Being someone who has done his share of gambling over the years, I should know better than to question the fact that there is no such thing as a lock. That said, if you can find someone dumb enough to bet you that you could go to Memphis without seeing Eric Hughes performing on Beale Street, then jump on it. That, my friends, is indeed a lock. I've been going there one, two and sometimes three times a year for the last seventeen years and can't ever recall not seeing Eric "Mr. Beale" Hughes performing in one capacity or another. I've seen him play with a full band; I've seen him play in duos; I've seen him play as a soloist; I've seen him play in clubs; I've seen him play on the street; and I actually recall seeing him play on a trolley, as well. At all of those times; he always put nothing less than 100% into all of those performances; he always wore very sharp looking clothes; he always had a positive and respectable attitude; and he always seemed to be having as good a time as his audience. Eric Hughes, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of working with you to promote this CD. You're indeed a class act and a true "Ambassador For Blues On Beale Street".
"Meet Me In Memphis" is Eric Hughes' fifth release. It contains nine all original tracks, which cover several styles of blues. On the recording, The Eric Hughes Band is made up of: Eric Hughes on vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitars, harmonica and percussion; Walter Hughes on vocals, lead guitar, mandolin and lap steel; Leo Goff on bass; Brian Aylor on drums and percussion; and Chris Stephenson on keyboards. Special guests include: Susan Marshall and Reba Russell on backing vocals; Art Edmaiston on saxophone; and Marc Franklin on trumpet.
"If it gets heavy, let me haul the load. If you're feeling low-down, people climb on board"; and "If you're feeling low-down, and all you do is lose - I'll holler 'All Aboard' cause I was built for blues". These are just some of the heavy, melancholy lyrics from the opening track titled "Freight Train To Pain". Musically, it's a blues rocker that features smokin' guitars and - as you might expect from the title - piercing train whistle style harp and locomotive style rhythm.
Just hearing Eric sing the words "Meet Me In Memphis" makes you want to stop what you're doing and immediately book a flight. Then after hearing the opening verse.....
"You've been away - for oh, so-long...
The city calls you like a distant song.
It's high time you took off a day or two...
You know you miss sweet tea and barbecue.
Have you forgotton how it feels...
To party down on Beale?"
.....You'll really be ready to start packing a bag.
This one is right out of the "Memphis Soul" songbook. Eric is silky smooth on the inviting vocals; the rhythm section is in a relaxed, Delta style groove; and the horns are doing that wonderful sounding Memphis thang. Great song and the timing could not have been better to write about it - by the time most of you read this I'll be meeting Eric in Memphis.
This one's typical Eric Hughes - fun filled lyrics, playfully, but yet professionally performed. Its about something that every homemaker should do to show her appreciation when her hard working husband comes home from a tough day on the job - "Roll A Fatty For Your Daddy". The forceful rhythm Brian and Leo are laying down is the perfect push for the fierce harp, guitar and piano that Eric, Walter and Chris are banging out. Another smoker for sure.....no pun intended.
"The Day They Hanged The Kid" is a fable Eric credits to his days as a kid growing up watching cowboy shows. Lyrically, vocally and musically this one could not have come together any more perfect than it did. As Eric tells the story of an outlaw and his wayward ways, the band just picks you up and places you right at the scene. Very well done track.
As the title should insinuate, "I May Have Left My Heart At Your Place" is love song. It's inspired by and dedicated to Eric's wonderful wife, Donna. It's a laid back jazzy number and from the lyrics and the vocals to the the guitar and the piano leads, and the rhythm as well, it's total smoothness. Beautifully done for sure.
"I Believe I'm Going Fishing" is Eric's way of reminding us - and himself as well, that sometimes ya just gotta back off from it all and take a little time for yourself. Even if you have to tell your boss you're sick or tell your wife you're working late in order to do so, right Eric? This one's highlighted by some phenomenal pickin' from the Hughes brothers on the acoustic guitar and mandolin and some interesting percussion creatively created by rubbing blocks of wood together that have sandpaper glued to them.
Other tracks on this very diverse and very good disc include:"Here Comes The Boogie Man", "Midtown Blues", and "I'm Knocking On Your Door".
To get a hold of a copy of "Meet Me In Memphis" just get a hold of Eric Hughes at www.erichughesband.com or hit him up on Facebook. Either way, please tell him his good buddy the Blewzzman sent you.
"Cryin' In The Rain" is the second release for Connie Hawkins And The Blues Wreckers and since their debut release back in 2013, the only constants in the band are Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins. The 2017 version of the Blues Wreckers are: Connie Hawkins, of course, on vocals; the disc's producer and writer of all ten tracks, Steve Hawkins on guitar; Chuck Payne on keyboards; Jeff Ingram on saxophone; Marc Laney on drums; and Dave Kelley on bass. Guest Blues Wreckers include Lee Watkins on trumpet & trombone and Zeus Negron on percussion.
The opening and title track, "Cryin' In The Rain", starts off with a strong rhythm groove led by Marc and Chuck, on the drums and organ, that immediately gets your limbs in motion. Then Connie starts sassily telling a story about meeting a tall, dark and brutally handsome man and your first impression is that it's a story about how she met Steve. But as the story goes on, the guy turns into a no good cheatin' dirt bag and there is no way Steve could be guilty of the things she's saying. On the other hand, what he is guilty of is laying down several smoking blues guitar licks that are one of this tracks many highlights.
This one's titled "You Don't Know What I Know".....but after you listen to it you will. You see, right now I know that this is another rhythm fueled smoker highlighted by Jeff's robust sax leads; Steve once again killing it with scorching guitar leads; and Connie powerfully belting out some wide ranging blues vocals.
On this melancholy blues ballad the sincerity felt in Connie's voice leaves no doubt about the fact that it sucks being on "Blues Ave". These type of songs usually call for a soft and tight rhythm groove; some slow, stinging blues guitar riffs; steamy saxophone leads; and emotional, soulful and sultry vocals....all of which always float my blues boat. Surely one of the disc's best right here.
So the IRS is calling, wanting her to pay more; the landlord's outside knocking, about to break down her door; she has a flat tire, and a black cat crossed her path; and what little money she has she doesn't know where it's at. Connie just can't catch a break - she may have left Blues Avenue back there but sadly it was for a "Rendezvous With The Blues". Musically it's another smoker highlighted by some crazy organ work by Chuck.
The disc closes with a Gospel style ballad titled "The Mountain". Musically, and vocally, this track features everyone at disc's best. Yet, with so much going on between the extended guitar, organ and saxophone highlights, it was Connie - with her ridiculous range - who totally blew me away here. And when I say range, I'm not just talking in terms of highs and lows as the term commonly refers to, I'm talking in range of singing styles as well. She is all over this one and I do mean that literally.
Other tracks on this excellent disc include: "All I Need Is You", "Hole In My Bucket", "Let The Dogs Bark", "When My Baby Loves Me" and "Short Loving Man" .
With a release slated for the beginning of 2018, as of now "Cryin' In The Rain" may not be available at the bands website. However, if you do go to Connie Hawkins and the Blueswreckers and tell them their buddy the Blewzzman sent you, I'm betting Connie and Steve might just be able to hook you up.
The making of this CD could very well be considered musical history repeating itself. Some twenty years ago, four of this bands five members were in a rock band known as Edenstreet. Unfortunately, due to a record company problem, the band wound up splitting up, with everyone going their own way.....until now that is. Reuniting for this project are: Screamin' John Hawkins on guitar; TD Lind on vocals; Jeff Crane on bass; and Paul Culligan on drums and percussion. This time around they are also joined by Joel Pinkerton on harmonica.
Although the CD is titled "Gimme More Time", more time was certainly not needed to make it all happen. From beginning to end, and I'm talking about from the time they walked into the studio, throughout the mixing and mastering processes, production took all of three days. Impressive!
While still having one foot in rock, the bands other foot is now in the blues. "Gimme More Time" features ten tracks of rockin' blues songs with four of those tracks being originals that were written, scored and recorded in one afternoon. Also very impressive.
The disc opens with one of it's originals, a smoker about a smokin' woman. That said, she's not the kind of smokin' woman most men would want to meet. You see, what's smokin' about "Big Bad Coroline" is the pistols that mama's packin'. Musically, the track's as relentless as the woman it's about. From open to close it's full throttle rhythm, aggressive guitar licks. and powerful vocals.
This is one of the disc's more relaxed tracks. It's a cover of a Walter Jacobs number and since Little Walter - as we all know him - was a a harmonica maestro, yes, Joel does get in some seriously smoking riffs on his. Being traditional blues, the rhythm - led by some very rich bass lines by Jeff - is in a slow and tight groove; John's guitar is just reeking with slow blues licks; and TD's vocals have you feeling the pain of the sad things that took place "Last Night".
Being a bourbon drinker, and with Four Roses Bourbon being a sponsor for the record company, it's only fitting that I say a few words about an original track titled "Four Roses Blues". And with the incredible instrumentation on this one it's only fitting those words be about that. As they create this mysteriously dark and eerie vibe the guys are all at disc's best right here. The rhythm's spooky, the guitar leads are chilling and the harmonica riffs are ghostly. Excellent musical performance!
As it turns out, the person needing more time on this original track is TD's woman. She may be so fine that she can turn water into wine but he's getting pretty damn tired of her always saying "Give Me More Time". Remember TD, good things are worth waiting for. Another great musical performance and from what I'm hearing out of Joel on the harmonica, without ever hearing the band when he wasn't in it I am glad he is now in it.
The disc closes with a song about hard times in the "Dutchess County Jail" but it sounds more like a hoe down at the Dutchess County Fair. Everyone seems to be having a grand ol' time on this foot stompin', hand clappin', square dancin' frolicker featuring Paul providing some very interesting percussion sounds.
Other tracks on "Gimme More Time" include: "Checkin' On My Baby", "Sloppy Drunk", "From The Bottom", "Gravy Train Rider"(original) and "Hot Walker Blues."
There are several ways you can find out more about the band: Visit their website at Screamin' John, visit the record company's website at Down In The Alley Records or check them out by searching for them on Facebook. Regardless of how you do it, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Having written in the neighborhood of five hundred reviews, Mary4Music finally gets to say "Welcome aboard" to the land down under.
Hailing from Australia, Kings & Associates are: Angela Portolesi on lead vocals and tambourine; Benjamin Cunningham on lead vocals and electric guitars; Stephen Portolesi on bass, acoustic and electric guitars; Kelvin Sugars on drums, percussion and acoustic guitars; Matt Williams on electric and acoustic guitars; Louie Higuera on Hammond organ and piano; Eleanor Mastersonon fiddle and mandolin; Gheri LeGree, Troy Clark and Kesha Ealy on background vocals; Jim Scott on boingy thing; Marcello Rosmini on piano and Geo Heathcote on harp and sax.
"Tales Of A Rich Girl" is the bands second release and it features twelve original tracks.
On the title track, "Tales Of A Rich Girl", Angela pretty much explains the addition by subtraction theory. As she tells it, her riches have been acquired from "the things I ain't got". That being the man (if you can call him that) who she showedthe door. It features several excellent guitar leads from several of the discs excellent lead guitarists; a strong rhythm from the hands of Stephen and Kelvin on the bass and drums; and an absolutely beautiful range roaming vocal performance by Angela.
Although there is another powerful rhythm performance taking place behind them, this time being led by the fabulous keyboard playing of Louie, the real "Nitty Gritty" on this one is the vocals. The duet between the sometimes similar and other times contrasting vocal styles of Angela and Benjamin, along with the additional help of the background singers, totally steals this one.
"Peace X Peace" starts out sounding like a soft ballad then the song gradually turns into this powerful Gospel style hymn. It's another group vocal performance with Angela sounding angelic, Benjamin sounding like an evangelist and Gheri, Tony and Kesha sounding a lot more like a large choir rather than just a group of three. Musically, with all the guitars, keyboards and percussion becoming this one big powerful production, it's a complete masterpiece.
"All That's Good" about this track is basically everything. It's one of the discs several smokers and it's pretty much an all out free for all. It's guitarist versus guitarist and drummer versus organist with the winner of those battles being the listener.
This one's titled "God Bless Mama" but it could very well have been called "God bless mama, Yee Haw!". The foot stompin' beat, accompanied by some melodic hand clappin', timely tambourine bangin' and furious fiddlin' by Eleanor all make this one hoedown for sure.
A track titled "Tales Of A Rich Man" creates an interesting twist.. The lyrics are similar to those of the title track but it's story is being told from by Benjamin instead of Angela. Seems he knew a woman similar to that dog she threw out. It's an acoustic track with Matt doing some masterful pickin' and strummin'.
Other tracks on "Tales Of A Rich Girl" include: "Truth Be Told", "Deadwood", "Pabla's Grace", "Evergreen", "Charlie B", and "1000 Ways".
To find out more about Kings & Associates, check them out at www.kingsandassociatesmusic.com. And as I always ask, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Al Corte' doesn't just believe in having something to fall back on, he believes in having many choices should he need to. That said, Al's tried his hand at football, gymnastics, construction, acting, auto mechanics, motorcycle racing, stunt work, photography, horticulture, firefighting, K9 handling and TV production and programming. In between, during and throughout all those gigs, he always kept his heart - and a least one foot - in music. Now retired, he's back into music and from what I just heard, falling back shouldn't ever be a necessity.
"Mojo" is Al Corte's follow up release to his 2015 debut disc titled "Seasoned Soul". Unlike that project - which was all rearranged covers - "Mojo" consists of twelve original, Memphis soul blues tracks penned by his music partner, Ron Miller.
The abundant of talent assembled for this production include: Al Corte' on lead vocals and various hand percussion instruments; Leroy "Flick" Hodges Jr. on bass; Michael Toles on guitar; Rev. Charles Hodges Sr. on B3 organ and piano; Steve Potts on drums; Brad Webb on slide guitar; John Nemeth on harmonica; Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell on piano and synthesizer; Ron Miller on piano; violin patch and guitar; The Royal Singers, who are: Candice Rayburn, Sharisse Norman and Stefanie Bolton; The Royal Horns, who are: Jim Spake and Lannie "The Party" McMillan Jr. on tenor saxes; Kirk Smothers on baritone sax; Robert Dowell on trombone; and Mark Franklin on trumpet and Flugelhorn; The Royal Strings, who are; Jennifer Puckett on viola; Jessie Munson and Wen Yi Yu on violin; Jonathan Kirkscey on cello; with arrangements by Mark Franklin; And (thankfully not all of their names are listed individually) The Tennessee Mass Choir.
If after reading those credits you just went "Whoa!", just wait. Once you hear the disc that will become an emphatic "WHOA!"
The CD opens with its title track, "Mojo" and immediately, a masterful first impression was made . As the expression goes, Al - and everyone involved on this track - have their mojo working; Leroy, Steve and Charles, along with some very heavy horn support, have the rhythm ablaze; the guitar work, with a monster solo by Ron, is smokin' as well; and Al's powerful and soulful vocals become even more powerful and much more soulful with the Royal Singers on board. WHOA!
Simply said, if you're a vocal coach, listening to "Memphis Moon" needs to be mandatory homework for your students. Now you're just dying to hear it, aren't you? Musically, the band is in a cool, smooth groove with Lannie standing out on a few sultry tenor sax leads. Great tracks to dance to.
Since everyone of us in this great big beautiful blues community feels this way, the title of this song alone makes it worthy of mention - "I'll Never Lose My Love For The Blues". Then there's Al belting out his soulful vocals; Steve at disc's best, leading the powerful rhythm on drums; and a monster slide guitar performance from Brad; making many more worthy reasons for mentioning it. "The doorman's got the lowdown, the drummers got the beat. The bass man is a thumping, you can feel it down the street. The piano man's tickling the ivories, the guitar man's bending strings. The horns are blowing strong, it makes you want to sing." Yes indeed, it's good to be alive and feeling that "Juke Joint Jive". And on top of all those things actually happening here, John Nemeth is blowing the hell out a Harmonica. More good stuff!
Lyrically, vocally, musically and technically this performance is a complete masterpiece. I've been blessed to have heard "Blessed To Have You Near". If there's a more emotionally sung inspirational song out there, these ears have not yet heard it. Thank you Al, the Tennessee mass choir and all the musicians involved on this track, for these most pleasurable few minutes. I don't throw these words around loosely and when I do, it's only because I've been moved. That said, this is song of the year material.
If "Chicken Lickin" and "Funkytown" ever got you moving like they did me, then you're obviously familiar with Funk Incorporated and Lipps, Inc. Should you not be, they were two of the funkiest bands of the seventies. "Touch" just put me back in touch with both of them. Turn this one up loud and get ready for "Boo" and his synthesizer to get your booty shaking.
Other tracks on "Mojo" include: "Love Thang", "It's A Good Day", "It's A Good Day" "I'm Ready", "What You Hold", "We're Just A Boy And A Girl" and "You Hurt Me So Good".
Right now, I'm pretty sure that the nominating process is still going on for the Blues Music Awards. What I'm also pretty sure of is that if this disc was submitted, it should be a no brainer for those nominators.
To find out more about Al Corte', and to tell him the Blewzzman is raving about him, just go to www.alcorte.us.