughout it. The 13 original songs are good and indicate Baker Brooks has strong potential as a songwriter. Wayne knows where he is going with his lyrics. He doesn’t simply view them as just being the words of the songs. At this point in his career, the rhythms and guitar solos are more powerful than the vocals. On his radical debut, Baker Brooks excels at combining dance club beats with his blues inspirations. 

--- Tim Holek

Vital SupportVital Support is known best for their role as Carl Weathersby’s backing band. The group’s name was christened in 1996. Now, only Calvin “Skip” Gaskin (bass) remains from the original incarnation. Paul Hendricks (guitar) has been a band member since 1999. To date, Vital Support’s most prosperous years were from 2000-2003 when they performed up to 260 dates a year. They did not play on any of Weathersby’s Evidence releases, but they do feature on his live In The House CD which was recorded 2002 at the Lucerne Blues Festival. In 2004, Skip and Paul decided it was time to branch out on their own. They kept the band’s name and its successful musical formula. Corey Dennison (guitar/vocals) was added along with John Williams (drums). Weathersby’s music has now gone in a different direction (he seems to be focusing on soul), yet the current music of Vital Support is more aligned with his earlier solo work.

Their 41-minute self-titled CD is one of the best debuts of 2005. Unlike their demo CD, all tracks are originals. Each of the ten songs has a catchy hook and electrifying guitar. Some of the songs have a youthful rock edge. This combined with Dennison’s intense vocals, at times, sounds like early Black Crows.

"Let The Music Be Your Guide" is a confident mix of funky bass and contemporary blues guitar. During the song, Dennison mentions James Brown and then, as if being totally controlled by the music, Corey proceeds to emulate Brown’s screams and yells. "Payroll Deduction" is a new way to view being on unemployment insurance. It is a song where nothing goes right for the main character. Here, Hendricks rapidly fires through a surplus of notes during a solo that effectively makes his guitar shriek. When your priorities get mixed up, think of "What’s Left" and heed its thought provoking message. The soulful tune features Skip’s exceptional keyboards, which create an adult contemporary feel. The song’s message is straight to the point. “It’s not what you hold in your hand, it’s the love you leave on this land. Besides love, tell me what’s left.”

Lyrically and musically, "Them Days" is a throw back to early ’70s pop, rock, and funk fusion. Think of early Chicago LPs and you’ll get the idea. Here, Dennison’s casino show band style vocals completely surround you. Surprisingly, Hendricks adds keys, while Skip produces horns via a keyboard. "Phone Keeps Ringing" features a catchy rock guitar riff, but the song quickly transitions to a widely appealing soul/funk groove. The fiery band really strut their stuff on the instrumental "Big Fat Frog," which was recorded live in the studio. It is a meld of funk, rock ‘n’ roll, and a good time. "To Brunswick" is another tune without vocals, but it only features acoustic guitar. The structure of "Bad Luck Tour"is the bluesiest. Here, the emotions simply spew off Hendricks’ scorching strings.

The production focuses on the guitar. This seems to make sense given the fact that, at this point, Hendricks’ superb guitar is the main attraction. The songs and guitar are undeniable while the vocals, riffs, and hooks become a bit repetitive. Still, this contemporary debut proves Vital Support to be a diverse group “built on the foundation of the blues”.

--- Tim Holek

Being a musician who has played with a collection of artists and who has spanned genres can only lend to a wonderful understanding on how musical inspiration happens and eventually transforms to individual skills and abilities that sound super when recorded or seen live.

Such is the case with Washington resident and session guitarist Dean Reichert, whose latest release, Misty’s Joint (No Hair Music), proves this point very well.

Reichert’s experience ranges from playing with jazz greats like Jeff Lorber and Larry Coryell (whose expert playing must had been an influence for Reichert) to the acclaimed northwest blues tribute band The Blues Power Revue.

On Misty’s Joint Reichert takes all this experience and comes up with a solid solo outing incorporating blues, R&B, funk and horn driven soul that sounds wonderful.

For example, on the title track we hear blues, soul, some slide and horns all beautifully put together, proving Reichert’s talent beyond just the musicianship as he produced and engineered the entire disc. On the tune "Movin’," Reichert blesses us with some tasty guitar playing as he sings instructions to his dance partner. On the only tune not written by Reichert (10 out of 11 songs ain’t bad) he turns out a nice rendering of the classic Doc Pomus and Duke Robillard chestnut "Body and Fender Man." On "Opportunity," a lament on love gone sour whose time has run out for any resurrection, those luscious horns show all their glory once again.

Beyond the fact that Reichert plays all the guitar and bass parts, handles the keyboards and most of the percussion duties, there are some talented musicians lending to the full band sound heard throughout this disc. This includes tremendous horn work by Ted Dortch on tenor sax, Keith Klawitter also on tenor sax and Andy Omdahl doubling on trumpet and horn arrangements. Most of the tracks feature drummer Steve Peterson.

All this adds up to a superb sounding CD that any fan who likes their blues wrapped up in an ear pleasing collage of sounds should have in their collection. If interested you can click onto Reichert’s site where you can purchase this disc and find out more information about this truly deserving artist. Go to: Good listening.

--- Bruce Coen

Teresa JamesTexas transplant Teresa James, now residing in sunny Southern California, knows a thing or two about barrelhouse boogie piano blues à la Marcia Ball. Just take a listen to her recent release, The Rhythm Method (Jesi Lu Records) and you’ll be well convinced like I was.

Aside from the obvious comparisons, a woman leading a band on piano with musical tastes running from blues to soulful funk, James is a true artist with a crack band, The Rhythm Tramps, taking us through 14 tunes of very flavorful sounds nicely molding around her expert tinkling.

Starting off with her ivories shining James launches into "Nobody Rings My Bell" with a fine-sounding horn section to better inform the listener that this CD will kick some tush. Other gems to grab a hold off is the sultry "Louisiana Moon" with its New Orleans references reminding us of the city’s charms pre-Katrina and how one day we can all look forward to the Crescent City once again. Another fine example of boogie piano making us smile with its toe tapping rhythm is "Big Top Hat."

Slowing down a bit James shows off her voice on "Back Into Her Heart,"solidifying the point that she just doesn’t have to sing in the style accompanying the boogie piano she’s so well associated with. The one cover that caught my ear was a beautiful rendition of the classic Al Kopper/Blood Sweat and Tears tune, "I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know." Here, James really lets loose with her vocal prowess.

Ably backed by the Rhythm Tramps, James can easily play any style of blues, R&B or funkified soul out there. Guitar chores are laid down well by Billy Watts, bass thumping by Terry Wilson, who also produced the CD and penned most of the songs, percussion and backing vocals by Debra Dobkin, skins handled with wonderful beats by James Cruce and sax compliments by Jerry Peterson. Add sometimes keyboard player with the Who John “Rabbit “ Bundrick and throw in some of Delbert McClinton’s backing band, and we have a tight, fun sounding band.

The Delbert McClinton connection goes beyond just loaning out his backing band. James has been involved in McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise for the last couple of years. This cruise puts together a super collection of artists that hit the Grand Cayman islands including Belize. Unfortunately, you’re too late to join the “06” cruise as they are sold out, but reservations should be opening up soon for the “07” cruise. Getting the nod by an accomplished artist such as McClinton certainly doesn’t hurt.

If Texas style blues and rock with rollicking piano is your cup of tea, then quickly click onto James site and have yourself a good time at Good Listening.

--- Bruce Coen

Blues Guitar WomenOver the years, quite a number of women guitarists have more than held their own in the blues world (more so than in any other musical genre), and Ruf Records has compiled a two-disc set, appropriately entitled Blues Guitar Women, to recognize this fact and pay homage to them. Handsomely packaged, with great liner notes and biographies of each of the artists compiled by guitarist Sue Foley, Blues Guitar Women takes a slightly different approach to most compilations, featuring the artists in reverse chronological order, and dividing the set into a contemporary disc and a traditional disc.

On the contemporary disc, there are a lot of familiar faces presented (Foley, Joanna Connor, Debbie Davies, Deborah Coleman, Bonnie Raitt, Alice Stuart, Barbara Lynn, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins), along with some newer faces you may not have heard from yet (Tracy Conover, Ruthie Foster, Ana Popovic, Eve Monsees, Carolyn Wonderland, Erja Lyytinen, and Laura Chavez). Some of the tracks are instrumental and range from Foley’s zesty “Mediterranean Breakfast" to Lynn’s funky “Lynn’s Blues” to Popovic’s pensive “Navajo Moon.” Other highlights include the fiery opening track by the Lara Price Band (featuring Chavez on guitar), “Can’t Quit The Blues,” Wonderland’s “Judgement Day Blues,” Raitt’s “It’s A Blessing” (with Maria Muldaur helping out on vocals), Foster’s soulful “Woke Up This Mornin’,” and Traci Conover’s scorching cover of Freddy King’s “Goin’ Down.”

The traditional disc is predictably a more sedate affair, and most of the names will be recognizable ones to fans of traditional blues. Foley and Stuart make appearances on this disc also, (Stuart’s treatment of “Rather Be The Devil” is a keeper). Other standouts include Precious Bryant’s “Fool Me Good,” Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Streamline Train,” JoAnn Kelly’s “One Dime Blues,” and a couple of appearances by Rory Block (one solo and one with Uppity Blues Woman Gaye Adegbalola). There are also some tracks by some of the ladies who blazed the trail for women guitarists in the blues --- Mattie Delaney, Elvie Thomas, Geeshie Wiley, and the undisputed Queen of Blues Guitar, Memphis Minnie, who influenced most, if not all, of the women featured here (and a fair share of men as well).

Blues Guitar Women is an excellent collection of some artists you’ve already heard, some you might have heard of, and some you definitely need to hear more of, and belongs in every blues fan’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Bill Rhoades is well-known to many blues fans in the Pacific Northwest, having been involved on the blues scene there for over 40 years as a radio personality (on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon), as co-founder of the Cascade Blues Association, as a concert and festival promoter, and as leader of The Party Kings, who are slated to represent the CBA at the Annual International Blues Challenge at Memphis in January, 2006. Rhoades is a fine singer and one of the best harp men in the Northwest, and over the years, various incarnations of The Party Kings have backed artists such as Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Michael Bloomfield, Sonny Rhodes, and Jimmy Rogers.

Fresh from winning two Muddy Awards from the CBA (for Best Traditional Blues Band and Best Harmonica), Rhoades and The Party Kings just released their debut CD for White Owl Records. Voodoo Lovin’ is a solid release of traditional blues ranging from recognizable covers, such as Gatemouth Brown’s “She Walks Right In,” Muddy Waters’ “She Moves Me,” John Lee Williamson’s “Early In The Morning,” and Tampa Red’s “Don’t You Lie To Me”, along with some exceptional original compositions, like “Waiting and Worrying,” “I’m Trying,” and “Hurt Again.”

Rhoades does a first-rate job on the covers, but he is even more convincing on his own songs, maybe due to the familiarity of some of the covers. The band, seasoned veterans all (Michael Osborn on guitar, Tom Szell on bass, Johnny Moore on drums), stands out on all tracks. Longtime friend and musical partner Terry Robb produced this set and adds some torrid slide guitar to “She Moves Me.”

There’s nothing fancy here, just some good old genuine traditional blues like they used to play way back when. Bill Rhoades and The Party Kings will be tough to beat at the IBC in January. This CD is available at

--- Graham Clarke

145th Street BluesSan Diego’s 145th Street Deluxe Blues Band offer a blistering set of high-energy electric blues guaranteed to get you on your feet with their recent self-titled release. The disc features ten tracks, six of which are hard-driving originals like “Roll The Dice,” “Snakeskin On My Feet,” and “You Is So Mean,” along with four covers of time-honored tracks (Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann,” and a revved-up version of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” being the standouts).

The band features Steve Bulger contributing strong vocals and harmonica, Marco Marrewa providing some intensely soulful guitar, and Rollin Rogers (bass), D. J. Jackson (drums), and Mark “Doc” Holladay (keyboards) anchoring things down, and these guys mesh like they’ve been playing together for years.

If high-energy, hard-driving electric blues in the Chicago vein are what you’re looking for, look no further. This enjoyable disc will have what you need. This CD is available at and the band’s website,

--- Graham Clarke

Henry OdenBassist Henry Oden was a member of Joe Louis Walker’s band, the Boss Talkers from the mid 80’s until the mid ’90s, not only as Walker’s bass man, but also as a composer of several of Walker’s songs during that time. Since then, he’s toured with Sonny Rhodes, Maria Muldaur, and Craig Horton and has also recorded with Horton, Jimmy Dawkins, Freddy Hughes, and Bernard Anderson. Prior to joining Walker, in the '60s he toured with Jimmy Reed, Freddie King, Big Mama Thornton, Mike Bloomfield, and many others.

Oden has released a self-titled CD on CP Time Music that shows not only his blues leanings, but also gives old school funk and R&B plenty of space as well. “Madame Zorra and Sister Rose” is a slice of New Orleans funk, and “Book of Lies” is equally deep in the funk as well. For fans of ’70s era R&B, there’s “I Didn’t Mean 2 Hurt U,” “You Just Don’t Know,” and “Best Choice.” “71730” is a jazzy instrumental with Oden showing some formidable guitar chops. The blues are featured on “Even If It’s Wrong” and “Rock.” Oden lays down some nasty bass and guitar and gets some good solid support from the band.

If you like your blues mixed in with healthy doses of funk and R&B, check this one out at

--- Graham Clarke

The John Earl Walker Band’s latest release, People Are Talking (Walkright Music), features more of the same of their hard-edged blues/rock sound, but this time there’s more of a blues edge to the proceedings. Walker, who has toiled for many years on the New York music scene, seems to have found the right combination on this release. His guitar work is just outstanding, particularly on selections like “It’s All Up To You,” and “Introductory Plan”, and his gruff vocals are what the doctor ordered on tracks like the title cut, “Introductory Plan,” “Lyin’ and Cheatin’,” and “Too Sad To Weep.”

The band, including Peter Harris on bass, Bobby Infante on drums, Joey Tremelo on guitar, Johnny Byrne on harmonica, and Gene Cordew on keyboards provide steady and dependable backing for Walker. Although all the tracks have their merits, Walker saved the best for last with “Welcome Back Mr. Blues,” a nearly seven minute blues tour de force with plenty of powerful blues guitar that you hate to hear come to an end. Fans of blues/rock will really love this one.

--- Graham Clarke

Otis RushDelmark Records has been digging into its vault and has pulled out a rare gem: Otis Rush’s All Your Love I Miss Loving – Live at the Wise Fools Pub, Chicago, a recording of a live radio broadcast that originally aired on Chicago’s WXRT radio in 1976. The record is chock full of classic Rush performances and a wonderful live recording given the technology available at the time.

Otis starts the party rolling with a rousing rendition of "Please Love Me," imploring “Baby, please be my girlfriend, honey, I’ll be your boy.” It’s a fast-paced anthem of love that features frenetic guitar work by Otis. Just a great way to open up the show. "You’re Breaking My Heart" slows the pace down and laments the fact that his love has chosen to move on and is causing him great pain with her decision. Sweet, soulful guitar solos emphasize the heartbreak that Otis is feeling at the loss of this love.

"All Your Love" finds Otis in a much happier mood. “Before I met you baby…I didn’t know what I was missing.” Infectious fretwork empowers the listener to feel Rush’s joy at this new love and it makes you want to just get up and dance. "Will My Woman Be Home Tonight" is an instrumental track by Otis that musically wonders out loud if indeed, “Will my woman be home tonight?” I’m left wondering if she did come home…only Otis knows the answer for sure.

We continue to feel Otis’ pain with "Mean Old World" …. ”If you didn’t love me woman…why oh why did you treat me right?” Son House said it best…”There ain’t but one kind of blues and that’s the feelings between a woman and a man.” Otis definitely has those blues. In "Woke Up This Morning" we learn that she indeed has left and Otis is pleading his casev…”Baby…you need a man like me….I’m so alone…..ain’t had no loving since my baby’s been gone.” You just know she isn’t coming back.

"High Society" finds Otis moving uptown into a neighborhood he probably doesn’t belong in. His high society woman takes all his money…..keeps him on a string…..eats steak & chicken while he gets chitlin stew. Rush finally realizes that all is not right….”this love’s not worth the price I pay.” "It Takes Time" finds the shoe on the other foot…”today you’re laughing pretty baby…tomorrow you could be crying” is Otis’s admonishment to his current flame because he realizes this particular love is slowing down…it’s time to move on.

In "Gambler’s Blues" we find Otis using gambling as a metaphor for love. “Don’t know much about gambling….don’t know much about dice…don’t know much about love….don’t know much about life.” Love is a gamble, but at least Otis is willing to play. He concedes on "Feel So Bad" that he did indeed ”receive a dirty deal.” Sometimes you win in love…sometimes you lose…but at least he keeps trying.

Inspired playing and vocals highlight Rush’s rendition of the B.B. King classic "Sweet Little Angel" Just a wonderful addition to a classic set by Otis. The closing song on the record, "Motoring Along," is another instrumental by Otis and the band, giving them one last chance to display their amazing abilities in a fast-paced shuffle.

Live at the Wise Fools Pub is a very well-done live recording of Otis Rush. It has an analog album feel to it but the production of this recording is outstanding. I didn’t feel like I was at the Wise Fools Pub….but I knew I wished I would have been there.

--- Kyle Deibler

Zora Young“Came out kicking, going down swinging,” a comment from her interview at the end of Tore Up From the Floor Up, aptly describes Zora Young’s latest release on Delmark Records. Zora’s record is at times soothing, sweltering, joyful and sad, but most of all it is a joyous reminder of the wonderful talents of this wonderful Chicago blues artist.

"Love of Mine" is a heartfelt anthem of love about Zora’s current flame. The time comes when he has to leave and he’s admonished to “be a man about…don’t be sneaking out my back door.” It’s apparent that Zora is a strong woman who isn’t about to be disrespected in any fashion. "Go Ahead and Take Him" shares Zora’s thoughts on her man that’s done her wrong. “Go ahead and take him…..take away my misery….I know he’s going to sneak around and cheat on you….just like he’s done to me.” You just know that whatever happens next to the woman who has Zora’s man is just rewards….she’s been warned.

Things pick up on "I’m Gonna Do the Same Thing They Did to Me"; in her next relationship her man is going to toe the line. He has to have a job, bring the money home, pay the rent and treat like a queen. Only then will Zora be satisfied. "Toxic" brings with it the thought that the best thing to do is clean house…..”and put away the toxic things from my past.” Zora can’t seem to shake the bad memories from her past relationship but she’s working hard to get her life (and house) in order. Only by putting away her toxic memories can she move on.

Even though times are tough, in "Til the Fat Lady Sings," Zora reminds us that nothing is over until she says it is. The neighborhood is changing….houses are being built to drive her out of the projects but even though times are tough…..they aren’t over. A tender ballad, "Slowly," reminds us that Zora is still a woman of great passion…..”I don’t mind if you take a little longer….I know the results will be much stronger…..slowly…it’s alright!” Her current lover is obviously a man that Zora wants to make her own.

In "Ace of Spades," Zora reminds her current amour that she knows the game and can play it better then he can…”I’m the one who brought it here….I’m the ace of spades….listen to me baby…you just can’t win…the places you’re trying to go I’ve already been…I’ll still be the ace of spades when you get back!” "Rainy Night in Georgia" showcases the R & B depth of Zora’s talents. It’s warm, sultry….simmering with passion….very well done.

"Tore Up From the Floor Up," the title song of the album, finds Zora imploring her lover to please come home. “I didn’t know I would miss you until you were gone. It seems he was a better man than Zora thought. But he’s definitely gone. Things slow way down with Zora’s cover of "Since I Fell For You/Silhouette." This time the shoe’s on the other foot and Zora is at a disadvantage because of her love for this man. You feel her pain for loving this man but it is what it is. She loves this man.

"Handy Man" exudes confidence that now I’ve got a good man. “Hoochie mamas leave this one alone…..he’s my Handy Man!” This is one man who definitely is treating Zora right. Closing out the album is the rhythmic "Two Trains Running," a lament that Zora is having about her affair with a married woman’s husband. There are two trains running….”One around midnight…..and one before the break of day.” Even though this cheating man is alright by Zora….she’d be better of to be on her way.

Tore Up From the Floor Up concludes with a short interview with Zora discussing her Mississippi roots, her move to Chicago and her challenges as a female singer. Zora’s definitely been underrecorded and underappreciated. Hopefully this outstanding record will help to change all of that.

--- Kyle Deibler

Fresh for the holidays, MC Records has released a wonderful live recording by Odetta, entitled Gonna Let It Shine. An eclectic mix of spirituals and holiday songs, Gonna Let It Shine features Seth Farber on piano and the Holmes Brothers singing on three of the tracks recorded at a concert sponsored by WFUV public radio at Fordham University in New York. The result is a classic Odetta recording in celebration of the human and Christmas spirit.

In typical Odetta fashion, she begins the evening with a quote from Marianne Williamson, “Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond a measure…….we were born to make manifest the glory of god within us……..and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same…….our presence automatically liberates others.” Odetta has been a conscious voice within the social fabric of our country for well on 50 years and continually encourages everyone to search within to live, learn and grow. What follows is a powerful rendition of "Let It Shine" with the Holmes Brothers singing background vocals. Emotional, spiritual, uplifting….."Let It Shine" is a powerful introduction to a wonderful set of songs featured throughout the evening.

As the evening continues Odetta shares the history of a number of spiritual songs with the context of slavery. There is a period of time late in the year when work slows down after the harvest and blacks had the opportunity celebrate the seasons. They were able to equate stories from the Bible and Jewish communities to their own struggles. The result is a number of wonderful spirituals. "Rise Up Shepard," "Mary Had a Baby" and "What Month Was Jesus Born In" are classic examples of the black spirituals. "What Month Was Jesus Born In" is a spiritual that evolved as a way to teach the children the months of the year. Within the oppression of slavery, the children were not allowed to learn how to read and so a number of great life lessons were taught within the context of song.

Odetta continues on with rousing renditions of "Shout for Joy" and "Virgin Mary Had One Son." Her multi-octave voice is put to good use and is impressive throughout. Her ability to go “down in the basement” ala Koko Taylor and then hit extreme high notes is nothing short of amazing. The Holmes Brothers join her again on a wonderfully expressive version of "Down By the Riverside," and the audience’s appreciation of the evening is readily apparent.

"Poor Little Jesus" is followed by the wonderfully expressive "Freedom Trilogy," a collection celebrating the joys of heaven versus the oppression of slavery. Freedom, no matter how it is obtained, is always the preferred rout to go.

Odetta continues to take you on a magical journey with the spirituals "Somebody Talking About Jesus," "Keep On Moving It On," "O Jerusalem" and "If Anybody Asks You." before closing with a rendition of Leadbelly’s "Midnight Special." In the early 1900s there were penitentiary laws that served as a means of enforced slavery. A number of black men were arrested for what were minor offenses and committed to work groups to perform menial tasks for the public benefit, i.e., cracking rocks for use in paving roads, etc. "Midnight Special" is a spiritual these men sang while working to take their minds off the oppressive nature of the work they were doing.

I find Odetta’s social commentary to be thought provoking and masterfully woven within the context of her entire concert presentation. She’s been challenging our thoughts and our social concepts all her life and I’m sure will continue to do so. Gonna Let It Shine isn’t just a celebration of the holiday season; it’s a celebration of life for all seasons.

--- Kyle Deibler

Mississippi HatOne Eye Open – Live at Rosa’s Lounge is the latest Delmark release for Mississippi Heat, and it’s another great live recording released by Delmark. Pierre Lacocque’s outstanding harmonica leads are featured along with Inetta Visor on vocals and Lurrie Bell sitting in on guitar & vocals….One Eye Open is a great Chicago Blues live recording.

Opening with an instrumental, the aptly named "Rosa's Strut," features blistering harp playing by Lacocque and sets the tone for what had to be a rowdy evening at Rosa’s. Lurrie picks up the vocals on "19 Years Old," the classic song about love with a younger woman. Pierre’s harp leads strongly support Lurrie’s lament throughout this song that no matter what he does….he just can’t keep the girl satisfied.

"I’ve Got to Sleep with One Eye Open" brings Inetta Visor to the forefront as the female lead singer of Mississippi Heat. With references to the current TV shows Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives, Inetta intones that every now and then a woman can find a man who is just too much in the bedroom…..sleeping with one eye open helps fend off his advances at those times when our girl’s just not up to it.  "Dirty Deal" offers an alternative view….sometimes good love turns bad and it just goes south….”it became crystal clear….he just gave me a dirty deal!”

"Honest I Do" slows things way down with a wonderfully expressive vocal by Lurrie. Accompanied by Pierre’s soulful harmonica leads, "Honest I Do" simmers with Lurrie’s passion for the woman he loves. Just a great cover and one of the highlights of this record. "Rock Steady" brings Inetta back to the microphone and features some inspired keyboard playing by Chris “Hambone” Cameron. "Rock Steady’s" upbeat groove got everyone at Rosa’s off their butts and on to the dance floor…there’s just no way it couldn’t have. Kenny Smith on drums, Spurling Banks on bass and Max Valldeneau on guitar round out Mississippi Heat and form a strong supporting to Inetta, Lurrie and Pierre on the record.

"Jukin" opens up the second half of the show at Rosa’s and is a lively instrumental featuring Hambone Cameron’s keys and Pierre’s harmonica. It definitely warms you up for what is yet to come. Curiously enough, what follows is the slow ballad "Cold, Cold Feeling." Lurrie again takes the microphone to describe the feeling way down deep in his heart. Pierre’s soulful harmonica intonations support Lurrie’s feeling of despair at his love gone wrong.  Very well done.

On "Cool Twist" Inetta is encouraging everyone to take their time and just enjoy the dance. You can dance the twist together or just find your groove on your own….just enjoy. On "She Ain’t Your Toy" Inetta is commenting on advice she gave a male friend about his woman’s love is running cold.  “A woman is your equal…don’t mess without her…she’ll soon be leaving you…if you listen to what I’m saying….she’ll give you peace and joy!”  "She Ain’t Your Toy" offers age advice for any man looking to keep his woman satisfied and in his life. Just ask Inetta….she’ll set you straight.

Mississippi Heat closes out their recording with the instrumental "Listen Here." It’s apparent in their final song that Mississippi Heat is a group of very talented musicians. Delmark thought enough of this project to film the event for DVD as well and I for one can’t wait to see it. One Eye Open – Live at Rosa’s Lounge had to be one of the best parties thrown in Chicago this last year.  I’m just sorry I missed it.

--- Kyle Deibler

The MoochersThe third album from The Moochers has arrived ! The band, formed in 1994 by Mat Walklate & Pyatt, is still going strong even though Andy Pyatt has now relocated himself to France. The band continues to be based in the Manchester area of England, and judging by their latest CD, Play The Game, they are still determined to produce good music.

The album has 14 original tracks, most of them written by Walklate & Pyatt, with guitarist Dave Lunt making a contribution to the last track, a moody number entitled “40tude.” The opening track is “Listen To Me,” an up-tempo blues with some interesting guitar work and with Mat Walklate sounding very reminiscent of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull! This track is a good choice for the opening number, and grabs the listener’s attention, but track two, “House Of Cards,” is a better blues track, from my point of view. It’s got some unusual harmonica playing above a driving beat, and great guitar work which is kept in the background, so that it doesn’t detract from the vocals. This is a well-written and well-executed number, and has my vote as the best on the album.

As track three opens up (the title track “Play The Game”) you start to realize that this band has something to say, knows the blues, and that the album is getting going nicely. Pyatt’s guitar is given a bit more exposure here, and he takes advantage of that fact to show what he can do.

The following tracks, “Goin’ Away,” “Hide And Seek” and “Lubrication,” are excellent, bluesy, and full of good lyrics. But then track seven, “Smiling Face,” comes in. I’m not sure exactly why this track was included – it’s not bluesy and it’s not a patch on the preceding tracks. Having said that, it’s the only low point on the CD for me – and I must stress that it’s just a personal view – it could well appeal to other listeners, as it’s not a bad track.

Back into some funky blues with track eight, “Look Down,” and from here to end of the album it’s all good blues to listen to. Track ten has some obvious Dire Straits influence, especially on the guitar work, but that’s not a bad thing and it certainly adds a bit more interest. Track 12, “Take It Easy,” comes very close to being my choice from the album, and is a very close second to “House Of Cards” – these two tracks alone make this CD worth having in any blues collection.

--- Terry Clear


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