During the fairly recent 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, I had the pleasure of seeing King Bee perform several times, with one of those performances being at the Orpheum Theater during the competition's finals. On that note, I once again offer the band my sincere congratulations. Reaching that stage of the competition is not an easy task and all of the artists who make it that far are winners.
With this being King Bee's debut release, calling it "The Beginning" seems quite appropriate. From what I'm hearing, this could be the beginning of a long and successful musical journey for this talented bunch of artists. They are: Jeff Cummings on vocals and harmonica; Dan Cunningham on guitars, vocals and Hammond B3 organ (Tryin' So Hard); Emery Kid on bass guitar, congas and vocals; and A.J. Maestro Hebrew on drums, Hammond B3 organ (You've Got To Move) and synthesizer. Guest artists on the project include: Jonas Shultz on saxophone; Martin Sager on trombone; Jonathan Avant on trumpet, and Becky Folmer & Belle Monique on backing vocals. The disc's ten tracks - of which eight are band originals - include a good mix of blues and blues rock.
Between the blaring horns - collectively and individually - and the fierce drum and bass beats, "Have Mercy" is one heck of a rhythm fueled smoker that's sure to please all the movers and shakers at King Bee live shows. Add to that some stinging guitar leads and powerful lead and backup vocals and this is easily one of the disc's best tracks.
"You've Got To Move" (Mississippi Fred McDowell) features King Bee laying down some seriously good slow and lowdown Gospel style blues. With it's piercing harp leads, it's powerful & soulful vocals, it's scorching guitar licks, it's raging rhythm and vigorous organ leads, this one is loaded with the blues.
This particular track should include a warning stating that listening to it too loud while operating a motor vehicle may cause you to speed and space out resulting in conditions that can be "Dangerous". I'm very serious! Jeff and Dan are contagiously out of control on the guitar and harp leads and Emery and A. J. are contagiously delirious on the bass and drums.
"Wanted" (Someone To Go Back In Time With Me) is a very well written track. It's about wanting to go back in time to remember the way things used to be. In addition to getting gas for twenty-nine cents a gallon, some of that journey's other highlights would include: Listening to Jimmy and W. C.; checking out Little Walter and SRV; meeting Robert Johnson and Otis Span; hearing Etta James, and shaking Muddy's hand. The tracks musical highlights include an outstanding lead vocal performance by Dan; more dynamite harmony vocals by Becky; stellar harp and guitar solos by Jeff and Dan; and killer sax stand out by Jonas.
Poor Jeff, he's really got a case of the blues. He's "Tryin' So Hard" to get his woman off of his mind and nothing seems to be working. Tryin' straight whisky, tequila and wine weren't helping so he tried champagne, reefer and gin....also to no avail. This one features the guys doing what they do best - jammin' out continuous hard drivin', smokin' hot, rhythm rockin' blues.
Although "Pray For Me" is a fast paced shuffle, it's the King Bee's way of slowing things down a bit...just a bit, though. With Emery and A. J. in a smooth rhythm groove behind them, Jeff and Dan are nailing it on the vocals, harp and guitar.
Other tracks on "The Beginning" include: "Long Black Wavy" (Sleepy John Estes), "Set You Free", "The Beginning", and "Queen Of Pain".
With this band being one you should keep an eye and an ear out for, I'm suggesting you make sure you look further into King Bee. You can do that through their website - www.kingbeerocks.com and their FB Page - https://www.facebook.com/groups/KBfanpage/. However you contact them, please be sure to tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
The M.S.G. Acoustic Trio is the third band I'm reviewing that I discovered as a result of working with the "Virginia Blues Showcase" compilation CD. That was one heck of a disc and apparently there are a lot of good blues bands in the commonwealth. Their song on that disc was "Mean Church People" and since it is not on "The Flood", I've decided to include a link to the You Tube Video of the song. It's the ultimate song about the ultimate hypocrite. Listen closely, it could very well be about someone you know.
Now I'm not big on quoting passages I read on one sheets, jacket's liner notes or websites, but occasionally something pops up that I feel makes such a point that it needs to be shared. With that said, here is what Frank Matheis (Roots & Blues music journalist and radio producer/Publisher: www.thecountryblues.com) had to say about the disc: "The Flood is a triumphant throwback to truehearted folk music, the way people played it in their own communities for their own entertainment - unpretentious, pure, beautiful, and from the heart. M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio brings out a lovely amalgam of folk-roots-spirituals-blues, at once ethereal and soulful. It's going to touch you deep down". That's the way he wrote it - that's the way they played.
The M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio consists of: Jackie Merritt on harmonica, bass, uke, guitar, bones and vocals; Miles Spicer on guitar and vocals; and Resa Gibbs on lead, harmony and backing vocals, washboard, cigar box strumstick and kazoo. Should you have missed it, how the band got it's name is spelled out above in bold. On The Flood, the special guests joining the trio include: Phil Wiggins on harmonica; Ralph Gordon on bass; Sam Gleaves on banjo, harmony and choir vocals; Cathy Fink on rhythm guitar & choir vocals; David Jackson on choir vocals; and Marcy Cochran on tenor viola. The disc features fifteen tracks of which eight are M.S.G. originals or compilations.
Sisters get turned against brothers, fathers get turned against sons and cousins get turned against cousins - and it doesn't end there. Long lost relatives you never knew come crawling out of the woodwork to claim their due and lifelong friends will stab you in the back, too. Those are just some of the things that happen when "Money Makes You Crazy" This original, sadly realistic, fast paced track is the only one of the lot that features just the trio using nothing but masterful lead (Jackie) & harmony (Resa & Miles) vocals and skilled hand jive by all. Outstanding effort.
"Good While It Lasted", another original, is a slow and sullen tune about how things sometimes get taken for granted - and more often than not, those things are the love of someone. This one's highlighted by Phil's melancholic harp leads perfectly supporting Resa's painful and remorseful vocals.
"I'm Down Today" but I won't be down always'.....I'm just loving that optimism. This uplifting track features Miles, along with doin' some slick pickin' & strummin', taking his turn at impressing on lead vocals and Jackie showcasing her harp skills.
Listening to the original "Front Porch Blues", made me think of the band's mission statement as quoted above. I actually visualized the band "sitting on the front porch with nothing to do; hangin' out with friends and family too; drinking iced tea, telling a joke or two." Yep, those were the good times. If the song's title and lyrics had you guessing it might feature a banjo, a guitar, a ukulele and a washboard accompanied by happy and harmonious vocals, you guessed right. Another great one!
If there are any vocal coaches reading this you might want to consider making listening to "New Familiar" your student's next lesson. This original song features Resa singing a solo and a capella and although it's short in length (1:53) it's long on precision.
"I'll Fly Away" and "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" are two similarly and wonderfully done uplifting Gospel style tracks that include just about everyone. They both feature: Resa's angelic lead vocals; outstanding harmonic riffs, some by Jackie, some by Phil and some by both; Great pickin' and slappin' by Miles on the guitar and Ralph on the standup bass; and majestic sounding harmony and choir vocals. Other tracks on this astonishingly good disc include: it's title track, "The Flood"; "Going to The River" "Grinnin' In Your Face"; "My Old Ride"; "My Little One"; "Angel From Montgomery"; and "Amazing Grace".
Having been doing these CD reviews for well over fifteen years now, it's not a big secret that acoustic blues is not my blues of choice. That said, when I decide to work with one, it's obviously one that it impressed me a lot. "The Flood" did that and more. This one's Blues Music Award caliber - look into, M.S.G.
For more on the band just go to their website - www.acousticbluesmsg.com. As usual, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
So Campfire Soul was formed five years ago (2012) and the two seasoned veterans of the band are now twenty-six year's old - collectively. Yep, do the math. The band consists of: fourteen year old Sarah-Grace Kimberly on lead & background vocals, keyboards and trumpet; her twelve year old sister Reagan Kimberly on drums; fifteen year old Daniel Holder on bass; and the senior member of the lot, Brian Kimberly (aka dad) on rhythm guitar. For this recording they're joined by: twenty year old Zack Pearson on lead guitar & backup vocals; and fifteen year old Mogi Taylor on saxophone. "The Blues Found Me" is their debut release. It's a seven song EP with four of those being originals.
The Opening track is Campfire Soul's rendition of The Blind Boys of Alabama's arrangement of "Amazing Grace". It combines the lyrics of the traditional song being sung to the music of "House Of the Rising Sun". Now I'm not about to go comparing the two groups or their performances of the song but with that said, Campfire Soul did nail their version. Although the band was doing one heck of a job, for most of the song it was Sarah-Grace's powerful and wide-ranging vocals that were blowing me away. Then midway through the track she uses the B3 organ to elevate the rhythm section to a powerful climax that had me shaking my head in awe. If it were you telling me I just listened to a 14 year old rock this track, instead of me telling you, I'd call you a liar. Wow!
From a conversation I had with Brian, the original and title track, "The Blues Found Me", is actually the truth. In the early stages of the band's short career they were not blues artists and for that matter, they never even knew they liked it. Then, as it happened to many of us, the genre found them and the rest is history. It's a short up-tempo number which once again features the bands' strengths - smokin' rhythm from Sarah-Grace, Reagan and Daniel on the organ, drums, and bass and more magical vocals by Sarah-Grace.
This next original song's title describes how and where I met the band. It was while we were all "Hanging Round In Memphis" during the 2017 International Blues Challenge. Our mutual friend James "The Blues Hound" Nagel - who besides being in town to enjoy the competition, was also there to receive a very well deserved KBA Award - introduced me to the Campfire Soul who were performing as the Houston Blues Society's Youth Showcase representatives - a performance I sadly missed.
Wanting to pay tribute to one of her biggest inspirations, Bessie Smith, Sarah-Grace not only does so by covering her classic "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out)" but she does so by doing it in a way that I'm sure would have put a smile on Bessie's face. In addition to once again defying her age with the emotion her vocals exude, she puts on one heck of a piano performance as well.
The EP closes with one of my favorite songs of all time, "I'd Rather Go Blind". It's a song I've heard by so many different artists and as of yet, I don't recall a version I didn't like. Sarah- Grace Kimberly, just kept that streak intact. Everyone knows that this is a song about the heartbreaking pain that comes from a failed relationship. Something all fourteen year old girls know about, right? Of course not, but don't tell Sarah-Grace that. She may have never lived the song but her heartfelt, soulful and emotional vocals will have you believing she had. On top of that, using her trumpet as the lead instrument, she adds a whole new dimension to the song. Throw in some stinging guitar leads and intense rhythm and this one's a total monster.
Other tracks on the disc include two other original songs, the N'awlins style "Bayou Man" and a rocker called "Little Bird".
This is the part of the review where I usually say should you like to find out more about the band just go to their website, but this time I'm changing that to say you should find out more about this band and you can do that by going to www.campfiresoul.com. As usual, please tell them the Blewzzman not only sent you but he's raving about you as well.
Tom Euler is another artist I first discovered by hearing a song of his on a compilation CD titled "Virginia Blues Showcase" that I reviewed and distributed for Bobby BlackHat Productions. After hearing that song I just had to hear more. Tom was gracious enough to fulfill my request for a CD and here we now are.
At 21, a baby by blues standards, Tom's got a few notches on that guitar strap of his that would even make a seasoned veteran proud. One is that in 2014, after being judged by some of the world's greatest guitarists in Lee Ritenour's _Six String Theory Guitar Contest_, he finished in the top five for blues players while competing against participants from 48 countries. Another is that as the guitarist for the Bobby BlackHat Band, he made it to the finals at the 2016 International Blues Challenge. There are also others, but you can read them on your own later - I'm ready to start talking about the music.
On "Fool Me Once", Tom Euler - on guitar and vocals - is joined by Michael Behlmar on drums and Rich Ridolfino on bass. The disc is a five song EP of all original music. The band's style of blues is most definitely high powered rock blues with just the right amount of traditional influences to satisfy a purist like me.
The title track, is right out of the playlist of a young power blues trio. It's got the fierce and frantic rhythm, the relentless scorching guitar leads, the powerfully sung lyrics, and it totally rocks.
"Can't Shake It" is the track I referred to earlier that first turned me on to Tom. It's well over six minutes long and when the blues is this good, the longer the track is the better I like it. Here are the exact words I used to describe this song the first time I heard it...... "The first minute of this six minute plus track was pure, unadulterated, scorching blues guitar licks that had me thinking 'Oh yeah, I can happily go for five more minutes of this'. Then Tom started belting out some emotionally charged slow blues on the vocals and something good just got better.....way better. The purpose of these compilation discs is to introduce the listener to an artist he or she may want to hear more of - and in this case, mission accomplished. I want to hear a lot more of Tom Euler".........
"Tricky Business" is an instrumental on which Tom, Michael and Rich are all on top of their game. If I were a talent buyer and this was the demo the band sent me, they'd be hired.
Although "Is It Better?" is the song's title and not a question to me, I'm answering anyway....."Yes Tom, it's one of the best tracks on the disc". And that's because it's another slow, down in the gutter blues track that makes us traditional blues freaks happy as all get out. The rhythm is smooth and tight, the guitar licks are scorching and Tom's vocals are slow and soft - almost bordering on a.....do I dare say.....ballad. Great stuff!
The disc closes with a track titled "Rock 'N' Roll These Days" and I think that pretty much sums it up.
Over the many years I've loved this genre, I've been impressed by many a young, up and coming blues guitarist and most of you have as well. With that said, I'm making it known here and now that Tom Euler has been added to that list. Give him a listen and I'm promising you'll agree.
Right now I'm highly recommending you go to www.tomeuler.com and find out more about this future star. When you do, please tell him that his newest fan, the Blewzzman, sent you.