When I first met CHRISTIAN DOZZLER, he wasn't just the piano player in LARRY GARNER'S band, he was an integral part of the band. As a matter of fact, for many years it was LARRY GARNER that was the guitar player in the CHRISTIAN DOZZLER band. That's right, and there were many more great bluesmen besides LARRY GARNER that toured Europe with CHRISTIAN'S band backing them up. He had developed such a reputation on the European blues scene that he became a highly sought musical commodity for touring American blues artists.
After many years of playing with the MOJO BLUES BAND and THE BLUES WAVE, and appearing on about 20 CD's by various other artists VIENNA SLIM, who CHRISTIAN is known as, has put out a solo CD called "ALL ALONE AND BLUE". On this outstanding CD, which consists of 8 original tracks and 8 covers, CHRISTIAN does it all himself - vocals, piano and harmonica.
The last time I heard solo piano playing and singing this good was about 12 years ago as I was strolling around the French Quarter in New Orleans. The piano playing coming from inside some little hole in the wall bar, as the area is famous for, was so captivating I had to go in for a look and a better listen. I wound up spending several hours at that hole in the wall listening to none other than the late New Orleans legend himself AL BROUSSARD. Listening to "ALL ALONE AND BLUE" reminded me of that day. This is bar room piano blues at it's best.
If you're one of the small, but select, group of blues fans who appreciate this style of roots blues music, then "ALL ALONE AND BLUE" is for you. VIENNA SLIM has all the styles of play covered well on this CD. The nice mix of ballads, boogie, barrel house, fifties and Delta style are all exceptionally done.
"NIGHT WORK" by the MOJO PHOENIX BLUES BAND is one of those CD's that you just listen to and find it very easy to write a review of. There was no playing it over and over to see if it would grow on me, no searching for it's redeeming values and no doubt that after just one listen, I loved this CD. "NIGHT WORK" was excellent listening, from beginning to end. It's no wonder why the MOJO PHOENIX BLUES BAND were winners of three consecutive JEA AWARDS for "BEST BLUES BAND" (2000-2002).
The whole band - which consists of CINDY HAYDEN on vocals and harmonica, TOM FULLER on vocals and bass, RANDY SAUNDERS on drums and congas, WAYDE OLSON on guitar, and special guest TIM BROWN on vibraphone - were exceptional. CINDY and TOM on vocals were so impressive that it sounded like the songs they sang were exclusively written for them. I was also very impressed with the occasional and tasteful use of the vibraphone by TIM and CINDY'S ability on the harmonica.
Although only one of the seventeen tracks is an original - "CAN'T LEAVE IT ALONE" - the sixteen covers perfectly fit the bands style. Why there is even a song dedicated to me on the CD. It's called "BIG FAT DADDY" and is all about a man with some meat shaking on his bones. This cut also features some superb guitar.
As I alluded to earlier, just about every selection on this CD was very tastefully done. I did however have several particular favorites and they seemed to be most of the ones on which TOM did the vocals. Maybe that's because while Tom is singing, Cindy is blowing some real nice harp. Those cuts were BOB DYLAN'S "LEOPARD SKIN PILL BOX HAT" which TOM does one hell of a job with, "AIN'T NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS" which features some excellent vibraphone, "CAN'T LEAVE IT ALONE (the one original), "YOU'RE A LIAR" another cut where TIM and CINDY excel on vibraphone and harp. Two other favorites include CINDY proclaiming that her husband doesn't love her he only wants "WHAT'S UNDER MY DRESS," and "BACK SCRATCHER" an instrumental where everyone shines.
In a recent conversation with CINDY, I discovered that the band will soon be releasing their ninth CD toward the end of this year. Cindy has already agreed to send me one of the first copies pressed so that I can be one of the first to review it. Now I just need to get her to send me the first seven. There is no question in my mind that anything by this band would be enjoyable to listen to.
My feelings about 12 year olds -- no disrespect intended -- are usually that they should be seen and not heard. However, ERIC STECKEL is one 12 year old that should definitely be heard -- often and loud. At the very young age of twelve, ERIC STECKEL is an absolutely amazing blues guitarist and I do mean amazing. I've listened to "A FEW DEGREES WARMER" several times now and I'm more and more in awe after each listen. I'm not one to make comparisons, but this kid has a lot of the licks and a lot of talent similar to some of the blues greats he covers on this CD.
Musically, ERIC STECKEL has his instrument and the blues down pat. Had this been an all instrumental CD you'd never, in a million years, guess this players age. However, having hardly reached the age of puberty, his adolescent voice acknowledges his youth. Yet his singing and, since this is a live CD, his banter with the audience is all quite interesting. His vocals actually put a smile on my face. This young man has a lot of heart and a lot of feeling.
It certainly surprised me to see three originals on this CD - I mean c'mon, the kid's only 12. "JAYWALKIN", "WHERE I PLAY THE BLUES, and "BAD DOG BLUES" were all written by ERIC STECKEL. The rest of the CD features covers, custom made for this young mans style of play, written by several of his obvious influences - JIMI HENDRIX, FREDDIE KING, and STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN. ERIC does a particularly great job on "RED HOUSE", "THE SKY IS CRYING", "HIDEAWAY" and "CROSSROADS".
Joining ERIC on this CD are BETHANY GUERRERO on bass and WAYNE SMITH on drums. The band has a new CD, "HIGH ACTION", due out real soon and I am hoping to be one of the first to review it.
At this young age, I don't know if ERIC STECKELL will look to a career in the blues, but this fan is sure hoping he does. The blues needs a youth movement to keep it alive and I think that this young man may be able to do for the blues in the 00's what STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN did for it in the 80's. Wouldn't that be nice?
As the saying goes, "you cannot judge a book by it's cover." I'm assuming this goes for the covers of CD's as well as the covers of books. On the other hand, there is another saying which states that "every picture tells a story." Just take one look at the picture of MARION JAMES, on the cover of her new CD "ESSENCE," and tell me you aren't thinking blues. Aha! You can't. From the moment I first looked at this CD my first impression told me it reeked of blues and indeed it does.
On "ESSENCE", MARION JAMES took 17 very impressive and talented musicians into the studio with her and it paid off. They allow her to shine in a variety of musical settings, some of which are quite jazzy. These fine musicians are: JACK PEARSON and CASEY LUTTON on guitar; TODD ELLSWORTH, BOB BABBITT and ROGER SPENCER (acoustic) on bass; CHUCKI BURKE, CHRIS BROWN and STEVE JOHNSON on drums; REESE WYNANS, DICKIE THOMPSON and RONNIE GODFREY on organ; BEEGIE ADAIR and RONNIE GODFREY on piano; DENIS SOLEE and DENNIS TAYLOR on sax; GEORGE TIDWELL and STEVE HERRMAN on trumpet; and BARRY GREEN on trombone.
Individually picking favorite cuts off of this CD is frustrating to say the least. With about a 50-50 mix of originals and covers, they are all done very well. MARION'S rendition of LATTIMORE'S "LET'S STRAIGHTEN IT OUT" is extraordinary.
I particularly liked the change from down home blues, on cuts such as PLEASE DON'T WASTE MY TIME"; "YOU'RE HISTORY BABY"; and "GIVE ME LOVE", to the jazzy blues style on UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG"; "BE ANYTHING"; and "I WANT TO BE LOVED (BUT BY ONLY YOU)." Although not listed with RUTH BROWN, ETTA JAMES and BILLIE HOLIDAY as her influences, this listener clearly hears DINAH and ELLA also.
Despite having grown up in a musical family in Nashville and having a top ten hit in the early fifties, MARION JAMES has not exactly been setting the world on fire with her music. It even took 3 years to get this CD produced and released. However, if the quality of music MARION JAMES put into "ESSENCE" can be maintained and MARION can deliver a product like this every year or so, she'll certainly be a force to reckon with in the world of female blues artists.You can visit Marion James on the Web at: www.soulfoodrecords.com/
"ON THE LOOSE" is a fully instrumental CD consisting of all original music by drummer, GARRETT EASLEY. Although a few of the tracks are a little too blues-rock-ish for my more traditional taste, the tracks that are blues are excellent.
On "ON THE LOOSE", GARRETT assembled some of the Atlanta areas hottest blues musicians. Joining him on drums and percussion are TOM HUBBARD on Electric Slide Dobro, National Resonator and Dobro Bass; PETE "SNAKEY JAKE" JOHNSON on Slide and Acoustic Guitar; JODY WORRELL on Electric Lead; PAUL WELCH and TOMMY VICKERY on Bass; BOBBY MOBLEY and ED BARNER on Keyboards; SAM SKELTON on Saxophone; ROBERT ALLEN on Harmonica.
All of the cuts that I liked most on this CD are the ones where GARRET uses other instruments versus the cuts he does as a drum, guitar, bass trio. "THIS AND THAT" is a real good blues shuffle with some great guitar, sax and piano work. "CHECKS IN THE MAIL" is another one of the bluesier numbers and the first cut on the CD to feature the excellent harp work of ROBERT ALLEN. "ROAD TO NOWHERE" features a very enjoyable exchange between the slide and the organ. "DIXIE AND ME" with it's funky New Orleans kind of sound was impossible to sit sill to. Great sax and harp on this one also.
Undoubtedly the best track on this CD is track six which is called "SIXTH PORTION". I'd buy this CD just for this number alone. It starts out with a very nice, long, sultry harp solo and then sneakily switches featured leads to the guitar, the sax and then back to the harp again. It is this writers opinion that on this track, musicians - JODY WORRELL/GUITAR, ROBERT ALLEN/HARP and SAM SKELTON/SAX may very well have been experiencing the peak of this recording session and possibly of their careers. It just doesn't get any bluesier than this -- "SIXTH PORTION" is precisely how I like my blues.
"ALL BY MYSELF," is a solo CD by LADY BIANCA, on which she does all the vocals and plays piano. The most descriptive word that comes to mind as I start this review is "fun." This CD is absolutely fun to listen to. On more than one occasion LADY BIANCA had me laughing aloud as I listened. If you are looking for piano lounge ballads or bouncy sing alongs then look elsewhere. This is more of something you'd expect to find in a raucous, down the alley club on a side street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
LADY BIANCA'S musical mood swings are quite eclectic. She is sometimes poetic and melodic, sometimes times charismatic and chaotic and other times just outright sarcastic and neurotic. The styles in which she delivers her songs are as equally diverse as her moods. Regardless if she is just plain 'saying' it or soulfully 'singing' it or downright 'screaming' it, they all seem to work well for her. All of this constant change and lack of stagnation are apparent in her piano playing as well. There's an excellent mixture of some down in the alley with a bit of barrel house and a whole lot of boogie woogie.
In a recent conversation I had with LADY BIANCA I asked her if the searing, scorching, burning lyrics to the songs she sang on "ALL BY MYSELF" were actual true life experiences and she was quick to point out that "no they were not, all the songs were all written by a man." Good thing! By the way, the credit for all the lyrics goes to her Producer - STANLEY LIPPITT.
Although she lives in Oakland, Calif., the next time I am strolling down Bourbon Street, buzzed and blues thirsty, I'll keep my fingers crossed that I find that alley the LADY seems she belongs in.