As far back as my musical memories can take me, I always recall having a liking for female singers, regardless of the genre. I guess my late father being a huge Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington fan could have had something to do with that. Those two great ladies of song were two of my earliest musical influences. Here it is fifty years later and I'm still a lover of the lady blues belters.
Unfortunately, too many of the modern blues gals seem to think they have to twist, bend and strain their natural voices to sound like Bonnie Raitt while others feel the need to emulate Susan Tedeschi and the result is nothing but screaming.
That's what makes me appreciate a lead vocalist like B J ALLEN. It's not that I'm comparing her to Ella and Dinah, but I'm appreciating that she's not trying to be a Bonnie or a Susan. Amen!
B J ALLEN, by the way, along with: JERRY FULLER on Electric Guitar, Acoustic Lead Guitar, Piano and Organ; J P Hurd on Bass, Acoustic Rhythm Guitar and Harmonica; and THAD "SHUG" DANIELS on Drums; make up BLUE VOODOO. Their new CD, "THE STORM", is an excellent disc on which ten of the eleven tracks are very well written originals, covering a varied style of blues.
On the opening track, "SWEET TALK & WINE", B J wastes no time establishing her vocal credentials. Her sound, and the strength of it, immediately tell the listener he or she is in for a treat as this disc progresses. Lots of smooth guitar by JERRY help this one along.
Picking up the pace a notch or two is "DON'T BE HARD ON ME BABY". This ones a real toe taper with the band in jam mode. It features lots of hot guitar, piano and harp licks.
One of the heavier blues tracks is a slow, sultry number called "SINGING MY OWN BLUES NOW". It's about a blues singer who sings so many blues songs but now she has to really sing one that's true - and it's taking it's toll on her to have to do so. The lyrics are excellent and the blues guitar is absolutely killer. This one's the cream of the crop.
"SOMETHING FOR NOTHING" is the shortest yet the hottest track on the disc. This one really rips it up. It's one of those tracks where the band members don't just peak, but they peak simultaneously.
The next track is about one of my favorite places and a place where I'll be in just a few short weeks - Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The track is appropriately titled "DISNEYLAND OF THE BLUES". Unfortunately however, in recent years, as is the case in many other cities, the blues has suffered a bit in Memphis and the only times that Beale Street is indeed like the Disneyland of the Blues is during the IBC awards and the Blues Music Awards (Handy's). In any event, this is an interesting track with a great NAWLINS sound.
The only cover on "THE STORM" is a very well done version of Howlin' Wolf's "SITTIN' ON TOP OF THE WORLD". Songs like this were written to be sung by B J ALLEN. She takes this one to a whole new level. Her powerful interpretation, along with great guitar and piano playing make this another of the discs highlights.
Apparently, in their mid-west nest in NE Missouri, somewhere near Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis, the BLUE VOODOO band has already made quite a name for themselves by twice winning the "Tri-States Blues Challenge. Here's hoping that "THE STORM" will have winds strong enough to blow some of that popularity around to the other 47 States.
Visit Blue Voodoo on the web at: www.thebluevoodoo.com
Musically, I have been fortunate enough to see live shows by some of the legends of many genres of music, spanning several different eras. Although past their prime at the time, but nevertheless still very close to the top of their game, were Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. There were the extravaganzas of the Rolling Stones and ZZ TOP and even a SuperBowl Half-Time Show. And blues wise I've had the honor and pleasure of seeing Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Albert King, and all of the living legends as well.
Each and every one of these shows, and the hundreds of others, have all had their memorable moments. However, nothing and I do mean NOTHING I have ever seen musically has ever moved me as much as the performance that WATERMELON SLIM put on at last years W C Handy Awards. Standing alone, away from an un-needed microphone, in a room big enough to have three large weddings going on at once, SLIM literally stunned the audience. To say that you could have heard a pin drop is a vast understatement. Had a fire broke out, I don't think anyone would have moved till SLIM was done.
Accompanied by nothing more than a small harmonica and a huge amount of talent, confidence and stamina, WATERMELON SLIM belted out some very moving and very spiritual lyrics in a way that just seemed like it was an out of body experience. When SLIM was done, the audience was literally shaking their heads and saying "PHEW!" Those who did not know his name were eagerly asking for it and by now, the deafening silence had turned into a thunderous roar. That is one of only a few of life's moments that I shall never forget.
If you consider getting wounded in Viet Nam, breaking your back tilling the land farming, spending a dozen or so years of your life driving hundreds of thousands of miles across America's lonely highways, and having a near fatal heart attack paying your dues, then WATERMELON SLIM has every right in the world to sing the blues - and boy can he sing them.
Counting "MERRY AIRBRAKES", the CD he put out in the early seventies that consisted of mostly protest songs, "WATERMELON SLIM & THE WORKERS" is SLIM'S fourth release and by far his very best. This one is real blues and nothin' but the blues. The disc consists of mostly original songs that are truly original to SLIM'S life. There's no singing about "having your head cut off by looking for a little piece of tail" on this one.
Accompanying SLIM, who sings all the Lead Vocals and plays the Harp, Dobro and Slide Guitar are the (very hard) WORKERS. They are MICHAEL NEWBERRY on Drums, Percussion and Background Vocals; IKE LAMB on Electric and Acoustic Guitars and Background Vocals; CLIFF BELCHER on Bass and Background Vocals. The workers helpers are DENNIS BORYCKI on Piano and CHRIS WICK on Bass on "FRISCO LINE".
The CD opens with these lyrics........"I'm too poor to pay attention, too hungry to eat, too sick to see my doctor and too tired to sleep"......with the metaphors progressively getting worse and adding up to a state of "HARD TIMES".
"DUMPSTER BLUES" is one of the many truck driving related tracks. It seems that SLIM'S haulin' an oversized load and needs to sneak around the back roads to avoid getting caught. What makes matters worse is it's a load of garbage that smells "just like a devil's bottom hole". The vocals and the harmonica highlight this one.
"DEVILS CADILLAC", is the vehicle that transports SLIM to the Crossroads to make the dreaded deal with the devil. SLIM, along with playing some great slide guitar, sings his heart out on this one.
"POSSUM HAND" is an instrumental that gives all of the WORKER'S a chance to shine. SLIM and IKE are highlighted on harp and guitar while the rhythm section is locked into a nice lazy groove.
"MACK TRUCK" is a very short, very clever and very fast moving song in which SLIM refers to truck parts and terms in relation to a relationship. There's some very hot and hard drumming done by MICHAEL on this one.
"BAD SINNER" is the kind of song SLIM was born to sing. The combination of his enthusiasm and his soul makes for such an awesome deliverance of this, as well as all of his songs. He is the consummate blues singer.
My particular favorite track on " WATERMELON SLIM & THE WORKERS" is "JUKE JOINT WOMAN". The lyrics are great and at one point in the song have SLIM talking to the TV. As one of those commercials comes on that asks "Do you know where your children are?", SLIM answers "Yes, Mr. Voice Over, I know right where my children are - sitting right here on the couch next to me, but their Mama is at the whiskey bar". The drum work by MICHAEL is absolutely awesome on this one. He plays at peak solo style - throughout the track. Great piano by DENNIS, as well.
Here's hoping that WILLIAM HOMANS, a.k.a. WATERMELON SLIM, has enough success singing the blues, so that he never has to discover that he can probably make more money truck driving. If that happens then the blues world is in for a treat.
Be sure to check out the Watermelon Slim website and while your there, if you notice he's playing anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and catch the show. The Blewzzman promises you'll be glad you did.
There is so much good blues music coming out of Canada these days that I'm hearing rumors that, as a tribute, the Minister of Canadian Waters is considering renaming some of the Country's most popular bodies of water. The info that's been leaked to the Blewzzman has the HUDSON BAY being changed to the HUDSON BAYOU and the SAINT JOHN RIVER will soon be called the DOCTOR JOHN RIVER. Remember, at this time, these are still unofficial rumors. OK, OK, enough with the merriment and on with the document.
Although a new comer to this writers ears, DAVID GOGO is certainly no newcomer to the blues scene. Just a few of the genres giants he's performed with include B. B. King, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Vaughn and the Downchild Blues Band. In addition to being nominated for a Juno Award (Canada's Grammy), DAVID has been nominated for nine Maple Blues Awards (Canada's Handy) while winning for "Guitarist of the Year" and "Entertainer of the Year". Not a bad resume`.
"SKELETON KEY", his fifth release for Cordova Bay Records, features six originals and seven covers from the likes of Albert Collins, Otis Span, Willie Dixon, Stevie Wonder, Paul Butterfield/Mike Bloomfield/Nick Gravenites, and Curtis Mayfield. Names such as those can't help me from admiring his taste for music as well as his presentation of it.
While in the name frame of mind, this is a good spot to introduce the band. Accompanying DAVID GOGO on all Lead Vocals and all Guitars are: TODD SACERTY, Bass; BILLY HICKS, Drums and Percussion; BRENDAN HEDLEY, Piano and Organ; and RICK HOPKINS, Organ. Others making musical contributions are: GARY BARNUM, Harmonica & Groaning; MELISA DEVOST, Harmony Vocals; PIERRE KOMEN, Sax & Vocals; EARLE GIBSON, Trombone & Vocals; KYLE BURROWS, Rhodes; and TINA JONES, Trumpet & Percussion.
"SKELETON KEY" features a nicely balanced blend of Blues and Rock and the mix is sure to satisfy the taste of the blues rockers as well as purists such as myself. Before I get ready to mention a few of the tracks there is something I want to say now, and I'll just say it once, so that I won't have to repeat myself too many times during the rest of this review. This disc contains some of the best drum work I have ever heard in my life. On every track, BILLY HICKS is certainly one of the highlights.
Starting off my particular favorites was one of the originals, "I CAN STILL HEAR YOU CRYING". If there were ever a time in DAVID'S life where he needed to send a one track demo somewhere, this should be it. This track simultaneously exemplifies his strong and soulful vocals as well as his masterful guitar ability.
"SKELETON KEY" another original, and the all too short title track, is very well done. Compared to some of the other tracks it's one of the more subtle songs. It's one of those very catch sing-alongs that you may very well catch yourself singing later in the day.
"BACKSTROKE", the Albert Collins cover, smokes. I don't know where to start here - it's just a fiery jam with everyone fanning the flames - it gets hotter as it goes on. On this track the organ player is totally out of his mind, I can't say more than I already did about the drummer and as expected on an Albert Collins cut, it's an opportunity for a guitarist to showcase his talent, and DAVID does just that.
If there's a blues heaven, and Paul and Mike are up there listening, then "REAP WHAT YOU SOW" is surely putting a smile on their faces. This one is so well done it may very well be the best track of the lot. This one is all DAVID - his singing gave me goose bumps and his guitar playing sent chills through my body.
On "THINGS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE", there is absolutely no mistaking Stevie Ray Vaughn's influence on DAVID. This is fast and hard playing and good old rocking blues at it's best.
Unfortunately, for now anyway, DAVID'S tour dates seem restricted to Canada and the surrounding area. Maybe next year, as the snow on the ground is higher in feet than the temperature on the thermometer is in degrees, David will consider doing a Florida tour. I sure hope so, this is one act I'd love to catch live.
You can visit David Gogo on the web at: www.davidgogo.org/
If you're playing THE SILVERTONES new CD, "RIDE IN MY CADILLAC" while you're ridin' down the road in your Cadillac, or any other vehicle for that matter, be careful when the title track comes on. It's a real hot, fast paced, good old Texas Blues tune that will not only get your motor runnin', it'll get it speeding. When I finally realized it, I was flying down I-95 with both hands rapidly banging on my steering wheel. Fortunately for me, there were no state troopers in my vicinity or I would have been pulled over and found myself having to say....... "BUT OFFICER"......which by the way, is the name of the very next song, which just so happens to be about getting pulled over. Hmmmmmm.
Before I get into any more about this hard drivin' disc, I'd like to mention the very talented players responsible for "RIDE IN MY CADILLAC", which features ten originals out of twelve very strong tracks. On Drums and most of the Vocals, is RANDY BALL; On Guitar and some Vocals is LEO DE LA VAGA; Also on Guitars (Electric/Baritone/Slide & Steel) and Background Vocals is LINN ROTH; And Mr. Bass-man would be BRIAN WICKER. Riding shotgun are special guests: JOANNA RAMIEZ, Vocals; SMOKIN' JOE KUBEK, Guitars; MICHAEL MCGUIRE, Guitar; DARREL RASH, Tenor Sax; RACHEL MCINTRUFF, Piano and organ; MICHAEL BALL, Bass.
Other particularly favorite tracks of mine were many. The BALL'S, RANDY & MICHAEL, team up very well on the rhythmatic "SHE TOLD ME". This all too short toe-taper also features lots of great guitar from SMOKIN' JOE. The rhythm section, which is THE SILVERTONES strong suit, continues to shine on "LET ME BE" - this time it's RANDY and BRIAN. Not to be slighted, LEO tears it up a bit on guitar as well.
The only instrumental of the lot, and sadly the only track to feature Tenor Saxman, DARREL, is "CAYETANO". On this one, everyone is in a very laid back, but nevertheless, very tight groove. I could have taken more of this.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I gotta say it. Once again, the rhythm section absolutely blows me away on "TEXAS GIRL" - and this time they have help - with RACHEL adding fuel to the fire on piano. LEO gets his share of smoking guitar licks in as well. As a result of hitting replay, this three minute song took me fifteen minutes to listen to. This one rocks. There's no question that when this one's played live, in front of what I'm sure is a hopping crowd, it's the hottest track of the set.
"PEOPLE THINK I'M CRAZY" - no, I'm not talking in the first person, that's the name of the last track - happens to be my personal favorite on this wonderful disc. It's blues the way the Blewzzman likes it - raunchy and scorching hot. The vocals are incredible, full of soul and sung with a lot of heart, and the guitar just screams out the blues. It doesn't get much better than this.
I'd like to backtrack a bit here and mention that, in spite of my picture painting of the title track - "RIDE IN MY CADILLAC" - I never did mention JOANNA. She's definitely responsible for some of the tracks heat.
This is a band that will no doubt be around for a long while, therefore I'm sure I'll be hearing more from them - and that's a good thing.Check out The Silvertones on the web at: www.thesilvertones.com/
Throughout our existence here at Mary4Music.com, Canadian Bands have always been very well represented in our reviews section. I can't remember a year without at least one entity and most of the years have had several. This year seems no different.
"WHAT A NIGHT", the debut CD from a very tight and talented band called the JUKES is already the second submission of 'Blues from North of the Border' in as many months. The perfect blend of Blues, Funk, Rockabilly, R&B, Jazz and Swing - that you'll hear on 12 original tracks - comes to you from PETER CHARLES on Vocals, JOSH GORDON on Guitar and Vocals, ANDREW TAYLOR on Bass and Vocals, CHRIS CHIARELLI on Drums and Percussion and special guest ROD PHILLIPS on Organ.
The all important, impression setting opening track - "RAINING IN TORONTO" - did exactly what it was supposed to do - it had me liking "WHAT A NIGHT" already. The lead vocals and lead guitar are very impressive and the bands already in a groove that they never leave.
"DRINKING ALL NIGHT" exhausted me - and I was sitting down as I listened! This has to be one of the JUKES most requested songs at live shows. It's a smokin' hot party song that no doubt gets everyone in the joint jumpin'. The band certainly was.
"WILL SHE GO" is full of funk and you all know what that means - the rhythm sections real hot on this one. It's also the first track, and thankfully not the last, that features ROD joining in with some blazing organ highlights.
"DROWNING MAN", as the title may indicate, is good old straight up Chicago Blues. The track opens with some serious blues guitar highlights which set the mood on this scorcher. Once again, ROD shines bright throughout the track on background and organ solos.
"NO CENTS" is no pun. It's a smooth shuffle about a cat whose so broke that if poverty were hip he'd be one cool cat. However, he has absolutely "no cents". Along those same lines, "THE SUN AIN'T SHINING" is about a cat whose old lady is going out with other cats because he's so broke. Sounds to me like these two cats just might be blues musicians.
The only cover on this CD is a very nicely done, jazzy version of "SUMMERTIME". PETE and CHRIS compliment each other real well on guitar and drums. This one is real smooth yet very hot and is an impressive ending to a very impressive project.
Check out the JUKES at www.thejukesband.com and while you're there be sure to pick up a copy of "WHAT A NIGHT".