Recordings like this are not only a pleasure to listen to, but they're a pleasure to write about as well. It's so easy for the thoughts to flow and the words to come when your listening to sheer perfection. The need for creativity doesn't exist - that's all been taken care of by the artist.
My love affair with the ladies of song started out at a very young age, as I grew up listening to my father playing his Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald records, and it's continued through the decades right up to my current attraction for gals - who are all better than the guys - on American Idol. Now that blues is my passion, it seems the passion is still there for the ladies - enter JULIE BLACK.
On her debut CD, "CALL ME ANGEL FOR BLUES", JULIE BLACK is absolutely flawless. The confidence she has in her own vocal ability, the emotions with which those vocals are delivered and the talent she has for songwriting, are incomparable. Add to that the versatility to sing soulful, country, rock, jazz, Gospel and down home styles of blues with equally masterful results, and you've got the total package.
On "CALL ME ANGEL FOR BLUES", JULIE BLACK on vocals, is joined by: MICHAEL JOHNN on keyboards; DAVE EICHENBERGER on electric guitar; BILL SPICUGLIA on bass; MIKE THOMAS on drums and tambourine; MARK MURRAY on acoustic, electric slide and bass guitars; D. W. GILL on harmonica and saxophone; DENNIS MCCARTHY on drums and acoustic guitar; THOMAS J. HAMILTON on bass and bongos; HERMAN ANDERSON on electric guitar; DONNY KURYLIW on back up vocals.
"BIGGER FOOL FOR ME" opens the disc and JULIE'S voice immediately impresses you. Her range, on this somewhat of a country blues track, is very impressive. The electric guitar and funky bass playing by MARK and the blowing of the harp by D. W. also highlight the track.
JULIE'S smooth and sassy delivery of "FEELIN' STRANGE" gives the impression that, rather than listening to a young, up and coming starlet, you might just be listening to a seasoned jazz lounge singer. The soft and very tight sound the bands putting out behind her helps paint the picture.
When "MY DOGGIE DON'T" starts playing, if after 3 seconds you aren't snapping your fingers or tapping your toes - call a doctor. Man this one's hot. I'm sure the replay buttons gonna get some hits before this paragraph's done. On this jazzed up tune, JULIE is exquisite. The combination of D. W. and MICHAEL on sax and piano, the hot rhythm of BILL and MIKE and the great guitar work by HERMAN and DAVE help make this one of the discs very best tracks.
"BLUES LIKE ME" stopped me in my tracks. Since you can't type while tapping both feet and snapping fingers on both hands, I just gave up, sat back and thoroughly enjoyed another magnificent track.
MICHAEL and DAVE are at their peak on guitar and piano on a track that called have easily been called "The Gospel according to Jules". On this track JULIE'S gonna "set you free' and 'liberate your soul" as she goes about her business of "SPREADING THE BLUES". Great range by JULIE and great back up vocals by DONNY on this, another smoking track.
It's all about the vocals and the piano, one equally as sultry as the other on the very sexy "LOVE THIS MAMA". As a matter of fact, if I were to love this mama - this is what I'd want to be listening to as I did so.
"LEAN IN ON ME" is another slow, steamy ballad. She writes them as good as she sings them. This is more of the above with some hot saxophone added.
Other tracks not covered on "CALL ME ANGEL FOR BLUES", but outstanding nevertheless, are "CALL THE CARDS", "HURT MY BABY", "DEVILS CHILD", "BROKEN HEARTED BABY" and "GO AND GET HER".
While visiting JULIE BLACK'S website, I discovered something that excited me as much as "CALL ME ANGEL FOR BLUES" did. That's the fact that in just four weeks, she'll be playing at a nearby club. Needless to say, my reservations are already made. I recommend you take a peek at www.angelforblues.com and do the same. While you're there, tell JULIE she's got the Blewzzman sayin' "WOW!"
"RATHER HAVE THE GREEN THAN THE BLUES" is full of smokin' hot, jumpin' and funky blues, that will surely get you moving. This well produced disc contains twelve originals by The Barron of the Blues - RICHIE BARRON. For this particular project RICHIE assembled enough people to create a good size orchestra. Joining him, on vocals and guitars are: MARK "JELLYROLL" BURGSTAHLER, JEROME FLETCHER and BOBBY JORDAN on guitars; RANDY FORRESTER, MICHAEL "SPIDERMAN" MARTIN, RICH SMITH, RICH SCHAFFER and DAVID KESNER on keyboards; STUART VIETS on saxophones; RICH ARMSTRONG on trumpet; ED BARLEY on trombone; EVAN PALMERSTON, DAVID MORENO and JOHNNY YO on bass; DONNY BALDWIN, GREG ELMORE and JEFF CREGG on drums; RICHARD "BANDITO" SEGOVIA on timbales and conga; BILL NOTEMAN on harmonica; and MICHELE and LAURA on wonderfully melodic and harmonic backup vocals.
The disc doesn't start - it rips open with a flaming hot track called "TAHOE BOOGIE". The whole band - whoever they may be on this track - is in an all out, full blown jam. Led by the fierce rhythm - and I do mean fierce, everyone is a highlight on what I'm already calling one of the discs best tracks. I just couldn't get enough of the smoking horns, the hot sax solos, the great guitar riffs and the vibrant vocals. It took me about a dozen replays just to get through this paragraph. Wow! What a hell of a first impression.
The title track, "I'D RATHER HAVE THE GREEN THAN THE BLUES", could probably be called "THE BLUES MAN'S ANTHEM". I'm sure most of them would gladly trade in the blues for the green. RICHIE makes it quite clear that he'd rather drive a Cadillac than his beat up Chevrolet, eat steak and lobster over his red beans and rice and he'd rather see patent leather or alligator when he looks down at his old beat up shoes.......yes, he'd rather have the green than blues. More great guitar work and lots of hot piano on this one.
Funk fans will certainly favor "NO TROUBLE TONIGHT". Unfortunately, with so many different players on the different instruments, and no indication on the liner notes as to who is on what track, all I can say is whoever it is on bass and drums is doing a hell of a job. Add more rippin' guitar and lots of hot horns and this is another smoker. The chorus will definitely "funk you up".
As this very mellow and low down blues track indicates, things are a bit slower down on "GRANDPA'S FARM". One of the highlights on this track is the mixing. The sound, clearness and volume of all the instruments and vocals are absolutely perfect. Great vocals, harp and sax by RICHIE, BILL and STEWART make this another of the discs best.
If I gave out awards for rhythm, the players on "RATHER HAVE THE GREEN THAN THE BLUES" would be a lock to win it. Once again, on "SOMEBODY'S GOT TO GO", the rhythm section has me in total awe. More good vocals, guitar and some killer piano highlight this one as well.
Excellent vocals and lyrics make this next track. It seems that no matter what RICHIE is behind on, and it sounds like quit a bit, he can still address a certain class of people by claiming "I'M STILL AHEAD OF YOU". Great horn work adds to this soulful, funky number.
If you'd like to check out RICHIE BARRON on line, since he doesn't have his own website, you'll have to do it through www.soundclick.com/pro/view/01/default.cfm?BandID=107189. If you go, shoot him and email and tell him the Blewzzman is braggin' 'bout the Barron of the Blues.
If I were to start a review by saying that the CD I was about to write about was the new release from a "Bayou Country" Bluesman, everyone would immediately know the area of my reference and most of you would even have good guesses as to whom I may be reviewing. I wonder if I'd get the same kind of acknowledgement if I said the CD I was about to write about was the new release from a "Bison Country" Bluesman? Of course not!
As it so happens, The National Bison Range is located just outside of Missoula, Montana - home of Bluesman Mike Bader. Being the best known bluesman in an area where the American Bison roam, makes MIKE BADER the "Bison Country Bluesman". There's a name for your next CD, MIKE.
"MATCHES MY FEELINGS" is the second release by MIKE BADER. Having reviewed, and certainly enjoyed, his first release - "CLEARCUT CASE OF THE BLUES" - back in November of 2004, it was a "clear cut" pleasure to hear from MIKE again.
On "MATCHES MY FEELINGS", MIKE BADER on guitars and vocals and writer of all songs, is joined by the rhythm section of LARRY HIRSHBERG on bass and "BZ" BRANDON ZIMMER on drums - the nucleus of his three piece band. Special guests include TOM "T-BONE" GIBLIN on keyboards, JOAN ZEN on vocals, JASON HICKS on saxophone and TOM BADER, BOB BADER and DAVE BADER (whom I'll affectionately refer to as the "BAD ASS BADER BROTHERS", respectively on harmonica, drums and bass.
The opening track, "WRONG NAME WOMAN" describes a situation that, to say the least, would put a strain on any relationship - being called the wrong name by your mate - YIKES! The highlights on this one appear in the very long instrumental jam in the middle of the track. While the rhythm section locks into a nice dance groove, MIKE puts out several very hot guitar solos.
On "DEFIES GRAVITY", MIKE encounters some very disturbing obstacles in his quest to rid himself of his lady. Throwing her in the ocean, weighted down with chains, as well as throwing her out of a moving airplane both seem to fail. After all, she does defy gravity. This one features all the BADER BOYS with TOM'S hot harp being one of the tracks highlights.
Along with lots of great guitar work by MIKE, "CALL ME THE GRIZZ" features some of the best sax work on the disc. JASON definitely highlights this track.
"BEEN GROUNDED" is another track by the BAD ASS BADER BROTHERS BLUES BAND. It's the second of two tracks, on "MATCHES MY FEELINGS", where they all perform together. This topical cut is about something that's giving us all the blues......being grounded - by the price of gas. This track features great blues guitar throughout.
Regardless of where you live, it seems you'll have a cross to bear when it comes to the phenomenon common to that area. I deal with in Florida in the form of hurricanes, Californians have earthquakes, Midwesterners have tornados and MIKE BADER has to get out of the way of "SMOKIN' BUFFALO". As he says on this track, which features excellent harp and Piano by the two TOMS, "there's nothing you can do, but step aside and let them through". Good advice from the "Bison Country Bluesman".
As the title might indicate, "JUMP SHUFFLIN' BLUES", is shuffle that gets the guys in jam mode. Everyone's sounding great on what, in my opinion, is easily the discs best track. Very reminiscent of the late great Little Milton's "(HEY, HEY) THE BLUES IS ALRIGHT", this one will get you movin'.
Remember, if your travels should ever take you to Western Montana, besides dodging those buffalos, make sure your you look up MIKE BADER and tell him the Blewzzman sent ya. Another way to check him out is by simply going to www.mikebaderblues.com
Although I can sometimes tell after just one listen that I like a CD enough to be able to give it a nice review, most of the times I prefer to listen to it several times before making a qualified decision. On the other hand, with "WHO CALLED THE COPS", after just a few tracks I was ready to start writing - but first, I needed to stop writhing. In just three little words I can tell you what my first impression of this disc was......fun, fun, fun. It's very apparent the band had fun recording it and I can assure you, you'll have fun listening to it.
Inasmuch as I take pride in my originality when writing these reviews, I'll occasionally see a quote in a bands press kit, or at their website, that compels me to use that quote. This description of their style of music was one of those compellers........"A blend of Bourbon Street brass, rolling piano blues and a classic New Orleans beat; this high octane barrelhouse band pumps out psycho boogie, funk and zydeco-blues as if there is no tommorrow". Touche` - the Blewzzman tips his hat to the writer of those words.
This feisty bunch of players are: PORTERHOUSE BOB, writer of the discs nine original tracks, on vocals and keyboards; MITCH MONTOSE, drums and rubboard; MIKE BARRY, bass; GEORGE PANDIS, trumpet; SCOTTY STRATHMANN, trumpet, trombone and tuba; DAN HEFFERNAN, clarinet, tenor and alto sax; DON ROBERTS, baritone sax; LONNIE JOHNSON, trumpet.
If within 30 seconds of the opening track, "DID YOU CATCH THAT JACK?", you're not shaking or tapping one or more of your body parts - at a feverish pace - you may need to call your doctor. Man, this track rocks. It's a fast and furious Nawlin's swing thing with lots of funky horns that has MITCH and MIKE tearing up the pace on drums and bass.
If you're a mover and a shaker, head to the dance flo' for "TIPPIN' ON FO FO'S". This short but scorching Zydeco instrumental is guaranteed to break a sweat.
"DOWN BY THE WATER" opens with an awesome 90 second trumpet solo before getting downright funky. BOB is outstanding on piano and some Dr. John type vocals and the horn section, led by more great trumpet work and SCOTTY on the tuba, create a great ragtime sound.
There's no other way to describe the next track other than to just tell you it's name - "BIG BOB'S BOOGIE". Backed up with some great bass work, this instrumental is all about BOB and his piano.......... that is until DAN jumps in with some downright kick ass tenor sax.
"WHODOO VOODOO" is all of 63 seconds but what a furious 63 seconds it is. It's a ritual sounding instrumental with a fierce drum beat and wailing trumpets. This one brought to mind about a half a dozen jungle movies.
The title track, "WHO CALLED THE COPS", is all out musical mayhem. BOB is as wild on the vocals as he is on the piano, Mitch and Mike are trying to kick each others butt on rhythm - and they're both succeeding - and the horn section, in an effort to not be outdone, are blowing their brains out. At two and a half minutes, this track is about five minutes too short. I wanted more - lots more - of this. Easily the hottest track on the disc.
Just like the steak, PORTER HOUSE BOB and the band are excellent, right DOWN TO THE BONE. Check the guys out at www.porterhousebob.com and tell them you heard from the Blewzzman that they throw one hell of a party.
What are the highlights you like to hear while listening to the blues. Is it scorching blues guitar riffs? A very funky horn section or some sexy and sultry saxophone? Good ol' boogie woogie piano or a lot of hot Hammond organ playing? Strong rocking rhythm? Outstanding, versatile vocals that knock your socks off? Well, If you picked "all of the above", then SMILING JACK SMITH'S new disc "THIS BLUE BEFORE" will surely get you smiling like JACK.
The musicians appearing on this excellent disc are: JACK SMITH, writer of all tracks, on vocals and guitar; DAVE VIDAL on guitar; MILES BLACK on piano, clavinet and B3; QUIQUE VILLAFANE on drums; KEN LISTER on double bass; MIKE HERRIOT on trumpet and trombone; MONIK NORDINE on baritone sax; PHIL DWYER on tenor sax.
On the very funky opening track it doesn't seem like JACK has too much to smile about - again! After returning home and realizing his lady is no longer his, he gets a bad case of the "DEJA BLUES"....all over again. This is a great track for introducing the listener to the band. It features just enough nice work on each instrument to make you want to hear a lot more.
"DON'T YOU BREAK MY HEART" opens slowly with PHIL getting real sultry on the tenor sax and the other horns providing him equally sultry backup. As for the vocals, if there's such a course in music schools called "blues singing" this is the song they'd have to study. Undoubtedly one of this discs best tracks.
Unfortunately for JACK, and in spite of music being a comfort and whiskey dulling the pain, "THE BLUES COME BACK AGAIN". Another great track on which MILES gets it going, first on piano then again on the B3 and the horns are in a constant tight groove.
"I FOUND THE BLUES AGAIN".....something JACK seems to do a lot.....has several nice tempo changes, and when the tempo is up, it's way up. MILES again rips it up on piano and KEN & QUIQUE provide some hot and rockin' rhythm.
"EL PESADO" is an all too short instrumental featuring three very nice leads from DAVE on guitar, MILES on organ and PHIL on tenor, while the rest of the band is cruising in a nice tight jam. A few more minutes of this, I could have easily taken.
One of my all time favorite vocalists is VAN MORRISON and on "SAVE MY LIFE" I would have sworn I was listening to him. I always thought his style of delivering a song was incomparable - until now. I'm stunned at how well JACK sung this song. This one is all about the vocals.
In addition to "WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND AGAIN" being very upbeat, it's also very uplifting. It took ten tracks, but SMILING JACK is smiling again. This is one of those very well written songs in which the lyrics should be lived - by everyone - rather than sung. Even the musicians' solos sound happy.
On the title and closing track, JACK never felt "THIS BLUE BEFORE", and he sounds it. Other than to use the word amazing, I can't even begin to describe the style of vocals on this track. They're soft but very deep, partially being sung, partially being spoken and sometimes almost being whispered. This seven minute track, which features some of the best blues guitar riffs heard on this disc and features an absolutely beautiful trumpet solo by MIKE, is another one of the discs best.
With eight months and about 30 - 35 more reviews ahead of me, as of now, this is the one to beat if you're going to win the BLEWZZY. Give JACK SMITH a look at www.smilingjacksmith.com and tell him the Blewzzman said he's got something for you to smile about.