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December 2022

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Order these featured albums today:

The Lucky Losers

DaShawn Hickman with Charlie Hunter

Ivor SK

Dave Keyes

Rick Berthod

Michael Doucet and Tom Rigney


Lil' Red and the Rooster

Billy Truitt

Justin Saladino Band

Ruf Blues Caravan 2022

Vanessa Collier

Grant Dermody


The Lucky LosersThe Lucky Losers
, led by Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, continue their hot streak (five wins at the 2021 Independent Blues Awards) with their latest release, Standin’ Pat (VizzTone), featuring 11 original tracks of their signature mix of blues, soul, and roots. The album, their fifth since 2014, finds the band (Lemons – vocals, Berkowitz – vocals/harmonica, Ian Lamson – guitar, Chris Burns – keys, Endre Tarczy – bass, Jon Otis – drums/percussion) at Greaseland Studios with Kid Andersen behind the controls (also playing guitar, banjo, and organ).

The opening track, “Pack Up The Bags,” has a lively New Orleans feel with horns from guests Mike Rinta (trombone), Michael Peloquin (sax), and Brian Cantania (trumpet) and Burns’ piano. “Somewhere In The Middle” is a gritty, funky blues with Berkowitz bemoaning the general discord among the public in today’s world.

Next, Lemons’ narrates the country-flavored “Rich Strike,” the tale of the longshot winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, and the Crescent City vibe returns with “Try New Orleans,” a cool tribute to the city with vocals from Lemons and Berkowitz (and an introduction from John Blues Boyd).

“Down In Memphis Town” paints a picture of the Bluff City while capturing the essence of the city with a greasy, gritty musical backdrop. The pair team up on vocals again for “You Can’t Lose With A Winning Hand.”

“Rust Belt Blues” has a vintage blues vibe, with Lemons really nailing the vocals on this swinger, and “High Two Pair” deftly mixes soul and country (with vocals from both). “Finish What You Started” is a sweet soul burner sung by Berkowitz (who adds some splendid harmonica between verses).

Lemons turns in a superb vocal on the rootsy “They Wrecked My Town,” with Berkowitz supplying harmonica. The album wraps up with the title track, an uplifting soul burner with Terry Hanck guesting on sax. The pair share vocals again on this one. Their vocal styles may be different, but their harmonies work together seamlessly.

Standin’ Pat is another winner for The Lucky Losers. Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz have formed a great musical partnership and continue to be a winning bet with their performances and their songwriting. Standin’ Pat is their best to date.

--- Graham Clarke

Hickman and HunterDrums, Roots & Steel (Little Village Foundation) is slightly different from most sacred steel albums. What DaShawn Hickman with Charlie Hunter have done is take the style to its basic beginnings (steel guitar, tambourine, percussion) and added a taste of West African music, using the shekere, djembe, bongos, tambourine, and cowbell. Many modern sacred steel arrangements focus more on the band backing the steel guitar, sometimes taking away from the beauty and nuance of the guitar. Hickman and Hunter return the focus to where it should be, which is on Hickman’s pedal steel guitar.

The results are at times breathtaking. The opener, “Saints,” starts out with Hunter setting a deep bottom on bass as Hickman soars in with that familiar melody (“When The Saints Go Marching In”) and the percussionists (West Africans Atiba Rorie and Brevan Hampden) give the instrumental track a unique feel. “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” continues along the same lines, with Hickman’s pedal steel front and center …. the percussion really adds a lot to the performance, which goes into an extended jam that fits the song well.

Hickman’s wife Wendy (who also plays tambourine throughout) sings on three tracks, beginning with “Shout,” a jubilant call to listeners that’s bound to stir the soul of believers. Hickman joins his wife for the cautionary tale “Don’t Let The Devil Ride,” on which their vocals and the guitar’s “vocal” really balance each other quite effectively, which is part of the allure of sacred steel music. On the funky “Morning Train,” Hickman’s guitar mimics the sounds of a train behind his wife’s vocal, but really takes off as the song nears its end.

The slow burner “Precious Lord” simmers and percolates, along with the percussionists laying down a steady, understated rhythm as Hickman’s smoldering, expressive slide work slowly builds in intensity. The closer, “Wade In The Water,” concludes the album in rousing fashion.

Since I first heard Robert Randolph and the Family Band nearly 20 years ago, I’ve always enjoyed sacred steel music. With Drums, Roots & Steel, I think I appreciate the role of pedal steel guitar in the music more than previously. DaShawn Hickman and Charlie Hunter have placed the emphasis on this fascinating instrument more than usual, and fans of the genre will have an even greater appreciation for it after hearing this wonderful album.

--- Graham Clarke

Ivor SKIvor S.K. (a.k.a. Ivor Simpson-Kennedy) is originally from Australia, but recently relocated to New Orleans. The freewheeling Mississippi Bound is his first release since relocating and was crafted during the pandemic. It features 15 original tunes, all written, arranged, and performed by Ivor, pretty much covering the gamut of blues and roots while incorporating other music styles along the way.

The jaunty title track opens the disc. It has a light Caribbean flavor and serves as a great soundtrack for rolling down the highway. “I Don’t Roll” is a sparse southern blues showcasing Ivor’s slide guitar, while “Get Up” is a deeper, electric blues.

The sardonic “Talkin’ Shit Again” is a stripped-down tune that will amuse. “Kiss On My Blues” is a driving, acoustic blues with a hypnotic rhythm and deft fretwork, and “Sex, Drugs & Cigarettes” is a fun tune that rolls along at a nice pace. Ivor can tell a nice story, and this song works well with his weathered vocal style.

“Wheelin’” has a real swampy feel with Ivor’s slide guitar, while “Taste Your Lips” takes on more of a reflective vibe, dealing with isolation and loneliness. Meanwhile, “100 Dollar Bills” picks up the pace and the mood. Some foot-tapping is guaranteed with this selection.

“Tomorrow Night” is an easy, shimmering slow blues that will settle down the soul, and the lively “Down The Road” is another song that works extremely well as one travels down the highway.

“Slow Down” is an easy-going blues that encourages all of us to, well, slow down and take in the world all around us. “Sweet ‘n’ Low” is a catchy soulful track and you can’t help but clap along with Ivor, leading into “No Friend of Mine,” a cool downhome song and a great example of Ivor’s distinctive songwriting.

He saves the best for last on the closer, “Dead Pig,” a harrowing slide-driven tale that leaves a mark.

Ivor S.K. has only been relocated to the U.S. for about five years, but he has absorbed the sounds of blues, soul, and roots more than a lot of the natives who’ve been here all their lives. Mississippi Bound serves as a great soundtrack for fans of the above-cited genres. Plug it in on your next road trip and you’ll be good to go.

--- Graham Clarke

Dave KeyesKeyboardist extraordinaire Dave Keyes returns with his sixth album, Rhythm Blues & Boogie, his first for Blue Heart Records. Keyes’ penned nine of the ten tracks, which fit the album title perfectly. Keyes is joined by a host of musicians, including drummers Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Frank Pagano, guitarists John Putnam, Early Times, Popa Chubby, and Doug MacLeod, bassists Jeff Anderson and David J. Keyes, tenor saxophonist Chris Eminizer, and trumpeter Tim Ouimette.

The rousing “Shake Shake Shake” gets the album off on the right foot, with Purdie setting a shuffle pace and a nice sax break from Eminizer. “That’s What The Blues Are For” is an upbeat number with terrific guitar work from Putnam backing Keyes’ piano. “Blues and Boogie” is a good-time R&B track with a lot of swagger. Keyes goes solo for the next track, delivering a fine reading of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” the album’s lone cover, before heading down to New Orleans for the second line rhythms of “Ain’t Doing That No More.”

“Ain’t Going Down” is a strong song about determination to prevail through tough times and difficulties that mixes soul and R&B most effectively. The solo instrumental, “WBGO Boogie,” is named for the blues and jazz radio station in Newark, with Keyes really tearing into it. The Latin- flavored “Not Fighting Anymore” finds Keyes struggling with a relationship.

Keyes and MacLeod join forces for the humorous acoustic blues, “Invisible Man,” an amusing look at the challenges of growing older, before the keyboardist wraps up the album with “7 O’Clock Somewhere,” a rollicking tribute to the frontline heroes who served during the pandemic.

We don’t get nearly enough piano-based blues albums these days, so it’s always a pleasure to hear one, especially one as good as Rhythm Blues & Boogie. Dave Keyes has given blues fans a keeper with this release, loaded with great songs and performances.

--- Graham Clarke

Rick BerthodPeter Green’s name doesn’t come up nearly enough in the discussion of great white blues guitarists. The late guitarist spent time with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, appearing on Mayall’s A Hard Road (plus two live appearances recently issued from early 1967), before leaving to found Fleetwood Mac with fellow Bluesbreakers Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. After recording three excellent albums with Fleetwood Mac, Green began a long battle with drugs and mental issues, leaving the music scene altogether the early ’70s, resurfacing sporadically until the late ’90s, when he began playing and touring with the Peter Green Splinter Group. He passed away in July 2020, at 73.

Modern music lovers may not be familiar with the early sounds of Fleetwood Mac, one of the most formidable of the British blues-rock bands, but fortunately Nevada guitarist Rick Berthod has remedied that with a wonderful new release called Tribute To Peter Green, which focuses on ten of those early Fleetwood Mac recordings and captures the essence of that group and Green’s sound as well as it’s ever been done. Berthod is backed by Ronee Mac (bass/vocals), Billy Truitt (keyboards), and Brett Barnes (drums/percussion) as well as several guest guitarists

Among the songs covered by Berthod are the terrific opener, “If You Be My Baby,” which also features Junior Brantley on piano and vocals, “Black Magic Woman,” one of Fleetwood Mac’s first hits which Carlos Santana carried to even greater heights, Duster Bennett’s “Jumping At Shadows,” Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad,” and a great version of “Oh Well” and “Rattlesnake Shake,” both from Then Play On, considered the pinnacle of early Fleetwood Mac albums.

The gentle instrumental “Albatross” features slide guitar from John Zito, and “Stop Messing Around” features three additional guitarists (Stoney Curtis, Chris Tofield, and Mike Varney) and some tasty guitar work reminiscent of Albert Collins. “Driftin’” is a longer, slow-burning track, on which Berthod turns a great performance on vocals and guitar, and the musicians get a little space to jam. The album closes with “Loved Another Woman,” a nice Windy City-styled blues.

Berthod does a wonderful job interpreting these tunes, hewing closely to the originals but adding enough original flourishes to the songs to keep longtime Green fans listening and, hopefully, lead newer listeners to check out the original versions. It’s obvious he has a love for the original material, and that will carry over to listeners for sure. Blues fans are strongly encouraged to check out the excellent Tribute to Peter Green, one of the best British blues guitarist ever.

--- Graham Clarke

Doucet - RigneyMichael Doucet and Tom Rigney collaborated on a wonderful album, Cajun Fandango, back in 2016. At the time I reviewed in for the June 2016 issue of Blues Bytes, I remarked “Hopefully, they will do it again soon.”

Well, the pair recently reunited for a second album, Roll On (Parhelion Records), another excellent set of Cajun, blues, and roots music that’s bound to put a hop in your step. This time around they are joined by a host of guest artists, including Marcia Ball, Jon Cleary, Chad Huval, John R. Burr, and Flambeau, Rigney’s current band.

Doucet, of course, is the leader of the Cajun band BeauSoleil, and Rigney was the founder/leader of the Swamp Rock band The Sundogs prior to founding Flambeau. Rigney penned five of the 12 tracks, Doucet two, and the pair collaborated on one track. There are also four covers, including a jaunty country-flavored take on J.J. Cale’s title track, which opens the album and features Ball on piano. Rigney’s spirited instrumental “Hounded” follows with the two fiddlers really going to town, and Jon Cleary joins in on piano for Doucet’s somber ballad “Fais Pas Ca.”

Ball contributes piano and co-lead vocals with Rigney on a spicy second line version of her crowd favorite “That’s Enough Of That Stuff,” and Cleary returns on Wurlitzer for “The Blue Hour,” a jazzy instrumental with a Latin flair. Rigney’s “Gator Boy” is another lively instrumental, this one also including accordion from Chad Huval and slide guitar from Marc Brinitzer. Doucet takes the vocal on a fun and funky reading of Fats Domino’s “It’s You I Love,” featuring Ball on piano.

Rigney’s tasty instrumental “New Nola Blues” really captures the feel of the Crescent City, the fiddlers working wonders with Cleary’s piano and Wurlitzer and the locked-in rhythm section (Steve Evans – bass, Kevin Hayes -drums) helping them along. Doucet’s “Bunk’s Blues” is a superb blues that features the pair working with Flambeau (Anthony Paule – guitar, Caroline Dahl – piano, Sam Rocha – bass, and Hayes), and Rigney’s “Swamp Feet” is another dazzling instrumental.

Clarence Garlow’s swamp blues standard “New Bon Ton Roula” never gets old, a nice fit on any album of Louisiana music, as this version really cooks. Doucet and Rigney collaborated on the album closer, “Allons Échapper!!,” bringing the album to a rousing conclusion.

Doucet and Rigney began work on Roll On on March 12, 2020, the day before the pandemic caused the lengthy shutdown. Thank goodness they persevered and were able to complete this fine album, which should find a place in any music lover’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke

SerabeeSerabee is a singer/songwriter originally from Kiln, Mississippi. She was drawn to singing while performing in her evangelist father’s revivals, also learning to play drums, keyboards, and guitar. As she grew older, she began to explore other music that interested her, performing in clubs and casinos on the Gulf Coast.

She connected with producer Gary Katz, who served as her mentor, and by 2004 she had released two albums (as Sera Buras). She was also writing songs, including “Crazy Chick,” which became a major hit for Charlotte Church. In 2011, she became a contestant on The Voice, advancing to the semi-finals.

Serabee recently released her fifth album, Hummingbird Tea (Rabadash Records), a stunning release that captures her southern roots perfectly, a mix of blues, soul, R&B, gospel, and roots. She wrote all 14 songs and co-produced the album with Rabadash head John Autin, who played keyboards on selected tracks. She’s also backed by Shane Theriot (guitar), Nick Necaise (keys/guitar/mandolin), Dave Easley (pedal steel guitar), Cassandra Falconer (bass), and Eric Boliver (drums), plus additional guest musicians on various tracks.

“Bayou Baby,” the first single released on the album, kicks things off. It’s a soulful autobiographical track about her beginnings, where she is and where she hopes to go. “Tennessee” is a country-soul ballad about leaving troubles behind for a new start. “I’m Closed,” which could be called a happy breakup song, really showcases her vocals, which are a smooth fit with either country or soul, but she goes straight into the blues on the powerful “Drunk Woman’s Words.”

“Find Another Boyfriend” is a bright, mid-tempo soul track punctuated by the horns and B3, while the ballad “I Need Saving Too” has a country feel, thanks, in part, to the efforts of Willie Nelson’s harp man Mickey Raphael. The horn-fueled “Anything Like The Boy” is greasy, funky Memphis soul at its best.

“Hush (Little Baby)” is a sweet ballad, and “Loves To Love A Woman” and “Burn” really show the range and versatility of her voice, but she does a marvelous job on “Fair Weathered Man,’ wringing every ounce of emotion out of the song. “War and Peace” and “Has Anybody Told You” both tread the thin line between country and soul, and the superb “Moonchild” closes the disc. Serabee’s performance on this final track will compel listeners to hit “replay.”

Most listeners will actually be hitting “replay” on the entire album. For anyone who enjoys the music of Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Nashville, or New Orleans, Serabee has just what you’re looking for. She’s a remarkable singer and songwriter, and it’s all on display with Hummingbird Tea.

--- Graham Clarke

Lil Red and The RoosterLil’ Red & The Rooster advanced to the I.B.C. finals in 2019 in the solo/duo category, and perform regularly at Buddy Guy’s Legends as a duo for the acoustic dinner set when they’re in Chicago. Lil’ Red (Jen Milligan – vocals/rhythm guitar) was born in Columbus, Ohio, while The Rooster (Pascal Fouquet – guitars/gitjo) was born in Normandy, France. They’ve worked as a duo since 2010, perfecting a brand of modern blues that keeps one eye focused on the traditional brand, on full display on their second release, Keep On! (Blue Heart Records).

“Cool Trap Boogie,” a cool blues swinger with an interesting beat, opens the disc, followed by “Whisky Sip of Time,” a seductive track with a smoldering Latin groove. Harmonica master Billy Branch joins Lil’ Red on vocals, also providing his usual stellar harp work on the sauntering country blues “Keep On Lovin’ You.” 

Lil’ Red tells an amusing story on the old-school tune “Love The Hell Right Out Of Ya,” which is followed by “Shakin’ Em Up,” an instrumental with The Rooster going into surf guitar mode and Jean-Marc Labbé wailing on baritone sax.

The somber “Bootstraps Break” looks at the disparity between rich and poor, punctuated by The Rooster’s understated guitar work. The album’s lone cover, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” is given an up-tempo treatment with the Rooster’s gitjo really adding punch to the tune. The swinging “Back of the Bus” pays tribute to Rosa Parks and encourages others to follow her example. “American Made” mixes blues, hip-hop, and R&B as it looks at American foibles past and present, and the rollicking “Little Girl” is a message of encouragement for women.

The album wraps up with a smoking blues instrumental, appropriately entitled “Step It Up.”

Lil’ Red & The Rooster, with excellent support (Branch, Labbé, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith – drums, Felton Crews – bass, with Jeff Morrow, Caroline Carson-Rau, Sara Castro, and Marco Castro – vocals), really shake the trees with Keep On!, their sophomore release of contemporary blues that keeps one foot planted in the traditional sounds of the genre.

--- Graham Clarke

Janice HarringtonJanice Harrington’s most recent album was nearly 40 years in the making. The 80-year-old singer has mastered a variety of styles over her long career, notably blues, jazz, gospel, disco, and R&B. One of her previous releases was a tribute to Dinah Washington. She’s lived in Scandinavia since 1980, and over that time she’s continued to perform. She recorded multiple sessions in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Austria between 1982 and 2022. Those recordings have been collected in 80 Years of International Friendship (Hip & Happy Records).

The set list varies from blues to jazz to R&B. The musicians backing Harrington are all very good and, despite the disparity in recording dates, none of the music really sounds dated and blends very well together. Ms. Harrington sounds great, singing with plenty of power, passion, and soul.

The 1988 Danish sessions feature Harrington backed by guitar (Kenn Lending, who played with Champion Jack Dupree), keyboards, bass, and drums, and includes several fine blues performances, including “Work Your Magic,” “7 Day A Week Man Blues,” “Making Plans,” and “Telephone Blues.” Lending’s guitar work behind Harrington is superb.

The Norwegian session (1985) features Harrington singing behind two bands, the Helge Iberg Band and the Tor Welo Band, and includes nine tracks. “Listen To Me” is a tough, traditional blues, “Wheeler Dealer” is a playful track that marries blues/R&B/and a little bit of hip-hop, “It’s Too Soon To Tell” and “Mirror Image” are soulful ballads, “The Hex” and “Blues Rocking” are funky R&B, “Learn To Live Without You” is pop-flavored jazz, while “Norwegians Got Soul” is a fun Latin-esque tribute to Harrington’s home country of 42 years.

Harrington recorded the excellent cover of the Ray Charles classic “Hallelujah I Love Her So” in Austria (1994), where she served as guest soloist at a live concert with backing by the Rat Big Band. The two tracks recorded in Germany were done in 2022, the opening track “Old Age,” and a cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” Harrington’s husband, Werner Gürtler, backs her on tronbone for the latter track, which closes the disc in marvelous fashion.

One thing is for sure --- Ms. Harrington hasn’t lost an inch off her fastball in the 37 years between the first of these tracks and the last. She still sounds great. 80 Years of International Friendship is a fine set of blues, R&B, and soul from a talented lady who knows her way around all three genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Justin SaladinoHonest Lies is the latest release from the Canadian blues, rock, and roots ensemble, the Justin Saladino Band. Saladino (vocals/guitar) wrote or co-wrote all ten of the tracks, which deal with relationships, dealings with self, and even a little bit of politics. The album is produced by Ariel Posen (The Bros. Landreth), and musical contributors include Denis Paquin (drums), Gabriel Forget (bass), Gabriel Bertrand (keys), with backing vocals from Courtney Fox, Melissa Pacifico, Britanny Kennell, and Posen.

The mid-tempo rocker, “Sink or Swim,” gets the disc off to a fine start, as Saladino recounts his difficulties during the pandemic and his determination to pervail. “Let You Go” is a soulful ballad, and “Blind Faith” is a funky, bluesy track. Meanwhile, “Fan The Flames” mixes rock and R&B, and the title track ups the intensity a bit with Saladino’s fretwork and a message about being honest with each other and ourselves as well.

“Won’t Say No” has a playful, pop feel with a catchy refrain that found me singing along, and “Half-Heartedly” and “Let Me In Again” both have a country/folk vibe with the acoustic guitar work and gentle melody and backing vocals. “Can’t Have You Around” is a strong blues rocker, and “Don’t Worry About It” is a hopeful country rocker encouraging listeners to just wade through the tough times.

Saladino is a fine tunesmith and a powerful singer and guitarist. His musical support is spot on for this well-rounded set of blues, rock and roots. Honest Lies is another fine addition to the Justin Saladino Band’s increasingly impressive catalog.

--- Graham Clarke

Billy TruittBilly Truitt has played up and down the West Coast with a variety of bands such as Jack Ely and the Kingsmen and Easy Chair, also working in production with Curb Records and getting involved in the honky tonk scene in Los Angeles and Bakersfield. He moved to Las Vegas in the ’90s, and eventually settled in with the Vegas Strip Kings. Recently, the keyboardist/guitarist released a solo album, Abstract Truth (Gutbukit Music) that features several of the Vegas Strip Kings making contributions.

The album opens with the boisterous “Who’s Been Trying,” with Al Ek on harmonica and Jimmy Carpenter laying down a tough solo on baritone sax. “No Light Blues” is a mid-tempo number with bluesy guitar work and soulful B3 from Truitt, and “Truth Come Home” has a Latin-flavored rocker with excellent support on guitar, accordion and saxophone.

Waylon Jennings’ “Waymore Blues” is covered, with Truitt transforming the song into an upbeat blues shuffle. On James Booker’s “True,” he remains pretty faithful to the New Orleans piano wizard’s original rendition, which is perfectly fine.

The intriguing “Salvation or Hell and Famous Potatoes” has a reggae feel, with Carpenter and Elk providing superb backing on sax and harmonica, respectively, while Truitt takes a nice keyboard break. “Life Like Art” ventures down to Louisiana with a glorious second line rhythm and accordion driving the song along. Steve Eaton takes vocals on this track. On the countrified swinger, “Hobo Flatts,” Elk plays guitar and lap steel, also joining Truitt on vocals. “Preacher Stole My Angel” picks up the pace considerably with more lap steel and a driving beat.

The album wraps up with a fine instrumental, “Ragtime Eastern Cowboy ’22’,” which allows the band to stretch out for some fine musicianship, notably Ek on harmonica, Truitt on keyboards, Tofield on guitar, and Mike Seifrit on bass.

Abstract Truth is a fine musical journey through a variety of styles, all with one foot planted in the blues.

--- Graham Clarke

Stevie JThe busy Jackson, Mississippi bluesman Stevie J Blues recently re-released his wonderfully funky blues version of Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby” (PK Music). The track features some tasty guitar work from Stevie J to go along with his playful vocals, as well as a dynamite rhythm track that grabs you and refuses to let go.

It goes by quickly at 3:48, so quickly that you’ll be playing it over and over, again and again. The prolific bluesman continues to put out quality music on a regular basis, showing no sign of letting up any time soon.

--- Graham Clarke

Ruf Blues Caravan 2022Ruf Records sends out a trio of their recording artists every year or so to perform and record in Europe and the United States. This year's Blues Caravan 2022 features Ghalia Volt, Katie Henry and Will Jacobs.

I was first made aware of Ghalia Volt three years ago with the release of her second album, Mississippi Blend, her second album after the 2017 release Let The Demons Out. Completing this trifecta of Ruf releases was One Woman Band, which came out in 2021. As the title says, it's all Ghalia playing both drums and guitar -- the perfect way to record during the pandemic, taking her back to when she was a street performer in her native Belgium. Her style is raw, unadulterated blues with a lot of rockabilly in her voice.

While the 2022 release On My Way wasn't Katie Henry's first recording, the impact of it being on Ruf Records got her in front of a larger audience, The New York City area pianist / singer / songwriter takes her music in a lot of different directions, be it country, americana, and blues, but always with one foot in the blues world.

Will Jacobs was a new name to me, a Chicago transplant now living and performing in Germany. Another newby to the Ruf family, his latest, Goldfish Blues, shows a strong blues and blues/rock guitarist and a more than capable singer.

Blues Caravan 2022, recorded over three nights at a club in Koblenz, Germany, consists of 16 cuts of music, and if you buy the CD set you'll get a second disc with 25 video performances. The trio share the vocals on the frantic opening number, "Hop On A Ride," before regrouping for the final three songs, "Roll And Tumble Blues," the amazing "Voodoo Woman," and the Credence cover, "Fortunate Son."

While all three musicians get plenty of time at the front of the stage, Blues Caravan 2022 represents Katie. Henry's coming out party. She's outstanding on the four cuts attributed to her, with each one co-written by her and Barrett Antar Goodwin. She takes the instrumental lead on electric piano, but it's her voice that really shines, showing plenty of range and power, especially on the outstanding "Bury You," a mid-tempo number on which she shows a little more growling sound to her voice. The funky "Nothing To Lose," "Empty Cup," from her recent On My Way album, and the slow, soulful "Carry You" are all solid numbers.

The real showstopper, with Henry showing plenty of sass on vocals, is Koko Taylor's "Voodoo Woman." an up-tempo stomper that might be the best thing here. Ghalia also sings on this number, but Henry is the star of this show.

Jacobs shows off on blues/rock guitar on his three vocal numbers: "I Play The Blues For You," an extended version of "Have You Ever Loved A Woman," and his own "Funky Woman." He's a decent singer and packs a lot of effects into his guitar playing.

I've always felt that Ghalia is as much a rockabilly singer as she is blues, providing a nice fusion vibe to her music. She really kicks it on one her compositions, the Elmore James-influenced "Reap What You Sow," showings her melding of blues and rockabilly, a mid-tempo blues original, "Release Me," another rockabilly number, "Hoodoo Evil Man," and the fast-paced "Squeeze."

Among the other songs on which they collaborate, the raucous version of the Jerry Lee Lewis hit, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," will get your blood pumping faster, and all three singers jump in on an even more lively version of the blues classic, "Roll And Tumble Blues."

There is a lot to like about Blues Caravan 2022. Basically, it's just a whole mess of fun, and it's obvious that the three artists were having a great time making this music. Be sure to get this one on at your next party, after which you just might have to replace the carpet from the dancing it inspires.

--- Bill Mitchell

Vanessa CollierIt's no secret that seeing Vanessa Collier live a few years ago has been one of the best shows I've witnessed in recent memory. The Philadelphia sax player / singer / songwriter puts on a great live show, which is why we should all be excited with the release of Live At Power Station (Phenix Fire Records), a 10-song show recorded "live in the studio" at Power Station Studios in New York City in front of a group of friends and family. She's backed by a very fine band, with Byron Cage (drums), Andrew Crane (bass), Laura Chavez (guitar), and William Gorman (keyboards). The result is a successful capture of what Vanessa sounds like in a live setting.

Collier and band re-do a selection of songs from her previous four albums. No new material, but there doesn't need to be because every number sounds fresh and different from the studio originals. The pacing of the show is good. If there's a complaint, it's that the sound quality is not impeccable, which I would have expected being recorded in a studio. You have to listen very carefully, but at times the recordings aren't as full and rich as expected. Again, you have to listen carefully, so my recommendation is to just crank up the volume and enjoy.

I particularly like the version of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand The Rain," stretched out here to 8 minutes and 37 seconds, giving time for all of the players, Collier included, to stretch out with their solos. We also get a longer (6 minutes and 16 seconds) of a favorite, "Sweatin' Like A Pig, Singin' Like An Angel," from the Honey Up album. It's funky and Chavez does a fine job on guitar.

Collier does some of her best sax work on another hot and funky tune, "Tongue Tied," which also features Gorman on organ. "Love Me Like A Man" really stretches out, lasting more than 14 minutes but never gets boring, especially when Chavez lays down her spectacular guitar breaks.

Other Collier standards include "The Run Around," Whiskey And Women," When It Don't Come Easy," Icarus," and "When Love Comes To Town," and she closes the show with a rousing, up-tempo version of Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime."

While we all wish we could see Ms. Collier on tour more often, especially those of us on the other side of the country, we'll be happy listening to Live At Power Station until the next time she shows up at a nearby venue.

--- Bill Mitchell

Grant DermodyBehind The Sun (independent) is the second album that I've heard from harmonica player extraordinaire Grant Dermody, and it's more than what I expected. I think of Dermody as strictly a harp player and singer sticking closely to country blues or Piedmont blues, but on this new album he plows a lot of different fields, making for a very enjoyable set of 15 numbers. He's a good enough singer for the material here, and is backed on most songs by multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell and occasionally by bass player Lee Allen Zeno and drummer Gerard St. Julien. The presence of those latter two names gives a hint that Dermody has now relocated to Lafayette, Louisiana, with that Cajun country influence showing up at times.

Let's go first to my favorite cuts, starting with the absolute gem of the album. "Time Ain't Due" is a old-school gospel song written for this album by Dermody. It's a simple tune with no instruments other than harmonica played through the vocal mic, with the song made richer by the addition of background singers Teka Briscoe, who also co-wrote lyrics, and Ahyris Navarre. The strong voice of Ms. Briscoe takes the vocal lead at one point to add even more power to this song. This alone is worth the price of the album.

"Clotilda's Got Soul," written by Zeno and St. Julien, is a funky electric blues started with a very good harp solo. That Lousiana influence shows up again on the mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Tell Me," with Corey Ledet guest starring on accordion.

If you're looking for something more rootsy, check out Dermody's best Sonny Terry imitation on the traditional "Lost John." No vocals, no other instruments. Just making the harmonica talk and sing. The album opens with a Muddy Waters classic, "Trouble No More," a raw country blues that fits well here. The rapid-fire "Don't Boss Me," written by Rick Estrin, gives Powell the chance to flex his chops on both guitar and piano.

We can never get enough Muddy Waters, so another cut not to miss is Dermody's version of the raw downhome blues, "Louisiana Blues," with only harmonica and guitar backing his vocals. It doesn't stray far from the original version, but it doesn't have to with a song this wonderful. Dermody also does a pretty good Jimmy Reed imitation on "Honest I Do," playing harmonica just like Jimmy.

Dermody takes it to Chicago for the final two numbers, covering Kim Wilson's upbeat blues shuffle "Learn To Treat Me Right," with his voice sounding stronger here. Powell shines on piano in this ensemble setting. The closer is another solid Chicago number, Otis Rush's slow blues "So Many Roads," with Dermody playing exquisite blues harp.

There's more here, and trust me when I say it's all good music. We should all be supporting independent releases like Behind The Sun, so please check it out. You won't regret it.

--- Bill Mitchell



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