Johnny Jones' CD I Was Raised On The Blues (Black Magic) is subtitled The Other Johnny Jones. One listen to this wonderful disc and you won't have any trouble confusing Mr. Jones with any other Johnny Joneses in your life. The Nashville artist is known both for his longtime session work in his hometown as well as time spent many years ago with Freddy King. Jones' guitar style is similar to that of the late Albert Collins, and he's a strong singer, too. His most powerful guitar work can be heard on his version of "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong." This is a very good blues CD, and comes highly recommended for blues guitar lovers. After the rediscovery of fellow Nashville cats Roscoe Shelton and Earl Gaines (see last month's Pick Hit), it's obvious that "Music City" has a much stronger blues heritage than most of us thought.
Tiny independent label Fedora Records continues to put out some of the best downhome blues recordings around. This month's releases include a trio of little-known Texas guitarists as part of their Lone Star Blues Series. All three CDs are excellent, but my favorite is from Austin's Hosea Hargrove. On I Love My Life, Hargrove plays a rough, raw style of blues and sings in a bit of a nasally voice. But he's no one dimensional artist. "Hawaii" is, without a doubt, one of the coolest tunes you'll hear this year. There's a lot of Dick Dale surf-style guitar mixed in with Hargrove's raw Texas blues. This CD grows on you the more you listen to it ... it's just good basic blues done well. The second CD from Fedora is from Dallas-based Willie Willis, who released an album on Trix a few years ago. Can't Help But Have The Blues features nine originals and one cover (Albert King's "Laundromat Blues"), featuring Willis' rough, deep voice and exuberant Texas guitar. The first two cuts, "Willie's Back" and "If You Wanna Get Funky," are both fantastic. Finally, Matthew Robinson's Bad Habits introduces another obscure Austin artist. While just as rough and tumble as Hargrove and Willis, Robinson's style is a little more uptown. All cuts are covers, but given his own touch. There's a nice version of B.B.'s "Mr. Pawnbroker," and a smokin' "Don't Lose Your Cool," Albert Collins' signature tune. Are you now wondering which of these three discs to buy? I'll make it easy for you ... buy all three, and support struggling blues artists.
Silver Tones - The Best of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers (Silvertone) contains 12 cuts from John Mayall's three Silvertone CDs released earlier in this decade as well as a pair of previously-unreleased numbers. Highlights include Mayall's version of Chris Smither's "Mail Order Mystics," the gospel-sounding "Wake Up Call" (featuring Mavis Staples and Mick Taylor), "When The Devil Starts Crying," and "Ain't No Brakeman." One of the unreleased tracks is an alternate take of Juke Logan's "Fan The Flames," so the only totally new thing is the very good and funky "Movin' Groovin' Blues," featuring guitar from Coco Montoya.
Former partners Buddy Guy & Junior Wells would occasionally reunite to do an acoustic duo act for special events, and even cut an album released earlier this decade on Alligator. Their last such performance was at Buddy Guy's Chicago club, Legends, in 1993. The result of that two-night engagement is now available on the good CD Last Time Around - Live at Legends (Silvertone). Buddy and Junior stuck primarily to blues standards, showing a penchant for Jimmy Reed songs. The hottest number here is their version of Ray Charles' "What I'd Say (It's All Right)." There's also a very good "Hoodoo Man Blues," which of course was one of Junior's best-known classics.
If you'd like to introduce a friend to classic Chicago blues, then pick up a copy of The Golden Age of Blue Chicago (Blue Chicago). Otherwise, most blues fans are already going to have most or all of the cuts on this disc. The selection here is strictly standard, with no obscurities and rarities. Among the cuts are "I'm Ready" (Muddy Waters), "Big Boss Man" (Jimmy Reed), "Smokestack Lightnin'" (Howlin' Wolf), "My Babe" (Little Walter), "Help Me" (Sonny Boy Williamson), and "I Wish You Would" (Billy Boy Arnold). See what I mean ... great blues, but nothing that most of us haven't heard many times before.
My first thought upon looking at the new CD from Big Mike & The Booty Papas was that this was likely to be real lame stuff. But I was pleasantly surprised with Red Hot Blues (White Clay). These cats from Macon aren't bad at all. They've got a real nice guitar player in Big Mike, and do a good percentage of original songs. But the standout cut is a cover of a lesser-known Hank Williams number, "You Win Again," which gets a slow, jazzy interpretation. The catchy "Treadin' Water" is the best original number.
Many years ago I met this great harmonica player from Florida who went by the interesting moniker Rock Bottom. He was traveling through the southeast with a Swedish blues band, and would sit in with them for a few numbers. I always wondered what happened to the guy. He's obviously still around, as witnessed by a new CD with his band The Cutaways, Shake Your Boogie Leg (New Moon Blues). While not a strong singer, Rock Bottom can still blow a harp with the best of them. What I like about this CD is that not everything's straight 12-bar blues. I especially like his playing on the chromatic on "Manatee County Jail."
Baby Blues (Joonbug) by The Coochie-Coochie Band is by far one of the most interesting concept blues albums I've ever encountered. The idea here is to take standard blues songs, and rework them as if done from a baby's perspective. The backing band is actually quite good. But the two main vocalists, one who sings in a male falsetto voice and the other a deep, raspy blues growl, get a little annoying if you're not into the novelty of the CD. The excellent Tone-Cool singer from Boston, Toni Lynn Washington, guests as "The Lovely Miss Bea Havin'"; this cut, "My Crib," is the best on the disc. "Wahkin' Blues" is actually a pretty catchy tune, of course a takeoff on "Walkin' Blues." This album isn't for everyone, but I'm sure there's a niche market out there for it.
The Roger Rogers Band is a decent, basic blues band, presumably out of the Pacific Northwest. There's not a whole lot of info about these guys on their new self-titled CD from Real Records. The singer, Roger Rogers, is above average, especially on the slow blues "Killing Me Being Free" and Little Walter's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" (although it's hard to cover a Walter song without a harmonica player!).
If you like contemporary Chicago blues played well, then be sure to check out Kiss Of Sweet Blues (Delmark) from guitarist Lurrie Bell. He's backed on this disc by labelmates Dave Specter and the Bluebirds, giving this ensemble two solid guitarists. Best of the lot here is the slow blues written by Specter, "Blues And Black Coffee" --- "...The blues and black coffee seem to be my only friend ..." Bell really turns loose on his axe on the instrumental "Lurrie's Guitar Boogie."
--- Bill Mitchell
a name like no other. The Blues
Boy and Lucille are back, and
Two of the Fat Possum Records crew come through with exactly what weve come to expect from this label ... hard-edged blues, with a minimalist feel. Johnny Farmers first release on Fat Possum, Wrong Doers Respect Me, includes Johnny and his guitar. Oh, yeah, and a slide, too. A wonderfully rough sounding Farmer displays his classic style throughout the disc. T-Model Ford explodes on his latest, and actually earliest CD (its not due out til early 99.) On You Better Keep Still, Ford drags out a whole pile of nasty lyrics, great guitar work, and sometimes questionable rhythm. His style is reminiscent of the Delta once again, and is sometimes similar to labelmate R.L. Burnside. Over all, Fat Possums core of artists are represented well by both Farmer and Ford.
--- Brad Allen
What a treat the new release from Finis Tasby is! Tasby is a veteran performer who knows what to do with a good song, witnessed on Jump Children (Evidence). Nine of the twelve tracks are covers of great tunes by Jimmy McCracklin, Lowell Fulson, Fats Domino, Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, to name a few of the writer's credits. This is a CD that will appeal to the swing crowd, and swing it does. With help from Coco Montoya, Rick Holstrom, and Kid Ramos on guitars and the late Lester Butler on harmonica, this release makes you want to get up and "Jump Children." "Georgia Slop" and "I Just Got To Know," both by McCracklin are great dance tunes, as is "Mercy's Blues" from the legendary Mercy Baby, the latter with some nice piano riffs by Rob Rio. If you have been enjoying the recent swing revival, this release will be a welcome addition to anyone's Christmas stocking. Excellent sound adds to the overall professional production.
The posthumous release of what must have been Ollie Nightingale's final session, Ollie Style (Ecko) once again shows what a soulful bluesy singer he was. Starting back in the 60's as Ollie & The Nightingales on Stax Records, and in later years for various independent labels, he was just beginning to receive some deserved recognition prior to his untimely death this year. Ollie Style is his fourth CD for Ecko, beginning with the ground-breaking release "I'll Drink Your Bathwater Baby" back in 1995. It follows the predictable formula of his prior CDs, a solid excursion into the southern soul and blues world in which this independent label has carved a niche. The first track, "I'm Gonna Turn This Bed Over," is indicative of what is to follow, but is entirely too long at 8:17. Some of the better tracks are "That's When The Blues Began," a slow grinder, "That's What You Are To Me," and "Keepin' Up With The Joneses." The latter is a cheating song with the following classic lines, "I love my wife a lot, but I can't be satisfied until I have what my neighbor's got." If you like the Southern chitlin' circuit type of soul/blues, you'll enjoy this one. We're gonna miss you, Ollie.
--- Alan ShutroMichelle Willsons Tryin To Make A Little Love (Bullseye Blues & Jazz) is a very good CD. Many different styles are played, which keeps the CD interesting from beginning to end. She has a tremendous voice, which on a couple cuts reminded me of Tracy Nelson. "Life Rolls On" is a country song, and "Someday" is a gospel song; they are two of the highlights which really show off her great vocal talent. The band complements Willsons vocals well, and they are given room to showcase their talents, especially on the 6:17 "Half Past the Blues." I especially enjoyed the trumpet solos.
Daddy-O/Royalty Records' Christmas CD, Swingin' Christmas, offers ok seasonal music, but the vocals of many of the various artists are distracting. With the exception of Ron Sunshine, the vocalists sound like Bruce Willis selling wine coolers, and even worse, they sound drunk on a couple cuts. All the songs are Christmas chestnuts, or have minor "swinging" variations, which leads to another problem. They cannot match up to the originals which most people already have in their music collections, including Charles Browns "Merry Christmas Baby," Mel Tormes "The Christmas Song," and Bing Crosbys "Silver Bells." The standout cut is the instrumental "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" by Swingtips. Heavenly 7, from Phoenix, are featured on three songs.
Straight Up (Daddy-O/Royalty Records) from Ron Sunshine & Full Swing, is a better than average disk. Sunshine blows a fine harp, and Dan Hovey plays some tasty T-Bone style guitar. The other musicians play well, and Sunshine is a decent singer. Their version of Louis Jordans "Salt Pork, West Virginia" was my favorite. They also cover "Undecided" and "Hit That Jive Jack," but the tunes dont go anywhere. Add to that list the PG "Red Light," an original which laments not getting a kiss, except at red lights, made it seem like Richie Cunninghams blues.
--- Tony Nowicki
[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]
The Blues Bytes Web Site has been developed by Blue Night Productions. For more info, send an e-mail.
The Blues Bytes URL... http://www.bluenight.com/BluesBytes/
Revised: December 4, 1998 - Version 1.01
All contents Copyright © 1998, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.