With my slogan being "The Blues Is My Passion & Therapy" I just had to get my hands on a dose of THE BLUES PRESCRIPTION. A couple of listens to this was just what the doctor ordered. On "SOUR MASH", the pharmacists are: RICH "THE FLAVOR" COHEN, the bands leader, guitarist, vocalist and writer; JASON RICCI on harp; GEORGE PAPA GEORGE on organ, BARRY HARRISON and ROD GROSS on drums; ADMIR "DR. BLUES" HADZIC on bass; BRIAN CHARETTE on piano.
The title track, "SOUR MASH", is one of six originals by RICH. It's a funky jam that's appropriately played in the key of "WHIS"....that's right, the whole song is sung in "WHIS-KEY". Hey, I'll drink to that. Along with RICH's interesting vocals, GEORGE, ADMIR and BARRY highlight this harpless track.
"2:19" is a seven minute track and anyone who knows JASON "WICKED" RICCI, as he was affectionately referred to in his early Ft. Lauderdale days, knows this means lots of hot harp solos. Once again, RICH's vocals are superb.
"BOUNCE & BURN", another original, could not have been more appropriately titled. This smoker will cause you to bounce uncontrollably and when it's done, your hands will surely burn from clapping along. This one's all about the guitar and the drums. It's a fierce instrumental in which RICH and ROD battle it out.........and they both win. It's no wonder this track only lasted about three minutes. Any longer and the rush could have been dangerous.
"SHAME ON YOU" could very well be the G-Spot on "SOUR MASH". It's one of those incredible musical moments, that some CD's are fortunate to have, where all the musicians are peaking simultaneously. I lost track of the number of times I replayed it. Hmmmmm, I may have spoken to soon. Either that or these cats are having multiple peaking sessions.
"Rx BLUES" takes up right where "SHAME ON YOU" left off. With JASON sitting out this instrumental, the rhythm section absolutely goes wild on this one. Some of the best organ on the disc, and for that matter on any disc, can be heard right here on this track. GEORGE PAPA GEORGE is an absolute genius.
Closing out the disc is nearly a ten minute track, recorded live at TRUMPET'S in Montclair, NJ. It's called "SHAKE YOUR HIPS" and I promise you they'll be shakin'. As expected, with this amount of time and in front of a live audience, JASON will be JASON. He closes out the number with a mind blowing two minute harp solo. However, on the way to that, you'll have to sit through a few phenomenal guitar licks by RICH.
If your preference of blues is the soft, laid back, easy listening, slightly jazzy, very classy style of blues, then you need to discover Gary Preston & Anita Bonkowski. With GARY on vocals, piano, organ and harmonica and ANITA on upright bass, high hat, washboard, and percussion, they create one heck of formidable duo. GARY & ANITA are to this arena what Fred & Ginger, Bogart & Bacall, Burns & Allen and Lucy & Desi were to theirs.
Since just about every track on "SATISFY SOMEBODY" is truly a highlight, I'm going to limit this review to featuring some of the very well written originals. One of those would be "SEVEN NIGHTS TO ROCK". On this one GARY'S got himself rockin' and rollin' all week long with a different lady each night. Now this may not be the title track, but it sure sounds like he's found a way to satisfy somebody - namely himself. This is a hot little dance number with, as is the case on most tracks, lots of excellent piano, bass and vocals.
"PLATYPUS BLUES" is one of those humorous yet clever songs that you don't try to figure out- ya just listen and ya just enjoy. On this one GARY's harp is equal to, if not better than, any of those other cats that constantly make everyone's top five harmonica player lists.
"SATISFY SOMEBODY" has GARY & ANITA in a good ole N'awlins groove giving out good ole sound advice. Try doing something to satisfy someone and you just might get some satisfaction out of it as well. This title track, which is all too short, features some great bayou blues on the piano.
"THE BOUNCE" will cause you to do just that. This instrumental had me multi tasking to the max. My fingers were flagrantly flailing on the keypad, my was foot ferociously taping at the floor, my head was bobbing out of control and my butt was bouncing so hard it was shaking everything on my desk. Then I looked up and saw five lines of this..... mfkl;;p djskiops //plllkkk//28&53;ljhs..... and had to rewrite this whole paragraph. What a great tune!
"GREASY" is no doubt the raunchiest, hard core blues track on the disc. Maybe that's where it's title stems from. It's four minutes of gutsy, growling, gritty and greasy harmonica playing. And I loved every second of it.
Other tracks on "SATISFY SOMEBODY" - and this disc certainly did satisfy me - include "DONT GO NO FARTHER", "MIGHTY LONG TIME", "CUDDLE UP", "GEORGIA ON MY MIND", "LONSOME", "GOT AN UNCLE IN HARLEM", "HURT", "ATLANTA MOON" and "BAYOU HEAT".
For more on GARY PRESTON & ANITA BONKOWSKI, check them out at www.garypreston.ca. While you're there, "SATISFY SOMEBODY" by getting them a copy of this excellent product.
For the longest time now I've, once a year, been going to Memphis for a five to 10 ten day stay (usually the later). The trip, if it's the short one, is always for the BLUES MUSIC AWARDS, and if it's the long one, it's always for THE BEALE STREET MUSIC FESTIVAL and THE BLUES MUSIC AWARDS (of course with a day in between at one Tunica's casinos).
Unfortunately, with all of the national and international talent in town during this period, the hard working local acts seem to get overlooked and/or lost in the shuffle. This may very well explain why, as many times as I have been there, I have yet to see the ERIC HUGHES BAND. As I sit here and write about "TWO IN THE MORNING", my ears are telling me to make sure I catch THIS local on my next visit. And, talk about local, it doesn't get any more local than ERIC - he lives on Beale Street. Now I know why that door in the back of TATER RED'S says KEEP OUT!
On "TWO IN THE MORNING", not only is ERIC HUGHES responsible for writing all fourteen tracks, but this talented musician/songwriter also plays lead and rhythm guitars, harmonica, dobro, percussion and electric sitar. A one man band? Well, you might say so - as a young man, that's exactly how he started out performing. However, on this particular project he's joined by several other of Memphis' finest: LAURA HUGHES on bass, back up vocals and percussion; KEVIN EDDY on drums and percussion; ROBERT "NIGHTHAWK" TOOMS on electric piano and the Hamond B3 organ; with BRAD WEBB and LARRY NOBLE joining in on lead guitar on several tracks.
The CD opens with a hot little number on which ERIC expresses a sadness that seems common amongst blues singers as he asks, "DID YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE DOG TOO"? I was especially impressed with the rhythm on this track with LAURA and KEVIN nicely in sync.
A similarly impressive track, with similar highlights was "MUDDY WATERS RECORDS". On this one, the missing dog is no longer an issue, it's the missing Muddy Waters records. Now he's really pissed. The jilted man's gonna burn the house down if he don't get those Muddy Waters records back. A very cleverly written and performed track. Of course, just the mention of Muddy makes you think of some hot harp playing and great guitar licks and ERIC nicely provides lots of both of those.
Man, I hope ERIC isn't singing about real life experiences here. The dog, the Muddy Water's records - I'm almost afraid to listen to the next few tracks - can this get much worse?
OK, so the estranged lover that split with the dog and the records did at least leave something behind. When she split after fifty-one years of being wed, she left her "TEETH IN A GLASS" on the table by the bed. Unfortunately this causes much chagrin because through the Efferdent, he sees her evil grin. This is another fast paced number with the band in one long jam.
I could shoot myself, but "WHO'D CLEAN UP THE MESS", is full of more classic lyrics. I've got to believe that ERIC HUGHES has to be the life of any party he attends. Besides being hilarious, this disc is also a hit musically. This track is slow country blues with great vocals, guitar and piano.
Have you ever heard a song about a train that you didn't like? Of course not, right? Well then you'll really like "THE EIGHT-FIFTEEN". It's got all the good bass and harp playing that makes them all fun songs.
"BREAKTIME AT THE BRIAR PATCH" is possibly the best track, and unfortunately the shortest track on the disc. Actually, I don't even know if it's a legitimate track at that - It's more of a set break tune. In any event, it's good old down home blues at it's best and I could have easily enjoyed 5 more minutes of this tight rhythm and great harp playing.
As this disc, as well as this write up, come to an end, I find myself looking forward to hearing more from the ERIC HUGHES BAND, especially live.
You can visit the Eric Hughes Band on the web at: www.erichughesband.com/
As I sit here, about to write this review of "MILK & COOKIES", the second release by ALVIN JETT and the PHAT NOIZ BLUES BAND - just three weeks before they are due to play a gig I booked for them right here in my own home town - I can't help laughing as I think back to a situation that happened about a year and a half ago. Back then I nearly refused to listen to the first CD they sent me purely based on the name of the band. It's upsetting to think how close I came to never knowing about this excellent band. It's that type of reasoning that give credence to proverbs such as "You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover".
The PHAT NOIZ BLUES BAND consists of ALVIN JETT on Guitar and Vocals, FRANK BAUER on Sax and Vocals, MATT DAVIS on Bass and Vocals and JEREMY WEST on drums. On "MILK & COOKIES", a collection of ten original, in-your-face hard driving tracks with one foot in the Blues and the other in Rock, Funk, R&B, Soul, Rockabilly and Gospel, they are joined by ARTHUR "MISSISSIPPI" WILLIAMS on Harp and Background Vocals and RICH MCDONOUGH on Slide Guitar.
Of course, being the Blewzzman, the more straight up blues tracks on this, and every disc I listen to, are the ones I always lean to as personal favorites. "MY BABY'S PLACE" is exactly one of those tracks. It's soft, slow and full of the blues. On this one, ALVIN'S blues guitar is a bit reminiscent - and every bit as good as - a young B B KING'S. His soulful vocals and the harmonizing background vocals are additional highlights.
Another of those tracks is "ANGELS SING THE BLUES", unquestionably this discs best. With MATT & JEREMY smoking behind them on rhythm, FRANK blows some serious blues out of the sax and ALVIN absolutely tears it up on guitar and vocals. This is one of those six minute tracks, that as a result of hitting replay, added thirty minutes to the length of the disc.
"DOWN IN THE DELTA" is a track written from the bands experience in, of course, the Delta. It's one of two tracks that feature ARTHUR "MISSISSIPPI" WILLIAMS and the one track that features RICH MCDONOUGH. Of course, ARTIE'S harp and RICH'S slide are two of this tracks highlights, but quite frankly, JEREMY's drum playing steals this one.
The other outstanding tracks on "MILK & COOKIES" are: "BOOGIE TO THE BLUES", a wailer that is common to this bands style of play; "BEST FRIEND YOU EVER HAD", "AIN'T BEEN THE SAME" and "IT'S A CINCH", more rockin' blues like the band is known for; "MILK & COOKIES", "BORROWED TIME" And "7:47 CENTRAL TIME", all funk filled favorites featuring great rhythm and sax.
I believe one of the statements I used as I reviewed this bands last effort, "WET MY BEAK" was that the band had put a smile on my face. Indeed, they've done that once again.
I strongly feel that "MILK & COOKIES" could possibly contain enough quality original material to send this band to the 2007 International Blues Challenge very armed and very dangerous.
You can visit Alvin Jett and the Phat noiZ Blues Band on the web at: www.phatnoiz.com/