It's been exactly three and a half years since I've reviewed a disc from Brazil and the wait has been certainly worth it. While penning my first review of a Brazilian Blues Band back in January of 2004, I remember being speculative of just how many other good blues bands might be down there, in a country that's predominately recognized for it's Jazz - as far as music is concerned. As I sit here listening to "BIG CITY BLUES", by CELSO SALIM, I now know there is at least one more.
"BIG CITY BLUES", CELSO'S third release consists of twelve originals and a WILLIE DIXON cover. The nucleus of the band is CELSO SALIM, of course, on electric and acoustic guitars, dobro, mandolin and vocals; RODRIGO MONTAVANI on electric and upright bass; and JASON STERLING on drums. Special guests include: ARI BORGER, piano; SERGIO DUARTE, harmonica; RAFAEL CURY, vocals; FLAVIO NAVES, organ; IGOR PRADO and DILLO DARAJUO, lead guitar; ADRIANO GRINEBERG, electric piano; MINGO JACOBS, percussion; THAIS UESSUGUI and UNDIANA NOMMA, background vocals.
"BEST CHEATER IN TOWN", the discs opening track, immediately impressed me by leaving no doubt in my mind that I'd be listening to a quality band. CELSO'S strong and raspy vocals, SERGIO'S sharpness on the harp, and serious rhythm coming from RODRIGO & JASON easily established that.
Outstanding piano by ARI opens up the title track, "BIG CITY BLUES", and combined with FLAVIO'S smoothness on the organ, these two combine for some great keyboard work throughout. This relaxed foot tappin' and finger snappin' track features the band in a mellow groove, highlighted by great electric guitar and dobro from SELSO.
These guys may be from South America, but on "SWEET LOVIN' QUEEN", you'd swear you were listening to a veteran blues band from the south side of Chicago. This is the real deal blues right here. Scorching vocals, blazing guitars, smokin' harp and barrelhouse piano......Do I need to say more?.
"DANGEROUS GAMES", is a hot little shuffle led by ARI, at discs best, on piano. Powerful guitar riffs, very hot drummin', a lot of bottom coming from the standup bass and good harmony from the background singers make this another of the discs best.
In spite of a hell of a guitar solo from CELSO, "WORKING SHOES" is all about the percussion. MINGO, RODRIGO and JASON steal this one with phenomenal conga, bass and drum work.
"HANGIN' OUT WITH MR. DANIELS" is an appealing, Jazzy instrumental. This is the kind of stuff that gets all of your body's movable parts doing just that. It's spotlighted by very smooth guitar playing from IGOR, very snappy drum work, more rich bass from the standup, and - as on most of the disc - more good piano. Very good stuff right here.
On this track, the opening guitar notes by DILLO gave me goose bumps "ALL OVER MY SKIN". And he did his very best to keep them there with lots more astounding highlights all through the track. Too bad this was his only appearance. His guitar, along with prominent vocals from CELSO, make this one of "BIG CITY BLUES" very best
Other terrific tracks not mentioned include: "TRUTHFUL LIARS", "IF THE SEA WAS WHISKEY", "CRAZY ABOUT YOU", "BACKDOOR LOVERMAN", "1000 MILES BLUES" and "ONOLOLO BLUES".
You really ought to stop by www.celsosalim.com and grab yourself a copy of this disc. As a matter of fact, from what I just heard, I'm thinking you should pick up CELSO'S previous two releases as well - I intend to. By the way, who ya gonna tell sent ya? As usual, the Blewzzman did.
I always thought that it was the Schuylkill River that ran through Philadelphia, PA and that it was the Delaware River that flowed on the city's eastern border - and in all actuality, they do. However, give a listen to "MORE FIRE", the debut CD from Philly's NEW PONY, and you might just start thinking that the muddy Mississippi River made it's way into the "City of Brotherly Love". This disc is full of good ol' N'awlins and Delta blues.
The quartet that make up NEW PONY are: CHRIS DEVENNEY on guitar and vocals; PETE GAFFNEY on keyboards, harmonica, accordion and vocals; MAX GUERIN on bass; DWAYNE HOLLOWAY on drums. The discs eleven tracks are all band originals, and that in itself deserves kudos.
The opening track, a smokin' Cajun, number called "FRENCHMAN STREET", immediately had me craving some Jambalaya, Etouffee, Crawfish Pie and Andouille. I was ready to jump in the car and make the twelve hour drive to The Court of Two Sisters and The Gumbo Shop. This one featuring great rhythm, hot piano and guitar licks and funky vocals, is already on the discs best list.
"THE SADDEST PART" about this track is that it's not three times longer than it's three minute length. This is Delta Blues at it's very best. Very soulful and emotional vocals, soft yet tight rhythm, good blues guitar riffs and steady background organ all highlight this one.
"RECKLESS" is the first track to feature PETE on the harmonica and his playing already has me hoping there are more. The distinctly different sounding vocals, make it obvious that it's also him doing a great job on the vocals as well.
It's certainly "FAIR" to say that this track is one of the bluer of the bunch. The organ intro by PETE makes this track likable from the offset and MAX is absolutely outstanding on bass. Once again, another good vocal job by PETE as well.
"HOW LONG" had me searching the discs jacket looking to see where BOB MARGOLIN was listed as a special guest, but he wasn't. Any fans of BOB'S will know that with his vocal abilities and his awesome style of slide guitar play, that a tip of the hat needs to go out to CHRIS for emulating that level of quality.
"MORE FIRE" closes out with a track called "WORD ON THE STREET" and my thoughts are that the interpretation on this one goes something like this...... "The "WORD ON THE STREET" is that if you like your music filled with funk, spiced up with some Cajun soul and heavy doses of Delta blues, then NEW PONY is your kinda band.
You can check out the band at www.newponyonline.com. While your there, tell them they got the Blewzzman's stomach's growling.
Writing the liner notes for this disc, BOB PORTER claims that "Albert's own singing and playing are the equal of many performers who are better known at this stage. This is his time and "THESE ARE THE DAYS" is the album that will move him to the next level". I could not agree more with BOB. As a matter of fact, that quote, coming from me, may have referred to ALBERT as being better than many of those better know performers and if this disc doesn't propel him into the mainstream of the blues community it will be an outright shame.
Since his earlier years touring as JUNIOR WELLS' and SANDRA HALL'S guitarist, "THESE ARE THE DAYS" is ALBERT CASTIGLIA'S third release as a bandleader. Backing him, on guitar and vocals, are his regular South Florida band members: STEVE GASKELL on bass, SUSAN LUSHER on keyboards and BOB AMSEL on drums. Special guests include: KEN "STRINGBEAN" SORENSON on harmonica, RIO CLEMENTE on Organ, and "SWEET" SUZI SMITH and NICOLE HART on background vocals.
"THESE ARE THE DAYS" opens with a very clever original - "BAD YEAR BLUES". Sadly, the song could be true - not just for ALBERT - but the rest of us as well. Since it all hit the fan in January, ALBERT claims that "It's been a real bad year, only twelve more months to go". And as he tells of his mounting shortcomings, it certainly sounds as if it is going to be a real bad year. The track is performed as well as it was written. With the rhythm guys in a zone, SUSAN beatin' up the piano and ALBERT vocally making the lyrics sound too real, this is one of the discs best.
With the rest of the band very 'lively' behind him, "HE'S GOT ALL THE WHISKEY" is a forum for ALBERT'S stunning guitar abilities. Throughout this one his rhythm and lead guitar riffs are routinely amazing.
ALBERT sings his heart out on a slow blues ballad titled "LOAN ME A DIME". This is my kinda stuff - serious, low down blues with some serious low down blues guitar playing. With the band in a mellow groove behind him, this one is all about ALBERT and his emotions - vocally and musically. Another of the discs best.
"GODFATHER OF THE BLUES", a song which ALBERT wrote about his former boss - MR. JUNIOR WELLS, is a toe tappin', knee slappin' rocker. If this one don't get you shakin' then you gotta be achin'. Of course, a song about JUNIOR wouldn't do him justice without a harp, and on this one KEN "STRINGBEAN" SORENSON certainly does JUNIOR - and the harp - justice. More good stuff here.
If this disc was an LP, with the amount of times I replayed "NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME", my needle would have worn through the wax by now. This version of this song is absolutely phenomenal. With BOB and STEVE setting just the right pace, ALBERT is at discs best on guitar and SUSAN may very well be at career best on the piano. On top of that, "SWEET" SUZY and NICOLE HART are as fabulous as the 'Rayette's' ever were. I can't begin to say enough about this track.
Although this is certainly not a complaint, it is however this writer's opinion that "NEED YOUR LOVE SO BAD" is one of the kind of songs that ALBERT just doesn't do enough of. He's got such a perfect voice for these slow ballads and his slow, burning guitar notes are some of the best - as this track will reveal. Nice steady background organ by RIO help highlight this one.
If you want to do yourself a favor - and I mean a really big favor - take yourself over to www.albertcastiglia.com and get yourself a copy of "THESE ARE THE DAYS". I promise you you'll agree with BOB PORTER and the BLEWZZMAN. And don't forget to tell ALBERT KA-STEEL-YA that his buddy PETE sent ya.
Unfortunately, there are so many excellent regional bands that most of the world never gets to hear of. Fortunately for me, doing what I do exposes me to a large share of them. Simply stated - this is the principal reason I enjoy my work.
The latest band I've had the pleasure of being musically exposed to are THE BAD DADDYS, from the great northeastern state of Maine, and it is my hope that what I'm about to write will give them even the greater exposure a band of this caliber deserves.
THE BAD DADDYS consist of PAUL WARING, lead vocals and guitar; AL STRONG, lead guitar; JIMMY KLEMMENZ, bass; SCOTT MILLS, drums; with special guests PHALAN GALLAGHER on saxophone and JOHN DYER on Hammond organ. Their self titled disc - "THE BAD DADDYS" consist of all very well written original music.
I was immediately impressed by the discs opening track, "CUT YOU LOOSE". The second PAUL started singing I thought to myself that this was a voice destined to sing the blues - then the rest of the disc reinforced that thought. Strong guitar by AL and very tight rhythm from JIMMY and SCOTT add to this tracks highlights.
"AIN'T GOT THE TIME" might just be what PHALAN said to the guys when they asked him to appear on the disc. Unfortunately, this is only one of three tracks where he gets to work his magic on the sax. Great lead and rhythm guitar from PAUL and AL also make this another good one. Oh, did I mention the great vocals yet?
"CHANGE OF HEART" is a burning ballad with absolutely wonderful guitar work and deeply emotional vocals. John's only appearance on the organ help make this one of the discs finer tracks.
THE BAD DADDYS share that ill-fated ailment that affects most of us today, they have those "WORKING MAN BLUES". Ya see, the way PAUL tells it - his children need shoes, his wife needs clothes and he needs money for drinking. At least he has his priorities in order. Some of AL'S best guitar work can be heard right here.
Everyone that's ever read my reviews knows that the Blewzzman's favorite type of blues are those low down "SLOW BLUES".....they just don't get any better than that. This track is slow blues at it's incomparable best. The soft and steady rhythm, the scorching blues guitar riffs and the heart felt vocals make this the most impressive track on the disc. I could have easily taken another eight minutes of the nearly eight minute track.
OK, you're done reading this, now close this screen and get over to www.baddaddysband.com and grab a copy of "THE BAD DADDYS". While you're there, tell them you heard Blewzzman tellin' the world this band is a bunch of real bad daddy's.
Both times I've had the pleasure of catching EDEN BRENT live - first at the cocktail hour of the 2006 Blues Music Awards and second at the WRFG Labor Day Blues BBQ in Atlanta that same year, she totally floored me, as well as the rest of the audience. Back then, her one-two knockout punches were her vocals and her piano.
On her latest project, she's added a combo as extra added strength to her arsenal. On "MISSISSIPPI NUMBER ONE", EDEN - on vocals and piano is joined by: JIMMI KINARD on bass; JAMES ROBERTSON and TOM LONARD on drums; RICK STEFF on organ; JIM SPAKE on tenor and baritone sax; MARK FRANKLIN on trumpet; SAM SHOUP on double bass; KEVIN LEWIS on alto sax; RICK CHANCEY on guitar and harmonica; JACK HOLDER on guitar; JACKIE JOHNSON, REBA RUSSEL, VAN DUREN, DARRELL BONNER, DAUNIELLE "PIE" HILL and JOYCE COBB on backup vocals.
The disc opens with the typical style of blues that those of us who know her have come to expect. Backed by a solid rhythm performance from JIMMI and JAMES, "MISSISSIPPI FLATLAND BLUES" finds EDEN doing what she does best - belting out some red hot Delta Blues while wailing away on the piano. Here I am on the opening track and I'm already calling this one of the discs best.
While warning the other gals that "HE'LL DO THE SAME THING TO YOU", EDEN and the guys slip into a funky groove. Along with her usual good stuff, other highlights on this one are great horn blowin' from JIM and MARK and superb organ playin' from RICK.
"LOVE ME 'TIL DAWN" is a soft and sultry number. The voice with which EDEN uses in requesting what the title of this song suggests, would make it hard for any man to refuse. Of course, without some very nice, soft saxophone, a sultry number couldn't be just that. KEVIN makes sure this one is.
The title track - on which EDEN pays homage to her home state - "MISSISSIPPI NUMBER ONE", is pretty much lots more of what the opening track was all about. It's four minutes of EDEN frolicking at the keyboard and it features some of the discs best rhythm from JIMMI and JAMES.
Some of EDEN'S best vocals and piano work can be heard on a solo effort called "WHY DON'T YOU DO RIGHT?". This torch ballad is Delta Blues the way it was meant to be sung and played. It wouldn't surprise me if this is one of the songs that won her the solo act title at the IBC'S in '06.
"MISSISSIPPI NUMBER ONE" closes out with a heartwarming track called "UNTIL I DIE". It tells of finding a love that everyone should be lucky enough find, and to have........until the day they die. This is Delta Gospel Music at it best. EDEN'S soulful deliverance of these uplifting lyrics, supported by the melodic choir of backup singers, make this one extraordinary track. This one may just get her a "Song of the Year" award to add to what I'm sure is going to be a large collection of mantle pieces.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of "MISSISSIPPI NUMBER ONE". You can do that by visiting EDEN at www.edenbrent.com. While you're there, make sure you tell her she once again floored the Blewzzman.
Knowing I'd heard these words before, and thinking it was a lot more than just once, I couldn't help but put "I was born on the south side of Chicago" - the opening line of BIG WOODY'S biography - into a Google Search. As expected, the number of Web pages that have some type of combination of the words in that sentence is staggering - 2,340,000, just to mention a few. Like some of those others, BIG WOODY grew up to be a blues musician - a damn good one at that.
On "GOIN HOME", BIG WOODY on drums and percussion is joined by: JAMES GILBERT on bass, lead and background vocals; EUGENE SMILEY, SR. on guitar and background vocals; DEWEY RUCKER on alto and tenor sax; "MEMPHIS" MIKE MCDANIEL on guitar; KEVIN HOOPER on trumpet; CRAYGE LINDESAY on keyboards; JASON GOUDEAU on trombone; BOBBY ADAMS on drums. That musical ensemble already has my appetite whet. I've always felt that the way to make a good blues band better is to add a horn section or a piano and WODDY'S got 'em all. Let's have a listen.
The opening track immediately started to "HELP ME" take a liking to this disc. It's a hot, funkified number that quickly took my fingers off the keypad and started them snappin' to the same beat as my feet. The rhythm and horn sections, combined with great vocals from JAMES highlighted this one.
With his baby having just left him, you can tell just by the way JAMES is belting out this one that he seriously has the "BLUES THIS MORNING". His gut wrenching and soulful vocals are some of the discs best. Also highlighting this one - by far the truest of the discs blues tracks - are some scorching blues licks from EUGENE'S guitar.
"LONELY MAN" is another of the several great R&B sounds to be found on "GOIN' HOME". WOODY and JAMES connect well, and combined with the tight horns, this one features some of the discs best rhythm. Of course, JAMES on vocals is at his soulful best.
The slow dancers will absolutely love "PLEASE COME BACK HOME". With the whole band locked into a very nice groove, this is one of those tracks that make you want to just close your eyes and let your body sway. Trying to figure out what other song this track reminded me of, I listened to it at least a dozen times and each listen was more enjoyable than the last. Finally I got it - this one has a strong resemblance to Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do". That right there tells ya you'll like it.
"TRAVELIN' MAN" closes out the disc with the same fashion it opened - smokin'! As with pretty much all of the disc tracks, the rhythm's hot. WOODY on drums, and EUGENE on guitar, could be at discs best on this one.
Other tracks on "GOIN' HOME" are: "I BELIEVE", "OOH BABY", "PEOPLE ARE TALKING", "A REAL GOOD SIGN" and "SOMEONE TO LOVE".
When you see BIG WOODY, there will be no guessing as to why he's called that, On the other hand, after you give "GOIN' HOME" a listen, you just may realize it's a word that could also be used to describe the BIG sound this band puts out. Check the big guy out at www.big-woody.com. Once you're there, you know the drill - buy the disc and tell BIG WOODY that Big Pete the Blewzzman sent ya.
If you've never been to that awesome section of Memphis called Beale Street, or that not so awesome war zone known as Iraq, then there's a good chance that you may not have had the wonderful opportunity to experience BILLY GIBSON. And I used the word "experience" because that's exactly what seeing this wild man perform is - an experience.
In Memphis, BILLY GIBSON, aka the "Prince of Beale Street", is a staple equal to BBQ. Up until recently, when he decided to take his act on tour, you couldn't cruise Beale Street without smelling some BBQ or hearing havoc coming from a club featuring BILLY. More often than not, that club would be the RUM BOOGIE CAFE.
American troops, the great men and women that they are, recently had a chance to experience BILLY GIBSON as he, and many other blues musicians, displayed a great act of patriotism touring Iraq and Kuwait to entertain them. For that we owe BILLY and the rest of the Bluesapalooza ensemble a great big thank you.
Now, the "LIVE AT THE NORTH ATLANTIC BLUES FESTIVAL" DVD, is a great chance for the rest of the world to have a BILLY "WILD MAN" GIBSON experience. In past reviews of his work, I've referred to B G as the Mick Jagger of harp players. If you've ever seen Mick's gyrations and romping around every inch of the stage, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. As a matter of fact, back home at the RUM BOOGIE CAFE, BILLY'S use of the rail that's in front of the stage would make any stripper and her pole envious.
On the DVD, BILLY GIBSON on harp and vocals is joined by many of his Beale Street musical counterparts - DAVID BOWEN on guitar and vocals, JAMES JACKSON on bass, CEDRIC KEEL on drums and CHARLIE WOODS on piano and B3 organ.
On the opening track, an original called "DOWN HOME", BILLY wastes no time getting into his antics - one of which is acting like he's attempting to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for not coming up for air for a very long period of time while frantically blowing on a harmonica. The crowd's already howlin'
Desperately needing to refill those lungs, BILLY mellows down a bit - but trust me, this can't and won't last long - and allows the guys to get into a nice funky groove on "KEEP DOIN' WHAT YA DOIN".
On "BAD BOY", BILLY features all the guys in the band and it's quite obvious they've got some of their leader's enthusiasm. After CHARLIE WOODS, a former "Beale Street Entertainer of the Year" winner, tears up the B3 organ on a fabulous ninety second solo, BILLY then turns it over to CEDRIC KEEL who goes into a two and a half minute rampage on the drums. Of course, BILLY'S next and, as usual, he proceeds to literally empty his lungs through the harp. This one's easily the DVD'S highlight.
Other tracks include a slow cover of Willie Nelson's "FUNNY HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY", "TELL IT LIKE IT IS" - which features DAVID BOWEN at his best on nearly a four minute solo, and "POLK SALAD ANNIE" - on which BILLY tells the crowd "this is the portion of the show where I play the harmonica as hard as I can and try to make myself pass out" and the "wild man" actually means it. Fortunately, after nearly six minutes of blowing out his brains, BILLY does not collapse and ends his act by jumping off the stage and partying in the crowd.
I can't think of any other way to end this review other than to say you have got to see this DVD.
Check BILLY GIBSON out at www.billygibson.com. While you're there - just before you buy the DVD - tell him that one of his "Florida fans" - a group he dedicates a song to on the DVD - Pete the Blewzzman sent ya.
Once again, here I am about to discuss another CD from Canada. The enormous amount of submissions I get from our neighbor to the north is interesting. What I also find interesting is the enormous number of musicians that appear on most of these discs. Rarely, or more accurately - never, do I ever receive a CD from the Canucks that consists of your basic guitarist, drummer and bassist. Doing their best to keep the unemployment rate down, several different players on several different instruments are very commonly used. Which, by the way, with the number of very qualified blues musicians living in that country, makes this a good thing. It's been extremely pleasant to have been exposed to all of this wonderful talent.
Having said that, let me now introduce you to the dozen stars that appear on RUSSELL JACKSONS "HAVE MERCY" CD. Joining RUSSELL, on electric and acoustic bass, vocals, background vocals and tambourine are: KENNY "BLUES BOSS" WAYNE on piano, keyboards and B3 organ; THEO BROWN on drums; JOHNNY FERREIRA and STEVE HILLIAM on tenor sax; TERRY TOWNSON on trumpet; BRANDON ISSACS on lead and rhythm guitar, dobro, snare and high hat; DAVID HOERL on harmonica; ROBERT STEPHAN on lead and rhythm guitar and lap steel; RICK CHRISTOPHERSON on lead, rhythm and acoustic guitar; JOHN ELLIS on pedal steel; JEFF NYSTROM on background vocals.
On the opening and title track, "HAVE MERCY", the lyrics tell a very real and very disappointing story. RUSSELL points out that although the blues gave birth to Jazz and Rock & Roll - from which funk, R&B, soul, rap, hop, country and heavy metal all derived, the blues is barely ever mentioned in class and all they do is talk pop, classical, and a whole lot of jazz. I share his sentiments as he sings to "Have mercy for the blues".
Get ready to put on your "DANCIN' SHOES" when this track comes on. It starts out with JOHNNY blowin' smoke out of the tenor sax and gets hotter with each players contributions, especially when the BLUES BOSS starts fanning the flames on piano. Great vocals by RUSSELL and an all out jam session by the band make this one of the discs best.
"TOSSIN' 'N TURNIN'", is sure to get you tappin' and snappin'. Definitely another of the discs best. The great rhythm that RUSSELL, THEO and KENNY lock into, the sharp - and I do mean sharp - harp blowin' by DAVID, the tremendous sounds coming from BRANDON'S dobro and the precision vocal harmony between RUSSELL and JEFF make this a hell of a toe tapping sing along.
It seems that a party RUSSELL was at got a bit too boisterous that "THEY RAIDED THE JOINT". Don't ya just hate when that happens? This hot shuffle is another of the many highlights on "HAVE MERCY". This one features KENNY working his usual magic on piano, ROBERT supplying the hot guitar riffs and RUSSELL singing his heart out.
"WORKING WITH MY BABY" is a soft, steamy ballad. The velvet vocals, the rustling rhythm, the gentle guitar, the tender tickling of the ivories and the sultry sounds of the sax make this one smolder. The slow dancers will swoon over this one.
"Other equally outstanding tracks - of which most are originals - on "HAVE MERCY" are: "SHOW ME THE DOOR", "TALK ATCHA", "A WOMAN NEEDS", "HOWLIN' AT THE MOON", "BRAND NEW LIFE", BECOMING THE BLUES", "LOVE ALL AROUND" and "FUNKY HIDE AWAY".
Like me, you may be unaware that RUSSELL was B B KING'S bass player for about a dozen years. To find out many of the other notable blues folk he played with, stop by his My Space page at.... www.myspace.com/therusselljacksonbandpage. While you're there, give him a shout and tell him Blewzzman sent ya. While you're at it, pick up a disc as well.