Blues Bytes

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December 2006

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Phantom Blues Band

Deanna Bogart

Miller Brothers Band

JJ Cale, Eric Clapton

Ben Bowen King

Ruf Records anthology


Sean CarneyBefore 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 - December 2004). 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 bass work”).

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. (

--- Tom Coulson

Swamp CoolersThe 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 tight.

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. (

--- Tom Coulson

Phantom Blues BandOut 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 woman.

“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…’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

Deanna BogartThis 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 enjoyable listen.

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 progresses.

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

Piney BrownFor 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 Blues GuitarCleveland, 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 them.

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 Frank sing.

"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

Miller BrothersThe 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 meaningful relationships.

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 54-minutes.

--- Tim Holek

JJ Cale - Eric ClaptonWow! 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 wait! 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

Ben Bowen KingBack 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 resonator.

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 collection.

--- Graham Clarke

Ruf RecordsIf 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 Over.”

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 missed.

--- Graham Clarke


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