What's New

December 2021

Pick Hit

What's New




Back Issues


Order these featured albums today:

Elly Wininger

Chickenbone Slim

Zac Harmon

Gabe Stillman

Mick Kolassa

Guy King

Ben Levin - Carryout or Delivery

Ben Levin - Still Here

Wee Willie Walker

Avey Grouws Band

Brad Vickers

Kurt Allen

Dudley Taft

Paul Boddy



Elly WiningerThe name Elly Wininger was a new one to me when I first cracked open her latest album, The Blues Never End (Earwing Records), but I now know that she's a veteran of the New York City blues and folk scene since at least the 1960s and is a member of the New York Blues Hall of Fame. That's cool. Even cooler is that she used to cut school to head to Greenwich Village to listen to the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, and others, as well as being taught by David Bromberg. On The Blues Never End, Wininger is backed by a large rotating group of musicians on the 13 cuts.

Starting it off is a mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Let That Liar Alone," a traditional number from Rosetta Thorpe. Right away we find out that Wininger has a strong yet pleasant singing voice and plays a very nice guitar. One of the best cuts is the original slow, snaky blues "Right Kind of Trouble," with Josh Roy Brown's eerie lap steel notes giving this song its mysticism.

Concidentally, Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies," is showing up on two reviews I'm writing this month, as Colin James also covers that song on his new Open Road album. Wininger's version is definitely better suited for playing while sitting on the front porch of some rural home. Her slide guitar and Mike Merenda's banjo fit together quite well. A very fun tune is Wininger's own composition, "(I Wanna Be Like) Rosie," a tribute to Cajun singer / accordionist Rosie Ledet, with Ed Marris adding the requisite accordion accompaniment. It's different but very effective.

Wininger's original "Alabama Blues" sure covers a lot of topical territory and some deep emotions, with the woman here being sexually abused by her uncle, encouraged not to talk about the act, and hindered by the fact that she can't get an abortion in that state --- plus other sensitive topics --- all while Wininger plays strong slide guitar and Sam Friedman contributes tasteful harmonica riffs. In the media notes she writes about the relevance of this song, intended to shock the listener into another state of mind.

There's a larger group of musicians backing Wininger on the Blind Lemon Jefferson / Leadbelly standard, "Black Snake Moan," with a full Dixieland band giving this old-time number a different sound. Wininger excels at other double entendre numbers, especially the slow 12-bar blues, "Range In My Kitchen." This was written by Texas Alexander and Lonnie Johnson, but Wininger shows that it's really a woman's blues more than anything else.

This is just a sampling of what's on The Blues Never End. Every cut is exceptionally good, with Wininger lovingly presenting a variety of styles with her wonderful voice and arrangements. It didn't take long for me to become a big, big fan of Elly Wininger.

--- Bill Mitchell

Chickenbone SlimSo you say there's a blues cat goes by the name of Chickenbone Slim? And he's from nearby San Diego? Sounds to me like a local band usually playing in corner bars, but one factoid about Slim's new album, Serve It To Me Hot (VizzTone), caught my eye right away. He traveled north from San Diego to record this set of 13 tunes at Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios in San Jose. That gives it instant credibility, especially adding the fact that Señor Chickenbone's band at the time consisted of Laura Chavez (guitar), Marty Dodson (drums) and Andrew Crane (bass).

So what can we expect from Chickenbone Slim and this fine group of musicians? It's a tight band with two very strong guitarists (one of which is the Chickenbone himself). I'm not wild about his vocals as the range is pretty limited, but it's enough for him to get by. Even better, every cut on the album is an original composition.

Chickenbone sings about the cooking of his co-writer, Andrea Ryan, on the opener, "Serve It To Me Hot," a mid-tempo blues that suits his voice well. In the media notes the album is referred to as roots rock, and, yeah, that's the sound he incorporates to his blues. That roots rock influence really comes out on "Wild Eyed Woman," with echo-y vocals by Chickenbone and the slapping bass making this one just as much rockabilly as anything else. Another number that sits firmly in that same rbucket is the up-tempo "Crying Tonight."

One of my faves here is the jumpin' blues, "Ought To Be Loved," with plenty of strong guitar breaks and good piano from producer Andersen. This up-tempo stomper suits Chickenbone's vocal talents better than others. The band heads to the Louisiana swamps on "Top of the Clouds," with guest harmonica ace Aki Kumar sounding a lot like Slim Harpo as he stays in the higher register of his harp.

My vote for the best song of the album is a New Orleans-style party stomper, "Hey Shakalo," with drummer Dodson providing the appropriate second line rhythm. "City Girl" is a mid-tempo blues shuffle with a heavy west side of Chicago feeling, with Chickenbone ably handling vocals about the girl who gets off the bus in the country and immediately looks totally out of place in those surroundings. There's a killer guitar solo midway through the tune, and Chickenbone also pays tribute to the late San Diego bluesman Tomcat Courtney.

Serve It To Me Hot is a fun album with a very strong group of musicians. It's time to get a little Chickenbone in your daily diet.

--- Bill Mitchell

Zac HarmonI was excited to receive the latest album, Long As I Got My Guitar (Catfood Records), from veteran blues guitarist / singer Zac Harmon, and it's got some solid numbers among the 10 cuts. But it's an uneven album, with too many formulaic songs that just don't cut it. In other words, Harmon and producer Jim Gaines could have made an outstanding EP from the material here. But let's not dwell on the low points and instead focus on the better songs, featuring Harmon's strong guitar and pleasing vocals.

The album opens with still another blues song with the oft-recorded topic of selling one's soul to the devil, the aptly named "Deal With The Devil." I really liked Harmon's guitar work on the intro, reminiscent to Carlos Santana's playing on "Black Magic Woman." It fits here. That leads into another outstanding tune, the slow blues "People Been Talking," with Harmon again dealing with the frequent blues storyline of his woman running around on him in view of others in town. I like the soulful backing vocals of The Rays, who appear throughout the album. Good guitar solo from Harmon, too.

 Harmon takes it to the Louisiana bayou on the slow, ambling song, "Crying Shame," with Dan Ferguson moving away from his usual role of keyboardist to play some Cajun accordion. After a couple of cuts that just didn't suit my tastes, Harmon returns to straightahead blues with the mid-tempo title cut, throwing in multiple strong guitar breaks. He's not flashy on the instrument, more just a tasteful guitar player. Perhaps his best guitar solo comes on the opening chords of "Waiting To Be Free," a topical tune about today's dysfunctional political environment and unfair law enforcement practices. Harmon then sings about his struggling relationship on the funky blues, "New Year's Day," lamenting the fact that he has no resolutions to help him move forward.

Long As I Got My Guitar ends with two songs that just didn't do it for me, I again felt were too formulaic and lacking emotion. I believe Harmon has a better album inside of him, so I'll enjoy the strong cuts here and then wait for the next release to come along.

--- Bill Mitchell

Gabe StillmanI'm always happy to introduce a new artist who just happens to be from my home state of Pennsylvania, so here's guitar slinger Gabe Stillman, the winner of the Gibson Guitar Award at the Blues Foundation's 2019 International Blues Challenge. You will hear why Stillman deserved the kudos he's earned in just the first few minutes of his new album, Just Say The Word (VizzTone). Produced by renowned guitar hero Anson Fundberburgh, Stillman's latest contains 15 cuts of heart-pounding blues, backed by a solid three-piece band and multiple special guests. By choosing to record the album in Austin, Texas, Stillman was joined at times by The Texas Horns, Funderburgh, Sue Foley and harmonica ace Greg Izor. Stillman wrote 13 of the 15 numbers on Just Say The Word.

Stillman is still a young gun on the blues scene, having graduated in 2015 from Berklee School of Music before forming in his own band based in Williamsport, Pa., but he already shows a maturity in the business by how he aggressively attacks his instrument. He plays solid Elmore James-style licks to start off "Give Me Some Time," an up-tempo blues shuffle that gives pianist Taylor Streiff plenty of time in the spotlight. Stillman launches into my choice for the best song here, "Let It Go," a mid-tempo blues with a touch of soul. At times I hear the influence of Albert Collins in his guitar playing, while The Texas Horns play a big role on this one.

"No Time For Me" is a heavier blues with a driving beat and a touch of echo in Stillman's vocals, and his mid-song guitar solo bridges the two halves of the song quite well. You likely won't be able to keep your emotions in check on "No Peace for a Soldier." The lofty aspirations of a young man joining the service instead result in his soul being crushed, with Stillman singing about the young man's PTSD, "... The battle may be over, but the war goes on ...," emphasizing that sentiment with a monster blues guitar solo. Great B3 organ accompaniment by Streiff just makes this song even better.

Stillman changes the mood completely on the mid-tempo soul ballad, "Just Say The Word," as he professes his love for a woman and tells her what he can bring to her. No matter what bad relationship she had before, he's going to give her more love than she ever had before. Later in the album, Funderburgh and Izor join in on a fantastic instrumental, "Susquehanna 66," that just plain smokes. Izor takes his time at the front on the stage with really fine chromatic harp playing, which leads into Streiff tearing it up on the B3. Needless to say, there are multiple outstanding guitar breaks embedded into the song's 3:22 running time.

Streiff shines again on piano on the up-tempo driving 12-bar blues, "Ain't Gonna Change," with Stillman showing that he's indeed a rising star on guitar. Another keeper is the snaky slow blues, "I''ll Take Care Of You," a Brook Benton composition that was a hit for Bobby "Blue" Bland back in his Duke Records years.

If this album serves as your introduction to Gabe Stillman, then it's a great start to following the career of this young guitarist. Consisting of 15 cuts, there is plenty of good music on Just Say The Word, although I wonder if a few of the less effective songs could have been left in the studio to make it a more concise gem of a dozen outstanding numbers. There's really nothing that's really unlistenable, so just as well that all 15 songs were included.

What's next for Gabe Stillman? I can't wait to find out.

--- Bill Mitchell

‘Tis the season for Christmas albums and singles, so let’s take a look at a few that are worth celebrating this holiday season.

Mick KolassaWhen Mick Kolassa recorded Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album (Endless Blues Records) in Memphis, the temperature hovered around 95˚. If you live in the south and you plan to release a Christmas album, you are going to be recording it in less than frigid conditions. That’s perfectly fine in this case, because this may be one of the coolest Christmas albums you’ve heard in a while. Kolassa and company (Jeff Jensen – guitar, Bill Ruffino – bass, Rick Steff – keys, James Cunningham – drums, Eric Hughes – harmonica, Mark Franklin – trumpet, and Reba Russell and Susan Marshall – backing vocals) give this album a greasy, soulful yuletide feel. There are a lot of familiar tunes present, but unlike you’ve ever heard them before.

Opening with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Kolassa effectively delivers it as a soulful, slow blues tune. Next is a fantastic take on “Frosty the Snowman” that marries Memphis to New Orleans in a way that will have toes tapping and heads bobbing. Kolassa contributes a few original songs among the nine tracks, the first of which is the deliciously funky, slightly spicy “The Best Christmas Ever,” which is followed by a wonderful read of the blues classic “Merry Christmas Baby,” which features some superb guitar work.

Three traditional Christmas tunes follow: ”Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” While none of these are usually considered to be “blues” tunes, Kolassa puts a very bluesy spin on all three songs. “Jingle Bells” has a old school, almost dangerous rock ‘n’ roll feel, “Winter Wonderland” strikes a loose-limbed, carefree groove, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a nice, warm R&B track that features Jensen on guitar, Franklin on trumpet, and Steff on a variety of instruments.

The last two tracks are originals. First is Kolassa’s rip-roaring blues rocker “Christmas Morning Blues,” where he wakes up to a house missing his lover, his car, and his Christmas presents. The closer is a lot of fun, an instrumental called “Beale Street Christmas Jam,” where the band members take turns fitting classic Christmas songs into a 12-bar blues shuffle.

Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album has a pretty high spot in my list of Favorite Yuletide Albums. Chances are pretty good that it will occupy a high spot on yours, too. Check it out.

Stevie JThe indefatigable Stevie J Blues, one of the busiest men in the business over the past couple of years, took some time to craft a splendid reading of the Charles Brown holiday classic “Merry Christmas Baby.” Stevie J transforms the blues Christmas standard from a somber slow blues to an upbeat funky blues shuffle with a heaping, healthy dose of blues guitar mixed in. Pick this one up to include in your Christmas Party tunes mix. Your friends will certainly appreciate your efforts.

cathy grier“You’re Not Here Blues,” from Cathy Grier & the Troublemakers, is a different sort of holiday song, but one that will ring familiar to a lot of folks. The song was inspired by Grier’s poodle, Etta, who passed away last October. As anyone who’s lost a pet would know (we lost our dog in May), it’s like losing a family member. Heck, you ARE losing a family member. Grier tenderly describes the sorrow one who’s lost a four-legged loved friend feels during this time of year. While writing the song, Grier asked her fans to contribute images of their recently departed pets to share on a video, and she received 52 images in 24 hours. Thus, this is a tune that a lot of people will be able to relate to.

--- Graham Clarke

Guy KingIt’s been a while since we’ve heard from Chicago-based guitarist Guy King (2016’s Truth), but he’s been busy in the interim. He married Sarah Marie Young in 2017 and they’ve welcomed two children into the world. The changes over the past five years have obviously shaped King’s perspective, both personally and musically, and all of this comes through loud and clear on his latest release, Joy Is Coming (IBF Records), standing as the apex of an already impressive body of work. King has never sounded better as a guitarist or vocalist on this wonderful set of ten originals (seven co-written with author David Ritz) that sounds like an absolute labor of love.

The title track, written when Young was pregnant with their first-born, is a warm mix of blues, jazz, and R&B with a definite retro feel, due in part to the presence of the Kaia String Quartet and King’s Bensonesque string bending and scatting. “Devil’s Toy,” the album’s first single, is a moody blues that builds to an intense climax with guest guitarist Joe Bonamassa joining King. Meanwhile, “Choices” is a soulful ballad with an excellent vocal from King, and the upbeat, punchy “Sanity” adds horns and backing vocals, while King lays down some of his best guitar work on the irresistible “Hole In My Soul.”

King’s sweet love letter addressed to his wife, “Oh, Sarah,” is funky with a bit of a tropical feel that will put a smile on even the sourest face. He offers wise counsel on the jazzy, horn-fueled “Don’t Do It (If You Don’t To Do It),” and encourages listeners during tough times (with help from Vanessa Bell Armstrong) on the optimistic gospel track, “Up Up Up.” Guy shines vocally and instrumentally on the lovely, heartfelt ballad “A Prayer For Me,” a masterful performance. The closer, “Looking For You,” is a funky mix of blues and R&B.

King’s performance is first-rate, for sure, but he also receives top-notch support from Tom Vaitsas (keyboards), Joshua Ramos (bass), Samuel Jewell (drums/percussion), Marques Carroll (trumpet, flugelhorn), Anthony Bruno (tenor/baritone saxes), along with backing singers Tina Jenkins Crawley, Devin Velez, and Sarah Marie Young (King’s wife). The aforementioned Kaia String Quartet (Victoria Moreira, Naomi Culp – violins, Amanda Grimm – viola, Hope Decelle – cello) are a calming presence throughout the disc.

An inspiring, stunning piece of work that encompasses not just the blues, but jazz and old school R&B, Joy Is Coming will surely satisfy the souls of any music fan who enjoys these genres. You’ll want to listen over and over again.

--- Graham Clarke

Ben LevinAs mentioned a couple of months back, I am woefully behind in my stack of albums to review for Blues Bytes. So far behind that some artists have now released multiple albums that I need to get to. Ben Levin, whose 2019 release Before Me was one of my favorite 2020 releases (when I finally got around to reviewing it), released Carryout or Delivery in October of 2020 to rave reviews, and more recently issued Still Here, both on the VizzTone label. Let’s take a look at both of these releases, which definitely deserve to be heard, before I get too much further behind.

Carryout or Delivery is composed of a dozen songs, eight written by Levin with four tasty covers. The originals include “You Know,” a barrelhouse romper, the retro R&B “Stuck,” which open the disc. On the splendid slow blues “Too Good For Me,” Levin plays the electric piano, and on the spunky title track, Levin leans toward the jazz side of the aisle. “Have You Lost Your Mind” finds Levin playing electric piano and organ with satisfying results (and a terrific solo from guitarist Aron Levin, Ben’s dad). The pensive “Some Other Time” is a smooth ballad, while “Nola Night” is a dazzling Crescent City-flavored instrumental.

The second half of Carryout or Delivery is mostly the cover tunes, beginning with a funky take on Frank Frost’s “My Back Scratcher” (with Levin on B3), a wonderful slow burning instrumental take on Harold Burrage’s “The Buzzard” (Levin again on organ trading solos with his guitar-playing dad), Bill Nettles’ “Hadacol Bounce” (Levin’s take is a closer fit to Professor Longhair’s version), and a sensitive read of Floyd Dixon’s ballad “Time Brings About A Change,” which closes the album. Mixed in with the covers is “Papercut,” a vintage New Orleans R&B-styled ballad penned by Ben and Aron Levin.

Ben LevinStill Here was released a couple of months ago, and the Levin family spent the latter part of 2020 watching Aron Levin struggle with COVID, but the guitarist persevered and returns to back his son on this stellar set. The pair co-wrote four of the 12 tracks, with Ben writing three more himself with four covers mixed in. The whole album has a vintage, intimate feel with a definite nod toward the classic sounds of King Records, whose vast catalog of blues/R&B legends (Wynonie Harris, Freddy King, Little Willie John, Hank Ballard, to name a few) inspired both Levins.

The rollicking opening track, “Love and Friendship,” originally recorded by Jimmy Witherspoon in the early ’50s, provides as effective a showcase for Levin’s vocals as it does for his piano playing. The original title track is an after-hours blues ballad that takes its sweet time and provides ample solo space for the Levins. The comical “That’s The Meal” is a lot of fun to listen and sing along to, and the jumping “I Can’t Stop It” is a deep cut from the catalog of the great Jimmy Liggins that deserves to be heard, while “Bad Idea” is a clever tune written by Levin that could have been an R&B hit back in the ’50s.

“Please Let Me Get One Word In” is an easy mid-tempo shuffle highlighted by a nice slide guitar solo from Aron Levin, and the jaunty “Kissing At Midnight” is the old VeeJay side originally recorded by Billy Boy Arnold in 1956, another rare cut that many may be hearing for the first time. Meanwhile, the instrumental “Crown Jewel” is just that, with some clean and sweet fret and keyboard exchanges from the Levins. “Christmas Tears” is a melancholy blues reflecting on feeling low during the holiday season.

On the amusing “Her Older Brother,” Levin finds it hard to develop a relationship with a lady due to family interference. He does a fantastic job on Memphis Slim’s “I Wonder What’s The Matter,” both vocally and instrumentally, and closes out in marvelous fashion with the original, timely tune “I’m Your Essential Worker,” certainly a candidate for future standard status.

Both albums are keepers, as well as Levin’s 2019 release, but I’m slightly partial to Still Here. I really enjoyed the vintage vibe throughout. As stated by many other reviewers and listeners, Ben Levin seems to have an “old soul” and really digs deeply into the classic material while writing new songs that fit snugly within the genre. The interplay between Ben and Aron is just wonderful as well……it’s like they’ve known each other forever. By all means, blues fans are strongly encouraged to check out both of these superb releases.

--- Graham Clarke

Wee Willie WalkerWee Willie Walker passed away three days after completing recording of Not In My Lifetime (Blue Dot Records) with The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra, but he set the bar pretty high for future soul-blues singers with this fantastic effort. The opening track on the album is from an interview Walker did with Tina Abbaszadeh just after completion of the sessions, which led to the album title. Walker possessed a wonderful voice that was a comfortable fit in a variety of styles, whether blues, soul, R&B, or gospel, and the 14 tracks cover these styles. The ten originals were written by co-producers Paule, Christine Vitale and Larry Batiste.

The opening track is “Don’t Let Me Get In Your Way,” a funky R&B track that’s sure to put a hop in your step. It’s obvious that Walker had a blast singing this one. “Over And Over” is a deep soul ballad, and the Latin-flavored “Real Good Lie” is a standout with Walker’s pointed delivery and Paule’s deft fretwork. “What Is It We’re Not Talking About?” has a cool, retro 60’s pop/R&B feel, and “Make Your Own Good News” is another inspirational tune that would be a seamless fit in the Curtis Mayfield catalog. “Darling Mine” is a soulful Memphis-styled slow burner that Walker knocks out of the park, and the stirring “I’m Just Like You” adds The Sons Of The Soul Revivers to the vocal mix, with James Morgan sharing lead vocals with Walker.

Walker originally recorded “Warm To Cool To Cold” for Goldwax Records in 1968. This version is a bit different from the original, going from a gritty southern soul burner to a country-flavored shuffle and Walker sounds more resigned to his fate than anguished. “Let The Lady Dance” is a real heartbreaker about getting over a lost love and Walker pours his heart into this tender ballad. Next up are two covers of Little Willie John tunes, “Heartbreak” and “Suffering With The Blues.” The former is a funky shuffle and the latter is a splendid West Coast-styled slow blues, both with terrific vocals from Walker and superb support from the Orchestra.

“Almost Memphis” is a greasy instrumental that captures the funky spirit of Memphis quite well with Tony Lufrano’s B3 and Paule’s guitar work, while giving the rest of the band ample space to stretch out. The album closes out on a high note, with a wonderful urban blues/jazz shuffle, Vitale, Paule, and Batiste’s “’Til You’ve Walked In My Shoes,” a song which sums up the essence of Wee Willie Walker, who sings it like he wrote it.

It’s sad that this will be the last recording that blues fans will hear from this soul/blues legend, but it’s tempered by the fact that Walker was able to receive some well-deserved accolades while he was still with us. Not In My Lifetime is certainly one of the best releases of this past year and deserves to be heard.

--- Graham Clarke

Avey Grouws BandThe Iowa-based Avey Grouws Band recently issued Tell Tale Heart (Navy House Records), the much-anticipated follow-up to their well-received 2020 debut, The Devil May Care. Their new release has more of a blues-rock bent than its predecessor, but one of the treats of listening to their debut was the band’s ability to blend various genres, and there’s plenty of that versatility present on their sophomore effort. As on their previous album, the band consists of Jeni Grouws (vocals), Chris Avey (guitars), Bryan West (drums), Randy Leasman (bass), and Nick Vasquez (keyboards), with Avey and Grouws composing all ten of the songs.

The opening track, “Love Raining Down,” is a hard-driving blues rocker with an emphasis on “rock.” “There For Me” is a funky mid-tempo soul track that percolates along quite nicely, with Grouws’ marvelous vocal and solid support from the band, and “Bad, Bad Year” is a rock-edged ballad, while the upbeat “Hanging Around” has a light ’80s pop feel. The title track is a strong blues ballad that showcases the depth and breadth of Grouws’ vocal prowess, as well as a masterful solo from Avey.

Avey takes the spotlight on the next tune, the moody instrumental “Mariana,” which is followed by the wistful “Daylight,” a light and lovely acoustic number. The catchy, well-crafted “Heart’s Playing Tricks” is a funky rocking blues about misplaced jealousy in a relationship, and “We’re Gonna Roll” continues the funky groove with its cool 70’s vibe, courtesy of Vasquez’s keyboard accompaniment. Grouws and Avey share vocals on the playful Americana-flavored closer, “Eye To Eye.”

All in all, Tell Tale Heart is a fine sequel to Avey Grouws Band’s debut, showing that the band is more than capable of stretching out in mulitple genres beyond the blues, thanks to the versatility of their talented vocalist and guitarist.

--- Graham Clarke

Brad VickersA new release from Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans always brings a smile to my face. His brand of blues always gives a loving nod to the blues of the past, updating it nicely with a mix of new songs and interesting, sometimes obscure covers that will be new to most listeners, and will send them in search of the original sources more often than not. The core band includes Vickers (guitars/vocals), Margey Peters (bass/vocals), Bill Rankin (drums), and Jim Davis (clarinet/tenor sax), with a host of guest musicians (Chrlie Burnham – violin, Dave Gross – guitar, Mikey Junior – harmonica, Dave Keyes – piano/organ, Dean Shot – guitar, and V.D. King, who plays a truckload of instruments and co-produced with Vickers and Peters) joining in.

The Music Gets Us Thru (Man Hat Tone Records) is the band’s seventh CD and consists of a dozen songs, eight written by Vickers and/or Peters with four covers of songs by Jimmy Reed, Larry Darnell, Tampa Red (a prerequisite for any Vestapolitan album), and J.B. Lenoir. The original rockabilly-styled “Dumb Like A Fox” kicks off the disc, followed by a terrific cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Take It Slow,” featuring Mikey Junior on harp and Shot on guitar. Vickers’ ballad “Please Don’t Say” sounds like a long lost swamp pop classic, and Peters’ optimistic “Big Wind” has a wonderful old school feel with Burnham’s violin.

The Tampa Red cover is next with the upbeat “I’ll Never let you Go,” an entertaining track which features a clarinet solo from Davis. The rollicking title track has a real Chuck Berry feel thanks to Vickers’ guitar and Dave Keyes’ piano. Keyes also features prominently on Peters’ somber “Now It’s Time For Me To Sing The Blues,” playing piano and organ. “What In The World” is another vintage rocker with Davis’ tenor sax, with Vickers breaking out the slide for a couple of solos. Peters’ “Grab My Car Keys” is a solid traditional acoustic blues addressing the loss of a friend.

The last three tracks on the album are a cover Larry Darnell’s “I’ll Be Sittin,’ I’ll Be Rockin,’” a lively, swinging blues shuffle with accordion and sax, “Birds On My Family Tree,” Peters’ tribute to the late Annie Ross (with Vickers on bass and Gross on guitar, and Lenoir’s “When I Am Drinking,” a dynamite cover that features the core band.

It’s always a pleasure to hear these guys make music. Their sound is based in the traditional blues, but their creative musical arrangements and instrumentation, as well as their inspired songwriting, makes each Vestapolitan recording a delight for blues fans. The Music Gets Us Thru is no exception.

--- Graham Clarke

Kurt AllenBefore hearing Whiskey, Women, & Trouble, I was not familiar with Kurt Allen or his remarkable band. From what I can gather from the band’s website, the band is based in Kansas City, where the album was recorded and produced, and have been touring the U.S. relentlessly for the past decade. The band (Allen – guitar/vocals, Lester Estelle, Jr. – drums, Craig Kew – bass, Beaux Lux – keyboards/sax/backing vocals, Pete Carroll – trumpet, Trevor Turla – trombone) plays a smooth mix of blues, soul, funk, and rock. Allen wrote all ten of the songs on this most impressive set.

The opener, “Graveyard Blues,” is a hearty blues-rock number, featuring a gritty groove and slick slide guitar from Allen. “Watch Yo Step” is a funky mid-tempo blues with hard-hitting horns, and “How Long” is a fine slow blues that provides a first-rate showcase for Allen’s vocals and fretwork. The title track is a fun, upbeat track that brings the horns back in for extra flavor, and Allen’s tasty tribute to his favorite foods, “Funkalicious” is just that.

“Count On Me” is a solid soul burner with a nice vocal turn from Allen, “Roadrunner” is a driving rocker that features Lux on wailing sax, and “Cry Mercy” is a fine Windy City-styled blues. The swampy, slinky “Voodoo Queen” features some nasty bass from Kew, a growling vocal from Allen, and fierce sax work from Lux. The album closes on a high note with the old school rock ‘n’ roller “Sweet T,” one that should get fans on their feet in a frenzy.

Kurt Allen proves to be a great singer, powerful guitarist, and versatile songwriter, and Whiskey, Women, & Trouble is a disc that you need to put on your “must hear” list. Enjoy!

--- Graham Clarke

Dudley TaftDudley Taft’s musical résumé is most impressive, founding the band Space Antelope while in high school in Seattle with Phish’s Trey Anastasio, and playing with Sweet Water and Second Coming before launching his solo career playing blues rock in Seattle. He has since returned to his native Midwest (Cincinnati, Ohio) and recently released his seventh album, Cosmic Radio (American Blues Artist Group), a high-energy set of blues rock originals, plus a strong cover of a blues classic from the ’50s. Taft sings, plays guitar and piano and he’s backed by Kasey Williams or John Kessler (bass), Walfredo Reyes, Jr. or Jason Patterson (drums), and his daughter Ashley Charmae, who provides backing vocals.

The title track opens the disc, and it’s a catchy rocker that would sound great on the radio. The hard-charging “Left In The Dust” and “The Devil” combine rock, metal and blues effectively and memorably. Taft also covers Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby,” kicking the intensity of the original up several notches, before launching into the grungy blues-funk of “One In A Billion,” an eight-minute workout that allows Taft ample space to soar. “The End Of The Blues” is a stellar mid-tempo track that leans the closest to a straight-ahead blues track.

Taft’s daughter, Ashley Charmae, was quarantined with Taft and his wife for three months, and she sings backing vocals throughou.She takes the mic for the smoky ballad “Relentless” and does a marvelous job. “Fly With Me” has a churning, almost-metal guitar rhythm and a catchy almost-pop rhythm, as do “Hey Hey Hey” and “All For One,” both of which could serve lyrically as wake-up calls for us as individuals and as a collective. “I’m A Believer” finds Taft venting his frustration with being isolated and unable to perform during the pandemic, but he voices optimism through it all because of the blessings he did find with his family while being shut down.

The album closer is quite different from what preceded it. “I Will Always Love You” is a piano ballad with acoustic guitar. Taft debated over whether to include it on the album, but it was obviously the right choice. It’s an excellent song and performance, providing a great conclusion to one of Taft’s best albums.

Dudley Taft is a powerful guitarist with an intriguing mix of blues mixed with rock and metal in his fretwork, but the reason listeners keep coming back is because he’s such a talented songwriter with an ear for memorable, catchy melodies. As stated above, Cosmic Radio ranks with his best albums to these ears. Most listeners should agree.

--- Graham Clarke

Paul BoddyPaul Boddy & The Slidewinder Blues Band hail from Pennsylvania, featuring Boddy (guitar/lead vocals), Lori Gaston (backing vocals), Glenn “The Wizard” Hale (organ/piano/accordion), Chuck Hearne (bass), and Dave Hollingsworth (drums). The group issued an EP late in 2020 called Friends of Tuesday (Slide Records), which is taken from their regular participation in “The Every Tuesday Funk ‘n’ Blues Jam,” a weekly open blues jam which currently takes place at Club Havana in New Hope, Pa.

The five tracks are all originals, beginning with the humorous “Over The Hump,” a funky rocker that all of us “Old Body/Young Mind” types can easily relate to. The tough blues-rocking “Love Me Darlin’” takes a look at the frustrations of a come-and-go relationship, and “Money On Love” leans toward southern rock with Boddy’s slide guitar and Hale’s B3. “Knock My Boots” is a tight roadhouse with a country feel and some slick slide guitar from Boddy, and “Pretty Kitty” is a blues stomper about a song about a woman’s pet (sure it is) that features Mikey Junior on harmonica.

Boddy is a fine guitarist and singer and a first rate songwriter, and his band is superb in support. Fans of blues with a rock edge will enjoy this EP and will definitely want to hear more from these guys.

--- Graham Clarke



[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]


The Blues Bytes URL... http://www.bluesbytes.info
Revised: December 14, 2021 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2021, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.