Blues Bytes

What's New

August 2015

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Ernie Hawkins

Eliza Neals

Ronnie Earl

Royal Southern Brotherhood

Samantha Fish

Ken Tucker

Clayton Doley

Christian Collin

Kern Pratt

David Michael Miller

Hot Roux

Bert Deivert

Peterson Brothers

Brad Wilson

Betty Fox Band

Eddie Taylor Jr.

Crooked Eye Tommy


Ernie HawkinsGuitarist Ernie Hawkins is one of the last of the Reverend Gary Davis disciples who studied with the legendary plectorist and took what he learned a step or two further. Blending originals with classic tunes from Blind Blake, James P. Johnson, Hoagy Carmichael and Gary Davis on Monongahela Rye (Corona), Hawkins dazzles with finger picking and delightful vocals.

On the original title piece he sings of the joys of rye whiskey: “Come on boys/let’s get a little high/You me and Sal/and that Monongahela Rye/Down on the river/playing some blues/Glad we got that Monongahela booze.” Some song greats are solo affairs, such as Blind Blake’s "Too Tight" on which he dazzles with his picking on the classic rag. On others he employs Paul Consentino’s clarinet, Joe Dallas’ trombone, Roger Day’s tuba, Marc Reisman on harmonica and Jim Barr’s keyboards to wonderful effect.

"Monongahela River Waltz" shows the magic of all of the instruments collaborating, trombone accents "Hesitation Blues," clarinet and trombone interplay on "Sweethearts On Parade" and the clarinet and percussion from producer George Heid highlight the gorgeous "Carolina Shout." "Red, Red Robin," a hit from the depression era is jaunty and foot tappingly fun in a somber sort of way.

Instrumentals, such as Jelly Roll Morton’s "Catfish" and Big Bill Broonzy’s "Stovepipe Stomp" are wholly impressive. Ernie Hawkins is one of the giants of classic acoustic blues. This is the maestro at his best.

--- Mark E. Gallo

Eliza NealsEliza Neals is a balls-to-the-wall rocker when it strikes her. It strikes her often on the impressive explosive debut, Breaking and Entering (self-produced). Paired with the dynamic guitar work of Howard Glazer, with guest spots from Kid Rock’s guitar player Kenny Olson on a pair, this has Detroit written all over it.

The opener, "Detroit Drive," is a stunner, with just Neals and Glazer’s dobro. The combination is flawless. Neals is reminiscent here of Fiona Boyes, full of a low growly inflection. The title cut has that killer 'Rock Me Baby' groove. She says there “ain’t no need to call the cops” because she’s “gonna make your heart stop.” You know this is a dangerous lady. Glazer’ licks are fiery and inventive. For those of you who remember Maggie Bell from the 1970s, it’s a good point of reference.

Kenny Olson sits in and takes it to the stratosphere for Eliza’s repetitive and powerfully gentle line on "You"– “you make me come alive.” Gabe Gonzales, drummer with George Clinton, and co-producer Mike Puwal’s bass punctuate this jammer. "Pretty Gritty" is a percussive ode to the dark side of the party life (“Where you gonna run/where you gonna hide/when the jig is up/baby and you’re on your behind?”).

"Southern Comfort," with Olson on guitar, is a love song that has nothing to do with whiskey. On the other hand, "Spinning" is a glimpse into that horrible drunk that comes when you know it was too much and the room won’t stop spinning ("Lord help me/I can’t find my way home/bed is spinning/I’m on the ground…”) This a vocal and guitar conversation, accentuated by hand claps.

"Windshield Wipers" is the most lyrically powerful tune on the set. Much more than the cliché leaving song, and accentuated brilliantly by Gonzales’ sparse drumming and Glazer’s slinky guitar lines, Neals sings, “Thinking of the day when he broke my heart/It was on a rainy day/walked into the house and heard him moaning/knew I couldn’t stay/I went upstairs I busted down the door/man you should have seen his face … on my way out the house/I smashed everything I saw in that place/TV set, the radio/even pulled the fridge down to the floor … listen to the sound of the windshield wiper wiping my tears away…listen to the sound of the lonely highway calling my name.”

Barrett Strong’s "Sugar Daddy," the only non-Neals number here, has a playful dance floor groove. On the following "I’m the Girl," she sings that she’s “the girl with the pretty pretty smile/I’m the girl who’s good at running wild.”

From the first listen this just grows more and more impressive. Great job, Eliza!

--- Mark E. Gallo

Ronnie EarlFather’s Day is Ronnie Earl’s ninth release for Stony Plain Records, but it’s a bit different from his last few albums. This time around, 2014 Blues Foundation Blues Guitarist of the Year features a pair of guest vocalists, Diane Blue and Michael Ledbetter of the Nick Moss Band, on 12 of the album’s 13 tracks. He also utilizes a full horn section for the first time in many years. Of course, Earl continues to be backed by The Broadcasters (Lorne Entress – drums, Dave Limina – keyboards, and Jim Mouradian – bass), his band for over a quarter century and one of the finest currently practicing.

The 13 tracks are mostly covers, a pair of Otis Rush tunes (“It Takes Time” and “Right Place Wrong Time”), two by Magic Sam (“What Have I Done Wrong” and “All Your Love”), plus songs from B.B. King (“I Need You So Bad”), Van McCoy (“Giving Up”), Fats Domino (“Every Night About This Time”), Brook Benton/Bobby Bland (“I’ll Take Care of You”), and Thomas A. Dorsey (“Precious Lord”). The lone instrumental is also a cover, a bluesy take on Bobby Timmon’s “Moanin’.” Earl also offers three originals, a remake of one of his earlier standouts, “Follow Your Heart,” and two fine new tunes (“Higher Love” and the title track).

What’s cool about Father’s Day is that the added vocal tracks don’t mean that there’s less of anything else. There’s plenty of room for Ms. Blue and Mr. Ledbetter to do their thing (and they do their thing extremely well), but the enterprising Mr. Earl also gets ample room to weave his six-string magic, dazzling with his always creative and adventurous fretwork. He plays with so much intensity (and so much soul) that the guitar almost seems to possess lifelike qualities.

The West Side numbers from Rush and Magic Sam, plus the Fats Domino and B.B. King tracks (both covered by Magic Sam during his short career), are keepers, though on the latter tune Earl gives a nod to both guitarists with his extended solos. The nine-minute cover of “I’ll Take Care of You” is an exquisite slow blues that will actually disappoint listeners when it ends, and “Moanin’” fuses soul, blues, jazz together as effectively as can be done, and Earl’s subdued version of “Precious Lord” closes the album beautifully.

Earl dedicates Father’s Day, the album and the song, to his late father, a Holocaust survivor (as was Earl’s mother) whose picture is included in the CD package. Earl says in the dedication that he and his father “came to peace in the end,” before his death in 2014. Love and forgiveness is a recurring theme with this album, and it really seems like Ronnie Earl is in a perfect place, both musically and spiritually. Father’s Day contains some of the best and most inspired guitar work of his five-decade career.

--- Graham Clarke

Royal Southern BrotherhoodFor their third studio album, Royal Southern Brotherhood travelled to upper Alabama, to the legendary FAME Studios, home of classic ’60s recordings from Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Etta James, and many others, in Muscle Shoals. Two of RSB’s founding members, guitarists Devon Allman and Mike Zito, didn’t make the trip, having left the group to focus on their solo careers, but singer/percussionist Cyril Neville, and the tight rhythm team of bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott remain firmly entrenched and focused on carrying on the group’s signature mix of Southern blues & rock and New Orleans soul & funk.

The new RSB line-up is in place for Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions (Ruf Records). Nashville-based guitarist Bart Walker (winner of the 2012 IBC’s Best Guitarist Award) and guitarist Tyrone Vaughan (son of Jimmie Vaughan) now fill the guitar positions, and they bring an even funkier approach to the proceedings with their fretwork while leaving the group’s blues-rock leanings intact (thanks in part to the production of Tom Hambridge, who’s surely one of the busiest men on the planet) on these 14 terrific original tracks.

Walker makes his presence known pretty quickly on the opening track, the crunching rocker “I Wanna Be Free.” A powerful vocalist, he shares the lead with Neville and combines with Vaughan to deliver a potent guitar attack. The pair combine for some impressive guitar work on other tracks like “Come Hell or High Water” and “Hard Blues.” On the funky title track, he plays banjo and sings.

Speaking of funk, there’s plenty available with Neville leaving his mark on tunes like “Hit Me Once,” “Big Greasy,” “Reach My Goal,” and the sensational horn-driven “They Don’t Make ‘em Like You No More.” Neville offers up plenty of solid soul, too, on tracks like “Better Half, “It’s Time For Love,” and the lovely “Anchor Me,” co-written by Neville and Anders Osborne. Vaughan steps behind the mic himself on the soulful blues, “Poor Boy.” “Bayou Baby” is a swampy blues rocker with vocals from Neville backed by harmonica and vocals from former Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall.

Although I was a fan of the original incarnation of Royal Southern Brotherhood, I think this edition is even more potent. They bring the funkier side of the music more to the forefront, which is a great thing when you have Cyril Neville in the band. With the rock-solid rhythm section and a great pair of young guitarists in Walker and Vaughan, great things could be ahead. Don’t Look Back continues RSB’s upward momentum.

--- Graham Clarke

Samantha FishFor Wild Heart (Ruf Records), the third studio release from Samantha Fish, the Kansas City-based singer/guitarist most definitely did not rest on her laurels following the accolades received for her previous two albums. Instead, she raised the bar considerably by collaborating with famed songwriter Jim McCormick, who’s penned songs for Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood. She also enlisted Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars to produce and play guitar, and invited his fellow Allstars, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Sharde’ Thomas, plus Grammy-winning drummer Brady Blade, to contribute. The result is her best album to date by a wide margin.

The opening track is “Road Runner,” a driving rocker that has just a taste of Americana in it. “Place To Fall” is a sorrowful ballad, which Fish co-wrote with McCormick. Dickinson’s wailing lap steel guitar blends in perfectly, given the subject matter. The lap steel returns for the more exuberant “Blame It On The Moon ,” another track with roots in Americana. “Highway’s Holding Me Now” is a gritty blues rocker which is followed by the contemplative ballad “Go Home,” one of Fish’s best compositions on the disc.

“Turn It Up” is an upbeat rocker that will indeed prompt you to turn it up, which works well for the crunching blues rocker “Show Me” that follows. The introspective “Lost Myself” offers more reflection and is followed by the thunderous title track and the irresistible “Bitch On The Run.”

The album’s two covers were done at Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, Mississippi with Dickinson, Malcolm, and Thomas, and they are both fantastic. The first is Charley Patton’s “Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1,” which features Dickinson on mandolin and Fish and Malcolm on guitars. The other cover is Junior Kimbrough’s “I’m In Love With You.” Fish’s vocals really bring a new dimension to both tracks, especially the Kimbrough tune.

All of Samantha Fish’s previous releases (her two previous solo efforts and the Girls With Guitars collaboration with Dani Wilde and Cassie Taylor from 2011) have shown remarkably developed talents as a singer, guitarist and songwriter. She’s never been afraid to branch out into other areas of the blues and she does so with Wild Heart more than previously, with impressive results. The best thing is that there’s still much more to be heard from her.

--- Graham Clarke

Ken TuckerGuitarist Ken Tucker has a pretty diverse résumé, playing not only the blues, but also venturing into Christian rock and hip-hop over his 40-year career, playing with Christian artist Larry Norman, Darrell Mansfield, Lindsey Ell, and Shawn Mullins. Tucker’s latest release, for Blues Critic Records, is Look My Way and its nothing but the blues, mixing a hard rocking edge with R&B and roots music.

The disc is loaded with impressive tunes like the roadhouse rockers “Honey Pot,” “Brother Whiskey, Sister Nicotine,” “Simone,” “Call Me The Doctor,” “What I Need,” and the title track. He also does a fine job on the funky R&B of “Best Bad Habit” and the Windy City-styled “Come Into My Parlor.” However, he saves some of his best guitar work on several slower blues tunes, “Street Walkin’ Woman,” “Coal Shed Blues,” “Hello Mr. Park Bench,” and the tender R&B ballad, “Nobody But You,” which closes the disc.

Tucker’s guitar work is excellent, but he also wrote all 12 of the tracks. In addition, he’s a standout vocalist with his warm, rugged, gritty vocal style. He gets excellent support from Virgil Franklin, who plays bass, keys, and saxophone, and Russell Tucker who mans the drums. Though they’re small in number, they are big in sound.

Tucker has learned his lessons well over his lengthy career. Look My Way is a great and savvy set of original modern blues that will certainly satisfy fans of hard-edged blues rock and roots music.

--- Graham Clarke

Clayton DoleyAustralian Clayton Doley has been touring around the globe over the last few years playing keyboards/organ for Harry Manx and Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges. He’s played with Joe Bonamassa, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Hubert Sumlin, and many others. He also maintains a solo career and his latest release, Bayou Billabong (Hi-Fi-Doley-T Music), is an impressive effort that was recorded in Sydney, Australia and New Orleans.

Doley wrote all eight of the songs featured on Bayou Billabong. He has a smooth vocal style that’s as comfortable with pop and jazz as it is with blues and soul. Doley shows that he’s skilled in the New Orleans style with the opening track, “Disbelief” and “Lose It,” which also features some Professor Longhair-styled keyboards. “I Live For You” and “Truly Amazing” are more on the jazz and pop side respectively, but both work really well within the framework of the album, and provide a showcase for Doley’s keyboards on the former and his vocals on both tracks.

The title track is an interesting assembly, a funky instrumental mixing Doley’s Hammond B3 with guest star Manx’s lap slide guitar and Digeridoo from virtuoso Gangi Giri. “Waiting For The Coffee” has a distinctive bluesy New Orleans feel, courtesy of the Monster Gents, members of Jon Cleary’s group (Derwin “Big D” Perkins – guitar, Cornell C. Williams – bass, Eddie Christmas – drums), who serve as Doley’s rhythm section on the album.

“We’re Still Changing” is ’70s-flavored R&B with sweet backing vocals from the Clay-Tones (Mahalia Barnes, Jade Macrae, Juanita Tippins), who figure prominently throughout the disc, and the slow-simmering funk of “Starting Right Now” closes the disc in excellent fashion.

Also contributing are two fabulous horn sections, the Treme Funktet – consisting of members of New Orleans bands Galactic and Trombone Shorty’s Orleans Avenue (Corey Henry – trombone, Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill – trumpet, Drew Calhoun – tenor sax), and the Hi-Fi-Doley-T Horns (James Greening – trombone, Matt Keegan – baritone and tenor saxes, and Nick Garrett – trumpet).

Bayou Billabong brings together talented musicians from three different countries recording over two continents. The result is an album that captures the flavor of the Crescent City with an occasional mix of influences from Doley’s native country. It shows that while they may do things a little different Down Under, the blues is still the blues wherever you listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Christian CollinDetroit native Christian Collin was born into a musical family --- his father was a singer/guitarist who worked as an A&R man for Capitol Records and was Bob Seger’s road manager. He grew up among the sounds of Motown and classic rock & roll and listening to musician friends who came to visit his parents, but he really got the itch after his parents took him to see Little Feat shortly before Lowell George’s passing in 1979. Formerly the front man for the acclaimed blues rock band Molasses, Collin went solo in 2012.

The singer/songwriter/guitarist’s latest release is Spirit of the Blues (C-Train Records) and it pays tribute to Collin’s blues heroes and influences over his 20-plus year career. He wrote all 12 songs and they mix blues, rock & roll and soul in equal portions. Collin is backed by his longtime band (Alex Evans – bass, Chris Morrow – drums), along with guest musicians Billy Branch and Matthew Skoller (harmonica), Johnny Iguana (keyboards), Pete Galanis of Howard and the White Boys (slide guitar), and Jen Williams (background vocals).

The opener, “One and Only,” is a tight and funky high energy track that kicks things off in grand style. “Player’s Game” is a rowdy blues shuffle with harmonica from Skoller that rolls into the southern rocker “A Woman Like You,” followed by “Dance The Blues Away” and the smoky R&B ballad “Without You.” The title track is a splendid slow blues that tells about the impact and influence of the blues on Collin’s life.

The energetic shuffle “Highway Song” pairs Collin’s crisp guitar work with Skoller’s fiery harmonica, and is backed by the funky blues rocker “Blues For You.” “Dead Man Walking” is a moody lament with a hypnotic rhythm and eerie slide guitar from Collin. On the spirited “Old 109,” Collin and Galanis join forces and Skoller nearly blows the back off his harmonica. “The River (Unplugged),” an acoustic number teaming Collin’s guitar with Branch’s harmonica, slows things down a bit, and “Forever Friends,” a classic soulful ballad that adds horns (Rodney Brown – sax, Kenny Anderson – trumpet, Bill McFarland – trombone) closes things out.

There’s a lot to like about Spirit of the Blues. Christian Collin honors his influences from Motown to Chicago to Memphis to the Delta with a disc that not only pays tribute to the past, but looks forward to the future. It’s safe to say that the future is in good hands.

--- Graham Clarke

Kern PrattKern Pratt was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. He’s played all the big festivals in Mississippi – Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, the Juke Joint Festival, the B.B. King Homecoming, etc….. He’s also played at the IBC (finishing second in 2013) and at the annual Mississippi Picnic which takes place at Central Park in NYC every year. He’s played with a diverse group of artists ranging from the late Willie Foster and T-Model Ford to Eden Brent to Percy Sledge to Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds to Steve Azar.

Pratt’s music mixes the blues with rock, funk, and R&B, and his latest release, Broken Chains (Gigtime Records), is a reflection of that combination, with 13 tracks that mix those genres up thoroughly. The opener, “Greenville Mississippi Blues,” which is prefaced by a resonator guitar run from Wes Lee, is a tune about Pratt’s hometown and features some Elmore James-styled slide guitar and rollicking piano from Eden Brent. Pratt also wrote the horn-fueled instrumental, “Cotton Pickin’,” and the Latin-flavored “Don’t Leave Me Baby,” which features Kenny Neal on second guitar.

There’s also an excellent reading of the Albert Collins’ classic, “Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home,” and Pratt really shines on guitar for this slow burner. The horn section also adds a lot to many of the songs on this disc, such as “Somewhere South of Memphis” and the funky “Soulshake.” On a highly original remake of the old standard “It Hurts Me Too,” Pratt picks up an acoustic guitar and is joined by guest Luc Borms.

Pratt really steps up on “Handcuffed To The Blues,” a blues rocker with some sizzling guitar work, and “Black Hannah,” a raucous tribute to T-Model Ford’s guitar. “Smokin’ Gun” is a slow burner that features sultry lead vocals from Denise Owens, who also provides backing vocals throughout the disc. The disc ends like it started, with the title track, a resonator guitar solo from Lee.

Assisting Pratt on these tracks is a fine band that included the aforementioned Lee, Brent, Neal, Owen, Borms, David Hyde (bass, horn arrangements), Nelson Blanchard (drums, keys, backing vocals), Sam Brady (B-3), Elaine Foster (backing vocals) and that stellar horn section (Lacy Blackledge – trumpet, Bob Henderson – tenor/alto saxes, Pete Verbois – baritone sax, and Chris Belleau – trombone, washboard).

Broken Chains is a wonderful collection of blues, rock, and soul that reflects Kern Pratt’s deep roots in the Mississippi soil. With catchy tunes and excellent performances, this one will earn repeated plays for a while.

--- Graham Clarke

DM MillerDavid Michael Miller’s last album, 2014’s Poisons Sipped, was highly acclaimed by fans and critics alike, and the Buffalo resident was named New Artist of the Year for 2015 by the Arts Service Initiative of Western New York and was voted Best Male Blues Vocalist for the second consecutive year by Night-Life Magazine. He’s also formed a new band called Miller and the Other Sinners, which includes sax man Jason Moynihan (Buddy Guy), keyboardist Jim Ehinger (Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal), and drummer Carlton and guitarist Darick Campbell (The Campbell Brothers).

Fans who enjoyed Miller’s blend of blues, R&B, gospel, and soul on his previous release have eagerly awaited the singer/guitarist’s latest release, and they will not be disappointed in the least by Same Soil (Food For The Soul Records), which features11 great new songs from Miller that travel the same musical territory as its predecessor and pays tribute to the artists who influenced his music, such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and Bo Diddley.

Memorable songs abound on Same Soil. “Doing Me In, Doing Me Wrong” borrows and updates the main riff from Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” and “Friend of Mine” is a slow but sweet blues ballad and one of Miller’s best vocals on the album, which is really saying something. “Just Ride” puts a jazz spin on the blues, and I challenge to sit through the gospel-flavored rave-up “Got Them Blues” without moving something. “Needle to the Wheel” is a nice acoustic ballad, and I really like the easy Reed-like shuffle of “Too Early in the Morning.”

Based on the evidence presented by Same Soil and its predecessor, the reasons why most blues fans aren’t singing the praises of David Michael Miller are a mystery. His soulfully intense vocals are second to none, his songwriting is equally effective, and he’s a standout guitarist. Hopefully, this excellent 'from start to finish' release will go a long way toward getting Miller the attention he deserves.

--- Graham Clarke

Hot RouxThe band Hot Roux specializes in blues rock with a southern flair that places a heavy emphasis on the Gulf Coast brand from Louisiana and Texas. Led by drummer/vocalist Jerry McWorter, the band includes bassist Brent Harding and guitarists Ed Berghoff and Tommy Harkenrider, plus several guest musicians, including Mannish Boys guitarist Franck Goldwasser, bass players Sam Bolle and Steve Nelson, guitarist Pat McClure, harmonica player Jacob Huffman, and sax man Bill Flores.

Hot Roux’s latest release, Stranger’s Blues (Hi Hat Records), features ten original songs that touch on swamp rock and blues and traditional blues and rock & roll. McWorter produced the disc and it has the feel of an old school recording with some splendid instrumental work and a decidedly retro ambiance. He also penned all of the tunes here and they’re a varied and diverse set. “Broken Again,” the opening track has a country feel with Berghoff’s guitar, and the title track almost makes you feel the Louisiana humidity behind Goldwasser’s shimmering guitar work.

“Woman Where You Been” is a hard rocking blues with Harkenrider on guitar, and “Seven Lonely Nights” is a Jimmy Reed-styled shuffle with some stinging leads from Goldwasser. “Big Mama’s” borrows an old familiar funky Excello rhythm and tells the story of a small package of dynamite, and “Tick Tock” gently swings with Flores’ sax providing a backdrop. “Anna Lea” has an almost pop-like melody, but Hackenrider’s taut lead guitar places it firmly within the blues spectrum.

The slinky “Red Pepper Baby” is a funky rhumba-styled number, and “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” ventures toward country territory. The closing tune is a revisiting of “Seven Lonely Nights,” called “Another Seven Lonely Nights,” which is the same song but taken in more of a New Orleans direction.

It would have been nice to have a couple more songs on Stranger’s Blues, the set clocks in at 35 minutes, but on a positive note, it does leave listeners wanting to hear more……the sign of a great disc. Hopefully, Hot Roux will be persuaded to give us more in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke

Bert DeivertI really liked Bert Deivert’s brand of blues when I heard his last release, 2011’s Kid Man Blues. He plays mandolin and guitar, and his mandolin playing really gives his songs an interesting twist, especially his interpretations of classic older blues songs. That being said, I was delighted to see and hear Devert’s latest release, Blood In My Eyes For You (Rootsy), which was recorded with the Swedish band Copperhead Run (Fredrik Lindholm – drums, percussion, Janne Zander – guitars, Per-Arne Pettersson – bass, percussion), and continues Deivert’s approach with ten covers of traditional blues and two original compositions from Deivert.

Most of the cover tunes date back to the pre-war era, featuring familiar tunes from Big Joe Williams (“Baby Please Don’t Go”), Son House (“Death Letter”), the title track from the Mississippi Sheiks, and four tunes from Sleepy John Estes (“Mailman Blues,” “Special Agent,” “Drop Down Mama,” and “Milkcow Blues”). Deivert also covers more recent fare from blues mandolin pioneer Yank Rachell (“My Baby’s Gone”), R.L. Burnside (“Poor Black Mattie”), and Paul “Wine” Jones (“Rob and Steal”).

Though the songs come from the earlier days of the blues, Deivert’s mandolin and the work of the band, which is in a decidedly modern vein gives these songs a new and highly original sound. In some cases, you will think you’re listening to new songs. Deivert’s originals, “Black Nanny” and “Cuckoo Crowed,” fit seamlessly with the classic tunes both lyrically and musically.

Hopefully, Deivert’s efforts, as well as others like Ry Cooder, David Grisman, and Steve James, to bring the blues mandolin to center stage will be successful, and allow us the opportunity to hear even more of this unique approach to the blues. In the meantime, Blood In My Eyes For You is a great place to hear what you’re missing.

--- Graham Clarke

Peterson BrothersThe Peterson Brothers, 19 year old Glenn Jr. and 16 year old Alex, started wowing Texas blues fans several years before they came to the attention of Michael Freeman. Freeman produced Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s Grammy winner, Joined at the Hip, and was attending a CD release/97th birthday party for Perkins in July, 2010 and saw the young brothers, then 14 and 11, give a rousing performance that left many mouths wide open in amazement. The duo has since played multiple U.S. festivals and opened for B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmie Vaughan, Marcia Ball, and others.

Freeman signed the brothers to his Blue Point record label, which recently released their self-titled debut recording. Backed by Brady Blade on drums and James Pace on keyboards, the Petersons present 11 tracks, five original tunes by the brothers and six covers. Wisely, Freeman didn’t rush the youngsters to the studio immediately, opting to have them work over several years, honing their craft with performances, developing songwriting, recording demos to check their progress, learning to work in a studio environment, etc. All of this preparation shows from the opening notes.

The covers are well-chosen and show a variety of interesting influences……songs associated with Albert King (“You’re My Woman”), Albert Collins (“If You Love Me Like You Say”), Bernard Allison (a funky take on “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)”), Tampa Red (a rocking remake of “Don’t You Lie To Me”), and Earl King (“Come On”). The Petersons put a fresh coat of paint on these standards, thanks to some creative new arrangements and impressive, energetic performances.

The original tunes are pretty strong, too, given the relative youth of the composers. “Hey Baby” swings relentlessly, “Tell Me Everything” is a loose-limbed shuffle, and “I Gotta Go” is presented in two forms…..a shuffle version and a bonus swing version at the end of the disc. “Feelin’ Like Home” is a jazzy instrumental with some nice guitar from Glenn Jr.

Glenn Jr. is a very talented guitarist. His solos are diverse and creative, and he never overplays, always leaving room for more. Vocally, he has a smooth, confident delivery and though he’s very good now, he will also get better with time. Alex is a rock solid rhythm man on bass, and he even breaks out the violin and takes center stage on the beautiful version of “Amazing Grace” that closes out the disc.

I was really impressed with the Peterson Brothers’ debut effort. It’s one of the best debut recordings I’ve heard in a while. Based on this superlative release, the future of the blues couldn’t be in better hands.

--- Graham Clarke

Brad WilsonCalifornia blues rocker Brad Wilson returns with Blues Thunder (Cali Bee Music), a disc that proves his talents go well beyond that particular genre. A guitarist of impressive range and depth, and a great, soulful vocalist to boot, Wilson penned all 12 tracks on this new release, and he’s backed by Brian Beal (bass), Amrik Sandhu (drums), Kirk Nelson (keyboards), and Tumbleweed Mooney (harmonica).

The opening track, “Is It Any Wonder,” starts the disc off on an almost quiet, reflective note, Wilson turns in a nuanced vocal and some crisp guitar work,” and “Blue Shadows” is almost jazz-like in its approach. “Change It Up” is a rocker with a slight Latin tempo. The shuffle “Step By Step” has some tasty harmonica from Mooney and fierce fretwork from Wilson. The title track is a pure hard-driving blues rocker with more standout string-shredding guitar.

Next up is the Diddley-esque “Let’s Go Barefootin’ It,” a fun track teaming Wilson with Mooney’s harmonica, followed by “My Faith Has Been Broken,” a classic rock-styled ballad. There’s also “Cool Runnin’,” a pop-flavored mid-tempo groover, and the acoustic rambler, “Home,” that slowly builds in intensity. “Black Coffee At Sunrise” finds Wilson in jump blues mode with highly satisfying results. The album ends strongly with the jazzy blues of “Sugar Sweet,” which has a funky rhythm and some hot guitar, and the powerhouse rocker, “Never Again.”

Based on what’s heard on Blues Thunder, it sounds like Brad Wilson is branching out from the scorching blues rock of his previous release (2013’s Hands On The Wheel) and showing his listeners that he’s capable of much more. There’s a lot of great music here that will appeal to fans of multiple genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Betty FoxThe Betty Fox Band made the 2015 IBC finals, which was added to an already impressive résumé The band is considered one of the best on the Florida scene, garnering attention at multiple music festivals over the past few years. Lead singer Fox comes from a musical family steeped in southern country gospel. She has since branched out into the blues, but her fiery and passionate style continues to show her gospel roots and her love for soul music. She’s backed by a superlative set of musicians, including Kid Royal (guitar), Barry Williams (bass), Sam Farmer (drums), and Shawn Brown (keyboards).

The band’s second release, Slow Burn places Fox’s powerhouse vocals front and center. She wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13 tracks and they’re standouts, including “Sweet Memories,” “Solid Ground,” “Our Love,” and the aptly-titled title track. However, the real slow burner and centerpiece of the set is Fox’s amazing cover of Otis Redding’s “Remember Me,” which is approximately seven and a half minutes of Southern Soul Heaven. Fox also ventures into jazz territory on songs like “Think About It,” “Please Come Home,” and Who’s Holdin’,” and her nimble vocals are more than up to the task on these tunes.

I like the gentle, loping rhythm the band takes on “Take A Walk With Me,” complementing Fox’s playful vocal. The rhythm section does an exceptional job and Royal’s guitar work is spot-on throughout the disc, especially on “Baby, Please,” another slow burner that Fox just knocks out of the park.

The closer is a splendid reading of Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” featuring Fox accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.

Slow Burn is an excellent release from start to finish. Blues fans should plan on hearing much more from the Betty Fox Band for a long time to come.

--- Graham Clarke

Celso SalimCelso Salim is considered one of Brazil’s leading bluesmen, with four well-received albums previously to his credit. In addition to his solo career, he’s also a music producer and has played for two other bands, Ari Borger’s Quartet and Sergio Duarte’s Blues Band. He counts Muddy Waters, Blind Willie McTell, Freddie King, B.B. King, and Johnny Winter as influential blues guitarists, but he also lists Classic and Southern Rock, Country, Jazz, and Soul as influences on his music.

Salim’s fifth solo album, To The End of Time (GRV Discos), was recorded in Såo Paulo and produced by longtime collaborator Rafael Cury. He’s backed by another longtime associate, bassist Rodrigo Mantovani, and drummer Jason Sterling, with a number of special musical guests including Borger (keyboards), Humberto Zigler (drums), Darryl Carriere (harmonica), Denilson Martins (sax), and Sidmar Vieira (trumpet). Bia Marchese and producer Cury also add vocals on several tracks.

The 11 songs on To The End of Time cover a wide range of blues styles, from the after-hours groove of the title track which opens the set. Salim has a warm, relaxed approach to vocals and he’s backed by sympathetic harmony vocals and Borger’s slick work on the keys. The minor-key soul blues “Fool Of Me” would have been a good fit in Otis Rush’s catalog, and “Red Light Blues” sounds like an old swamp blues tune with Carriere’s harmonica and the shuffling rhythm.

Marchese takes the mic, contributing sweet and sultry vocals to the jazzy “Leave It To The Moon.” “Blind Man With A Gun” comes in on the country side of blues with dobro and piano, as does “Old Blues Goodbye.” “Devil In You” is a marvelous slow blues, complete with horns and some sweet guitar work from Salim. The final original tune is the urban blues closer, “Rest My Bones.” Salim also offers three covers: the classic “It’s Just Too Bad,” from Barbecue Bob, a swinging take on Sleepy John Estes’ “Liquor Store Blues,” and Elmore James’ “Talk To Me Baby,” with spirited vocals from Cury.

If there was any doubt beforehand, Celso Salim proves that he’s a guitarist of the highest order in a variety of styles on To The End of Time. File this outstanding album under “Blues Well Done.”

--- Graham Clarke

Theo DThere are a lot of places that blues fans need to visit when they travel to Clarksdale, Mississippi, but a must-stop for any blues or rock & roll fan is the Rock & Blues Museum, which is located on 2nd Street. For a donation of $5, you gain access to an incredible amount of blues, soul, and rock & roll memorabilia, ranging from old record players, juke boxes, records of all kinds, posters, pictures, sheet music, costumes, and just about anything else music-related that you can imagine, from the blues of the Delta to the rock & roll of the ’50s to the British Invasion to the soul & R&B of Stax and Motown. It’s an amazingly extensive set of memorabilia, and it’s all the property of the museum’s founder, Theo Dasbach.

Dasbach has been a fan of the blues since he heard his first blues 78 at his grandfather’s house when he was eight years old. He’s been collecting these items for over 50 years, beginning in his native country, The Netherlands, which was the original location of the Rock & Blues Museum. In 2005, Dasbach moved to the Delta, splitting time between Clarksdale and Memphis. He also was bitten by the blues bug and began playing piano again after a long break. Encouraged by the one and only James “Super Chikan” Johnson, he began performing locally as Theo D The Boogieman.

Dasbach has released a pair of his own CDs, his most recent being Blue Boogie. Backed by Daddy Rich’s harmonica and Robert “Little Bobby” Houle, who plays guitar, drums, and bass, Dasbach plays keyboards and sings eleven original songs. Super Chikan once said of Dasbach, “he’s got the blues so bad, he can hardly play it, but he’ll get it.” That’s not really the case though, Dasbach CAN play the blues. Nothing fancy, but it makes your toe tap and your fingers snap.

Dasbach’s songs touch on familiar blues themes in a different way. “It Is Funny” is about the mistakes we all make, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” is a song dedicated to women. He also touches on topical themes, as on “Binder Full of Blues,” about the most recent election, and “God Bless The USA,” which speaks out against violence. Other highlights include “Come On Down To Clarksdale,” “Brownsville Boogie,” and “Blues For Mr. Tater,” a dedication to the late Clarksdale blues icon.

The blues world needs more figures like Theo Dasbach, whether he’s busy promoting the blues through his museum or enthusiastically playing his version of blues and rock & roll. I strongly encourage you to visit the Rock & Blues Museum when you’re in Clarksdale, and while you’re there, you’d do well to pick up a copy of the Boogieman’s Blue Boogie.

--- Graham Clarke

Al GriggAl Grigg has been involved in music for nearly all of his life, beginning with his tenure with The Flying Dogs of Jupiter, one of the first indie bands, then playing with the Atlanta-based group Juke Box Gold during the ’90s and later playing in various groups in Asia, Australia, and Europe for a ten year period beginning in 2000. Since returning to the U.S. in 2010, he’s worked as a solo act and also with the New York / New Jersey band The Fine Line. He’s also a producer/engineer at his own Jovian Records and Red Spot Recording Studio.

Grigg’s latest solo release, Blues and Other Things (Jovian Records), is appropriately titled. The seven songs encompass blues (“Your Meal Ticket (I Ain’t Gonna Be),” “Dead End Boogie”) and R&B (the smooth “It Just Don’t Have To Be That Way”) as well as classic rock (“All The Way Home,” “I’m Gonna Jump Right into the Fire,” “In Cecelia’s Garden,” and the boisterous closer, “American Dream.”).

Grigg wrote all the songs and plays guitar and drums on all tracks. His songs have catchy rhythms and lyrics, and he’s a first-rate guitarist in a variety of styles. He’s backed by Greta Tristram on harmonica and Frank Kaiser on rhythm guitar. The disc doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at just less than 30 minutes, but it's 30 minutes well spent with some great tunes and fretwork that will leave you wanting to hear more from Al Grigg.

--- Graham Clarke

Eddie Taylor JrAustria's Wolf Records has for many years been a tireless documentarian of Chicago and Country blues, releasing hundreds of albums in their 30+ year history, and for that they should be commended. But the risk of trying to release music in such great volume is that you're occasionally going to put out something that perhaps isn't quite up to snuff. That's the case with the new Eddie Taylor Jr. release, Stop Breaking Down. It's not that Taylor Jr. and his bandmates aren't capable musicians, but rather that the recordings here generally lack energy and originality, and are just too pristine sounding.

The first ten cuts on Stop Breaking Down were recorded and mixed in Chicago during the summer of 2014, and consist mostly of well-known blues classics like Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee," Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do," Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying," Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues," Brook Benton's "Kiddio" and a couple of Taylor originals, "Baby Please Come Home" and "You Gotta Pay The Price."

If the listener hasn't dozed off or given up on the album through the first nine songs, there's a reward at the end when Harmonica Hinds gives the band a big jolt of energy on the traditional number "Low Down Dirty Shame." The final two cuts, Tommy McClennan's "Whiskey Headed Woman" and Robert Johnson's Stop Breaking Down," recorded live in Vienna, Austria in 2012 with just the duo of Taylor Jr. and Hinds, are also top-notch blues tunes.

The final three numbers on Stop Breaking Down show what could have been had Hinds been brought in earlier in the process. Instead, this release would have been better as an EP instead of a full-length album. Better yet, go looking for Hinds' own release on Wolf, I'd Give You Anything If I Could, with Taylor Jr. and Kenny Smith backing him.

--- Bill Mitchell

Crooked Eye TommyButterflies & Snakes is the self-released debut disc from Southern California band Crooked Eye Tommy, showcasing 11 original numbers penned by either bandleader Tommy Marsh or brother Paddy Marsh. The band, a contestant in the 2014 International Blues Challenge, describes their style of music as "deep seeded blues and smokey southern rock," and that's a pretty apt description.

The Marsh brothers are both fine guitar players, as heard when Tommy plays the slide on the opening, somewhat autobiographical number, "Crooked Eye Tommy." Brother Paddy steps up to the mic to handle lead vocals on one of his own tunes, showing good range and a touch of soulfulness on the snaky blues "Come On In." With a little more grit and power to his pipes, it's not hard to imagine him rivaling better-known soulful blues singers like Darrell Nulisch and Tad Robinson.

Paddy's composition "I Stole The Blues" is a solid blues number with a couple of good guitar solos from one or both of the Marsh brothers and fine sax playing from Jimmy Calire. The funkier "Time Will Tell" features strong vocals and one of the strongest guitar solos on the album; it's this number that gives the album it's name when Marsh sings "... women are made of butterflies, butterflies and snakes ..."

Calire returns with strong sax work on the mid-tempo shuffle "Somebody's Got To Pay," and then shows off his versatility with a hot piano solo on the rockin' blues "Mad And Disgusted." I wasn't familiar with Calire's talents before listening to this CD but I'm impressed by the man, to say the least.

Butterflies & Snakes closes with "Southern Heart," given a Country & Western feel with the addition of Jesse Siebenberg on steel guitar; I could imagine hearing a more bluesy Merle Haggard singing this one. While this song veers away from the blues of the previous 10 cuts, it's not out of place here.

This album caught me by surprise --- higher quality than I expected a self-released album to be. You can find out how to get your own copy of Butterflies & Snakes and learn more about the band at

--- Bill Mitchell

Ten Years AfterThis trilogy of digitally re-mastered double CDs from 1967, 1968 and 1969 re-release by Deram --- Ten Years After, Undead, and Stonedhenge ---charts the rise of Ten Years After from a virtually unknown band to a supergroup on both sides of the pond culminating in the unforgettable performance at Woodstock.

In many respects the first, eponymous album is the best because its freshness and authenticity reflect the British blues-rock explosion of that era. What stands out is the emergence of founding member Alvin Lee as an all round musical genius. His vocal range is immense through songs of various genres whilst his trademark guitar tricks, licks and riffs are all there at this early stage.

Alvin plays superb harp on "Love Until I Die" and his carefully crafted lyrics are evident on tracks like "Feel It For Me" and "Don’t Want You Woman." However, it is the influence of Lee’s father Sam who loved American blues and introduced his son personally to Big Bill Broonzy which is manifest on "Spoonful" and "Help Me."

Additional to the original LP is the 1968 single release of "Portable People" and its B-side, "The Sounds," which was listed in Decca’s ‘Pop Toppers of the Week‘ alongside the New Faces and Ted Heath. Presumably this was aimed at commercial success which mercifully did not materialise.

By the time Undead was released, Ten Years After were touring regularly in America and needed a follow-up album, hence this live recording at West Hampstead’s Klooks Kleek venue. This combination of blues and jazz jams culminating in what was to become the band’s national anthem, "I’m Going Home," cemented Lee’s reputation as the fastest guitarist in the west with fleet-fingered fret work of a velocity rarely witnessed previously.

The bonus tracks on this extended version such as "Hear Me Calling" and "Woman Trouble" also demonstrate a more intricate, tasteful guitar style.

Stonedhenge was the second studio album and much more experimental and psychedelic, representing the trends in progressive contemporary rock whilst also being innovative. "Going To Try" sets this scene with various effects added to improvisations such as "No Title," "Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob" and the finale "Speed Kills," the ultimate train song.

The producer of all three albums, Mike Vernon, encouraged what he called ‘instrumental vignettes’ as Alvin, Leo Lyons, Ric Lee and Chic Churchill took turns to solo. This worked well for the lead and bass guitars but less so for the drums and organ. The second disc adds "Boogie On" and "I Ain’t Seen No Whisky" to the original mix. It is a pity that the sound quality of much of the bonus material on all three albums is so poor and that some tracks are repeated several times unnecessarily.

Collectively, these three re-releases plus bonus tracks are important musically and historically because they represent the genesis of a significant late '60s band and the emergence of a guitar god who received critical acclaim in the music press of that time. By 1972, Alvin Lee had also embarked on a solo career with a variety of exceptional musicians, whilst occasionally performing with Ten Years After until the 1990s.

For nearly a decade, from 2003, Joe Gooch had replaced Alvin, and Ten Years After Now became something of a tribute band in the opinion of a significant number of fans. Gooch and Leo formed their own band in 2014 called Hundred Seventy Split, which has enabled Joe to flourish musically. Ric and Chic are part of the new Ten Years After, and although the name remains the same it is essentially the distinctive sound of the Marcus Bonfanti Band plus Alvin’s classic compositions. Marcus is a highly individual bluesman in his own right and features prominently in the Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion.

Alvin Lee died in 2013 after half a century at the top of his profession having been voted the best ever exponent of a Gibson guitar ahead of such luminaries as BB King. Fortunately a wealth of music recorded in Alvin's privately owned Space Studio is waiting to see the light of day, allowing the Lee family to enhance his legacy in years to come through the judicious release of high quality footage from his musical career.

--- Dave Scott



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