Blues Bytes

What's New

December 2007

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Rod Piazza

Back Door Slam

Dave Riley & Bob Corritore

Coco Montoya

Jeffrey Halford

BlueHouse Band

Ellis Hooks

Ronnie Earl

Monster Mike Welch

Crossroads Guitar Festival


Rod PiazzaI was happy to see ThrillVille in the mail. The Mighty Flyers last record, For the Chosen Who, was absolutely brilliant and I was seriously in need of new music from Rod, Honey, Henry and David. Rechristened as Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet (MFBQ), these friends of mine from California have managed to produce another wonderful record that Mighty Flyers fans everywhere will love. So kick back and let’s see what we’ve got here, in ThrillVille.

Rod and the MFBQ open up with a history lesson featuring two of Rod’s heroes, Little Walter and Slim Harpo. Comparing and contrasting the styles of these two masters on their songs, “Hate to See You Go / Shake Your Hips,” somehow seems fitting. Rod is indeed one of the premier harp players of our generation and I can’t think of a more qualified instructor for this blues history lesson. Rod seems to prefer Little Walter’s version overall, but both are faithfully recreated here. Next up is “Westcoaster,” a pleasing instrumental that gives the band a chance to stretch its wings before moving on to “Sugar.” In “Sugar,” Rod seems to have found the woman of his dreams. Henry Carvajal’s intricate fretwork supports Rod’s vision of loveliness…”Sugar…there’s no one any finer…I’ve searched all over China…Sugar, you’re my gal!”

The energy picks up as Rod begins to admonish his woman for her choices in “Get Wise.” “You take my money…then you lie and cheat…there ain’t no more living on easy street…get wise pretty woman…you’re about to lose your happy home.” For the first time we hear Honey’s fingers twinkling the ivories on an extended solo, and then Rod’s harp echoes the lesson this woman should learn. The cohesiveness of MFBQ is evident throughout this tune and reminds me what great band they are. In the liner notes, Art Tipaldi echoes this sentiment when discussing their performance of the Junior Wells classic, "Hoodoo Man Blues." From Rod’s harp to Honey’s piano to Henry’s guitar, with David keeping the back end tight, the musical performance of MFBQ awes the listener. This is a classic performance by the Mighty Flyers and well worth the price of admission. “Everybody tell me…somebody hoodoo that Hoodoo man!”

Next up is MFBQ and all of a sudden I feel like dancing. Johnny Viau and Allen Ortiz back the band with wonderful sax work that perfectly compliments Rod’s harp as they work to create an energetic dance groove. Rod was the producer for this record and MFBQ truly showcases the artistic choices he made for this record. “There was a time…that you needed something else….but now you found baby…that your love…is with the blues baby…and nothing else!” An extended guitar solo by Henry finishes off a great tune.

A baritone harp intro by Rod sets the stage for Honey’s piano on “Honey Bee.” “Pretty mama…won’t you give it sweet to me…I’m a loving King Bee baby…looking for a Honey Bee!” The subtlety of Honey’s piano in the background astounds me and I’m leaning back in my chair enjoying the musicianship of the MFBQ at this point. The tempo picks up as Rod moves on to “I Don’t Play,” a classic tune by Willie Dixon. “Now baby, I don’t play…I’ll be your man one day” sings Rod as he firmly establishes his intentions for this woman. She’s definitely grabbed his attention and its clear this is one woman he must have.

An original by Henry Carvajal, “The Civilian,” is up next. Henry’s fretwork is front and center as he leads the band through a spirited instrumental that clearly gives his Stratocaster a work-out. “The Civilian” is a nice interlude before moving on to “Stranded.” Honey’s piano is front and center on “Stranded” as Rod sings about his feelings of loneliness that are creeping up on him. “But now I need a love that lasts…can’t find her anywhere.” Women have come and gone but now that Rod need’s one true love, he can’t find her anywhere. “I’m stranded….can’t find a love to call my own…don’t want to go back home alone!”

“Everybody tells me…I do love to play…I’m tired of your cheating…so be on your merry way” sings Rod on “It Can’t be True.” His woman is stepping out on him and no matter how she tries to spin her story…there’s no way it can be true. And Rod definitely knows better. Rod’s harp takes the lead on “Snap, Crackle, Hop” with subtle support by Honey as MFBQ works its way through the third instrumental on ThrillVille. Its refreshing to hear an established band like the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet include this many instrumentals on a record and truly showcase the artistry of the band.

A duet featuring Rod and Henry is up next in “Stranger Blues,” and the tune is a pleasant treat amongst a record full of great songs. “Nobody cares about me…and I don’t know the reason why…well it’s because I’m a stranger…stranger, just passing by.” Rod’s harp work aggressively defends his right to be in this town and hopefully the town warms to his presence there.

ThrillVille closes with another Little Walter tune, “Sad Hours,” and Rod takes us through the emotions of another late night in our favorite blues club. It's last call and no one wants to go home, the pull of the music has been that strong and we all want to stay. A great ending to an amazing performance by Rod, Honey, Henry and David.

I’ve enjoyed this latest release by Rod and the MFBQ tremendously. They’ve managed to produce a record that meets and exceeds the high water mark of For the Chosen Who. Randy Chortkoff’s decision to step back and let Rod produce the entire project is rewarded by an amazing record.

Fans of the Mighty Flyers will love this recording. I’ll be curious to see what tricks Rod’s kept up his sleeve for the next one.

--- Kyle Deibler

Back Door SlamBack Door Slam is a band that garnered a lot of attention at the Beale Street Music festival and since I was only able to catch part of their set I was curious to know what the buzz was all about. Information from their PR rep indicated to me that they had been signed by the prestigious Blix Street Records label (the label that issued all of the superlative Eva Cassidy discs), so I was happy to request a copy of Roll Away for review.

Early on you can tell Back Door Slam is a tight trio. A thumping bass line by Adam Jones leads into the first cut, “Come Home.” It seems that Davy Knowles’ woman has left him for another man and he’s not sure how to get her back. “Don’t know who you’re with…all I know is I’m alone back here…and I can love you better than him!” She’s gone, let her go Davy, you’re better off without her. “Heavy on My Mind” finds Davy contemplating a woman he’s left behind. “Wake up…in a cold sweat…this night ain’t over yet…maybe my mind’s playing tricks on me…another sleepless night…is heavy on my mind!” Davy’s conscience is weighing heavily on how he treated this woman and he can’t seem to let her go. Davy continues this thought process on the next cut, “Outside Woman Blues.” “You can lose your money…great God, don’t lose your mind…if you lose your woman…then please don’t fool with mine!” This time Davy’s secure in his relationship and is aware that his woman could be the desired object affection his friends.

Things slow down for the first time on the ballad, “Gotta Leave.” Knowles is an excellent guitar player and mournful notes emanate from his guitar as he sings, “Don’t raise your voice…try to understand…save your loving…for some other man.” It’s hard for Davy to trust a woman who can’t trust herself and its time to move on. As much as he loved her, there were way too many times she caused him more pain than he can bear. “Gotta Leave” is an excellent ballad and hopefully it’s not the only one on the disc. “Stay” proceeds at a fairly slow tempo as well, as Davy contemplates what he can do or say to make his woman stay. “Well, I wish that…there’s something to say…and its something…that made you stay.” The pain in Knowles voice lets you know he truly loved this woman but its obvious there’s nothing he can say, to make her stay.

“Well, I’ve been walking…to ease my mind…had my doubts…but left them behind…believed you baby…when you said we were through…lied to me baby…I should never have trusted you!” “Too Late” finds Davy working hard to keep his relationship and his life together, but while he’s out “working my fingers to the bone…only to find…you weren’t alone!” The truth becomes apparent; his woman’s been cheating on him and its time for her to go. Davy’s still in pain on “Takes a Real Man”, he’s found a woman he loves but isn’t exactly sure what to do to seal the deal. “It’s hurting me…its killing me…its breaking me in two…got to find a connection…got to pull something through…I’m begging you…down on my knees…come on home baby…bring your love to me!” Enough already, step up Davy. The shoe’s on the other foot in “It’ll All Come Around.” “Take a stance…hold your head up proud…take a chance…and don’t feel no remorse…it’ll all come around…as soon as you figure it out…so figure it out!” Davy’s out there waiting patiently for his woman to get it figured out this time.

The third ballad of the record, “Too Good for Me,” finds Davy in a reflective mood analyzing the love in his life. “Every door I open…a new one shuts on me…just a fish in the ocean…and you’re…you’re too good for me.” This time at least he has a woman he truly loves and will do anything in the world to keep her happy and in love with him.

Back Door Slam is from the Isle of Man and the next cut, “Roll Away,” finds Davy contemplating leaving home to explore the world. “Got to roll…roll away…and maybe I’ll return to this silence…someday.” It’s a rite of passage to explore the world around you and Davy’s chosen to see it all for himself. A bonus cut, “Real Man,” closes out the record and is an extension of “Takes a Real Man” heard earlier on the disc.

It’s easy to see why Back Door Slam was a fan favorite in Memphis. This young group from overseas has captured the imagination of a lot of blues fans everywhere. They are a very tight trio, excellent musicians, and the original writing of Davy Knowles is striking a chord with blues lovers. I hit their Myspace page today out of curiosity and its had over 75,000 views, an inordinate number for what is a primarily a blues band on Myspace. I’m sure there are many new records to come from Back Door Slam, and Blix Street Records made a very astute choice in adding Back Door Slam to their roster.

--- Kyle Deibler

Dave Riley-Bob CorritoreTravelin’ the Dirt Road is the latest release on Blue Witch Records and features Dave Riley from Chicago and Phoenix’s own Bob Corritore. Dave’s originally from Mississippi and brings his Delta roots to the project while Bob’s influences are reflective of his years growing up in Chicago and its proud blues heritage is reflected in the record as well. The result is a unique partnership that flourishes with the melding of these two strong influences into a single voice.

The opening cut, “I’m Not Your Junkman”, is a tune written by Dave’s late friend, John Weston, and is one of two songs he contributed to the record. We find Dave in a situation where his woman has to go. He’s tired of her trash talk wearing him down and its time for her to go. “You know you’re always talking trash…you know you talk the kind of junk…that maybe you can turn to cash.” Either way Dave’s had enough and it's time for his woman and her foul mouth to go. Next up is the title cut, “Travelin’ the Dirt Road,” and we find Dave on the highway trying to drive his blues away. Strong harp work by Bob accentuates Dave’s need to get out on the road and find the woman he’s looking for. I don’t know that he finds “Miss Hattie Mae,” but he’s out there looking for her and driving his blues away at the same time.

Next up is “Overalls,” an odd song at best. Dave’s discussing his habit of not wearing any underdraws and notes there are several circumstances where this could be embarrassing. His disdain for “Fruit of the Looms” and other underdraws would definitely result in maximum exposure should he ever lose his “overalls.” “Come Here Woman” finds Dave trying to ascertain the true feelings of his woman. “You know I love you…honey, I can tell, I can tell the world I do…there’s one thing in my heart I want to know….I want to know do you love me too?” Dave’s passion for this woman is reflected in his intricate guitar solo, but it’s the sorrowful intonations from Bob’s harmonica that have me wondering what her answer truly is. And we never do hear for sure. “Come on baby…everything is going to be all right” sings Dave on the next tune, “Let’s Have Fun Tonight.” Bob’s harp work continues to impress me while Dave works hard to seduce the woman he’s pursuing, “we’re going to party hearty…and make everything all right!”

“My Baby’s Gone” finds Dave missing his woman. “You know I moan and I moan…my baby’s gone…and she’s not coming back home.” I hear keyboards for the first time as Matt Bishop makes his first appearance on the record with a nice piano solo. Dave at least is coming to grips with the fact the she’s gone and he’ll be fine. Black magic rears its head in “Voodoo Woman, Voodoo Man.” There’s a love thing happening between the two of them and the Voodoo woman is resorting to whatever tricks she needs to conjure up to keep this man she loves. “She got a mojo working…trying to voodoo…the voodoo man.” More piano from Matt Bishop backs Dave’s fretwork on the song and Bob’s harp as well as this Voodoo woman “has her mojo working….trying to voodoo….the voodoo man!”

"Way back home…I got the news…you ain’t doing nothing…till you got the blues” sings Dave on “Way Back Home.” “I didn’t know…didn’t know what I was choosing…until I ate some soul food and played them doggone blues.” Riley’s fret work continues to impress as he regales us with his tale of passage into the blues. “Doggone Blues” is the other John Weston tune on the record and Dave’s quick to let us know, “my dog don’t bark no more…but he howls…all night long…but let me tell you…my dog’s been barking…ever since his mate’s been gone.” Dave’s solution is to send him to the pound and he’s still howling there!

“It was in my early days….Lord, I’d be so happy then…when I put my ship to the harbor…safe at last!” “Safe at Last” is the final cut on Travelin’ the Dirt Road and somehow this short spiritual seems to be the perfect ending to an interesting listen. I find the blend of blues influences gives this record a unique presence. Riley and Corritore surrounded themselves with great players for this recording and both give great instrumental performances throughout. This is definitely a record for those who love deep blues and it will be interesting to hear what their next collaboration brings to the light.

--- Kyle Deibler

Coco MontoyaOne of the joys of moving is the opportunity it provides to uncover lost treasures. Such is the case with Coco Montoya’s latest Alligator Records release, Dirty Deal. I’d received Dirty Deal with the Holmes Brothers latest release that was reviewed by another of the great writers on the Blues Bytes staff, Tim Holek, and somehow managed to misplace it. So now that its made the light of day its time to discuss this great release by Coco.

Blistering strat work opens up the record with Coco’s reflection on the “Last Dirty Deal” he’s going to allow to happen to him. Age is the great equalizer and his life experiences have him aware of the games being played by the woman in his life. It doesn’t matter what she’s trying to hide, another lover or two, this relationship is done and she’s got to go. “Three Sides to Every Story” offers another take on relationships and life in general. No matter how you look at it, there are three sides to every story: “Yours, mine and the whole darn truth.” What matters most is how you reconcile the three of them. And somehow Coco’s woman has been bending her version of the truth.

“Love Gotcha” tells us the story of a man in love who’s got it bad. “Don’t care if she’s bald and standing ten feet tall, love gotcha!” Whatever the attraction is, it's there and there’s nothing you can do about it. A passionate, soulful guitar intro finds Coco asking the question, “How Do You Sleep at Night?” “How could you leave the man…you once wouldn’t let out of your sight….how do you sleep at night?” Coco’s guitar work on this song is easily some of the best on the record and accurately reflects the pains he feels from being treated so badly. The tempo and mood pick up considerably on the next cut, “It Takes Time.” Coco’s moving on and this time the pain being felt is on the other foot. “In time baby…I’ll get you off my mind…little by little…till my love slows down…oh yeah, you’ll know what it means to be alone…today you’re laughing pretty baby…tomorrow you could be crying!” Good for Coco, he’s stronger this time…only to fall in love again.

We hear Coco's passion for this new woman in his cover of “It’s My Own Tears,” by Johnny Clyde Copeland. Brilliant guitar work accentuates the passion Coco feels for this woman who is causing him so much pain. “And it’s my tears that are falling…so people…let me cry!” And cry he does. We’d all be lucky once in our lives to feel the love that Coco conveys with his guitar in this song. “And if I’m a fool…just let me be…cause only her love…can satisfy me…and that ain’t no lie!” Passion of a different style rears its head in “Coin Operated Love.” As long as you can dig deep into your pockets and find the change to keep things rolling…”She can never get enough…its coin operated love.” Sounds like Coco’s been wandering over to the dark side of town for a completely different view of love.

Our next tune, ”Clean Slate,” finds Coco trying to right a wrong and get it right. “Girl, I must confess….I really made a mess of loving you…I just want to start over….please give me one more chance….just give me a clean slate…let me wipe away all the mistakes…what I need is a new start…to find my way back into your heart.” Hopefully the girl gives him the second chance he’s so eloquently asking for. “Put the Shoe on the Other Foot” finds Coco encouraging his woman to take a look at things from his perspective for a change. “Put the shoe on the other foot…you can walk just like me…walking and a talking….see and feel…just like me!” Sometimes that’s all it takes, walk a mile in the other’s shoes, just to see how it feels.

“It’s all Your Fault” finds Coco placing the blame squarely on his woman’s shoulders. “It’s all your fault…things had to be this way….but I keep on traveling…I hope we’ll meet again someday!” As least he’s optimistic enough to perhaps revisit this woman someday. “You’ll always remain in my heart…no matter…no matter where you go.” Coco closes Dirty Deal with “Ain’t no Brakeman.” “I sat down at the station…you were trying to decide…was I your destination…or just one stop on your ride…we had our chance…it slipped away…don’t call my name…there ain’t no brakeman on this train!”

I’m thoroughly impressed with this release from Coco Montoya. It features a wonderful selection of tunes, great guitar work by Coco, an incredibly tight band behind him, and it all comes together in a very neat package. I own several albums by Coco and Dirty Deal sits at the top of my list. I’ve still got a lot of writing to do, but when I’m done…Dirty Deal is going back in the CD player.

--- Kyle Deibler

Matt WiglerMatt Wigler’s new record, Matt Wigler XIII (Thirteen), showed up on my doorstep one day unannounced. Very few record company reps have my home address and so I was curious to know how Matt’s record made its way to my door. A quick review of the liner notes solved the mystery for me, so I took the record into work that afternoon, threw it in the CD player and was very pleasantly surprised at what I was listening to.

It turns out that the title of the record, Thirteen, is also the age of one Matt Wigler. The symmetry of the project would have been complete with the inclusion of 13 cuts instead of the 10 featured on this disc. As it is, the 10 all-instrumental cuts on this record clearly indicate what a wonderful talent Matt possesses and I’m selfishly wishing there were three more cuts on the recording just to extend my listening pleasure.

I was surprised to find that it was an all-instrumental recording and had an opportunity to ask the record’s producer, Deanna Bogart, about that one day. It seems that Matt was just more comfortable recording his first record this way, without vocals. The end result justifies that decision. In this age of make it big yesterday, I found it very refreshing that everyone around Matt appreciates who he is and his talent enough to carefully nurture his evolution as an artist. We’ll all be beneficiaries of this patience for a long time to come.

So on to the recording. Thirteen opens up with a boogie written by Deanna and Matt entitled “Track Ten.” At a fairly frenetic pace Matt tickles the ivories while Deanna accents the tune with intermittent solos on her saxophone. This energy continues on David Maxwell’s tune, “Blues Don’t Bother Me.” Matt is surrounded by a very talented rhythm section with Mike Aubin on drums and Scott Ambush on bass. Their playing on the bottom end perfectly compliments Matt on a well-chosen cover that provides ample opportunity for him to showcase his keyboard work.

But it’s on the next tune, “Summertime,” where Matt really begins to shine. I find myself singing the song for him and really begin to appreciate the details in his playing. His keyboard work is very intricate on “Summertime” and I’m impressed by the subtlety he displays on this George Gershwin classic. Deanna’s song “Time to Change” is up next and by now Matt is sounding like an old pro. He’s only worked with Deanna for a couple of years now, but I’d be curious to hear her play “Time to Change” just to have another version to compare to. Up next is another boogie, “Tension Boogie,” written by Matt himself, and I find it ending much too soon to suit me. But I’m encouraged by the fact that he’s also writing music at his age and he definitely displays the talent to do so.

“The Chicken” provides another reminder that Matt is surrounded by talented players. Mike Aubin’s drum work is outstanding and I hear Scott’s solid bass playing as well while Matt works his way through this tune. I’m prejudiced, but “Georgia” is my favorite song on this record. Deanna’s sax playing on this tune is warm and soulful with Matt’s keyboard work the perfect compliment. This song works for me on every level and I’m reaching for the volume knob to turn it up. Hoagy Carmichael would be proud at the care given to his creation. “Back at the Chicken Shack” brings Matt out on the organ and it’s obvious he’s equally as comfortable playing the organ as he is the piano.

The tempo slows back down on “How Long Blues,” and I’m impressed by the soulfulness of Matt’s playing on this song. There are points in this song where his passion for the piano really shines through as he works to convey the emotions of this tune, and I’m thoroughly impressed by his ability to do so. Thirteen closes with another boogie written by Deanna, “Thrash Boogie,” and it’s good to hear Matt let it go one more time.

Matt’s had an amazing year. He performed on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise out of Florida this past January and he’s on his way to Memphis to compete with Mike Aubin in the solo/duo division of the International Blues Challenge in February. I’ll be in Memphis for the IBC and I’m looking forward to my first opportunity to hear Matt sing live. But in the meantime, Deanna said it best, “enjoy the first stop on Matt’s own personal musical journey….” I know I have and there’s no doubt in my mind that the next stops along the way will be equally as impressive.

So take a minute when you can to learn more about this talented young artist on his website,, and while you’re there, pick up a copy of his Vista Record’s release, Matt Wigler XIII. When it comes in the mail, throw it in your CD player, hit play and close your eyes. You’ll be glad you did.

--- Kyle Deibler

BlueHouse BandBlues trios have had a tremendous challenge to gather any fame and notoriety since the inception of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble over 25 years ago. Their success, built around Vaughan’s unreal skills on the guitar, proved that you don’t have to assemble a team of players to establish yourself in the upper legions of blues bands.

Make way for the BlueHouse Band out of south Florida. Not only does this band continue the tradition but in the very first song, "Dynomite," on their debut release Who’s In The House? (Bekam Records), Stevie Ray is mentioned showing the band’s understanding of what came before to pave the way.

As did Stevie Ray and Double Trouble, BlueHouse Band's powerful blues comes from the strength of lead guitarist and slide player Alter (Robbie Alter) backed with the intricate bass thumping of Richie Goldman
and the thundering drums of Bobby “ BBG” Goldman. Alter perfected his licks by being a member of that great ’70s blues-rock outfit, Foghat. Always considered in my estimation as the unheard member of the band, engineer and mixer Bryan Bassett does an exemplary job bringing this band to life considering the rep these boys have formed all throughout Florida as one hell of a live band. Bassett understands this band and is successful in bringing their “live” sound to the boards. Fortunately, in this case Bassett does show up as a real player adding a tasty slide solo to the tune "Baby, Baby."

BlueHouse Band runs the gamut of the blues from jump blues, on a song appropriately titled "Jumpin’" to the gutbucket feel in "Baby, Baby" to a unique version of the blues where Goldman, the song's composer, trades in his skins for a pair of spoons on (here we go with appropriately titled songs again) "Won’t Forget My Spoons" along with a soaring slide solo from Alter.

At the beginning of "Bluesman Tim," Alter makes reference to the movie version of the Wizard of Oz’s "Over The Rainbow" with a beautiful slide rendition, then quietly breaking into a song about what blues musicians can expect in the great beyond. This gospel-based tune features the Mount Bethel Music Ministry Choir who halfway through turn up the heat and lead us through a rousing church anthem begging all of us to meet up with Bluesman Tim for a kicking party in the heavens. The only female presence here is strongly felt on "Gimme The News," where a very capable Holly Doherty provides lead and harmony vocals. Speaking about harmony these three guys truly have mastered their intertwining voices all throughout this disc which this CD more delightful to listen to.

All tunes were written by either Alter or Goldman (or both), which makes Who’s In The House my favorite original release this year. Most unknown bands usually throw in some remakes or standards to get some
recognition. Not this band. This shows their writing strength as well, which will lead this band down the road to success.

For a rollicking good time with the blues, check out the BlueHouse Band on the debut Who’s In The House? Go to to buy the CD or to check out upcoming live appearances, especially if you live in south Florida or may be visiting. Enjoy.

--- Bruce Coen

Jeffrey HalfordCalifornia singer/songwriter Jeffrey Halford and his band The Healers have released an interesting album, Broken Chord (Shoeless Records), his sixth in total. Halford is a decent guitar player and adequate singer (his voice has a bit of Bob Dylan to it), but his strength lies in his topical songwriting ability; all 10 songs on Broken Chord were composed by Halford.

His songwriting talent is best heard here with the thoughtful lyrics of both "Ninth Ward" and "Louisiana Man" ("... a government that had no shame ... waited on a rescue that never came ...") regarding the treatment of the Hurricane Katrina flood victims. "Ninth Ward" is a haunting song on which Halford accompanies himself on acoustic guitar, playing nice slide. "Louisiana Man" is with a full band, and is a snaky, swampy blues with nice harmonica accompaniment from Jellyroll Johnson.

Halford's style could be categorized more as blues-influenced instead of pure blues. He covers a lot of roots rock / Americana territory on this disc, but his forays back to his native Texas are what really makes Broken Chord stand out. A guest on the CD is the legendary Augie Meyers, best known for his work with the late Doug Sahm in both the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes, who adds his trademark Vox organ playing on several cuts. "Rock 'n' Fire" thus has that '50s/'60s rock 'n' roll energy with a Southwest bent to it. Meyers also adds to the energetic rocker "Running Crazy" with great piano playing.

"In A Dream" sounds like it could have come from the Doug Sahm border music songbook, of course containing plenty of Meyers' cheesy sounding organ (Note: I mean "cheesy" in a good way); the only thing missing to make this an absolutely killer song would be the addition of Flaco Jimenez on accordion, but we can't always have our way. "In A Dream" is the highlight of the disc for me.

"Rockabilly Bride," complete with an Elvis-officiated wedding in Las Vegas, is another great tune, especially with the shuffle beat being laid down by drummer Jim Norris.

Broken Chord is an album that must be listened to several times to gain a full appreciation for it. I liked it just a little bit better each time I heard it. For more info, visit the artist website at

--- Bill Mitchell

Ellis HooksEllis Hooks has made a great job of combining soul and blues with his new album, Another Saturday Morning (Evidence Records). Mixing soul and blues has been done before, maybe not always as good as Ellis Hooks has done here.

The CD features 16 tracks, all of which are originals written by Hooks together with Jon and Sally Tiven, who also appear in the backing band (Sally on bass and Jon on a variety of instruments, including sitar!).

Ellis Hooks was born in Mobile, Alabama, a mix of Cherokee and African American, with 15 siblings. He hitchhiked to New York at the age of 18 and started singing to make a living.In 2000 he met Jon Tiven (writer and producer for the Wilson Pickett comeback album It’s Harder Now. The two decided to work together, and produced an album in 2002 called Undeniable which got rave reviews worldwide and resulted in an invite from the prestigious BBC in the UK to headline its World Music Festival.

Three more albums followed – Up Your Mind, Uncomplicated and Godson Of Soul --- before he recorded Another Saturday Morning. He obviously used the experience of those albums to learn more about his business, and it shows in this latest CD.

The album opens with the gritty “Black Dirt,” a track with a '60s Otis Redding feel to the backing, but very distinctive, up-to-date Ellis Hooks vocals. Whoever chose this track as the opener did the right thing, because it captures the listener’s ears straight away.

A few tracks later comes the very bluesy “Don’t Come Running Back” with some excellent harmonica from bluesman Mason Casey (who has a recent release Sofa King Badass).This track is arguably the best on the album – it’s certainly full of blues flavour.

The last track on the album is described as a bonus track – and it’s been aimed at the Christmas market – “If I Give You My Heart For Christmas” – not altogether a bad thing as it’s a great soul track.

If you like a mix of soul and blues, and a little bit of fusion of the two, then you should give this CD a listen.

--- Terry Clear

Igor PradoUpside Down is the first that I’ve heard the Igor Prado Band, but I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be hearing more. The style at the beginning of the album is jazz/blues – a sort of fusion of the two – sounds odd, but it works in a very laid back way. The tracks are a mixture of originals and covers, but unfortunately the sleeve notes with the copy I received are incomplete. Tracks 4,5,6,10,11 and 12 are missing from the inlay with the CD, which makes it a little harder to review the CD – although I can say that all of the mentioned tracks are good.

The album opens with a very laid back, jazz/blues track, and original by Igor Prado, the title track to the CD – this is a very easy going track and sets the scene for the album. It certainly showcases some fine musicians. It’s followed by a Percy Mayfield number, “Strange things Happen,” very jazzy in style, particularly the guitar work.

The first up-tempo track is “Dancing Senhorita” (track 4), a very good number, in pure Chuck Berry style, that shows that this band has a lot of different influences. Track 5 is the first pure blues track, and it is well worth the wait – a great version of "Bumble Bee." The harmonica on this track is excellent, but without sleeve notes it’s not possible to identify the player – possibly R.J.Mischo, who plays harp on track 8, the John Lee Hooker number "Whiskey & Wimmen," another good blues.

For me, possibly the best track on the album is track 10, “Lonesome Cabin,” although the following track, “Give a Little,” comes very close, with some fine guitar work. I have to give a mention to “My Blues After Hours,” too – full of moodiness and atmosphere.

All in all, this is a good album to have in any collection.

--- Terry Clear

Ronnie EarlGuitarist Ronnie Earl first gained notice in the early ’80s as Duke Robillard’s replacement in the legendary Roomful of Blues. Though that ensemble’s specialty has always been jumping blues, Earl branched out over the years and embraced several different styles of blues on his own recordings (mostly with the defunct Black Top label) before leaving the group in the late ’80s to front his Broadcasters. He also opted to go without a vocalist for the most part, a courageous move in the blues field, but it offered him a chance to put his jazz-influenced guitar work to the forefront on several critically acclaimed albums for Verve, Antone’s, Telarc, and his current label, Stony Plain.

Earl’s latest release on Stony Plain, Hope Radio, was recorded live at Wellspring Sound in Massachusetts. The 11 tracks display Earl’s jazzy blues guitar in a variety of settings. The energetic opener, “Eddie’s Gospel Groove,” recalls Greg Rolle-era Santana with Earl’s guitar interweaving with the Hammond B3, courtesy of Dave Limina, while “Bobby’s Bop” is reminiscent of Jimmy Smith. “Blues For The West Side” is a fine tribute to those Chicago West Side guitarists, such as Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. The vibrant “Blues For Otis Rush” is in a similar vein as well, paying tribute to one of Earl’s biggest influences, and “Wolf Dance” honors Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin.

There’s also an acoustic performance on “Katrina Blues,” as Earl pays tribute to one of his favorite cities. “Blues for the Homeless” is a somber nod to those less fortunate, and the lovely “Beautiful Child” is dedicated by Earl “to all the sick and suffering alcoholics and addicts in the world today.” The closing tune, “New Gospel Tune,” closes the disc on an optimistic note.

In addition to Limina on B3, the Broadcasters feature Jim Mouradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums, with guests Michael “Mudcat” Ward on bass and piano and Mickey Adams on second guitar. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, Hope Radio is that rare all-instrumental album that never lags. Earl’s playing is always innovative and always refreshing, the band is rock-solid in support, and the disc is over before you know it. Not to worry, you’ll be leaving this one in your player for a while.

--- Graham Clarke

Monster Mike WelchHard as it may be to believe, Monster Mike Welch is pushing 30! It seems like yesterday the 28-year-old was being hailed as a teen prodigy, one of the young guns of blues guitar. Just Like It Is: Monster Mike Welch Plays the Blues is Welch’s sixth release since those storied days and his first for the VizzTone label.

Welch (dubbed “Monster Mike” by Dan Aykroyd at the opening of the first House of Blues club) has spent the past couple of years appearing on discs by other artists (Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, Nick Moss, Johnny Winter) and plying his craft on the European blues circuit.

From the opening track, “She Makes Time,” it’s obvious that Welch’s guitar chops are as strong as ever, and his vocals, often seen as a weak area on previous releases due to his youth, have grown into his guitar playing. At times, their strength and confidence will bring to mind the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings (remember him?). The slow blues “My Baby Loves Me” features one of his best vocals and his guitar work is equally impressive.

Songwriting has always been one of Welch’s strong suits, and he wrote 11 of the 13 tracks on Just Like It Is. He has a knack for taking fresh approaches to familiar blues themes on tracks like “Don’t Expect Me To Cry,” “Now That You’re Gone,” “Please,” and “I’m Not A Stupid Man.” The lone cover tunes are a masterful version of Peter Green’s “Love That Burns” and Willie Dixon’s “I Got A Strange Feeling.”

In all seriousness, though, when you listen to a Monster Mike Welch, what you’re expecting is plenty of fierce, stinging guitar in the Albert King vein. Longtime fans won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of breathtaking solos, like on “I’m Gonna Move To Another Country,” and his brief, but potent turn on “A Perfect World.” “Sticky Whisket” is a smoking instrumental that is worth the price of admission by itself.

Welch’s band (drummer Mark Teixeira, bassist Brad Hallen, and keyboardist Anthony Geraci) provide first-rate support. The best thing about Monster Mike Welch is that, unlike a lot of young gun guitarists, he plays like he’s comfortable in his own skin, not wanting to branch out into the more lucrative music genres. He’s in this for the long haul. Just Like It Is proves that Welch will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Ricky Gene HallIf your taste in blues runs toward the rough and ready, uncomplicated approach to blues, no bells and whistles or other additives involved, then Ricky Gene Hall & The Goods are what you’re looking for. The trio’s self-titled debut release (Yard Dawg Records) packs a powerful wallop, featuring five powerful original tunes combined with eight equally strong covers.

Hall has a muscular guitar style, especially on slide, and enough rock influences behind it to give his solos an extra kick. The Goods consist of Tom Martin, who plays bass, and Rocky Evans on drums, two veterans who know how to lay down a solid groove.

The band’s taste in cover tunes is impeccable, ranging from the familiar (“It Hurts Me Too,” “Early In The Morning,” and “Worried Life Blues”) to some pleasant surprises, like Taj Mahal’s “Blues Ain’t Nothin’,” Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” and Percy Mayfield’s “Stranger In My Own Hometown.” Hall has a smooth vocal style with rough edges that fits comfortably with straight blues or soul and all the covers sound remarkably fresh.

The original compositions include “Hillbilly Ball,” which is a country rocker, and the soulful “Rather Hear A Lie.” “3 Might” is a clever rock/blues. “Much Too Much” and “Train” are more traditional blues, but still with some rock influences. Hall proves himself to be a gifted, original composer and his songs stand up pretty well to the more established standards.

Ricky Gene Hall & The Goods was recorded live in the studio, with few overdubs, which was how the band wanted it – a “no-frills, straight-forward” approach to three-piece blues. The impressive original compositions, the well-done covers, and the sturdy rapport between the band members makes this disc a cut or two above your standard blues album. Look for it at

--- Graham Clarke

Crossroads Guitar FestivalIn 2004, Eric Clapton organized the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a two-day gathering of guitar players from all eras and genres, which was held in Dallas. The proceeds from the festival went toward the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, an addiction treatment center founded by Clapton in 1998. The event, which featured Clapton along with other artists like Santana, John Mayer, Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth, ZZ Top, Robert Randolph, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Honeyboy Edwards, and Robert Lockwood Jr., was well-received and a two-DVD set of highlights was released later that year.

On July 28th of this year, the second festival was held in Chicago, with tickets selling out in less than 30 minutes. Rhino Records has released Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, which captures more memorable moments. As with the first festival, there’s something for music fans of all genres, from jazz (John McLaughlin) to country (Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Willie Nelson) to rock (Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, Robbie Robertson, Los Lobos, Mayer).

Of course, given Clapton’s pedigree and the location of the festival, the blues is front and center. Slide master Sonny Landreth (whose incredible performance was omitted from the 2004 DVD) opens the set with a scorching instrumental, “Uberesso,” and is joined by Clapton on “Hell At Home.” Doyle Bramhall II successfully modernizes a couple of pre-war classics, “Rosie,” and Blind Joe Reynolds’ “Outside Woman Blues.” Bramhall, best known for his stint with the Arc Angels, was lukewarmly received at the beginning of his set, but his performance clearly opened some eyes in the audience before the day was over.

Susan Tedeschi offers up the blues standard, “Little By Little,” accompanied by her husband, Derek Trucks and his band. The Trucks Band won the crowd (and Clapton) over with a beautiful version of the Derek and the Dominoes’ track, “Anyday.” Clapton can be seen backstage singing along with Tedeschi and Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison. Trucks and the band remained onstage to back Johnny Winter on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” Though looking somewhat frail, Winter’s fingers worked just fine as he put on a slide guitar clinic.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band funk the house up with “Nobody,” from their second CD, and Robert Cray and his band perform “Poor Johnny,” then stick around to back up Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, and B. B. King for a strong traditional blues set. Vaughan tears up Gatemouth Brown’s “Dirty Work At The Crossroads,” Sumlin takes on the Howlin’ Wolf standard “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” and King is his usual irrepressible self on two of his warhorses, “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss,” and “Rock Me Baby.”

Clapton’s own set, with Trucks on second guitar, features the Robert Johnson standard, “Little Queen of Spades,” another Derek and the Dominoes song (“Tell The Truth”), and “Isn’t It A Pity,” a poignant tribute to his longtime friend, George Harrison. He’s also joined by The Band’s Robbie Robertson for “Who Do You Love,” a rousing tribute to Bo Diddley. Clapton’s set with Steve Winwood, featuring several Blind Faith and Traffic songs, is first-rate, including a lively “Crossroads.”

Appropriately, Buddy Guy closes out the festival in his usual high-energy pyrotechnic fashion, with “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” and “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues,” and has the audience eating out of his hand before being joined by Clapton, Cray, Mayer, Sumlin, Vaughan, and Winter for the prerequisite head-cutting take of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Non-blues highlights include Beck’s set, featuring 21-year-old wunderkind bassist Tal Wilkenfeld on “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” and Albert Lee’s stellar fretwork on his own composition, “Country Boy,” with Vince Gill. There’s also a short bonus feature which highlights the Crossroads Village Stage, the smaller stage outside the main area. Among the guitarists featured there (shown in brief clips) were Tab Benoit, Orianthi, Todd Wolfe, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Harvey Mandel, and Jedd Hughes.

Mixed in with the performances are interviews with some of the artists. On the DVD from the 2004 festival, the interviews sometimes interrupted the performances (particular the songs by Honeyboy Edwards and Robert Lockwood Jr., which really ticked me off). This time around, they’re inserted between songs, which is a definite improvement.

One minor complaint: While I’ve never understood all the attention Sheryl Crow has received over the years, she does manage to acquit herself pretty well during her appearance (including “Tulsa Time” with Clapton, Lee, and Gill). However, three songs featuring her (including a clumsy duet with Willie Nelson) seems a bit much when strong performances by others were no doubt omitted (like a full performance by Benoit or maybe some of the others at the Crossroads Village Stage).

The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 DVD is a wonderful four-hour-plus collection that will be nirvana for guitar fanatics of all genres.

--- Graham Clarke


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