Blues Bytes

What's New

December 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Joe Bonamassa

Coco Montoya

Nick Moss

Guy Davis

Darrell Nulisch

Derek Trucks

Jacob Merlin

Sam Marshall Trio

Hitman Blues Band


Joe BonamassaI have to give Joe Bonamassa credit. Hs latest record, The Ballad of John Henry, is probably the most honest disc he’s recorded to date. There are textures to this record that I’ve not heard from Joe before, and it makes for some interesting listening. So let’s give it a spin.

We open with the title track, an ode to the everyday working man who’s toiling away at his job, earning an honest living, working an honest day’s work. America’s working class is slipping away day by day, and The Ballad of John Henry is testament to this. “Give me the hammer that killed John Henry…cause it won’t kill me…who killed John Henry…in the bottle of sinners and saints!” Next up is Joe’s version of the Sam Brown tune, “Stop!” “You better stop…before…you tell me all about it…you better stop…before you break my heart!” Love is a dangerous game and Joe’s relationship works in its own mysterious way with the woman in question. Here’s hoping she “stops” in time.

I find that “Last Kiss” is an interesting song. Basically all the band knew was the key it was in, E, after that it was all improvisation on the spot. “I’ve been knocked down…stood up…all in the name of goodbyes…and I’ve been locked down…beaten…all in the name of goodbyes…and I don’t mind stealing the last kiss before I die.”

Another interesting tune is one that Tom Waits wrote, “Jockey Full of Bourbon.” Joe’s liner notes indicate that he was able to get one of the biggest guitar sounds ever on disc for this one. “I’m all alone…with someone else’s wife…admire the view from the top of the mast…hey, little girl…your house is on fire….children alone!” Joe’s fretwork for this song is definitely sonic approved and well done. “Story of a Quarryman” is up next and it’s a song about a piece of land that Joe moved to in Georgia. It definitely didn’t agree with him and eventually he moved on. “Left my home with the shirt on back…fueled my empire on the dry haystack…to break down…along my wall…back in Cali…tired and alone…I broke it down by my own hands…story of a quarryman.”

Up next is “Lonesome Road Blues,” a song from Joe’s misspent youth. “I don’t need your constant heartache…all I have is my guitar and you…I turned 31 years old today…all you gave me was that store bought blues…and I know how that lonesome…lonesome old blues can be…lonesome road calling me.”

Joe is definitely crossing new boundaries on this disc. Our next cut, “Happier Times”, reflects on the woman Joe thought was the love of his life. Turned out she wasn’t, but Joe is happy to reflect on when he thought she was. “Friday…comes and goes…I guess I won’t talk to you…anymore…so many things unsaid…there’s so many things I want to say…never trade you for the world…never do the things…I used to…guess its not good enough…this I see…I remember happier times.”

“Feelin Good” is up next. “Breeze drifting on by…and you know how I feel…it’s a new dawn…it’s a new day…it’s a new life…for me…and I’m…feeling good!” Joe’s in rare form and he’s definitely appreciating the fact that it’s a new day and he’s feeling good. “Feelin Good” is cathartic and you can tell that Joe appreciates the opportunity to just let loose. Things get a little bit crazy on our next cut, “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.” “You know you’re…funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter…you got a mouth like a herd of boll weevils…same old game…same old game…always rocking…the same old game!” I hear horns in the background and the arrangement by Lee Thornburg is spot on.

“The Great Flood” finds Joe reflecting on another past love and the apology that he feels he owes her. “It’s been too long…since I said I loved…it’s been to long…since I cared…well my conscience is finally clear…I’ve been waiting all these years…its raining…all day and night…the great flood…has come around.” An instrumental testament to Ry Cooder, “From the Valley,” is up next. Joe gets a chance to break out his 1931 National guitar and the result is magical. I had the opportunity to see Joe play acoustically at a benefit here in Phoenix a couple of years ago and I’d like to see him play more acoustic tunes.

Joe closes out The Ballad of John Henry with another rocking tune, “As the Crow Flies.” “In a dream last night…well…I heard you call my name…I took it as an omen…and I jumped on the next train!”

I find that The Ballad of John Henry is definitely the most diverse album that I’ve heard from Joe in the three or four that I own. I appreciate the fact that Joe shared personal insights on “Happier Times” and “The Great Flood” which made the disc a more personable one to listen to. Joe is definitely growing as an artist and this disc is one I’ll come back to shortly for another spin.

Joe’s website is and you can find his entire discography there. Joe’s always been one to follow his own muse and I like the direction The Ballad of John Henry takes him in.

--- Kyle Deibler

Coco MontoyaIt’s a straight shot down I-40 from Little Rock to Memphis, and as I hit the road to Memphis for the week-end the first disc in my CD player was Coco Montoya’s new Blind Pig release, The Essential Coco Montoya. Reflecting Coco’s personal choices from his first three Blind Pig releases of a decade ago, The Essential Coco Montoya is exactly that. If you want a disc to throw in the CD player, turn the volume up and hit the road with, this is it.

The first cut up is “Fear No Evil,” and here Coco’s telling his woman that he can face anything the world has to offer as long as she’s by his side. “I will fear no evil…I will fear no evil…just as long as you're by my side…when I’m down…you pick me up…Lord, when I’m thirsty…you give me a drink from your cup!” Sounds like a damn good woman to have. I wonder if she’s still around.

Seems like the question might be answered in “Am I Losing You.” “I heard you talking in your sleep…calling out, another man’s name…my suspicions killing me…are you playing…the cheating game?” Not knowing is killing Coco, “am I in…am I out…of your plan?” He might be better off to just let her go. Coco’s guitar playing is amazing and his solo on this cut just takes off. “Seven Desires” is a song about Coco’s quest for a new love. When he finds her, seven desires/wishes is just not enough. “I just want to fall down on my knees…waiting for you to come to me…ready to cast to the fire…seven desires!”

“Sending Me Angels” is one of my favorite songs and I’m really appreciating Coco’s version. Ernest Williamson is on the keyboards for this tune and I appreciate the delicacy of his B3 work in the background. “He keeps sending me angels…here they come a flying…he comes sending me angels…to keep me from crying!” Just a beautiful song and Coco really nails this spot on.

Coco’s guitar provides the intro for our next cut, “Too Much Water”, and shares his father’s advice about women with us. “You know my daddy told me an old saying…I never believed it was true….if you have a good woman…love a good woman…don’t ever take her for a fool”. Unfortunately Coco’s got a wandering eye and there’s “too much water…under the bridge!” This woman’s had enough and it’s too bad for Coco. The shoe’s on the other foot in our next cut, “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” “Let’s put our cards on the table…shifting the plan…ain’t nobody winning…whose playing the game….I believe this hand is through….monkey see, monkey do!” It’s plain to see that she’s the one hitting the road this time.

Blistering guitar notes emanate from Coco’s guitar as he plays the intro to “Do You What You Want to Do.” “You think you’re the only woman…that can always keep me tied….ah, but you don’t know it baby…you don’t know…what I got in store for you…I’m going to give up everything…you can do what you want to do!” Coco’s had enough and he’s ready to set this woman free. He handles things differently, more maturely in our next cut, “Just Let Go.” “Talk to me baby…don’t say no…we should have done this…a long time ago…we can’t ignore what’s plain to see…what’s wrong with you and me…we gotta do what we gotta do…why can’t we just let go?” This relationship has run its course and the adult thing to do is just let it go and move on. Easier said than done, that’s for sure.

I have to say that Coco’s fretwork throughout this compilation is outstanding and it continues on our next tune, “Same Dog.” “Listen baby…you’re the kind of person…that thinks about themselves…with no remorse…you put my heart up on a shelf…I won’t be hurt again…you better find somebody else…yes, I know…bound to make mistakes in life…but mama always told me…don’t let the same dog bite you twice!” Coco’s lyrics speak for themselves; Coco will not let this woman hurt him again. She’s definitely gone.

Our tempo slows down as Coco plays the intro to “You Don’t Love Me.” “You don’t love me…but a thousand times you say you do…you keep telling me…everything’s ok…but I know…soon we’ll be through.” Mike Finnegan is at the B-3 for this song as Coco’s woman tries to talk him out of breaking up with her. But it’s the right thing to do and Coco knows it. Coco even takes the time in our next cut, “Give It to a Good Man,” to give good advice to a woman looking to fall into love. “If you’re going to give up your heart…give it to a good man….if you’re going to give up your heart…give it all that you can!” And he’s right, if you’re going to fall in love, fall in love with a good man.

The last tune on what has been a great disc is “You’d Think I’d Know Better by Now.” Here Coco meets up with a woman from his past and old feelings bubble to the surface and make themselves apparent. “With old familiar feelings…you got me back home somehow…once again I’m in misery…and you’d think I know better by now!” We all have past loves that can surface at any time to make us think twice, you think we know better by now?

The Essential Coco Montoya has been a great listen. With a cast of supporting players that include Debbie Davies, Benny Yee, Mike Finnegan and others, Coco has certainly played with some of the best over the years. Each cut was personally selected by Coco and I’m sure they provide an adequate representation of the three discs they were selected from. The disc sounded great in the car on the way to Memphis and it continues to impress me.

You can probably grab a copy from Coco on his website at or you can grab it and some other great discs from Blind Pig at Either way, you can’t go wrong!

--- Kyle Deibler

Nick MossNick Moss likes Chan’s out in Rhode Island. The venerable venue has been very good to him and it’s apparent on Nick’s second disc recorded at Chan’s, Live At Chan’s – Combo Platter No. 2, that folks out in Rhode Island love him too. Nick and the Flip Tops, along with Lurrie Bell, tore the roof off of Chan’s for two nights to record this live disc and it’s a good one.

So it’s appropriate that the first cut up is “Spare Ribs & Chopsticks,” a venerable instrumental that gets the band warmed up for the party. Reading the liner notes I find that Kate Moss is on the bass for this one, I didn’t know Kate played bass but I’m not surprised, she’s a very talented woman who does everything else well. Everyone sounds in fine form and the Flip Tops are definitely ready for the party.

Gerry Hundt’s harmonica leads into the next tune, a mournful ballad called “Try to Treat You Right.” Nick’s in love but he just can’t seem to get it quite right, “Darling…give me one chance…one more chance with you…if you give me one chance…I’ll show you something new”. Hopefully Nick got his second chance. The nimble fingers of Willie Oshawny on the piano are front and center on our next cut, “Whiskey Makes Me Mean.” Nick’s in a drinking mood and that’s not always good, “we’re going to drink…we’re going to have a ball tonight…I need that whiskey…to make me feel just right…look out boys…that whiskey sure makes me mean…you want to drop tray…keep your business clean!” Nick’s a big boy best left alone if he’s been drinking, I’m sure of that.

The tempo slows down a little bit as Nick pontificates on what kind of lover he is on “I Got All Kinds of Love”. “Tell me baby…why you leaving so soon…tell me mama…why you leaving so soon…I got all kind of love…just waiting for you!” Nick sounds like he’s got all the moves, wonder why she is leaving. Hmm. Maybe the answer is in our next tune, “Lonesome Bedroom Blues.” “Well…I said…a woman without a man…just like a heart without a beat…and they tell me there’s a woman for everything…I wonder where my woman…is apart from me?” Gerry is back on his harp and the mournful notes emanating from it let us know just how lonely Nick really is. “Fill ‘Er Up”, an instrumental is up next and Gerry leads us off with more of some amazing harp work.

Lurrie Bell was part of the festivities at Chan’s and he’s up next with his first tune of the night, “Don’t You Lie to Me.” “There are two kinds of people…that I can’t stand…a lying woman…and a cheating man…don’t you lie to me…cause it makes me mad…and I’m as evil as a man can be." It sure sounds like Lurrie’s got a lying woman on his hands and she’s about to hit the highway. Lurrie’s not going to keep her around, that’s for sure. “Five Long Year’s” is up next and mournful notes emanating from Lurrie’s guitar tell me that he’s in a remorseful mood. “Have you ever been mistreated…and then you know what I’m talking about…you know I worked five long years for one woman…and then she had the nerve to put me out!” Lurrie’s definitely not happy, he worked day in and day out at the steel mill to support this woman and this is what he gets?” It happens.

The Willie Dixon classic, “I’m Ready,” is our last tune with Lurrie at the microphone. “I’m ready…I am ready…ready as anybody can be…I am ready for you…I hope you are ready for me!” I’m hoping Lurrie has better luck this time but who knows.

Live at Chan’s – Combo Platter No. 2 closes with both Nick and Lurrie on stage with Nick singing, “I Wanna Know.” “I’m going to take from the country…buy you a diamond ring…turn around and tell your friends…I didn’t get you a goddamned thing…I wanna know!” Sounds like a train wreck that isn’t going to end well. Nick, you’d better move one.

This has been a very good live disc, it’s almost 80 minutes long and well worth the listen. Nick and the Flip Tops are a well-oiled machine and having Lurrie guest on the recording only enhances my opinion that the good folks at Chan’s saw a helluva show. Catch Nick and the Fliptops when you can; they were recently nominated for BMA band of the year and I’m thinking they’re a worthy contender. All of Nick’s discs can be found on his website, or the Blue Bella site,

Nick and Kate are working hard with their Blue Bella Records label to keep the blues alive and have put out some great discs. Check them out when you can.

--- Kyle Deibler

Glenn PatrikBy his own admission, Glenn Patrik has been a vagabond. He’s spent the last 40 years traveling the roadways and railways in and out of Kansas City, searching out other musicians and lessons to be learned. By all accounts, it’s seemed he’s learned a number of lessons well. His new disc, Nuthin’ But A Thang, has been a pleasant surprise. So let’s give it a listen.

Our first tune, “Don’t Call Me Daddy,” finds Glenn in the process of sorting out a relationship with a woman who definitely wants more than he does. “When I left…you wanted to come along…I made the mistake and told you…I don’t care…I can’t finance your life…and I don’t want a wife…don’t call me daddy!” Glenn’s message is loud and clear with this one.

“Dontcha Know” finds Glenn in love with the woman in question. “Dontcha know…girl…I love you so…don’t tell me baby…dontcha know?” Glenn is more than a passing guitarist and I’m enjoying the licks on our next cut, “Kansas City.” “I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas…Kansas City here I come…they got a lot of crazy women there…and I’m going to get another one!” I’m left wondering why she has to be a crazy one, but that’s his preference.

More impassioned guitar licks provide the introduction to our next tune, “The Bossman.” Seems his girl’s been spending an inordinate amount of time with her boss. “Been running round with your bossman…should only, ever be running with me…sneaking round with your bossman…for the whole wide world to see!” Sounds like this is one relationship that’s going to end real quick.

“One More Day” has a gospel feel to it as Glenn examines the life he’s living. “One more day…one more day…sure nuff…the time will come…something here gotta change…the way you’re talking to me…I’m not likely to stay!” “4 P.M. Blues” is the next tune up and this time the shoe’s on the other foot. “Don’t know what I’m going to do…cause, baby I ain’t cold…now I seldom think of you…no, baby I ain’t cold.” This relationship has ended and Glenn is moving on.

Rusty Hall’s touch on the keys provides the intro to our next tune, “Too Blessed to be Depressed.” “Job is leaving town…dog is in the pound…they say my check is on the way…I’m too blessed…to be depressed!” I hear Pat Rizzo’s sax in the background of our next tune, “Thang Thang.” “Baby…you got your thing…you know I got mine…and when we get together…I think its out of sight!” Pat’s back with a sax solo and its obvious Glenn is happy with her “thang”. Next up is “Friend of Mine,” a touching ballad. “You got a problem…come to me…let it out and you’ll feel better…cause…you’re a friend of mine.” Glenn’s got real feelings for the woman he’s singing to and maybe they’ll regain the magic they obviously once felt for each other.

Nuthin’ But a Thang closes with a lazy, late night instrumental, “Last Night,” and then “Other Side of Town,” where we find Glenn questioning where his woman might be. “I’m tired of trying…so tired of crying…what really hurts…is all your lying…call you on the phone…you can’t be found…for all I know…you’re on the other side of town!” Can’t blame Glenn for how he feels. He’s best off to let her go, this one isn’t going to work.

I’ve enjoyed Nuthin’ But a Thang; it’s been a very entertaining disc by a Bluesman who’s always strived to make the best of all the opportunities to learn and hone his craft. To that extent, Glenn Patrik is an admirable Bluesman who’s disc has been a treat to listen to.

You can find out more about Glenn on his website,, and you might as well order a copy of this disc while you’re there. I know Glenn’s competing at the IBC this year and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to catch more of him live. See you there.

--- Kyle Deibler

Guy DavisI’ve not seen Guy Davis live in a very long time but it’s been a real treat to listen to his new disc, Sweetheart Like You, out on Red House Records. It’s one of the great acoustic discs out this year and another resident on my top ten list for the year. So let’s see how Guy managed to earn this distinction.

First up is Guy’s take on a Bob Dylan song, “Sweetheart Like You.” “Well…snap out of it baby…people are jealous of you…they’re smiling in your face…but behind your back…they hiss…what’s a sweetheart like you…doing in a dump like this?” Mournful notes emanate from Guy’s harp as he let’s us know the depths of despair this girl is feeling.

Next up is “Slow Motion Daddy,” a lesson to be learned by all of us males who think we’re all that. “I’m the slow motion kind…I like to take my time…girls who come to my house like to play…some boys play too fast…they slip and bust their arm…but a slow motion daddy lasts all day!” I think that’s about all that needs to be said on this topic. “Follow Me Down” is Guy’s take on an old Lead Belly song. “I got a woman…live by a stony hill…been sent down gambling…by a pimp…Lord, it’s a wonder she ain’t done got killed.”

Guy plays a soulful harp intro for our next tune, “Sweet Hannah,” a song about a man who loves the married woman he’s been seeing. “Come in sweet Hannah…your man wants to see you…your man wants to see you…tonight!” Being the back door man is never easy and he obviously loves Hannah. “Bring Back Storyville” is Guy’s ode to a different time, where moonshine was illegal and people lived with prohibition. “I had me a woman…used to hold my jug…kept in a trapdoor…under the rug…I’d come there…lay back and drink my fill…bring back….bring back…Storyville!”

Next up is Guy’s testament to his mother, “Words to My Mama’s Song,” featuring spoken word and vocal percussion by his son, Martial Davis. “I could change my life story…if I could start all over again…let you pick all the cotton…I’ll let you sing…all the blues…I’d let you be your own mammy…I’ll let you shine…all of my damn old shoes…well, I wish I could remember…all the word to my mama’s song!” A very interesting song and definitely one of my favorites.

A Son House traditional, “Down South Blues,” is up next. “Down South…when you do…anything that’s wrong…they’ll sure…put you down on the county farm…put you under a man named Captain Jack…he’ll sure write his name…up and down your back!” The life of a black man in the South was never easy and he had to be sure to take care and watch his back. A Willie Dixon classic, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” is up next. Guy’s the Hoochie Coochie Man and one we should all watch out for.

“Steamboat Captain” is noted by Guy as the secret expression of his soul. Let’s see what that looks like. “If you ask me…I will tell you…when I’m grown up….what I’ll do…I will be a steamboat captain….and I’ll sail this…river through”. Fortunately for all of us, Guy grew up to be a very talented Bluesman instead. Up next is “Can’t Be Satisfied”, recorded live in Cincinnati with Guy on the banjo. “If I feel tomorrow…like I feel today…I’m going to pack my suitcase…mama, make my getaway…I be trouble…Lord, honey…I’m onward now…and I can’t be satisfied…just can’t keep from crying!” He’s always wondered how it would sound on the banjo and the answer is simple, its great!

Up next is another traditional song, Big Joe Williams’s “Baby Please Don’t Go.” “Turn your lamp down low…baby, please don’t go….I love you so…baby, please don’t go…down to New Orleans…I love you so!” Our next tune, “The Angels are Calling,” is a tone poem that Guy’s not sure he’ll ever be able to perform live. “The angels are calling…calling me home….open your eyes….turn your face from the shadows…sail to the stars…on the wings of a bird…come lick from me…the first breath of each morning…I’ll always be near you…I’m giving my word…the angels are calling.” An absolutely beautiful tune, I can see why it might be tough for Guy to sing this live.

According to Guy, he wrote “Going Back to Silver Spring” for a girl from Maryland. She promised to send him nude photos of her if he wrote a song for her. He’s still waiting for the pictures. “Cold wind is blowing…blow right through my clothes…the way I love that little girl….Lord, nobody knows…going back to!”

Guy closes what has been an excellent disc with another Leadbelly tune, a field holler called “Ain’t Goin’ Down.” “I ain’t going down…I ain’t going down…baby to the well no more…I was a true believer…but I ain’t going to believe no more!”

I’ve enjoyed this disc by Guy Davis immensely and I’m glad to see he garnered a BMA nomination for Acoustic Artist of the Year for this record. It’s a tough field this year but Guy’s nomination is well deserved, and Sweetheart Like You has rightfully earned its place in my top ten list. There’s a lot of great music that came out late this year and you can pick up a copy of Guy’s disc on his website,

--- Kyle Deibler

Darrell NulischI definitely need to see Darrell Nulisch live one time. His new record out on Severn, Just for You, garnered him BMA nominations for Soul Artist and Soul Record of the year, and deservedly so. Let’s hit play on this disc and see what Darrell’s got up his sleeve.

Darrell’s backed by a who’s who of players and it's Johnny Moeller’s guitar that stands out on our first track, “You Don’t Know Me.” Darrell’s woman obviously isn’t completely in touch with who he is and Darrell is pleading his case for her to take the time to know him better. “It’s who I really am….not who I’m trying to be…gonna do my own thing…naturally…you don’t know me…why don’t you take time and know me?”

Benjie Porecki’s keyboard is flawless as he provides the intro to our next cut, the very soulful “The Woman Don’t Live Here No More.” “Well I think I know…what made her go…I treated her bad…behind closed doors…and her friends keep dropping by…I never really learned how to lie…the woman don’t live here no more!” Sounds like she was one that Darrell should have kept. Sometimes we just don’t learn.

Up next is “Work for Love,” with a great horn score behind it. Here Darrell is trying to teach us that love is work; “Now, if you want a love…that will last forever…that kind of love has got to take some time…you can’t sit around wishing all day…hoping for love to come your way…open up the cover and take a real good look…listen little girl…what you got to do…work for love!” Real love is work and Darrell is imparting wisdom I’m sure he’s acquired through a heartache or two.

“I try…and I try…everything…to make her do…just to prove…my love…is just for you!” “Just for You” is an impassioned plea by Darrell to try and let his woman know just how much he loves her. The score is filled with great horn work to accompany Darrell’s attempt to truly speak his heart. She can’t help but get the message, what she does with it is another thing. “It’s a Shame” finds Darrell smack dab in the middle of a love triangle where he’s basking in the glory of his good fortune. “It’s a shame…that she don’t love you…it’s a shame…shame…shame…that she don’t care!” She’s chosen Darrell and he’s good with that.

Our next cut, “Just a Little Blues,” finds Darrell knowing that bad times will pass. “It’s just a crack in my heart…that ain’t broke all the way…and it’s just a little blues…sure ain’t nothing new…I’ll keep moving on!” Johnny Moeller’s back with another great guitar solo and its very easy to hear why Johnny is playing as much as he is these days.

The mood picks up as Darrell tackles our next cut, “Far Too Lonely.” “The words still ringing…as I hung up the phone…I started thinking bout the quickest way home…she didn’t say much…but her message was strong…its been lonely since you’ve been gone….I’ve been lonely…since you’ve been gone!” Sounds like Darrell had better get his butt back home soon. He’s only been gone a day but its obviously one day too much!

Unfortunately for Darrell, we find his heart is hurting in our next tune, “All the Love We Had.” “You went your way…I went mine…did we even say goodbye…I remember the way….you make me feel…and…I remember your eyes…so if you ever hear this song…and oh it makes you sad…just remember…how good we were together…and all the love we had.” Sounds like a tough break up for both of them. An upbeat tempo indicates a better mood and we’re treated to it in “Let a Woman Be a Woman.” “I just can’t get it right…oh, though I do the best I can…you just got to let a woman be a woman…and let a man be a man”. Darrell lets us know that it took a whole lot of learning for him to figure this much out, but at least he got it right.

Another ballad, “Natural Thing,” gives the horns a chance to air things out some more as Darrell lets us know that the love he’s feeling now is good. “There are some things…you can’t control…like the tide…or which way the wind’s going to blow…I know one thing…sure as I know my name…our love is…one of those things!” This relationship is obviously strong and Darrell is very happy to be in love with the woman he’s singing about. Good for Darrell.

Just for You is definitely a strong contender for Soul/Blues Record of the Year. It features great vocals from Darrell, one of the strongest supporting casts you’ll ever hear and just a great selection of songs by Darrell to sing for us. This record has earned its position in my top ten for the year and I’ll be coming back to it often. I know for sure you can order a copy from Darrell on his website, and this is one disc I believe everyone should wish for Santa to bring them.

Well done, Darrell, great disc!

--- Kyle Deibler

Derek TrucksOn Already Free, the latest release by The Derek Trucks Band on Victor Records, there is more of a focus on songs than with the band’s previous efforts, which have tended to focus more on the music itself through extended jams and improvisation.

That’s not a bad thing at all, but this latest effort manages to do something new without compromising what brought the band to where they are today. Trucks’ previous releases have also mixed rock, blues, jazz, and some Eastern Indian influences. On Already Free, there is more of a lean toward the blues side of things. In a way, it sort of reminds me of those early ’70s blues/rock excursions with the Allmans, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett, and even the sounds of Eric Clapton from that era.

The disc was recorded at home in Trucks’ home studio, with the band and their guests playing most of the tunes live, usually from the floor. The relaxed, sociable atmosphere carries over into the recording itself. Trucks’ slide work is phenomenal as always, and the band is incredibly tight in support. Lead vocalist Mike Mattison is continuing to make his presence felt not only with his gritty, heartfelt vocals, but also with his compositional skills. Mattison shares vocal duties with Doyle Bramhall II (who guests on two tracks) and Trucks’ wife, Susan Tedeschi.

There are 12 tracks, with four well-chosen covers, including the sizzling opening cut, Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Flood,” which showcases Trucks’ slide and Kofi Burbridge’s keyboard wizardry, along with a horn section. The other covers are a funky take of Paul Pena’s “Something to Make You Happy,” the old R&B tune, “I Know,” which opens with the hum of Indian guitars before jumping back into an uptempo soul groove.

Best of all is “Sweet Inspiration,” the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham classic. It’s a gospel/blues masterpiece straight out of Memphis, with a raucous vocal from Mattison (with able assistance from Tedeschi and the band members), punctuated by Trucks’ incredible slide guitar and tasty B3 from Burbridge. If that one doesn’t light your fire, your wood must be wet.

The original tunes, all written or co-written by Trucks, Mattison, Burbridge, Bramhall, or Trucks’ Allman Brothers bandmate Warren Haynes, are first-rate. Highlights include “Maybe This Time,” which has a New Orleans-vibe and features a strong vocal by Bramhall, “Don’t Miss Me,” a hard-edged blues tune, and “Get What You Deserve,” a powerful roadhouse rocker. Tedeschi does a solo vocal on the tender “Back When I Started,” with her husband accompanying on acoustic guitar and sarod. “Down Don’t Bother Me” and “Days Is Almost Gone” feature stellar performances from Mattison.

This is another fine effort from Trucks and his band, maybe their best overall release yet, but that bar keeps getting reset with each release. If you’ve not experienced this wonderful music experience firsthand, Already Free is a great place to start.

--- Graham Clarke

Laurie MorvanThe Laurie Morvan Band’s latest disc, Fire it Up! (Screaming Lizard Records), is appropriately titled, since it features more of her fiery brand of electric blues/rock. Morvan is a first-rate guitarist, influenced by various genres but most especially rock & roll (where she got her start). Once she heard Stevie Ray Vaughan she was hooked, and forged her own style by mixing rock & roll with the blues. The band made the Top Five at the 2008 IBC in both the live band and CD competitions, a rare feat.

The new disc features 12 tracks, written by Morvan. Songs like the double-entendre-laden “Come On Over To My BBQ,” “Good Girls Bad Girls,” “Skinny Chicks,” and “Livin’ In A Man’s World” focus on the blues from a woman’s perspective, while songs like the title track, “I Speak The Blues,” “Testify,” and “Café Boogaloo” are crowd-pleasing house rockers. “Lay Your Hands” and “”You Don’t Know About Me,” showcase her strong vocals, and “Let Me Carry Your Troubles” is a tender ballad about a friend battling cancer.

The Morvan Band is a powerful three-piece consisting of Morvan on guitar, Kevin Murillo on drums, and Pat Morvan (Morvan’s ex-husband) on bass. Carolyn Kelley and Lisa Grubbs (who co-produced the disc with Steve Savage) provide stellar backing vocals throughout, and Sammy Avila and Dave Matthews add keyboards on various tracks.

Blues/rock fans will find much to enjoy with the Laurie Morvan Band and Fire it Up! Morvan shows herself to be a fine performer and talented composer. You’ll be hearing more from them in the future.

--- Graham Clarke

Victor WainwrightBeale Street To The Bayou, the debut release from Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots on WildRoot Records, offers a rousing set of blues, soul, R&B with origins in that musically fertile region that give the album its name. Wainwright is a powerhouse piano man from Memphis via Savannah, GA who has learned his lessons well, combining a reverent respect for his musical predecessors while adding his own exuberance to the mix.

Teaming up with former rocker Stephen Dees (Novo Combo, Todd Rundgren, Hall & Oates, Pat Travers), who writes, produces, and plays bass in the band, Wainwright has found the ideal catalyst to get the band to the next level. Dees also produced Wainwright’s previous release, Piana’ From Savannah, which also included two current members of the WildRoots in support, guitarist Greg Gumpel and drummer Brian Kelly. After some live performances together, the group decided to join forces fulltime and WildRoots were born.

Beale Street To The Bayou consists of 14 tracks. Thirteen were written or co-written by Dees. They include the opener, “Mighty Man,” a fond tribute to the music of Chicago legend Willie Dixon, the acoustic Delta-drenched “Sold Down River,” and “Blues In The Rain,” a gut-wrenching track featuring an excellent vocal from Wainwright. “What You Want” is a robust slice of Memphis soul, driven by guest Chris Stephenson on keyboards, and “WildRoot Jam” is a funky jam session that gives all the band members a moment to shine on their own. “School of Hard Knocks” is a deft blues rocker that was co-written by Pat Travers.

The jazzy “Square” features a duet vocal turn with Wainwright and Patricia Ann Dees, and “Blues Grass” has a country flavor to it, courtesy of Mark Hodgson and Gumpel’s mandolin. The title track captures the feeling of traveling on the road perfectly. The lone cover on the disc is of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” which doesn’t break any new ground, but manages to retain the good-time feel of the original very well.

Wainwright has a strong and passionate voice and is a top notch piano man. The band offers wonderful support, moving smoothly from acoustic Delta blues to smooth Memphis soul to blues/rock to country. Beale Street To The Bayou is a superlative set that will satisfy fans of any of those genres. Visit CDBaby and give it a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Laurie MorvanIf you like your blues old school, you will love the latest release by The Georgia Healers. For over 20 years, the band has been the premier blues band on the Athens, GA music scene, rarely venturing far from the region. Their latest recording, on King Shifty Records, is called Heal This!

The disc features 15 tracks, ten rocking blues covers and five tracks written by singer/harmonica ace Donnie Ray Simonds. Among the cover tunes are two tracks by T-Bird frontman Kim Wilson (“Low Down Woman” and “Wait On Time”), Willie Love’s “Automatic,” Nick Curran’s “Beautiful Girl,” and tracks by Howlin’ Wolf (“Ridin’ In The Moonlight”), Willie Dixon (“Taildragger”), and Little Walter (“Mean Old World”).

The original tracks include the swampy “I’ve Got My Eyes On You,” the rowdy rocker, “Why Do You Say You Love Me?” and “Ten Years of Marriage.” These originals blend almost seamlessly with the cover tunes, mixing elements of Texas and Chicago blues with Southern soul, and Swamp blues.

The Georgia Healers feature a potent twin guitar attack with Jimmy Boleman and John Davis and a tight rhythm section (John Straw – bass, Steve Harding – drums). The disc was recorded in less than a day with no overdubs or effects and it sounds like it was a blast to be there. Producer John Keane deserves a tip of the hat for capturing that vintage blues sound so effectively.

If you like your blues played straight, in the recent tradition of bands like the Fabulous Thunderbirds or Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, this set belongs in your collection. Ramble on over to CDBaby and give this disc a spin.

--- Graham Clarke

Jacob MerlinJacob Merlin’s latest release, Alchemy of Soul (Backline Records), combines soul, jazz, funk, gospel, rock, and a touch of New Orleans. The Portland native has been playing piano since age four and is an accomplished performer and songwriter, having penned all eleven tracks on his latest disc, showing influences as diverse as Steely Dan, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Chicago, James Brown, and Jack Johnson.

A highlight of the disc is the muscular horn section that punctuates the songs throughout the set. Featured performers are Tower of Power’s Mic Gillette, who plays trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn, Andy Fuller, who plays trumpet, Renato Caranto, who plays tenor and soprano sax, and Rick Tippets (Merlin’s father), who plays tuba, trombone, and bass trombone. Tippets also did all the horn arrangements and you’ll definitely be reminded of the ’70s, when brass ensembles like Tower of Power and Chicago were mainstays on radios and stereos everywhere.

Merlin is a wizard (sorry) on the keyboards and has a suitably gritty voice for the material. The rest of the band isn’t slouches either. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a tighter rhythm section than Erik Mimnaugh (bass) and Jordan Ruback (drums and percussion), and Michael Suffin’s guitar work keeps things interesting as well.

Merlin’s songs are standouts. The highlights include the incredibly funky “Déjà vu,” which brings to mind the old fusion tracks from artists like George Duke or Herbie Hancock, “Madness,” which swings incessantly, and the soulful opening track, “Come To Papa.” It might be impossible to sit still through “Hammerhead” or “Donut.” “Muddy Right Foot” is about as bluesy as the disc gets with some impressive guitar provided by Suffin.

Alchemy of Soul is a delightful disc that will bring to mind those heady days of the ’70s, when funk and soul ruled supreme on the airwaves. If you remember those days fondly, you owe it to yourself to check out this album.

--- Graham Clarke

Sam MarshallFloorwalker, the latest release from the Sam Marshall Trio, is an interesting acoustic foray into the modern world of the blues, with flourishes of jazz, rock, and hip-hop added to the mix. Guitarist/vocalist Sam Marshall’s nimble fingers and raspy vocals are complemented by the sparse, driving rhythms laid down by Bennett Kling on upright bass and Collin Andresen on drums.

Of the ten tracks, nine are originals, written by Marshall. The highlights include the upbeat “Tell All My Friends and Brothers,” the title track, which has a hard-driving beat, the moody “Breaking Bones,” the funky “Valley Tune,” and “Waiting For A Train,” a ballad that showcases Marshall’s slide guitar. The lone cover on the disc is the traditional “Skinny Woman,” reworked into a breakneck-pace romp (featuring some more fine slide guitar work) to close the album.

Floorwalker stands out from your traditional acoustic blues guitar album due to the imaginative rhythm section and some impressive string bending from Marshall. Guitar fans of all genres will be well-satisfied with this release. Visit CDBaby and give it a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Hitman BluesFor 20 years, The Hitman Blues Band has been rocking the New York area with their searing brand of blues/rock, drawing favorable comparisons to Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa, and Kenny Wayne Sheppard along the way. Led by founding member, guitarist/singer Russell “Hitman” Alexander, the band has made various personnel changes along the way, but Alexander remains the constant with his gravelly vocals and gritty blues fretwork.

Pale Rider (Nerus Records) is the band’s fourth release. It’s loaded with crowd-pleasing blues/rock tunes that feature Alexander’s exemplary guitar work. Though the emphasis is on blues/rock, Alexander’s guitar work is firmly rooted in the blues. His guitar playing is on par with the artists mentioned in the previous paragraph, but I also hear Donald Kinsey occasionally in his soloing at times, notably on the second track, “Trouble On The Line.”

Choice tracks include “Blues Can’t Hit,” “Red Hook,” which showcases Alexander’s slide guitar, the grinding rocker “I Know About The Blues,” the jazz swinger “Miss Catherine,” which provides an interesting change of pace, “This Too Shall Pass,” and the scorching title track. The disc’s lone cover is a plugged-in take of Son House’s “Death Letter.”

The remainder of the Hitman Blues Band consists of Kevin Rymer (keyboards), Mike Porter (bass), and Ed D’Alessio on drums, and they provide rock-steady support. On “Miss Catherine,” the band is augmented by Mike Snyder (piano, clarinet), Greg Mercado (tuba), Eric Altarac (trumpet), and Mike Mulieri (guitar). Jim Sabella takes a guitar solo on the track “I’m Coming For You,” and backup vocals are handled by Joanne Alexander, Angelique Alexander, and Nancy Hampton.

Pale Rider is a strong, satisfying set of high-energy blues/rock that will please fans of the genre. Check it out at CDBaby.

--- Graham Clarke

Gerry JablonskiAfter a few years experimenting with solo acoustic blues Gerry Jablonski is back in the blues/rock arena in which he belongs, backed up by the amazing blues harp of Peter Narojczyk and the astonishing rhythm section of Dave Innes on drums and Grigor Leslie on bass. Having already taken the Edinburgh Blues & Jazz Festival, The Dundee Blues Bonanza and the Wizard Festival, by storm, Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band are currently on, what Gerry describes as, a perpetual tour of the North East of Scotland.

The opener, "Breaking the Stones," of their new self-titled CD on Fat Hippy Records, starts like a crackly old gramophone playing old slide blues but then bursts into the actual track (warning: don't turn up your headphones to compensate for the start or you'll blow your brains out). The track, a testimony to all hard working, underappreciated men, pushes with the earthy drive of classic '70s rock. Certainly the influences of Free, Zeppelin and Bad company can be heard here.

Now I could summarise each of the nine tracks on the album but that would be boring and only steal some enjoyment from your own interpretation of Jablonski's lyrics. So I shall just point out some of the (for me) highlights.

"Black Rain" is a deep, bass driven song that showcases Narojczyk's excellent harp work. There is nothing lightweight in this song yet despite it's dark lyrics (who knows what despair Gerry was going through to pen this) it remains a favourite for live audiences and album listeners alike.

"Cold Outside" is a heartfelt blues ballad featuring an emotional guitar and harp duet that tears at the soul. The lyrics tell a tale of lost love that ends with new love being found. Think of Gary Moore's "Still Got The Blues," but less long-winded, and you have a feel for this song.

"Under Cover" is an upbeat up-tempo song with a great sing along chorus This track is perhaps one of the best on the album. Dave Innes' drum work is so inspired drawing on popular '70s beats to compliment the guitar vs harp sparring. Ever popular with audiences you may even see that rarely spotted beast of the rock and blues circuit.... The dancing human!!!

--- Steve Crowe


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