Before going further, I pause to feel gratitude for the way myriad
musicians touch our lives. The family of Ohio bluesman Sean Carney, for
example, filtered into my adventures a couple decades before he did.
First, Carney’s (apparent) step-brother John Horsefield, a drummer I
replaced in a long-time Phoenix blues band who demonstrated jazz chops
and talked of musical and literary parents, Next to come west was
trombonist and father Gary Carney, from Columbus, who sent me an LP of
his original mainstream jazz trombone for radio airplay. Turns out Gary
was married to Michelle, a vocal teacher who taught many Ohioans,
including the very underrated Cincinnati jazz organist Tony Monaco (see
my back issue Blues Bytes review of his Fiery Blues -
It was at a big band concert, while Gary Carney played in the “bone”
section, where Michelle and I met, discussing jazz. Within weeks she
passed on, but her influence obviously continued far from her hometown
when I interviewed a Chicago transplant/lady pianist/singer who had
taken lessons from Michelle!
Somewhere, at some gig, the patriarchal Gary paused during a break to
pass on a business card, suggesting I’d get along with his son who led a
blues band in Columbus. That brings us to Life Of Ease (Night
Outz Records), by the Sean
Carney Band, recorded in early and mid-2006.
13 tracks are studio, well-recorded in Columbus, with three cut live on
the road. We begin with an excellent-feeling, way-down jazzy groove. On
top is a crude vocal of standard blues pattern, underneath is alto sax
obligatti. Clean guitar soon joins in the call and response, the tempo
breathes once the leader’s guitar solos. A fierce, but tight, shuffle
follows. We detect an Ike Turner-type Stratocaster lead --- is it the
whammy bar? Next, a smooth backbeat with half-time and mature chord
progressions. Hammond B3 organ becomes evident, represented by a couple
players (not including the aforementioned Tony Monaco, though he
PRODUCED two of the organ tracks). “Bad Side Baby” continues the playlist ever so subtly by strengthening all the elements of the
preceding three tracks. T-Bone Walker’s “Wig Is Gone” includes a brief
musical drum solo and slapped bass.
Emotional rather than book-learned musical content is notable, such as
vocal breaks delivered rap style, settling on a “flat tire” drum rhythm.
A slow/voodoo “black cat” theme conspires with tremelo guitar. The next
shuffle turns greasy. 50% of the material is original, but on Louie
Jordan’s “Outskirts Of Town,” staccato electric bass is simply played
properly. And the guitar solo? Holy Mother of God! Organ well-anchors
the rock beat of “Tramp.” Unusual but highly effective is the acoustic
bass of Steve Perakis, not slapped this time, but funked up (In the
liner notes, Carney rightly calls his playing “larger than life upright
Female vocalist Teeny Tucker gets buried a little by the band’s power on
“I Live Alone,” but her delivery is nonetheless soulful as they shift
from calypso to shuffle and back. In the body of the program one might
stretch the imagination to hear Magic Sam, only “Ohio” style with a horn
section. We also end up down in the alley in an urban swing, rather than
muddy rural, sense. Acoustic piano underlines as fuzz guitar solos.
The last three live tracks are even more inspired: two from Denver and
the last from Ft. Myers Beach. The shuffle is now HARD--after suspended
rhythmic breaks, the whole groove lies loosely, but perfectly in place.
It’s the essence of blues definition. One more revved-up shuffle
concludes with slow Chicago fare.
A quick look at other musical guests on the disc. The late Joe Weaver,
pianist and vocalist on two tracks, met Sean’s band as the former toured
the west coast with Alberta Adams. Vocalist Willie Pooch brings his
native Mississippi influence to the musical mix on a couple others, and
saxophonist Gene Walker, protégé and sideman to King Curtis (who was at
Shay (sic) Stadium opening for the Beatles in ‘64), plays on three
selections. A couple possible reasons for leader Sean Carney having
access to this source of musicians might be his appearances at bigger
blues festivals world-wide, and his standing as President of the
Columbus Blues Alliance.
Now, I must repeat the disc to better hear standard and typical blues
lyrics that superb blues musicianship overshadowed the first time. Grade
of A. (http://cdbaby.com/cd/seancarneyband)
--- Tom Coulson
The Swamp Coolers' Surf Island is called “Surf Music From The Wild West.” I hear Dick Dale meets
Duane Eddy-come-Ventures with steel drum added. If you appreciate the
group’s name, their cover of a regional TV theme, another original title
of “101 on the 101,” it proves you’ve survived at least one summer in
Arizona anywhere from the '50s to recently.
Their previous studio CD, Dry Heat, was a little mechanical. It was
niche pop music of yore communing with trademark surf treble and tremelo
guitar. Surf Island was recorded live during a daytime festival slot
and is musically warmer, a notch higher in energy. It’s more genuine as
in extra amp noise.
There’s a good balance of rhythm and lead guitars. It’s all instrumental
with an occasional verbal introduction. Though song structures are
formulaic, they typically stretch out longer than a 45RPM. Occasionally
a heavier metal lead emerges. The drummer is probably stodgy on purpose
until “Walk Don’t Run” where the groove gets pulled back, and his one
percussion break of the CD is also heartfelt. The program sequencing is
The fare of mostly vintage material and the character of the band is a
good fit. No need, for example, to describe “Bali Hi.” The tension
release tempo of “Baja” conjures up a feeling from a like badland movie
scene, and of course there’s the obligatory “Tequila.” Slightly thin
inspiration is detectible only in spots. The disc is not really bluesy
until toward the end, when a medium-tempo “Route 66” medley includes
“Memphis” and could it be “Hot Rod Lincoln?” The “Peter Gunn” portion
contains a fuller lead guitar and stronger groove.
Overall it’s worthwhile retro with shades of individuality. That alone
would be sufficient, but the group is to be commended for a most unique
cover which concludes the disc: the theme song from Phoenix TV’s
“Wallace And Ladmo” kid’s show which ran for 35 years. Written by Mike
Condello, it personifies the author’s musical identity. Condello
appeared live almost daily on the show, often covering Beatle hits with
localized lyrics. He was also quite the singer/songwriter off the show
and ended up on the west coast producing records of the cutting-edge
“Jetzons” group. Condello later met a typical and tragic rock and roll
death. There is no doubt he would have approved of the Swamp Cooler’s
version of his “Ho Ho Ha Ha He He Ha Ha,” and could even have produced
it himself. A most original concept of the disc, giving it an overall
grade of B. (www.theswampcoolers.com)
--- Tom Coulson
Out of the gate, the first word that comes to mind after listening to
the new Phantom Blues Band CD, Out of the Shadows, is
energy. This record reflects a boundless amount of energy and expertise
that is channeled into the band’s first release on Delta Groove Records.
A veritable who’s who of band mates, all whom have won Blues Music
Awards in conjunction with Taj Mahal, come to the forefront as a viable
force of their own.
Keyboards by Mike Finnigan follow a funky horn intro from Darrell
Leonard on trumpet and Joe Sublett on sax to let the listener know that
“Do the Dirt” is just the beginning of the adventure. “Do the Dirt” is a
dance that implores one to kick off the shoes, pull your shirt out and
just have at it. “You say I’m growing old…I know that’s true…I’ve got to
figure out what I can do to you…..doggone my aching back!” In this song
by Lowell Fulson, “My Aching Back”, the band laments the problems of
growing old. It’s just harder and harder to keep up with a younger
“Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?” follows and Mike Finnigan lets us
know that he’s not happy. Blankets are the floor, sheets are strewn
everywhere….obviously someone was very, very bad. “I’m calling up the
hospital baby, reserving two beds in your name….cause you and your brand
new boy friend are about to be together again!” There’s a price to be
paid for letting a new man into Mike’s bed. Taj Mahal lends his harp to
“I Only Have Love”, sung by Larry Fulcher. “Laugh with me, cry with me,
believe in me…stay with me…..I only have love for you!” A very upbeat
song extolling the true virtues of the love Larry has for his woman.
“Rain Down Tears” slows down the tempo and reflects on the sadness of a
woman who’s left her home. No matter where she goes…..”its gonna rain
down tears…..you’ll need a shelter somewhere.” Even if she returns to
reconsider there’s a good chance someone else will have taken her place.
“I’m Looking for a Miracle” lets us know that Mike Finnigan is in need
of help from the Lord. “I’m a stranger to the church…I’m a little lamb
astray…but if you show me a miracle…while I’ll be here everyday!”
Optimism abounds and Mike knows it’s only a matter of time before the
miracle he’s in search of happens. “Big Boy Pete” tells the story of bad
man Brown and how he handled Pete. “Brown cut that black cigar right out
of Pete’s mouth…Pete hit the ground…he yelled and he screamed…then took
his Stetson hat and fled the scene.” It’s never a good idea to go down
to Honkytonk Street in search of the baddest man around.
“Let them talk…if they want to…talk don’t bother me…I want the whole,
wide world to know that I, I love you so!” “Let Them Talk” is a
heartfelt ballad of the love Mike has for the woman in his life. This is
a one of a kind love, one that will stand the test of time and survive
all of the trials that come before it. “Book of Rules” implies that all
of us have a specific role to play in the development of the world we
live in. “We’ll be builders for eternity….each is give a bag of tools…a
shapeless map….and a book of rule!” Caribbean influences abound in the
Chuck Berry classic, “Havana Moon.” “We’re still alone…we sip on the
rum….we wonder when the boat she comes….to bring me the love of the
sweet little thing….she holds me tight….she touches me lips….me eyes
aglow because she fits…Havana Moon!” A touching story of forbidden love
between a Cuban man and an American woman.
Denny Freeman’s guitar reigns supreme in the intro to “Part Time Love.”
The next time his baby leaves Mike will find himself in need of a woman
to fill the void…”I’d rather be dead….lying six feet in my grave than to
ever keep on living lonely…each and every day…she came home early this
morning…and I asked her where she’s been….she said Daddy don’t ask me
where I’m going….I’m going to have to be leaving you again!’’ Brilliant
guitar work by Freeman underscores the loneliness and frustration that
Mike feels as a part of his everyday life with this unfaithful woman.
“Think” finds Mike in the midst of a dilemma, both he and his mistress
have significant others that impact on their ability to be together. “I
could give up my woman…you could give up your man…but it don’t make
sense…to take a chance…come on and think…what would we do later on….what
kind of life would we have….just in case we both were wrong?” A lack of
conviction is going to doom this relationship from the start.
“Yield Not to Temptation” closes out what has been a very enjoyable
record by underscoring the need to have faith in the relationship you’re
in. “So many times you’re going to be lonely…so many times you’re going
to be blue….but yield not to temptation and let no one lead you astray!”
Definitely sound advice for the ages. Out of the Shadows includes
two bonus tracks, “Baby Doll” and “Mary Ann.” “Baby Doll” finds Mike
lamenting his inability to get over a lost love. “Baby doll…baby
doll…can’t you turn me loose…I don’t think I’ll ever get over Baby
Blue!” “Mary Ann”, a Ray Charles original, ends the set on an upbeat
note. “Oh Mary Ann….baby don’t you know….don’t you know baby…I could
love you so!”
Out of the Shadows is a strong release by the Phantom Blues Band.
Messrs. Braunagel, Fulcher, Freeman, Leonard, Finnegan, Sublett and
Schell prove together that the sum of the parts is indeed greater than
the whole. If I’m indeed throwing a party, these boys are at the top of
the guest list!
--- Kyle Deibler
This woman is a troubadour. A teller of life stories and roads traveled.
That was my first thought as I listened to Deanna Bogart’s new
record, Real Time, out on Blind Pig records. It’s an impression
that stayed in my mind throughout listening to a record that surprised
me and, more importantly, a record that will stay in my listening
rotation for awhile.
Deanna opens up with “Real Time,” a questioning look at what it must
have been like to hear the birth of various genre’s of music from disco
to bop at the time of their birth. I’m not too old to remember the birth
of disco and it was a unique period in our musical evolution so I
understand her question. I’ve often wondered what it would have been
like to hear Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Muddy, the Wolf and others
that I wasn’t fortunate enough to hear live. So the ability to be there
in “Real Time” is a precious thing. Her real look at life continues in
“Everybody has a Story.” “There’s just no way to tell…who’s in
heaven…who’s in hell…everybody has a story…tell me yours…I’ll tell you
mine.” “Everybody has a Story” is prompted by the casual meetings we
experience everyday in our lives. Someone has a smile on their face,
someone else a tear, every story’s different but they are all a part of
the fabric of our day.
“Blue by Night” finds Deanna musing about the current pain in her life.
“I wander through my garden…where the lilacs fill the air…I know a heart
can harden…so I better put the ache somewhere….fine by day….blue by
night….I wish I could tell you but I don’t know….what do you do with
blues like these?”. This wonderful ballad is easily my favorite song on
her record. A funky backbeat supports her question in “Are You Lonely
for Me Baby”. A roaring sax solo by Deanna further highlight the
importance of the answer to the question…”Are you lonely for me
baby...I’m lonely for you!” Here’s hoping the trip to Jacksonville
yielded the correct answer to the question.
Deanna’s sax is again at the forefront of the wonderfully jazzy
instrumental, “Blues in the ‘Bine.” Her band, Scott Ambush on bass; Mike
Aubin on drums and Dan Leonard on guitar is very tight, and “Blues in
the ‘Bine” gives them ample opportunity to showcase their musicianship.
Keyboards are another area of expertise for Deanna and the ivories are
twinkling in the intro to “Baby You Got What It Takes”. “It takes two
lips of fire to melt away the snow….and it takes two hearts a cooking…to
make a fire go…whoa…baby…you got what it takes!” This is one romance
that is obviously working for Deanna.
Intricate guitar work by Dan Leonard provides the intro to another
wonderful ballad, “Tender Days.” “I watched the sunrise from the porch
where I live…so took my breath away I wish it were mine to give…to you
when life has you down.” “Tender Days” offers solace to a friend who
obviously is in pain and offers hope for a better day. “Just knowing
what it is that lasts…just might push you through.” Boogie woogie piano
is front and center in another instrumental track, “Bite the Bullet.”
Fast paced and frenetic, “Bite the Bullet” again reminds me that
Deanna’s band is very good.
“Wonder what the Weather is Today” is a refreshing look at the ups
and downs of relationships. Sometimes moods change faster than the
weather but it’s a great metaphor for the rocky road we’ve all traveled
in relationships. “I’m your whole world when we kiss…then I cease to
exist…first you’re hot…then you’re cold…got to get away from wondering
what your weather is today!” Images of smoke-filled lounges and cabaret
fill my head as I listen to the closing track on this record, “Table for
Three.” Deanna sits front and center at her piano while weaving her way
through an intricate solo and Scott Ambush’s bass work is a perfect
compliment to this satisfying conclusion to what has been a very
I have to admit, Deanna Bogart surprised me. I’ve not heard any of her
music before and I appreciate the journey I’ve experienced on Real
Time. She’s a very gifted musician, a poignant storyteller and has
surrounded herself with a great band. Real Time is the first
Deanna Bogart record in my collection, but it won’t be my last.
--- Kyle Deibler
Doghouse Daddies is a jump-style blues band from the Kansas City
area. Their self-titled independent release shows a band that truly
enjoys what they are doing and who no doubt put on a good live show.
They aren't by any means the best individual musicians around, in that
the vocals rarely rise above being mediocre and none of the
instrumentals could be classified in the "hot player" category. But
their feeling for the music is genuine and they get better as the CD
The disc starts to cook with the first song of the second half, the
original up-tempo tune, "Doghouse Daddy," when both guitarist Mark Rollings and harmonica player Howdy Stevens kick it up a notch. One
wonders why it took the first half of the CD to really start warming up.
Rollings shows off his best licks on a version of Buddy Guy's "Mary Had
A Little Lamb" and Stevens comes in with some nice harp playing on the
closing "Sloppy Drunk."
No, these guys aren't ready for the national circuit. But if you're in
KC and see the Doghouse Daddies name on the marquee of some blues joint,
don't hesitate to step inside, listen to their live show and buy one of
these CDs off the bandstand.
--- Bill Mitchell
For someone who claims to know a lot about the history of the
blues, I've been woefully uninformed about the legacy of blues shouter
and composer Piney Brown. The octogenarian, a contemporary of Big
Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown, first recorded in 1947 and cut
sides for labels like Apollo, Sound Stage Seven and Duke, plus the hit "Talkin'
'bout You" on Atlas Records. He was also renowned as one of the
composers of the blues classic "Just A Little Bit."
Brown is still alive, well and singing the blues, as heard on his latest
CD, One Of These Days (Bonedog Records). As expected, his voice
doesn't have the power that it did 60 years ago. But he can still sing,
and the tight backing band does its part in supporting Brown. The end
result is a nice collection of 12 tunes, 11 Brown originals and a cover
of Percy Mayfield's "Strange Things Are Happening."
Remakes of many of Brown's hits are here, including "Talkin' 'Bout You,"
"Just A Little Bit, "In The Evening "When The Sun Goes Down," and
"Kokomo." His voice sounds strongest on "Talkin' 'Bout You" and "Just A
Little Bit," probably the songs that he's done the most over the years.
If, like me, you just don't know enough about Piney Brown, then pick up
this CD as well as digging up some of his early recordings.
--- Bill Mitchell
Cleveland, Ohio is not known as a blues epicenter. After all, the city
is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, Cleveland Blues
Guitar Summit, Vol. 1 (CRG Blues) proudly
recognizes eight of the city’s finest blues guitarists. Thanks to a
feature in Living Blues, and an appearance at last year’s Pocono Blues
Festival, Travis Haddix is likely the most well known Clevelander among
The axe men are aptly supported by Ray DeForest (bass) and Tommy Rich
(drums). Most noticeable is Randy Moroz, who tramples on his keyboards.
There are vocalists present on the tracks, but they aren’t credited.
Mini bios included in the liner reveal that Austin Charanghat and Bob
"I’m A King Bee" is performed at a nice, slow, and relaxed pace by
Frankie Starr and Alan Greene. Starr’s smooth guitar is capable of
piercing out certain notes while Greene screeches in a rock vein à la
Harvey Mandel. Scott Flowers’ shuffling drums add to Haddix’s twirling
guitars on "Job Close To Home." The song features humorous and unrealistic
lyrics about a job most of us would love to have.
On "Cleveland, Ohio
Blues" Bob Frank plays with the pitch and tone of T-Bone Walker, Slim Harpo, and Jimmy Reed. Here, The Forest City is given praise while its
urban realities are addressed. Charanghat’s stirring slide is raw, but
his vocals are unexciting on "Look On Yonder’s Wall."
Frank ‘Silk’ Smith
proves he has been named appropriately based on the way he plays guitar
on "Talk To Your Daughter." It is refreshing to hear Haddix’s original
"Open Book," though it is slow-paced. Alan Greene and Frankie Starr combine
to give the most enjoyable performance on "San Ho Zay." Their vocals are
above average and their guitars are rockin’.
The focus from the get go is on guitar playing – not songwriting or
singing. The chosen songs are primarily blues standards and covers. This
all begins to make the music get repetitive very quickly. Although the
61-minute disc was recorded live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and
Museum, most of the audience noise has been filtered out. With guitar
skills that range from good to great – Alan Greene, who appears the most
on the disc, is impressive – this CD proves the “mistake by the lake”
has some decent blues guitarists. Cleveland Blues Guitar Summit, Vol. 1
contains a clear mix of modern and traditional blues artists, but none
of them are outstanding.
--- Tim Holek
The Miller Brothers Band have a Midwest working class background. All of the
band members grew up near Detroit, Michigan, where they have known each
other since high school. For a time, they went their separate ways, but
they eventually reassembled in Los Angeles. You’ll sense a heavy metal
sounding production before you confirm, via the credits, that Tales From
The Foundry (Foundry Town Music) was recorded in California.
Bob Ramsey’s piano powerfully carries the rhythm and adds fills while
Mark Tomorsky’s slide guitar rocks on the opening track, "Alabama Key." The
title comes from the slang term for a Slim Jim tool used to steal cars.
Crazy is radio-friendly thanks to the synthesizer. However, it tends to
distract the poignancy of the rhythm by drowning out the guitar’s hooks
and grooves. "Ghost On A Roll" which was inspired by the distressing
lives of the homeless, proves these guys can write a mean tune. Here,
Dave Miller’s harp sets the mood and squalls to the excellent melody and
arrangement. "Things Will Get Better" is a funky groove with nice backing
vocals. "Out Of Control" is a rockin’ boogie rooted deeply in blues. "Pain
Comes Your Way" flashes back to the American rock bands of the 1960s,
e.g., The Doors, who embraced the blues. Here fuzz tone guitar adds to
the sweet intoxication, which is mellow and relaxing. "You Don’t Know Me"
is the most profound song. It challenges couples not to fall into the
trap of having superficial relations, but rather to develop genuinely
All 12 original songs will transition to the stage well since not a lot
of studio magic was used in the recording. The tunes all tell stories
about life, love, and working for a living. Some songs, e.g., "Playin’,"
will appeal to the blues and rock crowd, but more often than not this CD
is too rocky for my blues tastes.
Tales From The Foundry depicts these
Brothers to be a power rock band. Throughout, Frank Charboneaux’s
heavily patted drums drive, while Tommy Miller’s bass buzzes and Al
Jacquez yowls. Surely, I didn’t expect to encounter traditional blues at
the foundry?! The production is good and the musicianship is solid. You
will groove and shake to this music, but the songs need to be more
consistently strong in order to hold the listener’s attention for
--- Tim Holek
Wow! What a superb album from Eric Clapton and one of his greatest
influences (after Robert Johnson), J.J.Cale. Cale’s influence was such that one of Clapton’s first solo hits was
a J.J.Cale song, “After Midnight,” back in 1970.
The Cale influence bubbled up again a few years later on Clapton's 1978
album Slowhand, which had "Cocaine" as its centerpiece.
Although Clapton moved in rock/pop in the '80s, he didn’t forget the
influence of either J.J.Cale, or Robert Johnson, so the decision to team
up with Cale for an album is fairly natural.
The album is called The Road to Escondido, and it’s been worth the
A lot of Clapton's work has shown Cale's influence for over
three decades, so a teamwork album 36 years after the hit version of
"After Midnight" seems right. Clapton apparently initially planned make an album with Cale as producer, but
the project changed into a duet album where both Cale and Clapton share the billing, and the album ended up being produced by Simon Climie (ex-Climie Fisher), who has worked with Clapton since the CD
Pilgrim in 1998.
Cale persuaded Clapton to use some of his backing band and wrote 11 of
the album's tracks, making him the dominant partner in some ways.
However, this isn’t altogether obvious when you listen to the album, as
it feels so similar to some of the last few Clapton albums, probably
because of Simon Climie’s production influence.
Guitarists Albert Lee, Derek Trucks and John Mayer all make guest
appearances, and Billy Preston recorded some of his last sessions for this
album before he died.
The similarity, and at the same time the difference, between Clapton and Cale is what gives this album an edge – the contrast and the teamwork
bringing something a bit special to the surface – listen to “Any Way The
Wind Blows” or “Call Me The Breeze” for evidence of this.
Cale is well known in his own right, and this link-up with Clapton can only be good for both of them, and maybe some people who
hadn’t taken much notice of J.J. Cale in the past will start to listen
to him now.
There’s an appealing mix of tempos, from slow ballad to medium fast, and
not a bad track on the album – buy it!!
--- Terry Clear
Back in the 1920s and ’30s, on street corners in the South, particularly
Texas, guitarists would play gospel music, sometimes playing songs that
dated back to the pre-Civil War era. For the most part, these songs were
played on the National Steel Guitar, which was made of brass instead of
wood, with aluminum speakers built in. This enabled the guitarists to
play on the street corners without electricity and to be heard over a
greater distance. By using a slide, the guitar was able to imitate a
human voice and therefore serve as a “second vocalist.”
The performers of this arcane style of music were called Sidewalk
Saints, which serves as the title for a recent release by guitarist
Ben Bowen King on his Talking Taco record label. Sidewalk Saints
features 14 songs, all classic gospel tunes, lovingly rendered on King’s
This style of guitar encompassed several others, featuring traces of the
blues, ragtime jazz, African-American music, and even Appalachian music.
King lovingly recreates the old time sound on guitar and also plays
harmonica, jaw bow, and one-string fiddle. Lending a hand on several
songs is Covita Moroney, who plays a diverse set of instruments
including bass guitar, tambourine, bass drum, Coke bottle, spoons,
suitcase, and also “Baptist Moans.” Back in their heyday, the sidewalk
guitarists often gave their audiences similar instruments to play during
their performances, forming a “sidewalk symphony” in the process.
As mentioned, the songs listed will be familiar tunes to fans of gospel.
Songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,”
“In The Sweet By & By,” “Shall We Gather At The River,” and “Amazing
Grace” will be familiar to most music fans, regardless of their
religious leanings, and King’s renditions of them are first-rate, as he
seamlessly mixes aspects of blues with folk and even jazz.
There are also a few surprises. “Preacher’s Hell Bound Train” is
described as a “six string sermon.” Because of the unique sounds
produced by the resonator guitar, performers often literally let the
guitar do the talking on some of their songs. On several tracks, King’s
guitar sounds almost like a banjo, which was also a tradition of the day
for these guitarists.
The resonator guitar is truly a wondrous instrument in the capable hands
of Ben Bowen King. Alternately chilling, beautiful, powerful, and
exciting, Sidewalk Saints revives a long-forgotten tradition of
music and is worthy of a hallowed spot in any acoustic guitar fan’s
--- Graham Clarke
If Thomas Ruf never released another recording on his label, blues fans
everywhere would still owe him an immeasurable debt. Ruf was one of the
parties involved in the reemergence of Luther Allison on the national
scene. Allison lived for years in Europe, where he was a big success,
but was largely forgotten in his home country. Ruf signed Allison to his
label in 1994…actually the sole purpose of the label was to record
Luther Allison. Ruf released Allison’s watershed album Soul Fixin’
Man and subsequently leased it to Alligator Records for release in
the U.S. The rest, as they say is history.
Over the years, Ruf has continued to record some outstanding talent.
Though most American listeners will be familiar with artists like Larry
Garner, Sue Foley, Walter Trout, Bob Brozman, Bernard Allison, Robin
Trower, Candye Kane, and Canned Heat, Ruf has also recorded and
introduced several of the stars of the European blues scene, such as
Aynsley Lister, Ian Parker, Erja Lyytinen, and Ana Popovic. All of Ruf’s
artists have one thing in common --- whatever direction their music goes
in, be it world music, soul, rock, or pop, they all maintain a firm
foundation in the blues, hence Ruf Records’ motto….”Where Blues Crosses
Recently, Ruf released a compilation of some of their finest music,
Ruf Records Anthology: 12 Years of “Where Blues Crosses Over". The
set consists of a 13-track CD and a 13-track DVD. In the past few years,
Ruf also started releasing DVD’s by many of their artists and some of
the best performances are collected on this set.
The CD features standout tracks from recent CDs by Trout (“Workin’
Overtime,” with Jeff Healey), Foley (“New Used Car”), Luther Allison
(“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”), and Garner (“When The Blues Turn
Black”), along with impressive tracks from artists seldom heard in the
U.S., such as Parker (“It Hurts A Man”), Lister (“In The Beginning”),
Popovic (“Love Fever”), and Kevin Coyne (“Whispering Desert”).
The DVD features appearances from the Blues Caravan (the trio of Lister,
Parker, and Lyytinen whose Pilgrimage release this summer
garnered a lot of attention), Brozman, Trower, Popovic, the Imperial
Crowns, Friend’n Fellow, and most of the artists previously mentioned
above. All the performances are top notch and the production values are
excellent. Of interest to most fans will be the 1994 music video of
Luther Allison’s song “Bad Love” that’s previously unreleased.
Look for more great things from Ruf in the future. The label was
recently awarded the 2007 Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) award for Record
Label. They’ve also signed Corey Stevens, Jeff Healey, and Roxanne
Potvin and promise new release from all of them in 2007. In the
meantime, check out this collection to see what’s been going on the past
12 years with this innovative label and check out what you may have
--- Graham Clarke